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Transcriber's Note: A number of obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of this document.
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IN THE WORLD WAR
BY COUNT OTTOKAR CZERNIN
WITH FOUR PLATES
CASSELL AND COMPANY, LTD London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne
Copyright in Great Britain.
It is impossible in a small volume to write the history of the World War in even a partially exhaustive manner. Nor is that the object of this book.
Rather than to deal with generalities, its purpose is to describe separate events of which I had intimate knowledge, and individuals with whom I came into close contact and could, therefore, observe closely; in fact, to furnish a series of snapshots of the great drama.
By this means the following pages may possibly present a conception of the war as a whole, which may, nevertheless, differ in many respects from the hitherto recorded, and possibly faulty, history of the war.
Everyone regards people and events from his own point of view; it is inevitable. In my book, I speak of men with whom I was in close touch; of others who crossed my path without leaving any personal impression on me; and finally, of men with whom I was often in grave dispute. I endeavour to judge of them all in objective fashion, but I have to describe people and things as I saw them. Wherever the description appears to be at fault, the reason will not be due to a prematurely formed opinion, but rather, probably, to a prevailing lack of the capacity for judging.
Not everything could be revealed. Much was not explained, although it could have been. Too short a period still separates us from those events to justify the lifting of the veil from all that happened.
But what remains unspoken can in no way change the whole picture, which I describe exactly as imprinted on my mind.
1. INTRODUCTORY REFLECTIONS 1
2. KONOPISCHT 34
3. WILLIAM II 52
4. ROUMANIA 77
5. THE U-BOAT WARFARE 114
6. ATTEMPTS AT PEACE 134
7. WILSON 188
8. IMPRESSIONS AND REFLECTIONS 195
9. POLAND 200
10. BREST-LITOVSK 211
11. THE PEACE OF BUCHAREST 258
12. FINAL REFLECTIONS 271
LIST OF PLATES
COUNT CZERNIN Frontispiece
THE ARCHDUKE FRANZ FERDINAND 48
COUNT TISZA 128
GENERAL HOFFMANN 240
IN THE WORLD WAR
The bursting of a thunderstorm is preceded by certain definite phenomena in the atmosphere. The electric currents separate, and the storm is the result of atmospheric tension which can no longer be repressed. Whether or no we become aware of these happenings through outward signs, whether the clouds appear to us more or less threatening, nothing can alter the fact that the electric tension is bound to make itself felt before the storm bursts.
For years the political barometer of the European Ministries of Foreign Affairs had stood at "storm." It rose periodically, to fall again; it varied—naturally; but for years everything had pointed to the fact that the peace of the world was in danger.
The obvious beginnings of this European tension date back several years: to the time of Edward VII. On the one hand England's dread of the gigantic growth of Germany; on the other hand Berlin's politics, which had become a terror to the dwellers by the Thames; the belief that the idea of acquiring the dominion of the world had taken root in Berlin. These fears, partly due merely to envy and jealousy, but partly due also to a positive anxiety concerning existence; these fears led to the encircling policy of Edward VII., and thus was started the great drive against Germany. It is well known that Edward VII. made an attempt to exercise a direct influence on the Emperor Francis Joseph to induce him to secede from the Alliance and join the Powers encircling Germany. It is likewise known that the Emperor Francis Joseph rejected the proposal, and that this decided the fate of Austria-Hungary. From that day we were no longer the independent masters of our destiny. Our fate was linked to that of Germany; without being conscious of it, we were carried away by Germany through the Alliance.
I do not mean absolutely to deny that, during the years preceding war, it would still have been possible for Germany to avert it if she had eradicated from European public opinion all suspicion respecting her dream of world dominion, for far be it from me to assert that the Western Powers were eager for war. On the contrary, it is my firm conviction that the leading statesmen of the Western Powers viewed the situation as such, that if they did not succeed in defeating Germany, the unavoidable result would be a German world domination. I mention the Western Powers, for I believe that a strong military party in Russia, which had as chief the Grand Duke Nicholas, thought otherwise, and began this war with satisfaction. The terrible tragedy of this, the greatest misfortune of all time—and such is this war—lies in the fact that nobody responsible willed it; it arose out of a situation created first by a Serbian assassin and then by some Russian generals keen on war, while the events that ensued took the monarchs and statesmen completely by surprise. The Entente group of Powers is as much to blame as we are. As regards this, however, a very considerable difference must be made between the enemy states. In 1914 neither France nor England desired war. France had always cherished the thought of revenge, but, judging from all indications, she had no intention of fighting in 1914; but, on the contrary—as she did fifty years ago—left the decisive moment for entering into war to the future. The war came quite as a surprise to France. England, in spite of her anti-German policy, wished to remain neutral and only changed her mind owing to the invasion of Belgium. In Russia the Tsar did not know what he wanted, and the military party urged unceasingly for war. As a matter of fact, Russia began military operations without a declaration of war.
The states that followed after—Italy and Roumania—entered into the war for purposes of conquest, Roumania in particular. Italy also, of course, but owing to her geographical position, and being exposed to pressure from England, she was less able to remain neutral than Roumania.
But the war would never have broken out had it not been that the growing suspicion of the Entente as to Germany's plans had already brought the situation to boiling point. The spirit and demeanour of Germany, the speeches of the Emperor William, the behaviour of the Prussians throughout the world—whether in the case of a general at Potsdam or a commis voyageur out in East Africa—these Prussian manners inflicting themselves upon the world, the ceaseless boasting of their own power and the clattering of swords, roused throughout the whole world a feeling of antipathy and alarm and effected that moral coalition against Germany which in this war has found such terribly practical expression. On the other hand, I am fairly convinced that German, or rather Prussian tendencies have been misunderstood by the world, and that the leading German statesmen never had any intention of acquiring world dominion. They wished to retain Germany's place in the sun, her rank among the first Powers of the world; it was undoubtedly her right, but the real and alleged continuous German provocation and the ever-growing fears of the Entente in consequence created just that fatal competition in armaments and that coalition policy which burst like a terrible thunderstorm into war.
It was only on the basis of these European fears that the French plans of revenge developed into action. England would never have drawn the sword merely for the conquest of Alsace-Lorraine; but the French plan of revenge was admirably adapted to suit the policy inaugurated by King Edward, which was derived not from French but from English motives.
Out of this dread of attack and defence arose that mad fever for armaments which was characteristic of pre-war times. The race to possess more soldiers and more guns than one's neighbour was carried to an absurd extreme. The armaments which the nations had to bear had become so cumbersome as to be unbearable, and for long it had been obvious to everyone that the course entered upon could no longer be pursued, and that two possibilities alone remained—either a voluntary and general disarmament, or war.
A slight attempt at the first alternative was made in 1912 through negotiations between Germany and England respecting naval disarmament, but never got beyond the first stage. England was no readier for peace, and no more disposed to make advances than was Germany, but she was cleverer and succeeded in conveying to the world that she was the Power endangered by Germany's plans for expansion.
I recollect a very telling illustration of the German and British points of view, given to me by a prominent politician from a neutral state. This gentleman was crossing the Atlantic on an American steamer, and among the other travellers were a well-known German industrial magnate and an Englishman. The German was a great talker and preferred addressing as large an audience as possible, expatiating on the "uprising" of Germany, on the irrepressible desire for expansion to be found in the German people, on the necessity of impregnating the world with German culture, and on the progress made in all these endeavours. He discoursed on the rising prosperity of German trade in different parts of the world; he enumerated the towns where the German flag was flying; he pointed out with emphasis how "Made in Germany" was the term that must and would conquer the world, and did not fail to assert that all these grand projects were built on solid foundations upheld by military support. Such was the German. When my informant turned to the silent, quietly smiling Englishman and asked what he had to say to it, he simply answered: "There is no need for me to say anything, for I know that the world belongs to us." Such was the Englishman. This merely illustrates a certain frame of mind. It is a snapshot, showing how the German and the English mentality was reflected in the brain of a neutral statesman; but it is symptomatic, because thousands have felt the same, and because this impression of the German spirit contributed so largely to the catastrophe.
The Aehrenthal policy, contrary to what we were accustomed to on the Ballplatz, pursued ambitious plans for expansion with the greatest strength and energy, thereby adding to the suspicions of the world regarding us. For the belief gained credence that the Vienna policy was an offshoot of that of Berlin, and that the same line of action would be adopted in Vienna as in Berlin, and the general feeling of anxiety rose higher. Blacker and blacker grew the clouds; closer and closer the meshes of the net; misfortune was on the way.
I was in Constantinople shortly before the outbreak of war, and while there had a lengthy discussion of the political situation with the Markgraf Pallavicini, our most efficient and far-seeing ambassador there. He looked upon the situation as being extremely grave. Aided by his experience of a decade of political observations, he was able to put his finger on the pulse of Europe, and his diagnosis was as follows: that if a rapid change in the entire course of events did not intervene, we were making straight for war. He explained to me that he considered the only possibility of evading a war with Russia lay in our definitely renouncing all claims to influence in the Balkans and leaving the field to Russia. Pallavicini was quite clear in his own mind that such a course would mean our resigning the status of a Great Power; but apparently to him even so bitter a proceeding as that was preferable to the war which he saw was impending. Shortly afterwards I repeated this conversation to the Archduke and heir, Franz Ferdinand, and saw that he was deeply impressed by the pessimistic views of Pallavicini, of whom, like everyone else, he had a very high opinion. The Archduke promised to discuss the question as soon as possible with the Emperor. I never saw him again. That was the last conversation I had with him, and I do not know whether he ever carried out his intention of discussing the matter with the monarch.
