840.48 Refugees/2–1545

Memorandum by the Adviser on Refugees and Displaced Persons (Warren) to the Acting Secretary of State

Mr. Grew: On February 7, 1945, 1,200 refugees arrived in Switzerland from Germany. Their release was arranged by Musy, a former Federal Councilor of Switzerland, who had made a number of trips to Germany at the instigation of Sternbuch, the representative in Switzerland of the Vaad Hahatzala Emergency Committee of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada. Musy returned to Switzerland in advance of the refugees anouncing that he had secured their release by direct negotiation with Himmler,30 whom he had seen on his previous trips to Germany. He stated that additional groups of refugees would arrive weekly in Switzerland dependent upon German transportation facilities. He advised Sternbuch that he would require a deposit of 5,000,000 Swiss francs in his (Musy’s) name in the Swiss National Bank immediately after the arrival of the 1,200. This money he suggested might later be paid over by the Germans to the International Committee of the Red Cross as a further gesture of good faith.

The Rabbis are now pressing the War Refugee Board and the Treasury Department for a license to transmit 4,000,000 Swiss francs to Switzerland to be paid to Musy. They have on deposit in Switzerland 1,000,000 Swiss francs under a previous license. The Department has been asked by Brigadier General O’Dwyer, Executive Director of the War Refugee Board, if it will approve the transaction. He has advised the Rabbis that he will issue the license if the Department agrees.

There are two other negotiations of this character in process. One, originating in a ransom proposal last June, has been shifted by Saly Mayer, the Swiss negotiator and a responsible person, to a proposal that in return for a German promise to cease exterminations relief supplies might be furnished to feed surviving Jews in concentration camps. Mayer has conducted these negotiations with the Germans since August 1944. Early in January 1945 he requested the deposit of 20,000,000 Swiss francs in Switzerland in order to maintain his position in the negotiations. The Board and the Department authorized the transmission of these funds to a joint account in the names of Saly Mayer and McClelland, the representative of the War Refugee Board at Bern, with the stipulation that no commitment or payment be made without express authority from this Government. The transfer of these funds was reported to the British and Soviet Governments.31 [Page 1132] An earlier report on these negotiations brought a reply from the Soviet Government that they were neither feasible nor permissible.

Word of the second negotiations has just come from London. A group of Dutch Jews in Switzerland has requested the Netherlands Government to contribute 350,000 Swiss francs toward a fund to rescue 1,500 Dutch Jews at 1,000 Swiss francs per person. The American Embassy London reports32 that the Netherlands Government has requested the comment of the British and United States Governments in the light of the British, United States, Netherlands declarations in November 1942.33

In view of the unusual humanitarian considerations involved, FMA,34 EE35 and WT36 are willing to consider approval of the license provided the funds after payment to Musy can be blocked in Switzerland. Mr. Currie, on mission in Switzerland, has the item of “Safehavens37 on his agenda for discussion with the Swiss. British comment on the Dutch inquiry was to the effect that the negotiations should be continued as long as possible but that the payment envisaged would be inconsistent with current Safehaven proposals.

Two suggestions have resulted from the discussions in the Department.

That Mr. Currie might induce the Swiss to agree to block Musy’s account after the proposed payment is made, or
That the blocking might be accomplished by general Safehaven arrangements still to be negotiated with the Swiss.

With respect to the latter, the time element is a consideration. The Rabbis fear that delay in payment may jeopardize the rescue of additional refugees.

George W. Baker,38 WT, is leaving on Monday (February 26) to join Mr. Currie in Bern and can be briefed on the proposal before leaving. There is a possibility that the Department may be pressed for a decision before Mr. Currie has an opportunity to discuss blocking proposals with the Swiss.

  1. Heinrich Himmler, German Minister of Interior.
  2. Presumably this was not reported to the Soviet Government. See airgram A–27, January 29, 1 p.m., from Moscow, p. 1128.
  3. Telegram 1403, February 8, 1945, 10 p.m., from London, not printed.
  4. For press release on the subject of German attempts to extort ransom payments for persons in occupied countries, see Department of State Bulletin, November 28, 1942, p. 962.
  5. Division of Financial and Monetary Affairs.
  6. Division of Eastern European Affairs.
  7. World Trade Intelligence Division.
  8. For documentation on concern of the United States over enemy attempts to secrete funds or other asets in neutral countries, see pp. 852 ff.
  9. Assistant Chief, World Trade Intelligence Division.