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exchange: (1) all tubercular prisoners; (2) all who cannot be cured in less than one year; (3) [those] suffering from maladie-de-fil-fer, i. e., whose nerves are so shaken by internment that their nervous systems go to pieces at the sight of a prison camp; (4) other minor special diseases. The foregoing is nothing more than a sieve through which the Central Powers may recover their officers; the reported provision that no exchanged person may be employed at the front or for military instruction is equally specious.
The importation of American food for prisoners has been discussed. It is proposed equally for prisoners held by Russia and by the Central Powers. The latter contend that they would profit neither in an economic nor a military sense; suggested control by Danish delegates and had the temerity to acknowledge that the present ration was insufficient for normal nutrition. The food imported from America would simply insure the prisoners being fed more satisfactorily without gain to Germany, they contend.
The increase of the number of invalid prisoners in Denmark— now 1,200 Austro-Hungarian and German, and equal number Russians-proposed with the probable inclusion of future American and British prisoners is evidently the next step forward [toward] hastening the remanding of the much-needed officers and men. The Danes agreed on condition that food for the purpose could be imported from America.
The question of peace has once or twice been broached but not pursued, which gives the certainty of efforts having been continued privately.
The Legation submits that unless prompt and united pressure is brought to bear upon the Russian Government many thousands of Austro-Hungarian and German prisoners will be declared ill and repatriated to release officers and men for service at the front until such time as they themselves shall become fit.
The delegates of the Central Powers and the Danes are using every means to win over the Russians, and if a brake is not soon applied the results may be most detrimental to the cause of the Allies.
File No. 763.72114/29841⁄2
The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain
WASHINGTON, November 3, 1917.
5724. Your 7562, October 30.1 The project heretofore discussed with the American Red Cross for the relief of Russian prisoners of
war in Germany has now taken specific form and, unless Russia determines to proceed with the practically unrestricted exchange of prisoners of war which seems to be contemplated or rendered possible by the reported action of the Copenhagen conference, in which event this Government will not proceed with the relief project at all, the American Red Cross desires and this Department believes that it should be permitted to proceed to put the project into execution, the guaranties mentioned below which it is fully understood are conditions sine qua non being first secured. The substance of the project, which in all its stages is to remain subject to the right of the American Government to require its abandonment, is as follows:
1. The relief is to extend and to be limited to Russian prisoners of war in the hands of the Central Powers who are actually suffering from wounds, disease or other substantial disablement which is due to or increased or rendered chronic by undernourishment. The number of such is temporarily assumed to be 250,000, and relief will be strictly confined to that number or less. Actual number is to be determined (as well as the location and distribution of the individuals to be relieved) in the first instance by a canvass of the open prison camps and hospitals by neutral secretaries of the Y. M. C. A. in Germany and Austria, and later by a more thorough and complete survey by inspectors to be procured by the administrative committee mentioned below and to be responsible to the Spanish Embassy in Berlin. The purchase and shipment of food in the meantime is to proceed upon the assumption that the number to be relieved is 250,000, but the food is not to be forwarded from the port of debarkation into Germany or Austria-Hungary except as advices concerning the preliminary canvass are received from the Y. M. C. A. agents in Germany. It is estimated that the food, which will consist of three or four articles such as war biscuit, fat-backs, flour, and possibly relatively small amounts of sweets, will not amount to more than a maximum of 3,000 short tons per month.
2. It is assumed that the money to pay for the purchase, shipment. handling, and distribution of the food will be supplied to Russia by the United States and charged against loans to that country, and by the Russian Embassy will be turned over to the American Red Cross for disbursement. The United States Treasury has assured the Russian Embassy of a credit for use in this work during the balance of 1917 of $4,000,000.
3. The work will be controlled by an administrative committee consisting of a nominee of the American Red Cross who will be the chairman and executive thereof, a representative of the Russian Ambassador in Washington, probably Mr. Vladimir Buimistroff, the head of the Embassy's Department of War Relief, and a representative of this Department, each of whom will be subject to change.
The Russian representative's assent is to be requisite generally but not in detail to the determination of the nature of the relief and the appropriation of funds. The work in Europe will be carried on by representatives of the Russian Central Committee for Prisoners of War in Petrograd, but subject to such oversight and control on the part of the administrative committee as will enable it to certify to this Government that the project is being carried out efficiently and in accordance with the plan here outlined. The American Red Cross expects to appoint a representative to make his headquarters probably in Copenhagen but to keep in close touch with London, to supervise all work at the European end and to maintain the necessary cooperation with the Y. M. C. A.; such representative to have power over matters of administration but not over matters of agreements or policy unless specifically authorized.
