Current History, Vol. VIII, No. 3, June 1918 online

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internal contradiction between the text of the Windsor Treaty and our
treaty would doubtless have called forth would hardly have been stilled
in the minds of our public through the assurance of English bona fides.

"With justified precaution, we intended to allow the publication to be
made only at the proper moment, when the danger of disapproving
criticism was no longer so acute, if possible simultaneously with the
announcement of the Bagdad Treaty, which also was on the point of being
concluded. The fact that two great agreements had been concluded between
us and England would doubtless have materially favored their reception
and made it easier to overlook the aesthetic defects of the Portuguese
agreement. It was consideration for the effect of the agreement - with
which we wanted to improve our relations with England, not to generate
more trouble - that caused our hesitation.

"It is correct that - although in a secondary degree - consideration was
also taken of the efforts just then being made to obtain economic
interests in the Portuguese colonies, which the publication of the
agreement would naturally have made more difficult to realize. These
conditions Prince Lichnowsky may not have been able to perceive fully
from London, but he should have trusted in our objective judgment and
acquiesced in it, instead of replacing his lack of understanding with
suspicions and the interjection of personal motives. He certainly would
have found our arguments understood by the English statesmen themselves.

"The Ambassador's speeches aroused considerable adverse sentiment in
this country. It was necessary for the creation of a better atmosphere,
in which alone the rapprochement being worked for could flourish, that
confidence in our English policy and in our London Ambassador be spread
also among our people at home. Prince Lichnowsky, otherwise so
susceptible to public opinion, did not take this motive sufficiently
into account, for he saw everything only through his London spectacles.
The charges against the attitude of the Foreign Office are too untenable
to be bothered with. I would only like to point out that Prince
Lichnowsky was not left in ignorance regarding the 'most important
things,' in so far as they were of value to his mission. On the
contrary, I gave the Ambassador much more general information than used
to be the custom. My own experiences as Ambassador induced me to do so.
But with Lichnowsky there was the inclination to rely more upon his own
impressions and judgment than upon the information and advice of the
Central Office. To be sure, I did not always have either the motive or
the authority to impart the sources of our news. Here there were quite
definite considerations, particularly anxiety regarding the compromising
of our sources. The Prince's memorandum furnishes the best justification
for the caution exercised in this regard.

Defense of Archduke

"It is not true that in the Foreign Office the reports that England
would protect France under all circumstances were not believed.

"At Knopischt, on the occasion of the visit of his Majesty the Kaiser
to the Archduke heir apparent, no plan of an active policy against
Serbia was laid down. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was not at all the
champion of a policy leading to war for which he has often been taken.
During the London conference he advised moderation and the avoidance of

"Prince Lichnowsky's 'optimism' was hardly justified, as he has probably
convinced himself since through the revelations of the Sukhomlinoff
trial. Besides, the secret Anglo-Russian naval agreement (of which, as
said before, he was informed) should have made him more skeptical.
Unfortunately, the suspicion voiced by the Imperial Chancellor and the
Under Secretary of State was well grounded. How does this agree with the
assertion that we, relying upon the reports of Count Pourtalès that
'Russia would not move under any circumstances,' had not thought of the
possibility of a war? Furthermore, so far as I can recollect, Count
Pourtalès [German Ambassador at St. Petersburg] never made such reports.

Blame for Russia

"That Austria-Hungary wished to proceed against the constant
provocations stirred up by Russia, (Herr von Hartwig,) which reached
their climax in the outrage of Serajevo, we had to recognize as
justified. In spite of all the former settlements and avoidances of
menacing conflicts, Russia did not abandon her policy, which aimed at
the complete exclusion of the Austrian influence (and naturally ours
also) from the Balkans. The Russian agents, inspired by Petrograd,
continued their incitement. It was a question of the prestige and the
existence of the Danube Monarchy. It must either put up with the
Russo-Serbian machinations, or command a quos ego, even at the risk of
war. We could not leave our ally in the lurch. Had the intention been to
exclude the ultima ratio of the war in general, the alliance should not
have been concluded. Besides, it was plain that the Russian military
preparations, (for instance, the extension of the railroads and forts in
Poland,) for which a France lusting for revenge had lent the money and
which would have been completed in a few years, were directed
principally against us. But despite all this, despite the fact that the
aggressive tendency of the Russian policy was becoming more evident from
day to day, the idea of a preventive war was far removed from us. We
only decided to declare war on Russia in the face of the Russian
mobilization and to prevent a Russian invasion.

