WHAT GERMANY THINKS
OR THE WAR AS GERMANS SEE IT
By Thomas F.A. Smith, Ph.D.
Late English Lecturer in the University of Erlangen
Author of "The Soul of Germany: A Twelve Years' Study of the People from Within, 1902-1914"
I—THE CAUSES OF THE WAR
II—ON THE LEASH
III—THE DOGS LET LOOSE
V—WARS AND RUMOURS OF WARS
VI—THE DEBACLE OF THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS
VII—"NECESSITY KNOWS NO LAW"
IX—THE NEUTRALITY OF BELGIUM AND GERMANY'S ANNEXATION PROPAGANDA
X—SAIGNER A BLANC
XI—THE INTELLECTUALS AND THE WAR
XII—THE LITERATURE OF HATE
XIII—"MAN TO MAN AND STEEL TO STEEL"
WHAT GERMANY THINKS
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR
In many quarters of the world, especially in certain sections of the British public, people believed that the German nation was led blindly into the World War by an unscrupulous military clique. Now, however, there is ample evidence to prove that the entire nation was thoroughly well informed of the course which events were taking, and also warned as to the catastrophe to which the national course was certainly leading.
Even to-day, after more than twelve months of devastating warfare, there is no unity of opinion in Germany as to who caused the war. Some writers accuse France, others England, while many lay the guilt at Russia's door. They are only unanimous in charging one or other, or all the powers, of the Triple Entente. We shall see that every power now at war, with the exception of Germany and Italy, has been held responsible for Armageddon, but apparently it has not yet occurred to Germans that the bearer of guilt for this year's bloodshed—is Germany alone!
It is true that the conflict between Austria and Serbia forms the starting point. Whether or not Serbia was seriously in the wrong is a matter of opinion, but it is generally held that Austria dealt with her neighbour with too much heat and too little discretion. Austria kindled the flames of war, but it was Germany's mission to seize a blazing torch and set Europe alight.
When the text of Austria's ultimatum became known, a very serious mood came over Germany. There was not a man who did not realize that a great European War loomed on the horizon. A well-organized, healthy public opinion could at that period have brought the governments of the Germanic Powers to recognize their responsibility. Had the German Press been unanimous, it might have stopped the avalanche. But there were two currents of opinion, the one approving, the other condemning Austria for having thrown down the gauntlet to Serbia and above all to Russia.
One paper exulted over the statement that every sentence in Austria's ultimatum "was a whip-lash across Serbia's face;" a phrase expressing so aptly the great mass of popular opinion. This expression met with unstinted approval, for it corresponded with German ideals and standards in dealing with an opponent. Yet there was no lack of warnings, and very grave ones too. A glance at German newspapers will suffice to prove this statement.
On July 24th, 1914, Krupp's organ, the Rheinisch-Westfaelische Zeitung, contained the following: "The Austro-Hungarian ultimatum is nothing but a pretext for war, but this time a dangerous one. It seems that we are standing on the verge of an Austro-Serbian war. It is possible, very possible, that we shall have to extinguish East-European conflagrations with our arms, either because of our treaties or from the compulsion of events. But it is a scandal if the Imperial Government (Berlin) has not required that such a final offer should be submitted to it for approval before its presentation to Serbia. To-day nothing remains for us but to declare: 'We are not bound by any alliance to support wars let loose by the Hapsburg policy of conquest.'"
The Post wrote on the same date: "Is that a note? No! it is an ultimatum of the sharpest kind. Within twenty-four hours Austria demands an answer. A reply? No! but an absolute submission, the utter and complete humiliation of Serbia. On former occasions we have (and with justice) made fun of Austria's lack of energy. Now we have a proof of energy which terrifies us. This 'note' represents about the very uttermost which can be said to any government, and such things are only said when the sender of the 'note' has absolutely determined upon war."
The principal organ of Germany's largest political party, the Social Democrats, contained a still more emphatic protest on July 25th. A telegram from the Belgrade correspondent of the Vorwaerts runs: "Since the presentation of Austria's note, public opinion has become exceedingly serious, although the city is still very calm. The general view held is that Austria's ultimatum is unacceptable for a sovereign State. In Belgrade no one doubts that Russia will stand by Serbia. Everyone is certain that in consequence of Austria's excessively sharp tone, Russia will not remain inactive should Austria resort to armed force. The populace is prepared for war."
In view of the subsequent attitude of Germany's Social Democrats, an official proclamation, published in all their seventy-seven daily papers on July 25th, is of supreme importance. At that date they had apparently no doubt whatever as to the guilty party. The change of front in the Reichstag on August 4th would seem in the light of this proclamation, as nothing other than a betrayal of conscience. Further, the split which has arisen in their ranks during the war leads to the supposition that Liebknecht, Kautsky and Bernstein have been troubled by the inward voice.
This is the full text of the proclamation as it appeared in the Vorwaerts:
"An Appeal! The Balkan plains are still steaming with the blood of thousands of murdered; the ruins of desolate towns and devastated villages are still smoking after the Balkan War; hungry, workless men, widowed women and orphan children are still wandering through the land, and yet again Austria's Imperialism unchains the War Fury to bring death and destruction over all Europe.
"Even if we condemn the doings of the Greater-Serbian Nationalists, still the wicked war-provocation of the Austro-Hungarian Government calls forth the most stinging protest. The demands made by this government are so brutal, that in the history of the world their like has never been presented to an independent State, and they can only be calculated to provoke war.
"Germany's proletariat, conscious of its mission, raises herewith, in the name of humanity and civilization, the most fervent protest against this criminal action of the war party (Kriegshetzer). It (the Social Democratic Party) demands imperatively that the German Government should exercise all its influence on the Austrian Government to preserve peace, and in case this infamous war cannot be prevented then to abstain from any warlike interference. No single drop of blood of a single German soldier may be sacrificed to gratify the lust for power of the Austrian autocracy, the Imperial profit-interests.
"Comrades! we call upon you to give expression to the working-classes' unshakable will for peace in mass meetings. This is a serious moment, more solemn than any in the last few decades. There is danger in delay. A world war threatens us. The ruling classes who enslave, despise and exploit you in times of peace desire now to misuse you as cannon-fodder. From all sides the cry must ring in the ears of those in authority: We don't want war! Down with war!
"Long live international brotherhood!
"Berlin, July 25th, 1914.
"The Leaders of the Party."
Two days later the Leipziger Tageblatt announced that the Public Prosecutor had commenced proceedings against the editors of Vorwaerts for having distributed the above appeal in pamphlet form in the streets of Berlin. From this fact we may conclude that the charges thrown out by the Social Democratic Party were by no means congenial to the plans of the German Government.
The Liberal Berliner Tageblatt (July 24th), gave its unreserved support to Austria's action. "The Austrian Government has voiced its demands in a calm and serious tone which contains nothing offensive to the Serbian monarchy. Everyone who has considered the results of the inquiry into the tragedy of Serajewo, and the burrowing of Serbian propagandists in Austria, must give his absolute sanction to the latter's demands. Much as every right-thinking man must desire that peace should be preserved, still he must admit that Austria could not have acted otherwise."
Even the Vossische Zeitung, the organ of army circles, was more conservative in its judgment. In the issue for July 24th a leading article runs: "It cannot be denied that nearly every point raised by Austria in her note is an encroachment on Serbia's sovereign rights. Austria appears as the policeman, who undertakes to create order in Serbia, because the Serbian Government, according to Austria's claim, is unable to hold in check those 'subversive elements' within its frontiers, which disturb Austria's peace. But only in this manner can Austria protect herself against the criminals who are sent from Serbia to the territories of the Hapsburg monarchy. No consideration whatever can be shown to Serbia, as Austria's first duty is self-defence."
In the German Press two widely-differing opinions found expression with regard to the equity of Austria's demands, but the Press and people were unanimous in believing that if these demands were ruthlessly pressed home they could only lead to a European conflagration.
