600.0031 World Program/101
Memorandum by the Counselor of Embassy in Belgium (Sussdorff)10
The following information was furnished to me by a member of the German Legation in Brussels:
In addition to his meeting with Mr. Franck, Governor of the Banque Nationale de Belgique, Dr. Schacht11 had an audience with King Leopold,12 long conversations with Mr. van Zeeland, Belgian Prime Minister, and Mr. de Man, Belgian Minister of Finance, and short conversations with a number of Belgian financiers and business-men. Dr. Schacht did not carry on any negotiations with Belgian officials or with Belgian commercial interests during his visit in Belgium. Dr. Schacht’s visit was very important in that it afforded him an opportunity to acquaint Belgian officials with Germany’s point of view on many questions. The fact that Dr. Schacht had seen Hitler just before his departure from Germany made his remarks doubly authoritative. The general atmosphere surrounding all of Dr. Schacht’s conversations with King Leopold, Belgian officials and Belgian business-men was very cordial.
In his conversation with Mr. van Zeeland, Dr. Schacht told the Belgian Prime Minister that he was very glad that he had accepted the invitation of Great Britain and France to undertake an investigation of the possibility of removing trade barriers.13 Dr. Schacht expressed the hope that in his report Mr. van Zeeland will not recommend the calling of another World Economic and Financial Conference as he fears that it might again result in a fiasco—perhaps even greater than that of London in 1933.14 Dr. Schacht said that he believed that on the other hand a smaller meeting of statesmen and/or experts of 5 or 6 leading countries after adequate preparation through a previous exchange of views might be helpful in bringing about a lowering of trade barriers.
Dr. Schacht informed Mr. van Zeeland that Germany will do everything possible to collaborate in the lowering of trade barriers. Dr. [Page 833] Schacht declared that the present German autarchy is not the result of free choice but rather of developments over which Germany had no control and that Germany will return to a policy of economic collaboration if the necessary conditions of security can be established. The principal stumbling blocks to German collaboration are:
- Raw materials and the colonial question. The return of all of Germany’s former colonies is claimed in principle, but the German Government would be quite willing to negotiate on this point. The difficulty of obtaining a return of German East Africa on account of the objections of British farmers and of German South West Africa on account of the objections of the Boers is recognized in Germany, but no reason is perceived in the Reich why some of the former Colonies such as Togoland and the Kamerun could not be restored. If the Colonies were returned to Germany, the latter would insist on conditions of complete sovereignty and the circulation of German money in the restored colonial territory.
- Customs barriers.
- Monetary stabilization.
In both his conversations with the King and Mr. van Zeeland, Dr. Schacht renewed Hitler’s assurances that Germany is prepared to guarantee the independence of Belgium. Dr. Schacht was informed by Belgian officials that the latter are very anxious that the independence of Holland should also be guaranteed by Germany. In this connection, the Netherland Minister for Foreign Affairs has indicated both to the German Government and in a public speech about three weeks ago that the Netherland Government has no objection to unilateral guarantees offered to Holland, provided that the latter is not called upon to undertake any commitments.
In the case of Belgium, the German Government wants to obtain an undertaking from the Belgian Government that Belgium will not permit its territory to be used under any circumstances as a “passage” for foreign troops seeking to invade Germany. In this connection, Belgian officials have informed the German Government that Belgium does not consider itself obligated under Article 16 of the League Covenant15 to allow foreign troops to pass through Belgium to attack any country which is contiguous to Belgium.
Dr. Schacht informed Mr. van Zeeland that the German Government would be prepared to participate again in the work of the League of Nations on two conditions: first, a dissociation of the Covenant of the League from the Treaty of Versailles;16 and, second, an abandonment of the present policy of sanctions which involves the idea of a superstate. (The Embassy’s informant at the German [Page 834] Legation likened the policy of Germany in its attitude toward the League of Nations to the policy of the United States.)
- Copy transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in Belgium in his despatch No. 1227, April 22; received May 1.↩
- Hjalmar Schacht, German Minister of Economic Affairs and President of the Reichsbank.↩
- Leopold III, King of the Belgians.↩
- See pp. 671 ff.↩
- See Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. i, pp. 452 ff.↩
- Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, p. 69.↩
- Signed June 28, 1919, ibid., p. 57.↩