In the World War
by Count Ottokar Czernin
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Queen Elizabeth was well aware of all, but she never took my action amiss; she understood that I had to deliver the messages, but that it was not I who composed them.

Queen Elizabeth was a good, clever and touchingly simple woman, not a poet qui court apres l'esprit, but a woman who looked at the world through conciliatory and poetical glasses. She was a good conversationalist, and there was always a poetic charm in all she did. There hung on the staircase a most beautiful sea picture, which I greatly admired while the Queen talked to me about the sea, about her little villa at Constanza, which, built on the extreme end of the quay, seems almost to lie in the sea. She spoke, too, of her travels and impressions when on the high seas, and as she spoke the great longing for all that is good and beautiful made itself felt, and this is what she said to me: "The sea lives. If there could be found any symbol of eternity it would be the sea, endless in greatness and everlasting in movement. The day is dull and stormy. One after another the glassy billows come rolling in and break with a roar on the rocky shore. The small white crests of the waves look as if covered with snow. And the sea breathes and draws its breath with the ebb and flow of the tide. The tide is the driving power that forces the mighty waters from Equator to North Pole. And thus it works, day and night, year by year, century by century. It takes no heed of the perishable beings who call themselves lords of the world, who live only for a day, coming and going and vanishing almost as they come. The sea remains to work. It works for all, for men, for animals, for plants, for without the sea there could be no organic life in the world. The sea is like a great filter, which alone can produce the change of matter that is necessary for life. In the course of a century numberless rivers carry earth to the sea. Each river carries without ceasing its burden of earth and sand to the ocean; and the sea receives the load which is carried by the current far out to sea, and slowly and by degrees in the course of time the sea dissolves or crushes all it has received. No matter to the sea if the process lasts a thousand years or more—it may even last for ages, who can tell?

"But one day, quite suddenly, the sea begins to wander. Once there was sea everywhere, and all continents are born from the sea. One day land arose out of the sea. The birth was of a revolutionary nature, there were earthquakes, volcanic craters, falling cities and dying men—but new land was there. Or else it moves slowly, invisibly, a metre or two in a century, and returns to the land it used to possess. Thus it restores the soil it stole from it, but cleaner, refined and full of vitality to live and to create. Such is the sea and its work."

These are the words of the old half-blind Queen, who can never look upon the beloved picture again, but she told me how she always idolised the sea, and how her grand nephews and nieces shared her feelings, and how she grew young again with them when she told them tales of olden times.

One could listen to her for hours without growing weary, and always there was some beautiful thought or word to carry away and think over.

Doubtless such knowledge would be more correct were it taken from some geological work. But Carmen Sylva's words invariably seemed to strike some poetic chord; that is what made her so attractive.

She loved to discourse on politics, which for her meant King Carol. He was her all in all. After his death, when it was said that all states in the world were losing in the terrible war, she remarked: "Roumania has already lost her most precious possession." She never spoke of her own poems and writings. In politics her one thought besides King Carol was Albania. She was deeply attached to the Princess of Wied, and showed her strong interest in the country where she lived. Talking about the Wieds one day afforded me an opportunity of seeing the King vexed with his wife; it was the only time I ever noticed it. It was when we were at Sinaia, and I was, as often occurred, sitting with the King. The Queen came into the room, which she was otherwise not in the habit of entering, bringing with her a telegram from the Princess of Wied in which she asked for something—I cannot now remember what—for Albania. The King refused, but the Queen insisted, until he at last told her very crossly to leave him in peace, as he had other things to think of than Albania.

After King Carol's death she lost all her vital energy, and the change in the political situation troubled her. She was very fond of her nephew Ferdinand—hers was a truly loving heart—and she trembled lest he should commit some act of treachery. I remember once how, through her tears, she said to me: "Calm my fears. Tell me that he will never be guilty of such an act." I was unable to reassure her, but a kind Fate spared her from hearing the declaration of war.

Later, not long before her death, the old Queen was threatened with total blindness. She was anxious to put herself in the hands of a French oculist for an operation for cataract, who would naturally be obliged to travel through the Monarchy in order to reach Bucharest. At her desire I mentioned the matter in Vienna, and the Emperor Francis Joseph at once gave the requisite permission for the journey.

After a successful operation, the Queen sent a short autograph poem to one of my children, adding that it was her first letter on recovering her sight. At the same time she was again very uneasy concerning politics.

I wrote her the following letter:

Your Majesty,—My warmest thanks for the beautiful little poem you have sent to my boy. That it was granted to me to contribute something towards the recovery of your sight is in itself a sufficient reward, and no thanks are needed. That Your Majesty has addressed the first written lines to my children delights and touches me.

