740.00119 European War 1939/2434

Memorandum by the Secretary of State to President Roosevelt

The British Ambassador22 has given me the attached telegram23 from Mr. Eden24 recommending that the principle of unconditional surrender as laid down at Casablanca25 and confirmed at Moscow26 be abandoned in the case of the Axis satellite states in order that, for purposes of both propaganda and peace feelers, all three Governments should be free to decide in consultation, according to the circumstances, [Page 585] whether they should insist on unconditional surrender. In the case of Germany and Japan, the principle of unconditional surrender will continue to apply.

While the British telegram correctly points out that the Soviet terms to Finland definitely do not impose unconditional surrender, such terms are not required under the Joint Four Nation Declaration for the reason that Finland is not a member of the Axis, whereas the other satellites are. Although the premise of the British reasoning may not be strictly correct, I recommend, however, that we concur in the proposal in order to obtain more flexibility vis-à-vis the Axis satellite states.

The events of the past few days27 make it unlikely that the question of surrender terms for Hungary and Rumania will have any immediate importance. Furthermore, Mr. Molotov has indicated that he is not yet prepared to discuss Bulgarian surrender terms in the European Advisory Commission currently meeting in London.28 Nevertheless, for the purpose of handling either propaganda or peace feelers, I think it would be advantageous now to free ourselves from the Moscow decision on the unconditional surrender of Axis satellite states.29

  1. Viscount Halifax.
  2. Telegram dated March 17, not printed; it was received in the Department March 20.
  3. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  4. Communiqué issued on January 26, 1943, after conference between President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill at Casablanca, January 14–24, 1943; for text, see Department of State Bulletin, January 30, 1943, p. 93. The records of the Casablanca Conference are scheduled for publication in a subsequent volume of Foreign Relations.
  5. Declaration of Four Nations on General Security, signed at Moscow, October 30, 1943; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. i, p. 755.
  6. Military occupation of Hungary by Germany and setting up of new regime under German pressure.
  7. See telegram 924, March 19, 11 p.m., from Moscow, vol. iii, p. 316.
  8. A handwritten notation on the file copy reads: “No—The British Foreign Office has always been back of this & it is N.G. FDR.”