File No. 763.72114/4096

The Chargé in the Netherlands ( Bliss ) to the Secretary of State


4833. [For the President:]

Archiepiscopal Palace, Malines, October 17.

Mr. President: At 3 o’clock today, Baron Von der Lancken, chief of the German Political Department, came to tell me, in the name of the Governor General of Brussels and of the Berlin Government, that the Belgians under arrest in Belgium and Germany for political reasons, as well as the Belgians who have been deported into Germany, will be set at liberty as soon as Belgium shall have been evacuated. The release of prisoners interned in the prisons of the occupied portions of Belgium, with the exception of the military étapes, will begin Monday, the 21st of the month.

I have the honor to transmit herewith the text of a written declaration which the delegate of the German Government left with me. The United States have so generously assisted our people in their distress, and by the heroism of their army, and the high authority and the prestige of the Head of their Government have exercised so decisive an effect on the course of events, that I consider it my duty to address myself without delay to Your Excellency and inform you of the well-intentioned and spontaneous action which has been taken towards me. In it I see the proof of a sincere desire to arrive at a peace, and I discern with emotion the dawn of an era of calm and tranquillity for our beloved Belgian people which has suffered so greatly and so nobly.

Now that the occasion offers, I venture to express to the President of the United States the hope that the future peace congress will be held at Brussels. My compatriots, who were the first victims of the violence of the invasion, would consider the honor which would be thus done their capital as a first step toward reparation and would be unanimously grateful for it.

Accept, Mr. President, my respectful admiration and my undying gratitude. Signed, Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines.

Translation of the German declaration transmitted with above as enclosure, reads as follows:

For us you are the incarnate spirit of occupied Belgium, of which you are the revered and respected [father]. For this reason it is [Page 372] to you that the Governor General and my Government have instructed me to make the announcement that when we shall evacuate your country we shall restore to you spontaneously and of our own free will those Belgians who have been deported or held as political prisoners. They will in part be at liberty to return to their homes beginning with Monday, October 21. As this announcement must rejoice your heart, it gives me pleasure to make it, especially in view of the fact that I have not been able to live for four years among the Belgians without esteeming them and without forming a true estimate of their [virtues].