File No. 763.72112/2074

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

No. 2084]

Sir: With reference to the Department’s cipher telegram No. 2083 of August 17, 1915, 4 p. m.,1 I have the honor to transmit to the Department herewith the translation of a note received from the Imperial Foreign Office, dated December 18, 1915, explaining the conditions under which American vessels are brought to German ports for examination.

I have [etc.]

James W. Gerard
[Enclosure—Translation]

The German Minister of Foreign Affairs ( Zimmermann ) to the American Ambassador ( Gerard )

No. IIIa 23210/197061

The undersigned has the honor to reply as follows to the note of his excellency, the Hon. James W. Gerard, American Ambassador, of August 19, 1915, [Page 659] F. O. No. 4774, concerning the treatment accorded to American merchant vessels at the Sound.

In accordance with the instructions issued to the German naval forces, American vessels, the papers of which show that their cargo neither represents articles of conditional, nor of unconditional contraband, can pass the Sound without hindrance. However, ships from the papers of which it is evident that they carry contraband are searched in the first place on the high seas. The examination takes place in a German port if the suspicion of hostile destination arises from the papers and the circumstances, at the same time, are such as to render the examination of the vessel on the high seas impossible.

While on their way to hostile ports, American vessels are brought to a German port for examination if their papers do not show beyond doubt that the cargo represents non-contraband goods and the circumstances, at the same time, are such as to render the examination of the vessel on the high seas impossible.

Suggesting that the Ambassador kindly bring the foregoing to the attention of his Government, the undersigned avails himself [etc.]

Zimmermann
  1. Ante, p. 515.