File No. 702.6211/201
The German Ambassador ( Bernstorff ) to the Secretary of State
[Received October 19.]
Mr. Secretary of State: I have the honor to reply as follows to your excellency’s note No. 1084 of the 9th instant:
The Imperial Consul at Seattle having, in accordance with the instructions of the Imperial Government, issued a public proclamation on August 2 summoning the German subjects in his district liable to military duty to return to Germany, August Krüger (among several hundred other reservists) announced himself and asked the Imperial Consulate on August 6 in writing for instructions as to what course he should pursue, describing his status with respect to the service. In this connection he declared that he had been born in 1893 at Allenstein and that he had been levied in Germany for service in the Naval Brigade; also, that he had only been in the United States one year and was not an American citizen. Like all other reservists he received on August 8 the usual formal answer for [Page 925] conscripts (copy of which is enclosed as exhibit 1),1 in which he was instructed to await further information from the Imperial Consulate before doing anything further. To this answer were added the following words: “It will be your own affair (’duty’) to free yourself in some possible manner if it should become necessary. The Imperial authority here can not intercede in this behalf.” The addition was called forth by the inquiry addressed by Krüger to the Imperial Consulate as to whether the Imperial Consul could free him from the American service.
The idea advanced in your excellency’s note, to the effect that the Imperial Consul had in his letter asked Krüger to desert, is apparently due to an erroneous translation of the aforementioned addition, especially the words “in some possible manner.” The literal translation of this passage would not, as stated in your excellency’s note, read “in any possible way,” but “in a practicable (feasible) way.” A translation of the passage according to its sense would therefore read: “In case it should become necessary, it will be your own (not ‘particularly’) affair to free yourself if possible. The Imperial German Consulate can not take steps in this direction.” Of course it was only meant by this that the Imperial Consulate could not interfere in his official relations to the American military authorities, but that he would have to leave it to him to secure his discharge from the American military service in case this should later on become necessary. The idea of desertion was of course quite foreign to the Imperial Consul. This appears even from the wording of the letter, for desertion would have been an impermissible act and therefore not “a practicable way.” That the Imperial Consul never thought that Krüger could or would desert is shown by the fact that the latter was sent another formal answer (exhibit 2)1 on September 17, in which he was instructed “not to do anything further for the time being” and “to continue his present occupation until further notice.” As shown by the envelope (the original of which is inclosed as exhibit 3),1 this answer came back marked undeliverable.
I have the honor in this connection to refer to the similar case of the reservist Karl Letsch, also at Fort Worden, who, as shown in exhibit 41 (return of which is requested), received the same formal answer as Krüger, and that in reply to a similar inquiry, the following words being added: “The question as to whether you can be released from your present service will have to be investigated at the proper time.” This ought to prove very clearly that the Imperial Consul, in answering inquiries of conscripts serving in the American Federal Army, never thought of such a thing as infringing upon the rights of the American Government or of suggesting to the conscripts that they desert. It is impossible that the Imperial Consul should, for the sake of a single conscript, have assumed the grave responsibility of incitement to a punishable act, especially as I know how responsible the Imperial Consul considers his position there during the war with respect to the American Government. In a public address delivered at Tacoma as, late as the beginning of this month the Imperial Consul emphasized the fact that Germans who had [Page 926] become American citizens must first of all fulfil their duties toward the United States.
While bringing the, foregoing to your excellency’s knowledge, I respectfully request that the proposal to recall the Imperial Consul at Seattle be dismissed.
Please accept [etc.]