The Guilt of William Hohenzollern/Chapter 7
MATERIALS RELATING TO THE ORIGIN OF THE WAR
The advocates of the German war-policy constantly lay stress on the point that the “Question of Guilt” ought not to be judged by the events that occurred immediately before the war, and that a “scientific” conception of the situation must reach farther back.
We have seen that by this argument nothing is gained for the German cause. This endeavour to divert investigation from the last weeks before the war, and direct it to earlier periods, merely implies that the events of those last weeks are even more incriminating than those which went before.
Then, however, the advocates of the late German Government, as a happy thought, hit upon a new scientific consideration. Where at first the scientific historian was told to look at things only in their wide connections, now he was told that all one-sided evidence was faulty. So long as all the secret archives of all nations were not laid open, and all the statesmen concerned were not heard as witnesses, it was impossible to form an opinion as to the origin of the war.
Yet those who allege considerations of this kind bear witness to their futility by their own practice, for immediately after the outbreak of the war they exerted themselves to prove that the Central Powers were attacked—nay, were taken by surprise by the Entente.
Up to a certain point they were undeniably right: the world, when confronted with a war, cannot wait till all imaginable material has been brought forward for evidence as to its origin. Every politician, when faced with a war, must take his stand according to the material to which he has access. He must strive to get it as comprehensive as possible—complete it will never be, no more for the politician of the present day than for the historian of a later time. The latter may have access to various secret archives that at present are closed; on the other hand, much evidence will be lost to him that could be gleaned from contemporaries and that was not definitely set down in writing by them.
Although we cannot know everything, for all knowledge comes piecemeal, still it would be folly for this reason to keep from mankind what we do know. Indeed, this folly may become one of those political mistakes that are worse than a crime, if the keeping back of the material should serve to screen a system dangerous to the nation and to mankind, and liable to hinder the exposure of its operations.
There is no lack of material as to the origin of the World War. At its very commencement we were inundated with official White, Red, Yellow, Blue and other coloured books, and the critical treatment of them was soon set on foot. Early in 1915 there appeared Grelling's “J'accuse,” which was followed by a continuation in three volumes called “Das Verbrechen” (“The Crime”). With great penetration he succeeded, in very essential points, in striking the right track.
Then especially important were the “Memoirs of Prince Lichnowsky,” of August, 1916, which were not intended for publication, but fell into pacifist hands, which soon procured for them a wide underground circulation. After that there came into consideration the publications of Herr Mühlon.
Anyone who still could not see clearly after all this must have had his eyes opened after the November Revolution by Eisner's publication of the Report from the Bavarian Legation in Berlin of July 18th, 1914. Unfortunately Eisner, by this publication, committed the imprudence of treating it rather as a journalist to whom the effect produced was of chief importance, than as a historian who was concerned as to the completeness and the unimpaired condition of his sources. He brought out the Report in extracts only, and left out passages into which some people desired to read the German Government's love of peace.
We shall see how to estimate the love of peace that is supposed to be expressed in the passages omitted.
New material was then contributed by Austrian and German publications of the Foreign Offices, Red and White Books. This Austrian Red Book, “Diplomatic Documents relating to the Events preceding the War of 1914” (Vienna, 1919), which has already been quoted, and which will be referred to as the Red Book of 1919, affords most important explanations on the question of the authorship of the war. On the other hand, the reader must proceed very critically with this material as worked up by Dr. Roderick Gooss in the form of a book which was published in Vienna at the same time as the above Red Book, under the title of “The Vienna Cabinet and the Origin of the World War.” As he was unacquainted with the German documents, the author of the Austrian commentary in places arrives at some very controvertible and even manifestly false conclusions.
Before the Austrian Red Book was published, there appeared in June a German White Book, intended to make an impression on the victorious nations in favour of Germany during the peace negotiations. In reality, it only helped to compromise anew the German foreign policy. The reason for this we shall see later.
There has since appeared another work which forms the chief source of the following exposition, the collection of documents relating to the authorship of the war, brought together under my superintendence.
Any other material that has been published is supplementary in details, but does not alter the general impression.
According to all this material, how did the course of events really proceed?