§ Major Beamish
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the text of the Notes recently exchanged between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union on the subject of the repatriation of German prisoners-of-war.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The text of the Notes is as follows:
Translation of Soviet Government's Note to His Majesty's Government, dated 24th January, 1949
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R. presents its compliments to the Embassy of Great Britain and, in connection with their note of 3rd January, 1949, concerning the repatriation of German prisoners of war, has the honour to forward herewith a memorandum of the Soviet Government on this question.
In view of the facts set forth in the attached memorandum the Soviet Government does not see the necessity of entering into discussion of the question which was raised in the note of the Embassy of Great Britain dated 3rd January, 1949.
Moscow. 24th January, 1949.
To: The Embassy of Great Britain, Moscow.
The notes of the Governments of the United States of America, Great Britain and France of 3rd January, 1949, concerning the repatriation of German prisoners of war have been received by the Soviet Government. In these notes the state of affairs in connection with the repatriation of German prisoners of war is shown in distorted form. The true state of affairs is seen from what follows.
At the Moscow session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the U.S.S.R., the United States of America, Great Britain and France in April, 1947, the proposal of the Soviet delegation about the repatriation of German prisoners of war, who were in the territory of the allied powers and in other territories, was considered. In this proposal, with which the delegations of the United States of America, Great Britain and France agreed, it 114W was stated that "the repatriation of German prisoners of war will be carried out in accordance with the plan which will be worked out by the Control Council."
It is known that such a plan was not worked out by the Control Council through the fault of the Governments of Great Britain, France and the United States of America, in so much as the Governments mentioned, in the persons of their representatives on the Control Council in Berlin, refused to include in the repatriation plan a considerable number of German prisoners of war under the pretext that these prisoners of war were being used by them in the capacity of hired workers.
During the time when the question of drawing up a plan for repatriating German prisoners of war was being discussed in the Control Council, negotiations were being conducted and agreements were concluded between the Governments of the United States of America, Great Britain and France for leaving German prisoners of war in the territories controlled by them under the guise of hired workers. This is confirmed by a series of facts. Thus, for example, the French representative, General Dromar, stated at a session of the Military Directorate on 19th September, 1947.
"At the present time negotiations are being conducted between the American and French Governments about the recruitment of German working strength for France. The plan for repatriating German prisoners of war and, in particular, the speed of this repatriation depend on the negotiations which are at present taking place."
At a session of the Political Directorate of the Control Council on 29th October, 1947, the American representative, Chase, stated that "an agreement exists between the United States of America and Belgium which transfers to the disposal of the latter German prisoners of war captured by the American armies."
An agreement about handing over German prisoners of war for use under the guise of hired workers was likewise concluded between Great Britain and Belgium, and this is confirmed by the letter of the Belgian military mission in Berlin which was considered in the Political Directorate on 1st October, 1947.
The Western powers refused to inform the Control Council about the negotiations proceeding between them about leaving German prisoners of war [unrepatriated] in the capacity of hired workmen, and on 20th January, 1948, General Clay made a proposal wholly to remove from the agenda of the Control Council the question of working out a plan for repatriating German prisoners of war and this, indeed, was done. In this way the working out of a plan for repatriating German prisoners of war was brought to nothing by the powers indicated.
According to information in possession of the Soviet Government, a large number of German prisoners of war, as hired workers, is still retained in territories controlled by Great Britain, France and the United States of America.
It is apparent from the statement of Isaacs, Minister of Labour of Great Britain, which was 115W made in the House of Commons on 21st September, 1948, and from other statements of official persons of Great Britain that German prisoners of war, used by the War Ministry of Great Britain on works connected with the destruction of bombs, will be retained in England till the end of 1949.
According to the data of the paper "Manchester Guardian" of 5th January, 1949, 15,000 German prisoners of war are at present engaged in the agriculture alone of England. Besides this, German prisoners of war are used on construction works for the British armies in the Middle East.