In view of this latter danger, national opinion was again divided into two camps: the first against war, the second determined to support Austria and pursue the path chosen by the Berlin Government, no matter what the consequences might be. The latter party included the vast bulk of the nation; and Chauvinism dominated in the Press, theatres, concert-halls, churches and music-halls. "Patriotic" demonstrations were held before Austrian consulates, in restaurants and coffee-houses. The Berlin Government was overwhelmed with telegrams from all kinds of bodies—especially those with a military colouring, such as veterans' clubs, societies of one-year volunteers, university societies, etc.—calling upon it to defend Germany's honour against Slavonic murder and intrigue. In short, all Germany gave itself up to a veritable Kriegsrausch (war intoxication) which found expression in the wildest attacks on Russia and a perfervid determination to see the matter through, should Russia venture to intervene in any way to protect Serbia from whatever measures Austria thought proper to take.
It is little to be wondered at that Russia in face of this spontaneous outbreak did take military precautions, for all Germany made it perfectly clear that no kind of intervention on Russia's part in the Austro-Serbian dispute would be tolerated by Germany. It is true that, late in the day, Austria avowed that she had no intention of annexing Serbian territory, a declaration which Germans did not believe, and certainly one which Russia had no reason to accept after Austria's annexion of Bosnia and Herzegowina in 1908.
Furthermore, Austria gave Russia every reason to cherish suspicion as to her intentions. On July 25th Austria issued official orders for the mobilization of eight of her sixteen army corps, in addition to which a part of the Landsturm was called up. The corps mobilized were: one each in Upper and Lower Austria, Dalmatia, Buda-Pest, Croatia and Bosnia and two Bohemian corps. Three-eighths of the forces called up were thus placed very near to the Russian frontier.
Vienna was wild with war-enthusiasm which found expression in demonstrations lasting all through the night, July 25-26th. Austrian officers, who have always been hated by the populace, were cheered, embraced and carried shoulder-high wherever they were met. The effect which this had in Berlin may be seen from the Berliner Tageblatt of July 26th: "An enormous mass of people gathered before the Russian Embassy last night between the hours of twelve and one. The crowd howled and hissed, and cries were raised: 'Down with Russia! Long live Austria! Down with Serbia!' Gradually the police cleared the masses away."
Russia ignored the incident, but when about a hundred Frenchmen demonstrated before the Austrian Embassy in Paris at exactly the same time, the Ambassador at once protested at the Quai d'Orsay and the Director of the French Foreign Office immediately apologized.
On the whole the reports of excesses in various parts of Germany against any and all who dared to show any anti-war sympathies proves clearly that the blood-lust aroused by the German Government's policy had already passed beyond the control of the authorities. In Munich one of the most modern coffee-houses (Cafe Fahrig) was completely gutted because the proprietor endeavoured to keep the demonstrants within reasonable bounds. Serbs and Russians were attacked and ill-treated. One such incident occurred at mid-day, Sunday, July 26th, in Munich, of which a full description is given in the Muenchen-Augsburger Abendzeitung for the following day.
A few days later (August 2nd) the Princess Cafe, Berlin, was demolished because the guests believed that there were Russians in the band. In Hamburg on the following day a newly-opened restaurant was completely destroyed because a young Dane had failed to stand up when the national hymn was being played. "Yesterday a young Dane remained sitting during the singing of the national hymn, for which reason the persons in the hall became greatly excited. 'Russian, stand up!' was shouted to him. In the same moment blows began to rain down upon him, so that, streaming with blood, he was carried out." (Berliner Zeitung am Mittag, August 4th.)
These are only a selection of many such incidents which show that the national brutishness was appearing through the veneer. In the light of such events where, on German soil, Germans murderously attacked their fellow-countrymen on such ridiculous pretexts, it requires little imagination to explain the outburst of brutality against Belgians who dared to defend hearth and home.
Meanwhile the smaller party which desired peace had not been entirely idle. On July 28th the Social Democrats held thirty-two mass meetings in Berlin to protest against war. "The attendance was in every case enormous, but the meetings were all orderly and calm. The police had taken extensive precautionary measures. The speakers were mostly members of the Reichstag or the Berlin Town Council. Throughout they were guilty of the most fiery and tactless attacks on Austria, to whom alone they ascribed the guilt for the warlike developments. Each meeting adopted a resolution against war. The chief of police had forbidden all processions or demonstrations to take place after the day before. In spite of this, many of the Socialists who had attended these meetings tried to form processions, especially in Unter den Linden. As large bodies of troops had closed the streets, small parties of the Socialists managed to reach the Linden by means of trams and omnibuses. At about 10 p.m. hisses and cries of 'Down with the war party!' were heard before the Cafe Kranzler. In a moment the number of Democrats swelled to large proportions and the workmen's Marseillaise was struck up, followed by a short, sharp order. The mounted police advanced with drawn swords against the rioters; the air was filled with shouts and cries of Pfui! (Shame!). On the other side of the road the crowd sang the national hymn. The masses clashed together, and the police advanced again and again till the street was cleared. At the corner, however, the Socialists formed up again, and began to demonstrate anew, so that the police were compelled to attack them without any consideration in order to preserve the peace. They cleared the pavements and galloped up the promenade. Again the cry echoed 'Down with war!' and as answer came 'die Wacht am Rhein.' But it was some considerable time before the struggle ceased to surge to and fro." (Muenchen-Augsburger Abendzeitung, July 29th.)
Thus the great Socialist-International-Pacifist movement, with four and a quarter million German voters behind it, fizzled out on the pavements of Unter den Linden. Probably there were demonstrations in other parts of Germany, but this much is certain, that the members of Catholic and Protestant Arbeiterverbaende (Workmen's Societies) held meetings and demonstrated in favour of war. On the other hand the Women's Union of the German Peace Society in Stuttgart sent a telegram to the Kaiser, begging him in the name of "millions of German mothers" to preserve the peace.
The most interesting protest against the war movement is undoubtedly the following: "This, then, is the cultural height to which we have attained. Hundreds of thousands of the healthiest, finest, most valuable forces in the nation are trembling from anxiety that chance, or a nod of Europe's rulers, malevolence, or a fit of Sadism, a Caesar-madness or a business speculation, an empty word or a vague conception of honour, will drive them to-morrow out of their homes, from wife and child, from all that which they treasure and have built up with so much pain and trouble—into death. The mad coincidence may arise to-day, may call them to-morrow, or at any minute, and all, all of them will go—obeying damnable necessity, but still obeying. At first they will whine on seeing their bit of earthly happiness snatched away, but soon, however—although their consciences may not be quite clean—they will be possessed by the general frenzy to murder and be murdered." Franz Pfemfert in die Aktion.
Although this article appeared on August 1st, it had evidently been written before the proclamation of martial law. It was one of the last political articles which the paper published, for the next number but one contains the announcement that "the Aktion will in future only publish articles on art and literature." The reasons are not far to seek.
In justice to the pacifist elements it must be stated that they were up against bayonets. The only pity is that British public opinion, or any section of it, had been led to believe that it could ever have been otherwise. Austria had committed an unpardonable act of provocation, which at first reasonable opinion in Germany openly condemned. Simultaneously the German Government set in motion an avalanche of racial feeling to play off against the just and moderate measures taken by other powers to checkmate Austrian aggression. In addition to the racial hostility, which had been lashed into bitterness during the spring of 1914, came Germany's morbid conception of national and personal honour. Lastly the fear of a Russian invasion was astutely inoculated into the nation.
It is the author's firm conviction, and the military events in Poland and Galicia have only strengthened this opinion, that from the very beginning Germany could have prevented any Russian invasion of her territory, but she did not desire that end, but rather that the fear of Russia should complete the "Kriegsrausch" of the German nation. After frightening the people the Berlin Government struck its blow in the direction of their political ambitions—to the West, and after the Russians had been allowed to penetrate German territories they were hurled over the Eastern frontiers at the end of August. While the Kaiser was sending peaceful telegrams to Petrograd and Vienna, the Press was full of horrible pictures of Cossack barbarism and the dread terrors of the Russian knout, both of which—the public was led to believe—were about to strike Germany.
In this manner the Kaiser and his advisers created a national psychology which left open only two alternatives: the absolute humiliation of Russia and the consequent hegemony of Germany in Europe—or war.
ON THE LEASH
Russia gave the world to understand by an official declaration, issued on Friday, July 24th, 1914, that she was not an indifferent, but a keenly interested spectator to the Austro-Serbian conflict. On the following day Russia's declaration was published in almost the entire German Press, and from that moment the same Press was flooded with all kinds of attacks directed against the Eastern neighbour. Russia was frankly told to mind her own business—the quarrel did not concern her.
