The British Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Economic Warfare ( Foot ), to the Assistant Secretary of State ( Berle )
Dear Mr. Berle: During the past week I have had the opportunity of discussing with Mr. Stettinius and yourself the problem of relief in enemy-occupied Europe. This is to confirm the conclusions that we have reached.
The problem is how to render genuine assistance to our friends in the occupied countries without at the same time appreciably diminishing the effectiveness of the Blockade and thereby, directly or indirectly, assisting the enemy. We have also to bear in mind the needs of the territories concerned after liberation. If the Germans adopt everywhere, as they have already done in Italy, a policy of scorched earth the needs of these areas will be even greater than when they were occupied by the enemy and they will urgently require all the supplies which can be made available. It follows that for supply as well as for Blockade reasons any commitment into which we enter in relation to occupied territory must be of a limited character.
It is not easy to distinguish between degrees of hardship or to divide into precise categories all the victims of Nazi mis-rule. Undoubtedly, however, many of the most necessitous cases ate to be found in civilian interment camps. The information available to our two Governments shows that, as a general rule, the inmates of these camps ate far worse off than the population outside. The problem of sending relief to these camps has always been a difficult one since, unlike prisoners of war, the persons concerned have no protecting power and there is no system of inspection to ensure that they receive what is sent to them. As a result of our discussions however we are now agreed that an experiment should be made and that relief foodstuffs may ne despatched through the Blockade to such camps provided that the following conditions are observed: [Page 269]
- The goods are to be packed suitably for individual distribution;
- The I.E.C.35 will undertake to distribute such packages personally by their delegates;
- The delegates will make subsequent visits to ensure that the goods have been used by those for whom they were intended;
- Reports will be required from the I.E.C. after each consignment and as a condition of further shipments;
- The distribution will be limited to persons confined in camps.
Since it will not be possible immediately to send relief to all persons in internment camps, it is proposed to begin with certain camps to be selected after consultation with the I.E.C. If these experiments are a success—if, that is to say, the conditions are observed and we are fully satisfied that the food has reached the persons for whom it was intended—our two Governments will be prepared, subject to supply and shipping considerations, to extend the system to other internment camps in enemy Europe.
As regards the ordinary civilian populations of the occupied countries, and particularly the child populations, it has always been the view of our two Governments that relief consignments from inside the Blockade Area (i.e. originating in European neutral countries) were open to fewer objections from an economic warfare point of view than shipments through the Blockade. We are now agreed that the time has come when the volume of these consignments should, if possible, be substantially increased.
In the case of Norway, relief is administered by the Ditleff organization and takes the form of indigenous Swedish foodstuffs provided by donors in Sweden or, in certain cases, paid for by funds from outside Sweden. Under our existing arrangements with the Swedish Government such foodstuffs cannot be exported to enemy or enemy occupied territory without the express permission of our two Governments. In the past few months we have authorized our Missions in Stockholm to grant such permission, without reference back to Washington or London, up to a total of 250 tons a month. We are now agreed that this authorization shall be increased to 500 tons a month.
The problem in other occupied countries is more difficult since, except in the case of France and Greece, there are no contiguous neutrals. Nevertheless, there has been a regular flow of relief foodstuffs, both in bulk and in the form of parcels, from Portugal to the various occupied countries, and from Switzerland. The Portuguese supplies have been paid for with exchange made available to the Allied Governments in London by our two Governments. The Swiss supplies have been partly so paid for and have partly represented gifts by Swiss nationals. The Swiss consignments have been directed mostly [Page 270] to Belgium, France and Yugoslavia. It is now agreed that we will at once examine how far we can bring about an increase in this flow of relief foodstuffs from Portugal and Switzerland and how far supplies can be made available from Spain.
Our two Governments will forthwith instruct their representatives on the Blockade Committee to work out the details of the above proposals and to give effect to these proposals with the utmost possible despatch. It is understood that these measures are without prejudice to the other measures for assistance to persons in enemy occupied countries which are now under consideration by our two Governments.36
- International Red Cross.↩
- In a letter of June 14, Mr. Berle replied to Mr. Foot: “… I take this opportunity to note particularly the statement in the final paragraph of your letter of June 13 that these measures are without prejudice to the other measures for assistance to persons in the occupied countries, which are now under consideration by our two Governments. You are aware of the fact that for a considerable period of time the Government of the United States has taken the position that additional measures of relief could be made available to our friends in the occupied territories … I think it has been made plain during our conversations that we will continue to press for the adoption of such measures, and hope for favorable action thereon.” (840.48/0–1344)↩