Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Press Conference

October 13, 1939

Q. According to dispatches from Berlin, Hitler expects you to settle the European hash. Anything to say about that?

THE PRESIDENT: No.

Q. Are you going to make any move?

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing to say on it, Constantine [Mr. Brown].

Q. Any news from Russia in reply to the representations?

THE PRESIDENT: Not yet. That is why, at this particular time, I am not giving out the actual text. I can tell you—what shall I say?—the chronology of it. On Monday of this week we all began to worry about the situation in the Baltic because it looked as if it might be heading towards an extension of wars.

On Tuesday several representatives of Scandinavian Nations, as you know, saw the Secretary of State and some of them came in to tell me that they also were very much concerned. There was, at no time, any suggestion of joint action on our part with them. That was Tuesday.

Wednesday—I drafted Wednesday morning a personal message to President Kalinin. I waited until the Secretary of State got back Wednesday afternoon, around two o'clock; and we edited it a little. It still remained a purely personal message from me to President Kalinin, a message which, as the State Department said yesterday, expressed the hope that nothing would be done which would disturb the peaceful relations in the Baltic or the independence of Finland. That was sent of[ on Wednesday afternoon. Of course, obviously, since it was intended merely as an expression of our interest and hope, it was not given to the Press. I know you, all of you, ninety-nine per cent of you, will understand why—because the action had not been completed.

It was not until Thursday, yesterday, that the message was actually delivered. I am not making the text of it public at this time, because I do not want to do anything that would let it be assumed or construed as being, in any way, a pressure move on our part. That is the easiest way of putting it. Now you have the gist of the message, and pretty soon you will probably have the text of the message.

Q. Mr. President, this message does entail an answer, sir, does it not?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, there will undoubtedly be an acknowledgment, at least.

Q. Mr. President, are you to receive the delegates or the officers of the Intergovernmental Committee on refugees next week?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. They are coming in on the seventeenth, Tuesday.

Q. That is a change of date?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, because one of them does not get in until Monday, Monday afternoon. I am having them to lunch at the White House on Tuesday. That might be called the opening meeting-the lunch will be-and then, at the end of the lunch, I shall probably read them a little something, a message of some kind that you will have copies of. Then, after the lunch, they will go over to the State Department and go into session.

Q. Getting back to this message, Ambassador Steinhardt was with Molotoff [Foreign Commissar V. M. Molotoff of Moscow] for over an hour. Anything additional to add?

THE PRESIDENT: No.

Q. just presentation of the message?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q. Do you have anything on reports that Italian tankers are fueling German submarines of[ the coast?

THE PRESIDENT: There is no news on that; and I suppose that is a very good example of our real, honest efforts to tell the Press everything that we can, properly. Necessarily—and again I know that ninety-nine per cent of you will understand it- it means that we are not giving to the Press unverified rumors.

There are all kinds of rumors that come in off our coasts and from the West Indies and Central and South America every day; and we do not give them out unless we believe that they have been fully verified.

There was a rumor on this Italian tanker thing, the story I read this morning. It is not in verifiable form; and therefore I have said nothing about it, and I cannot say anything about it. It is a very good illustration. The stories that we have given out about the non-American submarines and other ships are stories that we believe to have been fully verified. A great many of them come up. A fisherman comes in and says, "I saw a submarine." Well, we do not give that out as a fact. I am trying to confine our statements to things we really, honestly know about.

Q. We have a story from two sources which I would like to ask if it has come to your attention. Two Members of Congress, Joe Starnes and somebody else, said this morning that six submarines were operating in the Caribbean. Now, have you heard that one? Has it come to you in any shape or form?

THE PRESIDENT: Not in any shape, manner or form.

Q. When we saw you last on Tuesday, you had no word in direct manner or form from Berlin. Is that still true?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that is true. . . .

Q. Mr. President, yesterday Senator La Follette suggested that we use part of our supply of idle gold, not only to make direct investments in Latin America but also to provide local credit facilities through stabilization of their banking systems. Can you comment on that suggestion?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it is a matter which has been under study for three years, and is definitely not only under continued study, but, in the case of one or two countries, it has almost reached a negotiation stage. I cannot say anything more because it has not actually reached the negotiation stage.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/210151

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