The German public immediately accepted this point of view, so that every subsequent move on Russia's part appeared in the light of an unwarrantable offensive. Undoubtedly the Bismarckian tactics of publishing inspired articles in all parts of Germany were employed, and their colouring left no doubt on the public mind that the much-talked-of Slavonic danger had assumed an acute form.
A request on Russia's part, made on July 25th, that the space of time (forty-eight hours) allowed to Serbia for an answer should be extended, only increased popular irritation in the Germanic Empires. This irritation was accompanied by an unmistakable bellicose spirit which called forth its natural counterpart in Petrograd.
Nevertheless the fact remains that up till July 25th Russia had only asked for time, and the reply given by the Berlin mob (?) during the following night, was echoed throughout Germany. The view that Russia had no right to interest herself on behalf of Serbia (passing over Russia's right to preserve the newly-established balance of power in the Balkans) is untenable. If Canada had a quarrel—just or unjust—with the United States, it would be ridiculous to assert that England had no right to intervene.
This was, however, not the first occasion on which Germany had advanced so preposterous a claim. During the tariff conflict between Germany and Canada some years ago, a wave of indignant anger went over the whole Fatherland, because England ventured to interfere.
In any case, during the last week before war broke out, the German Government succeeded in imposing upon public opinion the feeling that the quarrel was a racial one; together with the conviction that Russia was interfering in order to protect a band of murderers from just punishment, and had neither rights nor interests at stake in the quarrel. This conspiracy succeeded, but the whole German nation must still be held responsible for the outbreak of war, because, as has been shown in the preceding chapter, the nation had already been warned by newspapers of various political parties. They had been plainly told that Austria had exceeded the limits of all diplomatic dealings between two sovereign States, and that Austria's provocation could easily kindle a world war.
Warnings and truths were alike forgotten, and the voices which uttered them were now raising another hue and cry. Racial hatred was ablaze; the warlike instincts of a military people were calling for action, and a diseased conception of national honour was asking why Berlin did not act against the Russian barbarians. In one paper the author remembers reading a violent demand for action against Russia before the national ardour had time to cool down.
[Footnote 1: The last mention of Austria as the guilty party is the account of the Social Democratic demonstrations in Berlin on July 28th; reported in the papers of the following day.]
On July 26th Austrian mobilization was in full swing, and Russia admittedly took precautions of a similar nature soon after that date. We may be sure that Russia understands her neighbours better than the inhabitants of the British Isles understand them. In 1909 she had suffered a severe diplomatic defeat and corresponding loss of prestige, because she could only use words in dealing with Germany and Austria. Now she was faced with the alternative of withdrawing from her declared attitude (July 24th) or taking measures of a military character. In order not to sacrifice her position as a European power and her special position as the leader of the Slavonic peoples, Russia chose the latter course, the only honourable one open to her. German papers and public speakers retorted that Russia is the patron and protector of assassins—a calculated distortion of the facts intended to have due effect on public opinion. On all sides it was said that Russia had given Serbia secret assurances of help which caused her to become stiff-backed and unrepentant. Fortunately, it is possible to refute the accusation through the pen of a German journalist, who described Belgrade's desperate position on July 25th, the day when the ultimatum expired.
[Footnote 2: "The interests of Russian and German imperialism have continually clashed during the last ten years, and more than once Russia has had to beat a retreat before Germany's threats." Dr. Paul Lensch, member of the Reichstag, in his "German Social Democracy and the World War," p. 35. Published by "Vorwaerts Co." Berlin, 1915.]
"At last the inhabitants of Belgrade have become aware of their serious situation. 'We are lost! Russia has left us in the lurch!' is being shouted in the streets. Journalists, who at 2.30 p.m. had assured me that Russia had intervened in Vienna with success, succumbed now to the general depression. The people believe that they have been betrayed and sold; rumours of assassination pass from mouth to mouth. The ministerial council has been characterized by violent recriminations, ending in blows. Others asserted that the Crown Prince Alexander had been stabbed by a leader of the war-party. Another whispers that King Peter is dying from an apoplectic fit or as the result of an attentat. The reports become wilder, and each increases the dread of some unutterable, imminent catastrophe.
"The streets are crowded with terror-stricken citizens. Curses resound on all sides. Certainly a most unusual struggle is going on between the two parties for peace and war. Shortly after three o'clock it seems to be settled that Austria's demands will be fulfilled. It is true the mobilization decree has been posted up on all public buildings, but that means nothing. We still have nearly three hours in which all can be righted. How will this gallows-respite be employed?
"It is four o'clock. Messengers rush from one Embassy to the other. In the coffee-houses the rumour goes round: 'Italy is our saviour in distress.' Cries of 'shame!' against Russia are raised, while the 'vivas!' for Italy sound louder and louder. The crowd marches to the Italian Embassy, but are received with long and astonished faces. No! there is nothing to hope for from Italy. Next they go to the French Embassy; now there are about two thousand of us. Another disappointment! A young diplomat receives the thronging masses and talks empty nothings, including a great deal about France's sympathy for Serbia. But in this dark hour sympathy is of no avail. Downcast and silent, the people go next to the representative of Albion—who declines to appear.
"The confusion in the minds of the masses caused by the Government's indecision increases from minute to minute; indescribable scenes are witnessed before the General Post Office. It is alleged that thousands and thousands of telegrams have arrived from Russia, begging the members of Serbia's royal family not to give way to Austria. It may easily be possible that the Russian telegrams all emanate from one person and have been forged, in order to counteract the disposition to yield on the part of the royal family. Without doubt both the King and Crown Prince have lost all personal influence on the final decision. They are being slowly carried along by the conflagration-party which obtained the upper hand soon after four o'clock."
[Footnote 3: Muenchen-Augsburger Abendzeitung, July 28th.]
This picture gives no support to Germany's accusation that Russia had stiffened Serbia into resisting Austria's unacceptable demands. It rather leads one to consider that an action which drives a weak nation to arrive at a decision on so awful an issue in so short a time, is an action discreditable to a stronger, and impossible on the part of a morally great, power. If Serbia chose wrongly in refusing to bite the dust, then the guilt is still chargeable to Austria for forcing her little neighbour to take a choice in haste. Sir Edward Grey emphasized in his speech of July 27th the shortness of the time which all the Powers had had at their disposal to formulate a plan, by which the conflict could be restricted to the East, or amicably settled.
The leaders of the Germanic States had purposely willed it so. Several unsuccessful attempts had been made to break up the Triple Entente, the only barrier to the Germanization, i.e., Prussianization, of Europe, and in the tragedy of Serajewo the Central Powers (or, at least, the dominating factor of the two) believed they had found a lever with which to break down the opposition by diplomacy. If that failed an immediate appeal to the sword should follow. The diplomatic forty-eight hours' coup-de-main failed, and the programme contained no other item except war. In a few words this means that the dastardly crime of Princip and his fellow conspirators was exploited by Germany, acting through Austria, to disturb the European balance of power under the guise of a just vengeance.
Sir Edward Grey formulated and circulated his conference proposal on the next day, July 26th. Some persons to whom I spoke at the time welcomed the idea; they belonged principally to the lower middle classes. One well-known Pan-Germanist (Dr. Beckmann, professor of history in Erlangen University) said that the proposal was an admission of a diplomatic defeat and a sign that the Entente Powers were afraid to draw the sword. If the three Powers in question were prepared to pocket this smack in the face, then Germany would be satisfied, because such a defeat would mean that the Triple Entente would never be able to work together again.
It is interesting to compare with this opinion those of two leading newspapers:
(1.) "We understand that the German Government is not absolutely hostile to England's endeavours to bring about a mediation between the contending Powers by those not directly interested in the conflict. But the German Government makes its participation in the mediation dependent upon whether Austria-Hungary would accept this procedure, and in which respect Austria wishes the mediation to follow. The German Government cannot support any action which Austria-Hungary does not desire, as that would mean exercising pressure.
"From Sir Edward Grey's declaration in the House of Commons it is clear that he was not thinking of mediation between Austria and Serbia, but between Austria and Russia. This shade of meaning requires attention. We think that any attempt at mediation between Austria and Serbia would have no prospect of success, because in Vienna they do not seem inclined to accept such an action. Diplomatic relations have not been broken off; the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs confers still with the Austrian Ambassador, and it is not easy to see why the other Powers Should not further this discussion in a mediative sense.
