File No. 763.72112/2061

The Ambassador in Germany ( Gerard ) to the Secretary of State

No. 2034]

Sir: With reference to the Department’s telegraphic instructions of October 28, 1915, serial telegram No. 2350, and to my telegram No. 3172 of December 2, 1915,1 regarding certain inquiries in connection with the possible importation of conditional contraband into Germany, especially as to what extent the German civil authorities have been superseded by the German military authorities, I have the honor to transmit herewith enclosed a copy and a translation of note verbale No. IIIa 22501 from the German Foreign Office, which has been to-day received in reply to my representations on the subject.

I have [etc.]

James W. Gerard

The German Foreign Office to the American Embassy

No. IIIa 22501/194694

Note Verbale

The Foreign Office has the honor to reply as follows to the note verbale of the American Embassy of November 11 last, F. O. Nr. 6187, relative to the use in Germany of imported articles of contraband.

While the military authorities in Germany, with the declaration of the state of war, are empowered to take over the executive power from the civil authorities, as a matter of fact they have not as yet availed themselves of this authority during the present war. Only with regard to certain matters, and not to the exclusion of the civil authorities, have they interested themselves directly in affairs which are otherwise dealt with exclusively by the civil authorities; this refers to matters of police, protection against espionage, police regulations for aliens, and supervision of the frontier, as well as army supplies. As far as the rest is concerned, all civil officers are working to the full extent of their former authority. In any case, they alone are competent as far as questions of importation are concerned.

The question whether or not goods have been placed on the contraband list by the enemies of Germany, is of no significance to the internal German legislation and administration. No regulations have therefore been issued according to which the goods enumerated on the contraband list of the enemies, are placed under special government control in Germany. But all goods, be they [Page 655] enumerated on the contraband list of the enemies or not, can be imported to and sold in Germany free from official interference, unless an order forbidding the importation has been placed on certain articles to harm the hostile trade (see the publication of February 15, 1915, Imperial Law Gazette, sheet 93). Through the order of the Bundesrat of June 24, 1915, relative to the safeguarding of war supplies (Imperial Law Gazette, sheet 357) only the possibility is left that during the present war, articles which can be used in the manufacture and plant of war supplies, will be taken over by the military authorities against payment of the price in cash.

Furthermore, for the purpose of equal distribution to the populace, central organizations of distribution have been created for certain goods which, In view of the difficulties caused through the war in the normal trade connections, are available in smaller quantities than in times of peace. In this regard, the following articles are more particularly concerned:

Corn, legumes, flour, and fodder, which are imported, in accordance with the publication of September 11 last (Imperial Law Gazette, sheet 569), are to be delivered to the Zentral Einkaufsgesellschaft m.b.H., Berlin.
Imported butter is to be delivered to the same concern in accordance with the regulations of November 15, relative to the importation of butter from foreign countries (Imperial Advertiser, No. 271, November 16, last).
Fruits containing oil, in accordance with the publication of October 19 last (Imperial Law Gazette, 675) in conjunction with former regulations, are to be delivered to the Kriegsausschuss für tierische und pflanzliche Oele und Fette, G.m.b.H.
Imported products of dried potatoes and of the manufacture of potato starch are to be delivered to the Trockenkartoffel Verwertungsgesellschaft m.b.H., Berlin.

The aforementioned concerns are not, however, organs of the Empire, but merely enterprises for the common benefit of the public, which have been founded by private persons, banks, and industrial companies, and the capital of which, legally and actually, is fully separated from that of the Empire and the allied states.

In all ordinances, the right is reserved to the Imperial Chancellor to grant exceptions from the obligation of delivery. The German Government would accordingly be in the position [and also disposed1], if necessary, to guarantee the sale to the civil population in the open market of products imported by private parties from the United States of America.

  1. Ante, p. 603 & 622.
  2. The request of the Foreign Office for the insertion of these three words was transmitted by the Ambassador in his despatch No. 2109, December 27 (File No. 763.72112/2101).