124.493/5–1050: Telegram

The Ambassador in Czechoslovakia (Briggs) to the Secretary of State


688. Called this afternoon on Vice Minister Hajdu at his request. After stating that Czechoslovak note of April 281 demanding two-thirds [Page 557] personnel cut within reasonable time had not yet been acknowledged, he informed me that by “reasonable” government meant two weeks and accordingly demanded all individuals concerned be out of Czechoslovakia by that date, i.e., day after tomorrow. Hajdu’s attitude insolent throughout and discussion which followed included on his part such remarks as “If you did not know what reasonable meant, why did not you ask? The US will learn it cannot treat Czechoslovakia like Guatemala; and we are only following US interpretation American Government having given official (Munk2 I assume) two weeks as reasonable time to leave US last year.”

I pointed out that far from ignoring his government’s communication my government was giving it careful consideration; that without prejudice to what views it might ultimately express several departures had already taken place; that whereas few days might be adequate period for some individuals, others with apartments, families, etc., require considerably more time; and that his government’s unilateral interpretation of “reasonable” as 14 days on twelfth day thereof was obviously preposterous. I asked that he convey those views to FonMin with following additional comment: (1) While not accepting any right of Czechoslovakia in premises and reserving my government’s views on matter, should Czechoslovakia desire to state a time limit, it should begin to operate from time of notification i.e.; and (2) that first observation should not be interpreted as indicating any acceptance of two weeks from today as reasonable.

Hajdu agreed convey my observations to FonMin and to inform me if latter made any reply. But Hajdu reiterated that in accordance his instructions he had officially informed me that period within which Czechoslovakia expected two-thirds of our personnel to have departed would terminate day after tomorrow.

When I said “what then?” Hajdu became evasive but implied that immunities of individuals might cease or they might automatically be declared persona non grata.

While we cannot know how far Czechoslovakia may push this matter, we nevertheless must face possibility that on May 13 (day after expiration 14 days) Czechoslovakia may plan some reckless action such as seizing and forcibly transporting personnel to frontier or even jailing them. In present mood, exhilirated by recent liberation celebrations, contact with and perhaps instructions from Russia, I do not believe we can afford to take chances with welfare members staff. Furthermore, bearing in mind Department’s desire if possible to retain relations and fact that what Czechoslovakia contemplates may be action we could not overlook and hence leading to rupture, [Page 558] I am organizing at once evacuation approximately two-thirds personnel by auto and airplane. In absence instructions to contrary, departures will begin tomorrow afternoon. Estimate approximately 20 persons can be moved Frankfort without too great confusion and additional ones will either proceed within time limit or if safety factors appear to advise, be moved to Chancery and residence before May 13. If government extends time limit (of which there is possibility in view my statements to Hajdu) we shall be governed accordingly.3

In meantime suggest Department summon and warn Ambassador Outrata.4

Sent Department 683; repeated London Tosec 76, Paris 8, Moscow 40, Department pass Moscow.

  1. Ante, p. 551.
  2. Dr. Ervin Munk, former Czechoslovak Consul General in New York; declared persona non grata on October 31, 1949, and departed from the United States on November 8, 1949.
  3. Telegram 685, May 11, from Praha, not printed, reported that Assistant Deputy Foreign Minister Hadjů had just telephoned Ambassador Briggs to say that following consideration of his remarks the previous day, the Czechoslovak Government had extended the period within which it demanded two-thirds of American official personnel to depart to midnight May 17.
  4. Vladimir Outrata, Czechoslovak Ambassador in the United States.