868.00/11–644: Telegram

The Ambassador in Greece (MacVeagh) to the Secretary of State

13. The Swedish-Swiss Commission, while willing to continue to assist in distribution in the interim, has decided to cease operations [Page 202] here December 15 (see section 2 of my No. 5 of October 30, 5 p.m.19) According to Mr. Sandstrom, with whom I have talked at length, as well as with Mr. Thyberg, the local Swedish representative, and Mr. Deglutz of the International Red Cross, the reason for this decision is twofold: (1) The Commission’s task of protection vis-à-vis the Germans is over, and (2) the internal political situation is unfavorable to nondiscriminatory distribution. However, it would also seem that the Commission’s now intense, though perhaps inevitable unpopularity, which is not limited to the open hostility of the lower classes but, on one count or another, permeates all ranks of society, has made it anxious to be quit as soon as possible of an ungrateful job.

While intending to turn over its functions to the Greek Government on the date set, the Commission will continue to distribute in Athens, and in the surrounding areas normally supplied from Athens, until that time. According to Mr. Sandstrom these areas include Thessaly (but only temporarily until the military can take it over) and the provinces east of the central mountain range and south of Thessaly as far as Corinth. In the other provinces, the Commission offered to continue during the interim period if the Government could guarantee that its operations would be free of local interference, but under present conditions the Government was unable to do this. However, in some places, like in Patras, where the Government’s early attempts to handle distribution have apparently failed completely, the Commission is authorizing its delegates to continue supervision for the time being as an exceptional procedure. Sandstrom concluded his remarks to me by emphasizing that it will be absolutely necessary for a foreign counselor to be on all local committees, both in the capital and in the provinces, if nondiscriminatory distribution is to be assured.

There seems to be some hope that the ML and UNRRA can take over a good many, though by no means all, of the people hitherto employed by the Commission, in which case the disappearance from the scene of an organization necessarily connected in the Greek mind with the German occupation and all the miseries and horrors of the past may actually prove a gain. Meanwhile, according to Sandstrom and Thyberg, this question is quite separate from that of the continued functioning of the Swedish ships, whose service is so desperately needed. According to Thyberg, the Germans have not as yet withdrawn their safe conduct, nor insisted on the return of the ships to Sweden, and he entertains some hopes, from indications he has gathered, that his [this] favorable situation may continue.

  1. See telegram No. 1085, November 2, from Caserta, supra.