840.414/7b: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)

2293. Department believes it may be of great importance to this Government to have copies of some of the major diplomatic and other records of the Axis governments and governments associated with them. The Germans have already utilized records found at Warsaw, Paris, etc., for propaganda purposes29 and Department feels that copies of the most significant Axis records may be needed to protect the United Nations from Axis propaganda campaigns during or after the war and may also yield information of great importance regarding Axis objectives in the war, their methods of operation, responsibility for violations of international law, and their confederates at home and abroad. It is believed that this may also be a matter of interest to the British and the U.S.S.R. and that it should, therefore, be discussed with their representatives with a view to ensuring that this Government will obtain copies of important Axis records even though the archives in question may first come under the control of the armed forces of our associates.

If you see no objection you are requested to take the matter up in the European Advisory Commission and report to the Department whether the desired arrangements can be made. The Department leaves to your discretion the question as to how many governments should cooperate in this matter but stresses the necessity for keeping [Page 1482]the project as secret as possible. It is hoped that the appropriate military branches will have the facilities for the work but if copying by microfilm seems to be the most practicable method, the United States Navy is understood to have teams of microfilm experts available.

Department has in mind principally foreign office records, the records of the highest Axis officials and officials of satellite states, and enemy diplomatic and consular records in general not in the custody of protecting powers, which may shed light on Axis intrigue, ruthlessness, and aggression since Hitler’s advent to power and during the war. It is assumed that military authorities have considered the question of possible use of enemy general staff archives and other important enemy military records.

In general the Department would like to see diplomatic and consular property respected as indicated in paragraph two, especially, of Department’s A 59 of February 1, 1944 to Algiers (a copy of which will be sent to you by air); it should, however, be borne in mind that, at the moment, only the copying of especially important records and not their confiscation is proposed. Publication of such records is not contemplated unless it seems to be required later by important considerations of policy.

Similar instructions30 are being sent to Mr. Reber31 with a view to action by the Allied Control Commission for Italy.

  1. From military and diplomatic archives captured or seized in 1939 and 1940, the German Foreign Office published a series of White Books. Among the most notable of this series were the following: Auswärtiges Amt, 1940, No. 3, Polish Documents relative to the Origin of the War, First Series (Berlin, Deutscher Verlag. 1940); Auswärtiges Amt, 1940, No. 4, Documents concerning the Anglo-French Policy of extending the war (Berlin, Zentralverlag der NSDAP, Franz Eher. 1940); Auswärtiges Amt, 1940, No. 5, Allied intrigue in the Low Countries, Further documents concerning the Anglo-French policy of extending the War (Berlin, Zentralverlag der NSDAP, Franz Eher, 1940); Auswärtiges Amt, 1941, No. 6, Die Geheimakten des französischen Generalstabes (Berlin, Zentralverlag der NSDAP, Franz Eher, 1941); Auswärtiges Amt, 1941, No. 7, Documents relating to the conflict with Yugoslavia and Greece (Berlin, Deutscher Verlag, 1941). Another series utilizing confiscated archives was published as the Veröffentlichungen des Deutschen Instituts für Aussenpolitische Forschung. Fritz Berber compiled one volume in this series from the archives of the Czechoslovak Government: Europäische Politik 1933–1938 im Spiegel der Prager Akten (Essen, Verlagsanstalt, 1941).
  2. Instruction repeated as No. 897, March 25, to Rome.
  3. Samuel Reber, Deputy Vice President, Political Section, Allied Control Commission for Italy.