The Pittsburgh Press (July 30, 1943)
Roosevelt warns neutrals against helping Mussolini
Roosevelt set to talk peace
By Joseph L. Myler, United Press staff writer
The United States and Great Britain today pointedly urged neutral nations not to give sanctuary to Benito Mussolini or any other “war criminals” whom the United Nations are determined to bring to justice.
President Roosevelt enunciated this nation’s views in a formal statement, and the British government officially endorsed his declaration.
The British War Cabinet held an extraordinary session early today for an unannounced purpose but possibly to discuss a peace feeler by Italy or to get a time limit for a reply by Italian Premier Pietro Badoglio to Allied terms.
Seeks to avert anarchy
In addition to clarifying the U.S. attitude to war criminals, Mr. Roosevelt announced that the Allies will not discuss Italian capitulation with any persons definitely known to be Fascists. But we will be willing to accept surrender from any other Italian authority capable of averting anarchy there.
The Allied military purpose, he said, is first to knock Italy out of the war and then to prevent the chaos of anarchy which would force the United Nations to employ large numbers of troops to maintain order. These troops could be used more effectively on the fighting front against Germany.
Raises many questions
Mr. Roosevelt’s statement about bringing war criminals to justice raised many questions as to how it will be received by the neutral countries.
Pointing out that there are rumors that Mussolini may try to escape and that “one day Hitler and his gang and Tōjō and his gang will be trying to escape,” the President added:
I find it difficult to believe that any neutral country would give asylum to or extend prosecution to any of them.
The President also reiterated the firm determination of the United Nations to punish leaders of the Axis for their crimes against innocent persons.
In the long history of European wars, leaders of lost causes have frequently fled to neutral countries, whose governments have usually adopted the attitude that to give up the refugees on demand would be a violation of the asylum nation’s sovereignty.
Holland thus gave sanctuary to Kaiser Wilhelm II when he fled to that country after Germany’s collapse in World War I.
Leaves little doubt
But Mr. Roosevelt’s statement left little doubt that he does not consider this and other precedents valid in this war.
The President did not say what action the United Nations might take against a neutral nation providing refuge for fleeing Nazis or Fascists, but he did declare:
The government of the United States would regard the action by a neutral government in affording asylum to Axis leaders or their tools as inconsistent with the principles for which the United Nations are fighting and that the United States government hopes that no neutral government will permit its territory to be used as a place of refuge or otherwise assist such persons in any effort to escape their just deserts.
There have been many rumors since Mussolini’s resignation that he has fled to Spain, to Switzerland, to Germany.
Under news conference questioning as to whether this government would be willing to deal with the government of Marshal Pietro Badoglio of Italy, the President said he did not care who we dealt with in Italy as long as it was not a definite member of the Fascist Party.
The peace negotiations might well, he said, be with a King, a Prime Minister, or a mayor of a town.
Asked whether this meant that he did not regard Badoglio as a Fascist, the President said he was not going to discuss personalities.
The President told of a report from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower showing the extent to which the Allies are aiding the economic rehabilitation of the people of Sicily and promising similar treatment for Italy.
The President said the plight of the civilian population in Sicily was relieved immediately by the Allied forces, who carried with them emergency rations.
Sent from Africa
Meanwhile, the President said, shipments from a stockpile in North Africa are moving across the Mediterranean to Sicily to care for the civilian population particularly.
The shipment include sugar, flour, milk, meat, soap, matches, medical supplies, and even quantities of an Italian food favorite – pasta (a kind of macaroni).
Public health and sanitation experts went in with the troops to tackle immediately the task of restoring municipal facilities. Mr. Roosevelt also said that Gen. Sir Harold Alexander, deputy to Gen. Eisenhower, had been ordered to free selected Sicilian prisoners of war to help put the island back on a livable basis as fast as possible.
Get diesel oil
Shipment of diesel oil are also going into Sicily, he said, to provide fuel for the milling of native wheat.
The President cited these facts to show that the Allies are making good on their promises.
He expressed the hope that in this harvest season the people in Italy proper, as well as in Sicily, could keep their own crops instead of sending them to Germany.