740.00116 European War/1282: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

770. This telegram refers to the Embassy’s 517, January 19, 8 p.m. Sir Orme Sargent is forwarding the following memorandum to the London Political Warfare Coordinating Committee as embodying the views of His Majesty’s Government with respect to the recommendation of the Committee at its meeting on January 19, that the American Government and His Majesty’s Government supplement the ruling already given in regard to the relationship between the Kharkov trials and the Moscow Declaration.

The Department will note that the British Government find themselves unable under present circumstances to supplement the opinion already communicated to the Committee (Embassy’s No. 269, January 12, 6 p.m.).

“At its meeting on 19 January 1944 the London Political Warfare Coordinating Committee agreed to call the attention of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the United States Government to the difficulty with which the Committee will be faced in formulating a propaganda policy, if the Soviet Government, in the event of any future trials of German war criminals, publicly linked such trials with the Moscow Declaration. The Committee expressed the hope that the two Governments would supplement the ruling which they had already given to the Committee in regard to the relationship between the Kharkov trials and the Moscow Declaration, so that the Committee might be in a position to meet this difficulty if and when it arose.

His Majesty’s Government are conscious of the difficulties that might arise for our political warfare if the Soviet Government were publicly to link any future trials with the Moscow Declaration. His [Page 1205] Majesty’s Government also had in mind the danger that the German Government might take the opportunity afforded by any such statement by the Soviet Government to carry into effect their threat to bring to trial British and American prisoners of war accused of serious breaches of international law. In the light of these considerations His Majesty’s Government have examined the possibility of approaching the Soviet Government in advance with a view to dissuading them from issuing any statement on these lines. They have, however, decided that neither the possible political warfare difficulty nor the danger of German action43 is at present so serious as to justify such an approach to the Soviet Government on a subject concerning which the Soviet Government are known to hold strong views and the discussion of which, on a hypothetical basis, might in present circumstances prove a disturbing factor in relations between the countries concerned.

For the foregoing reasons, His Majesty’s Government regret that they are unable in present circumstances to comply with the Committee’s request to supplement the ruling already communicated to the Committee in their memorandum of . . January.”44

  1. The Adviser on Political Relations, James Clement Dunn, in a memorandum of February 1 expressed the considered policy of the Department of State, “with which the War Department heartily agreed, that it was dangerous for this Government to make any public statements with respect to the Kharkov trials because of the danger of provoking reprisals upon American prisoners of war in the hands of the Germans. The War Department was particularly concerned over this matter.” (740.00116 European War/1261)
  2. The omitted date is not available.