The two Balkan wars were as summer lightning before the coming European thunderstorm. It was obvious to anyone acquainted with Balkan conditions that the peace there had produced no definite result, and the Peace of Bucharest in 1913, so enthusiastically acclaimed by Roumania, carried the germ of death at its birth. Bulgaria was humiliated and reduced; Roumania and, above all, Serbia, enlarged out of all proportion, were arrogant to a degree that baffles description. Albania, as the apple of discord between Austria-Hungary and Italy, was a factor that gave no promise of relief, but only of fresh wars. In order to understand the excessive hatred prevailing between the separate nations, one must have lived in the Balkans. When this hatred came to an outburst in the world war the most terrible scenes were enacted, and as an example it was notorious that the Roumanians tore their Bulgarian prisoners to pieces with their teeth, and that the Bulgarians, on their part, tortured the Roumanian prisoners to death in the most shocking manner. The brutality of the Serbians in the war can best be described by our own troops. The Emperor Francis Joseph clearly foresaw that the peace after the second Balkan war was merely a respite to draw breath before a new war. Prior to my departure for Bucharest in 1913 I was received in audience by the aged emperor, who said to me: "The Peace of Bucharest is untenable, and we are faced by a new war. God grant that it may be confined to the Balkans." Serbia, which had been enlarged to double its size, was far from being satisfied; but, on the contrary, was more than ever ambitious of becoming a Great Power.
Apparently the situation was still quiet. In fact, a few weeks before the catastrophe at Sarajevo the prevailing state of affairs showed almost an improvement in the relations between Vienna and Belgrade. But it was the calm before the storm. On June 28 the veil was rent asunder, and from one moment to the next a catastrophe threatened the world. The stone had started rolling.
At that time I was ambassador to Roumania. I was therefore only able from a distance to watch developments in Vienna and Berlin. Subsequently, however, I discussed events in those critical days with numerous leading personalities, and from all that I heard have been able to form a definite and clear view of the proceedings. I have no doubt whatever that Berchtold, even in his dreams, had never thought of a world war of such dimensions as it assumed; that he, above all, was persuaded that England would remain neutral; and the German Ambassador, Tschirsky, confirmed him in the conviction that a war against France and Russia would inevitably end in victory. I believe that the state of mind in which Count Berchtold addressed the ultimatum to Serbia was such that he said to himself, either—and this is the most favourable view—Serbia will accept the ultimatum, which would mean a great diplomatic success; or she will refuse it, and then, thanks to Germany's help, the victorious war against Russia and France will effect the birth of a new and vastly stronger Monarchy. It cannot for a moment be denied that this argument contained a series of errors; but it must be stated that, according to my convictions, Count Berchtold did not intend to incite war by the ultimatum, but hoped to the very last to gain the victory by the pen, and that in the German promises he saw a guarantee against a war in which the participators and the chances of victory were equally erroneously estimated.
Berchtold could not have entertained any doubt that a Serbian war would bring a Russian one in its train. At any rate, the reports sent by my brother, who was a business man in Petersburg, left him in no doubt on the matter.
Serbia's acceptance of the ultimatum was only partial, and the Serbian war broke out. Russia armed and joined in. But at this moment extremely important events took place.
On July 30, at midday, Tschirsky spoke in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and communicated to Berchtold the contents of a telegram received from Lichnowsky. This important telegram contained the following: He (Lichnowsky) had just returned from seeing Grey, who was very grave, but perfectly collected, though pointing out that the situation was becoming more and more complicated. Sassonoff had intimated that after the declaration of war he was no longer in a position to negotiate direct with Austria-Hungary, and requested England to resume proceedings, the temporary cessation of hostilities to be taken for granted. Grey proposed a negotiation between four, as it appeared possible to him (Grey) that Austria-Hungary, after occupying Belgrade, would state her terms.
To this Grey added a private comment, calling Lichnowsky's attention to the fact that a war between Russia and Austria-Hungary would facilitate England's neutrality, but that the conditions would inevitably change in the event of Germany and France being involved. Public opinion in England, which after the assassination was very favourable to Austria, was now beginning to fluctuate, as it was difficult to understand Austria's obstinacy.
Lichnowsky also added that Grey had told the Italian Ambassador that he thought Austria would receive every satisfaction on accepting negotiation. In any case the Serbians would be punished. Even without a war Austria would receive a guarantee for the future.
Such were the contents of the communication from London sent by Tschirsky, to which Bethmann added that he urgently requested the Vienna Cabinet to accept the negotiation. On receiving this information, Berchtold conveyed the news to the Emperor. His position was this: that Russia was already at war with the Monarchy on the evening of the same day on which the order for general mobilisation was to be submitted to the Emperor, and it appeared doubtful to him whether a postponement of their own mobilisation would be possible in view of the Russian attack. He had also to take into consideration the different parties prevailing in Russia, and no guarantee was obtainable that those who were in favour of negotiation would gain the day. Any postponement of mobilisation might in this case lead to incalculable military consequences. Obviously hostilities had begun without the knowledge and against the wishes of the Tsar; if they were also to be carried on against his wish, then Austria-Hungary would be too late.
I have never discussed this phase with Berchtold, but the material placed at my disposal leaves no doubt that he felt bound to inquire into this side of the question and then leave the decision to the Emperor Francis Joseph.
On the following day, July 31, therefore, Tschirsky, at the Ballplatz, communicated the contents of a telegram from King George to Prince Henry of Prussia. It ran as follows:—
"Thanks for telegram. So pleased to hear of William's efforts to concert with Nicky to maintain peace. Indeed, I am earnestly desirous that such an irreparable disaster as a European war should be averted. My Government is doing its utmost, suggesting to Russia and France to suspend further military preparations if Austria will consent to be satisfied with occupation of Belgrade and the neighbouring Serbian territory as a hostage for satisfactory settlement of her demands, other countries meanwhile suspending their war preparations. Trust William will use his great influence to induce Austria to accept this proposal, thus proving that Germany and England are working together to prevent what would be an international catastrophe. Pray assure William I am doing and shall continue to do all that lies in my power to preserve peace of Europe.
Both the telegrams cited were received in Vienna on July 31, subject to certain military precautions, a proceeding that did not satisfy London.
In London, as in Berlin, an effort was made to confine the conflict to Serbia. Berchtold did the same. In Russia there was a strong party working hard to enforce war at any price. The Russian invasion was an accomplished fact, and in Vienna it was thought unwise to stop mobilisation at the last moment for fear of being too late with defence. Some ambassadors did not keep to the instructions from their Governments; they communicated messages correctly enough, but if their personal opinion differed they made no secret of it, and it certainly weighed in the balance.
This added to the insecurity and confusion. Berchtold vacillated, torn hither and thither by different influences. It was a question of hours merely; but they passed by and were not made use of, and disaster was the result.
Russia had created strained conditions which brought on the world war.
Some months after the outbreak of war I had a long conversation on all these questions with the Hungarian Prime Minister, Count Stephen Tisza. He was decidedly opposed to the severe ultimatum, as he foresaw a war and did not wish for it. It is one of the most widely spread errors to stigmatise Tisza to-day as one of the instigators of the war. He was opposed to it, not from a general pacifist tendency, but because, in his opinion, an efficiently pursued policy of alliance would in a few years considerably strengthen the powers of the Monarchy. He particularly returned to the subject of Bulgaria, which then was still neutral and whose support he had hoped to gain before we went to war. I also obtained from Tisza several details concerning the activities of the German Government as displayed by the German Ambassador immediately preceding the war. I purposely made a distinction between the German Government and the German diplomat, as I was under the impression that Herr von Tschirsky had taken various steps without being instructed so to do, and when I previously have alluded to the fact that not all the ambassadors made use of the language enjoined by their Governments, I had Herr von Tschirsky specially in my mind; his whole temperament and feelings led him to interfere in our affairs with a certain vehemence and not always in the most tactful way, thus rousing the Monarchy out of its lethargy.
There is no doubt whatever that all Herr von Tschirsky's private speeches at this time were attuned to the tone of "Now or Never," and it is certain that the German Ambassador declared his opinion to be "that at the present moment Germany was prepared to support our point of view with all her moral and military power, but whether this would prove to be the case in future if we accepted the Serbian rebuff appears to me doubtful." I believe that Tschirsky in particular was firmly persuaded that in the very near future Germany would have to go through a war against France and Russia, and he considered that the year 1914 would be more favourable than a later date. For this reason, because first of all he did not believe in the fighting capacity of either Russia or France, and secondly because—and this is a very important point—he was convinced that he could bring the Monarchy into this war, while it appeared doubtful to him that the aged and peace-loving Emperor Francis Joseph would draw the sword for Germany on any other occasion where the action would centre less round him, he wished to make use of the Serbian episode so as to be sure of Austria-Hungary in the deciding struggle. That, however, was his policy, and not Bethmann's.
