File No. 654.119/54

The Chargé in Switzerland ( Wilson ) to the Secretary of State


3011. President summoned me yesterday and handed me following aide-mémoire:

Federal Council has received from its Minister at Washington alarming news concerning the revictualment of Switzerland in wheat. According to despatch the Government of the United States would not be able for several reasons, specifically because of shortage of provisions, to decide upon the authorization of exportation of wheat destined for Switzerland.

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Since last July Switzerland has not been able to make purchases of wheat and for several months transportation of this merchandise from the United States to Cette has been interrupted. All the stocks which were in this port have entered Switzerland. The country continues to live entirely on the modest stocks that it already has in reserve and on the scanty provisions that the home crop furnishes. Without new importation of wheat from the United States all Swiss provisions will be exhausted in the coming spring and the country will be in a very critical condition.

Persuaded that the Government of the United States which several times already has shown its friendliness to Switzerland, will relieve Switzerland from the grave situation which menaces it, the Federal Council has charged its Minister at Washington to beg the American Government to authorize the exportation of 240,000 tons of wheat, an extremely modest quantity which would not sensibly reduce the provisioning of the United States and its Allies.

The Swiss Ministry has also informed the Federal Council that in accordance with the declaration of the American Government, Switzerland could in the future appeal especially to the Argentine crop to cover its needs in wheat but the Argentine purchases are extremely difficult. The length of the double trip cuts in half the already insufficient tonnage which is at our disposition, besides the transportation of Argentine wheat is extremely problematical. The Federal Council will be very grateful to the Legation of the United States at Berne to be kind enough to intervene with its Government and point out the unhappy situation in Switzerland. Without the aid of the American Government this situation would be aggravated rapidly and would make a profound impression on the Swiss population which has always counted on shipments from the United States.

The President stated that the bread ration for December would be 225 grammes and for January 200 grammes. I have previously reported that disturbances had occurred in Zurich and were threatened in Geneva. The continued reduction of the bread ration will doubtless increase these difficulties and bring about a decided reaction of sentiment against the United States and the general cause of the Entente. Please see my No. 2089 of November 22, 10 a.m. Department will note that Allied representatives here are anxious that Switzerland should not be pressed too hard in these conditions. The possibility must be considered of Germany offering necessary quantities of food as exchange for use of St. Gotthard. If food were unobtainable elsewhere this would place Federal Council in a most difficult situation.

In view of the above it would seem highly desirable that small quantities at least of wheat be authorized for exportation pending conclusion of negotiations since a small quantity will at least be definite evidence of good will of the United States and serve to calm popular uneasiness.