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File No. 763.72114/3165d
The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Sharp)


WASHINGTON, January 8, 1918. 3043. As soon as general licenses shall have been issued by the War Trade Board under the provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act, this Government proposes to put into operation the regular transmission, postage free, of letters, money orders, and valuables, as well as parcels by post, intended for or dispatched by prisoners of war, including interned civilians, held in whatever country.

Please inquire of the Government to which you are accredited whether, according to international usage, it will pass such mail matter in transit exempt from all postal duties, with the understanding that all such mail matter as originates in or is destined for the United States will be officially censored in this country before expedition or delivery.


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File No. 763.72114/3174
The Ambassador in France (Sharp) to the Secretary of State

PARIS, January 11, 1918, 3 p. m.

[Received January 12, 2.15 a. m.] 3020. Referring to previous communications regarding packages for prisoners of war. Foreign Office informs me that the German postal authorities have telegraphed to the Swiss Bureau that it raises no objections to the sending to prisoners of parcel-post packages from the United States through the French and Swiss posts. Foreign Office note adds that the necessary instructions have been given for the regular forwarding by the French postal authorities of parcel-post packages in question,


File No. 763,72114/3167

The Secretary of State to the Swiss Minister (Sulzer)

The Secretary of State presents his compliments to the Minister of Switzerland, in charge of German interests in the United States, and has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of his memorandum of

* The same, on the same date, to the Ambassador in Great Britain, No. 6192 (File No. 763.72114/3165e) ; to the Minister in Switzerland, No. 1307 (File No. 763.72114/3165f); to the Minister in the Netherlands, No. 894 (File No. 763.72114/3165g); and to the Minister in Denmark, No. 668 (File No. 763.72114/3165h).

January 8, 1918, in connection with the receipt by the Legation of numerous inquiries from prisoners of war and interned persons in the United States, with regard to the question of sending small sums of money to friends or relatives who are held prisoners in various countries.

In reply the Legation is informed that the Department of State has, in principle, no objection to the transmission of limited sums of money to enemy prisoners in the Entente countries, but begs to suggest that applications in each case for the transmission of funds to enemy subjects be referred to the War Trade Board by the applicants themselves.

WASHINGTON, January 15, 1918.

File No. 763.72114/3187

The Swiss Legation to the Department of State

The Legation of Switzerland presents its compliments to the Department of State and has the honor to submit to the Department the text of the following cablegram received last evening from the Foreign Office at Berne:


Swiss Legation, Berlin, telegraphs that according to provisional verbal communication from the Foreign Office, American prisoners of war will not be treated differently from the prisoners of other states. An official statement in writing will follow.

As soon as the official written declarations of the German Government concerning the treatment of American prisoners of war mentioned in the foregoing cable are received, the Legation shall not fail to submit immediately the same to the Department of State. WASHINGTON, January 16, 1918.

[Received January 17.]

File No. 763.72114/3240a
The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Spain (Willard)


WASHINGTON, January 28, 1918,7 p. m. 850. You will at the earliest opportunity seek an interview with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and present to him the following note, reading it to him and requesting him to telegraph its contents to the Spanish Ambassador in Berlin together with such defi

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nite instructions as will ensure the presentation of the contents of the note to the German Government with the earnestness and emphasis which the subject deserves.

I have the honor to inform Your Excellency that my Government has become deeply stirred by the reports which have reached it regarding the ill-treatment of American prisoners of war in Germany: Sporadic reports of this kind might be regarded as possibly unreliable, but when they continue to be received with ever increasing frequency and from a variety of sources, some of which are definitely known to be trustworthy, as is now the case, no doubt can remain in the mind of my Government as to the authenticity of the reports and the certainty that American prisoners in Germany are being treated in a manner utterly opposed to the practice of civilized nations.

My Government has recently learned of an American soldier who had been sent to Hameln weakened by excess of work in the salt mines. He had lost over 30 pounds from ill-treatment and lack of food and was incredibly thin. He had been punished inhumanly several times and was in a pitiable condition. At Charleville American prisoners have been made to perform work of a repulsive character not connected with the upkeep of a prison camp. The Americans there were furthermore insufficiently fed and clothed. From other sources my Government has learned of an American prisoner at Gütersloh being found in a starving and freezing condition.

