740.00112 European War 1939/1497: Telegram

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

1658. Department’s 1446, May 31, 4 p.m., and my 1601, May 31, 4 p.m.68 In accordance with the Department’s instruction under reference I spoke yesterday afternoon with Ambassador Ritter who represents the Foreign Office in German naval blockade measures affecting Cairo [sic] and shipping of the Scandinavian and Baltic countries. He [Page 66]said that he could not give me a definite answer in the matter until he had consulted the German naval authorities, which he would do promptly. He added that it was in the interest of both Germany and the Scandinavian and Baltic countries that the latter renew on the one hand their characteristic exports such as wood pulp to transatlantic countries and that they be able on the other hand to import overseas foodstuffs and raw materials. Soviet [German?] Ambassador noted that the difficulty from the German point of view was that there were only two outlets for such trade, one through the Kattegat, which had been mined both by the Germans and the British, and the other through the Kiel Canal, and that the merchant vessels would not have one chance in a hundred of safely traversing a German mine field. “From another source I hear that German naval authorities are resolute in refusing to disclose to neutral vessels of any country the safety lanes through the mine fields.” He added that Germany could not grant general permission for any considerable volume of merchant ships to utilize the Kiel Canal which is fully occupied by German naval units, but that it might be possible that some shipments would be permitted as an exception to traverse the canal. He remarked that there was, however, the danger that the canal had been the object of Allied bombing attacks which so far had been without result, but conceivably might be successful in strict neutrality and that the German naval authorities could only allow neutral ships to use the canal after they were thoroughly satisfied that such ships did not contain explosives which could be used to block the canal.

He concluded by stating that consideration would be given to the Embassy’s observations, but that a sine qua non of acceptance would be not only creditable assurances from the British Government that its ships would not be molested on the outward or return voyage, but also that they would not be taken to any Allied port by Allied naval units for examination.

  1. Latter not printed.