File No. 763.72119/1058

The Chargé in Switzerland ( Wilson ) to the Secretary of State


2304. Julius Meinl, Austrian Kommerzialrat, friend of Emperor Charles, and Haussmann, Progressive Reichstag member, held a conference with consul agent Geneva and expressed a desire speak about America and were referred by agent to Edelman.1

Vice Consul stated, answering their inquiry concerning America’s intentions, that country united behind President and determined to carry out war to end, that if Germany wants peace she must state in definite and tangible form her demands.

Meinl replied Von Kühlmann already renounced all claims to Belgium. Entente committed error in failure to act on July peace resolution of Reichstag. This refusal weakened claims of German people and strengthened Pan-Germans. Haussmann added complete change has taken place in Germany within past few months. Reichstag is governing body, indicated by Hertling’s consultation before accepting chancellorship. Even Von Volentini inclined to liberalism. Von Bülow endeavored to become Chancellor but failed to despite known favoring of Crown Prince. Real leader appears to be Ludendorff and he, Hertling and Von Kühlmann are earnest in their desire for peace.

Meinl made following memorandum concerning kind of peace desired:

Society of nations, international arbitration, proportional and mutual disarmament on that basis, Minister’s statement about Belgium, evacuation of France, submission of all outstanding questions of European peoples and nationalities to the peace congress on the basis of consideration of the wishes of the people.

Vice Consul explained he could speak in no official capacity but felt certain that too many questions were reserved for peace congress and that clearer statement should be made of more vexing problems. He inquired about Alsace-Lorraine. Meinl replied autonomy was promised these provinces in Reichstag resolution of July 22 [July 19?]. Statement to that effect could be included in general peace proposals.

Meinl added Germany would not make serious objection to Turkish question, would not object to withhold conquered territory from [Page 512] Turkey, would consent to make Constantinople free port and Dardanelles free passage. Austria has no desire to dominate Balkans. Bulgaria should be permitted to rule territory inhabited by Bulgarians and no other. Austrian Reichsrat has declared for no annexations and would stand by this. Poland would be a separate kingdom. As to Kurland and other occupied territories they should be left for the people themselves to decide within three-year period.

Belgium would be evacuated, certain of its losses to be repaid but not in the form of indemnities.

According to Meinl’s statement Germany is ready to make concrete proposals to America provided they were sure American Government would receive them and treat them confidentially. He considered, in the meantime, it would cause excellent impression in Germany if President would include in some speech a declaration somewhat as follows:

We have heard some time ago the voice of the German people but we have not yet heard the voice of the German rulers who, so far as the world knows, have nearly absolute power in their country. Those rulers, who in the minds of the rest of the world are associated with militarism and autocracy, have up to November last failed to reveal their real war aims. If they are really in accord with their people they would do their country and the whole world a great service if at least they would unequivocally declare what their opinion is and what their aims are with regard to the great issues of this war. We do not even know whether they unreservedly indorse the peace resolution of July 19 of the German Reichstag.

See my 2282, December 22, 10 a.m.1 While it is apparent from these two interviews that Meinl has been instructed to make feelers, I do not believe that too much weight can be attached to his interpretation of the views of the ruling class of Germany, especially in his characterization of Ludendorff as a peace angel.

  1. Samuel Edelman, Vice Consul at Geneva.
  2. Ante, p. 483.