Reaction in official Washington circles to the renewed anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic drives now current in Germany are filled with a mixture of sympathy and condemnation. Underneath it all is the feeling that the United States should take positive action in protesting these anti-racial and anti-religious attacks which have been going on in Germany under complete governmental sanction ever since Hitler came into power in the Spring of 1933.
That the United States government may take official action against nations engaged in the persecution of minority groups, particularly in cases where American citizens are involved or affected, has been indicated by President Roosevelt. If this should be done, the present Administration would be following along traditional lines in the protection of the interests of minorities.
Up to now, the Roosevelt Administration has been silent on the question of racial, religious and political persecution in foreign countries. Congressional and other demands for governmental protests to Germany on the persecution of Jews, and to Mexico on the treatment of Catholics, have been pigeon-holed. Nothing of an official public character has been put on record by the present Administration to show this country’s concern for the traditional American principle of religious liberty, particularly where the rights of United States citizens are involved.
Many in Washington’s official life came to regard the Administration’s silence with deep concern. This concern grew deeper as anti-religious activities in foreign countries, particularly Mexico, became more intense. The reason for this is quite obvious, since Mexico is so close to the United States. As a result of this keen interest, members of Congress circulated a petition among themselves. This petition requested an inquiry by the United States into the religious status of American citizens living in Mexico and pointed out the fact that this government had been following a policy of silence while the anti-religious activities had been going on. The petition, signed by 242 House members, was placed in President Roosevelt’s hands.
Immediately upon receipt of petition, President Roosevelt issued a statement which is being interpreted in Washington circles #o mean that the United States may #ake a more vigorous attitude of disfavor toward foreign governments sponsoring the persecution of minority groups. The statement itself was significant in that it reaffirmed this country’s desire for freedom of religious worship throughout the world.
The statement of the President’s reaction to the petition said, “The President stated that he is in entire sympathy with all people who made it clear that the American people and the government believe in freedom of religious worship, not only in the United States but also in other nations.”
The most recent anti-religious and anti-racial developments in Germany now are being watched in Washington with more than the usual amount of interest. There are many reasons behind this. The principal ones, however, arise out of President Roosevelt’s reaffirmation of the United States’ position on religious freedom, and the fact that Germany still is desirous of negotiating a trade agreement with this country.
From a practical standpoint, it appears as if Germany is more concerned with the future of her trade relations with the United States than she is with any other single item involved in German-American relationships. Most of the conversations between the two governments have been about trade and financial matters.
On or Before October 15, it is expected that President Roosevelt will issue a proclamation barring German imports from most favored-nation tariff rates and assessing the highest tariff rates against them. This indeed would be a severe blow at what little trade there remains between Germany and the United States in spite of the boycott against German-made goods. Such action would have the effect of almost keeping German-made goods out of the American market. Thus, Germany’s ability to obtain dollar exchange with which to buy sorely-needed American cotton and other raw materials would further be crippled.
Such action by President Roosevelt is made necessary by the fact that on October 15 the most-favored nation clause of an old commercial treaty with Germany becomes inoperative as a result of a request made last spring by the German government. Unless a new trade understanding is reached between the two countries before that date, the United States will be obliged to withdraw from Germany the privileges of lower tariff rates on imported German goods which are now being enjoyed because of the most-favored-nation clause in the treaty. After October 15 a new agreement will become effective. This agreement, signed June 2, extends all provisions of the old treaty, except the most-favored-nation clause.
A new trade agreement between the United States and Germany is quite unlikely at this time. Under the reciprocal trade agreement, policies to which the United States clings, whatever reductions in tariffs are granted to individual nations must also be granted to all other countries that do not discriminate against the United States. By renouncing the most-favored-nation proviso of the commercial treaty now in effect, Germany has indicated that it would be impossible for her to comply with this most important requirement of reciprocal trade agreements.
Germany would like to enter into an agreement with the United States through which she could sell more of her goods in this country and be in position to obtain much-needed raw materials. Also, Germany wants to retain the right to extend special concessions to other countries with whom she may enter into trade agreements, without making these same concessions available to the United States, as demanded by this country’s reciprocal trade agreement policy. In other words, the Hitler government is anxious to obtain special trading privileges from the United States. This country may expect to hear more about this desire as soon as Dr. Hans Luther, German ambassador to the United States, returns to this country from his visit to Berlin.