Memorandum by the Assistant Economic Adviser (Livesey)
Dr. Lohmann76 telephoned about 5 p.m. that a telegram had come in from Berlin and brought it in about 5:40 p.m.
He said the Embassy had telegraphed to Berlin a report of our conversation of the evening of March 27, quoting verbatim the phrase I had used, namely, “that we expect to receive at least the interest payments.” The Ambassador, although as former President of the Reichsbank he thought the sum was more than the Reichsbank could afford to transfer, had thought it his duty as Ambassador to urge that the payment be made. Berlin has replied that it will pay the amount we discussed.
I asked what the amount was. Dr. Lohmann said it was 3,177,125 Reichsmarks. I said we had spoken of transfer of the September 30, 1933, interest payments also. Dr. Lohmann said the Berlin telegram definitely said 3,177,125 Reichsmarks would be paid in dollars.
Dr. Lohmann said that his Government hoped that in the circumstances it would not be necessary for the United States to make any statement that Germany is in default. The telegram contained a communiqué which the German Government proposed to issue at Berlin and hoped the United States Government would issue at the same time. Dr. Lohmann translated and I took down this communiqué which reads as follows:
“The German Government will pay to the United States Treasury the equivalent in dollars of 3,177,125 Reichsmarks on account of payments due March 31, 1934, under the German-American Debt Agreement.
“The German Government had endeavored to come to an understanding with the Government of the United States in a friendly spirit [Page 476]concerning the questions appertaining to the carrying out of the Debt Agreement which have arisen as a consequence of the development of the German foreign exchange situation. Under the prevailing circumstances a definite arrangement could not be reached. Consequently the German Government as evidence of its good faith has arranged for the payment in foreign exchange of the above-mentioned amount in the hope that in the very near future a definite arrangement of these difficult problems satisfactory to both Governments will be reached.”
I told Dr. Lohmann there would naturally have to be consultation of several minds and decision by an appropriate authority before anything could be said about the communiqué. Dr. Lohmann said the Embassy would close at 1 p.m. March 30, Good Friday, but he can be reached at any time at Wisconsin 2227.
Later I telephoned Dr. Lohmann and asked him to read me in German the last sentence of the communiqué. He had translated a phrase “as evidence of its good will.” After considering the German text we decided that “as evidence of its good faith” is a better translation, “Will” being a strong word in German and “as an evidence of good will” a weak phrase in English.
I suggested that in a similar place in other debt letters debtors had used the phrase “as an acknowledgment of the debt.” Dr. Lohmann said the debt is in fact acknowledged in the first sentence of the communiqué, and added as a purely personal expression that he thought it would be very hard, in view of various circumstances, to get Berlin to use the phrase “as an acknowledgment of the debt”, not that Germany doesn’t acknowledge it but it would not want to be made to say in so many words that it does acknowledge it. I said there seemed to be considerable hypersensitiveness in these debt matters and I did not know how this would affect the suggestion of issuing an identic communiqué.
- Johann G. Lohmann, Second Secretary of the German Embassy.↩