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The Illusion of Limited War: Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg's Calculated Risk, July 1914

  • Konrad H. Jarausch (a1)

Extract

The responsibility for the outbreak of World War I weighed heavily upon Imperial Germany's fifth Chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg. “This war torments me,” he confessed to the Liberal Conrad Haussmann during the struggle. “Again and again I ask if it could have been avoided and what I should have done differently.” This soul searching led Bethmann to believe that “all nations are guilty; Germany, too, bears a large part of the blame.” Arguing that “our fate is too colossal to have its origins in singular events,” the Chancellor stressed the larger causes of the conflict. Imperialist rivalry, the anti-German coalition, the growing isolation of Berlin, and Vienna's relative decline, “all that forced us to adopt a policy of utmost risk, a risk that increased with each repetition, in the Moroccan quarrel, in the Bosnian crisis, and then again in the Moroccan question.” But he also admitted candidly: “Lord yes, in a certain sense it was a preventive war,” motivated by “the constant threat of attack, the greater likelihood of its inevitability in the future, and by the military's claim: today war is still possible without defeat, but not in two years! Yes, the generals,” he repeated. “It could only have been avoided by a rapprochement with England, that is still my conviction. But after we had decided for a [common] policy with Austria, we could not desert her in such danger.”

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1. Note by Conrad Haussmann, Feb. 24, 1918, about his visit to Hohenfinow; Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart (cited HStA Stuttgart), J 47, NH 114. Cf. Steglich, W., Die Friedenspolitik der Mittelmächte, 1917–1918 (Wiesbaden, 1968), p. 418.

2. Bethmann to Bülow, June 10, 1915; Bundesarchiv Coblenz (cited BA Coblenz), Bülow, Nachlass. Cf. Hammann, O., Bilder aus der letzten Kaiserzeit (Berlin, 1922), pp. 122ff.

3. Haussmann, Conrad, loc. cit.

4. Bethmann to Jagow, June 11, 1919; Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amts, Bonn (cited AA Bonn), Nachlass Jagow.

5. Bethmann to Rassow, Aug. 18, 1920; Privatnachlass Rassow, courtesy of Mrs. P. Rassow, Cologne.

6. von Wegerer, A., Bibliographie zur Vorgeschichte des Weltkrieges (Berlin, 1934), and Gunzenhäuser, M., “Die Bibliographien zur Geschichte des ersten Weltkrieges,” Schriften der Bibliothek für Zeitgeschichte (Frankfurt, 1964). See also Renouvin, P., Les Origines immédiates de la guerre (Paris, 1925);Fay, S. B., The Origins of the World War (2 vols., New York, 1928);Schmitt, B. E., The Coming of the War (New York, 1930);von Wegerer, A., Der Ausbruch des Weltkrieges (Hamburg, 1939); and Albertini, L., Le origini della guerra del 1914 (3 vols., Milan, 19421943).

7. Corbett, James A., “France and Germany Agree—on the Past,” Historical Bulletin, XXVII (03, 1955), 158–62.

8. Fischer, Fritz, Griff nach der Weltmacht (Düsseldorf, 1961; 3rd ed. 1936), now translated as Germany's Aims in the First World War (New York, 1967);Deutsche Kriegsziele,” Historische Zeitschrift, CLXXXVIII (1959), 249310; “Kontinuität des Irrtums,” ibid., CXCI (1960), 83–100; “Weltpolitik, Weltmachstreben und deutsche Kriegsziele,” ibid., CXCIX (1964), 265–346; Weltmacht oder Niedergang? (Hamburg, 1965).Cf. Epstein, K., “German War Aims in the First World War,” World Politics, XV (1962), 163–85. The most judicious summary of the controversy is Mommsen, W. J., “The Debate on German War Aims,” in the enlarged paperback edition of Journal of Contemporary History, I, No. 3 (1966), 4570. See also Lynar, E. W., Deutsche Kriegsziele 1914–1918 (Berlin, 1964), and Barthel, K., “Beobachtungen am Rande der Kriegszieldiskussion,” Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, XVI (1965), 8388. For the East German view see Klein, F., “Die westdeutsche Geschichtsschreibung und die Ziele des deutschen Imperialismus im Ersten Weltkrieg,” Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenscahft, X (1962), 1808–36, and W. Gutsche, “Erst Europa—und dann die Welt,” ibid., XII (1964), 745–67.

