811.4061 Hitler’s Reign of Terror/3

Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs (Moffat)

Mr. Schüller, Secretary of the German Embassy, called this morning, under instructions from his Ambassador, to renew their protest against the showing of the film “Hitler’s Reign of Terror”. He said [Page 524] that the German Consul General had approached the Mayor of Chicago, who was indignant at the film but felt that the matter could not be brought into court, because it had previously been passed by the Chicago Board of Censors. He finally reached a compromise with the producers whereby some of the more objectionable scenes were deleted and some of the titles changed. Nevertheless, from the German point of view, a lot remained that was distinctly unpalatable, namely, a faked interview between Chancellor Adolph Hitler and Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr.,50 in which Hitler appears in a decidedly offensive light.

The Chicago press is now beginning to play up in greater detail the action of the German Consul General in Chicago in dealing with the Mayor. Some comment has been to the effect that both the Consul General and the Mayor exceeded their authority and that such a matter should be handled between the German Embassy and the State Department. I told him that undoubtedly there would be a certain amount of this batting of the ball back and forth, but that there was nothing that the Federal Government could do. He asked how the Embassy could possibly explain the situation to the German Government. I replied by telling them the exact facts, namely, that there were only two bases on which a film could be stopped: censorship and public order (Police), both of which were functions constitutionally belonging to local jurisdictions.

Dr. Schüller then asked whether I should advise the Consul General to go back and protest again to the Mayor. I told him that I did not advise anything of the sort, but that if they were going to carry the matter further, I saw no other way in which it could be done. He then asked whether the Hays organization could not interest itself. I told him that the film had not been made by any local company affiliated with the Hays organization nor was it being shown in a theatre with which they had anything to do. I talked a little about the advertising that had been given the film but he said this was inevitable.

Dr. Schüller was obviously extremely disappointed and felt that the State Department was not helping in smoothing out the relations between the two countries.

Pierrepont Moffat
  1. An American journalist, founder and president of Vanderbilt newspapers.