Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Thompson)

Participants: Mr. Leonard Simutis, President of Lithuanian-American Council
Dr. Pius Grigaitis, Secretary of Lithuanian-American Council
Mr. Michael Vaidyla, Treasurer of Lithuanian-American Council
EUR—Mr. Thompson
EE—Mr. Salter1

At the request of Senator Douglas (Dem. of Illinois), who had asked that the Secretary of State or his deputy receive a delegation from the Lithuanian-American Council, I received the above-named officials of the Lithuanian-American Council at the Department this afternoon. Dr. Grigaitis, the chief spokesman for the group, made the following points:

U.S. Policy toward Lithuania. Dr. Grigaitis said the delegation understood and appreciated the government’s policy of non-recognition of the absorption of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union. Although this policy had not recently been publicly and officially re-stated, it was still in force. He wondered, however, whether on some appropriate occasion in the future it might not be possible for a high official of the government publicly to refer to the Baltic States, particularly Lithuania, and reaffirm our established policy. This would strengthen the hope of Lithuanians everywhere and would also encourage the many Americans of Lithuanian descent.
The Genocide Convention. Dr. Grigaitis referred to the hearings recently begun by a subcommittee of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee on the question of U.S. ratification of the Genocide Convention.2 He said that the Council had been advised of the hearings and had contemplated making a statement to the subcommittee. The hearings had, however, been adjourned before three delegations had been heard, viz., the Lithuanian, the Latvian, and the Ukrainian. He hoped this did not mean that the Council would not have an opportunity to submit its views. Dr. Grigaitis trusted that the Convention would be ratified by the U.S. and suggested that, when this shall have been done, an opportunity might then present itself for some public statement by the Government on the significance of the convention, [Page 343] particularly its relevance to the tragic situation now obtaining in Lithuania.
The Voice of America. Approval was expressed of our aim eventually to broadcast regularly to the Baltic States in their own language. The delegation much appreciated this as an indication of American interest in the welfare of the Baltic peoples. Reports received from Lithuania indicated that VOA broadcasts were most welcome and that they served to strengthen morale. Dr. Grigaitis then mentioned that February 16 was the anniversary of the Independence of Lithuania. He hoped VOA would not fail to use this opportunity to broadcast to the Lithuanian people. He inquired how the Council might be of help to the Department in this and in other connections.

Dr. Grigaitis left with me the original of a letter to the Secretary signed by the three aforementioned officials of the Council, embodying the substance of the remarks he made during the meeting with me (letter attached to original of this memorandum).3

In reply, I explained to the delegation that the Secretary was carrying a very heavy load these days and that he was compelled to spend much time on Capitol Hill. I was, however, glad to see the representatives of the Council, and would of course bring to the attention of the Secretary and of the other interested officers of the Department the views and suggestions put forward by Dr. Grigaitis.

I emphasized that we in the Department were aware of the general situation in the Baltic States and that we sympathized with the inhabitants. We were always grateful for information from those countries as well as for suggestions for action such as those mentioned by Dr. Grigaitis. I was sure the delegation understood, however, that in considering the feasibility of adopting a particular course of action it was necessary for us to look at the whole international picture. Soviet policy was complex, and whatever we did or said regarding one part of the world had repercussions in another area. Timing was also an important factor we always had to bear in mind in connection with diplomatic moves. When official public statements contained no special reference to the Baltic States, that did not indicate lack of interest or forgetfulness on our part. Our policy toward those countries had not changed. We would continue to give careful thought to the Baltic countries, particularly Lithuania, in the light of the specific suggestions advanced by Dr. Grigaitis. Whenever we determined it would be helpful, appropriate reference to the Baltic States would be included in statements or comments by officials of the Department. I mentioned that if we ratify the Genocide Convention an occasion might present itself where reference to the Baltic peoples might usefully be made in an official public statement about the Convention.

As to VOA broadcasts, I said that we hoped funds would be made available in next year’s budget for regular transmissions to the people [Page 344] of those countries in their own languages. Meanwhile, I added, we would see what could be done to arrange a special broadcast in Lithuanian on February 16. Mr. Salter would inform Mr. Kohler4 of the Lithuanian Independence Day. The offer to help prepare such a broadcast was appreciated but the delegation would understand that it was preferable to let the professional personnel at VOA prepare the broadcast. Ideas and suggestions would be useful but the radio experts were best qualified to prepare the script. In bringing the Lithuanian Independence Day to the attention of the Voice of America officials, Mr. Salter would mention the offer of the Lithuanian-American Information Center in New York to be of assistance.

Llewellyn E. Thompson
  1. Fred K. Salter, Officer in Charge, Polish, Baltic, and Czechoslovak Affairs, Office of Eastern European Affairs.
  2. A Convention on Genocide was approved by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1948, and was signed on behalf of the United States on December 11, 1948. On June 16, 1949, President Truman submitted the convention to the Senate with a view to obtaining the advice and consent of that body to ratification. The Senate did not take definitive action on the convention.
  3. The letter under reference here, dated January 30, 1950, is not printed.
  4. Foy D. Kohler, Chief, Division of International Broadcasting, Bureau of Public Affairs.