740.0011 EW/1–1445: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

482. From Murphy.13a Your 9183, November 3, noon to London.14 In a paper dated January 6 addressed to the Chief of Staff SHAEF15 [Page 718] the Psychological Warfare Division took the position that the policy of unconditional surrender does not apply to the German people as individuals but only to any German Government, party or movement. PWD16 argued that the policy of unconditional surrender was always meant to apply only to the German Government and High Command and to the NSDAP17 but not to the German people as human beings and that even if this was not the intention at the outset it has since become the intention. PWD asserted that the American and British Governments have entered into certain definite commitments with respect to the German people regarded as individuals as a result of (a) adherence to the Geneva Convention18 (b) the issuance of a series of proclamations by G–519 SHAEF, stating the principles and procedures of military government and including announcements on wage policy, education policy, attitude to trade unions, judicial procedure, et cetera, and (c) in the statements by the spokesman of military government. PWD also maintained that political commitments were first made “in very general terms” by the President, the Prime Minister and Marshal Stalin not to destroy the German people as such. PWD contended that these general statements of intentions were reiterated more specifically on behalf of the American and British Governments in the proclamations of military government and in the statements by the spokesman of military government.20

The foregoing arose out of an objection which I made recently to a proposed broadcast to German railroad workmen which included three distinct promises to German workmen generally, namely (1) the opportunity of employment (2) employment at prevailing rates of wages and (3) the right of collective bargaining. I stated the opinion that our present policy is against making any general promises or commitments to the German people. I suggested the substitution of factual statements in the broadcast describing what actually happens to German workmen in the zone we are now occupying.

PWD took the view that my position was untenable for the reasons outlined above, and asked for a ruling by the Chief of Staff. The matter was considered at a meeting of representatives of various staff sections at SHAEF on January 10 presided by Lt. Gen. Sir F. E. Morgan, Deputy Chief of Staff. The consensus of the meeting on the immediate issues involved was that the position I had taken and which I took at the meeting was correct. Thus it was agreed that the [Page 719] proclamations by the Supreme Commander to the population of German occupied territory, and the broadcasts explaining them, do not constitute commitments, but are merely expressions of intentions. They are to be regarded as orders which may be changed in the discretion of the Supreme Commander at any time and the Germans of the occupied territory have no rights in the matter. Still less it was further agreed does the expression by the Supreme Commander as an intention vis-à-vis the population of German territory already occupied constitute a promise to the population of German territory not yet occupied that they will be treated in the same way in the future.

The consensus was accordingly that even if the Supreme Commander has expressed his intention to treat in certain ways the civilian population of German territory already occupied the Psychological Warfare Division may not, without special authorization, in each case, promise that civilians in German territory still behind the enemy lines will be treated in the same way.

In the course of the discussions it was further brought out that the War Department has recently asked that propaganda “taper off” on statements promising to release German prisoners as soon as possible after hostilities as provided by article 75 of the Geneva Convention.

While the meeting sustained my views on the immediate issues involved with PWD there was no agreement among those present on the larger question whether in general the policy of unconditional surrender applies only to any German Government, party or movement or whether it also applies to the German people as individuals. It has been my understanding ever since attending the Casablanca meeting21 when the policy was announced that it certainly does apply to all enemy Germans individually and collectively. No distinction such as that now put forward by PWD was made or even considered at Casablanca. I referred at the meeting to the Secretary’s recent statement on unconditional surrender22 but General Morgan felt that the President’s message to Congress23 by implication restricted the policy to the “German armed forces”.

Obviously the task of PWD and ours is to facilitate the work of our combat troops, but I feel that the longer term considerations are of such moment that any and every attempt to compromise the policy of unconditional surrender, and build up a record which unquestionably [Page 720] the Germans would attempt later to use to embarrass us should be firmly resisted at this stage.

I should be most grateful for any advice or instructions the Department may consider appropriate. [Murphy.]

  1. Robert D. Murphy, United States Political Adviser for Germany.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. i, p. 562.
  3. Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force.
  4. Psychological Warfare Division.
  5. Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (the Nazi Party).
  6. The international convention relative to the treatment of Prisoners of War, signed at Geneva July 27, 1929. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1929, vol. i, p. 336.
  7. Headquarters general staff division dealing with civil affairs.
  8. For further details on the program of the Psychological Warfare Division, see Forrest C. Pogue, The Supreme Command, pp. 343–46.
  9. Documentation on the Casablanca Conference, January 14–24, 1943, is scheduled for publication in a subsequent volume of Foreign Relations.
  10. For text of the Secretary’s statement of January 5, see Department of State Bulletin, January 7, 1945, p. 43.
  11. For text of the President’s message to Congress on January 6, 1945, see House Document No. 1, 79th Cong., 1st sess.