|Legation of Switzerland
of German Interests
I have had the honor from time to time to draw to the attention of the Department of State complaints from German
nationals held under the President's Proclamation of April 6, 1917, regarding the conditions of their detention in local jails.
Despite the number of these complaints, in a great many local jails no amelioration of the conditions under which German
nationals are held has been affected. This is particularly true of the county jails at San Francisco, California, where,
according to a report received by the Legation on November 15, 1918, some twenty persons had been and were still
being held for periods ranging from one and one half months up to eight months. The prisoners in both the county jails No.
1 and No. 2 have complained regarding the food and the amount of exercise allowed them and although this Legation has
repeatedly brought the conditions in these jails to the attention of the Department of State, new complaints are still
Within the last few weeks two suicides by German nationals who were held in local jails have occurred. I do not contend
that these suicides were caused by the conditions of the jail, but the fact that both suicides took place in the jails against
which sharp complaint had been made might possibly lead to the conjecture that local conditions had in some measure
In view of all these circumstances, therefore, I beg to suggest that all German nationals now held in local jails under the
President's Proclamation be sent forthwith to a War Prison Barracks, and that in the future wherever a German national is
arrested under the President's Proclamation his transfer to a War Prison Barracks take place without an intermediate
detention in a local jail. The detention in a War Prison Barracks could in no wise interfere with the investigation which the
Department of Justice makes in these cases, and would certainly go far to relieve much distress occasioned by
confinement in local jails.
I beg leave to add in conclusion that the Legation considers it to be its duty to conduct inspections of the conditions under
which German nationals are held in jails under the President's Proclamation. The inspections contemplated would include
the County jail at Binghampton, New York, the Milwaukee County Jail, the Cook County Jail, Chicago Illinois, the San
Francisco County Jails, the Alameda City Jail, Alameda, California, the County Jail at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the St. Louis
County Jail, and House of Detention, New Orleans,Louisiana.
Accept, Sir, the renewed assurance of my highest consideration. [Hans Sulzer] Minister of Switzerland
|From Hans Sulzer, Minister of Switzerland, to Frank L. Polk, Acting Secretary of State
January 15, 1919
Regarding the treatment of German Nationals