"I have not the letters exchanged with the Prince at hand - it was a
matter of private letters. Lichnowsky pleaded for the abandonment of
Austria. I replied, so far as I remember, that we, aside from our treaty
obligation, could not sacrifice our ally for the uncertain friendship of
England. If we abandoned our only reliable ally later we would stand
entirely isolated, face to face with the Entente. It is likely that I
also wrote that 'Russia was constantly becoming more anti-German' and
that we must 'just risk it.' Furthermore, it is possible that I, in
order to steel Lichnowsky's nerves a little and to prevent him from
exposing his views also in London, may also have written that there
would probably be some 'bluster'; that 'the more firmly we stood by
Austria the sooner Russia would yield.' I have said already that our
policy was not based upon alleged reports excluding war; certainly at
that time I still thought war could be avoided, but, like all of us, I
was fully aware of the very serious danger.

"We could not agree to the English proposal of a conference of
Ambassadors, for it would doubtless have led to a serious diplomatic
defeat. For Italy, too, was pro-Serb and, with her Balkan interests,
stood rather opposed to Austria. The 'intimacy of the Russo-Italian
relations' is admitted by Prince Lichnowsky himself. The best and only
feasible way of escape was a localization of the conflict and an
understanding between Vienna and Petrograd. We worked toward that end
with all our energy. That we 'insisted upon' the war is an unheard-of
assertion which is sufficiently invalidated by the telegrams of his
Majesty the Kaiser to the Czar and to King George, published in the
White Books - Prince Lichnowsky only cares to tell about 'the really
humble telegram of the Czar' - as well as the instruction we sent to
Vienna. The worst caricature is formed by the sentence:

"'When Count Berchtold finally decided to come around we answered the
Russian mobilization, after Russia had vainly negotiated and waited a
whole week, with the ultimatum and the declaration of war.'

[In quoting Lichnowsky, Herr von Jagow omits the former's statement that
Count Berchtold "hitherto had played the strong man on instructions from

"Wrong" Conclusions

"Should we, perhaps, have waited until the mobilized Russian Army was
streaming over our borders? The reading of the Sukhomlinov trial has
probably given even Prince Lichnowsky a feeling of 'Oh si tacuisses!' On
July 5 I was absent from Berlin. The declaration that I was 'shortly
thereafter in Vienna' 'in order to talk everything over with Count
Berchtold' is false. I returned to Berlin on July 6 from my honeymoon
trip and did not leave there until Aug. 15, on the occasion of the
shifting of the Great Headquarters. As Secretary of State I was only
once in Vienna before the war, in the Spring of 1913.

"Prince Lichnowsky lightly passed over the matter of the confusing
dispatch that he sent us on Aug. 1 - at present I am not in possession of
the exact wording - as a 'misunderstanding' and even seems to want to
reproach us because 'in Berlin the news, without first waiting for the
conversation, was made the basis of a far-reaching action.' The
question of war with England was a matter of minutes, and immediately
after the arrival of the dispatch it was decided to make an
eleventh-hour attempt to avoid war with France and England. His Majesty
sent the well-known telegram to King George. The contents of the
Lichnowsky dispatch could not have been understood any other way than we
understood it.

"Objectively taken, the statement of Prince Lichnowsky presents such an
abundance of inaccuracies and distortions that it is hardly a wonder
that his conclusions are also entirely wrong. The reproach that we sent
an ultimatum on July 30 to Petrograd merely because of the mobilization
of Russia and on July 31 declared war upon the Russians, although the
Czar had pledged his word that not a man should march so long as
negotiations were under way, thus willfully destroying the possibility
of a peaceful adjustment, has really a grotesque effect. In concluding,
the statement seems almost to identify itself with the standpoint of our

"When the Ambassador makes the accusation that our policy identified
itself 'with Turks and Austro-Magyars' and 'subjected itself to the
viewpoints of Vienna and Budapest,' he may be suitably answered that he
saw things only through London spectacles and from the narrow point of
view of his desired rapprochement with England à tout prix. He also
appears to have forgotten completely that the Entente was formed much
more against us than against Austria.

