The Counselor of the Embassy in Germany (Robbins) to the Chief of the Division of Russian Affairs, Department of State (Poole)
[Received May 3.]
My Dear De Witt: You will remember that a week or so ago the Department instructed us, in view of the proposed sentence of death upon the Catholic Bishop Zepliak and his assistant, to take up the matter informally with the Russian representatives in Berlin. As you will also remember, the instructions were that we should call: to the Russians’ attention in an unofficial way the extremely unfortunate impression which was being created in the United States by this sentence.
We replied to you that through Ludwig Stein, who incidentally is a newspaper correspondent of the Vossische Zeitung and serves as a liaison between us and the Bolshevik outfit, we had sent the message to the Russian so-called Ambassador, Krestinski. We had received a reply from Stein that Krestinski had already learned of the instruction sent out to the American Embassy in Berlin, through a Reuter despatch, and that prior to receiving any official communication he thought it would be more advisable to communicate with his Government. He further stated that in case he could receive the communication, he would be pleased to receive one of the secretaries of the Embassy, as this seemed to be the manner in which other Embassies, who do not recognize Soviet Russia, were transmitting their messages.
We delayed for some days before taking further action and received incidentally the Department’s second telegram, telling us that it might not be necessary to give further messages to the Soviet representative. However, the Ambassador and I finally got worried and on April seventh, the Ambassador instructed me to go and see Krestinski.
I called upon him and conversed through an interpreter in French. I again brought up the question of the sentence of the Catholic Bishops, one of whom had already, as you will know, been executed, and asked if he had received any instructions with regard to the message communicated to him through Ludwig Stein. He replied to me that we had been mistaken as to the message received from Ludwig Stein, and that though Stein had spoken to him about the Ambassador’s message, he did not consider that he could take this message officially until delivered by a Secretary. …
I then asked Krestinski if he would prefer to take the message from me, to which he replied in the affirmative. I then went over [Page 822] the whole matter again, and told him that very informally and in a friendly way, we wished to call to the attention of his Government the unfortunate impression, etc. etc., which would be made upon the people of the United States by the execution of such a sentence. He quickly replied that as my message was transmitted to him in an informal and friendly way, he would take great pleasure in immediately transmitting it to his Government. He added, however, that had it been presented to him in an official way, he would have been obliged to refuse to accept it, just as officially, for the reason that the protest made was against a matter which was one solely connected with the internal administration in Russia. He added further that as I probably knew, one of the Bishops had already been executed.
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Very faithfully yours,