121.840 Welles, Sumner/61: Telegram

The Ambassador in Turkey (MacMurray) to the Secretary of State

20. 1. The German Ambassador16 called on me yesterday to ask for such information as I could give him about Welles’ mission and about our Government’s discussions with neutrals.

2. As to the former, he expressed the hope that soundings at belligerent capitals might disclose possibilities of American action to bring about reconciliation before the war develops its full intensity and bitterness (see my despatch No. 1344, January 3017). He said that he found reason for hope in Chamberlain’s “moderate” speech of the 24th, which seemed to him to contemplate something not very different from what Hitler had offered in October18 and to constitute perhaps a first step toward peace; and that possibly means might be found to have Germany take a corresponding step. In that connection he remarked that an adjustment of differences did not seem impossible; that the Reich had never contemplated the actual incorporation of Czechoslovakia (except the Sudetenland) but its autonomy under conditions similar to those of Luxemburg before 1914 or of Egypt now; and that although there may be “a little difference” between that intended status and the conditions at present necessitated by the war he looked forward to an arrangement giving Bohemia and Moravia complete independence, except for the establishment of a customs and fiscal union with Germany and a prohibition upon their [Page 12] maintenance of armed forces. That he concluded would leave outstanding no questions except—(at this point he shrugged his shoulders and broke off the sentence without specifying what other questions he had in mind).

3. As to the discussions with the neutrals he remarked that he particularly welcomed this leadership on the part of the United States as he had himself been endeavoring to persuade the Turks that they should not passively await their fate but be active in arousing other neutrals to join in a movement to stop the war before it spreads. I pointed out that these discussions (which thus far were in the stage of consideration of procedure) were not concerned with peace in the sense of bringing hostilities to an end but with the world order to be established thereafter. He asked what proposals our Government had in mind and I answered that I had no information as to concrete plans but that in my own mind I assumed the point of departure would be the liberalization of international trade. He assured me that his Government was thoroughly sympathetic with that principle although it had been compelled to resort to a system of autarchy to meet the emergency created by its loss of colonies and its lack of means of payment. In conclusion he expressed the hope that if anything “of common interest” were to develop along this line of economic readjustment I would give him the opportunity to be of what help he could as he believed he still had sufficient influence with his Government to assure its consideration of his views.

4. I am uncertain whether his visit was merely exploratory or whether it was intended to implant certain impressions as to its attitude which the German Government wishes to have conveyed to Welles or to you.

Repeated to Berlin.

  1. Franz von Papen.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See bracketed note, Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. i, p. 503.