In the summer of 1915, while the United States reeled from the devastating labor strikes in Bridgeport and elsewhere in the industrial centers of the North, the Mexican border suddenly caught on fire as well. The deteriorating situation in Mexico stemmed from what became known as the Plan de San Diego and the revolución de Texas. Issued in the town of San Diego, Texas in January 1915 the Plan de San Diego called for an uprising of the Mexican-American populations in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California against the “Yankee tyranny.” Among other stipulations the manifesto included two passages that American officials who first saw a copy of the plan in the end of January 1915. Objective number 5 read: “It is strictly forbidden to hold prisoners …they shall be shot immediately without any pretext.” Number 6: “Every foreigner [i.e. any non-Chicano in the states to be liberated from the Yankee tyranny] who shall be found armed and cannot prove his right to carry arms, shall be summarily executed…” Number 7: “Every North American [sic] over sixteen years of age shall be put to death…” While local sheriffs carefully watched the mood among the Mexican-American population, not much happened as a result of the plan until July 1915. Historian Trinidad Gonzales traced a second separatist movement that succeeded the Plan de San Diego, called the revolución de Texas. The second effort of Mexican-American minorities along the Mexican border to start a separatist movement featured similar goals as the Plan de San Diego, and might have had the exact same intellectual root just with new organizers. Within weeks of President Wilson putting pressure on the Mexican revolutionary factions in his ultimatum on June 2nd 1915, “bands of outlaws” raided ranches throughout the lower Rio Grande Valley. In the end of July the first American, an 18-year-old farmhand, died from the bullets of a Chicano raider. During July and August hundreds of attacks occurred, some of which had nothing to do with the revolución de Texas but undoubtedly took advantage of the situation to settle old scores. Short of personnel and reluctant to get involved the U.S. army reluctantly reinforced the overwhelmed Texas Rangers and local law enforcement authorities by September. Raiders not only robbed banks, shops, and ranches but also blew up railroad bridges and cut telegraph lines. The Mexican Revolution finally seemed to be spilling over into U.S. territory in a deadly and disturbing way.
Some American newspapers quickly blamed the disturbances on German agitation. These suspicions seem to have pressured Secretary Lansing and possibly also President Woodrow Wilson to find a solution for stabilizing Mexico as quickly as possible. Lansing wrote in his diary, “Germany does not want one faction dominant in Mexico; therefore we must recognize one faction as dominant in Mexico… It comes down to this: our possible relations with Germany must be our first consideration; and all our intercourse with Mexico must be regulated accordingly.” While German archives did not reveal any obvious financing of the border troubles, evidence suggests that at the very least German agitation contributed to the unrest. While Sommerfeld organized munitions supplies for Villa at the same time he supported the efforts of the U.S. State Department to wrest important concessions from the revolutionary chieftain, a sinister plot developed in South Texas. Colonel Arnold Krumm-Heller, the physician and German agent who had engineered Villa’s most devastating defeat at Celaya, suddenly appeared in free masonry lodges and gatherings of Mexican-Americans around Brownsville, San Antonio, and El Paso between June and August 1915 giving inflammatory anti-American and pro-Carranza speeches. The El Paso Herald reported on June 22nd, 1915, “Dr. Krumm-Heller, formerly professor of literature in the University of Mexico, Will [sic] deliver a lecture Friday night on ‘The Origin of the war in Mexico and the method of pacification by the Mexicans themselves,’ at the old Fraternal Brotherhood hall… No admission is charged to the lectures, which favor neither faction.” The target audience of his “lecture” tour through the Southwest, which started in the middle of June and lasted into August, was mainly German-Americans and Mexican Americans. While supposedly “not favoring” any faction in the revolutionary struggle, Krumm-Heller was a devout Carranzista and fanatic German nationalist. Von Eckardt reported in 1916 to the German Chancellor von Bethmann Hollweg, “K. H. [Krumm-Heller] has been whenever possible extremely helpful to Germans throughout the Mexican Revolution until now. Since the beginning of the European war he has engaged tirelessly in propaganda for the German cause through lectures, articles, and leaflets in Spanish, while relentlessly proceeding against the Allies… As Grand Wizard of the Mexican Freemasons (about 20,000 strong) he is influential in all layers of Mexican society… Krumm-Heller reports directly to Carranza. His goal is to support the pro-German tendencies here [in Mexico] and reduce the influence of the Allies in Mexico.” Historian Mark Cronland Anderson traced lavish financial support of Krumm-Heller’s lecture tour to Carranza: Krumm-Heller’s “efforts were successful, and his [propaganda] work apparently did not lack funding [from Carranza].” The financial records of the German legation in Mexico City have been lost. It is therefore not clear when and how much money Krumm-Heller might have received from von Eckardt for his pro-German propaganda. In Mai 1916, von Eckardt confirmed to the German chancellor that “the necessary funds [for a one year assignment in Germany] have been officially made available [by von Eckardt].” Krumm-Heller left no doubt as to his disposition to the U.S., the Mexican Revolution, and his propaganda mission in the Southwest in the summer of 1915.