9. Ritter, Gerhard, Staatskunst und Kriegshandwerk, II, III (Munich, 1960, 1964);Der Schlieffenplan (Munich, 1956);Der Anteil der Militärs an der Kriegskatastrophe von 1914,” Historische Zeitschrift, CXCIII (1961), 7291; “Eine neue Kriegsschuldthese?” ibid., CXCIV (1962), 646–68; Bethmann Hollweg im Schlaglicht des deutschen Geschichtsrevisionismus,” Schweizer Monatshefte, XLII (19621963), 700708. Unfortunately Zechlin's contributions are scattered: Deutschland zwischen Kabinettskrieg und Wirtschaftskrieg,” Historische Zeitschrift, CXCIX (1964), 347458;Friedensbestrebungen und Revolutionierungsversuche,” Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, supplement to Das Parlament (1961), Nos. 20, 24, 25; (1963), Nos. 20 and 23;Probleme des Kriegskalküls und der Kriegsbeendigung im ersten Weltkrieg,” Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, XIV (1963), 533–55.

10. The author wishes to express his indebtedness to Kurt Riezler's daughter, Mrs. M. White, for making the diary available to him. Cf. Erdmann, K. D., “Zur Beurteilung Bethmann Hollwegs,” Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, XV (1964), 525–40, and Die Zeit, Jan. 16, 1968. See also Stern, F., “Bethmann Hollweg and the War: The Limits of Responsibility,” in Krieger, L. and Stern, Fritz, eds., The Responsibility of Power (Garden City, N.Y., 1967), pp. 252–85, and Die Zeit, Jan. 2, 1968.

11. Theodor Heuss, “A Word in Memory of Kurt Riezler,” and Strauss, L., “Kurt Riezler, 1882–1955,” Social Research, XXIII (1956), 134. Recently Riezler's writings have been rediscovered: Die Erforderlichkeit des Unmöglichen: Prolegomena zu einer Theorie der Politik und zu anderen Theorien (Munich, 1913) and, under the pseudonym Ruedorffer, J.J., Grundzüge der Weltpolitik in der Gegenwart (Stuttgart, 1914).Cf. Hillgruber, A., “Riezlers Theorie des kalkulierten Risikos und Bethmann Hollwegs politische Konzeption in der Julikrise 1914,” Historische Zeitschrift, CCII (1966), 333–51, and Strandmann, H. Pogge-v. and Geiss, I., Die Erforderlichkeit des Unmöglichen (Hamburg, 1965). To prove the inaccuracy of the latter's charge that the Grundzüge are pan-German, one only has to point to their condemnation by “Sg” [Sonntag, Franz] in Alldeutsche Blätter, XXIV, 12 19, 1914, and XXV, Jan. 16, 1915. According to Bethmann's son Felix, the relationship was that of a bright young man and a skeptical elder statesman whose difference in age, temperament, and responsibility made for scintillating discussions while riding in the Tiergarten. But Riezler's liberal imperialist writings cannot simply be taken to express the Chancellor's more cautious foreign policy. After resigning from the diplomatic service, Riezler was a professor of philosophy at Munich, Rektor at the University of Frankfurt, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1939 where he taught at the New School for Social Research until 1952.

