740.00112 European War 1939/237: Telegram

The Consul General at Hamburg ( Keblinger ) to the Secretary of State

134. The following information obtained today in interview with Reichs Commissioner for the German Prize Court.

Although unable to state the exact number of ships and cargoes the belligerent governments held pending possible Prize Court proceedings, he stated that to date out of approximately 72 vessels officially reported to have been visited and searched since September 30, 25 have been brought to German ports. A number of these have been released by order of the Reichs Commissioner after investigation and discharge of contraband cargo. (From another source it is learned that at least two vessels were released only after masters certified ships would not again be used in trade with enemy.) The Reichs Commissioner indicated that commanders of German war vessels have been instructed to seize all vessels carrying absolute contraband suspected of intending to touch enemy territory before reaching destination.

Article 23 of prize law of September 9, 1939, reads in part “Enemy destination of absolute contraband is considered proved if the vessel is to touch at an enemy port or make contact with the enemy forces [Page 822] before it reaches the neutral harbor to which the cargo according to the papers are consigned.”

A plan is to be communicated to neutral governments within next 48 hours to institute system of consular certificates issued jointly by German and appropriate neutral consuls for presentation to German searching parties certifying non-enemy destination of any contraband onboard.

To date the Reichs Commissioner has completed his investigation of only two cases involving the seized cargoes of a Danish vessel and the Panamanian ship Evelyn Marion: he has turned them over today to the Prize Court. Hearings can begin only after a 4 weeks’ period for filing of claims has elapsed. The Reichs Commissioner stated that no case[s] of neutral vessels sunk by German warships have been turned over to his jurisdiction. He indicated that such cases would reach him only after current diplomatic negotiations concerning them had been concluded.

To his knowledge only three vessels bound for the United States have thus far been seized. Two of them, the Finnish ship Wilja and the Swedish ship Korsholm, bound respectively for Portland and Wilmington carrying cellulose, are being released with cargoes. The Estonian-seized Minna also carrying cellulose from Kotka to South-haven is still being held and may be turned over for Prize Court proceedings on the ground that it intended to call at a Scottish port.