File No. 704.6255/1

The Minister in Belgium (Whitlock) to the Secretary of State


Belgian Government this afternoon handed German Minister his passports and he has left for The Hague. Before leaving, not having been able to communicate with Berlin, he asked me as [a] friendly act to take possession of his keys and seal and hold them provisionally until his Government could formally arrange for protection of German interests in Belgium. As stated in my telegram this morning,1 I had previously informed him of the requests of French and Russian Ministers but time was too short for him to make other arrangements. Accordingly, in view of friendly relations between my Government and Germany, and following implied instructions in your telegram regarding action for France,1 I consented provisionally to take charge of his keys and seal; but in a purely provisional character act was fully set forth and it was stipulated that, because of lack of authority from my Government, I assumed no responsibility for German Legation’s archives or protection of German interests or property, agreeing only to keep keys and seal pending instructions. At the time I advised our Consul to render what provisional aid he could to German Consul who departed with the Minister.

However, as under Department’s authorization I have already agreed to act for France in case of need, and inasmuch as Russian Minister has asked me to render similar service, and in view of the further fact that, as intimated to me this afternoon, I shall be asked in the same circumstances to assume protection of British interests, I deem it my duty urgently to request Department to arrange through German Ambassador for immediate designation of representative of some other power at Brussels, preferably one without a numerous colony of his own, to assume charge of German interests. My labors on behalf of our colony intensified by presence of American refugees in large numbers; British colony here has thousand or more persons; and with force at my command, laden as I may be with French and Russian interests, task will be extremely difficult. In addition, intense hostility in Belgium to Germans would largely nullify my efforts on behalf of our own and other interests. German Minister fully understood my position and expressed grateful appreciation. Having already shown our friendly disposition to Germany and inasmuch as other ministers here could easily and would gladly assume this responsibility, I ask that action in accordance with my recommendation be taken immediately.

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The Secretary of State to the Minister in Belgium (Whitlock)


Your August 4. We replied to German Government that we would take over their diplomatic and consular offices in Russia and elsewhere, upon request, with the understanding that such action would not interfere with compliance with similar requests from other governments. If Germany, under these circumstances, asks some other country to act for her, you will be relieved to that extent, but we can not refuse to act if she asks it. We appreciate the heavy burden it imposes upon our officials to look after the interests of all countries that have asked and may ask, but we will supply the needed help and make it as easy as possible. In this critical hour it becomes necessary for our Government to render every assistance that a neutral can render, not only as an international duty, but that we may be in better position to exert our influence for peace.


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