12. There is no biography of Bethmann. The editor of Die Grosse Politik, F. Thimme, gathered material for such a work and wrote numerous articles on the Chancellor until his premature death in 1938. “F. Thimme zum Gedächtnis,” Frauendienst, W., Berliner Monatshefte, XVI (1938), 821–26, and the Thimme Nachlass, BA Coblenz. The material in Bethmann's personnel files in the Deutsches Zentralarchiv, Merseburg (cited DZA Merseburg) and, after 1905, the BA Coblenz is disappointing. The Chancellor's Nachlass was destroyed in 1945 in Hohenfinow. Except for the adulatory Kötschke, H., Unser Reichskanzler (Berlin, 1916), and Egelhaaf, G., Der fünfite Reichskanzler (Stuttgart, 1916), contemporary accounts are virulent diatribes against him: “Junius Alter” [pseud. for Sonntag, Franz], Das deutsche Reich auf dem Wege zur geschichtlichen Episode (Munich, 1919);Kapp, W., Die nationalen Kreise und der Reichskanzler (Königsberg, 1916); and von Liebig, H., Die Politik Bethmann Hollwegs (Munich, 1919). The unpublished dissertations by Haberland, B., “Die Innenpolitik des Reiches unter der Kanzlerschaft Bethmann Hollwegs 1909–1911” (Kiel, 1951);Koschnitzke, R., “Die Innenpolitik des Reichskanzlers von Bethmann Hollweg im Weltkriege” (Kiel, 1952), and Johanna Schellenberg's just completed thesis (East Berlin) lack full documentation. More serious contributions are Zmarzlik, H. G., Bethmann Hollweg als Reichskanzler, 1909–1914 (Düsseldorf, 1957), and Janssen, K. H., Der Kanzler und der General, 1914–1916 (Göttingen, 1967). To date the best monographs are the Habilitationsschriften by Gutsche, W., “Die Beziehungen zwischen der Regierung Bethmann Hollweg und dem Monopolkapital in den ersten Monaten des Weltkriegs” (East Berlin, 1967), and Mommsen, W. J., “Bethmann Hollweg und das Problem der politischen Führung, 1909–1914” (Cologne, 1967).

13. Bethmann's own writings failed to make his historical image more distinct, since he disdained to engage in the ugly postwar polemics of his erstwhile adversaries: Betrachtungen zum Weltkriege (2 vols., Berlin, 19191921);Kriegsreden, ed. Thimme, F. (Berlin, 1919);Das Friedensangebot von 1915,” Preussische Jahrbücher, CLXXVIII (1919), 114–16;“Friedensmöglichkeiten im Frühsommer 1917,” Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Feb. 29, 1920;Friedensangebot und Ubootkrieg (Berlin, 1919).

14. Riezler diary, July 13, 20, 27, Aug. 21, Oct. 10, 1914. According to Hammann, Bethmann's “most difficult struggle was against himself.” Bilder, pp. 66ff. In the Deutsches Biographisches Jahrbuch für 1921, pp. 21–41, Hartung, F. called him “a Hamlet personality,” and in the Neue Deutsche Biographie, pp. 188–93, W. Frauendienst maintained: “He was basically not a homo politicus.Cf. Gooch, G. P., “Bethmann Hollweg,” Dictionnaire Diplomatique (Paris, 1954), pp. 103ff.

15. Anon. [Hans Plehn], Weltpolitik und kein Krieg! (Berlin, 1913), inspired by the liberal imperialist diplomat Kühlmann. For Bethmann's pre-war foreign policy cf. the unpublished dissertations of Strigel, F., “Die deutsch-englischen Flottenverhandlungen in den Jahren 1909–1911 unter Bethmann Hollweg” (Würzburg, 1935);Kessler, A., “Das deutsch-englische Verhältnis vom Amtsantritt Bethmann Hollwegs bis zur Haldane Mission” (Erlangen, 1938); and Henning, H. J., “Deutschlands Verhältnis zu England in Bethmann Hollwegs Aussenpolitik 1909–1914” (Cologne, 1962).

