WASHINGTON (Dec. 22)
Acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles today rejected in terms of unprecedented sharpness a German Government protest against Secretary of Interior Harold L. Ickes’ speech criticizing Americans who accepted Hitler’s awards and attacking Nazi policies.
The condemnation of the German Government certainly represented the feeling of the overwhelming majority of the people of the United States, whom recent German policies have shocked more profoundly than anything in decades, Mr. Welles told German Charged D’ Affaires Hans Thomsen in an interview.
Secretary Ickes’ criticism of Henry Ford and Col. Charles A. Lindbergh for accepting German Government awards is a purely domestic question, Mr. Welles advised Dr. Thomsen, adding that he would not agree to discuss it with the representative of any foreign government.
The acting Secretary of State also informed Germany’s diplomatic representative that the protest came with singular ill grace from the Berlin Government in view of attacks in the controlled German press on President Roosevelt and members of his Cabinet and criticism by German officials of the late President Woodrow Wilson.
Dr. Thomsen’s visit to Mr. Welles to demand an official expression of regret was prompted by Secretary Ickes’ address to the Cleveland Zionist Society Last Sunday night in which he said that anti-Jewish violence took Germany back to the period of history “when man was unlettered, benighted and bestial,” and asked how Americans could accept decorations “at a time when the bestower of them counts that day lost when he can commit no new crime against humanity.”
WELLES SUMMARIZES INTERVIEW
The interview was summarized by Mr. Welles at his press conference this afternoon. Dr. Thomsen, he said, called on him at the instance of his Government to inform the Secretary of State that the German Government desired to make a formal protest against Mr. Ickes’ Cleveland address. The German Government trusted that the United States Government would make public an official expression of regret in view of Mr. Ickes’ speech.
Mr. Welles said he stated to Dr. Thomsen that he was unwilling to accept the protest by the German Government. While he had not read the full text of Mr. Ickes’ speech, he had read a detailed summary of it in the press and which he had been assured was accurate.
The Acting Secretary told Dr. Thomsen there were two phases to the question. He understood that one phase was the criticism by Mr. Ickes of two American citizens who had been decorated by the German Government, and the other was Mr. Ickes criticism of the German Government. With regard to the first, Mr. Welles said, the criticism by an American official of the action of two Americans was a purely domestic question and he would not agree to discuss this domestic question with the representatives of any foreign government.
With regard to the remarks in Mr. Ickes’ speech criticizing the policies of the German Government, Mr. Welles said that surely the German Government must be familiar with the fact that recent policies in Germany had shocked and confounded public opinion in the United States more profoundly than anything that had taken place in decades, and such statement of public indignation as may have been made certainly represented the feelings of the overwhelming majority of the people of the United States.
Mr. Welles said it seemed to him that the desire of the German Government to make a protest of this character came with singular ill grace. For the past few months, he said, he had followed carefully the German press, which, he was sure the German Charge D’ Affaires could not dispute was under the influence and dictatorship of the authorities of the German Government, and he had rarely read more unjustified criticisms or open attacks on the members of another government than had been made in the German press in its recent attacks against the President of the United States and members of his Cabinet.
As long as attacks of this kind persisted with unquestioned authority by the German authorities, Mr. Welles said, he could not conceive of there being any propriety in a protest on the part of the German Government with regard to a speech made by the Secretary of Interior.
The German Charge d’ Affaires stated that he did not consider the criticisms published in the German press on a par with the criticism made by a member of the Cabinet of the United States.
Mr. Welles replied that only recently, within the past few months, he had read remarks by officials of the German Government derogatory to the late President Woodrow Wilson and stated that Dr. Thomsen must realize that while President Wilson was dead his memory was revered by the people of the United States and such an attack on the late President was deeply resented in this country.
He concluded by saying that he personally believed that public recrimination in any country against another country was not conducive to good relations between the peoples of the world, but nevertheless so long as attacks against officials of the United States Government continued for so long in Germany, the German Government could hardly suppose that attacks of the same character would not continue in the United States.