According to the data of the Central Administrative Department for the affairs of prisoners of war, attached to the French Ministry of National Defence, which were published by the paper "Monde" on 6th January, 1949, 137,000 German prisoners of war are at present retained in France under the guise of hired workers.
As regards the repatriation of German prisoners of war from the Soviet Union, the Soviet Government has already repatriated the overwhelming majority of the German prisoners of war, and is carrying out, according to the plan it has adopted, the repatriation of the remaining prisoners of war which will be completed in the course of 1949.
From what has been set out above it follows that the statement, contained in the aforementioned notes, to the effect that German prisoners of war are being detained in the Soviet Union contrary to an obligation given in the name of the Soviet Government, distorts the true position.
No doubt is left that statements of this sort are directed to purposes which have nothing to do with the interests of hastening solution of the question of repatriating German prisoners of war. Attempts are made to distract the attention of public opinion by such statements from the numerous facts showing the retention of a large number of German prisoners of war under the guise of hired workers in territories controlled by British and French authorities, and also from the intolerable fact that over 250,000 Soviet citizens, driven into Germany by the Hitlerites during the war, are still being retained by every sort of method in camps in the American, English and French occupation zones of Germany and Austria.
24th January, 1949.
Text of United Kingdom Note to Soviet Government dated 3rd January, 1949.
His Majesty's Embassy presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has the honour, under instructions from His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, to address to them the following communication:
It was agreed at the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Moscow in April, 1947, that all German prisoners of war in the hands of the four occupying powers should be repatriated to Germany by the 31st December, 1948. His Majesty's Government wish to draw the attention of the Soviet Government to the fact that they no longer hold in the territory under their control any undischarged German prisoners of war.116W
His Majesty's Government understand that the United States Government and the Government of France have also fulfilled their undertaking in this respect and would therefore be grateful for a statement from the Soviet Government regarding the undertaking given by Mr. Molotov to repatriate the 890,532 German prisoners of war stated by him to be held in the Soviet Union on the 31st March, 1947, In the absence of any reports from the Soviet Government since the Control Council machinery ceased to function in Berlin, His Majesty's Government have had to rely for their information on the figures of prisoners of war who are known to have been repatriated up to the 1st March, 1948, and on the total of those that have returned to the three Western Zones of Germany since that date. Up to the 1st March, 1948, according to the records of the Quadripartite Combined Repatriation Executive at Berlin, 252,395 prisoners of war had returned from the Soviet Union to the four zones of Germany; and up to the 1st December, 1948, the three Western zones have received a further 194,972. Only 447,367 prisoners of war are therefore known to have reached Germany from the Soviet Union. At the present rate of repatriation it is estimated that a further 20,000 have been repatriated to the Western zones in the course of December. On the assumption that the rate of repatriation to the Soviet zone of Germany has not diminished since the 1st March, 1948 (although His Majesty's Government have no information to this effect) it is estimated that about 211,000 more have been repatriated to that zone by the 31st December. In the absence of any indication from the Soviet Government as to the accuracy of this estimate His Majesty's Government are forced to the conclusion that there remained in Soviet hands at the 31st December at the very least 200,000 German prisoners of war. His Majesty's Government would emphasise that this calculation is based on the figure given in March, 1947, by Mr. Molotov, a figure which His Majesty's Government have never been able to reconcile with the figures given by the Soviet authorities during the war of German prisoners captured by the Red Army. In view of the importance that His Majesty's Government, no less than the whole German people, attach to the fulfilment of this pledge by all four occupying powers, they feel compelled to ask for what purpose this large number of prisoners of war have been retained in the Soviet Union contrary to the undertaking given on behalf of the Soviet Government and further to ask whether it is intended to continue the repatriation of prisoners of war to Germany.
