The British Ambassador (Halifax) to the Secretary of State 3

My Dear Ed: The Prime Minister and Anthony have received replies to personal messages which they addressed to Marshal Stalin and M. Molotov respectively regarding the failure of the Soviet authorities to repatriate liberated British prisoners of war and to permit visits of British contact officers and furnishing of supplies to certain [Page 1089] hospitals and other places under Soviet control where British subjects are collected for repatriation.4

The reply from Marshal Stalin states that there are no grounds for anxiety about liberated British prisoners of war since they are living in better conditions than has been the case with Soviet nationals in British camps where they are alleged to have suffered persecution and, in some cases, blows. The Marshal adds that all recaptured British prisoners of war are now on the way to Odessa or on the homeward voyage. The reply from M. Molotov states that he cannot agree that the Yalta agreement had not been satisfactorily carried out by the Soviet authorities, nor could he agree to exaggerated claims which did not follow from the agreement. He concluded with the assurance that the liberated British prisoners of war are enjoying good conditions and that the Soviet authorities will continue to care for them in future.

I understand that the President has also received a reply to a message which he sent to Marshal Stalin on the subject of the treatment of liberated American prisoners of war in the hands of the Soviet authorities.

Anthony is of the opinion that it would be better for the present not to renew the attempt to secure permission for contact officers to enter Poland proper in order to visit liberated British prisoners of war, chiefly because the British contact officers have now proceeded to camps at Lwow and Volkovysk where they will report whether points of concentration exist west of the Curzon Line, the estimated number of ex-prisoners remaining to be evacuated to these two camps and also the general condition of the ex-prisoners. So far the Soviet authorities have denied that there are any points of concentration or any prisoners of war in hospitals in Poland west of the Curzon Line. The above-mentioned replies from Marshal Stalin and M. Molotov ignore this aspect of the question and there is an obvious advantage in waiting for reports from contact officers before deciding whether to return to the charge, since if these reports bear out what has already been said to the Soviet authorities, a better position will have been obtained for renewing the attempt to secure permission for contact officers to enter Poland proper. Anthony has no doubt that this would be strongly opposed, [Page 1090] because the Soviet Government suspects that the contact officers would, under cover of dealings with prisoners of war, proceed to contact Polish leaders, and, in fact to convert themselves into the proposed Observation Mission.5

Anthony has requested me to communicate to you his views set forth in the preceding paragraph regarding the next step to be taken in these discussions with the Soviet authorities and to enquire whether the United States Government are in agreement.

The Prime Minister is not communicating the above to the President and I have been asked to enquire if you will be so good as to do so in view of his personal interest in the matter.6

  1. Copy obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y.
  2. For Prime Minister Churchill’s message of March 21 to Stalin and Stalin’s reply of March 23, see Correspondence Between the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. and the Presidents of the U.S.A. and the Prime Ministers of Great Britain During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945 (Moscow: 1957), vol. i, pp. 306–308. British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Anthony Eden sent a message to Foreign Commissar Molotov on March 21 complaining of the serious delays which were occurring in collecting and evacuating liberated British prisoners of war in Poland and elsewhere and urged that the British-Soviet Agreement of February 11, 1945, regarding the treatment and repatriation of liberated Soviet and British citizens be carried out at once in full. Molotov’s reply of March 23 denied that the British-Soviet agreement was being unsatisfactorily carried out.
  3. In the course of the negotiations in the Moscow Polish Commission, it was proposed by the United States that British and American observers be allowed to enter Poland to report to the Commission on conditions there. The Soviet Union opposed such a mission.
  4. Adm. William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Roosevelt, received a copy of this letter from the Department of State on April 9, 1945, and sent it by mail to the President, who was then at Warm Springs, Georgia. There is no indication that the President, who died on April 12, took action on this document.