Department of the Army Files

The Assistant Secretary of War ( McCloy ) to the Deputy Director of the Office of European Affairs ( Matthews )1


Dear Doc: Enclosed is a telephone conversation I had with Secretary Stimson this morning which I think it might be well for you to consider and perhaps show to the Secretary of State in connection with any meetings that this new group2 may have.

I know that Mr. Stimson is feeling very strongly about the wisdom of imprisoning the Gestapo. I have asked our people to check up on the size and extent of the Gestapo, so far as we have any means of checking, with an idea of determining what is involved.


John J. McCloy

Telephone Conversation With Secretary Stimson, 12:30 P.M.

Four propositions.

Swift punishment should be visited on the Nazi leaders in respect of war crimes.
We should then go down by steps into the subordinates responsible for such crimes, beginning with the leaders of the Gestapo and investigating their individual responsibility and punishing it accordingly.
As a preliminary step to the above we should immediately upon the occupation of Germany arrest and intern the entire Gestapo and institute careful investigation into individual responsibility for these crimes. Encourage the making of such charges by the German people.
Institute at once an investigation as to the responsibility of the Storm Troopers and their leaders for similar war crimes. Consider also the method of proceeding against the Storm Troopers in a way similar to that taken against the Gestapo. We should always have in mind the necessity of punishing effectively enough to bring home to the German people the wrongdoing done in their name, and thus prevent similar conduct in the future, without depriving them of the hope of a future respected German community. (Those are the two alternatives.) Remember this punishment is for the purpose of prevention and not for vengeance. An element in prevention is to secure in the person punished the conviction of guilt. The trial and punishment should be as prompt as possible and in all cases care should be taken against making martyrs of the individuals punished.

How far can we go under the Geneva Convention3 in educating war prisoners against Naziism?

How far can we go in protecting the remainder of the Germans from the contagion of the Nazis?

  1. McCloy sent copies of this letter to Hopkins, Hilldring, and White.
  2. i.e., the Cabinet Committee on Germany. See post, p. 90.
  3. Signed July 27, 1929. For text, see Department of State, Treaty Series No. 846; Department of State, Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776–1949, vol. 2, p. 932; 47 Stat. (2) 2021.