"But then Sir Edward Grey gave his idea more exact form and proposed a conference between the German, Italian and French ambassadors and himself. This conference of ambassadors is to seek a basis for an agreement and then submit the result to the cabinets in Vienna and St. Petersburg. In his yesterday's speech he emphasized the point that no hostilities may take place till the conference has concluded its work.
"Here, of course, is the difficulty which mars his plan, for it is questionable whether Austria will consent to a postponement of her military operations. Negotiations concerning Sir Edward Grey's proposal are at present occupying the cabinets, and it is to be hoped that a means will be found to make it acceptable to the Powers most interested in the conflict."
[Footnote 4: Berliner Tagtblatt, July 28th.]
(2.) "Germany not only cherishes, in a platonic manner, the desire of the Western Powers to prevent the conflict between Austria and Serbia spreading to the great Powers, but the Berlin cabinet has already been active in more than one European capital in favour of a mediation which will secure European peace. In this respect we are pleased (Man begruesst es hier) that, in consequence of Sir Edward Grey's initiative, the mediation idea has assumed an official form and is open for public discussion. There is, however, reason to doubt whether a conference between four great Powers as an organ for the mediation is the most suitable way out of the difficulty. Everyone is quite agreed that the details of the Austro-Serbian conflict, which concerns these two States alone, cannot be brought before the forum of a conference; but as regards the removal in good time of any difficulties which may arise between Austria and Russia, the question must be raised as to whether the Governments of these States are willing to entrust an official mediation to a conference of four other great Powers. For the success of the mediation proposal it would be more practical if the means to this end were made as simple as possible, and that use was made of the current diplomatic discussions, in immediate communication with the capitals of the Empires in question, in order to carry through a mediatory action to the result desired on all sides.
"In the employment of these means Germany would not fail to support the Western Powers as she has already done up to the present."
[Footnote 5: Koelnische Zeitung, July 28th.]
I have carefully searched the official publications of the Central Powers (Germany's White Book; Austria's Orange Book), and can find no record in them of any pacific action on Germany's part in either of the European capitals; hence the claims made in the above article seem to be an exaggeration.
It appears incredible that these Powers should have omitted to give proof of such action when making their case public for the sole purpose of proving their innocence before the world. On the other hand, the impression given by these books is that Germany and Austria's attitude was:
To SERBIA: The conditions must be accepted ad hoc to the smallest tittle and comma. Alternative, war.
To RUSSIA: What we have determined upon is unalterable and inevitable, and you must submit to this decision. Alternative, war.
The Goerlitzer Nachrichten published the following paragraph on July 30th: "Vienna, July 29th. After having made inquiries in official circles, the morning papers make this announcement: Count Berchtold has informed the English Ambassador that the Austro-Hungarian Government is grateful for Grey's mediation proposal, and appreciates the good intentions of the British Government. A peaceful solution of the conflict with Serbia is, however, no longer possible, as the declaration of war had already been signed."
Before leaving this all-important episode, it is instructive to compare three other versions of the reason for refusing a conference. Sir Edward Grey mooted the proposal for a conference to the ambassadors in London on Friday, July 24th. On the afternoon he requested the British Ambassador in Berlin to propose the conference to the German Government.
In spite of this, document No. 12 in the German White Book, a telegram from the German Chancellor to Prince Lichnowsky in London runs: "We know nothing here of a proposal from Sir Edward Grey to hold a conference of four in London, etc." Another telegram, document No. 15, bearing the same date and likewise from Bethmann-Hollweg to Lichnowsky is as follows: "We have immediately commenced the mediatory action in Vienna in the sense desired by Sir Edward Grey. Furthermore, we have informed Count Berchtold of M. Sasonow's desire to communicate with him direct."
[Footnote 6: This message leads to the assumption that direct communications between Vienna and Petrograd had already ceased, although the Koelnische Zeitung told the German public on the following day that they had not.]
The next document in the German White Book is dated July 28th. It is a telegram from the German Ambassador in Vienna to the German Chancellor in Berlin. "Count Berchtold begs me to express his thanks to you for communicating the English mediation proposal. He replies, however, that in consequence of the commencement of hostilities by Serbia and after the declaration of war which has meanwhile been made he must look upon England's step as being too late."
In the Austrian Orange Book, p. 122, we find this passage in a telegram from Count Berchtold to the Austrian representative in London: "When Sir Edward Grey speaks of the possibility of avoiding an outbreak of hostilities he is too late, for yesterday Serbians shot at our frontier guards, and to-day we have declared war on Serbia."
There are two points in these telegrams which require explanation. Firstly, why should Sir Edward Grey's proposal take so long to reach Vienna. Apparently it took from Monday to Wednesday to go by telegram from London via Berlin to Vienna. Two German newspapers (already quoted) knew of this conference idea on the 27th of July and commented upon it in their morning editions of the following day.
The other point is the Austrian statement that Serbia commenced hostilities. If this were the case, one would expect that Austria-Hungary, in declaring war subsequently to the alleged shooting by Serbians at frontier guards, would make mention of the acts as a casus belli. On p. 117 of the Red Book the text of the declaration of war is given in full, but there is no mention of any resort to arms on the part of Serbia.
We are forced to the conclusion that Germany and Austria are mutually responsible for preventing the conference; they desired war, and a conference might have preserved peace. During the present summer (1915) an important work has been published in Germany from which the following passage is taken:
"Grey thought the time had now arrived to formulate a mediation proposal. This idea was from the very beginning unacceptable to Austria, because that would indirectly be a recognition of Russia as an interested Power in the Austro-Serbian conflict. Only those who have followed the development of mutual obligations between the Entente Powers are able to understand the role which Russia's two comrades (France and England)—to say nothing at all of Italy—would have played in this conference. During its sittings Russia would have continued her military preparations, while Germany would have been pledged not to mobilize. Finally, nobody could assert that the man (Sir Edward Grey) who would have presided over these negotiations, could have been impartial. The more one thinks about this mediation proposal the more clearly one recognizes that it would have made for a diplomatic victory of the Triple Entente."
[Footnote 7: Professor Hermann Oncken: "Deutschland und der Weltkrieg," pp. 545-6.]
Even the claim that Austria showed some inclination to permit mediation on the points in her ultimatum to Serbia which were incompatible with Serbia's sovereignty, has been categorically denied. The Vienna Fremdenblatt for September 24th, 1914, contains this official announcement:
"Vienna, September 24th. In a report of the late British Ambassador published by the British Government, there is a passage which maintains that Austria-Hungary's Ambassador, Count Szapary, in St. Petersburg had informed Monsieur Sasonow, Russia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, that Austria-Hungary 'was willing to submit the points in her Note to Serbia which seemed incompatible with Serbian independence, to mediation.'
"We have been informed officially that this statement is absolutely untrue; according to the nature of the step taken by the monarchy in Belgrade, it would have been absolutely unthinkable. The passage cited from the British Ambassador's report, as well as some other phrases in the same, are evidently inspired by a certain bias. They are intended to prove, by asserting that Austria-Hungary was prepared to yield on some points at issue, that German diplomacy was really responsible for the outbreak of war.
"Such attempts cannot obscure the truth, that Austria-Hungary and Germany concurred in the wish to preserve European peace. If this wish has not been fulfilled, and a European conflict has arisen out of a local settlement, it can only be ascribed to the circumstance that Russia first threatened Austria-Hungary and then Germany by an unjustifiable mobilization. By this she forced war upon the Central Powers and thus kindled a general conflagration."
In dealing with Germany's endeavours for peace Professor Oncken writes on p. 546 of "Deutschland und der Weltkrieg" ("Germany and the World War"): "The work of German diplomacy took the form of giving warnings and peaceful explanations." On July 26th she pointed out to the Russian Government that "preparatory military measures on Russia's part would compel Germany to take corresponding steps, viz., the mobilization of the army. Mobilization means war." Oncken does not quote any of the "peaceful explanations" (friedliche Erklaerungen), and much as the present writer would like to fill up this gap in his work, he must admit his utter inability, because in the diplomatic correspondence he can only find exasperating threats, thrown out to Russia by the two Germanic Empires.
