The Consul General at Berlin (Messersmith) to the Secretary of State

No. 1214

Sir: I have to refer to my strictly confidential despatches No. 1196 of March 21, 1933, 1205 of March 25 and 1210 of March 2810 with reference to the displacement from public office and disbarment from the professions of Jews, and of molestation of Jews in various ways. Since March 28 the developments in the situation have been so rapid and of so momentous a character that as from yesterday a state of crisis exists and it is not possible for anyone, not even those who are supposed to be leading and directing the Government and the National-Socialist movement, to state definitely what will happen tomorrow and in the days immediately following. It is increasingly difficult in the face of these rapidly occurring events of such first importance for even a trained and objective observer to entirely maintain his perspective. During the two and a half years that I have been in Germany I have succeeded in making contacts in practically all classes of German life in the capital as well as in many of the major cities of the country and this has been of very particular help to me as an officer of our Government in Berlin at this time. It has in this way been possible for me to keep currently in touch with at least the major developments in the situation and I arrived at the conviction yesterday that a state of affairs existed which was of so precarious a nature that almost anything might happen and I felt it my duty to inform the Embassy to that effect. To give all the factors involved in arriving at this conclusion would be impossible even in a lengthy despatch. So I shall endeavor to set forth only a few of the major considerations.

The background of the anti-Jewish movement fostered by the National-Socialist party and its progress since the 5th of March 1933 has been set forth in previous despatches. It is now evident that the movement has reached an intensity and a diffusion of action which was not contemplated even by its most fanatic proponents, and there is real reason to believe now that the movement is beyond control and may have a bloody climax. If this will be avoided it will be by a miracle of power and resolution on the part of the Chancellor, Mr. Hitler, and a few moderates associated with him which it is almost too much to expect.

In Government office, whether it be national, state or municipal, practically all Jews have already been eliminated. Very few are left except in a few responsible positions in the Finance Ministry or in positions [Page 339] where the National-Socialists for the time being believe them indispensable because of their special knowledge. One must realize the important part which Jews played in the various administrations to be able to realize the intensity and extent of this movement in Government circles alone.

In the courts practically all Jewish judges have been removed and it is only a question of days before the last one will be out. In a previous despatch I recited the substantiated incident of an ordinary embezzler, but a member of the National-Socialist party, who asked that his case not be heard before the Jewish judge who was to sit, on the ground that he could not expect an unprejudiced decision, and that the judicial authorities decided that his objection had proper basis, suspended the action and ordered that it be heard by another judge. The newspapers of March 29 carry a similar incident where in a Potsdam criminal court one Hermann Panitsch of Berlin accused of embezzlement asked that the case not be heard before the judge who was to sit, on the ground that the judge was a Jew and he, the accused, had been a member of the National-Socialist party since 1923. In place of the presiding judge Dr. Lowenthal another judge was substituted.

In Goerlitz on March 29 Jewish judges and lawyers were taken into custody “in order to protect them”. At the moment of writing this despatch authenticated information reaches me that before one of the principal courts in Berlin, the Landesgericht I, S.A. men assembled to prevent the entry of Jewish lawyers and raised such a disturbance that the building was closed by the President of the Court. At the present time it does not look likely that any Jewish judges will be allowed to sit in German courts in any part of the country, at least for a considerable period. It is impossible in this despatch to recite the reports which have appeared in even the controlled and thoroughly censored German press of the taking of judges into custody “in order to protect them” and of suspension or definite removal from office.

In previous despatches it has been reported that the national and local associations of lawyers have decided that no Jews shall be in the governing boards and that hereafter only a small percentage shall be admitted to practice or to continue to practice. It has been definitely decided that no non-Jewish lawyers shall be able to temporarily take over the practice of a Jewish colleague. This is intended in order to definitely divert the clients from Jewish lawyers. In legal circles it is still contemplated applying a numerus clausus in the profession and of permitting certain lawyers who served in the war to continue to practice, but the attitude has changed so rapidly during the past few days as a result of the boycott movement that it is a question as to how far this idea will be made effective. Under the boycott proclamation all persons [Page 340] are to abstain during the period of the boycott from visiting any Jewish lawyers.