"I, too, pursued a policy which aimed at an understanding with England,
because I was of the opinion that this was the only way for us to escape
from the unfavorable position in which we were placed by the unequal
division of strength and the weakness of the Triple Alliance. But Russia
and France insisted upon war. We were obligated through our treaty with
Austria, and our position as a great power was also threatened - hic
Rhodus, hic salta. But England, that was not allied in the same way with
Russia and that had received far-reaching assurances from us regarding
the sparing of France and Belgium, seized the sword.

"In saying this, I by no means share the opinion prevalent among us
today that England laid all the mines for the outbreak of the war; on
the contrary, I believe in Sir Edward Grey's love of peace and in his
earnest wish to arrive at an agreement with us. But he had allowed
himself to become entangled too far in the net of the Franco-Russian
policy; he no longer found the way out, and he did not prevent the world
war - something that he could have done. Neither was the war popular with
the English people; Belgium had to serve as a battle cry.

"'Political marriages for life and death' are, as Prince Lichnowsky
says, not possible in international unions. But neither is isolation,
under the present condition of affairs in Europe. The history of Europe
consists of coalitions that sometimes have led to the avoidance of
warlike outbreaks and sometimes to violent clashes. A loosening and
dissolving of old alliances that no longer correspond to all conditions
is only in order when new constellations are attainable. This was the
object of the policy of a rapprochement with England. So long as this
policy did not offer reliable guarantees we could not abandon the old
guarantees - even with their obligations.

"The Morocco policy had led to a political defeat. In the Bosnian crisis
this had been luckily avoided, the same as at the London Conference. A
fresh diminution of our prestige was not endurable for our position in
Europe and in the world. The prosperity of States, their political and
economic successes, are based upon the prestige that they enjoy in the

"The personal attacks contained in the work, the unheard-of calumnies
and slanders of others, condemn themselves. The ever-recurring suspicion
that everything happened only because it was not desired to allow him,
Lichnowsky, any successes speaks of wounded self-love, of disappointed
hopes for personal successes, and has a painful effect.

"In closing, let us draw attention here to what Hermann Oncken has also
quoted in his work, 'The Old and New Central Europe,' the memorandum of
Prince Bismarck of the year 1879, in which the idea is developed that
the German Empire must never dare allow a situation in which it would
remain isolated on the European Continent between Russia and France,
side by side with a defeated Austria-Hungary that had been left in the
lurch by Germany."

German Comments on von Jagow's Views

In commenting upon Herr von Jagow's reply to Prince Lichnowsky, Georg
Bernhard, editor in chief of the Vossische Zeitung, took occasion to
re-emphasize his favorite theory of a rapprochement with Russia so as to
enable Germany to reduce Great Britain to the level of a second-class
power. In a long article, printed on March 31, Herr Bernhard asserted
that Prince Lichnowsky had been by no means alone in his policy of
seeking agreement with England as Herr von Jagow himself had admitted,
and that the German Foreign Office had seemed obsessed with the idea
that it was a question of a choice between Austria and England, when, in
reality, if the diplomats had wanted to pursue a good German policy and
at the same time be of service to Austria, they should have made it a
question of Russia or England and tried to establish good relations with
the former under all circumstances. After quoting von Jagow's remark
about the inadvisability of abandoning old alliances until new
constellations were attainable, Herr Bernhard said:

"We shall not go into the question here if, during this war, which
strains all the forces of the alliance to the utmost, a former German
Secretary of State should have written such sentences. It is
incomprehensible how they came from the pen of a sensible man - and Herr
von Jagow is such a one. And it is still more incomprehensible how they
were able to escape the attention of the Foreign Office. Fortunately,
they can no longer do any harm now, as through our deeds we have
demonstrated our loyalty to the Austrians and Hungarians better than it
can be done by any amount of talk."

