857.48/11–2144: Telegram

The Minister in Sweden ( Johnson ) to the Secretary of State

4772. The following telegram has been sent to London:

1528. November 21, 9 p.m. Anglo-American JSC members strongly recommend they be given authorization to permit despatch relief supplies including food, medicine and some clothing to northern Norway for purpose of alleviating horribly distressed civilians numbering about 250,000 persons who are being pushed south by Germans evacuating northern Norway and following complete scorched-earth policy, such relief to be considered outside of present relief arrangements approved for Norway.

Tentative plan subject to German approval is to despatch a Swedish vessel of approximately 1500 tons from Göteborg to Tromsö under auspices of Swedish Government and Swedish Red Cross with relief supplies to be discharged in Tromsö for supplying immediate relief requirements there. Vessel will then proceed to evacuate civilians from Tromsö to Narvik making one trip with minimum 500 evacuees each 24 hours. Women, children, aged and sick totalling 50 to 100,000 persons will be given first preference under such evacuation plan. It is intended to bring evacuees to Sweden via Narvik railway as soon as possible.

Relief supplies so discharged in Tromsö will be distributed by Swedish Red Cross as Swedish property. In this work Swedes may employ members Norwegian Red Cross who are recommended by Norwegian trustees of donor committee. Such Norwegians as may be used will only participate as assistants to Swedes who will be responsible for distribution.

Although question has not been raised with Germans, Swedes believe following plan for replenishing supplies shipped by vessel can be undertaken once Germans approve vessels’ safe-conduct:

Swedes will establish a relief supply depot probably at Kiruna, Sweden (5 hours by rail from Narvik) for distribution among persons so evacuated to Narvik and for replenishing supply depot in Tromsö by vessel referred to above as needed. Relief shipments from [Page 290] Sweden to Narvik will be made on basis of day to day requirements in Narvik and Tromsö. This will prevent any large accumulation of supplies in Norwegian territory.

Swedish Government has already presented démarche to German Government to despatch vessel to Tromsö and dependent upon date German approval is obtained vessel can be expected to arrive Tromsö in 10 days plus time required for accumulating supplies and loading in Goteborg.

Allied JSC members request approval of foregoing overall plan and authorization to decide details or variations as circumstances may require of distribution in close collaboration with Swedish Government, Swedish Red Cross and Norwegian relief representatives. It would be most unfortunate if reference to London and Washington of such details or variations delayed or hindered prompt execution this plan.

Opinion of British and ourselves is that this humanitarian effort should be given prompt and wholehearted cooperation. The urgency of prompt aid for refugees at Tromso is essential if they are to be kept alive as borne out by statements made by Captain Holmboe, a native of that district who has just escaped from there to Sweden and presently connected with and vouched for by Norwegian Legation. Immediate approval will permit Allied JSC members to work out necessary details with view to protecting our overall interests so that once approval from Germans is obtained arrangements can be put into immediate effect.

JSC is approving sending of individual gift parcels roughly estimated at 5,000 containing food to Narvik area for distribution by Norwegians selected by trustees of donors’ committee. These parcels will assist in a very small way in taking care of interim requirements.

British and United States JSC members recommend Embassy immediate approval of above proposal. Please advise MEW on behalf of my British colleague who is not cabling separately.

My 4772, November 21, 9 p.m. repeats this message to Department.