This, I repeat, is the impression produced on me by lengthy conversations with Count Tisza—an impression which has been confirmed from other sources. I am persuaded, however, that Tschirsky, in behaving as he did, widely overstretched his prescribed sphere of activity. Iswolsky was not the only one of his kind. I conclude this to be so, since Tschirsky, as intimated in a former dispatch, was never in a position to make an official declaration urging for war, but appears only to have spoken after the manner of diplomatic representatives when anxious to adapt the policy of their Government to their own point of view. Undoubtedly Tschirsky transmitted his instructions correctly and loyally, nor did he keep back or secrete anything. An ambassador attains more or less according to the energy expended by him in carrying out the instructions of his Government; and the private opinion of the ambassador is, under certain circumstances, not easy to distinguish from his official one. At all events, the latter will be influenced by the former, and Tschirsky's private opinion aimed at a more vigorous policy.
In complete ignorance of impending events, I had arrived at Steiermark a few days before the ultimatum in order to establish my family there for the summer. While there I received a message from Berchtold to return to my post as quickly as possible. I obeyed at once, but before leaving had one more audience with the Emperor Francis Joseph at Ischl. I found the Emperor extremely depressed. He alluded quite briefly to the coming events, and merely asked me if, in case of a war, I could guarantee Roumania's neutrality. I answered in the affirmative, so long as King Carol was alive; beyond that any guarantee was impossible.
Certain extremely important details relating to the period immediately preceding the outbreak of war can only be attributed to the influence of the group represented by Tschirsky. It is incomprehensible why we granted to our then allies, Italy and Roumania, facilities for playing the part of seceders by presenting them with an ultimatum before action was completed, instead of winning them over and involving them also.
I am no accurate judge of the events in Rome, but King Carol in Roumania had certainly tried everything to induce Serbia to yield. In all probability he would not have succeeded, as Serbia had no idea of renouncing her plans for a Greater Serbia; but presumably an anxious feeling would have arisen between Bucharest and Belgrade, which would strongly have influenced further Roumanian policy in our favour.
Bucharest has made enormous capital out of the diplomatic proceedings.
Before the first decisive Cabinet Council Baron Fasciotti, the Italian Ambassador, harangued all the members in this spirit, and declared that the situation in Roumania and Italy was similar, and in each case there was no reason for co-operation, as neither Rome nor Bucharest had previously come to an understanding regarding the ultimatum. His efforts were crowned with success.
On August 1, 1914, I sent the following telegram to Berchtold:
"The Prime Minister has just notified me the result of the Cabinet Council. After a warm appeal from the King to bring the treaty into force, the Cabinet Council, with one exception, declared that no party could undertake the responsibility of such action.
"The Cabinet Council has resolved that as Roumania was neither notified nor consulted concerning the Austro-Hungarian action in Belgrade no casus foederis exists. The Cabinet Council further resolved that military preparations for the safety of the frontier be undertaken, which would be an advantage for the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, as several hundred miles of its frontiers would thereby be covered.
"The Prime Minister added that he had already given orders to strengthen all military posts, after which by degrees general mobilisation would follow.
"The Government intends only to publish a short communique relating to the military measures taken for the safety of the country."
Secondly, it appears incomprehensible why the ultimatum was drawn up as it was. It was not so much a manifestation of Berchtold's wish for war, as of other influences, above all that of Tschirsky. In 1870 Bismarck also desired war, but the Ems telegram was of quite a different character.
In the present case it appears incomprehensible why a Note should have been selected which by its wording gave umbrage to many who hitherto were favourably disposed towards us.
Had we, before the ultimatum and after the assassination, secretly and confidentially furnished proofs to the Great Powers who were not inimical to us, and especially to England, that trouble was impending over a political murder staged at Belgrade, we should have evoked a very different frame of mind in those Governments. Instead, we flung the ultimatum at them and at the whole of Europe.
It was feared probably at the Ballplatz that any communication to the Powers would result in their intervention in the form of a new conference of ambassadors, and that stagnation would ensue. But in the year 1914 the case was very different from former days—before the ultimatum right was so undoubtedly on our side.
At all events, the Tschirsky group dreaded such an insipid solution, and had insisted, therefore, on drastic action. In 1870 Bismarck was the attacking party, and he succeeded in interchanging the parts. We also succeeded, but in an opposite sense.
Then came our greatest disaster: the German entry into Belgium.
Had England remained neutral we should not have lost the war. In his book, "Ursachen und Ausbruck des Krieges," page 172, Jagow tells how on August 4, towards the close of the Reichstag session, the English Ambassador appeared there and again asked whether Germany would respect Belgium's neutrality. At that time German troops were already on Belgian soil. On hearing that, the Ambassador retired, but, returning in a few hours, demanded a declaration, to be handed in before midnight, that the further advance of the German troops into Belgium would cease, otherwise he was instructed to ask for his passport and England would then protect Belgium. Germany refused, and the consequence was a declaration of war by England.
That England on the same day sent word to Belgium that she would resist with her utmost strength any violation of her neutrality is fully in accordance with the steps taken at Berlin by the English Ambassador.
Two days before, on August 2, the English Cabinet certainly gave France the assurance that, in addition to the protection of Belgian neutrality, she had demanded that there should be no naval action against France. The contradiction between both points of view is clearly visible. It appears to me, however, that the only explanation is that on August 4 England no longer adhered to her standpoint of August 2, for the German acceptance of the English ultimatum on the evening of August 4 had wrested from England the moral possibility of making further claims. If England, on August 4, had sought a pretext for war, she would have put forward, besides the Belgian demand, also that referring to the abstention from naval action. But she did not do so, and confined her ultimatum to the Belgian question, thereby tying her own hands in the event of Germany accepting the ultimatum. On the night of August 4, between the hours of nine and midnight, the decision as to whether England would remain neutral or no lay with Germany.
Germany kept to her resolve to violate Belgian neutrality in spite of the certainty of the English declaration of war resulting therefrom. That was the first fateful victory of the militarists over the diplomats in this war. The former were naturally the motive power.
The German military plan was to overrun France and then make a furious onslaught on Russia. This plan was shattered on the Marne.
In more respects than one, German policy foundered on the heritage left by Bismarck. Not only was the conquest of Alsace-Lorraine a lasting obstacle to friendly relations with France, perpetually forcing the latter into the arms of every anti-German coalition, but Bismarck's heritage became Germany's curse, because the Germans, though desirous of following in his footsteps, had no one sufficiently competent to lead them therein.
Bismarck created the German Empire out of Dueppel, Koeniggraetz and Sedan. His policy was one of "blood and iron"—and for fifty years that policy of violence and violent means had been engrained in the mind of every German schoolboy as the gospel of diplomatic art—but Bismarck was not able to bequeath to the German people his genial efficiency, wisdom and prudence in the use of his violent means. Bismarck carefully prepared the wars of 1866 and 1870, and struck when he held good cards in his hand. The Germany of William II. had no desire for war, but one day plunged headlong into it, and during the first week had already created political situations which were beyond her power to cope with. Belgium and Luxembourg were treated on the Bismarckian principle of "Might before Right," and the world rose against Germany. I say world, because England's power extended over the world.
At the beginning of the war England stood at "order arms." It would have been entirely true to her traditional policy to allow Germany to fight against France and Russia and mutually weaken each other, then at a given moment to intervene and enjoin peace. England was forced to join in by Germany threatening to establish herself in Belgium. How far the German invasion of Belgium can morally be extenuated owing to a French purpose to do likewise has still not been made clear—but this argument does not apply to Luxembourg, and the breach of right remains the same whether the country where it occurs be large or small.
The invasion of Belgium and Luxembourg was a stroke of the Bismarckian policy of violence, not carried out by politicians but by generals who were devoid of Bismarck's power of calculating the devastating consequences.
Later on, during the course of the war, the German Supreme Command made repeated use of violent means, which were more detrimental than useful to us, though subsequently these means were morally justifiable and comprehensible; in fact, were directly forced on us, seeing that Germany was fighting for her existence, and her adversaries, who would not come to an understanding, left her no choice of means. The use of noxious gas, aerial attacks on open towns and the U-boat warfare were means used in desperation against a merciless enemy, who left women and children to die of starvation and declared day by day that Germany must be annihilated.
When war was declared, that murderous element was lacking, and it was only the entry into neutral territory that fostered an atmosphere of such terrible hatred and vengeance and stamped the struggle as a war of annihilation.
England's policy concerning Napoleon III. was more of a diplomatic than a military nature, and everything tends to show that in the present case England originally had no intention of joining in the conflagration, but was content to see Germany weakened by her own confederates.
So far as I am in a position to review the situation no blame for the wrongly estimated English attitude can be attached to our ambassadors in London. Their predictions and warnings were correct, and the final decision respecting the previously mentioned English ultimatum was taken in Berlin and not in London. Moreover, the German Foreign Office would never voluntarily have consented to the acts of violence, but the military party, who cared neither for diplomatic reports nor political complications, carried everything before them.
