711.62114 Sick/7–2144: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland (Harrison)44

2682. American Interests Germany—Repatriation Sick and Wounded. Your 4685, July 21. Please request Swiss urgently to communicate following reply to German Government to reach that Government before the close of business on August 5.

  • “1. The United States Government notes the agreement of the German Government to a further exchange of seriously sick and seriously wounded prisoners of war and surplus protected personnel and to beginning of September as a probable exchange date.
  • 2. This Government suggests to the German Government for its consideration and agreement the date of September 8 as the exchange date and the port of Göteborg, subject to the agreement of the Swedish Government, as the point of exchange. As soon as the German Government accepts Goteborg as the port of exchange, the United States Government will request the Swedish Government to cooperate, and it expects the German Government for its part will do likewise.
  • 3. The United States Government will repatriate in the proposed exchange approximately 356 seriously sick and seriously wounded German prisoners of war, including not only the approximately 162 German prisoners of war who have already been passed by the Mixed Medical Commissions as heretofore notified to the German Government, but also prisoners of war recently taken in Normandy who, by reason of their physical condition, are deemed by the United States medical authorities to be entitled to repatriation. This Government would appreciate it if, in view of the manifest humanitarian considerations, the German Government also could see its way clear to add to the approximately 250 American prisoners of war in its custody who, it has stated, have been declared eligible for repatriation by Mixed Medical Commissions, any American prisoners of war who could be approved for repatriation by the German medical authorities in time to be included in the exchange.
  • 4. Since eligibility of the majority of prisoners of war to be returned in this repatriation has already been determined, this Government proposes to transmit to the German Government, through the Swiss Government, nominal rolls of the German prisoners of war to be returned by it so that such rolls will be received by the German Government five days prior to the sailing of the exchange ship from New York. The United States Government expects that the German Government will likewise transmit nominal rolls of the American prisoners to be returned by it in this repatriation, so that such rolls will reach the United States Government five days prior to the sailing of the exchange ship from New York. In order to be at Goteborg for the September 8 exchange date, it will be necessary for the exchange ship to sail from New York not later than August 24.
  • 5. With reference to numbered paragraph 4 in Legation’s telegram under reference, the United States Government invites the attention of the German Government to the German-American agreement45 which permits the retention of two medical officers, one dental officer, one chaplain, and six enlisted sanitary personnel per 1000 German prisoners of war. Since samples of the official identification documents issued by the German Government to German protected personnel, in accordance with Article 21 of the Geneva Red Cross Convention,46 were not received by this Government until July 28, 1944, in spite of repeated requests made by this Government therefor, the United States Government has not been able in the past to establish satisfactorily the status of certain German prisoners in its custody who claim to be protected personnel. However, a survey among German prisoners of war in United States custody who claim to be protected personnel is now being made and the United States Government will return in the proposed September 8 exchange all surplus German protected personnel, whose status can be satisfactorily established in time, and who can be accommodated without reducing the number of spaces required for German seriously sick and seriously wounded being returned from the North American continent. If it should not be possible to include in this exchange all of the protected personnel who may be found to be in excess of the number this Government is permitted to retain, this Government desires to assure the German Government that they will be returned in the earliest subsequent repatriation operations. It is the intention of the United States Government to notify the German Government of the results of the mentioned survey when it has been completed. This Government wishes to point out to the German Government that the United States Government has consistently acted in good faith in returning surplus German protected personnel as is evidenced by the return of 1763 to whom it accorded such status in the three repatriation operations that have been completed to date. In these operations, no American surplus protected personnel were returned by the German Government.
  • 6. The United States Government notes the request of the German Government for the inclusion in this exchange of the 800 wounded [Page 806] Germans left behind in Italy by German troops. These prisoners have been absorbed into United States and British prisoner of war camp and hospital systems and it is impossible to determine to what extent they are included among the German sick and wounded to be repatriated.
  • 7. The United States Government understands that the French authorities in North Africa intend to avail themselves of the opportunity presented by this exchange to return German seriously sick and wounded in their custody. The United States Government will be glad to make available to the French authorities in North Africa for this purpose, and to the extent desired by them, United States facilities in that area. However, this Government wishes it to be understood that in so proceeding it does not assume any responsibilities by reason thereof.
  • 8. The United States Government intends to use the Gripsholm to transport German repatriates from North America and the United Kingdom to Göteborg and to return from there with Allied repatriates. Should the German Government contemplate the use of a vessel or vessels to transport the repatriates to and from the exchange port, the United States Government should be promptly notified, and in any event not later than 14 days prior to sailing, with respect to the characteristics of the vessel or vessels so to be used, the approximate date of their departures and arrivals and the courses to be followed in order that assurances of safe conduct may be granted by the United States Government and its associates. To meet the German Government’s requirements with regard to the safe conduct for the Gripsholm, necessary information including the route to be followed and approximate dates of arrivals and departures, will be transmitted in a separate message at the earliest moment.
  • 9. The United States Government understands that the British Government is addressing a substantially similar reply to the German Government in this connection.
  • 10. It is proposed if agreeable to the German Government to utilize the Gripsholm for the carriage of prisoner of war mail and relief supplies in each direction.”

Please acknowledge receipt of this message immediately.

  1. Repeated to London on the same date as telegram 6163, with heading “For Combined Repatriation Committee”.
  2. See note of August 6, 1943, to the Swiss Minister, Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. i, p. 65; see also Swiss note of May 17, 1943, ibid., p. 49.
  3. International convention for the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and the sick of armies in the field, signed at Geneva July 27, 1929, ibid., 1929, vol. i, p. 321.