740.00119 FEAC/10–2245

Memorandum of Conversation Between the Secretary of State and the British Ambassador (Halifax)

[Here follows discussion relating to the Far Eastern Advisory Commission and the projected visit of British Prime Minister Attlee to Washington.74]

Lord Halifax: Doesn’t that75 depend a bit on what is your decision about the Palestine thing? If you have decided to come along on the Palestine thing that will be due by that time. If you let us announce the Palestine thing and say you are coming along and you do that on [Page 780] the 25th of October, which is what we want to do, then obviously, the Jews will know that will not be the subject of the visit. Then if on the first of November you announce Attlee’s coming over to talk about the bomb, then the Jews would believe it.

Secretary Byrnes: That wouldn’t push it aside. When you left this morning I had to see Eugene Meyer.76 I didn’t know what he was going to talk about—it was Palestine. Then when I walked out of the White House Dave Niles77 asked me what he could tell the news about Palestine. That made me mad—that fellow stopping me when 1 was so busy. It may work out but if we agreed to the appointment of a commission, they will conclude it was in the making. I don’t see much harm that could be done.

Lord Halifax: You see today is Monday and Bevin has got to know. I’d like to be able to tell him today or tomorrow what your judgment is.

Secretary Byrnes: I am going to think that one over this evening. I am not clear but I think if the terms of reference78 were different that the President could better agree to it. But the terms of reference as set out do not even mention Palestine.

When you get to Number 3 “to examine the possibility of relieving the situation [position] in Europe by immigration into other countries outside of Europe” whether it is United States, as many would say, or whether Canada or whether Palestine, is not indicated. There are two things in here—I don’t know whether he intended it or not. In the terms of reference he seems to divert the mind of the commission from the Palestine question to finding places in other countries.

Lord Halifax: I know exactly what he has in mind. I am sure that in his mind is a desire to put up a flag and say “All you people who say that the only remedy for the Jews is Palestine, you put your head in a bag.” “It is not true and we are going to look into all possibilities.” A great many will want to go back to their homes. Europe or United States or to Palestine, but, for Heaven’s sake, stop saying Palestine is the only solution.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Secretary Byrnes: If in general terms—I say I have not thought it out yet—but if in general terms he could say to examine—there are two things here. As a matter of fact I don’t see why he did that—must be because of the Harrison report.

Lord Halifax: No, he is not satisfied with that—nor is Eisenhower. All he is saying there is “Let’s find out from the Jews if they want to settle in France or Rumania, and if they want to stay there”—that is all right.

Secretary Byrnes: It says it may prove impossible to resettle—We [Page 781] believe that this thing should be settled through a trusteeship in the United Nations as it is set out in here, and that pending that settlement by the United Nations, there should be a joint Anglo-American committee of Enquiry as a matter of urgency (reads from memo).

Lord Halifax: I should think that it might be possible for him to have a more specific reference to Palestine. It would help you. Providing you don’t put him into a position of accepting a Hitler thesis that there is no room for Jews in Europe.

Secretary Byrnes: I have repeated his position about that as you have stated it to me, but as a matter of fact there is a problem affecting immigration. No one questions that. The question is how many, whether 1,500 or 3,000 per month that could be absorbed into the population of Palestine, and in determining this they should consider the housing and such other matters as they deem essential to a determination of the number of immigrants which it would be wise and fair, and if they did that I don’t see where these people can object at all. I know what they are going to say about this—you did have in 1939 a Commission and they went around the world and of course nothing was done. The Jews are going to say this is just another trick and nothing will be done; whereas it looked to me like Bevin has a sound approach to say there should be a trusteeship under the United Nation and if he said that and said in the meantime pending the decision pending the administration by the United Nations we will have an inquiry made by a committee composed of representatives of the two countries, whose duty it will be to consider all phases of the question and report to their respective governments views as to the number of immigrants that could be wisely and safely admitted.

Lord Halifax: Into Palestine?

Secretary Byrnes: Yes, into Palestine.

Lord Halifax: I see your difficulty about that. If you said a committee of inquiry to consider all phases, all sides of the Jewish problem.

