740.00116 European War 1939/1355

The British Ambassador (Halifax) to the Secretary of State

No. 153

His Majesty’s Ambassador presents his compliments to the Secretary of State, and has the honour to invite Mr. Hull’s attention to the following matter, on which an expression of the views of the Department of State is desired.

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His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom have recently been considering the procedure for dealing with German war crimes against Italians. The Moscow Declaration on German atrocities contained references to such crimes and the Italian Government, it is felt, may well look to the major Allies to help them to secure redress for them. Moreover, as the campaign in Italy proceeds, information relating to such crimes is likely to come into the hands of Allied Commanders. There is no agreed procedure for dealing with such information, and German crimes against Italians do not at present fall within the scope of the United Nations Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes, which has hitherto been intended to deal only with war crimes committed by the enemy against nationals of the United Nations.
His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom assume that there can be no question of giving an Italian representative a seat upon the Commission. It has been the aim hitherto to restrict membership to those of the United Nations most closely concerned with war crimes committed during the present war. On this basis His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom have resisted pressure to give a seat to an Ethiopian representative. It would seem that to arrange for Italian representation would make it impossible to resist other demands for extension of the Commission’s membership. There would be a further anomaly that the Commission would be dealing with crimes committed both by and against Italians.
In view, however, of Italy’s co-belligerent status, His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom suggest that it might be possible to arrange, without undue objection on the part of the other Allies concerned, for German crimes against Italians to be considered by the Commission as at present constituted. It would in their view be preferable that the Italian Government should not be placed in direct contact with the Commission for this purpose. His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom feel that it would be undesirable to give the Italian Government an opportunity of entering into discussion with the Allied Governments on general questions relating to the treatment of war criminals, or of raising the question of what help Italy might expect from the Allies in implementing the Moscow Declaration. His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom would accordingly propose that they and/or the United States Government, as being the authorities into whose hands information relating to such crimes is most likely to fall, should act as the agents of the Italian Government and themselves pass on such information to the Commission on the Italian Government’s behalf.
The above suggestions are, of course, put forward on an entirely tentative basis. If some such course were agreed upon between the [Page 1289] United States Government and His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, it would, it is presumed, be necessary to ask the concurrence of the other Allied Governments represented upon the Commission. The Italian Government might then be informed of the arrangements proposed, and suitable instructions forwarded to the Allied authorities in Italy.
Viscount Halifax would be glad to receive in due course any comments which Mr. Hull may have to make on the suggestion put forward above.