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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.

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.

“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."

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."

(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."

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 N 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 N, 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."

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, , 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 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 rôle 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."

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 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 rôle 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.

“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.”

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."

“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."

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."

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.