The whole problem allows of a very simple digest: On July 23rd, Austria-Hungary handed her ultimatum to Serbia, therein stating her demands, and on the following day informed all the European powers of her attitude. The neutral Press of the world and an unusually large section of the German Press, immediately pronounced Austria's position to be indefensible and untenable. The German Government, in spite of these facts, gave its official and unreserved support to Austria's attitude on July 26th. After eight weeks of war (on September 25th), Austria officially declared that she had never swerved from her original claims, nor ever felt any inclination to do so.
It is true that the usages of everyday life do not always hold good in diplomatic dealings, but it is instructive to state the case in the terms of everyday affairs. Mr. A. (Austria) informs Mr. B. (Serbia) that he has a quarrel to settle with him and states his demands. Mr. C. (Russia) who is a relation, patron and friend of B.'s, interferes to see fair play. Whereupon Mr. D. (Germany), a friend and relation of A.'s, informs C. in unmistakable fashion that he must neither speak nor act in the affair or he will be immediately thrashed. Messrs. A. and D. are unanimous in this view and repeat the threat in mutual form. Meanwhile A. attacks B. Mr. C, seeing that they will not accord him a hearing, takes steps to compel them to hear him, at which point Mr. D. fulfils his threat and falls upon C.
It is not yet clear whether Austria would have permitted Russia to take over the role of adviser and second to Serbia in her unequal struggle with Austria. But from the moment Germany appeared on the scene the situation becomes perfectly simple: Russia has absolutely no right either to speak or move in the matter. On this rock of immovable Germanic obstinacy the Russian ship of State, was intended to meet with diplomatic shipwreck. Should Russia attempt to avoid this fate, then the German sword could be trusted to arrange matters in the way desired by Germany.
The German language contains a very expressive phrase, Stimmungsmacherei, which means creating or preparing a certain frame of mind. How Germany's public opinion was tuned to the war melody is seen by a study of the German newspapers published between July 25th and August 1st. A great part of the German nation had welcomed Austria's expressed determination to compel Serbia "to lick her shoes," as a London paper put it at the time. Only the Social Democratic Party persisted in asserting that Austria was the provocative and guilty party down to the evening of July 28th.
But three days earlier the process of educating public opinion against Russia commenced. In fact, it required little tuning to arouse a national chorus, which was swelled subsequently by the Social Democratic voices, demanding that Russia too must bite the dust.
At the psychological moment the terms of the alliance between Germany and Austria were launched in the Press. One paper wrote: "It is interesting at the present moment to call to mind how the treaty existing between Germany and Austria regulates the question of mutual support." Then the various paragraphs are cited, and the article concludes: "That is to say: (1.) Assuming Austria attacks Serbia, and Russia as a precautionary measure sends troops to the Austrian frontier without commencing hostilities against the latter, then Germany is under no obligation to intervene. (2.) Assuming that Serbia is the attacking party, and Russia gives her support by military measures which threaten Austria, then the German Empire must immediately assist the Hapsburg monarchy with the whole of her military forces.
[Footnote 8: Muenchen-Augsburger Abendzeitung, July 27th.]
"Hence it all depends upon who attacks; the interpretation of 'attack,' however, is debatable both in politics and international law. Again and again it has been asserted that that Power which declares war is not the attacker, but the one which makes a continuance of peaceful relations impossible."
Innumerable notices of Russia's alleged mobilization appeared and, probably with a view to encouraging Germans to stand fast, ghastly pictures of the weakness and unpreparedness of the Russian army, in a word Russian rottenness and corruption. Persistent rumours of revolutions in Russia were current.
A Vienna telegram published in Berlin informed the German public that: "News received from Warsaw deny the rumours that a revolution has broken out in Russian-Poland, but it is true that yesterday the entire citadel in Warsaw was blown up. Official Russian reports endeavour to prove that the explosion was caused by lightning. The extent of the damage is not yet known, but in any case it amounts to hundreds of thousands of roubles. It is also not certain whether any or how many lives were lost."
[Footnote 9: Vossische Zeitung, July 29th.]
A few days later the German official organ Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung and the semi-official Koelnische Zeitung published the following report of the explosion. "According to the statement of the Governor of Warsaw it was caused by revolutionaries. No proof of this was forthcoming, therefore it was ascribed to lightning, and as nobody believed this explanation—there was not a cloud on the sky at the time—the guilt remained finally with the revolutionaries.
"Now it has been proved, not to the satisfaction of the Russian authorities of course, that Russian officers of high rank blew the magazine up, because they would have to supply the troops with ammunition after the mobilization—and the ammunition was not there. The money for the same had found its way into the officers' pockets."
On July 30th the Vossische Zeitung announced: "To-day even more alarming news has been in the air than in the last few days. The Lokal Anzeiger stated during the afternoon that an order for the mobilization of the army and navy had been signed by the Kaiser. On making inquiries in official quarters, we were informed that the 'news' is false. At three o'clock Wolff's Bureau issued an official dementi: 'We have received an official statement to the effect that the news published in an extra edition of the Berliner Lokal Anzeiger that the Kaiser had ordered the general mobilization is untrue.' Great excitement was caused by the Lokal Anzeiger's announcement, and the public visibly disquieted."
The above report refers, of course, to incidents which happened on the preceding day. The 30th of July was marked by the suppression of three Berlin papers, including the Berliner Neuester Nachrichten, for divulging the fact that the 1st, 5th and 17th Army Corps had been mobilized. An account of this faux pas appeared on July 31st in the Kreuz Zeitung and concluded, after denying the truth of the mobilization, with the following paragraph: "If bodies of troops have been moved to various points of our Eastern frontier, then it only means the so-called frontier protection (Grenzschutz), which has been made necessary by our Eastern neighbour strengthening his customary frontier guards by troops of the line. Frontier protection is not generally intended to prevent a serious attack, but means rather a kind of police action."
Two other passages will suffice to illuminate the mobilization question. "Yesterday Russia gave official notification in Vienna and Berlin of mobilization against Austria. Is it to be wondered at that a feeling of disquietude is spreading throughout all classes of the nation. By delay on our side, valuable military advantages may be lost if the people once suspect that there is an absence of that firmness and joy of responsibility (Verantwortungsfreudigkeit) which marked the action of the Austrian Government and was hailed with jubilation by the German nation.
"Summa summarum: The German Government has taken honest pains during the last week in showing its peace-loving disposition and in seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis. Nevertheless the political situation on all sides and in every respect, has become worse from day to day through the fault and according to the intention of the Triple Entente."
[Footnote 10: Kreuz Zeitung, July 31st.]
"The others are mobilizing. We—issue denials. We deny everything which might mean mobilization or look like preparation for that step. It is done for the sake of 'peace,' so that Russia, who is gathering her national strength together in masses, may not be offended. Are we being led? We look to the Kaiser. The Peace Societies and some of Germany's enemies are looking to him.
"Can we remain indifferent in our hour of dread need, when the gleaming promise of a bright future appears in the distance, if the inability to resolve and dare has made Berlin its headquarters. All efforts are for 'peace' with honour. But in politics one must be able to recognize when it is impossible to continue at peace; when peace is at the cost of our friends, our own security, and the future of European peace. In view of this one must be able to act."
[Footnote 11: Deutsche Zeitung, July 31st.]
The internal tactics of the German Government had been successful all along the line. Insignificant Serbia had dropped out of the reckoning. Russia must be humbled. The German nation, believing itself entirely peaceful, and convinced that its leaders had done everything possible for peace, now demanded in no unmistakable voice—action! mobilization! war!
Announcements of mobilization on all sides (Switzerland, Holland, Belgium) doubtless added to the popular belief that Germany desired above all things—peace. Still, in spite of the warlike spirit of the nation and the burning desire to settle off Russia once and for all, there was an undercurrent of overstrained nervousness. A Dresden paper of July 30th relates that between the hours of two and four on the preceding afternoon a Berlin newspaper had been asked thirty-seven different questions on the telephone relating to rumours of assassinations, mobilization, etc.
The process of inspiring national confidence, however, had by no means suffered through neglect. France was represented as being unprepared and, together with England, desiring only peace. As early as July 27th in the Taegliche Rundschau the public had been told that Italy, had officially declared herself ready and willing to stand by the Central Powers as an ally.
