The British Ambassador (Halifax) to the Secretary of State

Ref: 2609/24/44
No. 526

His Majesty’s Ambassador presents his compliments to the Secretary of State and has the honour to refer to Sir Ronald Campbell’s note No. 414 of July 10, 1944 about a proposal for a governmental statement in connection with the shooting of German prisoners by the French Forces of the Interior in retaliation for the execution of patriot French prisoners by the Germans.

As Mr. Hull will be aware, this matter was considered at a meeting on July 20th, attended by representatives of the United States State, War and Navy Departments, of His Majesty’s Canadian Embassy and of this Embassy, as a result of which it was agreed to propose to the Foreign Office in London that the purpose of the governmental statement advocated by them would be achieved by reiterating the statement on this subject already made by General Eisenhower, and that this procedure would not incur the dangers which might be run in making a governmental statement.
His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has now replied to this suggestion stating that, after the latest evidence of the Germans’ atrocious torture of the French in the Maquis area, there is little doubt that the French Forces of the Interior will continue to take reprisals against German prisoners, whatever instructions they may or may not receive from General Koenig or from Algiers. It is understood that the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force have recognised this and are now concentrating on ensuring (a) that the French Forces of the Interior receive no instructions from any quarter condoning reprisals; and (b) that when reprisals occur they should be given no publicity.
In these circumstances His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom consider that the proposed governmental statement might [Page 1244] well do more harm than good, and they agree that it would be better to drop the idea of such a statement. The Foreign Office have explained the point of view now taken by His Majesty’s Government and the United States Government to the French Delegation in London, pointing out that further the statement would be useless unless it made the point that the French Forces of the Interior conformed with rules of war. If this statement were made and the Germans knew that it was untrue this would merely be an invitation for a counter-statement on their part, reviewing details of occasions when the French Forces of the Interior had executed prisoners. The result would be to give prominence to the very misdeeds of the French Forces of the Interior which it is desired to conceal, and the danger of reprisals against Allied prisoners, which must always be at any time our chief concern, will thereby be increased. In all these circumstances the French Delegation have been told that His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom prefer to rest on General Eisenhower’s statement.