Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Moffat)

Participants: Herr Hans Thomsen, German Chargé d’Affaires ad interim
Mr. Pierrepont Moffat, Chief, Division of European Affairs
Mr. Joseph Flack, Division of European Affairs.

Herr Thomsen came in at Mr. Moffatt’s request to discuss the working of the inheritance transfer proposal as made in the aide-mémoire of December 16, 1938.65 Mr. Moffat referred to the wide publicity which had been given to the German aide-mémoire and the hope which had been entertained that it would be helpful in removing a cause of [Page 593] and in arresting a vicious circle whereby transfers from one country to the other threatened to be more and more curtailed. Mr. Moffat went on to say that in view of decisions of the German authorities exceptions were being made to the terms of the aide-mémoire and detailed these exceptions, adding that out of about 100 cases which had passed through the Embassy at Berlin only five had been satisfactorily settled by transfer, and that our representatives in Berlin also encountered considerable delay in endeavoring to obtain explanations from the Devisenstelle at that place. He added that three American citizens had actually made trips to Germany in the hope that their inheritance credits would be transferred, but these trips had been without result. He went on to say that the interpretation being placed on the German offer in the aide-mémoire was causing considerable repercussion in this country, and it was his feeling that unless some corrective action were taken the result would be detrimental rather than beneficial.

Dr. Thomsen took note of the five exceptions to transfer which have been reported as having been made by the Devisenstelle, and said that he would take this matter up with the authorities in Germany with a view to correcting the difficulties mentioned. He intimated that there would be no possibility of obtaining transfer in instances where the inheritance arose prior to American naturalization, or in cases where the inheritance arose prior to the application of German foreign exchange control restrictions in 1931. However, he appeared sympathetic with our point of view that where the inheritance arose prior to 1931 but was not disposable by the beneficiary until after this date transfer should be effected.

In conclusion Mr. Moffat said that general dissatisfaction with the manner in which the terms of the aide-mémoire were being carried out would make it necessary for the Department to make some announcement in the press detailing the various circumstances under which transfer could not be effected, unless some corrective action could be taken within a reasonable time by the appropriate German authorities. Herr Thomsen said that he would take this matter up with the Foreign Office at Berlin.

While refraining from citing any individual cases by name, Mr. Moffat took occasion during the conversation to speak of an instance which had just been brought to the attention of the State Department in which an applicant for transfer who had complied with all of the formalities and who had on two occasions supplied evidence of his citizenship had been furnished with a statement for signature in which, if it were signed, the signatory would accept a preferred blocked account for some 34,000 Reichsmarks.

  1. See memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State, December 20, 1938, ibid., p. 479.