840.48 Refugees/5288: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

1708. Director IGC has written Embassy further regarding passports referred to in Embassy’s 1543, February 24th.40 His letter dated February 29th which suggests at its conclusion certain action by Department states as follows:

“Doctor Kullmann has returned from Switzerland where he was able to obtain a good deal of information. He discussed the matter with various Swiss authorities, with the United States Minister, the Polish Minister, the International Red Cross and with representatives of several voluntary organizations.

The facts are briefly as follows. There has been a large trade in passports. It is estimated that 4,000 have been issued from Switzerland and it is known that others have been issued from other neutral countries including Sweden. Some informants estimated the total number to be as high as nine to ten thousand but some thought that it did not exceed 5,000. In Switzerland it was organized by private individuals and reached such proportions that the Swiss Federal Government had to intervene since it threatened to embarrass their position and to give the German authorities the pretext of interfering with the Swiss administration of refugee affairs a matter in which the Swiss Government has hitherto successfully avoided any intervention and has been able to carry out a liberal policy to the great advantage of refugees in general. Legal action was taken against several of the organizers and at the same time enquiry was made regarding the authority of some of the representatives of the South American states to carry on these transactions. Doctor Kullmann was informed for instance that the Honduras Consul who had lost his exequatur for other reasons in 1942 had subsequently issued 400 passports. He further learnt that the Consuls in Switzerland of Haiti, Paraguay and Peru had been dismissed. The average price [Page 1001] paid for a passport was approximately 700 Swiss francs. On the other hand the Consul of San Salvador has acted from purely humanitarian motives and has charged no fee at all.

There seems little doubt that the German authorities are aware of what has been going on but for reasons of their own they have hitherto not adopted a general policy of withdrawing the passports. While in many cases the possession of these documents has afforded the owners protection against persecution and even special treatment in some of the camps, in other cases they have afforded no protection at all and particularly so where the persons concerned were not interned. Originally the German authorities seem to have cherished the hope that the persons with these South American passports might constitute a basis for the exchange of German nationals in South American countries and it is not improbable that they still have vague hopes of this. Other reasons have been suggested for their lack of consistency. Recently however they have been making enquiries through some of the protecting powers of the South American Governments concerned regarding the genuineness of the documents and they have been submitting lists of persons concerned with a view to verification.

Of the countries mentioned in your letter of the 13th January41 the Consuls in Switzerland of Chile, Haiti, Paraguay, Peru and probably Ecuador were concerned in the issue of passports. It is probable though not certain that passports of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Venezuela have been issued by Consuls in countries other than Switzerland.

The above is a brief statement of facts. In regard to action the Swiss authorities are very definite that any approach to the German authorities would not only [be] infructuose but would do more harm than good. There remains the approach to the Governments of the countries concerned which I mentioned in my letter of the 21st February. It is now clear that this approach should cover two points, (first) that the Governments should refrain from withdrawing the passports which have been issued and (second) that if and when the protecting power on the request of the German authorities submits lists of persons with such passports they should instruct the protecting power that the passports have been confirmed. The second is a new point but a very important one and I would ask that the State Department be requested to include it in its representations. I would also request that representations be made to the Government of San Salvador.”

  1. Not printed; it contained the partial text of a letter of February 21 from the Vice Director of the Intergovernmental Committee, G. G. Kullmann, indicating that only partial information regarding passports of refugees in occupied areas had been so far obtainable, and suggesting certain action by Department (840.48 Refugees/5254).
  2. Not printed.