740.00116 EW/8–2144

The First Secretary of the British Embassy (Gore-Booth) to the Legal Adviser (Hackworth)

Dear Mr. Hackworth: I enclose herewith a paraphrase of a telegram received from the Foreign Office about the action of the Germans in using French political detainees in contravention of the accepted rules of warfare.

You will see that the Foreign Office are not in favour of any formal communication being made to the German Government through the Swiss Government, but they do think that His Majesty’s Government and the United States Government should put themselves publicly on record as protesting the German action.

We would be grateful for your comments on London’s proposals.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Gore-Booth

Telegram to the British Embassy, Washington, From the Foreign Office, Dated August 14, 1944

The French Delegation have informed me that General Koenig recently drew the attention of the Chief of Staff at Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, to the use by the Germans of French political detainees to un-fuse delayed action bombs dropped in France by Allied aircraft. SHAEF replied on July 22nd that although they considered such action to be contrary to the laws of war, [Page 1246] the High Command could do no more than give publicity to the facts, and it considered this action insufficient. SHAEF therefore recommended that the question should be submitted to the British and U.S. Governments whom for their part they would inform directly. The delegation added that a communication on this question has been made to the U. S. Government by the French Delegation in Washington.

This German action is clearly a breach of faith. It is contrary to Article 23 of Land Warfare Regulations attached to the Hague Convention 4, and I am advised it could also be held to be a breach of Article 52 of the same Regulations. Apart from these particular provisions it is clearly a breach of the rules and customs of war to compel persons detained for political or indeed any other reasons to undertake work, which is likely to lead to their death.
In these circumstances His Majesty’s Government would be prepared to join or support the French Committee in making a strong protest to the Germans, accompanied by a warning that those responsible would be tracked down and suitably punished. Such a protest could be issued either by His Majesty’s Government, the United States Government and French Committee jointly, or His Majesty’s Government and the United States Government might jointly support a statement issued by the French Committee. Every publicity would be given this statement. I am not in favour of a formal communication to the German Government through the Swiss Government, since the Germans might well reject it on the ground that they would not recognize any standing of His Majesty’s Government or the United States Government in this matter.