The British Prime Minister (Churchill) to President Roosevelt 15
938. 1. The plight of the civil population of occupied Holland is desperate. Between two and three million people are facing starvation. We believe that large numbers are dying daily, and the situation must deteriorate rapidly now that communications between Germany and Holland are virtually cut. I fear we may soon be in the presence of a tragedy.
2. Eisenhower has plans prepared for bringing relief to the civil population when Western Holland is liberated and we have accumulated the stocks for this purpose in suitable proximity. But if we wait until Holland has been liberated, this help may come too late. There is need for action to bring immediate help, on a far larger scale than is afforded by the Swedish relief scheme.
3. I therefore ask you to join me in giving notice to the German Government, through the Swiss Government as the protecting power, to the following effect.
It is the responsibility of the German Government to sustain the civil population in those parts of Holland which remain in German occupation. As they have failed to discharge that responsibility, we are prepared to send food and medical supplies for distribution to the civil population through the agency of the International Red Cross.
We are ready in [to] increase the limited supplies that are already being sent from Sweden and also to send in further supplies, by sea or direct from areas under military control of the Allies, subject to the necessary safe conducts being arranged. We invite the German Government to accord the facilities to enable this to be done.
4. In present circumstances I think that the German Government might well accede to this request. If, however, they should refuse, I propose that we should, at this stage, warn the German Commander in Holland and all the troops under his command that by resisting our attempt to bring relief to the civil population in this area they brand themselves as murderers before the world, and we shall hold them responsible with their lives for the fate which overtakes the people of Holland.[Page 20]
Full publicity would be given to this warning so as to bring it home to all German troops stationed in Holland.
5. We must avert this tragedy if we can. But, if we cannot, we must at least make it clear to the world on whose shoulders the responsibility lies.
6. The terms of the communication to be made to the German Government through the protecting power are being drafted and will be sent to you tomorrow.
In the meantime, I hope that you will feel able to agree in principle.
- Copy of telegram obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y.↩