File No. 124.55/4a

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Belgium ( Whitlock )


253. Department has been informed that the German authorities in Belgium have refused to recognize your diplomatic standing and have deprived you of the freedom of communication with this Government, and that you have been requested to lower the American flag over the Legation. Furthermore, this Government learns that the German authorities have ordered the reduction of the personnel of the American relief commission to five or six members stationed in Brussels, without freedom of movement.

While the German authorities express a willingness for you yourself and a few of the relief staff to remain in Brussels, it must be obvious that your position is untenable, and that the relief commission in these circumstances can not execute the responsibilities which rest upon them in guardianship and administration of the food supplies.

Confronted by this situation you are instructed to inform the German authorities that this Government and the relief commission, [Page 640] which have shown such devotion to the relief of the Belgians during the last two years are prepared to continue this same neutral and humanitarian service, but that such service can only be continued by a continuance of former privileges of yourself and the relief commission. Failing immediate action on the part of the German authorities, you and all of the Americans in the relief work are to withdraw at once from German occupied territory. In these circumstances you are instructed to make it clear to the German authorities that the sole responsibility for the withdrawal and for the consequent interruptions of supplies rests upon them alone.

The Department desires you to assure the Belgians and the French people within the occupied territory that this Government and the relief commission will leave no stone unturned to secure the reestablishment of the relief in the hands of some other neutral organization, if the German authorities will provide facilities of administration and freedom of relief ships from attack.