16. Bethmann to Pourtalès, July 30, 1912; AA Bonn, Nachlass Pourtalès.

17. Bethmann to Eisendecher, Dec. 26, 1911; AA Bonn, Nachlass Eisendecher.

18. Bethmann to Eisendecher, July 22, 1912; ibid.

19. Bethmann to Eisendecher, Mar. 23, 1913; ibid.

20. Bethmann to Eisendecher, Apr. 7, 1914; ibid. Cf. also England 78 No. 3 secr., vols. I–XX; Deutschland 131 secr., vols. XIV ff.; Deutschland 131, vols. XXXI ff., for his Russian and British policies. On June 4 Bethmann had a long conversation with Bavarian Ambassador Lerchenfeld: “He bluntly called our diplomatic situation bad.” Even if England did not engage in provocative measures, “this would not prevent it from joining our enemies in case of war.” Bethmann did not fear France, but “Russia was becoming more dangerous,” since pan-Slavism might lead to war. The Chancellor rejected a preventive strike, because it “would topple several thrones.” Lerchenfeld gathered the impression that Bethmann viewed “the general political situation not at all optimistically.” Lerchenfeld to Hertling, June 4, 1914; Bayrisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Munich (cited Bayr. HStA Munich).

21. Dedijer, V., The Road to Sarajevo (London, 1967). Jagow to Gerhard (Meyer), July 6, 1914; AA Bonn, Nachlass Jagow.

22. Tschirschky to Bethmann, June 30, 1914; AA Bonn, Wk vol. 1. I. Geiss, Julikrise und Kriegsausbruch (2 vols., Hanover, 19631964), is a useful compilation of the printed sources. For his views on the July crisis see: “The Outbreak of the First World War and German War Aims,” Journal of Contemporary History, enlarged paperback edition, 1, No. 3 (1966), 7187.

23. William II's marginalia on Tschirschky to Bethmann, 06 30; AA Bonn, Wk vol. 1. Cf. also Thielen, P. S., “Die Marginalien Wilhelms II,” Die Welt als Geschichte, XX (1960), 255ff.

24. Tschirschky to Bethmann, July 2; AA Bonn, Wk vol. 1. For the ambassador's surprising about-face cf. Hantsch, H., Leopold Graf Berchtold (Vienna, 1963), II, 566ff.

25. Hollweg, Bethmann, Betrachtungen, I, 134ff., and II, 241ff. For his reply to the parliamentary commission of inquiry see Stenographische Berichte des Untersuchungsausschusses (cited UA), I, 3–23, 79ff.

26. Geiss, Julikrise, I, No. 24a-c, Plessen diary, July 5, and Falkenhayn to Moltke, July 5: “Surely in no case will the next few weeks bring a decision.” For the myth of the crown council see Craig, G., The Politics of the Prussian Army (New York, 1964), p. 292.

27. Szögyèny to Berchtold, July 6; Geiss, I, No. 27. According to the Austrian ambassador, Bethmann “considers the present moment more auspicious than a later one,” and pressed for reconciliation with Italy. Cf. also Bethmann to Tschirschky, July 6, in Zimmermann's handwriting. The Chancellor struck from the instruction that Germany would support Austria “in all circumstances,” a small but significant difference from the more militant Undersecretary.

28. Bethmann to Waldburg, July 6; AA Bonn, Wk. vol. I. For further references to the diplomatic offensive on the Balkans see Geiss, Julikrise, I and II, Nos. 6, 12, 21, 27, 34, 61, 138, 233, 513, 868, 998, 1063, and 1070.

29. marginalia, Bethmann on a clipping from the Frankfurter Zeitung, July 9; AA Bonn, Wk vol. I.

30. Riezler diary, July 7. Two general staff studies, “The Completion of the Russian Railroad Network” and “The Growing Power of Russia,” were received by Zimmermann the day before his first conference with Hoyos; AA Bonn, Deutschland 121 No. 31 secr., vol. II.

31. diary, Riezler, July 8. The Chancellor was appalled by the conservative “nonsense” expressed by Heydebrand who was “reputed to have said that war would lead to a strengthening of the patriarchical order and spirit.” This fear of revolution contradicts A. Mayer's theory of the “Domestic Causes of the First World War,” The Responsibility of Power, pp. 268ff.

32. diary, Riezler, July 14. Bethmann was disturbed that “Italy is flirting with Russia,” fearing Rome's desertion of the Triple Alliance, since “it only wants to feed on the corpses!”

