862.002 Hitler, Adolf/122

Memorandum by the Secretary of State

The German Ambassador called upon his own request at 3:00 o’clock this afternoon. He proceeded to detail and to emphasize the deepseated feeling aroused among German officials and the German people at the utterance of Mayor La Guardia at a mass meeting in New York on the night of March 15th. He said that the particular word used by Mayor La Guardia and applied to Chancellor Hitler was unimaginably offensive in Germany and that he could not begin to describe the full significance, in its odious aspects, of this term. It is comprised of about 23 letters, mainly consonants. The Ambassador concluded with an earnest request that this Government make a strong and definite apology and offer new and special regrets, etc., etc.

I first suggested that we talk a little about the background, in a wholly individual and unofficial way, to which the Ambassador readily agreed. I then reminded him that during the last campaign President Roosevelt even was duly subjected to epithets and denunciations by numerous critics as bad or worse than any that had been expressed or uttered in this case; that the real difficulty in this instance arose [Page 374] from the fact that this country had freedom of speech and of the press, while Germany had neither; that recent events had demonstrated one thing for certain, and that was, that nothing could be more unwise than for our two Governments to allow themselves to be drawn into this sort of a controversy; that my Government had defined its attitude on March 5th, in response to a similar German complaint; that that attitude was applicable now, as it would be until the mayorality election in New York was over, provided the German Government continued to make daily or periodical complaints, and that in such event it was reasonably certain that politicians and others in New York would find sufficient epithets of increasing strength and offensiveness to continue over a period of months. I said that if the German Government desired to make itself a tremendous factor in electing high officials in the United States, it could easily do so by cooperating with politicians who were candidates for office in the manner that his Government was now proposing to cooperate—by taking serious notice of what individuals or candidates should say of an objectionable nature and coming to the United States Government with complaints; that I earnestly hoped the Ambassador could make his Government see and clearly understand this situation and the serious mistake it was making. I elaborated somewhat along these lines and indicated to the Ambassador what the President had in mind in connection with this present stage of the situation; also that the President had been directing each of these utterances and actions by the United States Government, beginning with the first German complaint on March 4th; and I added that the President, as well as myself, was deeply anxious to preserve suitable relations between our countries and our governments, but that it presented an impossible situation when the German Government took seriously every objectionable utterance of politicians and others of this country who were not under the control of the Federal Government, and then added to the repetition of such utterances by making complaints to this Government.

The statement, the substance of which I made known to the Ambassador, was virtually what I am giving out today and of which a copy is attached hereto.73 The Ambassador seemed pleased with this statement and expressed himself as in accord with my ideas as to how the whole matter should be dealt with. He repeatedly said that he would do his very best to induce his Government to understand the conditions and the viewpoint which I had expressed and hence to refrain from injecting the Government into such affairs as the La Guardia affair.

C[ordell] H[ull]
  1. For statement, see Department of State, Press Releases, March 20, 1937, p. 157.