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

No. 1301

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my strictly confidential despatches No. 1233 of April 11, 1933, No. 1243 of April 18, No. 1273 of May 2 and No. 1296 of May 971 with reference to the interference with the treaty rights of American firms in Germany. In this latter despatch I indicated to the Department that although we had received the official assurance of the German Government that this interference with the rights of American-owned German firms in Germany would cease, and also had the assurance of leaders of the National-Socialist party that they were interested [Page 429] in every way in the maintenance of the treaty rights of foreign firms and capital and would see that they were respected, the interference with American firms was continuing in spite of these assurances and that it might be necessary for the Department to intervene.

I now have to inform the Department that I believe that this matter is in a fair way towards settlement and that direct intervention by the Department may not be necessary. As a result of my last visit to the Ministry of Commerce outlined in my despatch No. 1296 I am now in receipt of a letter from Staatssekretaer Dr. Bang, dated May 10, 1933, who is the active head of the Ministry of Commerce, in which he informs me that his Ministry has been in touch with the “Kampfbund des gewerblichen Mittelstandes” which has assured the Ministry that the book listing so-called pure German firms which the Kampfbund intended to get out, will not be published until the Ministry of Commerce has been able to control the list of firms contained therein so that the rights of American firms guaranteed by the treaty will in no sense be infringed. There is transmitted herewith a copy of the letter of the Ministry of Commerce, together with a translation.72

As the publication of this list of so-called approved firms by the Kampfbund des gewerblichen Mittelstandes would have been a most dangerous precedent and if published in the form intended would have worked infinite harm of a most serious nature to American interests in Germany, I thought it advisable to do everything in our power to have the publication of this list which was imminent, postponed, and at the same time endeavored by lodging the proper information to secure abandonment of the project. I therefore called upon Staatssekretaer Dr. Milch in the Ministry of Aviation who is the most trusted adviser of Minister Goering in matters of this kind, on May 10 and had a long conversation on this subject with him. He gave me the distinct assurances that Minister Goering was definitely against any violation of the rights of foreign firms and capital, and he informed me that the arguments which I had advanced and the comments which I had made during a conversation which I had had with Minister Goering had made a very definite impression on him in this respect and that he realized very definitely that there must be no interference with American firms and American capital. He said that all these activities against foreign firms and capital came from so-called “Kampfbuende” which are fighting organizations of various groups in German industry and other forms of German life. He said that the Minister understood that in many instances these organizations were interested merely in advancing selfish aims of individuals and of particular firms, and in the majority of cases merely wished to rid themselves of annoying competition in a particular field. He said that the [Page 430] Minister understood that the objects of these organizations were for the most part selfish and not dictated by really patriotic or national motives and that it was appreciated that they were trying to carry out their selfish aims under the cover of the party. I at some length indicated to Dr. Milch what the unfortunate effects of some of these Kampfbuende were, not only so far as foreign interests are concerned, but also how dangerous they were to the internal economy of Germany itself. Dr. Milch stated that this was appreciated and that the activities of these organizations had become so annoying to the chiefs of the party that it was quite likely that a good many of them would be compelled to dissolve.

I also called on May 10 on Dr. Hanke in the Ministry of Propaganda, who is one of the most trusted collaborators of Dr. Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, and we discussed at length the letter which I had written to the Minister,73 a copy of which was transmitted with my despatch No. 1296 of May 9. As Dr. Hanke was obviously anxious to discuss this question at length we went into it in considerable detail and he repeated practically the same statements as those which had been made by Dr. Milch as above reported. I discussed with him particularly again the difficulties placed in the way of the Associated Press G.m.b.H. and of the New York Times G.m.b.H., and stated that the disloyal competition of the German firms and the defamatory remarks made by them were reaching such a point that the Ministry could hardly refrain longer from taking action. I pointed out in this connection particularly the activities of the “Verein Deutscher Presseillustrationsfirmen e.V.” which on purely competitive grounds was making most of the trouble for these American firms. Dr. Hanke stated that he appreciated this and that it had to stop; that if the American firms could furnish a picture in two hours of a public ceremony which the German firms could only furnish in four or five hours, then the German firms would have to abide the consequences. He indicated that he would take up with the Minister, Dr. Goebbels, the advisability of dissolving this Verband as a purely trouble making organization and interested only in selfish ends.

I also brought to his attention a small newspaper published in Berlin which constantly printed defamatory articles with regard to American firms and which is carrying on this program under the cloak of the National-Socialist party and as a National-Socialist organ. Dr. Hanke at my request carefully examined this paper and he said that he would consider recommending to the Minister to-day the suppression of this newspaper.

I gathered from the conversation which I had recently in the Ministry of Commerce, in the Air Ministry and in the Propaganda Ministry that [Page 431] the activities of these so-called Kampfbuende or fighting organizations are causing the leaders of the party considerable concern. They are almost invariably acting on the basis of selfish interests or in favor of parts of an industry rather than of an industry as a whole. At a recent meeting in the Kaiserhof Hotel, Minister Goering announced that he was dissolving a recently formed Kampfbund which was active in theatrical circles, and he served a warning to others not to carry on their selfish activities under the cloak of party or patriotic action. The energetic action in the case of the newly formed Kampfbund in the theatre leads me to believe that the indications which I have received with regard to action against other fighting organizations may not be mere words.

It will interest the Department to know that in my conversations with both Dr. Milch and Dr. Hanke they indicated that the party now felt itself strong enough to take certain action against its adherents which before they had to be somewhat careful of. This action against foreign firms and the promise to relieve German manufacturers of all foreign competition in Germany was of course preached by the National-Socialist party to its adherents for years during the struggle for power. Now that the party is in power these various Kampfbuende have been organized to carry out the party promises, but the party leaders, as has been indicated in my previous despatch, realize that the contemplated action is not possible under the treaties in many instances, and in others would be directly contrary to the best interests of Germany and of the party. They are therefore now in the position of having to repress the very activities which they have started. They have had to be careful in repressing these activities which they themselves had started, in order not to too greatly disappoint their followers, and there has obviously been a great hesitation on the part of the leaders to carry through determined effort into effect, indicating their changed attitudes. In my conversations with them, however, I have not failed to bring out the fact that when these activities amount to treaty violation and hit definitely important foreign interests, action cannot be too long delayed. I have particularly called to their attention the fact that the longer these Kampfbuende are allowed to act undisturbed, the stronger they will become and the more difficult it will be for the Government and the party to repress them and to bring about their dissolution.

In view of the letter which is transmitted herewith from the Ministry of Commerce and in view of the further assurances which I got from Dr. Milch and from Dr. Hanke that the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Propaganda are both considering the dissolution of some of these Kampfbuende, I feel that action by the Department may not be necessary at all, and is not for the present. The most urgent thing was to stop the publication by the Kampfbund des gewerblichen Mittelstandes [Page 432] of its proposed White List, and I believe that this is definitely stopped through our efforts. I believe further that we have gone a long way towards bringing about the dissolution of a number of the most dangerous of these Kampfbuende, and with their going out of existence the discrimination against American firms should cease. The Consulate General, however, will not fail to continue to keep in close touch with this situation, and together with the Embassy will continue its efforts to protect in every way the interests of American firms in Germany.…

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Respectfully yours,

George S. Messersmith
  1. Despatch No. 1296, May 9, not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.