33. Soden to Hertling, July 9; Bayr. HStA Munich, MA III 2691/2. Zimmermann was so truculent since he “certainly believed that it would be possible to localize the war.”

34. “Gespräch mit General Moltke im Frühjahr 1914,” pp. 82–86; AA Bonn, Nachlass Jagow, MS Politische Aufsätze. “Except for defense we had no war aims such as conquests that would have justified the heavy sacrifice of lives.”

35. Gooch, G. P. and Temperley, H., eds., British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1891–1914, XI (London, 1926), No. 667. According to Goschen, “both the chancellor and Jagow would like to avoid a general war. As for the chancellor, if he makes war, it will be because he was forced into it.”

36. Bethmann to William II, Mar. 6, 1912; DZA Merseburg, Rep. 89H, Reichssteuern II, vol. I.

37. Riezler diary, July 11, 1914. On the 9th Bethmann briefed Vice-Chancellor Delbrück who reacted to the planned Austrian ultimatum: “That means war.” Bethmann was still confident: “To be sure he did not know the details of the supposed ultimatum but should serious consequences develop between Austria and Serbia, he believed they could be successfully localized.” Delbrück, C. von, Die wirtschaftliche Mobilmachung in Deutschland (Munich, 1924), pp. 96f.

38. Riezler diary, July 14.

39. Stone, N., “Hungary and the Crisis of July 1914,” Journal of Contemporary History, enlarged paperback edition, 1, No. 3 (1966), 147–64. See also May, A. J., The Passing of the Hapsburg Monarchy, 1914–1918 (Philadelphia, 1966), I, 54ff.

40. Jagow's instruction to Lichnowsky on “localization” of July 12 was already drafted on July 7, indicating that its rationale was an integral part of the July 5–6 decisions; AA Bonn, Wk vol. I.

41. Riezler diary, July 20, 1917. Had Bethmann resigned earlier “then Tirpitz or some other politician of that stripe would have become Chancellor,” making war a virtual certainty. Cf. also AA Bonn, Nachlass Jagow, MS Politische Aufsätze, “Rücktrittsgedanken des Reichskanzlers Bethmann Hollweg, 1913.”

42. Schoen to Hertling, July 18; Bayr. HStA Munich, MA III, 2691/2.

43. Jagow to Tschirschky, July 11; AA Bonn, Wk vol. I. Tschirschky to Bethmann, July 21; AA Bonn, Wk vol. II.

44. Bethmann to William II, AA Bonn, Wk vols. II–III, passim, and Müller, G., Regierte der Kaiser? (Göttingen, 1959), pp. 34ff.

45. Bethmann to Roedern, July 15; AA Bonn, Wk vol. I.

46. Riezler diary, July 23. Herre, P., Kronprinz Wilhelm (Munich, 1954), p. 51. Riezler was upset about such “insane proposals.”

47. Riezler diary, July 20.

48. Bethmann to William II, July 23; AA Bonn, Wk vol. III.

49. Riezler diary, July 23. Cf. Zechlin, E., “Bethmann Hollweg, Kriegsrisiko und SPD, 1914,” Der Monat, XVIII (1966), 1732, over-stressing domestic tactical considerations. See also David's note on Aug. I: “Our peace demonstration of Tuesday evening [the 28th] had been tolerated and even encouraged by Bethmann.” Matthais, E. and Miller, S., eds., Das Kriegstagebuch des Reichstagsabgeordneten Eduard David, 1914–1918 (Düsseldorf, 1966), pp. 5ff.

50. Delbrück, C., Wirtschaftliche Mobilmachung, pp. 89ff.

51. diary, Riezler, July 24. The Chancellor's assistant was frustrated: “Up to now we could do nothing in the open.”

52. Bethmann to William II, July 25, telegrams Nos. 139 and 140; AA Bonn, Wk vol. IV.

53. Müller, , Regierte der Kaiser? pp. 32ff., and Bethmann to William II, July 26; AA Bonn, Wk vol. V. Cf. also Bethmann's draft circular of July 26,ibid.

