The Guilt of William Hohenzollern/Appendix
The present work was already in print when I learned the results of the investigations which were undertaken by the Foreign Office during the month of October, at the instance of Herren Montgelas and Schücking, in connection with Bussche's notes on the events of July 5th and 6th in Potsdam.
Although I could no further deal with them in the text, I consider it necessary to state that they do not alter my views of those events.
They show that the Kaiser, on the morning of July 6th, sent for Admiral von Capelle, who was acting as deputy in Tirpitz's absence from Berlin, to come to Potsdam, and informed him of “the strained situation so that he might deliberate on what was to be done.”
In addition, William sent at the same time for a representative of the General Staff. He came in the person of General von Bertrab, who in his communication to the Foreign Office still speaks of the Kaiser as “H.M.” According to a report of Count Waldersee, the Kaiser informed the General, for communication to the Chief of the General Staff—General von Moltke was then at Karlsbad—that he, the Kaiser, had promised the Emperor Francis Joseph “to back him with the German forces, should complications arise out of Austria-Hungary's proposed action against Serbia.”
Count Waldersee adds:
“General von Bertrab's audience in Potsdam did not place me, General von Moltke's representative in all matters pertaining to war, under the necessity of giving any orders. The regulation mobilization-operations were concluded on March 31st, 1914. The Army was, as ever, prepared.”
This is surely a very interesting communication from the purely military standpoint. The political significance of these interviews is as little diminished thereby as it is by insisting on styling them “audiences” instead of “conferences with military authorities.”
It is also not quite clear why such violent efforts are being made to disavow those conferences. It would have been nothing short of the height of folly had William not held them, having once promised Francis Joseph “to back him with the German forces,” whatever the Serbian adventure might entail.
Having given this pledge, and having immediately afterwards started on his northern cruise, a conference with the chiefs of the Army and the Navy was the least to which William, as Supreme War Lord, was then bound. It was in this pledge, not in the military conferences, that William's guilt lay. The conferences were only the consequences of the pledge, which is confirmed anew by Count Waldersee's evidence.
Moreover, the statements of Herren Capelle, Bertrab and Waldersee confirm the secrecy in which the military conferences were wrapped. Both Capelle and Bertrab were received by the Kaiser in the park “personally and without witnesses.” Each spoke separately with him, face to face. This was certainly a council of war of no ordinary kind. All the more does it remind one of a conspiracy.
It is to be hoped that the Investigation Committee will throw full light upon this dark affair.
But enough is already known to enable us to pass a political judgment on the proceedings of that time.
Printed at The Chapel River Press, Kingston, Surrey.