123 Klieforth, Alfred W.: Telegram

The Chargé in Czechoslovakia ( Klieforth ) to the Secretary of State

30. Yesterday afternoon while accompanied by Foreign Office official18 1 was taken to inspect an apartment with object of renting for personal use. The apartment supposedly was unoccupied. Upon arrival it was inhabited by Russian officers who had unexpectedly taken possession of it. One of them detained me by force for an hour first in the apartment and then under armed guard in the Embassy car outside. He was rough and insulting constantly threatening me as an American with dire consequences and roughly slapped the American flag on the car, although he fully realized that I was American Chargé d’Affaires. He endeavored also to deprive me of the car. I was finally released through intervention of another Russian officer. I reported the incident to Brit Ambassador19 as Dean of Diplomatic Corps. He presented matter this morning to Foreign Office and demanded formal apology and punishment of Russian officer. Acting Foreign Minister20 expressed deep regret and hoped that investigation which would be undertaken at once “would show that the Russians completely misunderstood the position and would make suitable amends”. Likewise Brit Ambassador intends to report matter to the President whom he happens to see this afternoon on another matter. [Page 460] Brit Ambassador regards case as serious inasmuch as hundreds of similar cases happen daily to Czechs who are helpless and he and I fear that any day a more serious incident may happen to member of Diplomatic Corps.21 Will keep you informed of results.

Rpted to Moscow as 6.

Klieforth
  1. Dr. Bubnik.
  2. Philip B. B. Nichols.
  3. Jan Stranský, Czechoslovak Minister of Justice and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  4. In his despatch 29, June 21, the Chargé in Czechoslovakia reported in detail on the incident of his forcible detention and concluded:

    “I have the feeling that in one way or another the unfortunate incident nevertheless is not without value. The British Ambassador and the French Chargé d’Affaires and I have been prepared for an incident of this kind, if not one of a more serious nature. As I have reported in previous despatches, the Russians have the habit of stopping cars on the roads and forcefully taking possession of them. The British Embassy’s car, once when it was occupied by the Ambassador himself, was stopped twice by Russians who endeavored to take it. The other day an American army jeep, properly marked and carrying an American flag ‘disappeared’ from in front of the hotel. Likewise Russians—and in most cases Russian officers—force their way into inhabited as well as empty houses and apartments and remain. Upon their departure they simply take with them furniture and particularly valuables. Often the dwelling is completely emptied of its contents. The Czech occupants, as well as the Czech police, apparently are completely helpless in stopping the Russians. While the conduct of the Russian troops is being kept as quiet as possible, and there are no statistics available as to the number of cases of this kind, I fear that in Prague alone it has happened many thousand times. I doubt whether signs on the door, in Russian, Czech and English, will stop a Russian from forcing his way into a dwelling occupied whether by Czechs or members of a foreign diplomatic mission, unless the present undisciplined Russian troops are removed.” (123 Klieforth, Alfred W.)