Text of Untermyer Protest to Hull

The following is the full text of the formal protest by Samuel Untermyer, acting in behalf of the Nonsectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights, to Secretary of State Cordell Hull against negotiations with Germany leading to a trade agreement between the Reich and the United States

Sept. 29, 1934

Hon. Cordell Hull

Secretary of State

Washington, D. C.

My Dear Sir:

Supplementing the various persistent rumors that have been floating around all parts of the country and that have reached our organization, of active negotiations between representatives of the German Government and your Department looking to a trade-agreement for the exchange of merchandise, I received yesterday a telegram of which the following is a copy:

Five German cotton merchants representing German Government arriving tomorrow Steamer Bremen for purchase large quantity of cotton against payment in German merchandise proceeding Washington.

These reports, if true, are now sufficiently definite to justify us in entering a formal and emphatic protest against any such agreement or any further negotiations looking in that direction, as contrary to the best interests of the country.

The Nonsectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights, of which I am president, reflects the views of millions of American citizens against any commercial treaty or agreement with Germany at this time, for many reasons, of which time and space permit me to summarize here only a few.

In this connection you are reported in the New York papers and the Dow-Jones news-ticker of the 20th inst., and in other publications, as having made the extraordinary and unfounded statement, in referring to the boycott by this country of German-made goods, that as an example of practical economics:

. . . if such measures are resorted to by citizens of this country it will result in the loss of approximately $5.00 in exports for every dollar’s worth of goods kept out of the United States.

Your colleagues at the Commerce Department could have informed you of this glaring inaccuracy of that assertion on which your statement to the press of the country was based. Last year, for instance, this country sold to Germany only $1.15 of goods for every dollar’s worth of goods bought. In 1932, the ratio was $1.18 to $1.00. In 1929, it was $1.19 to $1.00. By what process of arithmetic, reasoning or economics that is converted into a ratio of $5.00 to $1.00 it would be interesting to have explained.

NOT VALUABLE CUSTOMER

I am sure you appreciate also that a purchaser is one who pays for what he buys, and that the type of customer who buys only with funds borrowed from the seller—which he subsequently refuses to pay—is not valuable to the country from which he buys.

The uniform result of our past experiences in commercial and financial transactions with Germany, ever since the war, has been disastrous to us. When Germany has not defaulted upon its solemn obligations, or repudiated them, we have been paid either in “stage-money” or depreciated currency. Even while we were pouring our billions into the securities of German industries in return for worthless bonds, they have kept that money and given us worthless or depreciated money in return.

Your apparent efforts (if these rumors be true) to force Germany-made machinery, gloves and other goods upon our market, manufactured by workmen whose former standards of living have been destroyed and their wages reduced to considerably less than $1.00 per day—through the annihilation and confiscation of the properties of the Labor Unions at the command of the industrial barons who financed the Hitler regime into power and rule the government, are not likely to succeed.

CANNOT COMPEL PURCHASES

All the agreements you may choose to make that would strike down all protective tariffs would not overcome the righteous, country-wide “trade-resistance” against German goods. The outraged Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Labor Unions and women cannot be compelled to buy them.

In your statement you characterize this as a “racial or political boycott,” which indicates how little you understand the scope of this movement. This boycott is a spontaneous uprising of all civilization—not merely in this country but throughout the world—against the revival of medieval savagery, spreading from South Africa, Egypt, South America, around the globe to Finland. It is, in a sense, analogous to the “economic sanctions” provided for by the Covenant of the League of Nations against countries that violate their agreements. It is the only effective weapon yet devised as a peaceful substitute for war. The “Blue Eagle” that is being used in connection with our NRA is another form of boycott.

UNAWARE OF EXTENT

It is evident from your public statements that you are also unaware of the extent to which this boycott has stimulated the “Buy American” campaign in this country and in the founding and expansion of industries here that are already successfully manufacturing all kinds of goods that were formerly imported from Germany.

