Memorandum by the Secretary of State Regarding a Conversation With the German Ambassador (Dieckhoff)

[WASHINGTON,] January 14, 1938.

The German Ambassador came in upon his own request. He was very prompt to say that he came on his own initiative, and without instructions, to speak very earnestly about the utterances the night before of former Ambassador William E. Dodd, in which among other things he accused Chancellor Hitler of killing as many people in Germany as were killed by Charles II. The Ambassador then launched into a very strong statement about the injury to the relations between our two governments which such an utterance would inevitably cause. The fact, he said, that Dodd had been recognized until recently as Ambassador at Berlin and of his returning here and at once engaging in such serious attacks upon Chancellor Hitler was wholly unjustifiable from every standpoint and would be given more weight by reason of his recently having been ambassador; that, therefore, he felt this Government should say that it disapproved what Dr. Dodd had said. These are the principal points he made. It is possible that I proceeded to talk before he had reached a stage of asking for apologies and regrets, although I cannot say whether this was in his mind. I proceeded to say that, of course, regardless of what might be thought of various forms of government, including this government, we do have under our Constitution and Bill of Rights freedom of speech, from the results of which there is no recourse except under the law of libel and slander, which includes criminal liability; that we who are engaged in the public service in this country are subjected to what we often consider the most outrageous criticisms and insults; that of course the Ambassador knows Dr. Dodd and is acquainted with his ideas and his disposition to give expression to them wherever he goes; that I have very little personal or official influence with Dr. Dodd so far as I was aware, although this latter phase was neither here nor there and was not intended to be a governing or material phase of what I was saying. I then stated that Dr. Dodd, having recently resigned as Ambassador and now being a private citizen, does not in his utterances represent the views of this Government. I then inquired of the Ambassador as to how many men Charles II killed. The Ambassador replied that he did not recall. In fact, neither of us did at the moment. We were not certain that Charles II was especially notorious in this regard.


The Ambassador brought up some phase of the controversy between dictatorships and democracies and indicated his displeasure: at the way this debate was being carried on. I said to him that naturally and inevitably the one supreme issue or question is whether the principles which underlie the structure of international law and order shall be preserved or whether the doctrine of force and militarism and aggression and the destruction of all international law and order should prevail; that in support of the first proposal each of the sixty-five nations alike can, with perfect consistency, join in, no matter what their form of government might happen to be. I said this program contemplates that the road to permanent peace is based upon these principles which in turn rest upon the solid foundation of economic restoration.



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