462.11 W 892/34: Telegram

The Ambassador in Germany (Houghton) to the Secretary of State

113. Department’s 51, April 15, 2 p.m.; 63, May 8, 5 p.m.;89 Embassy’s 76, April 18, noon89 and 87, May 5, 5 p.m.

Was received by Rathenau,90 June 1; by Wirth,91 noon yesterday, and late in afternoon was sent for by Von Haniel who presented to me a [Page 244] personal letter from Rathenau with annex. Translation of personal letter as follows:92

“Foreign Office, Berlin, June 2, 1922.

My dear Mr. Ambassador: I was especially pleased to make your acquaintance yesterday and to be convinced during our interview how far we agree in the belief that the restoration of a relation of candor and trust represents the chief task of those to whom is entrusted the fostering of diplomatic relations between our two countries. During our conversation you said that, among other things, you attached particular value to the settlement of American claims under our peace treaty, and I should like to express to you again, in this way, that as early an understanding as is possible lies especially near my heart also. Annexed hereto I have the honor to send you a note which replies to the note which on April 17 last Mr. Dresel addressed to Secretary of State von Haniel.93 From this note you will see that the valuable suggestion you made to Mr. von Haniel has been taken into account. I do not believe any settlement can be found calculated to solve this important question of American claims in a more trustworthy and friendly manner.

With the assurance of my most distinguished consideration, I am sincerely yours, Rathenau.”

Translation of annex which embodies, as stated, reply to Embassy’s note of April 17 last is as follows:

“Foreign Office, Berlin, June 2, 1922.

My dear Mr. Ambassador: In reply to the note of the Chargé d’Affaires of the United States of America, Mr. Ellis Loring Dresel, of April 17, 1922, I have the honor to state to Your Excellency as follows:

I have noted with satisfaction the statement that the Government of the United States of America is ready to enter into negotiations for a commercial treaty and to receive suggestions and desires of the German Government in connection therewith, and I hope that thus a procedure has been begun which will lead to the restoration and extension of the far reaching friendly relations between Germany and the United States. From this consideration, I beg therefore to propose that the well tried pre-war treaties be put into effect again so far as this has not already been done and so far as modifications of mutual legislation have not become necessary as a result of developments since that time. In cases in which such modifications seem necessary, it would, in my opinion be advisable to take the old treaties as a basis for the new ones to be concluded and so far as possible to use the text of the old treaties.

So far as regards the establishing of American claims the German Government, too, is of the opinion that a speedy settlement of this question is urgently desirable in the interests of both countries concerned. In accordance with the suggestion made by the Government [Page 245] of the United States of America, the German Government believes also that for this purpose a mixed commission should be established in the first place. This might consist of one representative of each Government concerned who would be given the necessary officials and experts to aid him.

It would be the task of the commission to reach an understanding as to basis and amount of the claims to be presented by the United States out of [under] the treaty concluded between Germany and the United States on August 25, 1921, at Berlin. The German Government does not doubt that such an understanding will be reached without difficulty since the American Government, at the conclusion of the above mentioned treaty at Berlin, declared to the German Government through the intermediary of its representative at that time that it desired a fair and just settlement of the questions still pending between the two countries.

Relying upon this promise, the German Government has the honor to propose that the President of the United States be requested by it to cause a prominent American citizen whose capabilities and character are beyond criticism to take over the honorary chairmanship of the commission mentioned. Should the representatives of the two countries then not agree at once in one or another difficult question, they might then request the chairman to render an opinion which would make it possible for the two representatives to reach an agreement.

The German Government joins in the opinion expressed through Mr. Dresel that it appears expedient to approach a settlement of the financial questions regarding the payment of the claims only when, as a result of the work of the commission, more exact information for the judgment of the amount[s] in question shall be at hand. This can be done probably soon and in any case before the conclusion of all the work of the commission so that also these questions may be led to a speedy solution.

I should be grateful to Your Excellency if you would inform me of the views of your Government on these proposals and advise me whether a commission as described [in] the foregoing can be formed immediately. At the same time I take this opportunity to renew to you, Mr. Ambassador, the assurance of my most distinguished consideration. Rathenau.”

[Paraphrase.] After I had read the note I asked Von Haniel why old treaties were mentioned and he replied that the commercial treaty was not meant, but that he thought that other treaties such as consular convention, etc., could be drawn more easily and time saved were they to be based on an earlier form. He added that he had no objection at all to new treaties if time could be saved thereby. I likewise commented on the vagueness of form in which the powers of the third member of the commission were set forth. Von Haniel answered that this was in part because they wished to avoid seeming to dictate and in part because they wished to avoid criticism at home. He stated, however, both frankly and definitely that the decision of the honorary chairman would be final. I should like to [Page 246] add that in my opinion the German Government, especially Wirth and Rathenau, are honestly striving to meet American wishes in every way possible. [End paraphrase.]

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. German Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  4. German Chancellor.
  5. Translation has been revised from the German text transmitted by the Ambassador in despatch no. 48, June 6 (not printed).
  6. See Department’s telegram no. 51, Apr. 15, to the Chargé in Germany, p. 241.