On the 1st November 1943, the Allies published the Moscow Declaration 'Declaration on German Atrocities in Occupied Europe' to give 'full warning' to the Nazis that when the war ended the Allies intended to 'pursue them to the uttermost ends of the earth ... in order that justice may be done.'

Q. How was this declaration delivered to the Nazis given that they were already in the midst of a war?

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    I don't know any details about this specific case, but it was standard for such declaration to be published in the news/radio, which the other side can (and it is assumed will) intercept or acquire a copy via neutrals. A direct delivery by the government is generally not required. The Potsdam Declaration was first picked up by a Tokyo radio station, for instance.
    – Semaphore
    Nov 23 '18 at 9:23
  • @semaphore: That's what I suspected too. Nov 23 '18 at 9:26
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    @Semaphore: The Potsdam Declaration was also dropped as bilingual leaflets in about three million copies. Written text is always preferred to audio, for obvious contractual reasons. The audio serves more to announce the declaration, than to provide the declaration. Nov 23 '18 at 9:41
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    @PieterGeerkens Noticed I specified "first". Japanese leaders held meetings to address Potsdam on the basis of the intercepted radio; the leaflet drops were more propaganda for the public than the government.
    – Semaphore
    Nov 23 '18 at 9:45
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    @Pieter Geerkens: What kind of 'contract' is established through dropping leaflets? Its merely informing and warning the populace. Nov 23 '18 at 10:37

There was communication between the sides via neutral countries. The concept of the "Protecting Power" is important here: When states break off diplomatic relations, they appoint some other state to look after their diplomatic property and provide a channel for communications.

During WWII, Switzerland and Sweden acted as protecting powers for many countries. So the Moscow Declarations could have been communicated to the Swiss Foreign office in Bern, Switzerland, via one or more of the declaring powers' embassies in Bern, Switzerland. The Swiss Foreign Office would send that message, in the Swiss diplomatic code to the Swiss Embassy in Berlin, who would then hand it to the German Foreign Office.

Source: A rather good reddit thread, quoting an article on the website of the International Red Cross.


Q. How did the Allies deliver the Moscow Declaration to the Nazis?

Short Answer

Without formal diplomatic channels for a direct communiqué, the Western Allies delivered the message indirectly, while the Soviets found a more direct method of delivery...

  • The Western allied powers published the declarations in the public press;
  • The Soviets acted on the Moscow Declarations immediately by conducting the Kharkov Trial in which three war criminals (and one Russian traitor) were publicly tried and executed.

Long Answer

The Western allied powers published the declaration in the public press (freely available to Axis spies in the UK and the US who could then easily transmit this back to their contacts in the Third Reich). The Axis powers also monitored the Allied news reports to glean intelligence from them (newspapers and newsreels were available through foreign offices and agents in neutral nations as well as embedded in the US and UK).

According to this JSTOR History Journal Article (Vol. 76, No. 248 (October 1991), pp. 401-417) the Moscow Declaration was published:

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Source: JSTOR

As proof that the Moscow Declaration was published, I found these three New York Times archived articles from 1943:

A basic search of the British Newspaper Archive turned up several results (many of which do not apply, but several indicate publishing various articles about the declarations from 1943 through the end of the war, and after):

The Soviets "delivered" the declaration in a spectacular and unmistakable fashion. In December 1943, one month after the Allies agreed to the Moscow Declaration, the Soviets conducted the Kharkov Trial in which three Germans and one Russian collaborator were tried, convicted, and publicly hanged the next day. According to the Wiki report:

The tribunal heard the case against four defendants, one Soviet collaborator and three Germans, members of the Wehrmacht, police, and SS forces, respectively. They were charged both under the Soviet and international law, the Moscow Declarations. The defendants were accused in participating in the murders of Soviet citizens, while the collaborator was charged with treason. [emphasis added]

The National Library of Australia includes this archived news report from The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Tue 21 Dec 1943, Page 12, RUSSIANS SEE HANGING OF TORTURERS, covering the trial and hangings:

Before a crowd of 40,000 the 3 Germans and one Russian, who were convicted by a military tribunal of having taken part in mass extermination of Soviet citizens, were hanged in the snow-covered public square in Kharkov yesterday.

The condemned men were Reinhardt Retzlav, 36, of the German field police; Hans Ritz, 24, formerly assistant commander of Gestapo in Kharkov; Capt Wilhelm Langheld, 52, of the German military secret service; and Michel Bulanov, a Russian who served the Germans as a motor-driver.

Foreign correspondents who had been flown from Moscow to see the conclusion of the trial, saw the execution...

  • One problem, left unclarified in Q, what/who are the Nazis. 'Germans' didn't read NYT, where ostracised/punished for reading/listening to foreign news. Basically the Q is "too basic" as the declaration is not that special. unless the connection between Germans/Nazis/Government/Führer is differentiated vs warring parties communicating/widespread propaganda/communication is focused. After all, current form of Q suggests one radio broadcast (maybe repeated) suffices vs get a 'received stamp + swastika' from & that a bulletin made it to Berlin. Nov 24 '18 at 3:22
  • May I suggest to restrict the usage of 'Nazi', like in "Nazi spies"? 'German spies' is less sensationalist? –– One thing I keep wondering: German WP does not know these guys. Furthermore, most sources spell Retzlaff wrong. Why is that? Nov 24 '18 at 14:56
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    @LangLangC I just changed my one "Nazi spies" reference to "Axis spies" - better?
    – Kerry L
    Nov 24 '18 at 15:00
  • Just read up on Retzlaff, the only non-Nazi-party member of the three. Curiously, all three are hardly mentioned anywhere. "Forgotten Trials of the Holocaust" (Bazyler/Tuerkheimer, NYU, 2014) opens its first chapter with this "highly publicized affair", yet search results and even the book title suggest just otherwise. Surely within Germany these trials would not be that big news at the time. For this Q it seems that German intelligence reports, newspapers or government minutiae/diaries would make this answer much stronger. Nov 24 '18 at 15:10
  • @LangLangC I doubt Goebbels was interested in publicizing this within the Reich. But the goal of publishing the Moscow Declarations and the publicity of the Kharkov trial and execution was not necessarily to broadcast it to the German people at large, but to put the Hitlerites (as Stalin called the Hierarchy ) on notice as to what awaited them. That the Reich Hierarchy were indeed aware is not in doubt, as witnessed by their attempts to flee via the ratlines, and in most of the SS abandoning the death camps to ad-hoc guards in order to escape justice.
    – Kerry L
    Nov 24 '18 at 15:16

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