862.1154 Spiegelberg, Betty G./10

The Ambassador in Germany (Dodd) to the Secretary of State

No. 3017

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction No. 581 of April 13, 1936 (file No. 362.1154 Spiegelberg, Betty G./3), with which was transmitted a copy of despatch No. 773, of February 13, 1936, from the American Consul General at Munich, regarding the case of Mrs. Betty G. Spiegelberg, an American citizen who has been deprived of the right to continue to act as a literary agent in Germany because of her Jewish descent.

After carefully studying the facts and details in this case, which had previously been considered in connection with the Embassy’s report No. 2626, of January 27, 1936,1 entitled “American Jews in Germany Deprived of Their Livelihood as a result of the Nuremberg Legislation,” the Embassy approached the Foreign Office in a personal and lengthy interview on May 6, at which time the matter was thoroughly discussed, as was also the general situation in this regard.

A memorandum of the Spiegelberg case was left at the Foreign Office at the end of the interview, and for the Department’s information a copy thereof is transmitted herewith.1

An endeavor was made to impress the official interviewed with the importance which the United States Government attaches to such matters and, as directed, the concern which our Government would feel at any attempt to differentiate between American citizens in applying the terms of Article I, paragraph 1, of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Consular Rights of December 8, 1923, was clearly expressed.

Almost immediately two points were brought out by the official interviewed, (1) that there had been very few, if any, cases of this nature involving American citizens, and (2) that under no circumstances could such cases, especially those arising since the implementation [Page 288]of the so-called Nuremberg laws in November 1935,2 be considered as violating the provisions of the Treaty paragraph referred to above.

The basis for the latter point seems to be as follows:

Mrs. Spiegelberg was engaged in an occupation the pursuit of which, in accordance with the present laws, necessitated membership in the Fachverband der Reichspressekammer in der Reichskulturkammer (Professional Press Association of the Reich’s Chamber of Culture), an association operating under the direction of the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. One of the requirements or qualifications for membership in the association apparently is Aryan blood, or, to state it otherwise, persons of non-Aryan races are not qualified to become members. This law has no reference to nationality, and it is applicable alike to Germans and foreigners. It has to do with personal qualifications rather than those pertaining to citizenship in much the same manner as, for example, a polygamist is not qualified to receive a visa to enter the United States regardless of race, citizenship, or other qualifications.

Differentiation between citizens of a foreign country because of race or religion is likewise applicable to German citizens, and for this reason, from the German viewpoint, there is no violation or contravention of the treaty stipulations based on the treaty principle of “privileges upon the same terms as nationals of the state of residence.” In this case, it is the Jew who is disqualified, and not the American citizen, in German thought; to endeavor to invoke treaty provisions, therefore, not only gives the Germans definite grounds for refusal, but places us in a position of requesting privileges beyond those granted their own citizens.

While the reaction to this case was definitely negative and unfavorable when considered on a basis of actual right, the Foreign Office stated that it would be very glad to give full consideration to a favorable settlement as evidence of good-will, but that such action was not to be taken as creating a precedent. In fact, it was intimated that there might be but little difficulty in the way of settlement on that basis, but that the case should not be pressed.

No comment was made to the above, except to express the hope that careful consideration be given the whole question in reaching a decision in this instance.

Several informal inquiries as to the status of the matter were subsequently made, and the Embassy has just received a note from the Foreign Office dated August 31, which bluntly informs it that the case has been reviewed by the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda but that “it is not in a position” to rescind the decision [Page 289]arrived at previously. The usual regrets at not being able to comply with a request were not even expressed.

A copy of the note, with a translation, is here-transmitted.3 In considering this reply, and particularly its tone and time of arrival, the thought has occurred to the Embassy that while the Foreign Office might have been disposed to give certain satisfaction, the Propaganda Ministry had no such intention. Furthermore, the delay in replying might have been caused by a desire not to increase racial ill-will at least until the Olympic Games were disposed of. It is also possible that the general commercial situation existing between the two countries has had something to do with the case.

In the pursuit of this case, the Embassy has had occasion to inquire of other missions in Berlin as to the outcome in similar cases with their nations, and it was ascertained that no success had been achieved except in one or two minor instances presenting important differences in which British citizens had been granted temporary mitigation on a no-precedent basis.

The Embassy frankly feels that no useful purpose would be served in pursuing this case on a basis of treaty rights, but it would be most pleased to receive any instructions in regard to the attitude it should adopt as a result of the German Government’s decision.

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. For texts of these laws, dated September 15, 1935, see Foreign Relations, 1935, vol. ii, pp. 406 408.
  4. Not printed.