868.48/10–1944: Telegram

The Minister in Sweden (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

4258. Re my 3962, September 29, 9 p.m. The following telegram has been sent to Caserta:

3, October 19, 6 p.m. For reason that yesterday Swedish Foreign Office received message in clear from Minister Thy berg, Swedish Consul General at Athens suggesting that Foreign Office ask Germans whether safe conduct for Greek relief vessels on trans-Atlantic run still holds good, it is requested unless there be some objection unknown to Stockholm that substance of following paraphrase of confidential message from Foreign Office Stockholm, reference Thyberg’s 646, be delivered urgently to Thyberg by Allied military authorities. Begin paraphrase:

In our opinion Greek relief interests are best served by having German safe conduct covering trans-Atlantic routes remain in force as long as possible. So we do not want to enter into talks with Germans which might endanger said safe conduct. Greek Relief Commission will, we presume, find it possible with help of Allied and local craft to arrange shipments between Greek ports and islands. End of paraphrase.

Note handed today to Mr. Massey of British Legation and Cunningham of this Legation by Grafstrom, Assistant Chief of Political Section of Swedish Foreign Ministry, contains following three points: [Page 195]

Greek relief ships may remain in traffic as long as both belligerent parties give safe conduct.
Should Germans cancel safe conduct then shipowners will have to decide individually whether their vessels remain in Greek relief traffic. Even in case vessels continue in traffic without German safe-conduct (Swedes thinking of possibility Germans withdrawing safe-conduct without insisting ships return at once to Sweden), they must still be operated as Red Cross ships under direction of Swedish authorities.
If German Government declares that conditions under which relief vessels were originally authorized to leave Swedish waters no longer obtain and on basis of guarantees in force ships must return to Sweden, then they have to return here. End of substance of note.

Above note means Swedes have officially declined Allied suggestion that if safe-conduct withdrawn Greek vessels should sail in Allied convoys. Swedes hope and seem to expect German safe-conduct for trans-Atlantic routes to remain in effect for some time yet. If in time Germans ask relief traffic cease Swedes will make every effort to liquidate it in slow and orderly manner which will not leave Greeks suddenly without supplies and will give Allies opportunity to arrange on [own?] shipping. Swedes add that they want to continue to help Greeks and so hope safe-conduct will remain valid.

Swedish policy outlined above implies neutral status of Commission be carefully preserved by avoidance of incidents which might lead Germans to denounce Greek relief as a whole.

Further details cabled today to Department.12 Legation suggests gist of note be communicated to Thyberg for Commission’s guidance and to prevent his sending any inopportune telegrams in clear.

My cable to Department 4258 repeats this.

  1. Telegram No. 4259, October 19, 7 p.m., infra.