740.0011 European War/32572: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman)

144. Personal for the Ambassador. Your 43, January 6, 4 p.m. I took up with the President the question of the desirability of defining the term “unconditional surrender”13 which Molotov raised with you on December 31. In his memorandum in reply14 the President stated that he does not favor the idea of any discussions for the purpose of defining the term “unconditional surrender” since he feels that any definition which might be agreed upon now would probably have to be modified or changed the first time one of our enemies indicated a desire to surrender. He believes that since the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the United States have agreed not to make any peace except after mutual consultation, the case of each individual enemy country should be considered on its merits on that basis. The President further suggests that for the propaganda effect on the German people utilization should be made of that portion of his Christmas Eve speech15 which referred to future treatment of the German people (I am informed you have the text of the President’s Christmas Eve speech). In the President’s opinion the best definition of the meaning of the term “unconditional surrender” is to be found in the account of Lee’s surrender to Grant with which you are familiar.

When a suitable occasion presents itself you might inform Molotov that this Government does not consider it wise to attempt at this time to make any general public definition of the term “unconditional surrender” but rather to deal with the case of each individual enemy country as it arises.16

Repeated to London.17

  1. See memorandum by the Secretary of State, January 14, p. 493.
  2. January 17, ibid.
  3. Address by President Roosevelt in a radio broadcast from Hyde Park, N.Y.; for text, see Department of State Bulletin, January 1, 1944, p. 3.
  4. In his telegram 273, January 27, noon, Ambassador Harriman stated he would carry out the instructions (740.0011 European War/32897).
  5. As telegram 606.