711.62114 Sick/661: Airgram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Spain (Hayes)

A–295. As explained in an earlier telegram the Gripsholm is chartered by the United States Government and is operated for the Department of State by the War Shipping Administration. In making the Gripsholm available for exchanges of sick and wounded prisoners of war the Department of State reserved control of the vessel and the right to use it to effect concurrent exchanges of civilians to the extent such civilians might not displace or incommode prisoners of war. It was felt that public criticism would result if available space on the vessel were not used for this purpose. The repatriation of civilians was arranged by the Department and is not a concern of the Combined Repatriation Committee34 which deals exclusively with the exchange of prisoners of war. This is in reference to your 1771, May 21, 10 p.m.35 which Department notes was repeated to London for the Combined Repatriation Committee.

The Department agrees that it would have been desirable to notify the Spanish Government in advance of any complications which might arise in connection with the civilian exchange.36 Unfortunately the Department did not itself learn until shortly before dispatch of its 1384 May 1637 that the German Government had chosen to disregard the nominations made by this Government and the other American Republics for inclusion of verified nationals in the exchange. This action of the German Government was unexpected and confronted the Department with various problems. Refusal to accept the individuals approved by the Germans for inclusion in the exchange would not only have exposed these persons to serious peril but would probably have influenced the Germans to give unfavorable treatment to others of the same category. We had just received word from the Germans that [Page 801] (1) they had taken upon themselves to deport to the East non-Aryan alien relatives of American citizens whom we did not agree to accept for the exchange at Lisbon in March and (2) they would be similarly guided in respect of future exchanges if we refused to accept those persons nominated by Germany. Moreover the charter of the Gripsholm precludes its being used for refugee traffic and there were no arrangements for the reception in the Western Hemisphere of certain individuals whom the Germans were releasing. The Department accordingly made arrangements for the reception of these individuals elsewhere and for that reason gave you the instructions in its 1384, 139838 and associated telegrams. In taking this action the Department was guided by its experience in connection with exchanges at Lisbon where the Portuguese Government has not on any occasion endeavored to control the destination of the persons arriving in exchanges, merely making certain that the individuals arriving in its territory for exchange are exchanged and that appropriate provision is made for their eventual departure from Portuguese territory. It was assumed that the Spanish Government would be disposed to act similarly.

It should be clearly understood that there was no question of any of the individuals delivered by Barcelona not being accepted in the exchange by the United States and the other American Republics. Our acceptance of individuals in an exchange does not, however, oblige us to transport those individuals on any specific vessel or to carry them to any specific destination. We do not propose to insist to the Spanish Government that Germans delivered in exchanges on Spanish territory must proceed to Germany. There is no reason why the German Government might not take them to Paris, to Marseilles or to any other place where it arranges for their reception. Furthermore if the German Government should wish some of its exchanges to leave Barcelona by train and others by vessel this Government would not be disposed to object to such an arrangement. It appears that for reasons best known to the German Government and assumably associated with its desire to obtain the protection of a hospital ship to Marseilles and hospital trains north from that port, that the Government preferred in this exchange to have all the exchangees depart from Barcelona simultaneously on one vessel.

The Department would be grateful if you would inform it as soon as possible if it is wrong in assuming that in any future exchanges of civilians which may take place on Spanish territory it may be [Page 802] possible to arrange with the Spanish authorities that the question of the destination of the exchangees be not raised provided the exchange takes place and concrete arrangements are made for the exchangees to leave Spanish territory within a reasonable period of time.39

  1. A central organization established at London to complete the administrative arrangements necessary to carry out repatriation of prisoners of war.
  2. Not printed; in this telegram Ambassador Hayes indicated the desirability in future, in his opinion, to keep separate the exchanges of prisoners of war and civilians (711.62114 Sick/661).
  3. The German Government failed to deliver a number of civilians for exchange equal to the number of nationals of Western Hemisphere delivered in the May exchange on Spanish territory. (Telegram 1406 to Madrid; 711.62114 Sick/680g).
  4. Not printed; it transmitted instructions concerning disposition of nationals of the United States and the other American Republics approved by the Germans for exchange against a group of Germans from the United States contrary to the recommendations of this Government: (a) alien relatives of American citizens, and (b) persons bearing Latin American passports whose nationality had not yet been established (711.62114 Sick/598a). Ambassador Hayes reported, however, in his telegram of May 21 that no civilian repatriates were prevented from embarking on the Gripsholm.
  5. Not printed.
  6. In airgram A–268, June 21, 7 p.m., Ambassador Hayes assured the Department that the Spanish Government had not raised and was not expected to raise any question with respect to the destinations of civilian repatriates exchanged in Spain provided satisfactory arrangements were made for their prompt departure from the country (740.00115 European War 1939/6–2144).