The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador of the Soviet Union (Gromyko)
Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note dated February 27, 1945,94 in which you acknowledge the receipt of my note of February 1, 1945, concerning Soviet nationals captured by the United States armed forces in German uniforms.
As I stated in my note of February 1 the American military authorities are doing everything in their power to assist the representatives of the Soviet Embassy in establishing the status of the Soviet citizens captured by the American armed forces serving as members of German formations in German uniforms. These persons are separated from the Germans with whom they were captured and are permitted to return to the Soviet Union.
It would appear that the position of this Government with respect to the retention by the American authorities of a small number of German prisoners of war who claim to be German soldiers and whom the representatives of the Soviet Embassy believe to be Soviet citizens has not been clearly understood. The retention of these prisoners of [Page 1084] war in the status of prisoners of war under the Prisoners of War Convention of 1929 has nothing to do with questions of their citizenship or nationality status but arises solely from their demand to be treated as German prisoners of war under the Prisoners of War Convention.
As I pointed out in my note of February 1 the Geneva Prisoners of War Convention contemplates that prisoners of war are entitled to be treated on the basis of the uniform worn at the time of capture and that the detaining Power shall not without their consent look behind the uniforms to determine questions of citizenship or nationality. Furthermore, this Government has taken the position that aliens in the American armed forces are entitled to the full protection of the Prisoners of War Convention and has informed the German Government that all such prisoners of war entitled to repatriation under that Convention should be returned to the United States regardless of nationality. In view of the position taken with regard to American prisoners of war held by the German Government it is the opinion of the competent American authorities, that if this Government should reject the demand of prisoners of war who were captured while fighting in a German uniform as members of German military formations to be treated as German prisoners, the German Government might be afforded a pretext to subject to reprisal American prisoners of war in its custody. This Government must therefore reserve the right to retain all prisoners of war who make such demand under the Prisoners of War Convention in a prisoner of war status in order to safeguard the protection under that Convention of American prisoners of war in Germany.
This Government will continue to return to Soviet control all Soviet citizens captured as members of German formations in German uniform other than those who demand to be treated as German prisoners under the Prisoner of War Convention. With respect to those who make such demand, this Government must retain them for the time being in its custody. However, the Soviet Government may be assured that their disposition will be taken up again between the two Governments when organized resistance in Germany shall have ceased.
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