740.00116 European War 1939/1053: Telegram

The Minister in Switzerland (Harrison) to the Secretary of State

5063. This afternoon M. Pilet-Golaz14 gave an oral reply to my communication of July 31 (cf my telegram 4617, July 3115). He handed me for convenience, he said, an aide-mémoire translation as follows:

“The Federal Council has taken cognizance with all due attention of the note which the Legation of the United States of America presented to the Political Department on July 31.

It does not think that the American Government’s purpose in conveying this communication was to question the right of asylum as such undisputed and sacred prerogative of a sovereign state.

Without doubt it was rather to make known the intentions of the United Nations in regard to those whom the note calls ‘war criminals’ in the absence of a precise generally accepted definition and of indicating in the present state of affairs their views in regard to a problem which international law has not yet succeeded in solving. There seems thus no call for the Federal Council to go into the suggestion which so far remains abstract.

Switzerland which is always determined to safeguard its independence and liberty and is resolutely faithful to the policy of strict and fair neutrality which it has practiced for centuries in its own interest and in the general interest of mankind—the present conflict seems to confirm it—will in reaching independent decisions which circumstances lead it to take in each case continue to be inspired by the supreme good of the state, by its duties as well as its rights as a neutral country and by the higher principles of humanity. Its attitude is furthermore perfectly well known having been manifested on innumerable occasions during the course of these last years.”

In addition to foregoing M. Pilet-Golaz informed me that a like oral reply was being given to my British colleague. He referred to difference in our two notes. He stated that he had not consulted other neutrals. No publicity would be given to his reply. He emphasized that each case would be decided in light of best interests of Switzerland external as well as internal and that each case would be considered and judged “intelligently”. He recalled certain historical cases such as that of Louis Napoleon. The grant of asylum for instance to Madame Mussolini would no doubt, he said, be viewed favorably by Swiss people while they would strongly oppose asylum [Page 467] for, say Hitler. He foresaw a problem in eventual requests for asylum by Frenchmen. He also mentioned large number of war refugees already in Switzerland and possibility that Swiss abroad would likewise have to be taken care of. M. Pilet intimated that he would have preferred if our communication could have been made without publicity.

In view nothing is to be given out here beg to suggest that M. Pilet be consulted before any statement be made should that be deemed necessary.

  1. Chief of the Swiss Federal Political Department.
  2. Not printed.