In an earlier editorial Herr Bernhard referred as follows to von Jagow's
admission that he did not believe that England had laid all the mines
leading to the world war:

"In spite of all experiences, therefore, here is another - almost
official - attempt made to represent the war as merely the result of the
aggressive desires of France and Russia. As if France (through whose
population went a shudder of fear as it saw itself on the edge of the
abyss of war) would ever have dared to go to war without knowing that
England stood back of her! And were Edward's trips to Paris without any
effect upon our diplomats? Has it not also finally become sufficiently
well known through the reports of the Belgian Ambassador how France
repeatedly tried to escape from the alliance, but was always again
forced into the net by Nicolson, [former British Under Secretary for
Foreign Affairs,] through Edward? The Imperial Chancellor, von Bethmann
Hollweg, himself admitted in the Reichstag the harmful rôle of King
Edward. Only he, as probably did Herr von Jagow also, thought that
Edward's death put an end to the policy of encircling. But this policy
of encircling - and here is where the mistake entailing serious
consequences is made by our diplomats - was not at all merely a personal
favorite idea of Edward VII., but the continuation of the traditional
English policy toward the strongest Continental power."

Thanks for Hindenburg

Herr Bernhard then asserted that England desired the publication of the
proposed Anglo-German treaty regarding the division of the Portuguese
colonies into spheres of economic interests so as to make Portugal's
eventual support of the Entente all the surer, and continued:

"And Lichnowsky wanted to fall into this trap set by England. It was
avoided by the Foreign Office more through instinct than sagacity. And
these diplomats have guided Germany's destiny before and during the war!
Let us give the warmest thanks to Hindenburg because his sword has now,
it is to be hoped, put an end once for all to the continued spinning of
plans by such and similar diplomats even during the war."

Theodor Wolff, editor in chief of the Berliner Tageblatt, probably the
leading organ of the German business elements and liberal politicians
who were opposed to the war from the beginning, and who still hope for a
negotiated peace that will facilitate an early resumption of trade
relations with Great Britain and the rest of the allies, expressed the
hope that the "battle of minds will finally create a clearer
atmosphere," and then remarked:

"Only quite incidentally would I like to allow myself to direct the
attention of Herr von Jagow to an erroneous expression that appears
twice in his reply. Herr von Jagow writes: 'We informed him [Lichnowsky]
of the secret Anglo-Russian naval agreement,' and in another place: 'The
secret Anglo-Russian naval agreement might also have made him a little
more skeptical.' Only the day before, on Saturday, it was said in an
article of the Norddeutshe Allgemeine Zeitung, also directed against
Lichnowsky: 'Negotiations were pending with Russia over a naval
agreement that the Prince characteristically passes over in silence.' In
reality, although hasty historians also speak without further ceremony
of a treaty, it is manifest that no Anglo-Russian agreement existed;
there was merely a Russian proposal, and the most that can be said is
that 'negotiations were pending.' * * *

"His [von Jagow's] remark, 'It is not true that the Foreign Office did
not believe the reports that England would protect France under all
circumstances,' is in contradiction with the well-known report of the
then English Ambassador, Goschen, which describes into what surprise and
consternation Herr von Bethmann and Herr von Jagow were thrown by the
news of the English declaration of war."

In beginning his comment upon von Jagow, Herr Wolff threw a little more
light upon the way in which Prince Lichnowsky's memorandum "for the
family archives" got into more or less general secret circulation in
Germany before it was printed by the Swedish Socialist paper Politiken
last March, and also described the character of Captain Beerfelde, the
member of the German General Staff who, according to some cabled
reports, is to be tried for his part in distributing copies of the

Herr Wolff said that Prince Lichnowsky had had five or six copies made,
of which he had sent one to Wolff, one to Albert Ballin, head of the
Hamburg-American line, and another to Arthur von Gwinner, head of the
Deutsche Bank. All of these persons carefully hid the "dangerous gift"
in the deepest recesses of their writing desks, but a fourth copy went
astray and got into hands for which it had not been intended, and from
these hands passed into those of still another individual. Then the
editor wrote:

How Manuscript Became Public

"I made the acquaintance some years before the war of the officer who
obtained the memorandum 'on loan,' and sent copies of it to State
officials and politicians. He belongs to an old noble family, was
treated with sympathy by General von Moltke, the Chief of the General
Staff, occupied himself enthusiastically with religious philosophy or
theosophy, and was a thoroughly manly but mystic person. * * * After
hard war experiences, he felt the longing to serve the dictates of peace
with complete devotion, and he surrendered himself to a pacifism which
is absolutely incompatible with the uniform.

