868.48/10–1944: Telegram

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

4259. My 4258, October 19, 6 p.m. repeated as my 3 to Caserta. Discussion which Massey and Cunningham had October 17 with Lundborg and Ripa, who are the two Swedish ForOff Secretaries in charge of Greek relief, constitutes background of note which was then said to be in preparation and has now been received.

Lundborg emphasized that German statement regarding safe-conduct for Greek relief ships in traffic between Greek ports had been phrased in such a manner that Germans did not in principle withdraw safe-conduct but merely gave warning that they could not [Page 196] “guarantee safety” of vessels which might sail along established safe-conduct routes between Greek ports (of my 4018, October 4, noon13).

Existing trans-Atlantic safe-conduct routes enjoy German recognition. Swedish procedure, according to Lundborg, is to notify both belligerents of sailings scheduled to take place on these established routes. British Government then informs Swedes whether notification of safe-conduct vessels is or is not accepted. Germans never reply to Swedish notification but their approval is tacitly understood. This means that safe-conduct routes which are already in effect remain valid as regards Germans unless or until Germans specifically refuse to accept Swedish notification of intended sailings. For example Swedish authorities have now notified both belligerents that Suorva will sail from St. John October 25 for Piraeus. If Germans do not specifically refuse this notification their concurrence in this sailing is automatically understood and, with it, their continued recognition of trans-Atlantic safe-conducts.

This simple procedure makes Swedes anxious to avoid having to negotiate to change routes which are in effect. They suggest that shipments be directed to Piraeus and perhaps later to Salonika also. Transshipment at these harbors to caïques or small ship would make distribution possible to minor ports. Swedes are under impression that any direct shipments to small ports could take place on Allied ships. (We presume Allies will be importing rations for distribution to whole Greek nation. This would require much larger food shipments than hitherto and a large part of these would have to be imported on Allied ships capable of unloading at any Greek port).

When asked whether Allied military authorities could give receipt in Commission’s name for relief supplies which might be delivered when no representative of Commission was present (Department’s 2075, October 16, 7 p.m.), Lundborg said such a question should be settled locally with Commission because formal concurrence by Foreign Ministry would not be compatible with Commission’s neutral character. Such a question in order to be dealt with formally, would also have to be referred to Germans.

Fact that Germans still hold power in half of Greece must be kept in mind. Ripa recalled an incident when Germans had posted military guard around supplies landed at Mytilene while Commission representative was busy receipting for supplies delivered at another port. Such practical arrangements on the spot had been very satisfactory. If supplies were to arrive at some point where no representative of Commission was present Allied forces could presumably guard supplies until some representative of Commission could take charge of them.

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Proposal that Sandstrom be instructed to accept suggestions of our military authorities has not been raised because by compromising Commission’s neutral status it would run counter to Ministry’s policy of seeking to leave safe conduct undisturbed. This is a question of type which Swedes would feel obliged to refer to Berlin for German approval.

Proposal that Commission be instructed to accept suggestions of Allied military authorities seems moreover to British Legation and this Legation to be incompatible with remarks which the two Ministers based on Department’s 1848 September 16, 5 p.m. and parallel British instructions. Department’s further instructions in this particular are requested.

It is evident that among those remarks which the two Ministers made to Grafstrom September 2914 one feature which pleased Swedes especially was statement that policy of all concerned is impartial distribution of relief supplies on humanitarian principles.

  1. Not printed.
  2. See telegram No. 3962, September 29, 9 p.m., from the Minister in Sweden, p. 190.