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The Declaration of St James’s Palace on Punishment for War Crimes

(January 13, 1942)

The Declaration of St James’s Palace was the first joint statement of goals and principles by the Allies of World War II. The declaration was issued after the first Inter-Allied Meeting at St James’s Palace in London on June 12, 1941. Representatives of the United Kingdom, the four co-belligerent British Dominions, the Free French, and eight governments in exile of countries under Axis occupation were parties to the declaration.

The Declaration made three resolutions. In the first, the parties affirmed their alliance, pledging to assist one another in the war against Germany and Italy. The second pledged that the Allies would enter no separate peace, stating that there could be no peace until the threat of Axis domination was past. The third resolution committed the Allies to the principle of a peace based on the “willing cooperation of free peoples” in which “all may enjoy economic and social security.”

In August of 1941, Britain and the United States laid out their vision for a postwar world order in greater detail in the Atlantic Charter. In September, a second Inter-Allied meeting, which now included Soviet ambassador Ivan Maisky, issued a resolution endorsing the Charter. In January 1942, a still larger group of nations issued the Declaration by United Nations, endorsing the same principles initially put forward at St James’s and pledging to jointly resist the Axis.

In July 1942, the British government published a report, “Punishment for War Crimes” with the declaration and relevant documents. The report said:

The recent crimes committed by the Axis against the civilian populations of Occupied countries on the European continent have made it desirable to remind the world of the proceedings of the Conference at St. James’s Palace on January 13th last, on the subject of the punishment for war crimes. The following pages contain the text of a Joint Declaration by Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Free France, Greece, Holland, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland and Yugoslavia, on the punishment for war crimes; the welcoming speech of Mr. Anthony Eden; and the utterances of the statesmen representing the above allied countries under enemy Occupation, made before signing the said Declaration on January 13th, 1942, at St. James’s Palace, London.
Evidence which reached the Allied Governments leaves no doubt that in attempting to establish a totalitarian order in Europe, the occupiers have set aside the restraining influence of the laws of war and the laws of Nations and committed crimes intended to cripple the vital force of the nations they have temporarily subjugated. Against so much illegality and inhumanity the Allied Governments deemed it their duty to issue a stern warning, while wishing to adhere, in spite of the Nazi example, to what President Roosevelt called “the basic principle long adopted by civilized peoples that no man should be punished for the deed of another.
In resolving that war crimes should not be left unpunished, they echoed the statements made already by the President of the U.S.A. and by the British Prime Minister, on October 25, 1941. “Frightfulness,” said President Roosevelt, “only sows the seeds of hatred which will one day bring a fearful retribution.” And Mr. Winston Churchill concluded: “Retribution for these crimes must henceforward take its place among the major purposes of the war.”

The Declaration

The undersigned representing the Government of Belgium, the Government of Czechoslovakia, the Free French National Committee, the Government of Greece, the Government of Luxembourg, the Government of the Netherlands, the Government of Norway, the Government of Poland and the Government of Yugoslavia:

“Whereas Germany, since the beginning of the present conflict which arose out of her policy of aggression, has instituted in the Occupied countries a regime of terror characterized amongst other things by imprisonments, mass expulsions, the execution of hostages and massacres,

And whereas these acts of violence are being similarly committed by the Allies and Associates of the Reich and, in certain countries, by the accomplices of the occupying Power,

And whereas international solidarity is necessary in order to avoid the repression of these acts of violence simply by acts of vengeance on the part of the general public, and in order to satisfy the sense of justice of the civilized world,

Recalling that international law, and in particular the Convention signed at The Hague in 1907 regarding the laws and customs of land warfare, do not permit belligerents in Occupied countries to commit acts of violence against •civilians, to disregard the laws in force, or to overthrow national institutions,

(1) affirm that acts of violence thus inflicted upon the civilian populations have nothing in common with the conceptions of an act of war or of a political crime as understood by civilized nations,
(2) take note of the declarations made in this respect on 25th October, 1941, by the President of the United States of America and by the British Prime Minister,
(3) place among their principal war aims the punishment, through the channel of organized justice, of those guilty of or responsible for these crimes, whether they have ordered them, perpetrated them or participated in them,
(4) resolve to see to it in a spirit of international solidarity that (a) those guilty or responsible, whatever their nationality, are sought out, handed over to justice and judged, (b) that the sentences pronounced are carried out.

In faith whereof the undersigned duly authorized to this effect have signed the present Declaration.”

Done in London, in nine copies, January 13, 1942.

The Signatories To The Declaration

The Inter-Allied Conference met on January 13th, 1942, at St. James’s Palace, which had been placed at its disposal for that purpose by the British Government. The following representatives of the Allied Governments took part in the Conference:

BELGIUM – M. Hubert Pierlot, Prime Minister and Minister of Education

M. Paul Henri Spaak, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Labour and Social Welfare

CZECHOSLOVAKIA – Mgr. Jan Sramek, Prime Minister

M. Hubert Ripka, Minister of State

FREE FRANCE – General Charles de Gaulle, President of the Free* French Committee

M. Maurice Dejean, National Commissioner for Foreign Affairs

GREECE – M. Emmanuel Tsouderos, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs

M. S. Dimitrakakis, Minister of Justice

LUXEMBOURG – M. Joseph Bech, Minister of State and Minister for Foreign Affairs

M. Victor Bodson, Minister of Justice

THE NETHERLANDS – Prof. P. S. Gerbrandy, Prime Minister

Jhr. E. F. M. J. Michiels van Verduynen, Minister without Portfolio and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs

NORWAY – M. Trygve Lie, Minister for Foreign Affairs

M. Terje Wold, Minister of Justice

POLAND – General Wladyslaw Sikorski, Prime Minister

Count Edward Raczynski, Minister for Foreign Affairs {Acting)

YUGOSLAVIA – M. Slobodan Yovanovitch, Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior and Deputy Minister of the Army, Navy and Air Force

M. Momtchilo Nintchitch, Minister for Foreign Affairs

*On July 14th, the day of celebration of the fall of the Bastille, the title “The Free French” was officially changed to that of “The Fighting French.”

Sources: “Declaration of St James’s Palace,” Wikipedia;
“Punishment for War Crimes,” Inter-Allied Information Committee, (July 1942).