His Majesty's Government would further draw the attention of the Soviet Government to the fact that His Majesty's Embassy's note No. 197 of the 9th March, 1948, regarding the notification of the deaths of prisoners of war as laid down by international agreement has not yet been answered, although two subsequent enquiries have been addressed by His Majesty's Embassy, and they would be grateful for an early reply.
3rd January, 1949.117W
Text of United Kingdom Note to Soviet Government dated 15th March, 1949
His Majesty's Government have considered the account of the discussion in the Control Council and in its subordinate bodies, regarding the repatriation of German prisoners of war, as contained in the memorandum enclosed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' note of the 24th January, and find themselves unable to accept this Soviet version. A careful study of the relevant official minutes recording the statements by the Soviet representatives on the subject shows beyond all doubt that the Soviet Government considered itself bound by the agreement reached at the Moscow session of the Council of Foreign Ministers in March, 1947, when it was decided that all German prisoners of war should be repatriated to Germany by the 31st December, 1948. Indeed, on at least six occasions the Soviet representatives in the Quadripartite Committees gave assurances that the Soviet Government would honour the undertaking given on its behalf by Mr. Molotov. These occasions were:
- (I) on the 5th July, 1947, by Lieut.-General Dratvin in the Co-ordinating Committee when he referred to the Soviet repatriation plan which had been submitted to the Allied Secretariat.
- (II) on the 31st August, 1947, by Major General Barinov in the Combined Services Directorate.
- (III) on the 19th September, 1947, by Major General Sokolov in the Combined Services Directorate.
- (IV) on the 13th November, 1947, by Major Barinov in the Combined Services Directorate.
- (V) on the 8th and 9th December, 1947, by Lieut.-General Dratvin in the Co-ordinating Committee.
- (VI) on the 20th January, 1948, by Marshal Sokolovsky in the Control Council.
2. His Majesty's Government note that in their reply the Soviet Government have failed to furnish the information for which His Majesty's Government asked regarding the purpose for which a number of prisoners, totalling at the very least 200,000, have been retained in the Soviet Union. His Majesty's Government would once more draw the attention of the Soviet Government to the importance which they attach to this question and to which they have felt bound to refer in the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
3. His Majesty's Government note also that by admitting that an unspecified number of prisoners of war still remain in the Soviet Union, the Soviet Government have confirmed their failure to fulfil the agreement of March, 1947. Although the Soviet Government have promised to complete repatriation during 1949 under a plan, of which no details whatsoever are given, His Majesty's Government are disturbed by reports which have reached them from the British Military Governor at Berlin that the numbers of prisoners of war repatriated in December, 1948, to the three western zones fell to a 118W figure of 10,217, little more than half the monthly average over the previous nine months. In the month of January, 1949, there was a further significant decrease and only 2,015 prisoners of war reached the three western zones from the Soviet Union.
4. His Majesty's Government categorically refute the statement contained in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' note that the object of His Majesty's Government in taking up this matter is to distract the attention of public opinion from the fact that a number of former German prisoners of war have, of their own choice, volunteered to remain in the United Kingdom and in the Middle East as free civilian workers. His Majesty's Government have made no secret of the existence of this category of volunteer worker and take this opportunity of stating that in all 16,376 former German prisoners of war have volunteered to remain in the United Kingdom and 543 in the Middle East, of whom more than 500 have elected to work in Cyrenaica, the remainder in the Suez Canal Zone. All these men have been offered the opportunity of taking a holiday in Germany free of travel cost. More than 8,000 have accepted the offer and of these the vast majority have already completed their leave the remainder being at present with their relatives and friends in Germany.
5. Under these circumstances His Majesty's Government propose to the Soviet Government that an agreed international body should be invited freely to carry out an inspection of the conditions under which German volunteer workers are living and working in the United Kingdom and the Middle East, provided that this body shall also be allowed free access to the Soviet Union to carry out similar investigations into the conditions under which German prisoners of war are held there. His Majesty's Government will welcome from the Soviet Government a suggestion as to which body should be invited to carry out the investigations in the territories under their respective control.