763.72119/2742: Telegram

The Minister in Switzerland ( Stovall ) to the Secretary of State

5872. Swiss Foreign Office hands me two notes from German Foreign Office with request for transmission. Notes follow in translation:

First note. “The German delegate at the Armistice Commission in Spa gave the following note to the delegates of the enemy on November 17th: [Page 23]

‘I have been instructed by the German Government to call your attention to the following: On the left side of the Rhine especially in the Luxembourg, Lorraine and in the Saar districts extraordinary disturbances of economic life will occur as a result of the discontinuance of imports of fuel from lower Rhine. The Luxembourg and Lorraine iron industry will have to stop work if unable to obtain these imports. As more than half of the population of these districts is employed in the iron industry or dependent thereupon catastrophal consequences will arise through lack of employment and tumults of every nature. The overhasty evacuation forced upon us has already caused a reduction in the traffic facilities for the works of the Ruhr district by one half and for the blast furnace and iron industry by one third. The small number of cars makes it impossible to undertake shipments to the left Rhine district. If an economic catastrophe in Luxembourg and in the iron district is to be avoided then the number of cars for use must be increased by at least 2,500 daily in order to supply the Luxembourg, Lorraine iron industry with the absolutely essential quantity of fuel. If however, if work is to be kept up in the whole left Rhine district then the number of cars must be increased by at least 4,000 daily.

The Allied Governments and America face the question as to whether they desire to further insist upon the period set for evacuation which is too short to admit of an execution of the demands and thus call forth catastrophical conditions especially in the Luxembourg, Lorraine iron districts or whether they desire to grant a reasonable extension of the evacuation.

Should the Allied Governments and America decide in the interest of humanity and in order to protect the interests of the districts placed under their protection to grant a reasonable extension they would thereby make it possible for iron ore from the Luxembourg, Lorraine districts to be exported to the lower Rhine industrial district. The Luxembourg, Lorraine iron mines would be able to keep their works going in full force. At the same time the necessary import of iron ore would prevent unemployment and grave industrial interruptions on the lower Rhine especially on the right bank of the Rhine. Should however disturbances occur in the right Rhine district the close economic connection between the two districts would make a spreading of these disturbances to the left Rhine district unavoidable. The occupying powers should prevent this under all circumstances both in the interest of all and especially in their own interest, and for this purpose should grant immediately a 15–day extension of the evacuation period.’ Signed Von Haniel, Minister, Spa, November 17th, 1918.

The German Government begs earnestly for a reasonable extension of the evacuation period as otherwise serious disturbances and grave economic damages will be unavoidable. (Signed) Solf, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.”

Second note. “The German delegate at the Armistice Commission in Spa gave the following note to the delegates of the enemy on November 16th:

‘Under instructions of the German Government I beg to point out most emphatically the following: When evacuating the territories now occupied the locomotives which are in use there will be surrendered. There are 3,000 of such locomotives. The delivery of the remaining 2,000 locomotives would mean the collapse of the German railway service and a resulting grave danger for Germany’s economic life. Hunger revolts with their unavoidable consequences could then be expected and furthermore the paralysis of the railway traffic would make the execution of certain armistice conditions, as for instance the transportation of prisoners, impossible. About 100,000 cars will probably be left in the occupied territory. The transfer of the remaining cars from Germany will be faced under present circumstances by overwhelming difficulties the removal of which cannot be foreseen.’ Signed Baron Von Lersner, Counsellor of Legation, Spa, November 16th, 1918.

Marshal Foch replied to the above by wireless as follows:

‘The question is not clear. Article 7 of the convention provided for a period of 31 days for the delivery of 5,000 locomotives and 150,000 cars. This period cannot be changed. It is suggested that you propose to me the scale of delivery [Page 24] which will have to be made in order that the entire delivery be obtained in the time fixed.’

The German Government points again to the unforeseeable consequences which the strict execution of the conditions of article 7 of the armistice convention threatens and begs emphatically for an alleviation of these conditions. (Signed) Solf, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.”