740.00112 European War 1939/9–244: Telegram

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

7200. The formal reply containing the British reaction to the points raised in Department’s 6665 of August 215 has just reached me by letter from Mr. Eden. I realize this information has already reached you via the British Embassy in Washington, but am forwarding it to complete the record:

“I write to thank you for your letter of the 23rd August in which you enclosed a message from Mr. Secretary Hull to the American Minister at Bern6 about the early resumption of trade discussions with the Swiss Government in view of the rapidly changing military situation.

Subject to an important reservation, with which I will deal below, we agree with the U.S. Government that a formal joint Anglo-American demand for the suspension of all Swiss exports to the enemy and prohibition of all enemy transit traffic through Switzerland will soon be justified by military developments. We also agree that informal approaches, as outlined in Mr. Hull’s telegram to the U.S. Minister at Bern, should jointly be made forthwith to the Swiss Government.

The reservation to which I referred above is this. We attach very high importance to avoiding forcing the Swiss to take action which would result in a rupture of Swiss diplomatic relations with Germany. This would necessarily mean that Switzerland would cease to act as protecting power at a moment when this may be more necessary than ever before. After the recent murder of our airmen in Germany we are genuinely alarmed at the possibility that at the last moment before total defeat the Gestapo might run amok and commit wholesale murder of British and American prisoners of war. Obviously this is more likely to happen if the restraining influence of the protecting power is removed.

Accordingly, while we agree that we should ask for a complete cessation of exports to Axis territory we, for our part, should be prepared to accept an arrangement similar to our proposals of 9th [11th?] [Page 765] May last,7 i.e. complete prohibition of export of high priority goods, drastic reduction of other exports and cessation of transit traffic in return for raw materials.

A telegram on the lines of this letter has been despatched to His Majesty’s Minister at Bern and he has been instructed to concert with the American Minister an immediate informal approach to the Swiss Government on the lines suggested by Mr. Secretary Hull.”

  1. See footnote 96, p. 760.
  2. See telegram 2876, August 21, 9 p.m., to Bern, p. 760.
  3. Presumably reference is to proposals reported in telegram 3854, May 11, from London, p. 719.