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

No. 377

Sir: Mr. Geist’s67 despatch no. 1129 of July 10, 193968 with reference to the disappointing results of the operation of the procedure envisaged in the German aide-mémoire of December 16, 1938 concerning the transfer of inheritance credits has been received and studied along with previous despatches from Mr. Geist on the same subject.

The questions raised in the despatch under reference have received careful consideration, and following an informal and unofficial discussion at the State Department on June 29, 1939 with a member of the German Embassy the German Chargé d’Affaires ad interim was asked to call at the State Department for a formal discussion of the situation. At that time consideration was given to the question of issuing a statement to the press with regard to the unsatisfactory treatment of such transfers. However, this step has been held in abeyance pending further developments and further reports from you concerning the attitude of the German authorities and their future [Page 598] treatment of transfer applications. A copy of a memorandum of the resulting conversation on August 12, 1939 is enclosed,69 as well as a copy of a letter from Dr. Thomsen to the Chief of the Division of European Affairs dated August 17, 193970 and a copy of a memorandum of conversation71 at the Department of State on October 3, 1939 between Dr. Resenberg, First Secretary of the German Embassy, and an officer of the European Division.

It will be noted from the enclosed material that, while the German Embassy has promised a helpful attitude on the part of the Devisenstelle and the German Foreign Office, the German authorities are not disposed to admit within the purview of the aide-mémoire cases in the following categories:

Where the inheritance arose prior to the acquisition of American citizenship by naturalization.
Where the inheritance arose prior to August 4, 1931, unless legal or testamentary obstacles stood in the way of its distribution prior to that date.
Where the beneficiary is not a resident of the United States.
Where the beneficiary was a resident of Germany at the time of the inheritance, thus classifying him as a Devisen Inlander according to the German interpretation.

It will be noted from the memorandum of October 3, 1939 that an invitation has been extended to the Embassy to discuss transfer matters under the aide-mémoire with Dr. Albrecht, the competent official for such matters in the German Foreign Office, and it is accordingly suggested that an early opportunity be arranged to discuss with Dr. Albrecht the general question of transfers under the aide-mémoire from the standpoint of the rejected cases mentioned in the despatch under reference which have not already been favorably reconsidered, as was the case of Mrs. Diamant, reported in Mr. Geist’s despatch no. 1175 of July 19, 1939,72 and such other rejected cases as may be of record in your own office or in consular offices in Germany outside of Berlin. This Department has from time to time in the past transmitted to the Embassy for resubmission to the Devisenstelle certain cases which had been rejected but which appeared to fall within the purview of the aide-mémoire, and it will continue this practice when such cases are brought to its attention in the future.

In your discussion with Dr. Albrecht you are requested to inquire whether the apparently rare cases in which the beneficiary is not a resident of the United States may be disposed of within the purview of the aide-mémoire. The case of Mrs. Eugenia Pauline Maas, a resident of France, is an illustration of the foregoing.

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Dr. Albrecht’s attention should also be invited to the practice noted in some instances of suggesting to applicants for transfer that they accept the amount due for transfer in a blocked Reichsmark account in Germany instead of receiving full transfer as provided for in the aide-mémoire of December 16, 1938.

It is thought that you will find it helpful to submit periodically, perhaps every quarter year, a list of all rejected cases for Dr. Albrecht’s consideration and to discuss with him, when necessary, questions relative to the general functioning of the transfer arrangements within the purview of aide-mémoire, keeping the State Department currently informed by despatch as heretofore of developments and tendencies revealed by the attitude of the German authorities as well as by the actual treatment of transfer applications so far as this information may be available to you.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
G. S. Messersmith

[Further discussions with the German Government on this subject concerned the application of the German aide-mémoire of December 16, 1938, to individual cases. After the outbreak of war between the United States and Germany, the American Government through the Swiss Government requested information of the German Government as to whether the rights of American citizens to inherit estates in Germany had been abrogated or modified. The German Foreign Office stated in note of June 13, 1942, to the Swiss Legation in Germany that (translation):

“The right of American citizens to inherit property in Germany, including bequests in wills, is neither abrogated nor limited. Limitations in the disposition of property, which is inherited, are made in the decree of January 15, 1940, regarding the treatment of enemy property (German Official Gazette I. S. 191) in connection with the decree of April 9, 1941 (German Official Gazette I. S. 171).”]

  1. Raymond Geist, Consul and First Secretary of Embassy in Germany.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Ante, p. 592.
  4. Ante, p. 594.
  5. Supra.
  6. Not printed.