840.50 UNRRA/1–1945

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Acheson)

This meeting8 was called at the request of Mr. Klentsov, the Soviet representative, to discuss relations between UNRRA and neutral countries. It grew out of a memorandum presented by Sir Frederick Leith-Ross to the Soviet Deputy Director General in London,9 the gist of which was that UNRRA proposed to enter into discussions with authorities in Switzerland and Sweden and possibly also Spain and Portugal in order to find out what, if any, public or private plans for relief were under way in those countries so that UNRRA might know about such plans and, if possible, orient them in the most helpful direction. As preparation for the meeting, the Director General10 circulated a long memorandum on the possible uses of neutrals in relief. This related chiefly to the neutrals as a source of supply and the neutrals as having programs of their own which could only be carried out in a liberated area with the consent of UNRRA.

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The meeting was opened by Mr. Klentsov whose remarks may be summarized as follows:

UNRRA’s relations with the neutrals should not be governed by general rules, but a special policy should be adopted in the case of each country. The policy advocated by Mr. Klentsov is stated below:

Switzerland: The principles of the Swiss Relief Organization are contrary to those of UNRRA. This is shown by an alleged statement of Mr. Wetter, the head of the Swiss Relief Organization, who is reported to have said that the Swiss would only give relief to Greece among the Balkan countries because Greece only appealed to the sympathies of the Swiss people. Furthermore, statements had emanated from certain Swiss authorities which have attempted to discredit Yugoslavia. These statements are examples of the reactionary and pro-fascist views of the Swiss ruling classes. Furthermore, if raw materials were given to Switzerland for the purpose of manufacturing relief goods, it is probable that Germany would profit. Mr. Klentsov is against any relations between UNRRA and Switzerland.

Mr. Klentsov points out that UNRRA has employed a Swiss citizen, Mr. Habicht, as Assistant Diplomatic Adviser. Mr. Klentsov objects to the employment by UNRRA of any national of a non-member country. He is against sending any UNRRA mission whatever to Switzerland.

Spain: Mr. Klentsov opposes any purchases by UNRRA in Spain or other dealings with Spain because trade with fascist Spain would help Franco.11

Portugal: Here again, the same observations apply as in the case of Spain and Switzerland because Portugal is a pro-fascist nation.

Sweden: Mr. Klentsov inquired whether any relations with Sweden on the part of UNRRA would interfere with the War Trade Agreements and the general blockade arrangements in respect to Sweden. He was assured that they would not and after some discussion expressed himself as satisfied in regard to UNRRA relations with Sweden.

Governor Lehman12 then stated that there were no general rules or agreements contemplated with regard to neutral countries and that he proposed to do nothing in any respect contrary to the UNRRA Agreement or to the Resolutions of the Council. In fact, he had been asked when he was in London whether UNRRA would undertake relief work in Rumania and Bulgaria; to which he replied in the negative except in respect to the work required to be done regarding displaced persons in accordance with Resolution 57.13

So far as War Trade Agreements and the blockade arrangements are concerned, the Governor stated that he would not even raise questions in that field. He said that Mr. Habicht was a Swiss citizen who had lived in the United States for a long time and had been a member [Page 961] of the secretariat of the League of Nations. He said that he assumed that Mr. Klentsov had nothing against Mr. Habicht personally and that he knew nothing about Mr. Habicht personally. The question was one of employing neutral citizens. On this the Governor read an administrative order to his staff directing that wherever possible persons employed should be nationals of member countries and in no case should be nationals of enemy or ex-enemy countries. Neutrals might be employed when no other qualified person was available and after careful investigation.

Mr. Klentsov then asked whether there were not enough United Nation citizens for UNRRA’s staff; to which the Governor replied in the affirmative except in special cases, such as nurses, doctors, specialists, and in certain localities in the world where competent allied citizens might not be present.

Mr. Klentsov then asked Mr. Ben Smith14 and me whether we had ever been invited to recommend anyone for the position held by Mr. Habicht and whether, if we had been asked, we could have recommended someone. We both replied that we had not been asked and that if we had been we should have done our best to comply with the request but could not tell at the moment whether we would have been able to produce a suitable person.

Mr. Klentsov then asked me to express my views upon the matter under discussion. I stated the following:

As to the broad question of having no relations with neutral countries, I did not know that this question was to be raised and could not comment on it without instructions from my Government which I did not have.
So far as the purchase of supplies was concerned, from the papers submitted by the Director General it was planned that the Combined Boards15 have indicated a neutral country as the source of supply for UNRRA of certain commodities such as morphine, phosphates, etc. If UNRRA could not purchase these, then either some member government had to purchase them or UNRRA would have to go without the supplies. I pointed out that economic warfare considerations were not involved since everything was required to be done through the economic warfare authorities of the allied countries.
I thought that as a practical matter some arrangements would have to be made with citizens of neutral countries, such as the Swiss-Swedish Commission in Greece.
So far as the question of Mr. Habicht was concerned, I thought that that matter might well be left in the hands of the Director General and for him to take such action as he thought wise in the light of the discussion which had just taken place.
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Mr. Ben Smith expressed general agreement with the views expressed by me, but was inclined to state in the absence of instructions that he believed that arrangements would prove to be necessary with the neutral countries. Mr. Liu Chieh, the Chinese Minister Counselor,16 expressed general agreement with me.

The Canadian Ambassador,17 who was present in his capacity as Chairman of the Supplies Committee, did not comment.

Mr. Klentsov then said that in his judgment this matter was settled by a resolution of the Council which contained a phrase stating that in carrying on its relief activities UNRRA should not impede in any way the prosecution of the war. Mr. Kentsov asked whether UNRRA could have any relations with the countries which he had mentioned without impeding the prosecution of the war. He then said that any member country which wished to could, of course, have dealings with Switzerland, Spain and Portugal, but he insisted that UNRRA which was an international organization must not have such relations and must not send missions to those countries.

I made a motion to adjourn so that the members might consider the views expressed. The Central Committee will meet again on Thursday, January 25 at 3:30 p.m.

After the meeting, Mr. Klentsov said that his instructions required him to make the same observations about Argentina and Turkey, but before doing so he wished to discuss the matter with me. We agreed to meet for this purpose.

Dean Acheson
  1. Meeting of the Central Committee of UNRRA, held on January 18, 1945, at 3:30 p.m.
  2. Memorandum not printed; it was transmitted by Sir Frederick Leith-Ross, Deputy Director General of UNRRA, to Ivan A. Iliuschenko, Soviet Representative on the Committee of the Council for Europe, under a covering note dated December 15, 1944 (840.50 UNRRA/1–1545).
  3. Herbert H. Lehman.
  4. Gen. Francisco Franco, Spanish Chief of State.
  5. Mr. Lehman had been Governor of New York, 1933–1942.
  6. For text, see Woodbridge, UNRRA, vol. iii, p. 135.
  7. United Kingdom representative on the UNRRA Central Committee.
  8. Combined Food Board, Combined Production and Resources Board, Combined Raw Materials Board, Combined Shipping Adjustment Board.
  9. Chinese representative on the UNRRA Central Committee.
  10. Lester B. Pearson, who presented his letters of credence on January 22, 1945.