Truman Papers

No. 1019
The President’s Special Counsel (Rosenman) to the Secretary of State1

Memorandum for the Secretary of State

Bob Jackson tried to reach you, and when he couldn’t, asked for me, and he discussed with me the present situation on war criminals.

The meeting2 scheduled for this morning did not take place, because of the opening of Parliament and the necessity of the Lord Chancellor3 being present at the opening. The meeting has been postponed for tomorrow. I told Bob that anything that was to be done had to be done at today’s meeting.4

His views are: 1. That we should refuse emphatically to name any of the war criminals.

2. That we should not commit ourselves here to an international tribunal for purposes of trial.

As to the second point, Bob has come to feel very strongly that it would be better not to have a joint tribunal because of the difficulty of working with the Russians in a trial. He feels that if the Russians, however, in London accept the various propositions which we have made, that he is committed to favor a joint tribunal, and does not feel that he can back out of it merely on the ground that it would be difficult to get along.

If, however, they do not accede to our suggestions as to definition of a war crime and certain other matters, he will then take the course of having each nation try the criminals in its respective jurisdiction. He was even of the thought that the British, French and Americans might agree to a joint trial, leaving the Russians out. I expressed to him my personal opinion that that would be quite a slap at the Russians, leading to recriminations, whereas it would not be quite so bad if it was decided that each nation would try its own war criminal prisoners.

[Page 988]

At any rate, nothing will be done before tomorrow, and I said I would phone him from some place in England and find out what has happened.

S[amuel] I R[osenman]
  1. The presence of the original of this memorandum in the Truman Papers suggests the probability that Byrnes passed it on to Truman.
  2. The reference here is apparently to a meeting in London.
  3. Sir William Jowitt.
  4. The reference here is apparently to a plenary meeting of the Berlin Conference.