Statement by the Secretary of State Released to the Press on September 28, 1944
On August 21, 1942,52 and again on July 30, 1943,53 President Roosevelt publicly denounced the crimes which the Axis powers, their leaders and criminal associates were committing against innocent people. In his statement of July 30, 1943, the President expressed incredulity that any neutral country would give asylum to or extend protection to such persons, and added that the Government of the United States “would regard the action by a neutral government in affording asylum to Axis leaders or their tools as inconsistent with the principles for which the United Nations were fighting”. He expressed the hope that no neutral government would permit its territory to be used as a place of refuge or otherwise assist such persons in any effort to escape their just deserts.
The governments of the neutral nations in Europe and Argentina were formally apprised of this statement.
The rapid progress of the armed forces of the United Nations in recent weeks led the Department of State late in August to call this matter again urgently to the attention of a number of neutral governments. This Government’s action had the support and approval of the British and Soviet Governments.
The neutral governments were reminded that it was the intention of this Government that the successful close of the war would include provision for the surrender to the United Nations of war criminals. They were advised that if they refused to admit Axis leaders and their henchmen and criminal subordinates to their territories problems between those governments and the United Nations could be avoided. It was pointed out that the neutral governments themselves would undoubtedly regard persons guilty of such crimes against civilization as thoroughly undesirable aliens whose admission to their territories would not be in the interest of the neutral governments even if such persons were not wanted for eventual trial by the United Nations. They were advised that the American people would not understand the extension of asylum or protection by neutral countries to any of the persons responsible for the war or for the many barbaric acts committed by the Axis leaders, and that relations between the United States and the neutral governments concerned would be adversely affected for years to come should the Axis leaders or their vassals find safety in those countries.
Some of the neutral governments had already been giving serious thought to this problem. The Swedish Government’s policy was publicly [Page 1432] announced on September 5 in a declaration to the effect that Sweden’s frontiers would not be open to those who by their actions had defied the conscience of the civilized world or betrayed their own countries and that persons of this character who succeeded in slipping into Sweden would be promptly deported. It is understood that the Swedish Government has taken concrete steps to implement that policy.
No representations were made to the Turkish Government in view of its recent rupture of relations with Germany. The Turkish Government, nevertheless, announced on September 8 that Turkish frontier authorities had been instructed not to permit Axis nationals, either civil or military, to enter Turkey by land or by sea.
The Swiss Government has indicated that it is fully alive to the problems which would arise should Axis leaders find asylum in Switzerland.
A public statement has been made by the Spanish Ambassador in Washington denying that there was any basis for supposition that Axis leaders might find refuge in Spanish territory.55
No indication has yet been received of the views of certain other governments.
The Department is continuing to impress upon those governments whose policy has not yet been clearly stated the importance which it attaches to the taking of adequate measures to insure that Axis war criminals do not find asylum in their countries.