The Guilt of William Hohenzollern/Chapter 8
We have brought our statement in Chapter V. up to the Treaty of Bucharest, and have seen that after this peace Vienna was determined to revise it, with the help of Germany, at the first favourable opportunity.
The Central Powers at that time were continually showing signs of great unrest and eagerness for action. Germany prevailed on Turkey to the extent that a German general, Liman von Sanders, went to Constantinople in December, 1913, at the head of a German military mission, and while he was there was appointed to the chief command of the First Army Corps. Russia protested energetically, but only succeeded in getting Liman's title altered to that of General Inspector of the Turkish Army with the rank of Marshal.
Shortly after this, in March, 1914, the Central Powers had the satisfaction of putting one of their own people, the Prince of Wied, on the throne of the newly-formed kingdom of Albania, a success, to be sure, of a very doubtful character, as the German sovereign no later than May deserted his troublesome subjects, and thereby made himself and his protectors ridiculous in the face of Europe.
At the same time meetings between the Emperor William and the Archduke Francis Ferdinand were multiplied. In April they met at Miramare, and on June 12th at Konopischt in Bohemia.
“The curiosity of the public and the interest of the diplomats are excited by these manifestations of a friendship which was so animated as to make people restless. During the visit to Konopischt the German Ambassador in London was ordered to pacify the British Foreign Office with regard to the presence of Admiral von Tirpitz in the Kaiser's suite. ‘Qui s'excuse, s'accuse.’ The Admiral evidently only intended to take this change of air in order to enjoy the fragrance of the roses in Bohemia.”
That is how a Belgian diplomat, Baron Beyens, derides the innocence of these meetings in his book: “L'Allemagne avant la guerre, les causes et les responsabilites” (Paris, 1915, page 265). Beyens was at the commencement of the war the Belgian Minister in Berlin, and from thence wrote reports so sympathetic to Germany that the German Government, which came across them after the German troops entered Brussels, published a series of them in the volume, “Belgian Official Documents, 1905–1914.” Meanwhile Beyens completely changed his favourable opinion of German policy after the Austrian Ultimatum. The reports he wrote thenceforth have not been published by the Berlin Foreign Office. They are to be found in the “Correspondance diplomatique relative à la guerre de 1914–15” (Paris, 1915).
Notwithstanding Beyens, Herr von Jagow, in his book on “The Causes and Outbreak of the WorldWar” (Berlin, 1919, page 101), says:
“The Archduke wished to show his imperial friend the rose-blooms on his favourite Bohemian estate.”
As to what was hatched at Konopischt, William himself could alone give authentic information. That the meeting was not merely to enjoy the fragrance of the Bohemian roses is testified to by a report which Tschirschky, the German Ambassador in Vienna, sent to the Imperial Chancellor on June I7th, 1914. This report begins with the following communication:
“Count Berchtold, after the departure of H.M. the Emperor, had been invited by His Highness the Archduke Francis Ferdinand to Konopischt. The Minister told me to-day that His Highness had expressed himself to him as extremely satisfied with His Majesty's visit. He had exhaustively spoken with His Majesty on all possible questions, and could state that they had come to a complete agreement in their views.”
Unfortunately the report does not inform us what views these were. From the following we only learn that the policy to be followed with regard to the Rumanians was much discussed. Further, that Francis Ferdinand did not approve of Tisza's Rumanian policy, as Tisza refused to allow any more concessions to the Rumanians in the Hungarian State, to which William in a marginal note remarks:
“He must not by his home policy, which in the Rumanian question has influence on the foreign policy of the Triple Alliance, do anything to call the latter in question.”
It is certain that the Rumanian policy of Hungary made it impossible for the Rumanian Government to part company with Serbia and Russia and face these states in Austria's company.
Directly after the meeting at Konopischt the Foreign Office in Vienna set about preparing a Memorandum to show that the state of affairs in the Balkans was intolerable, and that Austria was forced to oppose Russia, who was planning a Balkan League against the Habsburg Monarchy.
To this end Austria sought to win over Rumania. The latter by this time was on very bad terms with her.
“The Monarchy up till now has confined itself to discussing in a friendly manner the vacillation of Rumanian policy in Bucharest; beyond this, however, it does not see any reason to look for serious consequences from this change of course, which is becoming more and more pronounced on the part of Rumania. The Vienna Cabinet has in this matter allowed itself to be determined primarily by the fact that the German Government's view was that it was a question of temporary vacillation, the consequences of certain misunderstandings surviving from the time of the crisis, which would settle themselves automatically if treated calmly and patiently. It is evident, however, that these tactics of calm attention and friendly representations had not the desired effect; that the process of estrangement between Austria-Hungary and Rumania had not slackened, but on the contrary had been hastened.”
Nor does the Memorandum expect a “favourable turn of affairs in the future.”
