The Department of State to the British Embassy
The Department of State has been following, in concert with the British Government, a policy of denying exit permits to Austrians now in the United States. If the British Government perceives no objection, the Department of State believes the time has now come to terminate the general ban on the exit of Austrians from the United States, and henceforth to grant exit permits to all Austrians applying for them, in the absence of security or other objections in individual cases.
In reaching this conclusion the Department has in mind the following factors:
The reasons which prompted the ban on exit permits for Austrians in the first place have now to a large degree ceased to exist in view of the progress of the war, and the Moscow Declaration. At the same time, positive reasons in favor of permitting the Austrians to leave are developing. Resistance movements in Austria have apparently been increasing in size and importance during recent weeks, and there is accumulating evidence that this resistance is becoming organized [Page 564] under a Provisional Austrian National Committee, generally referred to as POEN (Provisorisches Oesterreiches Nationalkomittee).
There is some evidence that this Committee is becoming fairly well organized, comprises all important Austrian political elements from right to left, including former Christian Socialists, Social Democrats, Monarchists, and Communists, as well as other Austrians without definite Party affiliations. Its supporters appear to include practically all shades of Austrian political groupings, and are said to number perhaps 40,000 persons, nearly half of whom are in Vienna. Some of its men are reported to have infiltrated the Gestapo organization in Vienna, and others are reported practically to control the telegraph system and to be placed in other strategic parts of the Austrian economic and administrative systems, including the railways to some extent.
POEN has been endeavoring to establish contacts abroad and to establish representative committees in France, Switzerland, Great Britain and the United States. Its emissaries have been received at the Soviet Embassy in Paris, which is reported to have requested that a POEN representative be sent to Moscow and that a Soviet officer be sent to Austria as liaison with POEN. The French Government has apparently become greatly interested in POEN, and is reported to have discussed it at a recent Cabinet meeting. Foreign Minister Bidault is reported to be inclined to favor dealing solely with POEN representatives in France on all matters concerning Austria.
It is believed that representatives of POEN may have communicated with the Foreign Office in London.
An emissary sent from Austria from POEN has called at the American Embassy in Paris to express the desire of POEN to have two Austrians now in the United States, Hans Karl Sailer (Social Democrat, of the Austrian Labor Committee, New York) and Ernst Karl Winter (former Vice-Mayor of Vienna) go to France to assist POEN in its efforts to establish committees abroad.
A statement of the objectives of POEN, given to the American Embassy in Paris by its emissary, states emphatically that it is not seeking to establish itself as a government of Austria, but merely to organize resistance to the Germans. A copy of the Embassy’s report on the interview is attached.14
While the Department of State does not, at least at this stage, regard the evidence as conclusive regarding either the character or the existence of POEN, or wish to take any steps to assist in the development of POEN, or to aid the activities or movements of other Austrian individuals or groups, it does consider that it would be desirable to [Page 565] refrain from placing any obstacles in the way of the development of such a resistance organization by the Austrians themselves.
It therefore considers it desirable at this time to alter its present practice regarding exit permits to allow these Austrians to leave the United States. To avoid charges of discrimination, it would prefer to accomplish this by removing the general ban on exit permits for Austrians, thus permitting all Austrians to leave this country except those who should be denied permits on their individual merits.
The Department of State would welcome a statement of British views in the premises.15
- Not printed.↩
- The British reply was given in an aide-mémoire handed to the Department by the British Embassy on September 14, 1945. The aide-mémoire expressed agreement that the ban on exiles should be removed and informed the Department that the British Government had already lifted it in the case of Dr. Oskar Pollak, former leader of the Austrian Social Democratic Party. This was done because the Foreign Office expected the Social Democratic Party to exercise a moderating influence on the political situation in Austria. (863.01/9–1445)↩