740.00116 E.W./3–645

The British Ambassador (Halifax) to the Acting Secretary of State

His Majesty’s Ambassador presents his compliments to the Secretary of State and has the honour to refer to the Embassy’s Aide-Mémoire dated October 30, 1944,51 which was left with the Legal Adviser to the Department of State on that date, concerning various proposals made by the United Nations War Crimes Commission in London and to the Aide-Mémoire dated December 27, 1944,52 concerning a draft directive regarding the functions of theatre commanders in relation to war criminals.

Since the delivery to the Department of State of above mentioned Aide-Mémoires, officials of the Embassy have had the advantage of informal discussions on the subject of war crimes and war criminals with the Legal Adviser of the Department of State and with other officials of the United States Government.
His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom believe that the time has come when a general discussion of the subject between representatives of the United States and of the United Kingdom would be mutually advantageous. Lord Halifax, therefore, has pleasure on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, in inviting to London Mr. Green H. Hackworth, Legal Adviser to the Department of State, Brigadier General John Weir53 of the United States War Department, and such other officials as they or Mr. Grew may designate, for the purpose of holding such discussions. His Majesty’s Government hope that the meeting may, if possible, take place in London on or about March 15th next.
His Majesty’s Government consider that the proposed discussions could profitably include such matters as the trials of war criminals, the suggested International Criminal Court, the proposed mixed military tribunals, and the procedure to be adopted for dealing with lists of war criminals produced by the Commission.
As regards other matters concerning the pre-surrender period in Western Europe, these appear for the most part to be covered in practice by action taken by the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces and by Allied Force Headquarters, by the draft directive which it is hoped the Combined Chiefs of Staff will issue very shortly,54 and by the existing liaison arrangements between S.H.A.E.F.55 and A.F.H.Q.56 and between other competent Allied authorities. There seem few other questions relating to this period which require discussions between the United States and the United Kingdom, but no doubt such questions as the establishment of a channel for exchange, between the United Kingdom and the United States, of information on war crimes and war criminals could also be considered advantageously at such a meeting.
There is, however, one outstanding question, namely, whether the Governments of the United States and of the United Kingdom should try to establish some form of liaison with the Government of the Soviet Union in the pre-surrender period for:
  • (a) the mutual collection and exchange of information about war crimes; and
  • (b) the apprehension, and possibly the exchange, of war criminals whose custody is desired by either side.
A case in point under (a) is the over-running by Soviet forces of Stalag Luft III at Sagan where fifty British and Allied air, force officers were murdered by the Germans in March of 1944. The principal difficulty in connection with such arrangements is the manner in which the other Allies would be brought into any such liaison arrangements. The Government of the Soviet Union might feel disinclined to participate in a wide arrangement embracing a number of the Allies, but, on the other hand, if the United Kingdom and United States were to make arrangements with the Government of the Soviet Union on their own account alone, the other Allies who, as stated below, have suffered very severely in the matter of war crimes, might be offended. This matter is being urgently considered in the United Kingdom and Lord Halifax hopes to send to Mr. Grew shortly some proposals in this regard. This matter could also be discussed [Page 1154] further by the representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom at the proposed meeting in London.
Some thought has been given to the advisability of inviting representatives of the French Provisional Government and the Soviet Government to participate in the proposed discussions in London, but His Majesty’s Government see some difficulty in inviting the French Government to participate without giving other Allies an opportunity also to take part. A number of such other Allies have, in the view of His Majesty’s Government, suffered in proportion, at least as heavily, if not more heavily, than have the French, from the atrocities committed by war criminals, and it might provoke great resentment among them if they were excluded, in favour of the French alone, from conversations on proposals emanating from the United Nations War Crimes Commission. His Majesty’s Government also feel that at the present stage the Government of the Soviet Union would be unlikely to accept any invitation to take part in talks at a technical level on war criminals and therefore no invitation is, at the present time, being issued to that Government to participate in the discussions. His Majesty’s Government are of the opinion that if it is decided to try to establish such liaison and mutual assistance with the Soviet Union, as is mentioned in paragraph 6 above, the matter would best be taken up through ordinary diplomatic channels and that there is no need for special discussion with the Soviet Union about it. Therefore the invitation to the proposed discussions is being limited to the Government of the United States. If it appeared that the Government of the Soviet Union or the French Government could assist at any stage in the discussions, appropriate representatives of such Governments could, of course, be consulted separately.
The Government of the Soviet Union have asked that the requirements concerning the handing over of war criminals should be discussed by the European Advisory Commission and His Majesty’s Government are preparing a draft directive57 which it is hoped will shortly be discussed by the Commission. It is understood that United States authorities are also at work on a similar draft directive.58 The discussions at the European Advisory Commission on these two directives will enable the United States Government, His Majesty’s Government, the French Government and the Government of the Soviet Union to state their views on all matters relating to war criminals and arising in the post-surrender period, except possibly the question [Page 1155] of the form of trials and such matters as the proposed International Criminal Court and the proposed mixed military tribunals.
The question of major war criminals was, as Mr. Grew will be aware, touched upon at the Crimean Conference and has been referred to the three Foreign Secretaries for further consideration.59
In these circumstances, it does not seem possible to discuss at the present stage any post-surrender matters relating to war criminals with the Government of the Soviet Union other than the discussions which will take place in the European Advisory Commission.
Lord Halifax will be glad to be informed, as soon as is conveniently possible, whether Mr. Hackworth, General Weir and other representatives of the United States Government will be able to visit London on or about March 15, 1945, for the purpose of the discussions above described.60
  1. Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. i, p. 1389.
  2. Ibid., p. 1409.
  3. Director of War Department’s War Crimes Office.
  4. For text of this draft directive, issued on June 26, 1945, see Foreign Relations, The Conference of Berlin (The Potsdam Conference), 1945, vol. i, p. 580.
  5. Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force.
  6. Allied Force Headquarters.
  7. This was draft directive EAC (45) 42 of April 20, 1945, entitled “Inclusion of Provision for the Surrender of War Criminals in the Proposed Allied Declaration”, not printed.
  8. For text of the EAC draft directive on United Nations’ renegades and quislings and the changes recommended by SWNNC, see Conference of Berlin (Potsdam), vol. ii, p. 422, footnote 6.
  9. See Conferences at Malta and Yalta, p. 938.
  10. In his reply of March 30, Mr. Hull informed Lord Halifax, “that Judge Samuel I, Rosenman, special counsel to the President, who is now in Europe, has been charged with the responsibility of discussing with British officials in London the questions raised in the Ambassador’s note. He will be joined by Brigadier General Weir and Colonel R. Ammi Cutter of the War Department … Mr. Hackworth will be unable to go to London …” (740.00116 EW/3–645)