"Late one evening he visited me in a state of great excitement, and told
me that he had manifolded a memorandum by Prince Lichnowsky which had
been lent to him, and that, without asking the author, he had sent it to
the 'leading men.' It was impossible to convince him by any logic or on
any grounds of reason that his action was wrong, senseless, and harmful.
He was a Marquis Posa, or, still more, a Horatius Cocles, who, out of
love for Rome or for mankind, sprang into the abyss."

The Berlin Vorwärts, the leading organ of the pro-Government Socialists,
began its editorial on the von Jagow reply by remarking that the article
of the former State Secretary for Foreign Affairs was hardly calculated
to convince the reader that Prince Lichnowsky's self-esteem was the only
thing that had had a "painful effect" upon the German people in July,
1914, and since that time. It then said that "Herr von Jagow agrees with
Lichnowsky upon the decisive point!" quoted what von Jagow had said
about his desire for an Anglo-German rapprochement, and continued:

"These words show that, in 1913, the Wilhelmstrasse and the London
Embassy were in the complete harmony of common beliefs and intentions.
Herr von Jagow, exactly like Lichnowsky, exactly like Bethmann, and
exactly like Wilhelm II., believed in the possibility of creating 'an
atmosphere of confidence,' as Jagow says, between Germany and England,
through a series of agreements, of which those regarding the Bagdad
Railroad and Africa were to have been the first."

Vorwärts then proceeded to point out that the Albanian crisis had
strengthened this faith instead of weakening it, took up von Jagow's
reasons for Germany's refusal to have the proposed Anglo-German
agreement on the Portuguese African colonies published, and exclaimed:

"What a fear of Tirpitz! A disturbing of the new relations through his
intrigues and the howling of his jingo press was to be avoided through
an affectation of secrecy. But three weeks later the war with England
was here and the Pan-German sheets welcomed 'the longed-for day!' What
had happened in the meantime? Of course, 'perfidious Albion' (even Jagow
puts quotation marks on these words) had in the meantime thrown off the
mask and revealed her perfidy! Let's hear what - after Lichnowsky - Herr
von Jagow, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in July, 1914, has to
say about it!"

Then Vorwärts quoted Jagow's description of how the war began, and went

"All that remains of the accusations against the English Government is
that it did not prevent the world war, 'although it could have done so.'
Now Herr von Jagow also did not prevent the world war, but he must
certainly be acquitted of the charge that he could have prevented it. He
really could not, and so an emphatic statement of inability is the best
excuse for him and his fellow-disputants.

"Let us establish the facts. England did not desire the war; she merely
did not prevent it. The war was not popular in England; it also was not
popular in Russia and France. But it has become popular. The whole
world - right away across the Atlantic and the Pacific - is united in
hatred against us. We, however, have for almost four years been
inoculated with the view that 'England laid all the mines which caused
the war' - a view which the Secretary of State, in accordance with the
evidence of the Ambassador, has now declared to be false! It is,
however, by this false view that the whole war policy of the German
Empire has been directed - from the declaration of unrestricted submarine
warfare, which brought us war with America, down to those Chancellor
speeches which say that Belgium must not again become England's area of
military concentration.

"If all the parties concerned were convinced that the belief in
England's guilt is a fiction, why did they feed this belief, and why did
they pursue a policy which was based upon it? They ought rather to have
appointed to the Chancellorship Tirpitz, who, perhaps, believes what he
says. Instead of that, a policy of fear of Tirpitz has been pursued.
Sometimes a policy against Tirpitz has been attempted, but it has always
been reversed at decisive moments, out of fear of the nationalistic

Online LibraryVariousCurrent History, Vol. VIII, No. 3, June 1918 → online text (page 29 of 30)