The Chargé in Greece (Goold) to the Secretary of State

No. 646

Sir: Adverting to the inquiry in your No. 169 of June 15th, relative to the attitude of the Greek Government concerning claims of Americans arising out of the confiscation of property by Turkey under the Exchange of Populations Convention signed January 30, 1923, I have the honor to state that I duly made inquiry concerning this matter at the Foreign Office, and that while I have not been vouchsafed a formal reply, the legal expert nearly always consulted by the Government on property questions arising out of the Exchange of Populations Agreement has given me the required information.

Practically all persons whose property interests are covered by the agreement in question and who are residing in America are either Greeks or Turks in the eyes of the Governments concerned. The Turkish nationals of the Greek Orthodox religion who left the Turkish domain subsequent to October 18, 1912, most probably did not secure the permission of the Turkish Government to naturalize themselves as American citizens. Therefore, in contemplation of both Turkish and Greek law, they remained Turks until by the operation of the Exchange of Populations Agreement they acquired Greek nationality. As to the children of such persons, it must be remembered that under the Greek law—and probably the Turkish, they do not acquire their father’s new nationality by his naturalization. They retain their original nationality.

[Page 51]

Interested persons should therefore proceed without reference to the fact that they are American citizens, and should file their claims with the Ministry of Agriculture in Athens. I am forwarding a number of forms of claims for distribution to them, and have the honor to add that whereas there is a sort of statute of limitations barring consideration of claims filed after March, 1927, the Greek Government is seriously considering an extension of the time limit in view of the fact that some 50,000 claims have been filed since that date.

As to the rights of Orthodox communicants and Moslems who left Turkey and Greece, respectively, before the 18th of October, 1912, or any Greek or Turk who did not acquire his nationality through the Exchange of Populations Agreement, they are governed by the agreement of December 1, 1926 between Greece and Turkey,64 concerning which see Mr. Skinner’s No. 122 [12] of December 2, 1926, my No. 342 of November 3, 1927, Mr. Skinner’s No. 461 of February 3, 1928 and his No. 541 of April 10, 1828.65

Does an American, say a Greek Orthodox communicant formerly an Ottoman national who emigrated from Turkey to America in 1907, thereafter becoming naturalized, whose property in Asia Minor was destroyed during the course of the operations of 1919–22, benefit by the agreement, or does it apply to the American heir of Turkish nationals of the Greek Orthodox religion who were killed in Asia Minor in 1922, leaving property, the heir having left Asia Minor in 1903 for America where he was naturalized.

Foreign Office note No. 14195 [14915?] of December 7, 1927, of which I enclose a translation, answers these questions in the affirmative, and persons basing their claims on the rights of non-exchangeables should file them with the Greek Delegation to the Mixed Claims Commission at Constantinople, accompanied by the certificate of local authorities (county clerk) to the effect (1) that they are of Turkish origin (place of birth should be stated); (2) that they are of the Greek Orthodox religion; (3) stating the dates of their departure from Turkey and the acquisition of their new domicile.

In a note dated March 13, 1928, the Foreign Office advised Mr. Skinner that, in the certificates required from the local authorities, no mention should be made of the fact that the claimants had acquired American nationality. The mention of such a fact would permit the Turkish Delegation to the Mixed Commission to take advantage of the conflict of jurisdiction arising out of double nationality to remove the claims from the competence of the Commission to the detriment of the interested parties.

I have [etc.]

H. S. Goold
[Page 52]
[Enclosure—Translation ]

The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the American Legation

No. 14915

Verbal Note

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs replying to the verbal note No. 229 which the United States Legation saw fit to address to it, has the honor to state that the question of the application of the agreement of the 1st of December to Orthodox communicants who have acquired foreign nationality has been the object of careful study.

It results from this examination that Orthodox communicants formerly Ottoman subjects and now American citizens who left those parts of Turkey subject to the exchange of populations before the 18th of October 1912 fall into three classes for the purposes of the agreement of the 1st of December 1926. These classes are:

1) Certain Orthodox communicants acquired American nationality after going through the formalities required by Turkish law to renounce their Ottoman nationality, that is to say, they obtained imperial iradis.

These individuals are recognized not only by the American law but by the Turkish law as American citizens. Consequently, if they own property in Turkey, they can claim possession of it and freely dispose of it in their capacity as American citizens.

This class is probably very small since the Sultan rarely granted iradis to those of his subjects who wished to acquire foreign nationality.

2) The majority of former Ottoman subjects acquired American nationality without the authorization of the Turkish authorities. This change of nationality does not exist from the point of view of the Turkish law, and these individuals remain Turkish citizens even though they have acquired American nationality in the United States. They can, therefore, be considered by virtue of Turkish legislation as having preserved their Turkish nationality up to the moment when the Treaty of Lausanne became effective.

This point of view permits the inclusion of these individuals with those of the following class provided for by one of the clauses of the agreement of December 1st, 1926.

3) Article 15 of the accord of which the United States Legation already possesses a copy, expressly declares that “those persons who, at the moment the Treaty of Lausanne became effective, enjoyed the status of Turkish or Hellenic subjects, and who subsequently acquired foreign nationality, preserve all the rights assured by Declaration No. 9 annexed to this Treaty.”

There is, then, no doubt that those Orthodox Turkish subjects who did not acquire American nationality until after the 6th of August [Page 53] 1924 are entitled to all the benefits of the agreement of the 1st of December.

The Ministry believes it to be its duty to add that all interested parties who come within the terms of the agreement of the 1st of December should submit a statement of their property in Turkey, accompanied by the required certificates, to the Hellenic Delegation to the Mixed Commission for the Exchange of Populations at Constantinople. These statements should be prepared on special forms which the interested parties can secure either at the Foreign Office or at Greek consulates or from the Hellenic Delegation to the Mixed Commission at Constantinople.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs which will always be ready to inform the United States Legation concerning the details of the application of the accord mentioned invites the attention of the Legation to the fact that the agreement is applied exclusively to individuals covered by Declaration 9 annexed to the Treaty of Lausanne, that is to say, Orthodox communicants who left Turkey before the 18th of October 1912, or who had always resided outside that country.

  1. League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. lxviii, p. 11.
  2. Despatches not printed.