740.0011 European War 1939/32649: Telegram
The Minister in Sweden (Johnson) to the Secretary of State
[Received January 11—8:53 p.m.]
83. Mr. Abram Hewitt,33 whose connections with government service are known to Department, has given me a memorandum of which following is summary.
Early in October a Swedish businessman of high position, friend of Hewitt’s, arranged for a Dr. Felix Kersten to meet Mr. Hewitt. Kersten was private physician to late husband34 of Queen Wilhelmina35 and is said to have a European reputation as a nerve specialist. After German invasion of Holland, Kersten moved to Berlin where he lived until present time. He is known to have treated many high German officials including Himmler36 and Hitler. He has Finnish citizenship. Doctor called by arrangement of Mr. Hewitt in a professional capacity and gave him some treatments which continued until he returned to Berlin about first of December. Conversation between Dr. Kersten and Hewitt was in German. Following represents Hewitt’s digest of points Doctor made during his conversations:
- He treated Himmler 1938. When Germans invaded Holland he was forced in 1941 to move to Berlin where he again was physician to [Page 490]Himmler. Shortly after he was put under contract to treat 21 members of German Government each year. Hewitt says that while Dr. Kersten put matter in this precise way, from other things he said it seemed apparent that most of his time was put in at SS37 Headquarters treating Himmler and his staff.
- Doctor claims to have been largely instrumental through mediation with Himmler in having sentence of seven Swedish engineers who had been caught working with Polish underground commuted from death to life imprisonment. Head of Swedish Match Monopoly in Germany, Alvin Moller, whom Hewitt knows, went to Kersten and asked him to use his influence with Himmler to have sentence commuted. Moller is said to have offered large sum of money to doctor (one hundred thousand kronor mentioned) if lives of these men could be saved. Doctor refused to take money but said he would see what he could do. He reported he discussed matter with Himmler several times and had two interviews on subject with Hitler. Sentence of death was then commuted. As reward for his effort Swedish Government invited him to Sweden for two months’ holiday.
- Above is doctor’s account of how he got to Sweden. Hewitt says he believes that something along following lines may have happened: Swedish engineers were caught and in fact condemned to death. Money was offered to doctor to get them off. He at once told Himmler who told him not to accept money but arranged to have sentence commuted. Himmler knew Swedes were bound to offer doctor some other reward and instructed him to accept invitation to visit Sweden where as a Finn he would have considerable freedom of movement and opportunity to establish contact with Americans. Hewitt states he believes that it was no accident that Doctor Methim as Swede who was medium of introduction and whom Hewitt says he sees regularly had urged that he talk to Doctor. This Swede has intimate contacts in Germany and moves at highest level. It was plain he wanted to make contact between Hewitt and Doctor.
- As acquaintance between Hewitt and Doctor developed latter talked quite freely and gave a number of military facts which have been reported elsewhere (to OSS) some of which Hewitt says have been borne out.
- Doctor states that Himmler since becoming Minister of Interior38 is most important man in Germany, that all cells of resistance to Hitler which had been crystallizing have been wiped out. Many individuals are bitterly opposed to Hitler but no effective organization exists to handle matter. Even communications between generals and other high army officers now has to pass through hands of Gestapo39 or SS.
- Himmler himself has now reached point where he knows war is lost. For time being he is loyal to Hitler but Doctor intimates time would come when he would not be.
- As illustration of this changed point of view Doctor cited Denmark where Himmler gave his men orders to allow Jews to escape to Sweden without injury.
- Himmler is fanatically anti-Russian but is neither anti-British nor anti-American. He is anxious to reach an arrangement with them which will leave something of Germany. He knows it is impossible for Allies to treat with Hitler and is quite prepared to oust him. Hewitt says he asked Doctor if in his opinion Himmler’s patriotism was such that he would oust Hitler, make himself responsible for keeping order in Germany for very limited period and then retire. Doctor said he thought Himmler would. Hewitt says he pointed out that everyone in America and Britain is convinced we will win war and it is useless for Himmler to think about a compromise peace favorable to Germany.
- Doctor added that in event no such arrangement proved possible he had heard considerable discussion at SS Headquarters about German plans. When point is reached that they believe further military resistance is futile Himmler intends to destroy all property possible in occupied countries and in Germany as well, with a view to depriving individuals of all property and valuables. Purpose of this is to precipitate a wave of communism. Himmler and his crowd would announce themselves as communists and count on riding in upon this wave into some sort of collaboration with Russia.
