File No. 763.72/8807

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

[Telegram]

2603. German political. Unquestionably the strike situation in Germany has been settled temporarily. From meager reports available it appears that the great bulk of workmen have returned to their labors and that the strike arose as a warning to the Government and evidence of determination of Labor Party to force conciliatory peace. I have previously reported that a state of siege was declared in various cities and I now learn that special military courts with extraordinary powers, having jurisdiction only over civilians, of which the judges were two civilians and three officers, were established. Their findings were without appeal, with the exception of the death penalty.

In spite of severe measures reported certain cities, the authorities in other places, notably Mannheim, adopted paternal attitude towards strikers, stating that they had been deceived by their misguided leaders and urging them to return to work.

Dittmann, of the Independent Socialists, has been condemned to five years in a fortress, the papers indicating that the leniency of this sentence was due to extenuating circumstances. As a result of having published the incidents of this trial large number of German papers of all political complexions were suspended.

Berne Intelligenzblatt publishes today an article from Frankfurter Zeitung speaking of important decisions that Government must make and foreshadowing parliamentary crisis.

Leaders of all other parties gave consent to refusal of Socialist demands for immediate opening of Reichstag.

During Erzberger’s stay in Switzerland he informed a person in whom I have confidence that the “League for Liberty and Justice” has four million members, including all labor unions, Socialists, Catholic and Progressive Parties in Germany. Its platform is practically identical with July 19 resolution. It is really organ for [Page 106]Reiehstag Majority and most effective weapon against Pan-Germans. Erzberger states peaceful mood of Majority is unquestionable and that three out of four hundred members of the Reiehstag would again vote for the July resolution. Erzberger emphatically declared that he was still leader of the great majority of the Centrum Party. Even soldiers are ready to force the Government to accept a reasonable peace program. Erzberger points out that a conciliatory reply by Wilson will strengthen the workers against the Government while a bellicose answer would solidify them behind the Government.

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German economic. Although it is clear that the strike had a political aim there is no doubt that one of the underlying causes of unrest is lack of proper nourishment. Munich Neueste Nachrichten, January 13, pointed out prevalence of a disease, “war dropsy”, of which the only cure is proper nourishment and which results in general debility and death. Swiss who lived in Karlsruhe reports following rations per week per person: 9 pounds potatoes, 1600 grams bread, 50 grams butter, 250 grams meat. Milk for children and aged in other cities. Increased death rate among old due to reduction in fat allowance.

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Austria. The strike is ended in Austria, even at Trieste, and politically nation appears to be marking time in the hope of reply from Entente statesmen. Heingartner 1 just arrived from Vienna states that reduction weekly flour ration in Vienna to one-eighth kilo per person has caused unrest which may soon assume serious dimensions in the near future. Disappointment is general that strikes did not gain more for workmen. On every side one hears discussion of intolerable conditions in the Cabinet. Crisis is passed and parties of Apponyi and Andrássy have merged. Apponyi lost five members of his party but several of the Károlyi party have gone to the Government bloc. Tisza is in opposition as well as Károlyi who continues to insist on immediate action on electoral reform bill. In such papers as have yet arrived from Austria, Wekerle’s speech, in which he emphasizes necessity of cordial relations with Germany, meets with approval.

Beneš, Secretary Bohemian Committee of Paris, furnishes details of congress at Prague January 6. Two hundred delegates under President Kramář. Session lasted three-quarters hour and measures adopted unanimously which provided for entire independence (Bohernia?), [Page 107]stated that Austria-Hungary as state, had ceased to exist, denied to Reichsrath authority of any kind. After adjournment, delegates marched through streets singing national hymn without interference. No deputies were arrested although six of them had previously been under sentence of death.

Beneš knew of Foerster’s conversation with Emperor Charles: Emperor subsequently discussed with Czernin advisability of giving autonomy to Bohemia. Czernin replied, “Very well, Your Majesty, you can try it, but it only means that Germany will send troops into Bohemia and exploit the country.”

Beneš declared that allegiance to the Emperor was limited to (a) small circles, (b) Catholic hierarchy, (c) limited number of aristocrats. He declared that Emperor was of limited mental capacity, [and in] great ignorance concerning the affairs of his Kingdom.

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Wilson
  1. Robert W. Heingartner, Vice Consul hitherto assigned to the Spanish Embassy, in charge of American interests in Austria-Hungary.