President Roosevelt to the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union (Stalin)77
217. It seems to me in the exchange of messages we have had on possible future negotiations with the Germans for surrender of their forces in Italy, that although both of us are in agreement on all the basic principles, the matter now stands in an atmosphere of regrettable apprehension and mistrust.
No negotiations for surrender have been entered into, and if there should be any negotiations they will be conducted at Caserta with [Page 741] your representatives present throughout. Although the attempt at Bern to arrange for the conduct of these negotiations has so far been fruitless, Marshal Alexander has been directed to keep you informed of his progress in this matter.
I must repeat that the meeting in Bern was for the single purpose of arranging contact with competent German military officers and not for negotiations of any kind.
There is no question of negotiating with the Germans in any way which would permit them to transfer elsewhere forces from the Italian front. Negotiations, if any are conducted, will be on the basis of unconditional surrender. With regard to the lack of Allied offensive operations in Italy, this condition has in no way resulted from any expectation of an agreement with the Germans. As a matter of fact, recent interruption of offensive operations in Italy has been due primarily to the recent transfer of Allied forces, British and Canadian divisions, from that front to France. Preparations are now made for an offensive on the Italian front about April 10th, but while we hope for success, the operation will be of limited power due to the lack of forces now available to Alexander. He has seventeen dependable divisions and is opposed by twenty-four German divisions. We intend to do everything within the capacity of our available resources to prevent any withdrawal of the German forces now in Italy.
I feel that your information about the time of the movements of German troops from Italy is in error. Our best information is that three German divisions have left Italy since the first of the year, two of which have gone to the Eastern front. The last division of the three started moving about February 25, more than two weeks before anybody heard of any possibility of a surrender. It is therefore clearly evident that the approach made by German agents in Bern occurring after the last movement of troops began could not possibly have had any effect on the movement.
This entire episode has arisen through the initiative of a German officer reputed to be close to Himmler and there, of course, is a strong possibility that his sole purpose is to create suspicion and distrust between the Allies. There is no reason why we should permit him to succeed in that aim. I trust that the above categorical statement of the present situation and of my intentions will allay the apprehensions which you express in your message of March 29.
- Copy of telegram obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y.↩