840.48/6524a: Airgram

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

A–411. For the Ambassador and Riefler from Department and FEA. Please endeavor as soon as possible to obtain British concurrence to the immediate transmission of a telegram to the American Legation, Stockholm, in the sense of the text quoted below. Since Riefler is fully acquainted with the background of this matter, it is not considered necessary to set forth herein the considerations which seem to us to make this action advisable at this time from the political as well as the humanitarian point of view.

The President is fully in accord with this proposal,

Riefler will note that the conditions as now proposed differ somewhat from those he saw when in Washington. The changes resulted from the feeling that as originally drawn they were so restrictive as to make their acceptance by the Germans impossible. As our real objective is to put into operation as soon as possible limited relief schemes in the four countries named under such safeguards as are essential, it has seemed necessary to modify the conditions so that they can be put up to the Germans as a reasonable but firm proposal rather than merely as a basis for negotiation.

“United States and British Governments have noted with increasing satisfaction the excellent job done by the Swedish Government representatives in Greece in supervising the distribution among the Greek population of relief supplies sent to that country under the provisions of the relief scheme which went into operation in the summer of 1942. The United States and British Governments have not been unmindful of the suffering in other territories under German control and of the expressed willingness of the Swedish Government to assume responsibilities similar to those which it has assumed in connection with the Greek relief scheme in effecting the distribution of such supplies as may be permitted to pass through the blockade for distribution among distressed civilian populations of other occupied areas. Heretofore the Allied Governments have not considered it possible to permit the shipment of relief supplies through [Page 256] the blockade into the other occupied areas without by so doing unduly giving aid to the German war potential against the United Nations. If the Swedish Government is willing to act as neutral guarantor of the programs and is able to obtain the agreement of the German Government to the following conditions, the Allied Governments are now disposed to permit limited shipments of special relief foodstuffs for distribution to children up to the age of 14 and nursing and expectant mothers in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Norway. The programs may later be extended elsewhere if found practicable.

  • ‘(1) That imported relief foodstuffs and medical supplies will be distributed strictly on the basis of need to children, nursing and expectant mothers, and such other special groups as may be designated, but not including adults working or capable of working.
  • (2) That the operation of the programs will be under the complete and immediate control of a neutral commission, the personnel of which must be approved by the Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom, the commission to be permitted to maintain an adequate staff and to have complete freedom of movement within the country in which it operates in order to supervise all aspects of the program’s operation.
  • (3) That Germany will agree to maintain the rations existing in the occupied country as of the date of this proposal, or not to reduce such rations unless those of civilians in Germany are reduced proportionately, and to increase those rations in proportion to any increase in rations in Germany or in other occupied territory. These conditions require, of course, that sufficient supplies will be made available from local production and German stocks for the rations to be met. The supply of unrationed products normally consumed by the beneficiaries of the relief programs shall not be reduced by requisition, exportation, or diversion to others. (It is recognized, however, that the supply might be reduced by natural causes such as crop failure.) The neutral supervising commission in each country is to be accorded facilities to determine for itself whether these conditions are being met and is to be permitted from time to time to inform the Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom accordingly.
  • (4) That all shipping required for the operation of the scheme will be neutral vessels presently within the blockaded area. Fuel for these ships may, however, be furnished from Western Hemisphere sources at designated points of origin.’

German agreement to the setting up of relief programs under necessary safeguards in the countries above mentioned will probably be more readily given if the Swedish Government takes the initiative in the matter. You may assure the Swedish Government that no financial burden will fall upon the latter by reason of its participation in this humanitarian work either in connection with its supervisory activities within the beneficiary countries or in connection with such shipping as it may make available for the transportation of relief supplies.

Please communicate to the Swedish Government the sense of the foregoing and ascertain whether that Government is disposed to act as the neutral guarantor of such relief programs and is willing to approach the German Government with a proposal incorporating the conditions set forth above. If the Swedish Government’s reply is in the affirmative you may inform it that the Governments of the United States and of the United Kingdom are agreeable to the immediate presentation of such a proposal to the German Government and would appreciate being informed when the proposal has actually been submitted to the German Government.”

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When informed that a proposal in the foregoing sense has been communicated to the German Government by the Swedish Government it is proposed that the Soviet Government be so informed and that the Governments of the United States and of the United Kingdom make an appropriate public statement.

This message has been sent as a confidential airgram in order to avoid paraphrasing and re-paraphrasing the text of the proposed telegram to Stockholm. Please reply in like manner.17

  1. In addition to the above message the following note from President Roosevelt to Prime Minister Churchill was cabled to London on March 15: “We have lately been giving further thought to the matter of limited feeding programs for children and nursing and expectant mothers in the German-occupied countries of Europe. Ambassador Winant will shortly take up with your Government a proposal under which such programs might be put into effect initially in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Norway.

    I bespeak your most earnest consideration of this proposal. I am convinced that the time has arrived when the continued withholding of food from these categories of the populations of the occupied countries is likely to hurt our friends more than our enemies and consequently to be injurious to the United Nations cause.” (840.48/6524a)