At the camp at Holzminden it is reported that diseases are abundant and diverse in consequence of the crowded numbers and conditions which prevail in the camp; that the prisoners find the food insufficiently nutritive, scarce in quantity, and often very bad owing to the ingredients; that there is no recreation; that their food packages have arrived plundered and almost empty; that the sentinels inspired by the harshness and cruelty which prevail in that camp frequently and without any cause beat the prisoners, often without considering their weakened state of health; that complaints are not only useless but cause those who make them to be punished without consideration as to whether merited or not; that the commandant and physician administer harsh treatment to the prisoners with a real desire to make their condition more painful, and oblige them to work without taking into consideration that many of them are old or ill; that one German officer takes special delight in cruelty and inconsideration which are absolutely unjustified; and that under the present commandant the situation has become worse from day to day.

It is not the desire or intention of my Government to divulge its sources of information except as regards the complaints from the camp at Holzminden which were made by the prisoners to the representative of the Royal Spanish Embassy at Berlin on his visit of inspection on September 19, 1917. The Spanish inspector himself characterizes the treatment and condition of prisoners in that camp as deplorable. (In Spanish “bastante lamentable.")

My Government is furthermore exercised over the unexplained and interminable delays in obtaining lists of American prisoners, which have prevented the shipment of food parcels and have unquestionably caused serious suffering. American prisoners have been recognized in group photographs published in the German periodicals and subsequently reproduced in the American press, long after their capture, whose names have never been communicated through the channels recognized by international custom.

In view of these intolerable conditions I am directed by my Government to ask Your Excellency to be good enough to telegraph immediate instructions to the Royal Spanish Ambassador in Berlin, in charge of American interests in Germany, authorizing and directing him to address a note to the German Government stating that the Government of the United States is unable to view this serious situation in any but the gravest light; that it now most solemnly requires and demands that the German Government immediately take such steps as will effectively guarantee to American prisoners in its hands, both in letter and in spirit, that humane treatment which by all the principles of international law and usage is to be expected from the Government of a civilized state and its officials; that the Government of the United States will with the utmost certainty hold the German Government responsible for any and every evasion of this requirement which it may have permitted in the past or which it may tolerate in the future; and finally that the Government of the United States cannot but regard with alarm the possible effect which these reports of the inhumane treatment of American prisoners in Germany, if continued, may exert upon public opinion in the United States, resulting in an almost certain demand from the people that retaliatory measures be visited upon the large number of German prisoners now held in my country.

You will ascertain and report by cable the date on which these representations are made to the German Government by the Spanish Ambassador in Berlin.



File No. 763.72114/3267

The Chargé in Denmark (Grant-Smith) to the Secretary of State


COPENHAGEN, February 3, 1918, 5 p. m.

[Received February 4, 6.50 p. m.] 1906. Department's unnumbered [668], January 8. Danish Government agrees to the free transmission through Denmark of postal matter destined for prisoners of war. Text follows:

Monsieur le Chargé d'Affaires: Referring to the note of January 9, 1918, No. 773, I have honor to communicate that pursuant to transport rules laid down in the Hague regulations of 1907, article 16, and in the universal postal convention of 1906, article 2 [11], section 4, and in accordance with point of view taken by the Royal Danish Government in equal matters, all letters, money orders and objects of value as well as parcels destined for or in camps of prisoners or camps of concentration will be transmitted postage free

1 See footnote 1, ante, p. 18.

to their destination. I avail myself of this opportunity to renew to you, Monsieur le Chargé d'Affaires, the assurance of my high consideration. Signed Erik Scavenius.


File No. 763.72114/3269
The Minister in the Netherlands (Garrett) to the Secretary of State


THE HAGUE, undated.

[Received February 5, 1918, p. m.] 2004. Your January 8.1 Foreign Office states that Netherlands Government will pass free of postage letters and parcels to or from military and civilian prisoners of war.


File No. 763.72114/3285
The Chargé in Switzerland (Wilson) to the Secretary of State

BERNE, February 9, 1918, 11 a. m.

[Received February 11, 5.20 a. m.] 2607. Department's 1307, January 8.2 Swiss Government replies will gladly undertake free transmission for present of letters, money orders, and packages under 5 kilograms directed to American prisoners of war and interned civilians in Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey although United States not a signatory of Rome postal convention. Should number of packages increase greatly, postage of 25 centimes per parcel may be asked as already required from France, Great Britain, Italy, Germany and AustriaHungary.


File No. 763.72114/3289
The Ambassador in Spain (Willard) to the Secretary of State

MADRID, February 12, 1918, 10 a. m.

[Received 8.55 p. m.] 1062. Department's 850, January 28, 7 p. m. Department's protest delivered to German Foreign Office 4th instant. German Min



See footnote 1, ante, p. 18.

Reference is apparently made to the Universal Postal Convention signed at Rome May 26, 1906; but the United States was a signatory of this convention (35 Stat. 1639).

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