871.00/11–847: Telegram

The Minister in Rumania (Schoenfeld) to the Secretary of State

confidential   urgent

156. While parts of following message re Maniu trial which I was about to send last night when urtel 670, November 6, arrived may now [Page 504] be outdated, I feel it contains elements that are still of interest, particularly re public statement aspect. I hope to see Holman1 shortly on proposed parallel notes to Rumanian Government and shall afterwards submit report on that subject.

It is my view trial of Maniu and Peasant Party leaders should be viewed in perspective of (1) current Communist desire for complete control of Rumania, (2) desire to destroy opposition parties and their symbols and (3) Soviet-inspired campaign to destroy influence of US and in less degree GB and to immobilize our activity in this region.

I feel (1) and (2) could have been accomplished without trial and in fact were largely completed before it began. In last analysis trial in my opinion motivated mainly by campaign against the west, particularly US.

Trial itself may be divided into three parts: (a) actual trial of Maniu as co-defendant on charges of conspiracy against the state and connections with foreign countries (US and UK); (b) charges of improper activities on part of members of US political and military missions; (c) alleged involvement of US military officers (Hall and Hamilton)2 as representatives US espionage agencies.

I believe Department has been wise in withholding comment thus far on trial and its implications but suggest that to counter in so far as possible Soviet objective cited under (3) above, Department may shortly wish to issue simple terse statement (perhaps in reply to question in a press conference) to effect that while we desire to await receipt of full facts, we can say at this time that charge of US involvement in secret plot to overthrow Rumanian Government is too synthetic and transparent to merit reply.

We may add something to effect that trial itself bears outer aspect of those political trials rendered classic by Soviet practice and of old technique of accusing others to divert attention from one’s own objectives, objectives that in the present instance appear to be designed to sweep away whatever may stand in the way of preventing the fastening upon the country of a foreign supported minority regime. International agreements will be recalled under which US, UK and USSR agreed to set up representative government in Rumania chosen in free and unfettered elections. US Government has repeatedly and publicly proclaimed its position and its views concerning the methods and measures which Soviet Union and Rumanian Government adopted for implementing that commitment and there has been no secret about it.

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As regards (b) the Department may desire to state that Rumanian Government has apparently forgotten that it was under an armistice regime, that US as an occupying power, a member of the ACC and a participant in the foregoing joint engagements, like the UK and Soviet Union, had the obligation to keep itself informed of Rumanian conditions so as to be in a position to carry out its duties and that in doing so its representatives discharged their duties in a thoroughly proper manner.

As regards (c) I believe that since the charge of conspiracy is without substance, it should avoid public reference to activities of Hall and Hamilton as being minor and irrelevant. To do otherwise would dignify matter beyond its importance, give it greater currency and make US appear to be on the defensive. If it should later be necessary to make any statement I believe that should more properly be dealt with by the Department of National Defense. In latter event, I suggest playing it down as inconsequential by pointing out unlikelihood of plan of so fanciful a nature being advanced by two junior officers when US Government was participating in occupation of the country.

On this point it may be advisable for War Department to be cautious at present since our Military, Naval and Air Attachés, though their designation was notified to Rumanian Government more than a month ago, have not yet officially been accepted by Rumanian general staff which under unnecessary provocation might take position they are unwilling to accept any officer who has been associated with US Military Mission during armistice period. This is an extreme assumption but not an impossible one. They have recently cleared British Service Attachés all of whom were previously associated with British Military Mission. But no charge of activities similar to Hall-Hamilton affair has been levelled at them.

While course of Maniu trial thus far presents aspect of a political rather than a judicial trial, I believe time is not yet opportune for any statement on our part regarding merits of trial itself. This is true not only because verdict has not been rendered but because defendants have certain rights of review.

I have discussed publicity angle with Holman, British Minister, whose FonOff has indicated agreement with his view of keeping public sentiments to a minimum until trial is over. He feels British problem is simpler than ours since they have no Hall-Hamilton case. His view is British problem falls under four headings: (1) his contact with Maniu (2) his discussions of political subjects with Maniu (3) alleged use of British official channels for communication with Rumanian émigrés (4) alleged involvement in conspiracy against Groza regime. Attack against British is far less intense than against US, attributable perhaps to Soviet feeling Britain is so engaged with its home problems [Page 506] as to be in phase of partial withdrawal abroad while we constitute greater obstacle to attainment of Soviet objectives.

Holman and I agree in any case on desirability of both governments consulting with view to coordinating their eventual public position concerning trial.

I shall shortly send preliminary report re fairness of trial.3

  1. Adrian Holman, British Minister in Rumania.
  2. Maj. Thomas Hall and Lt. James Hamilton had been members of the staff of the United States Representation on the Allied Control Commission for Rumania.
  3. The report referred to here was subsequently transmitted to the Department in telegram 169, November 11, from Bucharest, not printed (871.00/11–1147).

    At his press conference on November 12, Secretary of State Marshall was asked for a comment on the Maniu trial which had ended the previous day with the sentencing of Maniu to life imprisonment. The Secretary observed that the trial conformed to the general pattern of all political trials in the area, whose evident purpose was to eliminate all democratic opposition to the Communist-dominated regimes. For the text of the Secretary’s statement, see Department of State Bulletin, November 23, 1947, p. 995.