54. Bethmann to Lichnowsky, July 26; AA Bonn, Wk vol. V.

55. Lerchenfeld to Hertling, July 29; Bayr. HStA Munich, MA III 2691/2.

56. Bethmann to Schoen, July 26; AA Bonn, Wk vol. V.

57. Riezler diary, July 27. Cf. Meinecke, F., Strassburg—Freiburg—Berlin, 1901–1919 (Stuttgart, 1949).

58. Riezler diary, July 27.

59. Bethmann to Lichnowsky, July 27; Lichnowsky to Jagow, July 27; AA Bonn, Wk vol. VI. The question is less whether England could afford to remain aloof than whether Bethmann believed so.

60. Riezler diary, July 27: “All the news points to war. In St. Petersburg there are apparently heavy struggles over mobilization.”

61. marginalia, Bethmann on Lichnowsky to Jagow, July 28; AA Bonn, Wk vol. VII.

62. Bethmann to Pourtalès; Bethmann to Lichnowsky, July 28; AA Bonn, Wk vol. VII.

63. Bethmann to Wangenheim, July 28, transmitting the draft of a Turkish-German defensive alliance with a provision about “strict neutrality in the present conflict between Austria and Serbia.” Geiss, Julikrise, II, No. 586. Cf. Trumpener, U., “Liman von Sanders and the German-Ottoman Alliance,” Journal of Contemporary History, I, No. 4 (1966), 179–92.

64. William II to Bethmann, July 28; AA Bonn, Wk vol. VIII.

65. Bethmann to Tschirschky, July 28; AA Bonn, Wk vol. VIII.

66. Bethmann met Goschen on the 28th, twice on the 29th, on the 31st, and on the 4th. See AA Bonn, Wk vols. VII-XIV, and British Documents, XI, passim. Bethmann's instructions to Lichnowsky are ibid.

67. Riezler diary, Aug. 15. During the climax of the crisis Riezler took no notes, but summarized the events two weeks later. Cf. also Lichnowsky, Prince, Auf dem Wege zum Abgrund (Dresden, 1927).

68. diary, Riezler, July 27, Aug. 15.

69. Institut für Marxismus-Leninismus beim ZK der SED, Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung (Berlin, 1966), II, 403ff. Cf. also Zechlin, E., “Motive und Taktik der Reichsleitung 1914,” Der Monat, XVIII (1966), 9195, and Groh, D., “The ‘Unpatriotic Socialists’ and the State,” Journal of Contemporary History, I, No. 4 (1966), 151–78.

70. von Zwehl, H., Erich von Falkenhayn (Berlin, 1926), pp. 56f. On the same afternoon Moltke demanded in a long memorandum “to know as soon as possible whether Russia and France are willing to risk a war with Germany.” Geiss, Julikrise, II, No. 659.

71. Bethmann to Schoen, Pourtalès, and Tschirschky, July 29; AA Bonn, Wk vol. VIII.

72. Riezler diary, Aug. 15. Cf. Mommsen, W. J., “Die Italienische Frage in der Politik des Reichskanzlers von Bethmann Hollweg, 1914–1915,” Quellen und Forschungen aus Italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken, XLVIII (1968), 282308.

73. Cecil, L., Albert Ballin: Business and Politics in Imperial Germany 1888–1918 (Princeton, 1967), pp. 205ff. On Aug. I Ballin repeated that Haldane had given him “the impression that England would only be induced to make a martial intervention if Germany were to swallow France, in other words, if the balance of power would really be altered by German annexation of French territory.”

74. Note by Bethmann, July 29; AA Bonn, Wk vol. VIII.

75. British Documents, XI, Nos. 293, 305 and 667.

76. Staatsministerialsitzungsprotokolle, DZA Merseburg, Rep 90a B III 2b no. 6, vol. CLXIII.

77. Bethmann to Tschirschky, July 30, and a host of other telegrams; AA Bonn, Wk vol. IX. On July 30 Bethmann only agreed to “purely defensive measures,” and not to mobilization. Zwehl, Falkenhayn, pp. 57f., Delbrück, Wirtschaftliche Mobilmachung, p. 107, and Pourtalès, F., Meine letzten Verhandlungen in St. Petersburg (Berlin, 1927).

