868.48/12–244: Telegram

The Minister in Sweden (Johnson) to the Secretary of State 30

4926. I went November 30 with British Minister to make informal démarche at Foreign Ministry in keeping with first four paragraphs of Department’s 2329, November 18, 9 p.m. We spoke with Grafström and Lundborg and raised following points in particular:

Minister’s aide-mémoire of October 19 (enclosure 6 to my despatch 4341 of October 2131) is very disappointing in that it gives no certainty that Swedish ships will remain in Greek relief service if Germans withdraw trans-Atlantic safe-conduct. American and British authorities would prefer to have Greek relief ships sail in convoy but will be satisfied with any arrangement insuring their continued use. Boheman (cf. my 1087, March 30, 9 p.m.) and Gunnar Carlsson (cf. paragraph 3 of British Legation’s telegram 776 transmitted as enclosure 3 to my despatch 4059 of September 832) gave impression that convoy idea would be feasible.
Distress in Greece is intense and there are no reserve stocks. Shipping shortage is such that continued use of Greek relief fleet is essential. This traffic cannot bear interruption such as might result if new sailings were held up during an argument with Germans. Such interruption might cancel whole effect of Swedish help to date.
Present satisfactory arrangements may be interrupted at any moment if Germans cease to grant safe-conduct. We need to have this uncertainty removed in order to allow for rational forward planning.
Certain other Swedish ships have been sailing regularly in Allied convoys.
Basic Greek relief undertaking is that ships be used for relief of Greek civilian population. We can give assurances that this condition will continue to be observed.
Question of continued operation of Swedish fleet of Greek relief ships is not germane to London shipping pool discussions. It is for period until German surrender that we desire certainty regarding Greek relief fleet.

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Grafstrom declared emphatically that Swedish Government for its part desires to continue its help. Should Germans withdraw safe-conduct, Swedes would exert every effort to induce them to allow traffic to continue. While appreciating this, we said it did not constitute sufficient certainty.

Grafstrom explained that Swedish ships which operate in Allied convoys were already outside Skagerrak blockade at time it took effect. Ships in Greek relief traffic were let through blockade on basis of special commitments to Germans.

Grafstrom and Lundborg mentioned certain commitments other than governmental made to Germans by owners of Greek relief ships. On this point we replied (a) we do not have these commitments on file; (b) such undertakings between private shipping companies and the German Government are surely on a plane subordinate to inter-governmental undertakings; (c) Foreign Minister should work out plan to overcome these engagements and should prepare minds of shipowners and crews to continue in traffic despite possible withdrawal of safe-conduct.

Grafstrom did not seem to agree with our statement that present question was not germane to shipping pool discussions. He did not go into details, but expressed regret that Carlsson was not here.

Grafstrom added that we submit a brief memorandum on subject to our démarche. He said he was not authorized to speak further now, but matter would receive sympathetic attention.

Subsequent to above meeting Lundborg intimated that shipowners’ commitments to Germans were the “usual ones” for all Swedish ships which are let out through blockade. He contended that these engagements do not conflict with those Swedish Government gave but devise more exactly the conditions under which the vessels are allowed to leave and obligated to return to Swedish waters. Implication is that they are not susceptible of being interpreted as flexibly as assurances given by Swedish Government.

  1. The substance of this telegram was sent as telegram No. 100, December 8, 3 p.m., to the Ambassador in Greece.
  2. Not printed; see telegram No. 4258, October 19, 6 p.m., from Stockholm, p. 194.
  3. Not printed.