840.48 Refugees/7–2944: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland (Harrison)

3040. The following cable for Harrison and McClelland from the Department, War Refugee Board and Foreign Economic Administration is WRB 109 and refers to Legation’s 4874 of July 2987 regarding Sternbuch scheme.

We concur in your view that it is not feasible presently to undertake the transaction in question, for reasons clearly indicated in Department’s 2656 of August 2, WRB’s 106.88

It is feared, however, in view of contents of paragraph 4 of your above mentioned cable, that you may misapprehend United States Government policy regarding, for refugee rescue and relief purposes, the licensing of financing operations in and communications with enemy territory. The decision not to undertake the Sternbuch proposal, it must be emphasized, changes in no way nor derogates from the licensing policy effective since before establishment in January of War Refugee Board. The following, for your information and guidance, is a statement of policy of this Government regarding rescue [Page 1145] and relief purposes licenses communicated to the British Government several months ago and explained to Mr. Dingle Foot of MEW in person and detail.89

“With approval of the Department of State, the Treasury Department and the War Refugee Board a number of licenses have been issued by the United States Government to private organizations authorizing such organizations, in an effort to save the lives of oppressed peoples, to finance operations in and communicate with enemy territory. The basic provisions of these licenses have already been communicated to the British Government. It is known by the British Government that only if it is not feasible to procure local funds by other prescribed methods do such licenses permit the acquisition of the necessary local funds, goods or services from persons in enemy or enemy-occupied territory against payment in free exchange or free currency notes.

In issuing these licenses the United States Government has concluded that the saving of lives far outweighs any danger involved in permitting the enemy to acquire relatively inconsequent amounts of foreign exchange. It is felt that every effort should be exerted towards making available adequate funds for assisting refugees to escape or to otherwise save their lives as experience has shown that in many cases this end can be attained only by the use of money.

The Government of the United States is convinced that operations of this character are necessary, in addition to those the Intergovernmental Committee will undertake in extension of credit operations which private organizations have conducted previously.

Motivated by humanitarian considerations the United States Government intends to continue the policy in connection with the issuance of licenses to private organizations which it has now been pursuing for several months. This Government is most anxious there be no unilaterality in its efforts in this regard and that a common line will be followed by the two Governments so that, as in the case of operations through the Intergovernmental Committee, there may be full cooperation in this matter as well.

The United States Government accordingly hopes that adoption of a similar policy relative to authorization and encouragement of transmission of funds by private agencies to neutral countries for the rescue and relief of enemy oppression victims will be decided upon by the British Government. The two Governments will, in this way, be able to carry out most effectively the policy agreed upon heretofore to take all measures possible for the speedy relief and rescue of the oppressed minorities of Europe which are consistent with the successful prosecution of the war.”

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In continuing and intensifying our humanitarian efforts to rescue the victims of enemy oppression it is important that the policy indicated be your guide. Your attention is further directed in this connection to the Department’s cable 856 of March 15.90

Adequate care, we know, is being taken not to make free currency or free exchange available except where other prescribed methods of procuring local funds are not feasible and, from reports furnished us, we are not disturbed about the quantity of free currency and free exchange being obtained. Also, we do not regard these activities as conflicting with the various negotiations this Government is now conducting with the Swiss Government and Swiss banks to deny free Swiss francs to the enemy to the greatest possible extent, and expressly to prevent a last minute flight of capital into Switzerland, attempting to avoid military and economic control of the United Nations.

  1. Not printed; it concerned a proposal involving simple ransom money payments (840.48 Refugees/7–2944). For American policy toward transactions of this character, see Department of State press release of November 24, 1942, “German attempts to extort ransom payments for persons in occupied countries”, Department of State Bulletin, November 28, 1942, p. 962.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Memorandum by the Department of State to the British Embassy, June 20, 1944, in response to aide-mémoire of March 27 from the British Embassy, neither printed; the conference between Mr. Foot and Mr. Pehle on the license operations of the War Refugee Board took place in the Executive Director’s office on June 14, according to a memorandum of June 15 from the Adviser on Refugees and Displaced Persons (Warren) to the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle) (840.48 Refugees/5979).
  4. Not printed.