800.515/9–2845: Telegram

The Minister in Switzerland ( Harrison ) to the Secretary of State

4236. At his invitation I called upon Mr. Petitpierre,22 who handed me following note dated Sept. 25 in reply to my note August 3 (Legtel 3799, Aug. 4;23 repeated 1321 London; 636 Paris; 60 Lisbon; 35 Stockholm.)

(Official translation)

Federal Political Dept. has honor to acknowledge receipt of note 2132 by which the Legation of the USA informed it that the American Govt requests to exercise right of ownership to or control of German assets in Switzerland.

Federal Council has examined this request. It does not clearly see legal basis on which it (this request) rests. According to Federal Council’s conception actual occupation of German territory by Allied Powers can hardly have any effects (effets) beyond German borders.

Aside from these legal considerations, Federal Council wishes point out that on March 8 it reached agreement with American, British and French Govts concerning question of German assets in Switzerland24 which had already been rendered inalienable (indisponibilite) [(indisponibles?)] on Feb. 16. These blocking measures have since then been perfected (complétées) and reinforced. The census of German assets in Switzerland, which the Confederation is carrying out in its own interest and for its own needs, is nearing an end. Federal Council would only be able to give its opinion on other measures once results of this investigation had become known.

With regard to looted assets which might be in Switzerland, Dept. considers it opportune to call attention to that which had been agreed upon by signatory govts of above-mentioned agreement. Federal Council confirming its decision “to prevent territory of Switzerland and that of principality from being used for disposal, concealment or reception of assets which may have been taken illegally or under duress during war”, expressly declared that “in framework of Swiss legislation as it stands today or as it will be completed in future, all facilities will be given to dispossessed owners to claim in Switzerland and Liechtenstein assets found there”. Furthermore, Swiss Govt, desirous of contributing within scope of its possibilities to reestablishment of legality—decided as it is to give its support in this connection to effort of Allies—would appreciate if the states, patrimony of which has been object of acts of spoliation, should communicate to it lists of assets stolen from their legitimate owners in order to establish if they are in Switzerland and, if so, to facilitate restitution thereof.

Federal Council, furthermore, has no intention of protecting assets belonging to German nationals who have during period of hostilities committed crimes or acted contrary to international law (droit des [Page 904] gens) or laws of war. It is willing to examine in each individual case claims which might be put forward by Allied Govts in regard to these assets. (There follows usual closing.)

(End translation)

My British colleague also received from Mr. Petitpierre parallel reply his note of Aug. 3.

After informing Mr. Petitpierre that I would submit text his reply I took opportunity impress upon him our dissatisfaction with slowness in effecting census inadequacy measures taken and non-cooperation (Legation’s 4211;25 repeated London 1407; Paris 692, Sept. 25) and that in concert with my British and French colleagues we intended to take up this matter with him within next few days. Petitpierre assured me that Federal Council desired fulfill their engagements and that he would be glad receive and discuss any proposals we might care present. For this purpose my British and French colleagues and I propose call upon Petitpierre and expose our desiderata which appear required in light of such difficulties as outlined in my 4211.

Repeated London, Paris, Lisbon, Stockholm, Moscow, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Ankara.

  1. Max Petitpierre, Swiss Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See letter of March 8 by the Head of the Swiss delegation, vol. v, p. 785.
  4. Not printed.