711.62114 Sick/190: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland (Harrison)

389. American Interests—Germany. Following proposal is on a par with that contained in heading II of Department’s note of February 3 to Swiss Legation, Washington, in charge of German interests, which was repeated to you by telegram on the same date.9 In other words this proposal is not to be considered as a part of or be permitted in any way to delay the effectuation of the official exchange. It is merely intended to make available to seriously sick and seriously wounded American and German prisoners of war the exceptional transportation facilities arising out of the official American-German exchange. Please arrange to have the sense of this proposal presented to the German Government on a most urgent basis and request that the German Government consider it on the same basis and reply urgently, since its acceptance and the requested assurances must reach the Department not later than February 10 in order to give necessary time for transportation of repatriables from distant camps and hospitals to New York in time for sailing of Gripsholm on February 15.

“Sailing of Gripsholm for Lisbon February 15 on diplomatic exchange mission affords an exceptional opportunity for repatriation at same time of seriously sick and seriously wounded German prisoners of war in detention in United States, against repatriation by German Government of equivalent number, as nearly as may be, of American prisoners in its custody. If German Government seasonably expresses its readiness to make the proposed exchange, the United States Government will deliver, via Gripsholm sailing referred to, the 85 German prisoners already determined to be eligible for direct repatriation whose names were transmitted for communication to the [Page 791] German Government in Department’s 298 of January 28.10 In addition, a Mixed Medical Commission has been touring further prisoner of war camps since January 20, and, making necessary allowance for technical obstacles, United States Government proposes also to deliver via Gripsholm all those whose eligibility has been determined during this current tour in time to include them. United States Government adheres firmly to the basic principle established by Geneva Prisoners of War Convention,11 that exchanges of seriously sick and seriously wounded prisoners of war shall be made without regard to rank or numbers, and therefore, in making the instant proposal United States Government does not exact as a condition that German Government must deliver American prisoners in identical number with those whom United States will deliver. United States Government does expect, however, that if German Government agrees to the exchange it will deliver to Lisbon all seriously sick and seriously wounded whose eligibility for repatriation has already been determined or can by diligent effort be determined in time to deliver them at Lisbon, including the 7 American prisoners12 whom the German Government stated that it did not deliver for technical reasons in the last exchange.13 In this connection, the attention of the German Government is also called to the 50 names which have been heretofore transmitted of probable American repatriables in addition to the 7 already mentioned, and to the following further personnel believed to be probably also repatriable:

[Here follows list of names.]

“It should be emphasized that in order to make the suggested exchange possible, it is essential that this proposal be transmitted most urgently to German Government, that the German Government be requested to consider it on a most urgent basis and that the German Government’s reply, giving its acceptance and the requested assurances, reach the United States Government not later than February 10, in order to give necessary time for transportation of repatriables from distant camps and hospitals to New York in time for sailing of Gripsholm on February 15. It should be further emphasized to the German Government that this proposal is without derogation or prejudice to the broader proposal transmitted by Department’s 3081 of December 10, 1943,14 the contents of which were transmitted by the Swiss Government to the German Legation at Bern December 14, 1943, no reply to or acknowledgment of which has yet been received.”

  1. Telegram 303, supra.
  2. Not printed.
  3. International convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, signed at Geneva, July 27, 1929, Foreign Relations, 1929, vol. i, p. 336.
  4. Telegram 3081, December 10, 1943, midnight, to Bern, listing the seven American prisoners of war, not printed (711.62114 Sick/158).
  5. In October 1943, 234 German sick and wounded prisoners of war and 1,732 surplus protected personnel, a total of 1,966 Germans, were repatriated by the United States Government; the German Government at that time sent back only 14 sick and wounded American prisoners of war (telegram 644, February 25, 9 p.m., to Bern, not printed; 711.62114 Sick/244).
  6. Not printed; it contained a proposal for increasing the number of categories of sick and wounded prisoners for direct repatriation on a reciprocal basis (711.62114 Sick/158).