740.00116 European War 1939/1419

The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador (Halifax)

The Secretary of State presents his compliments to His Excellency the British Ambassador and has the honor to refer to his note of March 15 making certain suggestions regarding the procedure to be followed in dealing with German war crimes against Italians, and to the Embassy’s memorandum of May 5, 1944 on the same subject.

After consultation with the War and Navy Departments, it is found that our three Departments concur in the proposal put forward in the Embassy’s note of March 15 that the British Government and the Government of the United States might act for the Italian Government in transmitting information regarding German war crimes against Italians to the War Crimes Commission. It is also agreed that the concurrence in the proposed procedure of the other allied governments represented on the Commission should be sought, and that if such concurrence is obtained, the Italian Government should be informed of the arrangement. The Department of State further agrees with the opinion of the British Government that it would not be in order to give the Italian representative a seat on the Commission.

In indicating their agreement with the procedure outlined above the War and Navy Departments expressed the view that it should be made clear that there is no intention of curtailing in any way the jurisdiction of military commanders in the field over violations of [Page 1325] the laws of war. This is in line with their opinion communicated to the Embassy in the Department’s memorandum dated April 8, 1944, which was the subject of a recent memorandum from the Embassy dated May 20, 1944. The contents of the latter memorandum have been communicated to the War and Navy Departments and a further communication will be addressed to the Embassy when their replies have been received.

In its memorandum of May 5, 1944, the Embassy refers to the fact that the Combined Chiefs of Staff have forwarded to the Department of State a copy of the proceedings to perpetuate testimony in connection with the Caiazzo incident for possible transmission to the United Nations Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes. The British Foreign Office is stated to be concerned that it should have been proposed to forward this information to the War Crimes Commission, as it is felt that this action tends to prejudge the issues raised by the Foreign Office and put forward in the Ambassador’s note of March 15, 1944. It is stated in the memorandum from the War Department forwarding a copy of the proceedings to this Department that the copy was sent at the request of the Secretary, Combined Chiefs of Staff, for transmission “if considered appropriate” to the War Crimes Commission. This Department will of course hold the record until a procedure for dealing with German crimes against Italians is finally agreed upon by all the Governments concerned.