Meanwhile Your Majesty must not be troubled regarding politics. It is of no avail. For the moment Roumania will retain the policy of the late King, and God alone knows what the future will bring forth.

We are all like dust in this terrible hurricane sweeping through the world. We are tossed helplessly hither and thither and know not whether we are to face disaster or success. The point is not whether we live or die, but how it is done. In that respect King Carol set an example to us all.

I hope King Ferdinand may never forget that, together with the throne, his uncle bequeathed to him a political creed, a creed of honour and loyalty, and I am persuaded that Your Majesty is the best guardian of the bequest.

Your Majesty's grateful and devoted


When I said that King Carol fought the fight to the best of his ability, I intended to convey that no one could expect him to be different from what he always was. The King never possessed in any special degree either energy, strength of action, or adventurous courage, and at the time I knew him, as an old man, he had none of those attributes. He was a clever diplomat, a conciliatory power, a safe mediator, and one who avoided trouble, but not of a nature to risk all and weather the storm. That was known to all, and no one, therefore, could think that the King would try to put himself on our side against the clearly expressed views of all Roumania. My idea is that if he had been differently constituted he could successfully have risked the experiment. The King possessed in Carp a man of quite unusual, even reckless, activity and energy, and from the first moment he placed himself and his activities at the King's disposal. If the King, without asking, had ordered mobilisation, Carp's great energy would have certainly carried it through. But, in the military situation as it was then, the Roumanian army would have been forced to the rear of the Russian, and in all probability the first result of the battlefields would have changed the situation entirely, and the blood that was shed mutually in victorious battles would have brought forth the unity that the spirit of our alliance never succeeded in evolving. But the King was not a man of such calibre. He could not change his nature, and what he did do entirely concurred with his methods from the time he ascended the throne.

As long as the King lived there was the positive assurance that Roumania would not side against us, for he would have prevented any mobilisation against us with the same firm wisdom which had always enabled him to avert any agitation in the land. He would then have seen that the Roumanians are not a warlike people like the Bulgarians, and that Roumania had not the slightest intention of risking anything in the campaign. A policy of procrastination in the wise hands of the King would have delayed hostilities against us indefinitely.

Immediately after the outbreak of war Bratianu began his game, which consisted of entrenching the Roumanian Government firmly and willingly in a position between the two groups of Powers, and bandying favours about from one to the other, reaping equal profits from each, until the moment when the stronger of the two should be recognised as such and the weaker then attacked.

Even from 1914-16 Roumania was never really neutral. She always favoured our enemies, and as far as lay in her power hindered all our actions.

The transport of horses and ammunition to Turkey in the summer of 1915 that was exacted from us was an important episode. Turkey was then in great danger, and was asking anxiously for munitions. Had the Roumanian Government adopted the standpoint not to favour any of the belligerent Powers it would have been a perfectly correct attitude, viewed from a neutral standpoint, but she never did adopt such standpoint, as is shown by her allowing the Serbians to receive transports of Russian ammunition via the Danube, thus showing great partiality. When all attempts failed, the munitions were transmitted, partially at any rate, through other means.

At that time, too, Russian soldiers were allowed in Roumania and were not molested, whereas ours were invariably interned.

Two Austrian airmen once landed by mistake in Roumania, and were, of course, interned immediately. The one was a cadet of the name of Berthold and a pilot whose name I have forgotten. From their prison they appealed to me to help them, and I sent word that they must endeavour to obtain permission to pay me a visit. A few days later the cadet appeared, escorted by a Roumanian officer as guard. This officer, not being allowed without special permission to set foot on Austro-Hungarian soil, was obliged to remain in the street outside the house. I had the gates closed, put the cadet into one of my cars, sent him out through the back entrance, and had him driven to Giurgui, where he got across the Danube, and in two hours was again at liberty. After a lengthy and futile wait the officer departed. His protests came too late.

The unfortunate pilot who was left behind was not allowed to come to the Embassy. One night, however, he made his escape through the window and arrived. I kept him concealed for some time, and he eventually crossed the frontier safely and got away by rail to Hungary.

Bratianu reproached me later for what I had done, but I told him it was in consequence of his not having strictly adhered to his neutrality. Had our soldiers been left unmolested, as in the case of the Russians, I should not have been compelled to act as I had done.