Even Japan was used to stiffen Teutonic courage. The Deutscher Kurier told its readers in a telegram from New York (?) that Americans fully expected Japan to attack Russia in the back and Japanese ministers were holding conferences all day and night. According to the Weser Zeitung, August 1st, Japan was arming for war, while the Muenchen-Augsburger Zeitung published details of an alliance concluded between Austria and Japan in Vienna on the afternoon of July 30th. According to this source Japan had pledged herself to support Austria in case the latter was attacked by Russia, while Austria declared her absolute disinterestedness in the Far East. On August 1st the Berliner Tageblatt repeated this legend; but advised its readers to exercise reserve in accepting it.
"During the evening (August 2nd) the news spread in the streets of Berlin that Japan was mobilizing and had already declared war on Russia. Huge crowds flocked to the Japanese Embassy and spent hours in cheering Japan, Germany, and the Triple Alliance."
[Footnote 12: Der Montag, August 3rd.]
Meanwhile Russia, having failed to get her simple rights recognized and knowing that Germany had made extensive military preparations, decided on July 31st to mobilize her entire forces. The German Ambassador immediately informed his Government of this step, and the Kaiser placed Germany under martial law. On the same day the Emperor proceeded from Potsdam to the Imperial Palace in Berlin.
THE DOGS LET LOOSE
"Just after three o'clock a company, at war strength, from the 'Alexander' regiment marched under the command of a young lieutenant, down Unter den Linden. Drums were beaten; a huge crowd listened in solemn silence as the lieutenant read the articles placing the German Empire under martial law. The crowd was fully alive to the awful sternness of this historic moment.
"After the proclamation was ended a deep silence ensued, then a loud voice cried: 'The Kaiser! Hurrah!' Three times the shout rang to the heavens. 'The German army! Hurrah!' Once more the caps were swung three times. The boy-like lieutenant, with head erect, sword in hand, commands: 'Attention! Slope arms!' The regular beat of marching men follows as they proceed in the direction of the Imperial Residence. Berlin is under martial law!"
[Footnote 13: Deutscher Kurier, July 31st.]
"During the afternoon enormous masses of people collected in the streets and open spaces of Berlin. Unter den Linden, in expectation of the Kaiser's return, was overfilled with excited, waiting throngs. Just before a quarter to four a great movement was seen from the direction of the Brandenburger Tor, which spread like a wave along the street. Everybody rushed on to the road, and the police were pushed aside. Then the suppressed excitement of the last few days gave vent to a hurricane of hurrahs as the populace greeted their monarch. The Emperor was wearing the uniform of the Garde-Kuerassiere; beside him sat the Empress. His countenance was overshadowed by deep gravity as he returned the welcome of his subjects. At a quarter to four the Kaiser was in the royal castle, and immediately the Imperial Standard was fluttering aloft."
[Footnote 14: Vossische Zeitung, July 31st.]
The next twenty-four hours are so full of fateful events that they seem one big blur on the memory. Although everyone was convinced that an appeal to the sword was inevitable, there was still a tense feeling of dread expectation hanging like a cloud over the land. During the whole of that long night the author was an observer from an overcrowded train which left Nuremberg at 9 p.m. and rumbled dismally into Cologne the next morning at ten o'clock. Every station, great and small, was crowded with anxious, expectant crowds; the smaller stations full of spectators and relatives bidding farewell to departing soldiers, and the greater ones crowded with fleeing tourists.
On the platforms at Frankfort and Cologne many tons of luggage were stacked in huge piles. It would be interesting to know what became of them. Few Germans could have slept that night; the anxiety was too great. The whole railway line was guarded by patrols, many of whom were in civilian attire. Here and there a "field-grey" uniform was visible. On many stations armed guards awaited the arrival of reservists and gave them conduct to the barracks.
[Footnote 15: The Koenigsberger Hartungsche Zeitung contained a paragraph on August 7th to the effect that 120,000 trunks and portmanteaux had been collected on Berlin stations alone.]
The Kaiser spoke words of cheer from a window of the royal palace on Friday evening, after which the restless crowd thronged to the official residence of the Chancellor to receive as a watchword the words which Prince Friedrich Karl had spoken on a memorable occasion to his Brandenburger troops: "Let your hearts beat to God, and your blows on the enemy."
An ultimatum was despatched to St. Petersburg and presented at midnight to the Russian Government. The latter was requested to cancel all mobilization orders within twelve hours, or war would ensue. Simultaneously the French Government was asked what its attitude would be in case of a Russo-German war. In these measures it is safe to conclude that the German nation was heart and soul behind the Government, otherwise the tremendous outbreak of national enthusiasm throughout the length and breadth of the land would be entirely inexplicable.
Throughout the day the nation awaited, under tense strain, an answer from Russia. "At five o'clock the excitement of the masses in Unter den Linden had increased to a degree almost beyond endurance. The crowd surged from side to side when a court carriage or an officer drove by in a motor-car. Everyone felt that the fateful decision might fall at any minute, when the German nation would know its fate.
"Suddenly motor-cars full of officers appeared from the gates of the royal residence. They shouted to the excited crowd that the general mobilization had been ordered. One officer waved his drawn sword, another his handkerchief, while others stood up and waved their caps. Then an indescribable scene of jubilation followed; the parole 'mobilization' was passed on by the police, and in less time than it takes to write, the hundreds of thousands of human beings surging to and fro between the monument to 'Old Fritz' and the Lustgarten, knew that Germany would now speak with her sword."
[Footnote 16: Berliner Tageblatt, August 2nd.]
"Our hour of destiny has struck! Germany, the strongest and most peaceful nation on earth, appeals to the sword. The last call which we sent across the Eastern frontier has remained unanswered. The enemy is mute. Now Germany speaks!
"The Kaiser calls the Empire to arms! Our King will lead Bavaria's armies to him. The nation is ready, armed to the teeth. Challenged by a dishonest opponent who envies us the fruit of our peaceful toil, the hands of German men leave their work and grasp the sword. Our enemy shall learn to his terrible cost, what it means to summon a nation in arms to the battlefield. The German army goes out to fight for our country, in a cause which is more stainless and pure than the light of the sun. The disgraceful Muscovite conspiracy, creeping in the footsteps of Serbian murderers, believes the moment has arrived in which they will be able to fall upon, overthrow and plunder us; Russia desires to kindle a world war.
"We believe that he will not succeed; but should it thus fall out, we Germans will defend not only our land and ourselves; but, in this war which has been forced upon us in the basest manner possible, we shall defend the civilization of the world, the culture of the earth, against debased 'unculture' and the spreading roots of decay. This is a lofty and tremendous task. If we are victorious, as we confidently trust, then the ever-increasing number of civilized peoples honestly toiling in the blessings of peace, will thank us for centuries to come.
"Brothers! Sisters! such an hour has come that the history of the world has never witnessed before. In the struggle which now begins—a deadly grapple frivolously conjured up by Russia's monarch—the whole earth will groan. The German people, however, will prove that it is worthy to retain and develop its leading place in the intellectual and cultural progress of the world. Our enemy envies us this position because in his land, stupidity and confusion reign supreme; his own uncivilization and barbarism cannot be rooted out.
"We will prevent him from throwing Europe back to the conditions in which he and his likes dwell. May God grant that the civilized peoples of Europe may have true understanding for this historic hour, just as their heroic ancestors understood the danger when they hurled themselves against the invasions of the Mongols.
"First of all the German nation will march against the armies of the East, and, hand in hand with our ally, we hope will so grip the enemy that he will lose all desire ever to attack us again."
[Footnote 17: Muenchen-Augsburger Abendzeitung, August 2nd.]
The last lines of this perfervid article, give an instructive clue. A mere quibble had arisen between the Central Powers and Russia. The former immediately adopted an arrogant, even threatening, attitude which thoughtful Germans condemned. Russia's willingness to submit the question to an arbitration conference consisting of four neutral ambassadors seems only to have intensified Teutonic lust to humiliate the opponent. In any case, it is interesting to note that between July 24th and 31st the whole German nation had been converted to the uncompromising attitude of the Government.
Further, it is evident that the German people believed they were about to march against Russia. The very last remark which I heard from German lips as we entered the train to leave Erlangen on July 31st was: "Jetzt werden die Russen abgekloepft." ("Now the Russians will get a whacking.")
[Footnote 18: We left Erlangen at 3.30 p.m. Martial law had been proclaimed some time previous to that. But the proclamation in Berlin occurred at 3.30 p.m. on the same day. The Berliner Abendblatt published on the same evening states that the Kaiser had been waiting and hoping for a peaceful answer from Russia. The Bavarian authorities could not have taken so serious a step without an order from the Highest War Lord, which leads to the conclusion that it was a device to get military preparation well under way.]