In this Memorandum, as in the report referring to Konopischt, the Rumanian question stands in the foreground. The Serbian question is hardly touched. Not by any means because the enmity of Austria towards Serbia was less, but no doubt because she came up against no hindrance in Berlin, while the German Government was insisting on a friendly understanding with Rumania. Austria, on the other hand, wishes to give up the policy of “calm attention and friendly representations” towards Serbia and Rumania, and likewise towards Russia.
This State, the Memorandum continues, constituted a danger not merely to the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, but also to Germany. Russia and her ally, France, were striving “to break the military superiority of the two Empires by auxiliary troops from the direction of the Balkans,” and to carry out Russia's policy of expansion in opposition to German interests.
“For these reasons the directors of the foreign policy of Austria-Hungary are convinced that it is to the common interest of the Monarchy, and no less to that of Germany in the present stage of the Balkan Crisis, to oppose in good time and with energy a development planned and fostered by Russia which later on it would perhaps be impossible to check.” (Reprinted in the White Book on “The Responsibility of the Originators of the War,” of June, 1919, page 68.)
This Memorandum can hardly mean anything else than, in the language of diplomacy, the demand for a preventive war against the empire of the Tsar.
This dangerous document was just ready when the catastrophe of Serajevo occurred.
The heir to the throne had gone from Konopischt to the manœuvres in Bosnia. On this burning soil, which had only a short time before been declared to be annexed, manœuvres were deliberately planned to be held in the presence of Francis Ferdinand, and in connection with them he was to make a triumphant entry, like a conqueror, into the capital of the country. As if it were specially intended to challenge the national feeling, the 28th of June had been chosen as the day for the entry into Serajevo, the “Vidov dan” (St. Vitus' Day), a day of national mourning for the Serbians. On this day, in 1389, on the field of Kossovo, they had suffered a fearful and decisive defeat in a battle against their oppressors, the Turks, and the memory of it survives to this day in the people's songs. This very day was the one on which the foreign ruler from the North chose to make his entry.
And in the true old Austrian manner to this provocation was added an inconsiderateness of action that amounted to frivolity.
If, in a country in which the ruling class practised a fearful terrorism and thereby created an atmosphere of outrage, the heir to the throne was paraded about, care should at least have been taken to protect him.
But nothing was provided for. So great was the stupidity and carelessness shown, that after the first attempt at assassination, which failed, the Archduke and his wife were again allowed to drive through the streets to form easy targets for a second attack.
In a telegram of July 3rd, the Joint Minister of Finance and Supreme Administrator of Bosnia, Dr. von Bilinski, made a severe protest against the thoughtlessness of the responsible authorities, and especially of themilitary in Bosnia:
“The other branches of the administration (besides that of Justice) had also disclosed weak points, the knowledge of which ought long before to have dissuaded the Archduke Francis Ferdinand from undertaking this journey. The Provincial Governor (Landeschef), and the Master of the Ordnance, Potiorek, knew quite well that the journey was arranged and put into execution by the Archduke, in exclusive association with the Provincial Governor, from a military point of view....
“Dr. von Bilinski least of all could have assumed that a non-military visit was to be included in the military programme. If Dr. von Bilinski had had any knowledge, from the reports of the Provincial Governor, that the police were quite unequal to their task, it would obviously have been the duty of both of them to prevent the journey under any circumstances.” (Gooss, Vienna Cabinet, pages 46, 47.)
Soon afterwards, on July 13th, the Ministerial Councillor von Wiesner, who was dispatched to Serajevo to inspect the documents used in the inquiry connected with the trial of the murderers, telegraphed:
“Nothing to prove or presume complicity of the Serbian Government in the attack or in its preparation or the supplying of weapons. Rather there are grounds for considering this entirely out of the question.”
Thus those who were guilty of this bloody deed were not to be looked for in the Serbian Government; the responsibility for it lay rather with the ignorance, the thoughtlessness and the shamelessly provocative methods of Austrian despotism.
The factors which evoked the attempt on the Archduke were the same as those which, in consequence of it, led directly to the far more dreadful attack on the world's peace.
Achilles slaughtered twelve Trojans at the funeral of his friend Patroclus. For the funeral ceremonies of Francis Ferdinand, for four years, many millions of men from all the five continents were slain.
For the rulers of Austria, the killing of the most active upholder of the existing régime ought to have been a Mene-Tekel warning them to reform. It showed plainly what were the fruits of a policy of force, and warned them most urgently to substitute for this policy one of liberty and reconciliation as the only one that could give any vitality to a state system on the point of collapse.
But when has any despotism ever regarded such a writing on the wall? It felt itself rather urged to an aggravated terrorism, and to the employment of methods of violence not only against its Croatian and Bosnian subjects but also against the neighbouring Serbian State, which was now devoted to complete destruction.
Before Wiesner's report on the authorship of the outrage had arrived, the rulers at Vienna had already formulated their resolve to make the Serbian Government responsible for the deed, according to the principle: “Give a dog a bad name and hang him.”