Memorandum of Conversation, Held in San Francisco May 3, 1945


American British Russian
Mr. Stettinius Mr. Eden74 Mr. Molotov75
Judge Rosenman Sir Wm. Malkin Ambassador Gromyko
Ambassador Harriman Sir A. Cadogan Mr. Sobolev
Mr. McCloy Mr. Pavlov
Mr. Dunn Mr. Golunsky
Col. Cutter
Mr. Wechsler
Mr. Bohlen
Mr. Yost
Mr. Noyes
[Page 1162]
The Secretary stated that the U.S. policy on War Criminals had been established and that the President had just recently appointed Mr. Jackson, Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court as the U.S. representative to take charge of the prosecution of the trials of War Criminals. He said that the President had asked Judge Rosenman to come to San Francisco to take this matter up with the representatives of the four major powers involved in the European war. This meeting had been called for this purpose. The Secretary asked whether it would be appropriate to have Bidault, the French Foreign Minister at this meeting or whether he should be asked to another meeting later today or tomorrow. It was agreed that Bidault could not reach the meeting in time to participate in the discussion, and that it might be possible for the foreign secretaries to leave these matters in the hands of technical representatives with whom the French representative could associate himself.
Judge Rosenman stated that he had been sent here by the President to place the U.S. proposals for the treatment of war criminals before the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, U.S.S.R., and France who with the United States were the four powers represented on the Control Council for Germany. He realized that this question was not germane to the business of the San Francisco Conference and that he had been sent here merely because of the opportunity which was presented while the four Foreign Ministers were here. He realized that this was not an official meeting of the Foreign Ministers. He stated that the U.S. Government had reached a decision in regard to the plans of the Treatment of War Criminals and also with regard to the organization to handle these matters. In the Moscow Declaration, it was stated that war criminals would be returned for trial to the country in which his crime was committed. The Declaration had also mentioned that in the case of crimes which had no geographical location, the proper procedure would be left for further discussion with the Allies. The U.S. is very much interested in settling these matters and feels that an agreement must be reached promptly.
Judge Rosenman summarized the American proposal as follows: We believe that there should be organized an international military tribunal rather than a civilian tribunal. This court should consist of one representative of each of the four powders represented on the Control Council for Germany. There should also be organized immediately a committee of one representative of each of the four powers to start collecting evidence and preparing for the trials to come. It was our thought that the representatives on this committee would act in the capacity of council to try the cases before the international military tribunal. The President had already appointed Justice Jackson for this purpose.
Judge Rosenman said there were several categories of criminals concerned:
there were the top Nazis. We had formerly considered these to be Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Mussolini, and two or three others. It now looked as though we might not have to concern ourselves with these men.
there were also the criminals which were going to be returned to the country where their crimes had been committed.
there were others whose crimes were not geographically located.
there would be numerous others who had committed crimes but could not be proven because of the fact that the witnesses were dead or there was no evidence still in existence. He gave, for example, the case of Gestapo and SS troops who had undoubtedly committed crimes but we would not be able to prove them.
It was the U.S. belief that these crimes must be sought out and punished, not only to punish the guilty for its moral value but also because these men would certainly provide the nucleus of a future Nazi party and would lead any future uprising.
Judge Rosenman stated that we had a plan which we felt would solve this difficulty. We proposed to place on trial the Nazi organizations themselves rather than the individuals and to convict them and all their members of engaging in a criminal conspiracy to control the world, to persecute minorities, to break treaties, to invade other nations and to commit crimes. We are convinced we can convict these organizations of these crimes. Once having proved the organizations to be guilty, each person who had joined the organization voluntarily would ipso facto be guilty of a war crime. While we do not necessarily want to put all the guilty persons to death, we would definitely want to sentence them at least to hard labor to rehabilitate the countries which the Germans had despoiled.
Judge Rosenman stated that we had prepared a memorandum on our views to be submitted to the four powers.76 The Russian translation had been made which, however, should be checked. He handed copies of these memoranda to all present. Judge Rosenman stated that we had also prepared a draft memorandum of agreement77 which he desired to present to the other Governments as a basis for discussion with the four powers. He also handed out copies of these.
The Secretary stated that before we proceeded further, he wanted to settle the matter of bringing the French into these discussions. Mr. Molotov and Mr. Eden stated that they had no objection to bringing the French in. Since it was impossible to bring Bidault into this meeting, the Secretary suggested that he was seeing him at 5 p.m. this afternoon and asked whether it would be all right for him to inform him of all that had taken place at this meeting and to ask him [Page 1164] to appoint a French representative who could meet with our experts. This was agreed.
Mr. Eden stated that his colleagues in London had been considering this matter of war crimes for some time. Their position was that the major war criminals, the top 7 or 8 Nazis, should not be tried by judicial procedures. Their position had, however, recently changed greatly due to the fact that many of these top Nazis had already been killed and no doubt many more would be killed within the next few days. The War Cabinet still saw objections to a formal state trial of war criminals for the most notorious Nazis whose crimes had no geographic location. If, however, their two great Allies definitely wanted a judicial trial of such men, the British were willing to bow to them in the matter. They would, however, like to review the proposed procedure. The War Cabinet favored the proposed procedure as outlined by Judge Rosenman for a criminal conspiracy to convict members of the Gestapo and other similar Nazi organizations. They would like to review the proposals in detail. He stated that the British understood that the normal military courts of the four Allies would be used to take care of the ordinary war crimes committed inside Germany. This would take care of a large number of cases. There would also be a large number of cases of criminals who would be returned to the country where their crimes were committed. He felt that the smaller the number of people who were dealt with by a formal state trial, the better.
Mr. Molotov stated that he felt Judge Rosenman had made proposals on a matter of great importance and that we should pay great attention to them. He reserved the right to express the views of his Government on the documents which had been submitted, stating that it was difficult to make any comment on such short notice. He asked for time to study the documents and thought that after they had done so, it might be appropriate to have the experts discuss the questions.
The Secretary stated that the proposals Judge Rosenman had made had the full support of the American Government and suggested that the three Governments appoint representatives to meet as soon as possible to discuss these matters on a technical level. When they had reached the point where other Foreign Ministers meetings would be useful they could be called. Mr. Molotov appointed Mr. Golunsky and Mr. Arutiunian78 to represent him. Mr. Eden appointed Sir Wm. Malkin to represent him, and the Secretary appointed Judge Rosenman and Mr. Hackworth to represent the U.S. (Mr. Dunn to take Mr. Hackworth’s place if the latter did not get well in time). He said he would tell Bidault of this meeting and would advise the others later of the name of the French representative.
  1. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Chairman of the British Delegation at the San Francisco Conference.
  2. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union, Chairman of the Soviet Delegation at the San Francisco Conference.
  3. For text, see Report of Robert H. Jackson, pp. 28–38.
  4. Ibid., p. 23.
  5. A. A. Arutiunian, adviser to the Soviet Delegation at the San Francisco Conference.