It will always be particularly difficult in a war to define the limits of military and political spheres of action. The activities of both encroach to so great an extent on each other as to form one whole, and very naturally in a war precedence is given to military needs. Nevertheless, the complete displacement of politicians into subordinate positions which was effected in Germany and thereby made manifest the fact that the German Supreme Military Command had possessed itself of all State power of command, was a misfortune. Had the politicians at Berlin obtained a hearing there would never have been any invasion of Belgium, nor yet the ruthless U-boat warfare, the abstention from which would in both cases have saved the life of the Central Powers.
From the very first day the Emperor William was as a prisoner in the hands of his generals.
The blind faith in the invincibility of the army was, like so much else, an heirloom from Bismarck, and the "Prussian lieutenant, inimitable save in Germany," became her doom. The entire German people believed in victory and in an Emperor who flung himself into the arms of his generals and took upon himself a responsibility far surpassing the normal limit of what was bearable. Thus the Emperor William allowed his generals full liberty of action, and, to begin with, their tactics seemed to be successful. The first battle of the Marne was a godsend for the Entente in their direst need. But, later, when the war long since had assumed a totally different character, when the troops were made stationary by the war of position and fresh enemies were constantly rising up against us, when Italy, Roumania, and finally America appeared on the scene, then did the German generals achieve miracles of strategy. Hindenburg and Ludendorff became gods in the eyes of the German people; the whole of Germany looked up to them and hoped for victory through them alone. They were more powerful than the Emperor, and he, therefore, less than ever in a position to oppose them.
Both the generals drew the wellnigh unlimited measure of their power direct from the Entente, for the latter left the Germans in no doubt that they must either conquer or die. The terrified and suffering people clung, therefore, to those who, as they believed, alone could give them victory.
Anglo-German competition, the increasing decadence of the Monarchy, and the consequent growing lust of conquest evinced by our neighbours had prepared the soil for war. Serbia, by the assassination, brought about an acute state of tension, and Russia profited thereby to fling herself on the Central Powers.
That appears to me to be briefly an objective history of the beginning of the war. Faults, errors and omissions from the most varied sources may occur in it, but can neither alter nor affect the real nature of the case.
The victorious Entente gives a different interpretation of it. They maintain that Germany let loose the war, and the terrible peace of Versailles is the product of that conception, for it serves as punishment.
A neutral court of justice, as proposed by Germany, was refused. Their own witnesses and their own judges suffice for them. They are judge and prosecutor in one. In Dr. Bauer, the German-Austrian Secretary of State, they have certainly secured an important witness for their view of the case. In the winter of 1918 the latter openly declared that "three Austro-Hungarian counts and one general had started the war."
Were that true, then Germany would also have to bear a vast amount of blame. For the four "guilty ones" could not have incited to war without being sure of having Germany at their back, and were it true, there could only have been a question of some plot laid by the Austro-Hungarian and the German Governments, in which case Germany, being the vastly superior military element, would undoubtedly have assumed the role of leader.
Bauer's statement shows that they who inflicted the punitive peace were right.
While the war was going on, a separate peace on our side that would have delivered up Germany would have been treachery. But had attempts at peace failed owing to the claims put forward by Germany, we should have been morally justified in breaking away from them, as we were united together in a war of defence and not in a war of conquest. Although the German military party both dreamed and talked incessantly of conquest, which doubtless gave rise to a misunderstanding of the situation, that was by no means the exclusive reason why peace could not be attained. It simply was because on no consideration could the Entente be induced to pardon Germany. I have already mentioned this in my speech of December 11, 1918, in which I discoursed on politics in the world war: "Ludendorff is exactly like the statesmen of France and England. None of them wishes to compromise, they only look for victory: in that respect there is no difference between them." As long as I was in office the Entente would never come to an agreement with Germany inter pares, thereby directly forcing us to assume the part of a war of defence. Had we succeeded in what we so often attempted to do, namely to make the Entente pronounce the saving word; and had we ever been able to make the Entente state that they were ready to conclude a status quo peace with Germany, we would have been relieved of our moral obligations. Against this may be quoted: "Salus rei publicas supreme lex"—in order to save the Monarchy Germany would have to be given up, and therefore the other question must be inquired into as to whether the "physical possibility" of a separate peace really did exist. I also mentioned this matter in the aforesaid speech, and expressly stated then, and withdraw nothing, that after the entry of England, then of Italy, Roumania, and finally of America into the war, I considered a victory peace on our side to be a Utopian idea. But up to the last moment of my official activities, I cherished the hope of a peace of understanding from month to month, from week to week, even from day to day, and believed that the possibility would arise of obtaining such a peace of understanding, however great the sacrifices. Just as little as anyone else could I foresee the end which practically has arrived, nor yet the present state of affairs. A catastrophe of such magnitude and such dimensions was never what I feared. This is confirmed in the published report of my aforesaid speech, where I say: "A victory peace was out of the question; we are therefore compelled to effect a peace with sacrifice." The Imperial offer to cede Galicia to Poland, and, indirectly, to Germany, arose out of this train of thought, as did all the peace proposals to the Entente, which always clearly intimated that we were ready for endurable sacrifices.
It had always been obvious that the Entente would tear the Monarchy in shreds, both in the event of a peace of understanding and of a separate peace. It was quite in keeping with the terms of the Pact of London of April 26, 1915.
The resolutions passed at that congress which prepared for Italy's entry into the war, determined the further course of the war, for they included the division of the Monarchy, and forced us, therefore, into a desperate war of defence. I believe that London and Paris, at times when the fortune of war was on our side, both regretted the resolutions that had been adopted, as they prevented the dwellers on both the Seine and the Thames from making any temporarily desired advances to us.
As far back as 1915 we received vague news of the contents of this strictly secret London agreement; but only in February, 1917, did we obtain the authentic whole, when the Russian revolutionary Government published a protocol referring to it, which subsequently was reproduced in our papers.
I add this protocol to the appendix of the book, as, in spite of its being so eminently important, it has not received adequate attention on the part of the public.
According to the settlements, which were binding on the four States—England, France, Russia, and Italy—the last-named was awarded the Trentino, the whole of South Tyrol as far as the Brenner Pass, Trieste, Gorizia, Gradisca, the whole of Istria with a number of islands, also Dalmatia.
In the course of the war the Entente had further made binding promises to the Roumanians and Serbians, hence the need for the dissolution of the Monarchy.
Having made these statements, I wish to explain why a separate peace was a sheer impossibility for us. In other words, what were the reasons that prevented us from ending the war and becoming neutral—reasons which only left one possibility open to us: to change our adversary, and instead of fighting the Entente, together with Germany, to join the Entente and with her fight against Germany? It must, above all, be kept in mind that up to the last days that I held office the Eastern front was manned by Austro-Hungarian and German troops all mixed together, and this entire army was under the Imperial German Command. We had no army of our own in the East—not in the true sense of the word, as it had been merged into the German army. That was a consequence of our military inferiority. Again and again we resorted to German aid. We called repeatedly for help in Serbia, Roumania, Russia, and Italy, and were compelled to purchase it by giving up certain things. Our notorious inferiority was only in very slight degree the fault of the individual soldier; rather did it emanate from the general state of Austro-Hungarian affairs. We entered the war badly equipped and sadly lacking in artillery; the various Ministers of War and the Parliaments were to blame in that respect. The Hungarian Parliament neglected the army for years because their national claims were not attended to, and in Austria the Social Democrats had always been opposed to any measures of defence, scenting therein plans for attack and not defence.
Our General Staff was in part very bad. There were, of course, exceptions, but they only prove the rule. What was chiefly wanting was contact with the troops. These gentlemen sat with their backs turned and gave their orders. Hardly ever did they see the men at the front or where the bullets whistled. During the war the troops learned to hate the General Staff. It was very different in the German army. The German General Staffs exacted much, but they also achieved much; above all, they exposed themselves freely and set an example. Ludendorff, sword in hand, took Liege, accompanied by a couple of men! In Austria archdukes were put into leading posts for which they were quite unsuited. Some of them were utterly incompetent; the Archdukes Friedrich, Eugen, and Joseph formed three exceptions. The first of these in particular very rightly looked upon his post not as that of a leader of operations, but as a connecting link between us and Germany, and between the army and the Emperor Francis Joseph. He always acted correctly and with eminent tact, and overcame many difficulties. What was left of our independence was lost after Luck.
To return, therefore, to the plan developed above: a separate peace that would have contained an order for our troops on the Eastern front to lay down their arms or to march back would immediately have led to conflict at the front. Following on the violent opposition that such an order would naturally have aroused in the German leaders, orders from Vienna and counter-orders from Berlin would have led to a state of complete disorganisation, even to anarchy. Humanly speaking, it was out of the question to look for a peaceful and bloodless unravelment at the front. I state this in order to explain my firm conviction that the idea that such a separating of the two armies could have been carried out in mutual agreement is based on utterly erroneous premises, and also to prove that we have here the first factor showing that we would not have ended the war by a separate peace, but would, on the contrary, have been entangled in a new one.
But what would have been enacted at the front would also, and in aggravated fashion, have been repeated throughout the entire country: a civil war would have been inevitable.
