File No. 855.48/456
The Minister in Switzerland ( Stovall) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 14, 9.20 a.m.]
526. Department’s 249  to Brussels. Mr. Whitlock has directed me to report regarding situation in Brussels. Lancken went to Berlin, February 5, for conference regarding commission for relief and during his absence Von Bissing sent representative to request Mr. Whitlock to stay in order to insure commission’s continuance. In view of Department’s telegram 249 [248?] Mr. Whitlock assented, provided conditions were made acceptable. On February 8 Lancken returned to Brussels and on the evening of February 9 informally told Mr. Whitlock that it was the authorities’ desire that the relief continue, and invited him to stay “honorary chairman.” However, his prerogatives as Minister have been suspended. He can not have a pouch or use a cipher. He is no longer addressed officially and he was requested to lower the flag at once. Lancken also informed Mr. Whitlock that the relief commission would have to be cut down to five or six controlling members and that the privilege of traveling in automobiles would be suspended. He also refused to [consider them as Legation] members in case of war, in so far as applies to members, even though the United States Government agreed to guarantee in writing the safe-conduct of the remaining German citizens [in case enemy aliens?] were interned in America. Mr. Whitlock requested that the above statement be embodied in a formal note to the Spanish Minister, to which Lancken acceded. I left Brussels on the morning of February 11 and at that time the Spanish Minister had received only a rough draft, which was very vague and in no way specified the privileges which would be accorded those members who stayed.
In view of the above facts, Mr. Whitlock respectfully and urgently requests the opinion of the Department as to what course he should pursue. He is willing to make any personal sacrifice, provided in the Department’s opinion this would help insure the continuance of [Page 639] the relief. The only means [of] communication being through the secret use of Spanish Minister’s pouch in Brussels, Mr. Whitlock suggests that the Department’s reply be sent by cable to the Legation at The Hague for transmission in this way. Mr. Whitlock would also be grateful for instructions as to [whom] British, Serbian, Japanese, Danish and Liechtenstein interests should be transferred.
- C. A. Herter, formerly attached to the Legation in Belgium.↩