362.115/387: Telegram

The Chargé in Germany (Gilbert) to the Secretary of State

30. Embassy’s No. 19, January 7, 2 p.m.42

1. I handed to Woermann43 last evening (in the absence of Weizsacker) a first-person note dated January 11 addressed to the Foreign Minister employing the precise text transmitted in Department’s 2, January 6, noon, together with a group of annexes covering specific cases.

I told Woermann that I would look for prompt and favorable action.

2. I then went on to say that the position taken in our note was merely illustrative of a fundamental issue between his country and mine which had arisen due to the attitude and action of the German Government in respect of certain matters. I had noted his statement that he desired that the relations between the two countries be bettered. I said that in what I intended to say I was in no way acting under specific instructions. Nevertheless although I was using my own words I felt confident that I was voicing the views held by the majority of Americans and by my Government and that what I would state orally could be considered as fully associated with the contentions set forth in our note which I had just given him.

I said that I personally felt that the chief difficulties might be grouped under three counts.

First, our country was made up of individuals whose origins lay in a large number of different nationalities. They had come to America for the purpose of making our country their home. That was the kind of people we wanted in our country. We did not want any other kinds of peoples. The National Socialist regime in Germany had, however, voiced a new concept. We did not object to Germans in Germany being as German as they might wish. This new concept had nevertheless introduced something new into the international field. The idea had been put forward that in some manner German sovereignty crossed frontiers. I would not go into just what the German Government had in mind in this. However, I felt that I could say that at least by its direct and traceable results it had given every evidence of being for the purpose of creating a form of separatism whereby those of German origin were to occupy a special position in other countries. Our principles from the beginning of our country [Page 579] were to accomplish the precise opposite. Our principles were to coalesce into one country people of various origins. We would have equal objection to Poles, Irish, or peoples of any other nationalities endeavoring to occupy a special position. We would not tolerate it in any other folk and would not tolerate it in Germans. Where the German Government came in was that statement by responsible German officials voiced the concept which I had mentioned. It was something which as applied to a difference of opinion we could not countenance nor tolerate and no one need expect us to tolerate it.

Second, just as within our country individuals of all origins having acquired citizenship were equally American citizens they must all equally be regarded as American citizens abroad. Our passports were all worded in precisely the same manner and all carried the same weight. The German Government had endeavored to create discrimination between groups of American citizens in the promulgation and in the application of a number of official decrees. What I had to say on this score was merely a corollary of what I had stated under my first point. This action by the German Government also struck at the very roots of the principles of our commonwealth. Such action was likewise intolerable to us and we would resist it and would continue to resist it.

I then said that he could plainly see that the specific points raised in our note which I had handed him and the cases enumerated in the annexes were not merely isolated instances but were of cardinal importance in that they were related to principles which we felt to be fundamental and which we would defend at all costs.

Third. The third difficulty of which I would speak was, I said, of a different but not unrelated order. The American people were aroused by the treatment which the German Government had thought fit to accord to a section of the German population. In this respect the American people were stirred on two counts; by the nature of the acts themselves, and because these acts, as discussed above, are alien to our principles of life and conduct. Our Government did not inspire our people to adopt these feelings nor did it inspire them to express them. They were entirely natural and spontaneous. The circumstance that Government officials being Americans should have shared these feelings and views was no cause for astonishment nor as far as I could see for complaint.

3. I then took up the question of our publication of the German note of December 30. Woermann stated that he would have to consult the Foreign Minister and would let me know as soon as possible. He has just telephoned me that the German Government gives permission for publication. In this connection I beg to refer to the [Page 580] considerations associated with publication discussed in my 19, January 7, 2 p.m.44

4. The annexes to the note prepared by the Consulate General covered 15 cases falling into the following categories:

One case involving the denial of a reduction in income tax (paragraph 1, Embassy’s telegram No. 1, January 2 [1], 2 p.m.).44
Twelve cases involving the exclusion of Jews from a remission of house rent tax (paragraph 2, same telegram).
Two cases involving the cancellation of commercial identity cards of American citizens (paragraph 5, same telegram).

5. With reference to the number of cases presented at this time I feel it well to explain that in the procedure which I discussed in my 1, January 2 [1], 2 p.m., I listed the total number of cases thus far “reported” to our consular offices in Germany in order that the Department might be apprised of their general character and scope and I stated that as rapidly as further verification should be made of this material I contemplated taking formal action in the manner indicated. While carrying out the entire plan under a formula for which I sought the Department’s approval I nevertheless envisaged taking specific action only as cases could be made ready. I believe that it is scarcely necessary to say that for reasons related to the claimants as well as to our Government it is essential that cases not only be presented in detail sufficient to constitute elements of a legal proof but also that particular care be exercised that they do not embody possible misrepresentations. I have gone into the matter of these annexes very thoroughly with the Consulate General. It is felt that all of the cases now included satisfactorily meet the requirements just described. Other cases must, however, await further preparation to be included in the formal action.

Six copies of note and annexes transmitted by mail.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Ernst Woermann, Under State Secretary in the German Foreign Office.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.