I must here explain a second misunderstanding, resulting also from my speech of December 11, which is due to my statement that "if we came out Germany could not carry on the war." I admit that this statement is not clearly expressed, and was interpreted as though I had intended to say that if we came out the immediate collapse of Germany was a foregone conclusion. I did not intend to say that, nor did I say or mean it. I meant to say that our secession from Germany would render impossible a victorious ending of the war, or even a lasting successful continuance of the war; that Germany through this would be faced by the alternative of either submitting to the dictates of the Entente or of bringing up her supremest fighting powers and suppressing the Monarchy, preparing for her the same fate as Roumania met with. I meant to say that Austria-Hungary, if she allowed the Entente troops to enter, would prove such a terrible danger to Germany that she would be compelled to use every means to forestall us and paralyse the move. Whoever imagines that the German military leaders would not have seized the latter eventuality knows them but badly, and has a poor opinion of their spirit. In order to be able to form an objective judgment of this train of thought one should be able to enter into the spirit of the situation. In April, 1916, when I sent in my resignation for other reasons, Germany's confidence in victory was stronger than ever. The Eastern front was free: Russia and Roumania were out of action. The troops were bound westward, and no one who knew the situation as it was then can repudiate my assertion that the German military leaders believed themselves then to be nearer than ever to a victory peace; that they were persuaded they would take both Paris and Calais and force the Entente to its knees. It is out of the question that at such a moment and under such conditions they could have replied to the falling away of Austria-Hungary otherwise than by violence.
All who will not admit the argument, I would refer to a fact which it would be difficult to evade. Six months afterwards, when there was already clear evidence of the German collapse, when Andrassy declared a separate peace, the Germans, as a matter of fact, threw troops into the Tyrol. If they, when utterly exhausted, defeated, and ruined, with revolution at their back, still held firmly to this decision and endeavoured to make a battlefield on Austrian territory, how much more would they have done that six months earlier, when they still stood full of proud defiance and their generals dreamed of victory and triumph? What I, secondly, also would maintain is that the immediate consequence of a separate peace would have been the conversion of Austria-Hungary into a theatre of war. The Tyrol, as well as Bohemia, would have become fields of battle.
If it be maintained now that the great exhaustion from the war that prevailed throughout the Monarchy before April, 1917, had caused the entire population of the former Monarchy to rally round the Minister who had concluded the separate peace, it is a conscious or unconscious untruth. Certainly the Czechs were decidedly against Germany, and it would not have been reasons of political alliance that would have prevented them from agreeing. But I would like to know what the Czech people would have said if Bohemia had been turned into a theatre of war and exposed to all the sufferings endured by this and all other peoples, and when to it had been added the devastation of the fatherland, for, let there be no doubt about it, the troops advancing with flying colours from Saxony would have made their way to Prague and penetrated even farther. We had no military forces in Bohemia; we should not have been able to check the advance, and quicker than either we or the Entente could have sent troops worth mentioning to Bohemia, the Germans, drawing troops from their wellnigh inexhaustible reserves, would have marched either against us or against the Entente on our territory. The German-Austrian public would not have been in agreement with such a Minister; the German Nationalists and the German bourgeoisie have no say in the matter.
On October 28 the German Nationalists published their own particular point of view in the following manner:
"The members of the German Nationalist parties were highly indignant at the way in which Count Andrassy answered Wilson's Note. Count Andrassy came from Hungary, and neither came to any agreement with the Imperial German Government nor with the representatives of the Executive Committee before drawing up the Note. Although the peace negotiations were most warmly welcomed and considered most necessary, still the one-sided action of Count Andrassy in dispatching the Note to Wilson without previous arrangement with the German Empire has roused the greatest indignation in the German parties. A few days ago a delegation from the German Executive Committee was in Berlin and was favourably received by the German Imperial Government in the matter of providing for German-Austria. Although German soldiers fought by the side of ours in the Alps and the Carpathians, the alliance has now been violated by this effort to approach Wilson without the consent of the German Empire, as is expressly stated in the Note. Besides which, no previous agreement with the representatives of the German Executive Committee was sought for. They were ignored and the answer was sent to Wilson. The German Nationalist parties strongly protest against such an unqualifiable act and will insist in the German Executive Committee that German-Austria's right of self-determination be unconditionally upheld and peace be secured in concert with the German Empire."
Neither would the German-Austrian Social Democrats have been a party to such a movement.
A conscious and intended misrepresentation of fact lies before us if it be maintained to-day that either the National Assembly or the Austrian Social Democrats would have approved of and supported such policy. I again have in mind the Andrassy days.
On October 30 the National Assembly took up its position for action. Dr. Sylvester drew up the report and pointed out the following:
"It was, however, neither necessary nor desirable to make the attempt in such a way as to create an incurable rupture between German-Austria and the German Empire that would endanger the future of our people. The German-Austrian National Assembly asserts that the Note of October 27 from the Royal and Imperial Minister for Foreign Affairs was drawn up and dispatched to President Wilson without in any way coming to an agreement with the representatives of the German-Austrian people. The National Assembly protests all the more insistently against this proceeding as the nation to which the present Minister for Foreign Affairs belongs has expressly refused any joint dealings. The National Assembly states that it and its organs alone have the right to represent the German-Austrian people in all matters relating to foreign affairs and particularly in all peace negotiations."
The protest met with no opposition in the National Assembly.
Afterwards the chairman, Dr. Ellenbogen, the Social Democrat, spoke as follows:
"Instead of now telling the German Emperor that his remaining in office is the greatest obstacle to peace" (loud applause from the Social Democrats), "and if there ever were an object in Curtius's famous leap, it would be comprehensible now were the German Emperor to copy it to save his people, this coalition now seizes the present moment to break away from Germany and in doing so attacks German democracy in the rear. Those gentlemen arrived too late to gain any profit from the peace. What now remains is the bare and shameful breach of faith, the thanks of the House of Austria, so styled by a celebrated German poet." (Applause from the Social Democrats and the German Radicals.)
It was the attack on the separate peace that furnished the exceptional opportunity for Social Democrats and German Radicals to unite in common applause, probably the first instance of such a thing in all these years of war.
If that could happen at a moment when it already was obvious that there was no longer a possibility of making a peace of understanding together with Germany—what would have happened, I ask, at a time when this was by no means so clear to the great majority of the population; at a time when it was still far from certain, or, at least, not to be proved mathematically, that we in time and together with Germany might still be able to conclude a peace of understanding? Disbandment at the front, where all would be fighting against all, civil war in the interior—such would have been the result of a separate peace. And all that in order finally to impose on us the resolutions passed in London! For never—as I shall presently show—had the Entente given up their decision, as they were bound to Italy, and Italy would allow of no change. Such a policy would have been as suicide from the sheer fear of death.
In 1917 I once discussed the whole question with the late Dr. Victor Adler, and pointed out to him the probabilities ensuing from a separate peace.
Dr. Adler replied: "For God's sake, do not plunge us into a war with Germany!" After the entry of Bavarian troops into the Tyrol (Adler was then a secretary in the Foreign Affairs department) he reminded me of our conversation, and added: "The catastrophe we spoke of then has arrived. The Tyrol will become a theatre of war."
Everyone in Austria wished for peace. No one wanted a new war—and a separate peace would have brought about not peace, but a new war with Germany.
In Hungary, Stephen Tisza ruled with practically unlimited powers; he was far more powerful than the entire Wekerle Ministry put together. As applied to Hungary, a separate peace would also have meant the carrying out of the Entente aims; that is, the loss of the largest and richest territories in the north and south of Czecho-Slovakia, Roumania and Serbia. Is there anyone who can honestly maintain that the Hungarians in 1917 would have agreed to these sacrifices without putting up the bitterest resistance? Everyone who knows the circumstances must admit that in this case Tisza would have had the whole of Hungary behind him in a fierce attack on Vienna. Soon after I took office I had a long and very serious conversation with him on the German and the peace questions. Tisza pointed out that the Germans were difficult to deal with; they were arrogant and despotic; yet without them we could not bring the war to an end. The proposal to cede Hungarian territory (Transylvania) and also the plan to enforce an internal Hungarian reform in favour of the subject nationalities were matters that were not capable of discussion. The congress in London in 1915 had adopted resolutions that were quite mad and never could be realised, and the desire for destruction prevailing in the Entente could only be suppressed by force. In all circumstances, we must keep our place by the side of Germany. In Hungary are many different currents of feeling—but the moment that Vienna prepared to sacrifice any part of Hungary, the whole country would rise as one man against such action. In that respect there was no difference between him—Tisza—and Karolyi. Tisza alluded to Karolyi's attitude before the Roumanian declaration of war, referred to the attitude of Parliament, and said that if peace were to be made behind Hungary's back she would separate from Austria and act independently.
I replied that there was no question either of separating from Germany or of ceding any Hungarian territory, but that we must be quite clear as to what we had to guard should we be carried further through the German lust of conquest.
Thereupon Tisza pointed out that the situation was different. It was not known for certain what had been determined at the conference in London (the protocol had not then been published), but that Hungarian territory was promised to Roumania was just as certain as that the Entente was planning to intervene in Hungarian internal affairs, and both contingencies were equally unacceptable. Were the Entente to give Hungary a guarantee for the status quo ante and to desist from any internal interference it would alter the situation. Until then he must declare against any attempt at peace.