78. Lerchenfeld to Hertling, July 30; Bayr. HStA Munich, MA III 2691/2. According to the Saxon ambassador “the Chief of Staff favors war, while the Chancellor holds back.” His colleague from Würtemberg reported: “The Chancellor still believes in the possibility of a peaceful solution. But the reins are noticeably slipping out of the hands of the diplomats into those of the warriors.” Geiss, Julikrise, II, Nos. 705–706.

79. Pourtalès to Jagow, July 31; AA Bonn, Wk vol. X. diary, Riezler, Aug. 18.

80. von Moltke, H., Erinnerungen, Briefe, Dokumente, 1877–1916 (Stuttgart, 1922), and von Hötzendorff, Conrad, Aus meiner Dienstzeit, 1906–1918, IV (Vienna, 1922), 152. Bethmann to Schoen and Pourtalès, July 31; AA Bonn, Wk vol. X. Cf. Turner, L. F. C., “The Russian Mobilization in 1914,” Journal of Contemporary History, III, No. I (1968), 6588: “If Russia had refrained from ordering mobilization on 29 July, there is a real possibility that the impending catastrophe could have been averted” (p. 87).

81. Before the Auswärtige Ausschuss of the Bundesrat Bethmann pleaded: “We cannot bear Russia's provocation if we do not want to resign as a great power in Europe… We did not want this war, it has been forced upon us.” AA Bonn, Wk vol. XI. Tirpitz gloated: “The reins have completely slipped out of the Chancellor's hand,” surmising that “the march through Belgium was not known to him.” von Tirpitz, A., Politische Dokumente (Berlin, 1926), II, 20f.Zimmermann, E., “Um Schlieffens Plan,” Süddeutsche Monatshefte, XXVII (1921), 368ff., shows that Bethmann generally knew of the plan but failed to realize its full diplomatic implications. Cf. Bethmann's unpublished refutation of the admiral: “Bitter as they have become, these decisions had to be made, since the judgment of the highest military authority indicated that lack of initiative would have sealed our fate from the beginning.” BA Coblenz, Kleine Erwerbungen, No. 342.

82. Pencil note by Bethmann, Nov. 13, 1914; AA Bonn, Wk GHQ No 26. Cf. the report of the chief of the chancellery, Wahnschaffe, A., “Gesamtverantwortung,” Berliner Monatshefte, XII (1934), 660ff. Goschen's initial dispatch did not contain the “scrap of paper” phrase, only the Chancellor's sigh: “But at what a price!” British Documents, XI, No. 667.

83. Ibid. A Conservative opponent of the Chancellor, Minister of the Interior Loebell, later claimed that “Bethmann was a broken man” upon receiving the British declaration of war; BA Coblenz, Nachlass Loebell, MS memoirs, pp. 160f. It seems more likely that both the ambassador and the Chancellor were moved in the highly emotional scene.

84. Riezler diary, Aug. 15, 16: “War, war, the people have arisen—it is as if nothing had happened before and all of a sudden it is there, imposing and moving. Everybody has crawled out of his corner, seemingly the greatest confusion and yet the most purposeful order, and millions have already crossed the Rhine. The most unforgettable experience is the people themselves.”

85. Thimme, F., ed., Bethmanns Kriegsreden, pp. 1ff. Wahnschaffe, “Gesamtverant-wortung,” pp. 661ff.Hanssen, H. P., Diary of a Dying Empire (Bloomington, 1955), pp. 25ff. Bethmann exclaimed: “Whatever may be in store, we believe that August 4, 1914 will for all time remain one of Germany's greatest days!” Cf. also Pickart, E., “Der Deutsche Reichstag und der Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkrieges,” Der Staat, V (1966), 4770.

