Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

Dr. Rybář37 came in to see me at his request. He said he wanted to find out why the Censor in New York had made certain deletions from the broadcasts by the representative of the Yugoslav Information Service. He presented me the attached memorandum,38 noting that the underlined passages were passages required to be stricken out by the Censor. He thought that the effect of this was to prevent the Yugoslav broadcaster from setting out the nationalist Yugoslav view. This left the way open to the so-called Partisans, supported by the Communists.

I said I would have to look into the matter since this was entirely new to me. I noted that the first statement that Yugoslavia was the only firm stronghold in the Balkans would probably not be liked by the Greeks. As regards King Boris,39 it was quite possible that the Censor had thought this amounted to a commitment to dethrone King Boris, of which the Censor knew nothing. But these were merely casual observations at first reading.

Dr. Rybář then said that frankly they had been worried by the fact that there seemed to be a growing desire to favor the Partisans on the part of this Government. He said that Americans of Yugoslav ancestry had occasionally applied for jobs and in a number of cases were asked whether they favored the Yugoslav National Government or the Partisans. When they said they favored the existing Yugoslav Government, they had been promptly rebuked by their interviewers, and told that the Partisan side was obviously the better [Page 986]one. He wanted to know whether our Government was changing its policy.

I said our Government had not changed its policy. We had not intervened in internal Yugoslav matters. What we hoped for was complete unity in fighting the Axis. The division was regrettable. We had hoped that this might be composed so that unity could be restored. I hoped Dr. Rybář would give me a memorandum of the incidents to which he referred—which he said he would do in confidence.

Dr. Rybář then asked whether I could give him any information about conversations with Sir Anthony Eden40 as affecting Yugoslavia. I said I could not; and that up-to-date I understood that no questions affecting Yugoslavia had been discussed. We were primarily talking over matters as between the British and the United States.

Dr. Rybář said that Russia necessarily came into this matter. (He was obviously fishing to know whether we were entering into an agreement with the British in respect of Russian claims.)

I said that, as Dr. Rybář knew, Russia had stated her policy. She had asked for the pre-1941 lines and had said she expected to stop there.

Dr. Rybář said they had unofficially, through Communist propaganda, asked for “friendly governments” in neighboring states. He thought this meant establishing puppet governments and that these governments could only be safe it [if] there was actual incorporation of the territory into Russia. He said that this, in fact, meant that Russia would take over the entire Balkan area clear to the Adriatic Sea, and this would have the gravest effects on the Mediterranean. I made no comment except to say that the United States Government had stated its policy in the Atlantic Charter41 and that I had heard of no change.

Dr. Rybář spoke a little passionately of the people who are now attempting to divide Yugoslavia. I said that, as his Embassy knew, we had done what we could to avoid divisions. Among other things, I myself felt that an unhappy situation had grown up, as apparently groups of Croatians and Slovenes had seemed to feel that they were being subordinated to the greater Serbian movement; and that in my own feeling, the greatest hope for Yugoslavia lay in working out a situation in which all of these groups could strike hands together and join in expelling the Axis from their territory.

A[dolf] A. B[erle], Jr.
  1. Vladimir Rybář, Yugoslav Chargé
  2. Not printed.
  3. King of Bulgaria.
  4. British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; he arrived in Washington March 12, 1943, for discussions with U.S. officials.
  5. Joint statement by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill on August 14, 1941; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. i, p. 367.