382.1163 Watch Tower/56
The Ambassador in Germany (Dodd) to the Acting Secretary of State
[Received December 14.]
Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 158  of September 20,61 on the subject of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, I have the honor to enclose copies and translation of a note verbale dated November 13, from the Foreign Office, and of its enclosure, the decree of June 2462 issued by the Prussian Ministry of the Interior suppressing the activities of the Society in Prussia and confiscating its property. The Ministry’s decree is based on the Presidential decree of February 28, suspending, on the ground of the existing danger of a communist uprising, certain articles (114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 154 [153?]) of the German Constitution relating to personal guarantees. This decree is still in force.
The Departments’s attention is invited to the first sentence in paragraph 3 of the note verbale, wherein allusion is made to the legal remedies alleged to be available to the Society, although in the following sentence the Foreign Office appears to express the belief that the Treaty of 1923 gives the Prussian authorities the right to withdraw their approval of the Society, in accordance with the laws of Prussia and the Reich.
On December 1, however, the Embassy gave a copy of the pertinent excerpt from the note verbale to Mr. Harbeck, the Society’s superintendent for Central Europe, who had just arrived from Switzerland. He expressed grave doubt whether the remedy suggested by the German Government would afford any relief but added that he would consult the Society’s attorney. The Embassy has learned subsequently from the Consul in charge, Mr. Geist, who is thoroughly familiar with this matter, that he had been informed by Mr. Harbeck of the latter’s intention to press the case in the courts.
During the conversation on December 1, Mr. Harbeck stated that the Society’s property in Magdeburg had been restored to it, as set forth in paragraph 4 of the German Government’s note, but that all religious activities are forbidden.