740.00112 E.W./2–1545: Telegram
The Minister in Switzerland (Harrison) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 15—2:48 p.m.]
1005. For Department and FEA from Currie Mission. At plenary session February 13 we developed generally practical and legal arguments [Page 779] for complete stoppage of transit between Germany and Italy in either direction. At subcommittee on transit yesterday these arguments were elaborated. Canvassed our position on article II of Hague Convention26 claiming that in present circumstances it was unneutral for Switzerland to permit her railroads to be used for what is in effect military transport between different portions of German Army. In this connection we referred to Great Britain’s protest in World War I to transport from Germany to occupied Belgium across neutral Holland27 pointing out that Holland admitted validity of contention. We then referred to article III of St. Gothard Convention which gives Switzerland right to interrupt transit over St. Gothard line if Switzerland’s neutrality is in jeopardy. At this meeting we concentrated on north-south transit of coal reserving of course our position as to all transit but stressing the urgency for immediate and preliminary answer on coal. Swiss did not give a final answer to our contentions but gave the following information:
- Coal shipments in January were 53000 tons.
- From February 1 to February 10 total shipments were 6000 tons.
- Since February 10 all shipments have been suspended by Swiss.
- Swiss have informed Germans that shipments will not be resumed until they deliver to Switzerland arrears for January which Swiss estimate at 15000 tons and thereafter for every ton which Switzerland transports to Italy Germans must supply a ton for Switzerland. We made it clear that we were not satisfied with this answer to our contentions. Swiss replied they would consider the matter further and hoped to be in a position more closely to meet our demands in a few days. We expressed opinion that negotiations could not possibly be successful unless Swiss met us on transit. Swiss then promised that in any case coal traffic would not be resumed without first informing us.
This morning Italian Government as one of the three parties to St. Gothard Convention protested to Swiss Government concerning transit traffic on St. Gothard line claiming that all shipments from Germany to northern Italy are in support of a rebel government and at expense of the de jure Italian Government which Swiss have recognized. Italians also claimed that all shipments from Italy represent a spoliation of Italian people. Protest requested transit be stopped immediately. If Swiss reply to Italian note is unsatisfactory Italians intend to request arbitration under article XIII of St. Gothard Convention [Page 780] and demand that pending arbitration traffic be suspended in order to preserve the status quo.
We are given to understand from Rappard that Swiss do not expect Germans to agree to offer in (d) above but if they do the Swiss would feel free to raise further difficulties in light of new developments. Therefore we believe that chances are excellent that transit traffic in coal will not be resumed.
On imports and exports we are informed that imports of coal from Germany totalled 12000 tons in January and 4000 tons the first week of February. Because of this small value Swiss permitted exports in January of only 5,000,000 francs with no machinery and virtually no electrical equipment. Believed exports running at about same rate in February. Federal Council is considering our Safehaven proposals at its meeting on Friday.
Repeated London 502. [Currie Mission.]
[In telegram 1083, February 18, 1945, the Minister in Switzerland transmitted the translation of a decree of the Swiss Federal Council, enacted February 16, governing the freezing of German assets in Switzerland (740.00112 E.W./2–1845).]
- Convention respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of War on Land, signed at The Hague October 18, 1907, Foreign Relations, 1907, pt. 2, p. 1216.↩
- For an account of the question of transit of German war materials across the Netherlands in World War I, see Green Haywood Hackworth, Digest of International Law (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1943), vol. vii, pp. 595–602.↩