871.001 Mihai/1–1948

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Southern European Affairs (Barbour)

Participants: Grigore Gafenco, former Rumanian Minister for Foreign Affairs;
Charles Davila, former Rumanian Minister in Washington;
The Honorable Norman Armour, Assistant Secretary;
Walworth Barbour, SE

Messrs. Gafenco and Davila called on the Assistant Secretary on January 19, by appointment made at their request. Mr. Gafenco opened the conversation by referring to the position of King Michael.1 He pointed out that the dynastic principle is not firmly fixed in Rumania, as it is for example in Britain, but that the importance of Michael stems from his almost universal popularity and admiration among the Rumanian people as a result of his courageous efforts to resist Soviet and Communist encroachment and the final submergence of the people’s human rights. He raised the question of Michael’s issuing a statement with regard to his abdication. In the opinion of Mr. Gafenco and Mr. Davila it would be advisable for Michael to make a simple statement to the effect that the abdication was imposed upon him by a Rumanian Government representing only a small minority of the Rumanian people, that that Government had in turn been imposed upon Rumania by a foreign power and that the abdiction was forced contrary to Michael’s wishes. In the view of Mr. Gafenco and Mr. Davila such a statement would, on the one hand, give encouragement to the friends of democracy in Rumania without going so far as to cause the Rumanian people to undertake positive pro-western action at this time which would result in reprisals and, on the other hand, would not embarrass the US in continuing to maintain its relations with the present Rumanian Government. Messrs. Gafenco and Davila stated that they desired to suggest such a course to the King and would [Page 398] like to be able to add that they have the clear impression that such a statement would not be ill-received by the US Government. The Assistant Secretary said that, while the decision would naturally be one for Michael himself, the Department would have no grounds to object to such a statement as they proposed but he queried whether the Swiss Government would agree to any statement made from Switzerland.2 Mr. Gafenco thought that it is undesirable in any case that Michael remain in Switzerland, referring to the presence there of former King Leopold of Belgium, Juan of Spain and various other royal personages including certain members of Michael’s family. In his opinion such an atmosphere is not conducive to the maintenance of Michael’s political prestige. Mr. Gafenco said that it would be his plan for Michael to issue his statement through a Swiss journalist, possibly in the form of an interview to be published on the responsibility of the Journal de Geneve, and that the statement should be issued just prior to Michael’s departure from Switzerland. As for possible destinations both Gafenco and Davila strongly urged the desirability of Michael’s coming to the US. In this country they felt Michael could reside quietly and at the same time engage in sufficient political activity to maintain his political position. Furthermore, they considered that his establishment in the US which is now the leading proponent of democratic ideals would itself give material encouragement to the Rumanian people. They expressed the belief that, while England would be the second best place for Michael to reside, he would be received there more on the basis of his royal station than upon his record as a defender of freedom with obviously less desirable consequences. They asked the Department to give urgent consideration to authorizing Michael’s entrance into the US.

Mr. Armour said that the Department would consider this matter and inform them of this Government’s position at the earliest possible date.3 At the same time, he pointed out certain obvious difficulties which require careful consideration before such a decision could be reached. Michael’s arrival would be accompanied by widespread publicity which might itself lead to reprisals in Rumania and accelerate [Page 399] the course of events there and it would be difficult for him to lead the quiet existence in this country envisaged by Messrs. Gafenco and Davila.

Mr. Gafenco then turned to general European political affairs as they affect the European refugees and referred to his earlier conversation with the Assistant Secretary in that connection. He said that, as a result of his conversations in this country, he is convinced of the utility of establishing a basis of cooperation between appropriate American scientific and cultural organizations concerned with foreign affairs and the various refugee groups. In his opinion such cooperation would serve to discipline the thinking of the many capable European leaders now in exile and to direct their efforts into the useful channel of providing a possible blue print, or blue prints, for concerted effort toward European renaissance at the appropriate time. In the absence of some such cohesive force Mr. Gafenco and Mr. Davila both foresee the endless continuance of the petty bickerings so evident among such groups at present. If their efforts can be so channelized it would also tend to prevent these able individuals from falling into the defeatism which he said he has detected among many of the Europeans whose exile in this country has been prolonged. Mr. Gafenco said he found general acquiescense along this line among such persons as Allen Dulles, Hamilton Fish Armstrong, and such associations as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Foreign Policy Association, various universities, etc.

  1. King Michael (Mihai) abdicated the Romanian throne on December 30, 1947 and took up temporary residence in Switzerland. For documentation regarding the attitude of the United States with respect to King Michael’s possible abdication, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iv, pp. 508512.
  2. Telegram 58, January 14, 1948, to Bern, not printed, commented that it appeared to be in the interest of the United States for information regarding King Michael’s forced abdication to be made generally and promptly known as a further instance of Soviet-Communist aggression (871.001 Mihai/1–1448). During a visit to London on March 4, 1948, King Michael issued a statement repudiating his abdication and describing the means by which the Communist regime in Romania obliged him to sign the act of abdication.
  3. Telegram 138, February 2, 1948, to Bern, set forth the Department’s position on this matter as follows:

    “We are informing Gafenco and Davila in response their inquiry that in event King Michael applies visa to visit US temporarily accompanied by reasonable entourage such application will be sympathetically considered but that, if he asks re indefinite residence, for time being we wish postpone determination our attitude except on temporary visit.” (871.001 Mihai/1–2248)