740.00116 E.W./9–944

The President of Haiti ( Lescot ) to President Roosevelt 36


My Dear President and Great Friend: Guided only by the wish to see just punishment meted out to those who have launched the appalling cataclysm which descended several years ago on our planet, I take the liberty following your solemn warning to neutral countries, with respect to the application of the right of asylum to war criminals, to send the enclosed Mémoire, which is strictly confidential.

It contains, as you will see in reading it, a suggestion that we felt we could make to all the United Nations, although our position in the world conflict is less than modest.

However, supported by the conviction that in such a case there can be no discrimination between Nations because of their greatness or smallness,—especially as it seems to us that the organization of the post-war world should be based on the equality of rights of all States,—I do not hesitate to submit this suggestion to the head of that great American Nation which, through its undeniable power in all fields, has assured and continues to assure the enjoyment of liberty and independence for the Western Hemisphere.

We shall never be able, indeed, sufficiently to express our gratitude to the Great Democracy, of which You assure the glorious destinies, for the protection that it gives us. For we never fail to think of the fate which would have been ours, in thinking of that of the peoples enslaved by Nazi Germany.

[Page 1421]

I have asked our Ambassador in Washington to transmit this confidential Mémoire to the Department of State.37

The Government of the United States of America can take whatever account it deems fit of our confidential suggestion, which we think is justified by the view that humanity will be spared the horrors of armed conflict in the future, in the measure in which exemplary punishment is inflicted on the instigators of war.

Permit me to take this opportunity to renew to you, my dear President and Great Friend, the expression of my highest consideration and unfailing friendship.

E. Lescot


Just as the great Allied powers are preparing to strike the last blow at Nazism, as Germany is being driven to battle on its own territory, as the madmen of this abhorred régime are mustering all their remaining strength to increase still further the number of the infamous crimes with which the civilized world charges them, the Honorable the President of the United States of America, His Excellency Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt, felt that he should renew his warning to neutral countries that the war criminals should not be able to find asylum on their territories.

The Haitian Government, in complete support of the position taken by the head of the great American Democracy, finds that under the circumstances the scope of this solemn warning should be extended, by giving it the form of a general decision which all the United Nations could adopt.

The Haitian Government realizes, of course, that on military matters its voice is less than weak, although it did not hesitate a single moment to side with the great Republic of the United States since the traitorous attack of December 1941, with all the obligations which its attitude entailed. It was absolutely decided to send its sons to any battlefield to defend liberty which was dangerously threatened in its firmest foundations. Only circumstances did not require this contribution which it was ready to undertake.

However, it feels that it can make its voice heard on moral matters, since one of the war aims of the United Nations is to abolish the discrimination between large and small States.

[Page 1422]

It feels this all the more as the present step that it is taking seems to it to be founded on logic and common sense.

Our Government thus takes the liberty of suggesting, in the hope of general adherence, that the United Nations, by a joint declaration, decide by common consent that no neutral country will have the right to grant sanctuary to war criminals who, under the cover of an anti-Christian ideology, have committed acts which make one shudder and which will always be a disgrace to humanity.

Such a decision may seem contrary to the most positive rules of Public International Law. It may appear to conflict with the right of sovereignty and independence as it was set forth by the American Institute of International Law in its “Declaration of the rights and duties of Nations”, proclaimed at its January 6, 1916 session … Our Government feels, however, that the recognized rights of neutral Nations unequivocally impose moral obligations toward all the United Nations which have fought and are still fighting for the safeguard of civilization.

Therefore, the United Nations should make a joint agreement courteously to request the surrender of all the war criminals recognized by the courts, which will have been set up by the great democratic powers, from any neutral country, on the territory of which they have sought sanctuary. They should also agree that in case of a refusal from some neutral country, they should use force in order to inflict an exemplary punishment on those who thought that they could act as barbarians without hindrance.

The example of the impunity enjoyed by the last Emperor of Germany,38 after the first World War of 1914–1918, is sufficiently remembered by all to make one wish to avoid its repetition.

Not to punish severely the criminals of this war would be to encourage barbarism. It would invite other acts of aggression in the indeterminable future. To allow such assassins to find a safe sanctuary wherever it may be, would be to wrong the memory of those who sacrificed their lives to rid Christendom of an evil brood.

And, it would, above all, expose the coming generations to death in a future war which one may well imagine will be much more murderous than the present struggle. It would be risking the failure of one of the aims of the United Nations: the suppression of the aggressor complex of certain nations.

E. Lescot

  1. Received from the White House in the Office of the Secretary of State on September 20.
  2. The Haitian Ambassador handed a copy of the mémoire to the Secretary of State on September 14.
  3. Wilhelm II.