World War II: German Declaration of War With the United States
(December 11, 1941)
The German Chargé d'Affaires, Dr. Hans Thomsen, and the First Secretary of the German Embassy, Mr. von Strempel, called at the State Department at 8:00 A.M. on December 11, 1941. The Secretary, otherwise engaged, directed that they be received by the Chief of the European Division of the State Department, Mr. Ray Atherton. Mr. Atherton received the German representatives at 9:30 A.M.
The German representatives handed to Mr. Atherton a copy of a note that is being delivered this morning, December 11, to the American Chargé d'Affaires in Berlin. Dr. Thomsen said that Germany considers herself in a state of war with the United States. He asked that the appropriate measures be taken for the departure of himself, the members of the German Embassy, and his staff in this country. He reminded Mr. Atherton that the German Government had previously expressed its willingness to grant the same treatment to American press correspondents in Germany as that accorded the American official staff on a reciprocal basis and added that he assumed that the departure of other American citizens from Germany would be permitted on the same basis of German citizens desiring to leave this country. He referred to the exchange of civilians that had been arranged at the time Great Britain and Germany broke off diplomatic relations.
The German Chargé d'Affaires then stated that the Swiss Government would take over German interests in this country and that Dr. Bruggmann had already received appropriate instructions from his Government.
He then handed Mr. Atherton a note from the German Government. Mr. Atherton stated that in accepting this note from the German Chargé d'Affaires he was merely formalizing the realization that the Government and people of this country had faced since the outbreak of the war in 1939 of the threat and purposes of the German Government and the Nazi regime toward this hemisphere and our free American civilization.
Mr. Atherton then said that this Government would arrange for the delivery of Dr. Thomsen's passports and that he assumed that we would very shortly be in communication with the Swiss Minister. He added that Dr. Thomsen must realize, however, that the physical difficulties of the situation would demand a certain amount of time in working out this reciprocal arrangement for the departure of the missions of the two countries. The German representatives then took their leave.
The text of the note which the German representatives handed to Mr. Ray Atherton, Chief of the European Division of the State Department, at 9:30 A.M., December 11, the original of which had been delivered the morning of December 11 to the American Chargé d'Affaires in Berlin, follows:
MR. CHARGÉ D'AFFAIRES:
The Government of the United States having violated in the most flagrant manner and in ever increasing measure all rules of neutrality in favor of the adversaries of Germany and having continually been guilty of the most severe provocations toward Germany ever since the outbreak of the European war, provoked by the British declaration of war against Germany on September 3, 1939, has finally resorted to open military acts of aggression.
On September 11, 1941, the President of the United States publicly declared that he had ordered the American Navy and Air Force to shoot on sight at any German war vessel. In his speech of October 27, 1941, he once more expressly affirmed that this order was in force. Acting under this order, vessels of the American Navy, since early September 1941, have systematically attacked German naval forces. Thus, American destroyers, as for instance the Greer, the Kearney and the Reuben James, have opened fire on German sub-marines according to plan. The Secretary of the American Navy, Mr. Knox, himself confirmed that-American destroyers attacked German submarines.
Furthermore, the naval forces of the United States, under order of their Government and contrary to international law have treated and seized German merchant vessels on the high seas as enemy ships.
The German Government therefore establishes the following facts:
Although Germany on her part has strictly adhered to the rules of international law in her relations with the United States during every period of the present war, the Government of the United States from initial violations of neutrality has finally proceeded to open acts of war against Germany. The Government of the United States has thereby virtually created a state of war.
The German Government, consequently, discontinues diplomatic relations with the United States of America and declares that under these circumstances brought about by President Roosevelt Germany too, as from today, considers herself as being in a state of war with the United States of America.
Accept, Mr. Chargé d'Affaires, the expression of my high consideration.
December 11, 1941.
Source: Department of State Bulletin, (December 13, 1941) quoted from .Words of Peace-Words of War.