Your views on the refusal of Americans to purchase Nazi goods, as a protest against the persecution by the Third Reich of its helpless minorities, sounds very much like qualified approval of the Hitler-Schacht policy that has thus far resulted in the repudiation by Germany of more than a billions dollars’ worth of bonds owned by American investors; has deprived the latter of some $70,000,000 annually due them as interest on their holdings, and has caused a decline in the market value of American – owned German bonds of almost one-third of a billion dollars.

I assume you must be aware that many thousands of Americans are being forced to forego the payment of interest rightfully owing them on their German bonds, whilst Germany, pleading poverty as the reason for her default, has at the same time been vastly increasing her purchases of war supplies in this and other countries, and has employed her funds that should have been devoted to the payment of interest on her debts, toward the repurchase of her dollar-bonds from us at greatly depreciated prices.

The contention of Dr. Schacht, which you seem to accept at its face value, that Germany’s inability to meet payments on her legally contracted debts has been caused by the boycott of German goods, is as baseless and fantastic as other theories propounded by the leader of the Third Reich. The German National Socialist Party proclaimed its policy of repudiation by a special law—long before the boycott. Ours is a purely defensive boycott, as a small measure of protection and reprisal against the murder, torture and persecution to which Germany has subjected its innocent minorities—solely because of their race—and against its policy of religious fanaticism directed against Catholics and Jews.

As indicating that there has been no let-up in this policy of persecution, this morning’s cables from Berlin, reprint an official order signed by Dr. Seiler, Nazi President of the Duesseldorf Medical Association, published in the “Reichwart,” directing physicians to boycott the entire medical staff of the Duesseldorf Hospital for having failed to vote in favor of Hitler as Reichsfuehrer in the plebiscite of August 19th. That, among thousands of other incidents, illustrates this “free plebiscite” and the secrecy of the election.

U. S. GOVERNMENT ACTION

While European creditors have been protected by the energetic action of their governments, our Government has confined its activities on behalf of the American public holding defaulted German bonds to the dispatching of eloquent notes which the Hitler-Schacht combine has uniformly dealt with in a manner reminiscent of the treatment which Bethmann-Hollweg accorded the Treaty guaranteeing Belgium’s neutrality some two decades ago.

In connection with your apprehension that our sales to Germany may be diminished by the boycott (as I note with satisfaction that they have been and are being affected, though not yet quite to the extent of the decrease in other countries), our total normal exports to the Reich have in the past aggregated less than six and one-half per cent of the total American shipments abroad. Their complete elimination, which you seem to dread as the eventual result of the boycott (unless the rising tide is stemmed by official announcements of our Secretary of State), would not affect our foreign commerce to any material extent.

Furthermore, inasmuch as Germany’s purchases in the United States have in the past almost invariably been paid out of the proceeds of loans and credits obtained in this country that are now being repudiated— would we not have been better off if we had kept our goods?

OUR LAWS EVADED

Are you not aware of the extent to which our protective laws are being evaded, our customs swindled and our manufacturers betrayed by the ruse of the camouflaged “blocked” marks?

Is it possible that in your public discussion of the economic theories underlying boycotts, based as they are upon false premises, you have in mind diverting the attention of the tens of thousands of victimized Americans who hold German defaulted bonds and are vainly waiting for the protection of our Government?

Considering the ethics and wisdom of making another agreement with a country that holds the record for broken and repudiated agreements, we ask you also to take into consideration the evidence and disclosures already accumulated by the McCormack Congressional Committee of the country-wide seditious propaganda, sowing the seeds of race and religious hatred, and of the many millions of dollars that are being squandered here in that dastardly undertaking by a country that refuses to pay its obligations to us. The conspiracy against our peace and security, on account of which the attaches of the German Embassy were expelled prior to the severance of diplomatic relations before the war, is not a circumstance compared with what is now transpiring.

I respectfully insist that, judged by past experiences of our dealings with Germany, which have cost us literally billions of dollars, the less goods we sell that country and the less business we do with it, the better off we will be.

Very truly yours,

Nonsectarian Anti-Nazi League

To Champion Human Rights,

Samuel, Untermyer,

President.

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