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Letter by BG B.R. Legge, Military Attaché, to Leland Harrison, American Minister, 1 November 1944


THE MILITARY ATTACHÉ
LEGATION OF THE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BERN, SWITZERLAND


1st November 1944.

Dear Mr. Minister,

      With reference to our conversation of October 31st, I feel that the Swiss Internment Service will probably take no futher action on our Wauwilermoos problem unless pressure is brought to bear. Listed below are the facts which I believe should be presented:-

      (1) Our officers and men attempting to escape are placed in common prisons and held incommunicado for indefinite periods, depending on the desire of the prison authorities.

      (2) No notification is made to the Legation of their whereabouts and it is difficult to determine where they are being held. Capt. McGuire and Lieut. Weinberg were held for 11 days because they refused to talk. Our personnel can be identified readily by any Consular or Legation officer. Therefore there is no excuse for the Swiss refusing to treat them as military personnel.

      (3) Their money and possessions were confiscated without receipt. This is contrary to the provisions of Article 6 of the Geneva Convention of July 27, 1929.

      (4) When released from civil prisons, they are sent to Camp Wauwilermoos and informed that each sentence can be for a maximum period of 6-7 months. Under the Geneva Convention mentioned above, attempt to escape is a matter of disciplinary action, the punishment for which cannot exceed 30 days arrest. So far no American has been brought to trial.

      (5) The camp is overcrowded. There are no facilities for recreation or exercise. Two hot showers are allowed per month. These are not always available. Officers and men are cooped up in crowded wooden barracks. The only furniture consists of wooden bunks provided with straw and wooden tables with benches nailed alongside. Lighting is inadequate. Conditions are worse than in enemy prison camps according to reports in possession of American Interests.

      (6) Red Cross packages have been refused. This is a violation of Article 37 of the same convention.

      There is no justification for such treatment of military personnel who have been guilty of no other offence than endeavoring to escape. I believe that we have a right to demand that our men be placed where they can live under decent conditions and get reasonable exercise and recreation.

      The present situation is bound to engender hatred and bitterness. There are over 100 of our men in the abovementioned camp.

      I am furnishing the American Interests Section with a copy of this letter, asking them to check carefully to affirm violations of conventions affecting prisoners-of-war and write a memorandum on this subject.

      Confirming our telephone conversation just completed (5.45 p.m. November 1), I will make arrangements for us to visit Wauwilermoos on Friday morning, November 3rd, leaving at 10 a.m.

           Faithfully yours,

                B.R. Legge,
                Brigadier General, U.S.A.,
                Military Attaché.

The Honorable Leland Harrison,
American Minister,
BERNE

Copy to Mr. Trait
Capt. Free

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