Memorandum by the Secretary of State of a Conversation With the German Chargé (Leitner)36

The German Chargé called at Woodley this afternoon, and I told him that for some time we had been studying anxiously the situation in Germany and Austria, which seemed to be liable to produce very grave repercussions throughout the world. I said that in this country what we could do depended upon the joint action of the Executive and Congress, and the powers of the Executive were limited, but that the President was sounding out the leaders of Congress with respect to the possibility of this proposition—a suspension for one year of all intergovernmental claims and obligations, including reparations, debts and relief debts, and excepting only debts which were owed to private citizens like the so-called commercialized debts. I pointed out that the exception involved that portion of the unconditional annuities owing to France which had been commercialized and on which I understood the debt service amounted to about fifteen million dollars per year. I told him that the President had not finished his investigation, but that it was beginning to leak out through the press and, therefore, I preferred to tell what we were doing directly to the various countries involved rather than to have them hear distorted rumors from the press. I told him that the President had met with gratifying success so far, but we could not yet tell whether any step like that could be taken; that we felt that this step was far better both materially and psychologically than any other step we had heard proposed, including action under the Young Plan. I also said that its effectiveness would depend upon the cordiality and promptness with which it was received by all of the nations because the situation was psychological, but we hoped that a lead in this direction would lift the situation out of the slough of depression and start recuperation. I told him that this plan rested upon the assumption that it would apply to all nations and that no plan for this country (the United States) to make the only sacrifices would have any possibility of acceptance whatever; that the President’s investigation had already made that clear. I told him that I was seeing the representatives of the different countries. He asked about France specifically, and I told him I had seen the Ambassador of France. The German Chargé took down notes of my statement as we talked.

H[enry] L. S[timson]
  1. Similar conversations were held by the Secretary of State on June 19 with the British Ambassador, the Italian Chargé, and the Austrian Minister; and on June 20 with the Belgian Ambassador, the Yugoslav Minister, the Rumanian Minister, and the Greek Chargé (462.00R296/4047, 4041, 4025, 4027, 4048, 4049, 4050).