711.62114 Sick/190: Telegram

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

452. American Interests Germany—Repatriation Sick and Wounded. At 9 p.m., Thursday, February 10, the Swiss Legation at Washington received and communicated to the Department the German Government’s reply to proposal set forth in Department’s 389, February 5.

According to the German Government’s reply, inquiries have revealed that at the present time there are only about twenty American prisoners of war in German custody who have been examined by a mixed medical commission and found eligible for repatriation; the German Government is willing to send them to Lisbon in time for inclusion in the diplomatic exchange; the German Government wishes to receive immediate assurance that the Government of the United States for its part will embark on the Gripsholm all German prisoners of war in the United States who have until now been found eligible for repatriation, from 80 to 100; and any American prisoners of war in a list received by the German Foreign Office from the Swiss Legation in Berlin who are found to be eligible for repatriation will, circumstances permitting, likewise be sent to Lisbon to avail themselves of the transportation facilities of the diplomatic exchange. Because of the brief time available the German Government states that it does not feel that it will be able to include American prisoners of war whose eligibility for repatriation has been determined only by German camp physicians, and finally that in the opinion of the German Government the organization of transportation makes it essential that the reply of the United States Government reach Berlin early on February 11.

Please request Swiss Government urgently to communicate the following reply to the German Government:

“While the United States Government is distressed to learn from the German Government’s communication of February 10 received in Washington at 9 p.m. the same day (21:00 o’clock) that so few of the American prisoners of war in German custody who are believed to be eligible for repatriation have so far been so designated by a mixed medical commission, it will nevertheless for its part, as proposed in its communication of February 5, return on the Gripsholm all sick and wounded prisoners of war who, in time to embark on the vessel, have been certified for repatriation by the mixed medical commission, which since November 20, 1943 has been functioning in the United States. The number to be embarked will not be less than 85 and is expected to be substantially greater.

The United States Government will expect the German Government to send to Lisbon for repatriation the 20 American prisoners [Page 794] of war who that Government states have already been found by a mixed medical commission to be eligible for repatriation and as many more as the German Government, with diligent effort, can get ready in time to reach Lisbon by February 24 or shortly thereafter. The United States Government particularly counts upon receiving from the German Government the seven American prisoners of war who were omitted from the last exchange although included in the nominal rolls and who, according to the German Government’s statement, were not repatriated because of technical difficulties.

The United States Government will furnish as quickly as possible nominal rolls of repatriable German prisoners of war not heretofore notified to the German Government, and requests the German Government for its part to furnish to the United States Government immediately the nominal rolls of those already stated to be ready for repatriation and to communicate from time to time as available the nominal rolls of additional repatriables.

It is, of course, expected that either by examination by the mixed medical commission or by examination by the medical authorities of the German Government, or by both means, commencing immediately and proceeding diligently, the eligibility of all other potential repatriables will be determined, and such of them as can be delivered at Lisbon in time for the sailing of the Gripsholm will be so delivered. It is further expected that such of them as cannot be delivered at Lisbon in time to embark on the exchange vessel shall be so assembled that they can readily be included in a further repatriation movement at an early date, specific proposals for which will shortly be communicated to the German Government by the Government of the United States.”

Because of the small margin of time allowed by the German Government for a reply, which would have necessitated our requesting the Swiss Legation here to work all night, as the Swiss Legation kindly offered to do, this reply is being transmitted through you and a copy is being provided the Swiss Legation, Washington.