856.48/10–344: Telegram

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

8240. EeEmbs 7860, September 22. This Government has received a note dated October 3, 1944 from the Netherlands Embassy, Washington,55 urgently requesting this Government’s donsent to the shipment from Sweden to western enemy-occupied Holland of food supplies for civilian consumption there. It is stated that the Netherlands [Page 286] Government has requested the Swedish Government, as the protecting Power of Netherlands interests in enemy countries, to make available for this purpose foodstocks now on hand in Sweden. The note continues that the Netherlands Government has requested the Swedish Government to endeavor to obtain permission from the German Government to ship these supplies and to allow distribution by the Netherlands Red Cross. The Netherlands Embassy states that Lord Selborne has already informed the Netherlands Government that MEW does not consider the sending of these supplies as opposed to Allied blockade policy.

It is a cause of some embarrassment to the Department to learn that this proposal has been submitted to the British authorities and that an affirmative reply was given without the Department’s having been consulted.

The proposal appears to be in line with present blockade policy since it is said that food supplies are available in Sweden and does not involve shipments through the blockade. While in all probability some of the supplies which the Swedes have been requested to make available are not of Swedish origin and a request for replacement may later be made, we are of the opinion that no objection should be entered to the proposal on that score in view of the probable early relaxation of the blockade policy as regards limited feeding programs in Allied territory remaining under enemy occupation. We would want to make approval conditional upon supervision of distribution by IRC or Swedish Red Cross and to have quantities subject to the approval of Anglo-American blockade authorities.

We are prepared to inform the Netherlands Embassy and the Swedish Government that the United States has no objection to this proposal provided the necessary assurances are obtained from the German authorities.57 Please take this matter up with the British authorities urgently to determine whether they concur. In view of the urgency of the matter Department intends to return an affirmative [Page 287] reply to the Netherlands Embassy unless British objections are communicated to the Department by October 14.58

  1. Not printed.
  2. In a note of October 26, the Department informed the Netherlands Embassy that “the Government of the United States interposes no objection to this proposal provided assurances are received from the German authorities that distribution of such supplies may be supervised by the International Committee of the Red Cross or the Swedish Red Cross and provided further that the quantities of supplies to be sent shall be subject to the approval of the Anglo-American blockade authorities.” (856.48/10–1244) On October 13, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands addressed a message to President Roosevelt, requesting the President’s aid in providing food and medical supplies to the people of the Netherlands. The President replied in a message of October 27, in which he stated: “This Government will be glad to agree to any plan for the importation of food from Sweden into German occupied areas of Holland which will insure that such supplies will actually be made available to those of your citizens in need and will not result in advancing the interests of our mutual enemy.” (856.48/10–2644.)
  3. In telegram 8953, October 19, from London, Ambassador Winant reported that the Foreign Office had stated that it had notified the Netherlands Embassy in London of its approval of the relief plan before informing the U.S. Government “because of the urgency of the matter.” The Netherlands Government subsequently had formally requested the Swedish Government to obtain permission from the Germans, but no reply had yet been received. Ambassador Winant added that “the prospects of obtaining German consent are not believed to be good according to the Foreign Office.” (856.48/10–1944) Telegram 4350, October 25, from Stockholm, reported the démarche of the Netherlands Legation in Stockholm. “Netherlands Legation and Swedish Foreign Office are not optimistic regarding German safe conduct.” (856.48/10–2544)