The Chargé in Austria (Wiley) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 30.]
Sir: I have the honor to report that as a result of the incorporation of Austria into National Socialist Germany the offices of this Legation swarm with applicants for assistance of one kind or another. Since Saturday, March 12, until today, March 20, the cases of over 2500 persons have been dealt with. Needless to say, it has been necessary in order to deal with this crowd for every officer of the combined offices to devote himself almost exclusively to protection work and to keep the Legation open until late at night as well as Saturday and Sunday. In this emergency the Commercial Attaché Mr. Richardson has also very generously placed himself and staff at the disposal of the Legation. All the members of the Commercial Attaché’s staff have responded wholeheartedly to the situation and have proved of real value to the Legation. In addition to Commercial Attaché Richardson, Assistant Commercial Attaché Stebbins and Commercial Attaché’s clerk Mr. Boxberg merit special praise for their efficient and untiring labors.
The first rush reaching the Legation Saturday on the heels of the collapse of the Schuschnigg government consisted chiefly of persons without ties in Vienna and with the means to leave on short notice—tourists, temporary residents, etc. By Monday these comparatively [Page 508]simple cases had given way to a flood of permanent residents, American and Austrian, by far the greater percentage of whom were Jews. The corridors and halls soon filled with would-be emigrants and persons who had some claim, often far fetched, to American nationality, or some American affiliation, often very vague. These persons urgently requested visas, passports, (in most cases issuable only under rule g89) registration, certificates of American ownership to paste on the doors of their homes and warehouses, letters to the police to facilitate their obtainment of exit visas, letters to the press and film control authorities, letters to the National Bank for foreign exchange permits, letters identifying them as representatives of American firms, etc., etc.
At the same time, reports began to come in of raids on apartments, seizures of money, jewelry, silver, bank books, securities, clothing, automobiles, the arrest of Austro-Jewish representatives of American press services and American business enterprises as well as the arrest of three American citizens. Since the officers dealing with visa and passport matters were necessarily held to their desks it has fallen to the officers of the Legation section to answer outside alarms. These officers have been present at house searchings, arrests and questionings, have interviewed police, S.S.90 and S.A.91 leaders, uniformed and un-uniformed, Austrian and German, and in an effort to build up informal working contact with the security authorities, have also made personal calls on the higher officials of the municipal police, the State police, and the secret police.
A city more heavily policed than Vienna cannot be imagined. Police of every conceivable kind, Austrian and German, abound. The result, however, has been extraordinary confusion. Officers with whom contacts have been made in the morning, have been relieved of their office in the afternoon, or transferred to some other district or to some totally different work. Persons arrested by one branch of the police have been turned over to another branch and the second branch has professed complete ignorance of the case. One authority would state that So-and-so was not in a particular prison and another would declare that no matter what the first authority said the person was in the particular prison in question while the prison authorities themselves would usually state that information could be given out only by one of the authorities already consulted.
In these circumstances progress in arrest cases has frequently been discouragingly slow but I am glad to be able to report that all Americans [Page 509]arrested have now been released and that the attitude of the authorities is now somewhat more accommodating than at first in those cases where American interests are affected by the arrest of non-Americans. There are now no cases on hand involving American citizens other than one or two cases concerning the return of personal property seized by irresponsible persons in the first days of the overturn. The police are apparently making some progress toward straightening out their organizational difficulties and I expect a corresponding lightening during the coming week in the Legation’s difficulties in connection with arrest cases. There is, in fact, already noticeable some slackening in cases of this type and in applications for passports. Visa applications, however, continue very high. Casual travelers now appear very rarely and we are called on less frequently for assistance by the press. American special writers and photographers left on Friday and Saturday for the most part and the established agencies are already taking steps to move, in most cases to Budapest.
All in all the pressure on the Legation continues heavy but with the expected arrival of Vice Consul Dutko and the return to duty of Vice Consul Flack, I feel that we can continue to meet the situation creditably.
- Rule g reads as follows: “That they have made definite arrangements to return immediately to the United States permanently to reside.” Passport Regulations: Rules Governing the Granting and Issuing of Passports in the United States, revised to March 31, 1938, p. 39.↩