Memorandum by the Director of the Office of European Affairs (Matthews) to the Under Secretary of State (Acheson)1

top secret

Subject: Intimidation and Arrest by Yugoslav secret police of Yugoslav employees of Embassy Belgrade; death sentence given by Yugoslav court to American citizen.

Recent reports from Belgrade, both carried in the press and telegraphed by our Embassy, reveal an increasing number of actions by OZNA, the Yugoslav secret police, in intimidating and arresting Yugoslav nationals employed by the Embassy at Belgrade. Milutin Stefanovich, a translator, was arrested in April, 1946, tried in January, 1947 on espionage charges, found guilty and shot. Jennie Tomich, a clerk, whose mother resides in the United States, was arrested in January, 1946, released several weeks later without explanation, re-arrested in September, 1946 and at last reports was in a prison hospital as a result of the treatment she received. Melissa Markovich, another translator, was arrested on January 17, 1947 on charges of activity against the Government. Another woman employed in the Embassy has recently been interrogated on three occasions, and on her refusal to collaborate with OZNA was told “it is war to finish” (see attached telegram 48 January 18 from Belgrade2). One of the Embassy’s chauffeurs was questioned and his house was searched on January 16, 1947. One Ivan Pintar, a native born citizen who went to Yugoslavia in 1933 and has resided there since, was arrested, charged with aiding subversive elements and with having promised to obtain assistance through the Zagreb Consulate. On January 21, 1947 he was sentenced to be shot. We have made representations to the Yugoslav authorities in his behalf, but no decision on his appeal has yet been announced.

These actions of the Yugoslav authorities must apparently be viewed as part of a premeditated plan to impede and interfere with the Embassy’s activities and intimidate its personnel, American as well as foreign—the Foreign Office has indicated, as a result of our statement that we would withdraw the three Americans still in Yugoslavia implicated in the Stefanovich trial, that it will furnish a list of individuals who are persona non grata. The Yugoslav aim may be to force the withdrawal of our Mission. At least it seems clear the Yugoslavs wish to curtail its activities to such an extent that it can only perform the most routine functions and thus eliminate the Embassy’s prestige [Page 752] and influence in Yugoslavia. Our Yugoslav employees, realizing that the Embassy cannot protect them effectively, are now in a state of almost complete demoralization, and the American personnel is somewhat uneasy over its own position.

Accordingly, it is recommended that:

As a first step you call in Ambassador Kosanovich to discuss this matter. If this meets with your approval, you might wish to point out that we have observed with increasing dissatisfaction the growing number of molestations by the Yugoslav secret police of the Embassy’s Yugoslav employees. Since these employees perform only routine functions, such activities of OZNA, so contrary to customary practices between States, can only be understood if viewed as a deliberate attempt to impede the normal functioning of the Embassy and to intimidate its alien employees. You might care to mention that the continuation of such actions by the Yugoslav authorities can only lead to further deterioration in the relations between the two countries.3
Consideration be given to replacing with American citizens to the greatest possible extent the 38 Yugoslav employees of the Embassy at Belgrade and the 12 Yugoslav employees of the Zagreb Consulate. FP, however, indicates there are no funds for the employment of additional Americans this year.
Consideration be given to obtaining clearance for Yugoslav employees from the Yugoslav Foreign Office as is the practice of our Embassies at Moscow and Warsaw. A draft telegram to Belgrade requesting information on this possibility is enclosed for your approval if you concur in this suggestion.4
If Pintar, despite our representations, is shot, consideration be given to releasing a press statement setting forth our efforts to have the sentence reduced and denouncing the execution as a denial of justice as understood and practiced in all civilized countries.
Should persecution of American citizens continue, the Department seriously consider refusing to issue or validate American passports for travel to Yugoslavia except on most urgent and necessary business. Such a press announcement might cite that that decision was being taken because of this Government’s inability to extend effective [Page 753] protection to American citizens in Yugoslavia, in view of the attitude of the present Yugoslav Government toward the exercise of the judicial process.

H. Freeman Matthews
  1. This memorandum was prepared in the Division of Southern European Affairs for Matthews’ signature. The memorandum reached the Under Secretary’s office on January 27.
  2. Not printed
  3. In the source text, the following additional sentence was crossed out by Matthews:

    “You might also wish to add that while we hope the Yugoslav authorities will take the necessary steps to put an immediate stop to the persecution of the Embassy Yugoslav personnel, we are under no illusion that these steps will actually be taken.”

  4. Matthews wrote the following marginal notation opposite this paragraph: “I dislike this if we can avoid it.” The draft telegram under reference was not attached to the source text.