He wrote in his book Für Freiheit und Recht: Meine Erlebnisse aus dem mexikanischen Bürgerkriege (For Liberty and Justice: My Adventuresin the Mexican Civil War), which was published in Germany in 1916:
“Against my wishes I had to go back to the United States, which I so hated. I got there in the beautiful spring time and luckily into a state [Texas], in which millions of Mexicans, millions of Germans, and fewer American [Anglo] elements were present. Once-in-a-while one finds cities, which are 80 percent German [emphasis in the original]. Nevertheless have the Germans that have settled there wound up in the same dependency as the Mexicans that settled there or have remained there as the original inhabitants [before the U.S. - Mexican war of 1846 to 1848]. As overlords the Americans driven by their boundless need for speculation have succeeded in settling on the once large Mexican haciendas through the creation of the notorious lumber- and land companies. The Germans that had immigrated there received land for colonization under ostensibly favorable conditions. They were promised anything that a settler can dream of. But as a result of the inadequate legal circumstances it was easy for unscrupulous lawyers to add clauses to the contracts that made the settlers utterly dependent. Did one of those inexperienced hapless devils have difficulties making payments the issue was twisted in such a way that while faking leniency and sympathy he was given extended deadlines. In reality, he was allowed to work a little longer, until in the decisive moment everything was taken away and the land sold a second time, this time for a higher price than before since all the cultivation had already been done making the land arable. Thus the Germans and the Mexicans, or whoever else got caught in the Yankee web, were exploited and driven in many cases to suicide. What else could such a man start, who had lost everything without a way to go back home. Much has been written about these unhealthy speculation deals and the so-called revolutions in these regions are nothing but momentarily flaring acts of revenge that the terrible pressures of these circumstances created.”
Krumm-Heller’s idea that there was a natural alliance between the German and Mexican populations in the Southwest had little basis in fact. German immigrants in the Southwest had done quite well as merchants, farmers, and craftsmen. The radical, separatist Mexicans called for uprisings, strikes, property destruction, and murder, hardly the type of activities pro-order and law abiding Germans would support. However, the natural alignment of interest existed in the disappointment of German-Americans in the political attitude of the United States versus Germany in the war. As such, German-American companies such as Heyman-Krupp Company, Krakauer, Zork, and Moye, or Degetau and Ketelson, some of the largest arms dealers, merchants, and banks in the region, could possibly be convinced to materially support elements in the Mexican-American community that caused unrest along the border. Helping the German cause in this case certainly was also good for business.
A key question with regards to the revolución de Texas is whether a deliberate effort of the German government supported it. Two facts stand out in considering this theory. There was a connection between Felix A. Sommerfeld and Arnold Krumm-Heller. Both had been in the inner circle of the slain president of Mexico, Francisco Madero. Krumm-Heller acted as his spiritual adviser, personal physician, and worked in the Mexican secret service in 1912. Felix Sommerfeld, a personal friend of the president, worked first as his chief of staff then as head of the Mexican secret service. Krumm-Heller in all likelihood reported to Sommerfeld. Both Germans reported to the German legation in this time period. It is no accident that when Villa and Carranza split after the ouster of Huerta and started the latest round of civil war, Sommerfeld stayed with Villa, while Krumm-Heller stayed close to Carranza. As German envoy von Eckardt reported to his superiors in 1916, Krumm-Heller performed valuable services as a staff member of Carranza. Karl Boy-Ed reported the same about Sommerfeld. While no direct link can be established between Sommerfeld and Krumm-Heller, Sommerfeld traveled to El Paso throughout the summer, first to direct the fifteen million cartridge order for Villa, then to assist General Scott’s negotiations with Villa. Unquestionably, the two agents could have been in personal contact. The second important fact is that Sommerfeld received orders from the Imperial War Department in the end of May to proceed on his proposal to instigate an American intervention in Mexico. Within weeks of this order, the German agent Krumm-Heller, an associate of Sommerfeld’s, appeared in the border region as a pro-German and pro-Carranza propagandist to incite the Mexican-American population against the “tyranny” of the United States. The timing of Krumm-Heller’s trip not only coincided with Sommerfeld’s order to produce a military intervention in Mexico but also with the labor unrest in America’s war industry, planned, financed, and executed by German agents in eerie parallels.
The unrest took on crisis proportions in the beginning of August. On the 3rd Carranzista irregulars engaged soldiers of the 12th Cavalry in Brownsville, Texas, leaving one soldier dead and two wounded. On September 6th Mexican raiders engaged the 3rd Cavalry and Texas Rangers again in Brownsville in a shootout leaving two Mexicans dead. U.S. authorities involved in battling the uprising and arresting the organizers behind the revolución de Texas left no stone unturned. Dozens of Mexican-Americans faced arrest and detention. Reprisals by the local Anglo population and the Texas Rangers raised the specter of a race war. As the battle for diplomatic recognition intensified in Washington and New York, so did the war in Texas. By the time the raids ended in October six Anglos and approximately three hundred Mexican and Mexican-Americans had died. As suddenly as the raids had started, they ended. On October 1st shortly after the American government announced that it will recognize Carranza’s faction as the legitimate government of Mexico the raids stopped. On October 13th General Frederick Funston reported to his superiors in Washington that “it had been ten days since the last hostile shot had been fired.” Historians Harris and Sadler concluded in their analysis of the uprising, “once Carranza withdrew his support, the insurrection in Texas collapsed like a punctured balloon… Viewing Mexican-Americans as a useful fifth column, Carranza skillfully played on their hopes and fears as a means of exerting pressure on the United States. When his policies shifted [and those of the United States], they were cynically abandoned… The Plan left a legacy of racial tension in south Texas that has endured to the present.”