The conversation as it proceeded became more animated, owing particularly to my accusing him of viewing all politics from a Hungarian point of view, which he did not deny, though he maintained that the dispute was a mere platonic one, as the Entente peace terms appeared to be such that Austria would be left with much less than Hungary. I was also first to state the terms under which we could make peace; then only would it be seen whether extreme pressure brought to bear on Germany were advisable or not. There was no sense in Germany's advocating peace if she intended to continue fighting. For Germany was fighting above all for the integrity of the Monarchy, which would be lost the moment Germany laid down her arms. Whatever German politicians and generals said was of little consequence. As long as England remained bent on satisfying her Allies with our territory, Germany was the only protection against these plans.
Tisza had no desire for conquest beyond a frontier protection from Roumania, and he was decidedly opposed to the dismemberment of new states (Poland); that would be to weaken not to strengthen Hungary.
After a lengthy discussion we agreed to bind ourselves to the following policy:
(1) So long, as the determination made at the conference in London, i.e. the destruction of the Monarchy, continues to be the Entente's objective, we must fight on in the certain hope of crushing that spirit of destruction.
(2) But as our war is purely a defensive war, it will on no account be carried on for purposes of conquest.
(3) Any semblance of the weakening of our allied relations must be avoided.
(4) No concession of Hungarian territory may take place without the knowledge of the Prime Minister.
(5) Should the Austrian Ministry agree with the Foreign Minister respecting a cession of Austrian territory, the Hungarian Prime Minister will naturally acquiesce.
When the conference in London and the destruction of the Monarchy came into question, Tisza was entirely in the right, and that he otherwise to the end adhered to his standpoint is proved on the occasion of his last visit to the Southern Slavs, which he undertook at the request of the Emperor immediately before the collapse, and when in the most marked manner he showed himself to be opposed to the aspirations of the Southern Slavs.
Whoever attempts to judge in objective fashion must not, when looking back from to-day, relegate all that has since happened to former discernible facts, but should consider that, in spite of all pessimism and all fears, the hopes of a reasonable peace of understanding, even though involving sacrifices, still existed, and that it was impossible to plunge the Monarchy into a catastrophe at once for fear of its coming later.
If the situation is described to-day as though the inhabitants of the Monarchy, and especially the Social Democrats, were favourably disposed for any eventuality, even for a separate peace, I must again most emphatically repudiate it. I bear in mind that Social Democracy without doubt was the party most strongly in favour of peace, and also that Social Democracy in Germany, as with us, repeatedly stated that there were certain limits to its desire for peace. The German Social Democrats never agreed that Alsace-Lorraine ought to be given up, and never have our Social Democrats voted for ceding Trieste, Bozen and Meran. This would in any case have been the price of peace—and also the price of a separate peace—for, as I have already pointed out, at the conference in London, which dates back to 1915, binding obligations had been entered into for the partition of the Monarchy, while all that had been promised to Italy.
The fall of the Monarchy was quite inevitable, whether through the separation from Germany or through the vacillation in the Entente ranks—for the claims of the Italians, the Roumanians, the Serbians, and the Czechs had all been granted. In any case the Monarchy would have fallen and German-Austria have arisen as she has done now; and I doubt whether the part played by that country during the proceedings would have recommended it to the special protection of the Entente. It is a very great mistake, whether conscious or unconscious, to believe and to maintain that the population of German-Austria, and especially the present leaders of Social Democracy, are devoid of any strong national feeling. I refer to the part played by the Austrian Social Democracy in the question of union. It was the motive power in the union with Germany, and the papers repeated daily that no material advantages which the Entente could offer to Austria could alter the decision. How, therefore, can this same Social Democracy, whose entire political views and aims are subordinate to the desire for a union with Germany—how can this Social Democracy demand a policy which, without doubt, must lead not only to a separation from Germany, but to a fratricidal war with the German nation? And why condemn the upholding of allied relations when Andrassy was abused for doing the opposite?
But what was the situation in March, 1918, shortly before my resignation? Germany stood at the height of her success. I do not pretend to say that her success was real. In this connection that is of no moment; but the Germans were persuaded that they were quite near a victorious end, that after leaving the Eastern front they would throw themselves on to the Western front, and that the war would end before America had time to come in. Their reckoning was at fault, as we all know to-day. But for the German generals the will to victory was the leading spirit, and all decisions arrived at by Germany against the defection of Austria-Hungary proceeded from that dominant influence.
As already mentioned, I stated in my speech of December 11, on foreign policy, that neither the Entente nor Germany would conclude a peace of renunciation. Since then I have had opportunity to speak with several men of the Entente, and consequent on the views that I obtained, I feel I must formulate my previous opinion in still stronger terms. I came to the firm conclusion that the Entente—England above all—from the summer of 1917 at any rate, had formed an unbending resolve to shatter Germany.
From that time onwards England, with the obstinacy which is her chief characteristic, appears to have been determined not to treat further with Germany, nor to sheathe her sword until Germany lay crushed to earth. It makes no difference in the matter that the German military party—though for other reasons—from a total misconception of their chances of victory, steadily refused a peace involving sacrifice at a time when it might have been possible. This is an historical fact, but as an upholder of truth I must distinctly state that I doubt whether concessions would have changed the fate of Germany. We could have gone over to the enemy—in 1917 and also in 1918; we could have fought against Germany with the Entente on Austro-Hungarian soil, and would doubtless have hastened Germany's collapse; but the wounds which Austria-Hungary would have received in the fray would not have been less serious than those from which she is now suffering: she would have perished in the fight against Germany, as she has as good as perished in her fight allied with Germany.
Austria-Hungary's watch had run down. Among the few statesmen who in 1914 wished for war—like Tschirsky, for instance—there can have been none who after a few months had not altered and regretted his views. They, too, had not thought of a world war. I believe to-day, nevertheless, that even without the war the fall of the Monarchy would have happened, and that the assassination in Serbia was the first step.
The Archduke Heir Apparent was the victim of Greater Serbia's aspirations; but these aspirations, which led to the breaking away of our Southern Slav provinces, would not have been suppressed, but, on the contrary, would have largely increased and asserted themselves, and would have strengthened the centrifugal tendencies of other peoples within the Monarchy.
Lightning at night reveals the country for a second, and the same effect was produced by the shots fired at Sarajevo. It became obvious that the signal for the fall of the Monarchy had been given. The bells of Sarajevo, which began to toll half an hour after the murder, sounded the death knell of the Monarchy.
The feeling among the Austrian people, and especially at Vienna, was very general that the outrage at Sarajevo was a matter of more importance than the murder of an Imperial prince and his wife, and that it was the alarm signal for the ruin of the Habsburg Empire.
I have been told that during the period between the assassination and the war, warlike demonstrations were daily occurrences in the Viennese restaurants and people's parks; patriotic and anti-Serbian songs were sung, and Berchtold was scoffed at because he could not "exert himself to take any energetic steps." This must not be taken as an excuse for any eventual mistakes on the part of the leaders of the nation, for a leading statesman ought not to allow himself to be influenced by the man in the street. It is only to prove that the spirit developed in 1914 appears to have been very general. And it may perhaps be permitted to add this comment: how many of those who then clamoured for war and revenge and demanded "energy," would, now that the experiment has totally failed, severely criticise and condemn Berchtold's "criminal behaviour"?
It is, of course, impossible to say in what manner the fall of the Monarchy would have occurred had war been averted. Certainly in a less terrible fashion than was the case through the war. Probably much more slowly, and doubtless without dragging the whole world into the whirlpool. We were bound to die. We were at liberty to choose the manner of our death, and we chose the most terrible.
Without knowing it, we lost our independence at the outbreak of war. We were transformed from a subject into an object.
This unfortunate war once started, we were powerless to end it. At the conference in London the death sentence had been passed on the Empire of the Habsburgs and a separate peace would have been no easier a form of death than that involved in holding out at the side of our Allies.
 Supposed to be the Counts Berchtold, Tisza and Stuergkh and General Conrad von Hohendorf.
 See Appendix, p. 325.
 See page 275.
Konopischt has become the cradle of manifold legends. The lord of the castle was the first victim of the terrible world conflagration, and the part that he played before the war has been the subject of much and partly erroneous commentary.
The Archduke and heir to the throne was a man of a very peculiar nature. The main feature of his character was a great lack of balance. He knew no middle course and was just as eager to hate as to love. He was unbalanced in everything; he did nothing like other people, and what he did was done in superhuman dimensions. His passion for buying and collecting antiquities was proverbial and fabulous. A first-rate shot, sport was for him a question of murdering en masse, and the number of game shot by him reached hundreds of thousands. A few years before his death he shot his 5,000th stag.
His ability as a good shot was phenomenal. When in India, during his voyage round the world, and while staying with a certain Maharajah, an Indian marksman gave an exhibition of his skill. Coins were thrown into the air which the man hit with bullets. The Archduke tried the same and beat the Indian. Once when I was staying with him at Eckartsau he made a coup double at a stag and a hare as they ran; he had knocked over a fleeing stag, and when, startled by the shot, a hare jumped up, he killed it with the second bullet. He scorned all modern appliances for shooting, such as telescopic sights or automatic rifles; he invariably used a short double-barrelled rifle, and his exceptionally keen sight rendered glasses unnecessary.
