Telegram by Acting Secretary of State Edward Stettinius to Leland Harrison, US Minister in Bern, 11 November 1944
From: Department Date: November 11, 1944, midnight.
Code: Secret Received: November 12, 1944, 9 p.m.
The Departmentís attention has been drawn by the War Department to cable no. 1892 dated November 7 from General Legge, which concerns Swiss treatment of interned U.S. military personnel caught attempting to escape and which states that the Legation is presenting the case to the Federal Political Department in Bern.
The Department approves the action contemplated by the Legation. Following consulatation with General Legge, kindly present the case as strongly and convincingly as circumstances warrant. Should the Swiss say that they do not consider themselves bound to apply the terms of the Geneva Conventions to interned military, the Legation may state in reply that this Convention is generally accepted as the minimum standard of treatment of all persons who are interned.
For the Legationís information, the following are the War Departmentís recommendations as to the basis of protest: ďIt (the protest) should be based on the fact that the conditions are unreasonable in relation to prevention of escape. Common humanitarian considerations dictate the necessity for alleviating the conditions under which our personnel are being detained. The Swiss should promptly remove them to a camp with better conditions and should restore any personal effects that have been confiscated unless the latter might assist in another escape. Facilities for recreation and exercise should be given to the men interned. In our opinion, the present unnecessary hardships being visited on our personnel are not consistent or compatible with the duties imposed upon a neutral country in upholding the terms of the Hague Convention No. V of October 18, 1907 and international law.Ē