548.D1/16: Telegram

The Consul at Geneva (Gilbert) to the Secretary of State

229. In the private negotiations conducted in the sub-committee of the second committee the German delegate (Ritter) formally confirmed the German position as outlined in the Consulate’s No. 223, October 7, 7 p.m.,21 to the general effect that Germany is “ready to make possible” the appointment of a high commissioner by the Council if after his appointment all League connection with him or with his functions shall cease.

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While at this stage the details of his position and functions are naturally not being formally discussed it is in general envisaged that under this arrangement the high commissioner would be responsible to some kind of a governing body of government representatives which would perhaps include also representatives of private organizations.

The Germans have declared that they have made their last concession. Although they could not serve on such a commission, they have intimated that it would receive the informal cooperation of the German Government. On the other hand, the German Government will have nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of a “League” commission.

The German position appears to be receiving the support of the British and the Dutch and it is believed that the Italians and the Czechoslovaks would agree to such an arrangement. Reasonable leaders in Geneva also favor acceding to the German position for practical reasons feeling that German cooperation in any such project is entirely to its success.

The French only seem to be in opposition to the non-League commission, stating that any project to take care of the refugee situation must have “some kind of an official connection with the League of Nations.” The French do not give any reason for their position other than the technical one that the matter so clearly falls under article 24 of the League Covenant22 that to create an extra League body would be highly inconsistent and would definitely reflect on the prestige of the League. Otherwise the French position is obscure. It is seen that should the project for a League commission come before a League body and should Germany vote against it, as most certainly would be the case, a definite “break” would be precipitated. It is further seen that France might desire to isolate Germany by bringing about just such a situation. The French, however, seem at the same time to be endeavoring to avoid such a “break”.

Speculation in Geneva circles is naturally rife as to the attitude of the United States toward this whole matter, in particular its possible position vis-à-vis a League commission or an autonomous commission and also as to the possibility of an American national serving as high commissioner, the names of ex-President Hoover, Theodore Roosevelt and Nicholas Roosevelt being mentioned.

  1. Not printed; for details concerning the German position, see letter from the Secretary of State to President Roosevelt, infra.
  2. Treaties, Conventions, etc., Between the United States of America and Other Powers, 1910–1923 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1923), vol. iii, p. 3336.