Lot 52 M64

The Secretary of State to the Secretary of War (Stimson)

My Dear Mr. Secretary: I refer to your letter of March 20, 1944 and to previous correspondence concerning the policy of the United States Government with respect to diplomatic and consular property of enemy governments and the property of enemy diplomatic and consular personnel.

Since your letter was received, this Department has addressed to the Embassy at London and to the American member of the Political Section of the Allied Control Commission for Italy telegraphic instructions,45 paraphrases of which I am sending you herewith,46 emphasizing the importance of making arrangements with the British and Soviet Governments for the appropriate utilization of such important Axis records as may be captured by the armed forces of the United Nations. You will observe that the Department has in mind principally the records of ministries for foreign affairs in enemy territory, enemy general staff and other important military archives, and miscellaneous records appertaining to the more important officials of enemy states or of their satellites. The position with respect to diplomatic and consular property of enemy governments (including diplomatic and consular archives) and the property of enemy diplomatic and consular personnel, as expressed in this Department’s [Page 1487]airgram no. A–59 of February 1, 1944 to the Mission at Algiers, a copy of which was sent to you with my letter of March 10, 1944, remains unchanged except in one respect: It is now contemplated that the United Nations might wish to copy (but not to confiscate) especially important diplomatic or consular archives of the enemy captured within territory of third Powers, provided that such archives have not been delivered into the custody of the protecting Power. This slight modification of policy was brought to the attention of the Embassy at London, the Legation at Bern,47 and the Mission at Algiers when this Department forwarded to those offices copies of my letter to you of March 10, 1944.

I am also sending you herewith a copy of the reply from the Embassy at London48 to this Department’s aforementioned instruction with respect to the utilization of captured Axis records. Since it appears from the reply that this entire subject is being considered by the planning group that has been constituted within the United States Delegation to the European Advisory Commission and that the Commission will eventually prepare a directive to the Allied and Soviet Commanders-in-Chief on the subject, it seems to me that it might be helpful to the Commission in its deliberations and to the Allied and Soviet Commanders-in-Chief in their eventual execution of the directive to be issued, if this Government should suggest the adoption of the following guiding principles (which are fundamentally those stated in my letter to you of March 10, as subsequently modified):

“If captured within the territory of third Powers, the diplomatic and consular property of enemy governments (including their diplomatic and consular archives) and the property of enemy diplomatic and consular personnel will be accorded the following treatment:

  • “(a) If any such property is in the custody of the protecting Power, that custody will be respected in every way.
  • “(b) If any such property is not in the custody of the protecting Power, it should be safeguarded until such time as the interested governments may direct that it be delivered into the custody of the protecting Power or otherwise disposed of in the light of then existing circumstances.

“It is understood in connection with paragraph (b) that important enemy diplomatic and consular archives that have not been delivered into the custody of the protecting Power may be copied (but not confiscated).”

As you indicate in your letter of March 20, provision has apparently been made for the treatment of enemy diplomatic and consular archives and other property captured in Italy. Now, however, it seems probable that with increasing frequency similar situations will arise [Page 1488]in other countries of Europe. I agree fully that the policy laid down for the Commander in the field should not be too rigid or detailed, but I feel also that the Command in the field should be aware of the general policy of this Government with respect to such property and archives (to which we have repeatedly committed ourselves in the course of the past two years) in order that he may endeavor to avoid action that might place in jeopardy the good faith of the United States Government.

If you concur in the statement suggested above, I shall be happy to direct the Embassy at London to present it to the European Advisory Commission as representing the policy of the United States Government in this regard.

Sincerely yours,

Cordell Hull
  1. See telegram 2293, March 25, to London, p. 1481, and footnote 30, p. 1482.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See instruction 2101, April 4, to Bern, p. 1482.
  4. See despatch 15410, May 3, from London, p. 1484.