File No. 763.72114/2511b
The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Austria-Hungary ( Penfield)
1587. Please convey informally to the Foreign Office the substance of the following: As the Austro-Hungarian Government is aware, the care of its interests in Russia was taken over by the American Embassy at Petrograd about the same time as those of Germany. Because of the physical conditions under which both civilian and military prisoners of war have been kept in Russia, it was found essential in the interests of efficiency to handle Austro-Hungarian [Page 624] and German relief work through a single organization. The relief committees in the different camps are composed of both Austro-Hungarian and German subjects; joint schools, hospitals, etc., managed by both nationalities, have been established and in many other respects which will be apparent to the Foreign Office the administration of Austro-Hungarian and German interests has become almost inseparable. In the course of the last two years and a half the Embassy at Petrograd has built up a large organization which in order to meet existing conditions has handled Austro-Hungarian and German relief matters as a single subject, except as regards the actual receipt, distribution, and accounting of funds.
Since the severing of diplomatic relations with Germany, German interests in Russia have been turned over to the Swedish Minister at Petrograd. The American Embassy in its endeavors to carry on the separate administration of Austro-Hungarian relief has already encountered serious practical difficulties and it is feared that unless the interests of both Austria-Hungary and Germany are placed in the same hands the interests of the subjects of both will suffer. In view of the facts outlined above, which will doubtless go far to render ineffective the work of the American Embassy in caring for Austro-Hungarian interests, the Department will be pleased to receive information as to whether the Austro-Hungarian Government desires that the Embassy continue its representation as at present.
Please make it very clear that the question is now raised solely in the interests of Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war. It is felt that this Government would be lacking in friendliness if it failed frankly to point out the disadvantages under which it will now have to carry on its work on behalf of Austro-Hungarian subjects in Russia. The Department is confident that the Austro-Hungarian Government will understand the spirit in which this communication is made, which is applicable to the situation in Russia only.