The artistic work of laying out parks and gardens became in latter years his dominating passion. He knew every tree and every bush at Konopischt, and loved his flowers above everything. He was his own gardener. Every bed and every group was designed according to his exact orders. He knew the conditions essential to the life of each individual plant, the quality of the soil required; and even the smallest spot to be laid out or altered was done according to his minute instructions. But here, too, everything was carried out on the same gigantic lines, and the sums spent on that park must have been enormous. Few people had the varied artistic knowledge possessed by the Archduke; no dealer could palm off on him any modern article as an antique, and he had just as good taste as understanding. On the other hand, music to him was simply a disagreeable noise, and he had an unspeakable contempt for poets. He could not bear Wagner, and Goethe left him quite cold. His lack of any talent for languages was peculiar. He spoke French tolerably, but otherwise no other language, though he had a smattering of Italian and Czech. For years—indeed, to the end of his life—he struggled with the greatest energy to learn Hungarian. He had a priest living permanently in the house to give him Hungarian lessons. This priest accompanied him on his travels, and at St. Moritz, for instance, Franz Ferdinand had a Hungarian lesson every day; but, in spite of this, he continued to suffer from the feeling that he would never be able to learn the language, and he vented his annoyance at this on the entire Hungarian people. "Their very language makes me feel antipathy for them," was a remark I constantly heard him make. His judgment of people was not a well-balanced one; he could either love or hate, and unfortunately the number of those included in the latter category was considerably the greater.
There is no doubt about it that there was a very hard strain in Franz Ferdinand's mentality, and those who only knew him slightly felt that this hardness of character was the most notable feature in him and his great unpopularity can doubtless be attributed to this cause. The public never knew the splendid qualities of the Archduke, and misjudged him accordingly.
Apparently he was not always like that. He suffered in his youth from severe lung trouble, and for long was given up by the doctors. He often spoke to me of that time and all that he had gone through, and referred with intense bitterness to the people who were only waiting day by day to put him altogether on one side. As long as he was looked upon as the heir to the throne, and people reckoned on him for the future, he was the centre of all possible attention; but when he fell ill and his case was considered hopeless, the world fluctuated from hour to hour and paid homage to his younger brother Otto. I do not for a moment doubt that there was a great deal of truth in what the late Archduke told me; and no one knowing the ways of the world can deny the wretched, servile egotism that is almost always at the bottom of the homage paid to those in high places. More deeply than in the hearts of others was this resentment implanted in the heart of Franz Ferdinand, and he never forgave the world what he suffered and went through in those distressful months. It was chiefly the ostensible vacillation of the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Count Goluchowski, that had so deeply hurt the Archduke, who had always imagined that Goluchowski was deeply attached to him. According to Franz Ferdinand's account, Goluchowski is supposed to have said to the Emperor Francis Joseph that the Archduke Otto ought now to be given the retinue and household suitable for the heir to the throne as he—Franz Ferdinand—"was in any case lost." It was not so much the fact as the manner in which Goluchowski tried "to bury him while still living" that vexed and hurt him whom a long illness had made irritable. But besides Goluchowski, there were numberless others whose behaviour at that time he took greatly amiss, and his unparalleled contempt of the world which, when I knew him, was one of his most characteristic features, appears—partly, at any rate—to date from his experiences during that illness.
In connection with politics, too, this bitterness exercised a lasting influence on his entire mental outlook. I have been told by an authentic witness that the Archduke, when suffering and combating his terrible disease, saw one day an article in a Hungarian paper which, in brutal and derisive tones, spoke of the Archduke's expectations of future government as laid aside, and gloated openly, with malicious delight, over the probable event. The Archduke, who while reading the article had turned ashen grey with rage and indignation, remained silent for a moment and then made the following characteristic remark: "Now I must get better. I shall live from now only for my health. I must get better in order to show them that their joy is premature." And though this may not have been the only reason for his violent antipathy to everything Hungarian, there is no doubt that the episode influenced his mind considerably. The Archduke was a "good hater"; he did not easily forget, and woe betide those upon whom he vented his hatred. On the other hand, though but few knew it, he had an uncommonly warm corner in his heart; he was an ideal husband, the best of fathers, and a faithful friend. But the number of those he despised was incomparably greater than those who gained his affection, and he himself was in no doubt whatever as to his being the most unpopular person in the Monarchy. But there was a certain grandeur in this very contempt of popularity. He never could bring himself to make any advances to newspapers or other organs that are in the habit of influencing public opinion either favourably or unfavourably. He was too proud to sue for popularity, and too great a despiser of men to attach any importance to their judgment.
The Archduke's antipathy to Hungary runs like a scarlet thread through the political chain of his thoughts. I have been told that at the time when the Crown Prince Rudolf was frequently in Hungary shooting, the Archduke was often with him, and that the Hungarian gentlemen took a pleasure in teasing and ridiculing the young Archduke in the presence and to the delight of the considerably older Crown Prince. Ready as I am to believe that the Crown Prince Rudolf enjoyed the jokes—and little do I doubt that there were men there who would act in such fashion so as to curry favour with the Crown Prince—I still think that these unpleasant incidents in his youth weighed less in the balance with Franz Ferdinand than the already-mentioned occurrences during his illness.
Apart from his personal antipathies, which he transferred from a few Hungarians to the entire nation, there were also various far-reaching and well-founded political reasons which strengthened the Archduke in his antagonistic relations with Hungary. Franz Ferdinand possessed an exceptionally fine political flair, and this enabled him to see that Hungarian policy was a vital danger to the existence of the whole Habsburg Empire. His desire to overthrow the predominance of the Magyars and to help the nationalities to obtain their rights was always in his thoughts, and influenced his judgment on all political questions. He was the steady representative of the Roumanians, the Slovaks, and other nationalities living in Hungary, and went so far in that respect that he would have treated every question at once from an anti-Magyar point of view without inquiring into it in an objective and expert manner. These tendencies of his were no secret in Hungary, and the result was a strong reaction among the Magyar magnates, which he again took as purely personal antagonism to himself, and as the years went on existing differences increased automatically, until finally, under the Tisza regime, they led to direct hostility.
The Archduke's antipathy to party leaders in Hungary was even stronger than that he felt for Tisza, and he showed it particularly to one of the most prominent figures of that time. I do not know for certain what took place between them; I only know that several years before the catastrophe the gentleman in question was received in audience at the Belvedere, and that the interview came to a very unsatisfactory end. The Archduke told me that his visitor arrived bringing a whole library with him in order to put forward legal proofs that the Magyar's standpoint was the right one. He, the Archduke, snapped his fingers at their laws, and said so. It came to a violent scene, and the gentleman, pale as death, tottered from the room.
Certain it is that Ministers and other officials rarely waited on the Archduke without beating hearts. He was capable of flying out at people and terrifying them to such a degree that they lost their heads completely. He often took their fright to be obstinacy and passive resistance, and it irritated him all the more.
On the other hand, it was extremely easy to get on with him if one knew him well and did not stand in awe of him. I had many scenes with him and often lost my temper, too; but there was never any lasting ill-feeling. Once when at Konopischt we had a scene one evening after dinner because, he said, I always worked in opposition to him and rewarded his friendship by treachery. I broke off the conversation, remarking that, if he could say such things, any further serious conversation would be impossible, and I also stated my intention of leaving the next morning. We separated without saying good night to each other. Quite early next morning—I was still in bed—he appeared in my room and asked me to forget what he had said the previous evening, that he had not meant it seriously, and thus completely disarmed my still prevailing vexation.
A despiser of men, with his wits sharpened by his own experiences, he never allowed himself to be fooled by servile cringing and flattery. He listened to people, but how often have I heard him say: "He is no good; he is a toady." Such people never found favour with him, as he always mistrusted them at the outset. He was protected more than others in such high spheres from the poison of servility that attacks all monarchs.
His two best friends, and the men to whom—after his own nearest relations—he was most attached, were his brother-in-law Albrecht von Wuertemberg and the Prince Karl of Schwarzenberg.
The former, a man of charming personality, great intelligence, and equally efficient in political as in military matters, lived on a footing of true brotherly unity with Franz Ferdinand, and also, naturally, on terms of perfect equality.
Karl of Schwarzenberg was the most sincere, honourable and straightforward character I have ever encountered; a man who concealed the truth from no one. Rich, independent, and devoid of personal ambition, it was quite immaterial to him whether the Archduke was pleased with what he asserted or no. He was his friend, and considered it his duty to be honest and open—and if necessary, disagreeable. The Archduke understood, appreciated, and valued this attitude. I do not think there are many monarchs or heirs to the throne who would have suffered, as the Archduke did, Schwarzenberg's sayings and doings.
Franz Ferdinand was on very bad terms with Aehrenthal, who easily became abrupt and repellent. Still, there was another reason why two such hard millstones could not grind together. I do not believe that the many reproaches launched against Aehrenthal by the Archduke were consequent on political differences; it was more Aehrenthal's manner that invariably irritated the Archduke. I had occasion to read some of Aehrenthal's letters to Franz Ferdinand which, perhaps unintentionally, had a slight ironical flavour which made the Archduke feel he was not being taken seriously. He was particularly sensitive in this respect.
