740.00116 E.W./3–2245

Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to President Roosevelt

The British are urging a meeting in London between officials of this Department, the War Department, and the British Government61 in an effort to iron out a number of questions relating to war crimes.

On February 14 Acting Secretary Grew sent a letter to Joe Davies62 in New York expressing the hope that he would be able promptly to make his contemplated trip on this same subject. The next morning a letter was received from him, which crossed Mr. Grew’s in the mail, stating that he would be tied up for several weeks on account of illness.

A general program for the handling of war crimes was the subject of conferences between officials of this Department, the War Department, the Attorney General, and Judge Rosenman prior to your departure for Yalta.63 Their recommendations were, I think, laid before you. The proposals contemplated the setting up of an international tribunal for the purpose of trying the principal German leaders and their associates for joint participation in a broad criminal enterprise and laying the foundation for subsequent trials of members of the Gestapo, SS, etc., on charges of complicity in the basic criminal plan. [Page 1156] They also contemplated the trial of individuals for individual atrocities. The subsequent trials would take place before occupation or other appropriate tribunals. I understand this plan was not discussed at Yalta.64

In as much as the war crimes program is more or less bogged down and in as much as we have assured the public that we have definite plans in mind, we should take prompt steps to get things moving in the right direction.

Judge Rosenman is well informed on the subject. I suggest that you authorize the Department to have him look into the whole situation in London and discuss the proposed plan and other current questions relating to war crimes with the British officials.

I also suggest that the Department be authorized to ascertain whether the Secretary of War may not desire to have someone from his Department join Judge Rosenman in the discussion.

May I have your approval.65

Dean Acheson
  1. See supra.
  2. Joseph E. Davies, Chairman of the President’s War Relief Board.
  3. See Conferences at Malta and Yalta, pp. 402413.
  4. At Yalta the question of war criminals was dealt with in par. VI of the Protocol of Proceedings, signed by Messrs. Stettinius, Molotov, and Eden on February 11, 1945. “The Conference agreed that the question of the major war criminals should be the subject of enquiry by the three Foreign Secretaries for report in due course after the close of the Conference.” ( Conferences at Malta and Yalta, p. 979.)
  5. On the microfilm copy of this document from Hyde Park, the following marginal note appears, “D.A. ok F.D.R.” By telegram 2294 of March 24, Judge Samuel I. Rosenman, Special Counsel to the President, was informed of the President’s decision and told that two officials from the War Department would join him in London with copies of the proposed plan (740.00116 EW/3–2445).