The Assistant Secretary of State (Berle) to the Director of Censorship (Price)

My Dear Mr. Price: I have your letter of July 4 with attached memorandum outlining future phases of censorship after the cessation of hostilities with Germany and Japan respectively.

The Department fully understands the reasons set forth by you for as rapid a curtailment as possible of censorship activities after the two contingencies above-mentioned have materialized. However, pursuant to your request for comment and suggestions, the following points may be noted:

With respect to subparagraphs (f), (g) and (j) of paragraph 7 of your memorandum, this Department feels that if your facilities will possibly permit thereof it would be desirable to continue full censorship of German prisoner-of-war mail, and of mail destined for certain regions of Latin America, as well as censorship within the Caribbean, for a longer period after the surrender of Germany than is contemplated by your memorandum.

If, following upon German surrender, there should be a recurrence of events such as the Spartacist uprisings,35 the operations of German irregular military forces in the Baltic States,36 the Kapp Putsch37 [Page 1519] the assassinations of Erzberger38 and Rathenau,39 and other similar incidents calculated to disturb public order, it would seem that mail to and from German prisoners-of-war, a large number of whom are still far from a cowed or resigned frame of mind, might well prove a fruitful source of information which would be of value from a security angle. Likewise, in Argentina and in certain regions of the Pacific coast of South America, Axis espionage is so well and solidly organized that upon the surrender of Germany these organizations may be expected to continue their activities, whether or not through the medium of the individuals now operating, for a substantial length of time, and censorship reduced practically to a watch-list basis would not be as of much help as could be desired in curbing their activities. The same considerations would apply, though perhaps in lesser degree, to censorship within the Caribbean area.

As regards subparagraph (g) of paragraph 7, the thought covered by the words “Japanese territory”, at the end thereof, might be more clearly defined by substituting the words “Japan or from countries occupied by or aligned with Japan”.

Finally, with respect to paragraph 7 [8?], subparagraph (b), of the attached British memorandum,40 this Department would prefer to have it explicitly stated that information of the kind there mentioned should be supplied to the State Department, rather than, as it now stands, having the Department impliedly excluded from the receipt of such information.

Sincerely yours,

Adolf A. Berle, Jr.
  1. January 5–15, 1919.
  2. For reports of German operations in the Baltic States following World War I. see section entitled “The Greene Mission to the Baltic Provinces”, Foreign Relations, 1919, The Paris Peace Conference, vol. xii, pp. 136 ff., passim.
  3. March 13–17, 1920. General Baron von Luttwitz, Commander in Chief of Berlin, obtained control of several brigades of the German Army of the Baltic and occupied the German capital on the night of March 12. Dr. Wolfgang von Kapp of Berlin was proclaimed chancellor and Luttwitz was appointed head of the national defense. The movement failed to gain popular support. President Ebert issued an appeal to the workers and a resulting general strike paralyzed the revolutionary government and brought about its collapse.
  4. In 1921, a campaign of agitation, centered in Bavaria, was directed against those who had played a part in the formation and signing of the Versailles Treaty. On August 26, 1921, the movement claimed the life of Matthias Erzberger, Centrist leader and former Finance Minister, who had led the commission which arranged the armistice and who also was instrumental in setting up the government which accepted the treaty.
  5. On June 24, 1922, Walter Rathenau, a Democrat and Minister for Foreign Affairs in the existing government, was assassinated by extreme Nationalists.
  6. Memorandum not printed. Paragraph 8, subparagraph (b) read as follows: “Where any communications remain under Censorship for security reasons no information of any kind should be reported to any Government Department except Naval. Military, Air or Economic Intelligence as to Japan.”