The Berlin cabinet mobilized Germany's armed strength, as they alleged, against Russia, and the Government succeeded in arousing and enlisting national enthusiasm against the Eastern neighbour. Yet when the time came to strike, Germany's might was hurled against neutral Belgium and unwilling France, while Russia was left free to overrun the Eastern part of Germany. The blood-guilt rests in the first place with the Kaiser and his Government, and in the second place (although in no less a degree) with the German people, because they condoned the crime and acquiesced in the duplicity.
While the war fury seethed through the nation the cry echoed on all sides: "We want peace! We have worked for a peaceful solution!" Yet a study of the workings of the national mind as revealed in the German Press, and of diplomatic doings as shown in the German White Book, affords not a single instance—excepting the Socialists' demonstrations—of any tangible, concrete effort made either by the German people or its representative diplomacy to avoid a catastrophe. On the other hand it must be said that the latter (German diplomacy) deliberately baulked the only practical proposal (Sir Edward Grey's) which could have brought about a solution. The German nation did desire peace, but only on the condition that their opponents granted Germany and Austria's arrogant claims down to the smallest tittle.
Exactly at six minutes to one (midday) on August 1st, a telegram left Berlin instructing the German Ambassador in St. Petersburg to declare war on Russia at 5 p.m. if the latter State had not given a satisfactory answer to Germany's ultimatum by that time. Count Pourtales performed this duty, and therewith the sands of fate ran out.
On the previous day summonses had been issued calling a meeting of the Reichstag for Tuesday, August 4th. The opening ceremony took place at 1 p.m. and all the political parties were present, except the Social Democrats, who, according to their traditions, did not appear, and thus escaped the famous hand-shaking scene. The Kaiser and two of his sons appeared in field-grey uniform. His theatrical appeal for the leaders of each party to swear fidelity to the national cause by shaking hands with him, as well as his saying that "Now there are only Germans," may have been spontaneous; but it is far more probable that they were meant to be a diplomatic appeal to the sentimental vanity of the German nation.
It would be superfluous to deal with the speech from the throne in this place, but at the close of the ceremony an incident occurred which deserves mention. "After taking leave of the Reichstag's representatives the Kaiser stretched out his hand to the famous professor of jurisprudence in Strasbourg University, Dr. van Calker. The Kaiser looked steadily at Professor van Calker for a moment, then, after the handshake, clenched his fist and struck downwards uttering these words: 'Nun aber wollen wir sie dreschen!' ('Now we will jolly well thrash them!'); nodded to the professor and walked away."
[Footnote 19: This utterance has since become a common theme for composition exercises in German schools.]
[Footnote 20: Taegliche Rundschau, August 5th.]
The sitting in the Reichstag was a solemn event. On that occasion the Chancellor expressed himself at length in defining Germany's position.
"A tremendous fate has fallen upon Europe. While we have endeavoured to maintain the prestige of the German Empire in the eyes of the world, we have lived for forty-four years in peace and protected European peace. In this work of peace we have become strong and mighty—therefore we are envied. We have suffered with long-enduring patience; while in the East and West, under the excuse that Germany is lusting for war, hatred for us has been nourished and fetters wrought where-with to bind us. The wind which blows there has now become a storm.
"We desired nothing but to live on in peaceful toil, content with an unspoken oath that was echoed from the Emperor down to the youngest recruit. Our sword shall only leap from its sheath in defence of a just cause. (Loud applause.) The day on which we must draw it, has dawned against our will and contrary to our honest endeavours. Russia has set a burning torch to the house of peace. (Loud cries of 'Quite true.') We stand to-day in a forced war with Russia and France.
"Gentlemen, a number of documents, collected in the haste caused by these overwhelming events, have been laid before you. Permit me to emphasize the facts which characterize our attitude.
"From the moment that the Austrian conflict broke out we have striven and worked to limit the quarrel to Austria-Hungary and Serbia. All the cabinets, in particular England, accept this view; only Russia has declared that in the settlement of this conflict, she must be allowed to express her wishes. Therewith the danger of European complications raised its threatening countenance.
"As soon as the first certain news of Russian military preparations reached us, we caused it to be made known in St. Petersburg, in a friendly but unmistakable manner, that warlike measures and military preparations would compel us also to take corresponding steps. But mobilization is next to war. Russia assured us in a friendly tone (cries of indignation) that she was making no military preparations against us.
"Meanwhile England tried to mediate between Vienna and St. Petersburg and was warmly supported by us. On July 28th the Kaiser telegraphed to the Czar begging him to remember that it was Austria-Hungary's right and duty to stop the Greater-Serbian agitation, as this threatened to undermine Austria's existence. (Cries of indignation.) The Kaiser pointed out to the Czar the gulf between monarchical interests and the outrage at Serajewo; he begged him to give his personal support to the Kaiser's endeavour to smooth out the antithesis between Vienna and St. Petersburg.
"Just before this telegram came into the Czar's hands, the Czar, on his side, begged the Kaiser for his help: the Kaiser should advise Vienna to be more moderate. The Kaiser undertook the task of mediator, but the action ordered by him was hardly in motion, when Russia began to mobilize all her forces against Austria-Hungary. (Excited shouts of indignation and disgust.) But Austria had only mobilized certain army corps against Serbia, besides which she had only two corps, and these were far from the Russian frontier.
"At this juncture the Kaiser informed the Czar that the mobilization of his armies against Austria would increase the difficulties of mediation, a task which he had undertaken at the Czar's express wish, and perhaps render it impossible. Nevertheless, we continued our mediatory action in Berlin, and indeed in a form which went to the limits permitted by our alliance. (Great excitement.) During this time Russia renewed her assurances that she was taking no military measures against us.
"We come to July 3ist. In Vienna a decision was to be arrived at on that day. By our representations we had already brought it about that Vienna, which for a time was not in direct communication with St. Petersburg, had commenced direct discussion again. But before Vienna could come to a final decision, the news came that Russia was mobilizing—i.e., against us too—her whole forces. (Cries of indignation.) The Russian Government, although fully aware from our repeated representations what a mobilization on our frontiers means, did not notify this step to us, and gave us no explanations concerning it.
"As late as the afternoon of July 31st a telegram came from the Czar to the Kaiser in which the former pledged himself that his army should take up no provocative attitude against us. (Great excitement.) But the hostile mobilization on the Russian frontier was in full swing during the night July 30th-31st. While we were mediating in Berlin the Russian armies appeared on our long and almost entirely open frontier. France was not yet mobilizing, but, as she admits, was already taking precautionary measures.
"And we? Up till then we had not—the Imperial Chancellor spoke with great emotion and repeatedly struck the table while uttering these words—called up a single reservist, out of a loving regard for the peace of Europe. (Loud cries of 'Bravo!') Were we then to wait on in patience till the Powers between which we are wedged should choose their moment to strike? (A hurricane of voices, 'No!') To expose Germany to this danger would be a crime. (Stormy, general and long continued cries of 'Quite true!' and 'Bravo!' in which the Social Democrats joined too.)
"Therefore on July 31st we requested Russia to demobilize as the only measure which could save the European peace. (Loud applause.) The Imperial Ambassador in St. Petersburg further received instructions to inform the Russian Government, that in case our demand was rejected, we should consider ourselves in a state of war with Russia. The Imperial Ambassador has carried out these instructions.
"What answer Russia accorded to our demand for demobilization we do not know even to-day. Telegraphic announcements on this point have not reached us, although matters of far less importance have been sent over the wires. Hence, long after the expiration of the stated time, the Kaiser saw himself compelled to mobilize our forces at 5 o'clock on August 1st.
"Simultaneously, it was necessary for us to inquire regarding France's attitude. In answer to our definite question whether, in case of a Russo-German war, France would remain neutral, the French Government has replied that they will act as their interests dictate. (Laughter.) This was at least an evasion, if not a negative answer to our question.
"In spite of this, the Kaiser ordered that the French frontier should be respected. This order was strictly obeyed with one single exception. France, who mobilized at the same time as ourselves, declared that she would respect a ten-kilometre zone along her frontiers. (Cries of indignation.) And what happened in reality? Their airmen have thrown bombs, cavalry patrols have violated our territory, and companies have broken into Alsace-Lorraine. (Indignation.) Therewith, France, although war has not yet been declared, has attacked our territories.