Secretary Byrnes: You see what he has got there. I have my doubts in his doing it. He is covering a lot of territory by considering the plight of Jews everywhere. When you say send them everywhere I first ask, Does that mean United States and all other countries? Bevin also makes the point that this condition is the same as every other displaced person. Why should we examine the position of the Jews any more than the Frenchman, Belgian, English, Irish, Scotsman? If you take that literally, to examine that means to go into camps and all to determine and separate them as apart from all other people. The only reason I can see for doing it is because of the Harrison report. He didn’t like the Harrison report. Harrison submitted a report and Eisenhower made an answer. So far as that is concerned, I think that is a militery report and is finished.

[Page 782]

It would make us in the position of coming in and instead of sitting in the grandstand and shouting at you we would have to come in and participate. It ought to stop for a reasonable time, the pressure and the Ally would have delay in court to talk to the commission and if the commission made a report that was worthwhile it might help educate a lot of people in this country. Then we would join you. I don’t think we would on this.

Lord Halifax: How do you think it might be if you would say that he should make some announcement that it should be under the trusteeship, that the United States had agreed to join a committee of inquiry of which the terms of reference would be announced at an early elate. That would give us more time.

Secretary Byrnes: Well, there is only one thing about it. If the thing is general I am afraid that the Jews would say, “Well, that is not considering the Palestine problem which is the only problem we are interested in. Mr. President, you should not agree to it when you don’t know what it is.”

Lord Halifax: He would agree, I am sure, to an inquiry limited to Palestine. I think he might agree to an inquiry that would include Palestine in the terms but that will take a bit of time to work out. If you thought well to let me have your suggestions of the terms of reference I could try them on him.

Secretary Byrnes: That is what I will do.

Lord Halifax: All he intended is to have a general statement and say that further announcement would be made as to the terms of reference.

Secretary Byrnes: He could say he is going to invite us to join in the terms of reference. I don’t think the President would want on Thursday to agree without going—I think I could get him to agree to assume responsibility and for serving on the Palestine problem. He would not want to do it when there was a chance of it being said that it was not for the purpose of making the inquiry in which the Jews were interested, but it was for finding a way of not doing it. That would be pretty bad. And right here a before an election the following Tuesday it would be pretty bad to take a part in this thing. It is the terms of reference. If you went ahead and made a statement to say he is going to invite, but I hate to do that if he said that, then the next morning they would be on the President’s back to see the terms of reference, and then he would have to say he couldn’t do it because they were so general when they were submitted to him. They did not refer to the Palestine problem while there was a Jewish problem all over the world. The problem now is as to determine number that could be absorbed into the population. He could not join in a plan to divert from that. Let me figure some terms of reference that would do both.

Lord Halifax: Supposing you said he would also want the point [Page 783] to examine the possibility of relieving the conditions in Europe of Jews who do not wish to return to their countries, or something to that effect?

(They discuss wording of terms of reference, the Secretary suggesting numbers 1 and 2 and use numbers 3 and 4.)

Secretary Byrnes: You see, as it now stands, it doesn’t mention Palestine.

Lord Halifax: When I first saw this, I sent it back and said to put Palestine in.

Secretary Byrnes: It is explained in the rest but in the terms of reference he doesn’t have what he has in the statement.

Lord Halifax: That is the best way of dealing with this? The time is very short.

Secretary Byrnes: Let me fix my ideas and send them over to you and you can send them over to him.

Lord Halifax: Would you like me to send one of my fellows down to sit with one of your boys?

Secretary Byrnes: Fine. At 5:00. I will get one of my fellows. Ask for Mr. Henderson. He is the man in charge of this.

Lord Halifax: What shall I tell Bevin meanwhile? He is pressing me all the time whether he can do this on the 25th.

Secretary Byrnes: If we can get some arrangement I will tell the President to agree to some reasonable thing like we have there.

Halifax: Failing to agree on it, the only thing he can say is that he is going to submit it to the President, that he has advised the President of this speech and he is going to send to him the terms of reference in the hope that it will be possible to reach an agreement. You wouldn’t mind that?

Byrnes: No.

Lord Halifax: He is proposing it to the United States Government and will submit the terms of reference in due course.

Secretary Byrnes: Fine. That will give him more time to think about it.

Lord Halifax: If we can do the whole thing, it will be better.

Secretary Byrnes: It will. In the meantime we might get something I can tell him we will agree to.

  1. For documentation regarding these subjects, see index entries in vols. ii and vi .
  2. i.e., the scheduling of Mr. Attlee’s arrival in the United States.
  3. Editor and publisher of the Washington Post.
  4. David K. Niles, Administrative Assistant to the President.
  5. See note from the British Ambassador to the Secretary of State, October 19, p. 771.