740.00116 European War 1939/1213: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)

8267. For Bucknell. The Department has considered the relation of the Kharkov trials to the Moscow declaration as requested in your 8992, December 24, 11 p.m., and agrees on the importance for political warfare purposes of making a decision on this relationship through the London Political Warfare Coordinating Committee. [Page 854] Clearly such a decision is required to furnish guidance when and if further trials take place, to rebut any efforts the Germans may make to exploit apparent divergencies of opinion between the Allied Governments as a result of further trials, and to clarify the area of apparent “no man’s land” between the Kharkov trials and the Moscow declaration.

It is the considered view of this Government that Kharkov trials are outside the sphere of the Moscow declaration: The latter relates only to persons who are within enemy lines at the time of the signing of the armistice. Nothing in the Moscow declaration limits the freedom of action of the respective United Nations regarding persons captured during hostilities prior to an armistice. Under these circumstances it seems both unnecessary and undesirable for it to be stated publicly in American propaganda that the Kharkov trials either come within or without the Moscow declaration.

Although the above statement fairly represents the view of this Government, you may wish to bear in mind that on the basis of reports from our Embassy in Moscow it appears that the Soviet propagandists have publicly linked the Trial and the Declaration.

The directive adopted by the Coordinating Committee regarding the other aspects of this problem is approved, although, in view of the Soviet propaganda line it is felt that comment on further trials should be held to a minimum since any extensive use of this material would merely furnish the Germans with an opportunity to exploit divergencies of interpretation between the Soviets and ourselves.