- Kersten pressed Hewitt on four separate occasions to go to Germany to confer with Himmler at once. Hewitt says that he pointed out that he is purely a private citizen and in no way represented Government of United States, and further that he had no way of knowing what policies or intentions of Government are at this time.40 Kersten then suggested that Hewitt return to Washington and after getting general picture there come to Lisbon where he would be met and taken to confer with Himmler. Hewitt states that technical arrangements were made to establish contact at Lisbon in event that he came there and that no promise of any kind was made by him.
- Kersten stated peace proposals from Russia were brought to Germany by Prince Wied, former German Minister to Stockholm, and by von Papen,41 Minister [Ambassador] to Turkey, the first just after Stalingrad and the second last May. Details of these proposals as discussed at SS headquarters and reported by Kersten were in general that Russia was to have a free hand in Balkans, to extend her territory to Salonika, Istanbul and Adriatic port, to keep Baltic Provinces and that part of Poland taken in 1939.
- Kersten said that it would be all right if Hewitt arrived in Lisbon as late as February 15. Hewitt says that since that time word has reached him from Germany that due to damage wrought by air raids they are very anxious that he should arrive in Lisbon as soon as possible.
Hewitt also reports that since Kersten’s return to Germany in December a German Army Colonel named Walter Schellenberg42 who was wounded in Africa has been in Stockholm and got in touch with CPM [him?] through Kersten’s instructions. Hewitt states he stressed point with the Colonel that he was purely a private person and in no way represented United States Government. He also stressed point that in his private opinion American Government would never deal with Hitler. Schellenberg is said to have remarked that he understood this and intimated that it was not necessary. He asked Hewitt to come to Germany to see Himmler and discuss possibilities of peace. Hewitt replied that there was no point in doing so at time because he knew almost nothing of current policies of American Government but if invitation were left open he might come later. Schellenberg intimated that bombing was devastating so much of Germany that time was rather short in which something could be initiated. Hewitt says technical arrangements were made for him to be met in Lisbon by Schellenberg and taken to Germany for talks with Himmler. Hewitt states that all of these matters had previously been discussed with Dr. Kersten and claims that Schellenberg’s appearance in Stockholm is confirmation from SS Headquarters of Dr. Kersten’s good standing with Himmler.
I have told Mr. Hewitt that in my opinion propositions such as Dr. Kersten’s were useless, that Allied Government would never deal with Himmler and I have also expressed opinion that the secret acts of his were dangerous. Hewitt is leaving Stockholm in a day or two as soon as transportation is available having already procured highest priority. He expects to go to Washington and to expand on this account with officials there. I think he even hopes to see the President.… [Page 493]If Kersten’s overtures are made with authorization it looks like another desperate bid on part of Himmler to save himself at all costs. Such ideas as those advanced by Kersten are those of men in desperation. Germans have in past made many attempts to sow distrust in Allied camp and it is difficult to find reason to put faith in statements of a Finn who is obviously a Gestapo agent himself.…
- Mr. Hewitt was an official of the United States Commercial Company in Sweden.↩
- Prince Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.↩
- Queen of the Netherlands.↩
- For Kersten’s own account of his association with Himmler, see Felix Kersten, Totenkopf und Treue, Heinrich Himmler ohne Uniform; aus den Tagebuchblättern des finnischen Medizinalrats (Hamburg, Robert Mölich Verlag, n.d.).↩
- Schutzstaffel, Elite Corps (black shirts) of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (N.S.D.A.P.), used for military and police purposes.↩
- Himmler had become Minister of the Interior on August 24, 1943.↩
- German Secret Police.↩
In aide-mémoire dated January 24, 1944, not printed, the Department of State transmitted to the British and Soviet Embassies an account of this peace feeler approach containing the following statement: “The American stated that in each instance his answer was a flat refusal made on the grounds first, that he was a private citizen with no authority from the United States Government, and, second, that, in any event, he was convinced that a compromise peace with Germany would not even be considered by the American Government.” (740.0011 European War 1939/33121b and 33121a).
This procedure whereby the U.S., British, and Soviet Governments informed one another of any peace feelers which they might receive was in accordance with item 13 of the Secret Protocol signed November 1, 1943, at the Tripartite Conference of Foreign Ministers, October 18–November 1, 1943,↩
Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. i, pp. 749, 753.
- Franz von Papen.↩
- Walter Schellenberg was Chief of Amt VI of the German Office of Security Police and Security Service. Amt VI dealt with intelligence on foreign countries.↩