Bratianu can never seriously have doubted that the Central Powers would succumb, and his sympathies were always with the Entente, not only on account of his bringing up, but also because of that political speculation. During the course of subsequent events there were times when Bratianu to a certain extent seemed to vacillate, especially at the time of our great offensive against Russia. The break through at Goerlitz and the irresistible advance into the interior of Russia had an astounding effect in Roumania. Bratianu, who obviously knew very little about strategy, could simply not understand that the Russian millions, whom he imagined to be in a fair way to Vienna and Berlin, should suddenly begin to rush back and a fortress like Warsaw be demolished like a house of cards. He was evidently very anxious then and must have had many a disturbed night. On the other hand, those who to begin with, though not for, still were not against Austria began to raise their heads and breathe more freely. The victory of the Central Powers appeared on the horizon like a fresh event. That was the historic moment when Roumania might have been coerced into active co-operation, but not the Bratianu Ministry. Bratianu himself would never in any case have ranged himself on our side, but if we could have made up our minds then to instal a Majorescu or a Marghiloman Ministry in office, we could have had the Roumanian army with us. In connection with this were several concrete proposals. In order to carry out the plan we should have been compelled to make territorial concessions in Hungary to a Majorescu Ministry—Majorescu demanded it as a primary condition to his undertaking the conduct of affairs, and this proposal failed owing to Hungary's obstinate resistance. It is a terrible but a just punishment that poor Hungary, who contributed so much to our definite defeat, should be the one to suffer the most from the consequences thereof, and that the Roumanians, so despised and persecuted by Hungary, should gain the greatest triumphs on her plains.

One of the many reproaches that have been brought against me recently is to the effect that I, as ambassador at Bucharest, should have resigned if my proposals were not accepted in Vienna. These reproaches are dictated by quite mistaken ideas of competency and responsibility. It is the duty of a subordinate official to describe the situation as he sees it and to make such proposals as he considers right, but the responsibility for the policy is with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and it would lead to the most impossible and absurd state of things if every ambassador whose proposals were rejected were to draw the conclusion that his resignation was a necessary consequence thereof. If officials were to resign because they did not agree with the view of their chief, it would mean that almost all of them would send in their resignations.

Espionage and counter-espionage have greatly flourished during the war. In that connection Russia showed great activity in Roumania.

In October, 1914, an event occurred which was very unfortunate for me. I drove from Bucharest to Sinaia, carrying certain political documents with me in a dispatch-case, which, by mistake, was fastened on behind instead of being laid in the car. On the way the case was unstrapped and stolen. I made every effort to get it back, and eventually recovered it after a search of three weeks, involving much expense. It was found at last in some peasant's barn, but nothing had apparently been abstracted save the cigarettes that were in it.

Nevertheless, after the occupation of Bucharest copies and photographs of all my papers were found in Bratianu's house.

After the loss of the dispatch-case I at once tendered my resignation in Vienna, but it was not accepted by the Emperor.

The Red Book on Roumania, published by Burian, which contains a summary of my most important reports, gives a very clear picture of the several phases of that period and the approaching danger of war. The several defeats that Roumania suffered justified the fears of all those who warned her against premature intervention. In order to render the situation quite clear, it must here be explained that during the time immediately preceding Roumania's entry into war there were really only two parties in the country: the one was hostile to us and wished for an immediate declaration of war, and the other was the "friendly" one that did not consider the situation ripe for action and advised waiting until we were weakened still more. During the time of our successes the "friendly" party carried the day. Queen Marie, I believe, belonged to the latter. From the beginning of the war, she was always in favour of "fighting by the side of England," as she always looked upon herself as an Englishwoman, but, at the last moment at any rate, she appears to have thought the time for action premature. A few days before the declaration of war she invited me to a farewell lunch, which was somewhat remarkable, as we both knew that in a very few days we should be enemies. After lunch I took the opportunity of telling her that I likewise was aware of the situation, but that "the Bulgarians would be in Bucharest before the Roumanians reached Budapest." She entered into the conversation very calmly, being of a very frank nature and not afraid of hearing the truth. A few days later a letter was opened at the censor's office from a lady-in-waiting who had been present at the lunch. It was evidently not intended for our eyes; it contained a description of the dejeuner fort embetant, with some unflattering remarks about me.

Queen Marie never lost her hope in a final victory. She did not perhaps agree with Bratianu in all his tactics, but a declaration of war on us was always an item on her programme. Even in the distressing days of their disastrous defeat she always kept her head above water. One of the Queen's friends told me afterwards that when our armies, from south, north and west, were nearing Bucharest, when day and night the earth shook with the ceaseless thunder of the guns, the Queen quietly went on with her preparations for departure, and was firmly persuaded that she would return as "Empress of all the Roumanians." I have been told that after the taking of Bucharest Bratianu collapsed altogether, and it was Queen Marie who comforted and encouraged him. Her English blood always asserted itself. After we had occupied Wallachia, I received absolutely reliable information from England, according to which she had telegraphed to King George from Jassy, recommending "her little but courageous people" to his further protection. After the Peace of Bucharest strong pressure was brought to bear on me to effect the abdication of the King and Queen. It would not in any way have altered the situation, as the Entente would naturally have reinstated them when victory was gained; but I opposed all such efforts, not for the above reason, which I could not foresee, but from other motives, to be mentioned later, although I was perfectly certain that Queen Marie would always remain our enemy.

