Primary Documents - Constantin Dumba on the 'Dumba Affair', September 1915

Constantin Dumba Reproduced below is Constantin Dumba's official statement in the wake of the formal letter sent by the U.S. Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, to the Austro-Hungarian government in which he demanded Dumba's recall as Austrian Ambassador to the U.S.  In his letter Lansing stated that Dumba had admitted to writing a letter in which he outlined his support for industrial espionage in the U.S. as a means of crippling America's munitions industry.  This, Lansing argued, necessitated his immediate recall to Austria.

Dumba's statement was primarily intended to mitigate the impact of his act; upon his return to Austria he was accorded something of a hero's welcome - a reaction which did not go unnoticed by the U.S. government.

Click here to read German Ambassador to the U.S. Count Bernstorff's account of the so-called 'Dumba Affair.

Constantin Dumba's Official Statement

September 1915

There was nothing in the dispatches which Archibald carried that cannot be satisfactorily explained.

The proposals regarding embarrassing steel works were nothing more than a very open and perfectly proper method to be taken to bring before men of our races employed in the big steel works the fact that they were engaged in enterprises unfriendly to their fatherland, and that the Imperial Government would hold the workers in munition plants where contracts are being filled for the Allies as being guilty of a serious crime against their country, something that would he punishable by penal servitude should they return to their own country.

There are thousands of working men in the big steel industries, natives of Bohemia, Moravia, Carniola, Galicia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, and other peoples of the races from Austria-Hungary, who are uneducated and who do not understand that they are engaged in a work against their own country.

In order to bring this before them I have subsidized many newspapers published in the languages and dialects of the divisions mentioned, attempting in this way to bring the felonious occupation to their attention.  But this has been difficult.  In some of the great steel plants of Pennsylvania these uneducated men of my country are nothing more or less than slaves.  They are even being worked twelve hours a day, and herded in stockades.  It is difficult to get at these workers except en masse, and a peaceful walkout of these working men would be of the greatest advantage to my Government, as well as an indemnity to themselves.

It is my duty as the representative of Austria-Hungary to make known these facts to the Imperial Government, and in so doing I am performing a service for which I was sent to this country.

The dispatches or letters carried by Archibald contained nothing more than a proposal that we attempt to call out the workmen of our own country from these steel and munition works and provide for them other employment.

To do so money would be necessary and a labour employment bureau would have to be organized.  This is one of the things I shall bring before the Secretary of Labor in Washington this week.  This seems to me to be a legitimate and entirely satisfactory means of preventing the making and shipping of war materials to our enemies.

My letter which Mr. Archibald carried does not contradict anything that Count von Bernstorff has said, for his people and the great bulk of those who make up our Austro-Hungarian races are entirely different types.

The greater part of German workmen of all ranks are educated.  They read and discuss matters and can be easily reached.  Not so with the many races and the great ignorant mass of our peoples.  Promises of better wages and easier employment must be made and their position in aiding the enemy trust be brought home to them.

Where there are a hundred German-born men working in the factories there are thousands of Austrians.  Remedies for reaching these races must differ, and there is no conspiracy in an open attempt to call out the Austrian citizens at Bethlehem or elsewhere.  Such a proposal as this was the letter of which it is said a photographic copy was made and its contents cabled to the State Department at Washington.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. III, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

A "red cap" was a British military policeman.

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