762.51114/4–2445: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State

2077. I have just received from a Foreign Ministry official a copy of the following memorandum from General de Gaulle’s office which was prepared after the meeting of the Council of Ministers this morning:

  • “1. The German Government has proposed to the French Government through the intermediary of the Swiss Federal Government to leave in their present location (sur place) the prisoners of war who are in the proximity of the front provided the French obligate themselves not to employ these prisoners in active service.
  • 2. The French Government has made it known that it would accept this proposal on the following conditions: (1) That it concerns prisoners actually held at the moment of liberation. (2) That the obligation not to use them applies only to operations directed against German force.”

The official stated that this decision had been taken after very considerable discussion in the Cabinet meetings. He went on to say that the above message would be conveyed to the Swiss Government through the intermediary of the French Embassy at Bern for transmission to the German Government.

In connection with the second condition in the memorandum, we observed that if this condition were formally communicated to the Germans, the latter might well reply that the prohibition against the use of these prisoners applied to all the terms of military operations including the Pacific. With this in mind, it was suggested that since the German offer had not specified any particular theater, it would [Page 717] appear that the French Government would be in a position to place its own interpretation on the extent of the agreement. Therefore, if the French did not wish to risk the possibility of receiving a negative reply from the Germans on this point, it would appear in their interest not to raise the question. The official with whom we discussed this matter stated that he was in agreement and would endeavor to have the French Embassy in Bern given discretion to omit the second condition from the normal reply but could not assure us that his recommendation would be followed.

I have communicated with the British Embassy which is also receiving a copy of the above memorandum, and I am told that they are taking a similar line with the French.

Repeated Bern as 176.