Holocaust-Era Assets

Civilian Agency Records RG 84

State Department and Foreign Affairs Records

Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State (RG 84)

From 1939 to 1941 the regular duties of the diplomatic and consular establishments (including political and economic reporting and commercial and administrative activities) did not change to any appreciable extent, although their work was increased by certain duties under the Neutrality Act of 1939. A tremendous increase in their workload took place, however, after the passage of the Lend-Lease Act of March 11, 1941, the establishment of the "Proclaimed List of Certain Blocked Nationals" on July 17, 1941, and the growth of the foreign staffs of the economic agencies of the Government. After 1941 the Foreign Service was called upon to participate in the operation of the lend-lease program, the procurement of strategic materials abroad, the study of import requirements of nations receiving controlled exports from the United States, the distribution of information abroad, the promotion of the cultural relations program, and the promotion of Allied solidarity and the proposed organization of the United Nations.

Many of the dealings of the American Missions in Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey had to do with the concept of neutrality. In international law at the time, neutrality referred to the status of a state during an ongoing war between other states, whereby the neutral country adopts an attitude of impartiality toward the belligerents, thereby creating rights and duties under international law between the neutral state and the belligerents. Under the traditional law of neutrality, a neutral state was obliged to treat the belligerents with strict neutrality. This meant abstaining from providing them with military support and preventing them form engaging in military activities on its territory

Thus, dealing with the neutrals and the concept of neutrality was a difficult task for American diplomatic personnel. As one historian observed, the United States had "to convince the neutrals that international law is dynamic, capable of growth and expansion as the world over which it operates shifts and changes. The United States had, moreover, to harmonize its views with those held by the British Government, since mutual action was an imperative for effective conduct of business with the neutrals." (Note 53) The Foreign Service also played a key role in the Safehaven Program. A month after the adoption of Bretton Woods Resolution VI, the Secretary of State sent on August 29, 1944, a circular airgram to the United States diplomatic representatives in Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey notifying them that the Departments of State and Treasury and the Foreign Economic Administration were studying the problem of looted assets and similar questions. The Secretary of State informed them that he desired to be kept informed concerning "enemy investments, and enemy plans, as well as operations under such plans, to seek safe haven in neutral and other countries for assets and military and industrial potential in frustration of anticipated Allied controls following the cessation of hostilities." (Note 54) A similar message was sent on December 6, 1944, to the diplomatic representatives in the American Republics. Detailed reporting instructions were included as to the kind of information desired by the State Department (Note 55) On January 16, 1945, the Secretary of State notified all the diplomatic and consular officers except those in the American Republics of the importance of the "SAFEHAVEN project" and the desire to gather information "regarding suspect persons, entities, and transactions." The Foreign Service personnel were informed that "reporting current SAFEHAVEN information should be given a very high priority." They were instructed to prepare a register of all known enemy assets, including making a distinction between looted assets and other enemy held assets. They were also requested to report on individuals and their activities. "You should not hesitate," they were instructed to, "report unconfirmed rumors or attempts by the enemy to transfer his assets to places of safekeeping abroad in anticipation of impending defeat or of the movements of enemy persons seeking refuge for similar reasons." (Note 56)

Among the records of the Foreign Service posts and in the State Department Decimal File are found the fruits of the labor based upon the above instructions.

Most of the records filed at Foreign Service posts are arranged by post, thereunder by year, and thereunder by a Department of State foreign service post decimal classification scheme, and they often duplicate the records filed in the Central File of the State Department.

For the 1910-1948 period listed below are some decimal numbers that may be useful to researchers:

350 - Property rights (as against the Government)
500 - International congresses and conferences. International treaties.
631 - Trade Relations.
710 - Political Relations.
711 - War, Peace, Friendship, Alliance
711.1 - Neutrality. Duties of neutrals.
711.2 - Neutral commerce. Contraband of war. Blockade.
711.3 - Enemy Property. Trading with Enemy.
800 - Political Affairs.
801 - Government.
802 - Executive Departments.
814.2 - Red Cross
820 - Military Affairs.
830 - Naval Affairs.
840 - Social Matters.
840.1 - People
840.3 - Fine Arts.
848 - Calamities, Disasters.
850 - Economic Matters.
850.3 - Capital.
850.31 - Investment of Capital.
851 - Financial conditions.
851.5 - Coinage, Currency, Counterfeiting.
851.51 - Exchange
851.6 - Banks. Banking.
851.7 - Exchanges.
852 - Land
854 - Intellectual and Industrial Property.
860 - Industrial Matters.
860.2 - Monopolies, Concessions, Contracts.
863 - Mines, Mining, Mine Products.
863.4 - Precious Metals.
863.5 - Base Metals.
863.6 - Coal, Petroleum.
867.4 - Jewelry, Gold and Silverware. Clocks and Watches, Antiques.
877 - Railways.
879.6 - Aerial Navigation.
885 - Merchant Vessels
888 - Foreign Carrying Trade.
891 - Press

On January 1, 1949 a new decimal filing system was developed. Below are some pertinent file numbers:

300 - Political and governmental affairs - General
310 - International conferences and organizations
320 - International political relations
321.3 - Economic Warfare
321.6 - War Crimes and War Criminals
500 - Economic matters
500.5 - Insurance
501.6 - Banks
510 - Trade relations

Copies of the two file manuals (1910-1948 and 1949- ) are located in the consultation area in Room 2600 and may be used by researchers to assist them in identifying specific file numbers.