When Aehrenthal fell ill the Archduke made unkind remarks about the dying man, and there was great and general indignation at the want of feeling shown by him. He represented the Emperor at the first part of the funeral service, and afterwards received me at the Belvedere. We were standing in the courtyard when the procession, with the hearse, passed on the way to the station. The Archduke disappeared quickly into a cottage close by, the windows of which looked on to the road, and there, concealed behind the window curtain, he watched the procession pass. He said not a word, but his eyes were full of tears. When he saw that I noticed his emotion he turned away angrily, vexed at having given proof of his weakness. It was just like him. He would rather be considered hard and heartless than soft and weak, and nothing was more repugnant to him than the idea that he had aroused suspicion of striving to enact a touching scene. I have no doubt that at that moment he was suffering the torture of self-reproach, and probably suffered the more through being so reserved and unable to give free play to his feelings.
The Archduke could be extremely gay, and possessed an exceptionally strong sense of humour. In his happiest years he could laugh like any youth, and carried his audience with him by his unaffected merriment.
Some years ago a German prince, who was unable to distinguish between the numerous archdukes, came to Vienna. A dinner was given in his honour at the Hofburg, where he was seated next to Franz Ferdinand. Part of the programme was that he was to have gone the next morning with the Archduke to shoot in the neighbourhood. The German prince, who mistook the Archduke Franz Ferdinand for someone else, said to him during dinner: "I am to go out shooting to-morrow, and I hear it is to be with that tiresome Franz Ferdinand; I hope the plan will be changed." As far as I know, the expedition did not take place; but I never heard whether the prince discovered his mistake. The Archduke, however, laughed heartily for days at the episode.
The Archduke invariably spoke of his nephew, the present Emperor Charles, with great affection. The relations between the two were, however, always marked by the absolute subordination of the nephew to the uncle. In all political discussions, too, the Archduke Charles was always the listener, absorbing the precepts expounded by Franz Ferdinand.
Charles's marriage met with the full approval of his uncle. The Duchess of Hohenberg, too, entertained the warmest affection for the young couple.
The Archduke was a firm partisan of the Great-Austria programme. His idea was to convert the Monarchy into numerous more or less independent National States, having in Vienna a common central organisation for all important and absolutely necessary affairs—in other words to substitute Federalisation for Dualism. Now that, after terrible military and revolutionary struggles, the development of the former Monarchy has been accomplished in a national spirit, there cannot be many to contend that the plan is Utopian. At that time, however, it had many opponents who strongly advised against dissecting the State in order to erect in its place something new and "presumably better," and the Emperor Francis Joseph was far too conservative and far too old to agree to his nephew's plans. This direct refusal of the idea cherished by the Archduke offended him greatly, and he complained often in bitter terms that the Emperor turned a deaf ear to him as though he were the "lowest serving man at Schoenbrunn."
The Archduke lacked the knowledge of how to deal with people. He neither could nor would control himself, and, charming though he could be when his natural heartiness was allowed free scope, just as little could he conceal his anger and ill-humour. Thus it came about that the relations between him and the aged Emperor grew more and more strained. There were doubtless faults on both sides. The standpoint of the old Emperor, that as long as he lived no one else should interfere, was in direct opposition to that of the Archduke, who held that he would one day have to suffer for the present faults in the administration, and anyone acquainted with life at court will know that such differences between the highest individuals are quickly raked together and exaggerated. At every court there are men who seek to gain their master's favour by pouring oil on the flames, and who, by gossip and stories of all kinds, add to the antipathy that prevails. Thus it was in this case, and, instead of being drawn closer together, the two became more and more estranged.
The Archduke had but few friends, and under the old monarch practically none at all. That was one of the reasons for the advances he made to the Emperor William. In reality, they were men of such a different type that there could be no question of friendship in the true sense of the word, or any real understanding between him and the Emperor William, and the question was never mooted practically. The only point common to both their characters was a strongly defined autocratic trait. The Archduke had no sympathy with the speeches of the Emperor William, nor yet with his obvious desire for popularity, which the Archduke could not understand. The Emperor William, on his part, undoubtedly grew more attached to the Archduke during his latter years than he had been originally. Franz Ferdinand was not on such good terms with the Crown Prince of Germany. They spent some weeks together at St. Moritz in Switzerland, without learning to know each other any better; but this can readily be explained by the difference in age and also by the much more serious views of life held by the Archduke.
The isolation and retirement in which the Archduke lived, and the regrettably restricted intercourse he had with other circles, gave rise to the circulation of some true, besides numerous false, rumours. One of these rumours, which is still obstinately kept up, was to the effect that the Archduke was a fanatic for war and looked upon war as a necessary aid to the realisation of his plans for the future. Nothing could be more untrue, and, although the Archduke never openly admitted it to me, I am convinced that he had an instinctive feeling that the Monarchy would never be able to bear the terrible test of strength of a war, and the fact is that, instead of working to encourage war, his activities lay all in the opposite direction. I recollect an extremely symptomatic episode: I do not remember the exact date, but it was some time before the death of the Archduke. One of the well-known Balkan turmoils threw the Monarchy into a state of agitation, and the question whether to mobilise or not became the order of the day. I chanced to be in Vienna, where I had an interview with Berchtold who spoke of the situation with much concern and complained that the Archduke was acting in a warlike spirit. I offered to draw the Archduke's attention to the danger of the proceeding, and put myself in telegraphic communication with him. I arranged to join his train that same day when he passed through Wessely on his way to Konopischt. I only had the short time between the two stations for my conversation. I therefore at once took the bull by the horns and told him of the rumours current about him in Vienna and of the danger of promoting a conflict with Russia by too strong action in the Balkans. I did not meet with the slightest opposition from the Archduke, and in his usual expeditious way he wrote, while still in the train, a telegram to Berchtold in which he expressed his perfect agreement in maintaining a friendly attitude and repudiated all the reports of his having been opposed to it. It is a fact that certain of the military party, who were anxious for war, made use of the Archduke, or rather misused him, in order to carry on a military propaganda in his name and thus gave rise to so wrongful an estimate of him. Several of these men died a hero's death in the war; others have disappeared and are forgotten. Conrad, Chief of the General Staff, was never among those who misused the Archduke. He could never have done such a thing. He carried out himself what he considered necessary and did it openly and in face of everybody.
In connection with these reports about the Archduke there is one remarkable detail that is worthy of note. He told me himself how a fortune-teller once predicted that "he would one day let loose a world war." Although to a certain extent this prophecy flattered him, containing as it did the unspoken recognition that the world would have to reckon on him as a powerful factor, still he emphatically pointed out how mad such a prophecy was. It was fulfilled, however, later, though very differently from what was meant originally, and never was prince more innocent of causing blood to flow than the unhappy victim of Sarajevo.
The Archduke suffered most terribly under the conditions resulting from his unequal marriage. The sincere and true love he felt for his wife kept alive in him the wish to raise her to his rank and privileges, and the constant obstacles that he encountered at all court ceremonies embittered and angered him inexpressibly. The Archduke was firmly resolved that when he came to the throne he would give to his wife, not the title of Empress, but a position which, though without the title, would bestow upon her the highest rank. His argument was that wherever he was she would be the mistress of the house, and as such was entitled to the highest position, "therefore she will take precedence of all the archduchesses." Never did the Archduke show the slightest wish to alter the succession and put his son in place of the Archduke Charles. On the contrary, he was resolved that his first official act on coming to the throne would be to publish a solemn declaration containing his intention, in order to counteract the ever-recurring false and biassed statements. As regards his children, for whom he did everything that a loving father's heart could devise, his greatest wish was to see them become wealthy, independent private individuals, and able to enjoy life without any material cares. His plan was to secure the title of Duke of Hohenberg for his eldest son. It was, therefore, in harmony with this intention that the Emperor Charles conferred the title on the youth.
One fine quality in the Archduke was his fearlessness. He was quite clear that the danger of an attempt to take his life would always be present, and he often spoke quite simply and openly of such a possibility. A year before the outbreak of war he informed me that the Freemasons had resolved to kill him. He even gave me the name of the town where the resolution was passed—it has escaped my memory now—and mentioned the names of several Austrian and Hungarian politicians who must have been in the secret. He also told me that when he went to the coronation in Spain he was to have made the journey with a Russian Grand Duke, but shortly before the train started the news came that the Grand Duke had been murdered on the way. He did not deny that it was with mixed feelings that he stepped into his compartment. When at St. Moritz news was sent him that two Turkish anarchists had arrived in Switzerland intending to murder him, that every effort was being made to capture them, but that so far no trace of them had been discovered, and he was advised to be on his guard. The Archduke showed me the telegram at the time. He laid it aside without the slightest sign of fear, saying that such events, when announced beforehand, seldom were carried out. The Duchess suffered all the more in her fears for his life, and I think that in imagination the poor lady often went through the catastrophe of which she and her husband were the victims. Another praiseworthy feature in the Archduke was that, out of consideration for his wife's anxiety, he tolerated the constant presence of a detective, which not only bored him terribly but in his opinion was absurd. He was afraid that if the fact became known it would be imputed to timidity on his part, and he conceded the point solely with the view of calming his wife's fears.