4. As long as shall prove practicable, supplies will be shipped to Copenhagen in boats chartered and used exclusively for the purpose. Food will be shipped thence in bulk to German and Austrian prison camps. All or parts of the shipments will be diverted to other practicable ports if either the British or American Government so requires.
5. No shipments will be made until guaranties on the part of Germany and Austria-Hungary are assured to the following effect:
(1) Ships carrying these supplies, identified in some agreed manner, not to be sunk.
(2) Supplies not to be expropriated, damaged, diverted or unreasonably delayed.
(3) An agreed minimum ration to be furnished by Germany regardless of this relief.
(4) The supplies to be forwarded direct to hospital, prison and other camps and to be received and distributed by prison committees under the supervision of neutral inspectors to be secured or approved by the administrative committee-possibly Y. M. C. A. workers supervised by inspectors attached to the Spanish Embassy in Berlin. These workers will also be charged with the duty of keeping track of conditions in the various camps and of increasing and diminishing the supplies shipped to given camps as the number of incapacitated in such camps may increase or diminish.
A. C. Harte, the International Secretary of the Y.M.C.A., for whose cooperation the American Red Cross is arranging, believes
that through Y.M.C.A. representatives in Germany and AustriaHungary informal but definite assurances that these guaranties will be given can be secured very expeditiously. It is quite manifest that, if this work is to be undertaken at all, it should be put in process of execution as quickly as possible, both that the relief contemplated may be afforded and in order that the maximum of satisfaction and encouragement may be given to Russia. It is therefore of great importance that we should be informed as quickly as may be of the views of the British Government. It has already assented in principle to this scheme of relief. This Department greatly desires to ascertain with as little delay as possible whether the British Government approves the plan outlined and will assist in facilitating the concrete operation of this specific project assuming that the various conditions mentioned are distinctly agreed to and are observed.
File No. 763.72114/3020
The Ambassador in Russia (Francis) to the Secretary of State
PETROGRAD, November 6, 1917, 8 p. m.
[Received November 8, 12.40 p. m.]
1956. Your 18051 and 1809,2 also telegram from Legation at Copenhagen October 27, 4 p. m., dealt with pursuant to your 1815.8 Minister for Foreign Affairs with whom I have discussed the matter several times states that reiterated instructions have been sent to Russian delegates, who are of undoubted probity and thoroughly reliable, to deal only with matters relative to exchange of invalids and that Russian Minister at Copenhagen has been directed to keep our Legation there fully apprised of all developments. He assures me that this is in accord with Russian policy from the beginning of the war to confine the exchange of prisoners to men fatally ill or undoubtedly unfit for further service, while England, for example, has been exchanging prisoners in view of long duration of imprison
My opinion that shipment of American food for interned prisoners in Denmark would be most inadvisable, if not absolutely dangerous, is strengthened by recent statement of a member of the Danish Legation here who informally asserted that Denmark now holds large quantities of food of kinds ordinarily shipped to England which can not now be shipped on account of submarine warfare, which will not be sent to Germany and which is not necessary for home consumption.
Legation at Copenhagen advised of promised cooperation of Russian Government and that Department will repeat to it in special cipher substance of this message.
File No. 763.72114/3027
The Ambassador in Great Britain (Page) to the Secretary of State
LONDON, November 9, 1917, 2 p. m.
[Received November 10, 10.25 a. m.]
7648. Your 5677, October 29, noon,1 and 5686, October 29, 8 p. m.2 I am sending you by the pouch which closes today a copy of a long memorandum with enclosures giving British Government's views on the reported intention to exchange fit prisoners of war between Russia and the Central Powers.
The essential portion of the conclusions is as follows:
The British Government have made repeated representations at Petrograd in their anxiety to forestall a measure which would have the most serious and most detrimental effect upon the Allied cause, and have received explicit denials of such an intention.
The political situation in Russia renders further representations by the British Government difficult at present in view of the denials of the Russian Government, but in order to save abuses which might prejudice the whole course of the war the British Government hopes you may find yourself able to continue independent pressure at Petrograd. Mr. Balfour thinks that Washington occupies particularly good position for so doing because of the pending proposal that the United States should undertake the feeding of 250,000 invalid Russian prisoners in German hands, but he adds that in the opinion of the British Government great caution should be exercised even in this proposal now being considered.
No. 5677 ante, p. 635.
See footnote 4, ante, p. 635.