86. Lichtenau to Vitzthum, July 2; Geiss, Julikrise, I, No. 12. “Deutschlands Lage und seine politischen Richtlinien 1913/1914”; AA Bonn, Jagow, Nachlass, MS Politische Aufsätze, pp. 69–82. The Foreign Secretary maintains: “Imperialist goals such as world domination were far from our minds.”

87. Imperial marginalia on Tschirschky to Bethmann, June 30; AA Bonn, Wk vol. I, and Szögyény to Berchtold, July 5; Geiss, Julikrise, I, No. 21.

88. Hantsch, H., Berchtold, II, 569ff.

89. Bethmann to Crown Prince, Nov. 15, 1913, refuting General Gebsattel's pan-German proposal of a coup d'état and a foreign policy bordering on preventive war. In the Morocco crisis neither “Germany's honor nor dignity was threatened by another nation. Whoever desires war without such cause, must do it for vital interests [Lebensaufgaben der Nation] so basic that they cannot be achieved without war,” as in 1864, 1866 and 1870. Deutsches Zentralarchiv, Potsdam (cited DZA Potsdam), Reichskanzlei No. 825. Cf. Strandmann, H. Pogge-v., “Staatsstreichpläne, Alldeutsche und Bethmann Hollweg,” Hamburger Studien zur neueren Geschichte, II (1965), 745.

90. Szögyény to Berchtold, Berlin, July 6. Geiss, Julikrise, I, No. 27. According to von Rheinbaden, Werner, Kaiser, Kanzler, Präsidenten (Mainz, 1968), pp. 96, 108f., it was Wilhelm von Stumm, then in charge of the British desk in the Wilhelmstrasse, who minimized the risk of London's intervention and strongly counseled Bethmann to act before the historic promenade on July 5. After the war he remorsefully told Rheinbaben: “I erred in 1914 and advised Bethmann falsely.”

91. von Hötzendorff, Conrad, Aus meiner Dienstzeit, IV, 152f.

92. Goschen to Grey, July 30; British Documents, XI, No. 329.

93. Lichnowsky to Jagow, August. I; AA Bonn, Wk vol. XI. Zwehl, Falkenhayn, pp. 58f. Moltke, Erinnerungen, pp. 19f. Müller, Regierte der Kaiser? pp. 38f. Tirpitz, Politische Dokumente, II, 19f. AA Bonn, Nachlass Jagow, MS Politische Aufsätze, “Der Durchmarsch durch Belgien,” reports an abortive attempt of the diplomats to force revision of the Schlieffen Plan in 1913.

94. Bethmann to Eisendecher, July 12, 1919; AA Bonn, Nachlass Eisendecher. In his political testament, a letter to Prince Max von Baden, Bethmann emphasized the general causes of “imperialism, nationalism and economic materialism” and the “special circumstances” flowing from the Bismarckian foundation of the Empire. But “all governments are guilty because they did not find a peaceful solution in July 1914.” Zechlin, E., Historische Zeitschrift, CXCIX, 451–58.

95. “Rücktrittsgedanken des Reichskanzlers,” AA Bonn, Jagow, Nachlass, MS Politische Aufsätze, p. 67.

96. Bethmann to Weizsäcker, Aug. 30, 1914; Nachlass Weizsäcker, courtesy of Mrs. Weizsäcker, Lindau.

97. Riezler diary, Aug. 15.

98. Wolff, Theodor, Der Krieg des Pontius Pilatus (Zurich, 1934), pp. 442f. “We believed that we had to strengthen Austria at a moment when it decided on an active policy. We could not leave it in the lurch,” Bethmann pleaded with his visitor on Feb. 5, 1915. He still believed that “Grey could have prevented the war had he declared at the beginning that England would not participate,” but he admitted that “we have lived in lies in our domestic and foreign policy.” Although “the insane hatred” of the chauvinists had forced his hand, Bethmann concluded, “the war did not arise out of single diplomatic actions, but rather is a result of popular passion. Here lies part of our guilt, part of the responsibility of the pan-Germans.” For the issues transcending the scope of this article, see my forthcoming “The Enigmatic Chancellor: A Political Biography of Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, 1856–1921.”

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