"As regards the single exception which I have referred, I have received the following report from the Chief of the General Staff: In respect to French complaints of violations of her frontiers, only one case is admitted. Against express orders an officer with a patrol from the 14th Army Corps crossed the French frontier on August 2nd. Apparently they were shot down; only one man has returned. But long before this single instance occurred, French airmen had penetrated into Southern Germany and dropped bombs, and French troops had attacked our frontier-protection-troops in the Schlucht Pass. Up till now our soldiers have confined themselves entirely to protecting the frontier.
"So far the report from the Chief of the General Staff.
"We are now in a position of self-defence, and necessity knows no law! (Cries of 'Quite right!') Our troops have occupied Luxembourg, perhaps they have already entered Belgium. (Loud applause.) That is a breach of international law. The French Government, it is true, had declared in Brussels that they would respect Belgian neutrality so long as their opponent respected it. But we knew that France stood ready to invade it. (Cries of indignation.)
[Footnote 21: This sentence seems so important that I give the original: "Wir sind jetzt in der Notwehr, und Not kennt kein Gebot!"]
"France could wait, we could not; and a French attack in our flank on the Lower Rhine might have been disastrous for us. Thus we were compelled to ignore the protests of the Luxembourg and Belgian Governments.
"The injustice which we commit thereby, we shall try to make good again as soon as our military goal is attained. Anyone who fights for the highest, as we do now, may only think of how he may hack his way through. (Hurricanes of applause; long continued hand-clapping in the whole house and on the tribune.)
"Gentlemen, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with Austria-Hungary. Concerning England's attitude, the declaration made by Sir Edward Grey in the House of Commons yesterday has made the standpoint which the English Government takes up quite clear.
"We have declared to the English Government that as long as England remains neutral, our fleet shall not attack the North Coast of France. Further, that we shall not disturb the integrity and independence of Belgium. I repeat this declaration before the whole world and I may add that if England will remain neutral, we are prepared—assuming mutual treatment—to undertake no hostile operations against France's commercial marine. (Applause.)
"Gentlemen, so much for events up till now! I repeat the words of the Kaiser: 'We enter the struggle with a clear conscience!' (Great enthusiasm.) We are fighting for the fruits of our labours in peace, for the heritage of a great past, and for our future. The fifty years are not yet ended within which Moltke said we should stand at arms to defend the heritage and the achievements of 1870. The hour of great trial has struck for our nation. But we look forward to it with absolute confidence. (Tremendous applause.)
"Our army is in the field, our fleet is ready, and behind them the entire German nation (roars of never-ending applause and hand-clapping in the whole house)—the whole German nation! (These words were accompanied by a gesture towards the Social Democrats.—Renewed outburst of applause, in which the Social Democrats also joined.)
"Gentlemen, you know your duty in its entirety. The vote of credit requires no further argument, I beg you to pass it quickly. (Loud applause.)"
[Footnote 22: Berliner Tageblatt, August 5th.]
Unfortunately this eloquent exposition of Germany's case contains inaccuracies which can only be described as conscious untruths. I have already made myself responsible for the statement: "Lying has always been the foundation stone of German policy." Earl Cromer, in commenting on this, gives additional evidence of its veracity.
[Footnote 23: "Soul of Germany," p. 192.]
[Footnote 24: The Spectator, August 7th, 1915, p. 169.]
The German Chancellor, when he justified his policy by the dictum: "Necessity knows no law," evidently meant that necessity also recognizes no law of truth. In any case, he remained faithful to the traditions of his country. Although the German Press is both venal and supine, we shall see that it has done the world a service and played its own Government a foul trick. (Der deutschen Regierung einen boesen Streich gespielt.)
When Bethmann-Hollweg was thumping the table before him, and assuring his immediate hearers and the world in general that the Berlin cabinet had not called up a single reservist before five o'clock on Saturday, August 1st, he was guilty of a deliberate falsehood. On July 31st, I left Erlangen by the 3.31 train for Nuremberg; travelling in the same train was Dr. Haack, professor of the history of art in Erlangen University. He was accompanied by his wife and various colleagues, including Professor Busch, who bade him farewell on the platform. Dr. Haack is an artillery reserve officer, and he was then going to join his regiment. At 8.30 p.m. on the same day, we spoke to Frau Haack on Nuremberg station. The lady's face was very tear-stained and she was about to return to Erlangen alone. She told us in a broken voice that her husband had been called up.
In "The Soul of Germany" I have given names and dates of other cases. I do not propose to disgrace my word of honour by playing it off against the German Chancellor. But acting on the principle of "Set a thief to catch a thief," I shall adduce some instances from German newspapers.
The Paris correspondent of the Koelnische Zeitung travelled home via Brussels; his adventures are related at length in the K.Z. for August 4th. On August 1st he was in Brussels and complained bitterly, in his article, about the hotel service, and excuses it by writing: "The German waiters had all left Brussels the day before (July 31st) to join the army."
An article dated Strasbourg, August 3rd, was published in the Frankfurter Zeitung on the 6th of the same month. The writer describes the martial scenes which he had witnessed during the preceding week, and mentions that the officers in the garrison had received a special order to send their wives and children away from the city several days before martial law was proclaimed. Friday, presumably, the order came for the garrison to march to the French frontier, for on Saturday the regiments were entrained and left Strasbourg. Our good German friend describes the scene in the streets: "Alongside the ranks were the wives and children of the called-up reservists, trying to keep step with the quickly moving troops. Before sunset the regiments, all on a war-footing, had left the city."
Every layman knows that a reservist cannot enter a barracks in civilian attire, and emerge five minutes later in full war-kit ready for the march. The German Imperial Chancellor affirms that not one of them had been called up before five o'clock in the afternoon of that day. It is true that neither the age of miracles nor the age of lies has passed away. Perhaps Herr Bethmann-Hollweg could explain why it was impossible to send trunk-messages on Germany's telephone system during the last three days of July, 1914. At least, the local papers in Bavaria asserted that that was the case.
The Elbinger Zeitung, August 13th, contained a reservist's letter with this illuminating passage: "During the last few days everybody was in readiness; our linen, etc., had been packed and sent off in advance. On Friday, July 31st, the order arrived that I should present myself; mobilization had begun. With feelings of joy I changed into my uniform and rushed to join my company. The streets were full of frightened people with tears in their eyes. We officers pressed each others' hands and with ardent glances exclaimed: 'At last it has come!'"
The Chancellor based his assertion that French troops had crossed the German frontier, on the report from the Chief of the General Staff. This authority admitted that German soldiers on August 2nd (Sunday) had violated the French frontier and continues with these words: "But long before that French airmen had dropped bombs in Southern Germany, and French soldiers had attacked our frontier-guards in the Schlucht Pass."
The Frankfurter Zeitung, July 31st, gives Bethmann-Hollweg and the Chief of the General Staff the lie direct. The paragraph is dated July 30th, Kolmar, and runs: "The Schlucht Pass has just been barricaded by German frontier guards. This is to prevent motor-lorries and such-like vehicles from entering French territory without our permission. Several papers have announced the alleged occupation of the Schlucht (gorge) by French troops. The report is an absolute invention. (Die Meldung ist voellig aus der Luft gegriffen.) I have taken the trouble to look round, and may say that the usual tourist traffic is going on as usual."
The remainder of the charge is that "long before August 2nd," French airmen had dropped bombs on South German towns. The towns in question are Frankfort and Nuremberg. The Koelnische Zeitung contained this paragraph on August 2nd: "A military report has just come in, stating that French airmen dropped bombs in the neighbourhood of Nuremberg this morning. As war has not yet been declared between France and Germany, this is a breach of international law."
Two remarks are necessary to supplement the above "news." Firstly, in the Reichstag, the Chancellor said this attack had occurred "long before August 2nd." Secondly, the Cologne Gazette received the report from the military authorities. That betrays the source from which all these lies emanated.
The author has in his possession a Nuremberg paper (Fraenkische Tagepost) for the whole of August, 1914. It contains absolutely no mention of any air raid on or near Nuremberg. If bombs had been dropped in the vicinity, it is quite unthinkable that the local papers should contain no report of the affair.