Inter-Allied Declaration against Acts of Dispossession committed in Territories under Enemy Occupation and Control
Miscellaneous No. I (1943)
Inter-Allied Declaration against Acts of Dispossession committed in Territories under Enemy Occupation of Control (with covering Statement by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and Explanatory Memorandum issued by the Parties to the Declaration) London, January 5. 1943
His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have to-day joined with sixteen other Governments of the United Nations, and with the French National Committee, in making a formal Declaration of their determination to combay and defeat the plundering by the enemy Powers of the territories which have been overrun or brought under enemy control. The systematic spoliation of occupied or controlled territory has followed immediately upon each fresh aggression. This has taken every sort of form, from open looting to the most cunningly camouflaged financial penetration, and it has extended to every sort of property - from works of art to stocks of commodities, from bullion and bank-notes to stocks and shares in business and financial undertakings. But the object is always the same - to seize everything of value that can be put to the aggressors' profit and then to bring the whole economy of the subjugated countries under control so that they must slave to enrich and strengthen their oppressors.
It has always been foreseen that when the tide of battle began to turn against the Axis the campaign of plunder would be even further extended and accelerated and that every effort would be made to stow away the stolen property in neutral countries and to persuade neutral citizens to act as fences or cloaks on behalf of the thieves.
There is evidence that this is now happening, under the pressure of events in Russia and North Africa, and that the ruthless and complete methods of plunder begun in Central Europe are now being extended on a vast and ever increasing scale in the occupied territories of Western Europe.
His Majesty's Government agree with the Allied Governments and the French National Committee that it is important to leave no doubt whatsoever of their resolution not to accept or tolerate the misdeeds of their enemies in the field of property, however these may be cloaked, just as the have recently emphasised their determination to exact retribution from war criminals for their outrages against persons in the occupied territories. Accordingly they have made the following joint Declaration, and issued the appended explanatory memorandum on its meaning scope and application: -
The Governments of the Union of South Africa; the United States of America; Australia; Belgium; Canada; China; the Czechoslovak Republic; the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Greece, India, Luxembourg; the Netherlands; New Zealand; Norway; Poland; the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; Yugoslavia; and the French National Committee:
Hereby issue a formal warning to all concerned, and in particular to persons in neutral countries, that they intend to do their utmost to defeat the methods of dispossession practised by the Governments with which they are at war against the counties and peoples who have been so wantonly assaulted and despoiled.
Accordingly, the Governments making this Declaration and the French National Committee reserve all their rights to declare invalid any transfers of, or dealings with, property, rights and interests of any description whatsoever which are, or have been, situated in the territories which have come under the occupation or control, direct of indirect of the Governments with which they are at war, or which belong, or have belonged to persons (including juridical persons) resident in such territories, This warning applies whether such transfers of dealings have taken the form of open looting or plunder, or of transactions apparently legal in form, even when they purport to be voluntarily effected.
The Governments making this Declaration and the French National Committee solemnly record their solidarity in this matter.
Note on the meaning, scope and application of the Inter-Allied Declaration against acts of dispossession committed in territories under enemy occupation or control.
1. The governments who have to-day issued this Declaration include all the Governments of the United Nations who have suffered the invasion of their national territory by brutal and rapacious enemies.
2. The Declaration is being communicated on behalf of all parties to the Governments of the other United Nations, with an invitation to consider making their adherence to the principles embodied in the Declaration by some pronouncements of their own. The Declaration is also being brought to the notice of neutral Governments. The parties to the Declaration are collaborating to arrange the maximum publicity for it, through the press and by broadcasting.
3. The Declaration is in the form of a general statement of the attitude of the participating Governments and of the French National Committee towards the acts of dispossession of whatever nature, which have been, and are being increasingly, practised by the enemy Powers in the territories which they have occupied or brought under their control by their successive aggressions against the free peoples of the world. The Declaration makes it clear that it applies to transfers and dealings affected in territory under the indirect control of the enemy (such as the former «unoccupied zone« in France) just as much as it applies to such transactions in territory which is under his direct physical control.
4. In the Declaration the parties «reserve all their rights« to declare invalid transfers of or dealings with property, rights, &c., which have taken place during the period of enemy occupation or control of the territories in question. It is obviously impossible for a general declaration of this nature to define exactly the action which will require to be taken when victory has been won and the occupation or control of foreign territory by the enemy has been brought to an end. Dispossession has taken many forms and all will require consideration in the light of circumstances which may well vary from country to country. The wording of the Declaration however, clearly covers all forms of looting to which the enemy has resorted. It applies, e.g. to the stealing or forced purchase of works of art just as much as to the theft or forced transfer of bearer bonds.
5. In so far as transfers of dealings are confined in their scope to the territory of a particular country, the procedure of examination and the decision reached regarding their invalidation will fall to be undertaken by the legitimate Government of the country concerned on its return, The Declaration marks however, the solidarity in this important matter of all the participating Governments and of the French National Committee, and this means that they are mutually pledged to assist one another as may be required, and in conformity with the principles of equity, to examine and if necessary to implement the invalidation of transfers or dealings with property, rights, &c., which may extend across national frontiers and require action by two or more Governments.
6. The expression of solidarity between the parties also means that they are agreed so far as possible to follow in this matter similar lines of policy, without derogation to their national sovereignty and having regard to the differences prevailing in the various countries, The parties making the Declaration have accordingly decided as a first step in this direction to establish a committee of experts, who will consider the scope and sufficiency of the existing legislation of the Allied countries concerned for the purpose of invalidating transfers or dealings of the nature indicated in the Declaration in all proper cases. The Committee have also been asked to receive and collect available information upon the methods adopted by the enemy Governments and their adherents to lay their hands upon property, rights, &c., in the territories which they have occupied or brought under their control. When a report is available from this committee of experts the whole question will be reviewed by the Governments making the Declaration and the French National Committee. The other Governments of the United Nations will be informed of the results of this enquiry.