File No. 124.62/40

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


515. Arrived here last night, 120 Americans in all. Our train treated with great courtesy at Swiss frontier by Swiss Government who sent officers to meet us, etc. Before leaving Berlin had half hour talk with the Chancellor; also Zimmermann. Think Germans absolutely taken by surprise by breaking of relations. On Sunday morning after break, Reichstag member Stresemann, who always has been bitter against America, was addressing meeting of his party and telling in detail why America would do nothing and as he concluded a man got up and read from noon paper that America had [Page 589]broken relations. Many prominent Germans told me that Zimmermann more responsible for reckless submarine warfare than anyone; that Emperor thought matter over for three days and finally decided. Ludendorff and Zimmermann are the ones responsible. The Chancellor only wants to hold on to his office. After I demanded passports Count Montgelas of Foreign Office called on me and asked me to telegraph you to get authority to sign treaty which follows paraphrased:1

Agreement between Germany and the United States of America concerning the treatment of each other’s citizens and their private property after the severance of diplomatic relations.

Article 1. After severance of diplomatic relations between Germany and the United States of America and in the event of the outbreak of war between the two powers the citizens of either party and their private property in the territory of the other party shall be treated according to Article 23 of the treaty of Amity and Commerce between Prussia and the United States of 11th July, 1799, with the following explanatory and supplementary clauses.

Article 2. German merchants in the United States and American merchants in Germany shall, so far as the treatment of their persons and their property is concerned, be held in every respect on a par with the other persons mentioned in Article 23. Accordingly they shall, even after the period provided for in Article 23 has elapsed, be entitled to remain and continue their profession in the country of their residence. Merchants as well as the other persons mentioned in Article 23 may be excluded from fortified places or other places of military importance.

Article 3. Germans in the United States and Americans in Germany shall be free to leave the country of their residence within the times and by the routes that shall be assigned to them by the proper authorities. The persons departing shall be entitled to take along their personal private property including moneys, valuables, and bank accounts excepting such property the exportation of which is prohibited according to general provisions.

Article 4. The protection of Germans in the United States and of Americans in Germany and of their property shall be guaranteed in accordance with the laws existing in the countries of either party. They shall be under no other restrictions concerning the enjoyment of their private rights and the legitimate enforcement of their rights than neutral residents, they may accordingly not be transferred to concentration camps nor shall their private property be subject to sequestration or liquidation or other compulsory alienation except in cases that under the existing laws apply also to neutrals. As a general rule, German property in the United States and American property in Germany shall not be subject to sequestration or liquidation or other compulsory alienation under other conditions than neutral property.

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Article 5. Patent rights or other protected rights held by Germans in the United States of America [or by Americans] in Germany shall not be declared void, nor shall the exercise of such rights be impeded nor shall such rights be transferred to others without the consent of the person entitled thereto, provided that regulations made exclusively in the interest of the state shall apply.

Article 6. Contracts made between Germans and Americans, either before or after the severance of diplomatic relations, also obligations of all kinds between Germans and Americans shall not be declared canceled, void, or in suspension except under provision applicable to neutrals. Likewise the citizens of either party shall not be impeded in fulfilling their liabilities arising from such obligations either by injunctions or by other provision unless these apply also to neutrals.

Article 7. The provision, of the 6th Hague convention, the treatment of enemy merchant ships at outbreak of hostilities, shall apply to the merchant vessels of either party and their cargo.

The aforesaid ships may not be forced to leave port unless at the same time they be given a pass recognized as binding by all enemy sea powers to a home port or a port of an allied country or to another port of the country in which the ship happens to be.

Article 8. The regulations of chapter three of the 11th Hague convention relative certain restrictions in the exercise of the right of capture in maritime war shall apply to the captains, officers, and members of the crews of merchant ships specified in Article 7 and of such merchant ships that may be captured in the course of a possible war.

Article 9. This agreement shall apply also to the colonies and other foreign possessions of either party.

Berlin, February 1917.

He said that if it was not signed that Americans would probably not be permitted to leave Germany and that newspaper correspondents would also be held. I said in the first place, I would not telegraph unless I could do so in cipher and give my own views. Secondly, that anyway relations were broken and, thirdly, that I would do nothing while I was a prisoner, but that once in Switzerland I might consider cabling but I thought it useless as the German propositions to let their ships out in case of war and keeping America from using German patents, even if needed for war purposes, were absolutely ridiculous. I further said that if Americans were not permitted to leave that it was an act of war. He said that the prisoners of war from the Yarrowdale would not be released as German ships had been confiscated in America, and that I could not leave until they knew what had happened to Bernstorff. I said I do not have to disprove these rumors. You have to prove their truth, and I repeat that if you hold Americans here it is an act of war. He then left and I have heard nothing further of matter. Our telephone was cut off, we were not permitted to receive mail or telegrams [Page 591]or to telegraph your instructions to consuls. After some days these regulations were modified. Consuls now are to assemble at Munich and leave. Others already in Berlin will leave with second train of Americans. I shall proceed with staff ordered to America, correspondents, and Americans to Paris, then Spain. Treaty presented by Montgelas follows. I suggest that no such treaty be signed. Few real Americans in Germany and fear of losing ships and property may be restraining force. Please obtain through Spanish Ambassador assurance that our passports from German Government cover passage from Spain to America, otherwise German submarine might take us off outside Spanish waters in case of war.

  1. Correspondence with the Swiss Minister at Washington, representing German interests, concerning this proposed treaty, printed in Foreign Relations, 1918, Supplement 2.