In the medical profession the national and local associations have taken action similar to that above recited on the part of the legal profession. Practically all the Jewish physicians associated with the social insurance and sick insurance organizations can no longer receive compensation for the services rendered to insured persons or contributors and this is equivalent to destroying their practice. The Jewish physicians connected with the state and municipal hospitals have for the most part been relieved from all duty. Under the boycott order of the National-Socialist party to be effective April 1 physicians are included and all persons are warned not to go near a Jewish doctor.

As illustrative of what is going on in the medical profession a well-substantiated incident is that of Professor Sauerbruch, one of the outstanding surgeons of Europe and of the world, who is the chief of the surgical staff of the famous Charite hospital in Berlin. The discharge of several of his Jewish assistants was ordered and Professor Sauerbruch stated that if they were let go he himself would immediately emigrate to America, and in order to avoid such action (he is not a Jew) he was permitted to keep these men who are apparently the only Jewish doctors retained on the staff of the city hospitals. There is an unauthenticated incident of a well-known Jewish doctor in one of the hospitals who was discharged and told by the National-Socialist officers that his automobile which stood before the hospital would be very helpful to the party during the next days as well as the chauffeur. The doctor in order to avoid what he believed to be certain physical injury permitted them to take his automobile with the chauffeur and is paying for its maintenance. An associate of his, a Jewish doctor in the same hospital, refused to resign voluntarily and the Consulate General is informed by a responsible physician that this doctor was thereupon taken into a room, made to sit in a receptacle containing cold water and given a large dose of castor oil. Incidents of rough and maltreatment of physicians came to me so frequently and from such good sources that there is no possibility of doubt that at least some of them are correct. I am informed from an entirely reliable source that a well-known Jewish physician and surgeon who had recently operated upon a person well-known to me here was compelled to resign from the hospital staff and asked that he only be allowed to remain and take care, without pay, of those patients on whom he had so recently operated, including this woman. He was not allowed to do so and she had to be cared for by a physician and surgeon who had not performed the operation and had no immediate knowledge of her case.

American newspaper correspondents in Berlin have brought to my [Page 341] attention cases of maltreatment of all sorts of persons of various nationalities which they have personally investigated and found correct but which more recently they have not been able to publish. I can make no definite statement with regard to these cases as obviously the Consulate General has taken no action with regard to reporting them to the Department other than the cases of American citizens, but I have confidence in the correspondents who have been giving this information. All the information which I have is to the effect that they have been most careful in verifying the stories which they have transmitted.

The Department is probably aware through the Hearst press that Mr. Deuss, the head of the International News Service in Germany, was informed yesterday in a personal interview by Reichsminister Goering that all sources of information from the National-Socialist party would be closed to him and that he would leave it to Mr. Hearst as to whether he would permit him to remain in Germany. As Mr. Deuss is a careful and reliable correspondent I hope to send to the Department in the near future a despatch covering his interview with Reichsminister Goering.

The terror in which the Jews in Germany live and the suppression of honest opinion exercised upon other persons since March 5 is evident from the following circumstances: The Department is familiar with the boycott against Jewish firms, physicians and lawyers which has been ordered as from April 1, 1933. This boycott is naively pictured to the German people as a defense measure against the stories which have appeared in the foreign press with regard to what is going on in Germany and on the ground that these stories were instigated by Jews abroad. A Jewish organization which had been forbidden by the authorities and disbanded according to reports in the censored press was resurrected so that a telegram in its name might be sent to Jewish organizations abroad that all was quiet in Germany. Various business organizations of Jews and practically all existing Jewish organizations have sent telegrams to the effect that everything is normal in Germany. The same people who are sending these telegrams are living here in daily and in many cases abject terror and have only sent these telegrams in order to avoid what they believe to be sure physical consequences of a refusal.

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It would be impossible within the limits of this despatch to review even a small number of the cases which have personally come to my attention, of endeavors to have people send out telegrams under pressure picturing conditions different from what they actually are.

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Respectfully yours,

George S. Messersmith
  1. Despatches Nos. 1205 and 1210 not printed.