811.4061 Motion Pictures/125

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

The German Ambassador called this morning to renew his discussion over the possibility of suppressing films which were considered [Page 525] insulting to German pride. He said he appreciated our interest and activity in the matter and realized that a good deal had been done to meet his point of view in Chicago, in New York and elsewhere. None the less he asked if we could not find a way to lessen the bad impression all this was causing in Germany. For one thing, he was very much afraid that if this type of film continued to be shown in the United States it would ruin the good relationship existing between German and American film industries. I again went over all the ground pointing out that there were only three ways of handling the situation: (a) by censorship, (b) by the legitimate movie interests, and (c) by local police on the ground of public order, I admitted that our system was clumsy at times but none the less pointed out that we had to work with the tools in our possession and that a system which divided responsibility was distinctly American and could not be changed. He said it was doubly unfortunate as nearly every other country in the world had now invoked some measure to prevent the poisoning of international relations through the movies. He said that he, of course, was familiar with the Federal system which existed in Germany before the war and that as Mayor of Essen he had had many set-tos with the Federal authorities. In matters involving international relations he could not, despite his legal rights, have withstood pressure from the Central Government. He asked if we could not, as a matter of comity, in future cases approach the Governors of the individual States and point out how such and such film would adversely affect America’s international relations. I told him that I saw nothing to do but to take up each individual case as it arose and the more warning we got the easier it might be to prevent its becoming a source of intense embarrassment.

Pierrepont Moffat