711.62114/11–744: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Switzerland (Huddle)

4085. The following communication has today been transmitted to the Swiss Legation at Washington with regard to the repatriation of surplus protected personnel:

“The Department of State acknowledges the receipt of a memorandum dated October 23, 1944, from the Legation of Switzerland54 in charge of German interests in the United States inquiring with regard to the number of German protected personnel in the custody of the United States Government who are eligible for repatriation and when they will be returned. The Department of State also refers to a note dated November 7, 1944, from the Legation of Switzerland55 quoting the text in translation of a note dated November 3, 1944, from the German Legation at Bern in which the German Government raises the question as to the proper status of surplus sanitary personnel after their repatriation.

The survey of German protected personnel conducted by the United States Government has revealed a deficiency in medical and dental officers and chaplains in the custody of the United States Government, but a surplus of approximately 3500 enlisted protected personnel all of whom are held in Europe and North Africa. This number is naturally subject to change in accordance with the number of German combatant troops held by the United States Government.

In this connection, this Government’s attention has been recently drawn to a press release datelined Berlin September 8, which appeared in Voelkische Beobachter Number 253, dated September 9, 1944, and which stated in translation ‘Through the assignment of necessary skilled women employees several 10,000 [sic] soldiers in the sanitary [Page 812] service of the armed forces who are strong enough for combat duty will be released for the front.’ This Government cannot fail to observe that, under the aforementioned policy of the German Government, the able-bodied among the surplus sanitary personnel who would be repatriated might be diverted to other than sanitary duties. It is the opinion of this Government that if such an action is accomplished, it would be contrary to the spirit of the Geneva Red Cross Convention, which contemplates the return of sanitary personnel solely in order to enable them to resume their sanitary activities in their own armies. It is observed that the German Government is apparently in agreement with the Government of the United States on this point, since in the aforementioned note of November 3, 1944, from the German Legation in Bern the German Government expresses its adherence to the principle that sanitary personnel captured by the enemy are not prisoners of war but are to be returned to resume their sanitary activities in their own armies.

Accordingly, the United States Government desires to be assured by the German Government that none of the repatriated German sanitary personnel will be utilized in any military duties other than those which gave rise to their protected status and, further, requests that the German Government will issue the necessary instructions, through the protecting Power, to enable the United States Government to secure prior to repatriation the written parole of each individual repatriate not to assume combat duties against the United States or any of its allies or cobelligerents. Upon receipt of the afore-mentioned assurance and individual paroles, the United States Government will return these surplus sanitary personnel at the earliest possible opportunity by the most convenient way compatible with their present location. Upon receipt of the reply of the German Government communicating the requested assurance and indicating that the requested instructions have been transmitted the United States Government will propose specific ways and a time or times for the return of these personnel.

The United States Government hopes that the German Government on its part will take advantage of the occasion of the return of German protected personnel as proposed above, to repatriate any surplus American protected personnel in its custody. According to information thus far received from the German Government, it has in custody a surplus of 93 United States enlisted protected personnel. This suggestion is not a condition to the return of the German surplus protected personnel by the United States Government as set forth above, but is merely proposed for consideration by the German Government in order that the purposes of the Convention may be mutually accomplished. The United States Government assures the German Government in this connection that any surplus American protected personnel who are returned by the German Government will not be utilized for combat duty, and is agreeable to issuing, through the protecting Power, instructions which will authorize American sanitary personnel who may be repatriated to give their individual written paroles in the same sense as that set forth above.

The sense of the foregoing has been transmitted to the American Legation, Bern, for communication to the German Government, through the Swiss Government.

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The matters set forth in the Legation’s note dated November 7, 1944, are still being investigated and a further reply will be made at the earliest opportunity with regard to them.

This Government would appreciate receiving an early reply from the German Government in this connection.”

Please notify Swiss Government of the foregoing and request it urgently to inform German Government.

Sent to Bern repeated to London as Department’s 10142 of Dec. 4 with heading for Combined Repatriation Committee.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Missing from Department files.