File No. 855.48/138

The Minister in the Netherlands (Van Dyke) to the Secretary of State

No. 184]

Sir: I would respectfully call your attention to a report which appeared in the American newspapers a month or six weeks ago, to the effect that the German civil commander of the Belgian province of Limburg had exacted a severe import tax on foodstuffs sent into that province from Rotterdam by the American Commission for Relief in Belgium. Immediately upon my arrival here I sent for the manager of the branch of that commission which is stationed in Rotterdam, and learned from him that the facts as stated were correct, and that the aforesaid import tax was still demanded. I therefore sent the enclosed letter1 to our manager, instructing him to discontinue shipments into the Belgian province of Limburg until the tax was removed, and a promise made by the German civil commander to refund the money hitherto exacted. Copies of the letter have been sent to our Minister at Brussels and to our Ambassador at Berlin.

I have, of course, no authority either in Belgium or in Germany. But I feel responsible, as one of the chairmen of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, for the conduct of its affairs within the Netherlands. It does not seem to me that it would be proper to sanction the continuance of exportation from the Netherlands into this particular province of Belgium, Limburg, so long as a tax is laid upon foodstuffs intended solely for the relief of the non-combatant population of Belgium, and not meant to contribute in any way to the revenue of belligerents.

I am quite sure that this tax is not in accordance with the understanding with which the United States entered upon this relief work, and that if the tax is continued it will inevitably raise very serious objections both from France and from Great Britain.

I therefore respectfully submit my report of this action to you, and request authority to maintain the same position until the tax is removed. It should be pointed out that the suspension of further shipments applies only to the single province of Limburg in which the tax has been imposed, and does not affect the general work in Belgium.

I have [etc.]

Henry van Dyke
  1. Not printed.