The declaration of war created a very uncomfortable situation for all Austro-Hungarians and Germans. I came across several friends in the Austro-Hungarian colony who had been beaten by the Roumanian soldiers with the butt-ends of their rifles on their way to prison. I saw wild scenes of panic and flight that were both grotesque and revolting, and the cruel sport lasted for days.

In Vienna all subjects of an enemy state were exempt from deportation. In my capacity as Minister I ordered reprisals on Roumanian citizens, as there were no other means to relieve the fate of our poor refugees. As soon as the neutral Powers notified that the treatment had become more humane, they were set free.

If we showed ourselves at the windows or in the garden of the Embassy the crowd scoffed and jeered at us, and at the station, when we left, a young official whom I asked for information simply turned his back on me.

A year and a half later I was again in Bucharest. The tide of victory had carried us far, and we came to make peace. We were again subjects of interest to the crowds in the streets, but in very different fashion. A tremendous ovation awaited us when we appeared in the theatre, and I could not show myself in the street without having a crowd of admirers in my wake.

Before all this occurred, and when war was first declared, the members of the Embassy, together with about 150 persons belonging to the Austro-Hungarian colony, including many children, were interned, and spent ten very unpleasant days, as we were not sure whether we should be released or not. We had occasion during that time to witness three Zeppelin raids over Bucharest, which, seen in the wonderful moonlight, cloudless nights under the tropical sky, made an unforgettable impression on us.

I find the following noted in my diary:

"Bucharest, August, 1916.

"The Roumanians have declared war on my wife and daughter too. A deputation composed of two officials from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, in frock-coats and top hats, appeared last night at eleven o'clock in my villa at Sinaia. My wife was roused out of her sleep, and by the light of a single candle—more is forbidden on account of the Zeppelin raids—they informed her that Roumania had declared war on us.

"As the speaker put it, 'Vous avez declare la guerre.' He then read the whole declaration of war aloud to them both. Bratianu sent word to me that he would have a special train sent to take my wife and daughter and the whole personnel of the Embassy to Bucharest.

"Bucharest, September, 1916.

"The Roumanians really expected a Zeppelin attack at once. So far it has not occurred, and they begin to feel more at ease, and say that it is too far for the Zeppelins to come all the way from Germany. They seem not to be aware that Mackensen has Zeppelins in Bulgaria. But who can tell whether they really will come?

"Bucharest, September, 1916.

"Last night a Zeppelin did come. About three o'clock we were roused by the shrill police whistles giving the alarm. The telephone notified us that a Zeppelin had crossed the Danube, and all the church bells began to peal. Suddenly darkness and silence reigned, and the whole town, like some great angry animal, sullen and morose, prepared for the enemy attack. Nowhere was there light or sound. The town, with a wonderful starry firmament overhead, waited in expectation. Fifteen, twenty minutes went by, when suddenly a shot was fired and, as though it were a signal, firing broke out in every direction. The anti-aircraft guns fired incessantly, and the police, too, did their best, firing in the air. But what were they firing at? There was absolutely nothing to be seen. The searchlights then came into play. Sweeping the heavens from east to west, from north to south, they searched the firmament, but could not find the Zeppelin. Was it really there, or was the whole thing due to excited Roumanian nerves?

"Suddenly a sound was heard: the noise of the propeller overhead. It sounded so near in the clear, starry night, we felt we must be able to see it. But the noise died away in the direction of Colbroceni. Then we heard the first bomb. Like a gust of wind it whistled through the air, followed by a crash and an explosion. A second and third came quickly after. The firing became fiercer, but they can see nothing and seem to aim at where the sound comes from. The searchlights sway backwards and forwards. Now one of them has caught the airship, which looks like a small golden cigar. Both the gondolas can be seen quite distinctly, and the searchlight keeps it well in view, and now a second one has caught it. It looks as though this air cruiser is hanging motionless in the sky, brilliantly lit up by the searchlights right and left. Then the guns begin in good earnest. Shrapnel bursts all around, a wonderful display of fireworks, but it is impossible to say if the aim is good and if the monster is in danger. Smaller and smaller grows the Zeppelin, climbing rapidly higher and higher, until suddenly the miniature cigar disappears. Still the searchlights sweep the skies, hoping to find their prey again.

"Suddenly utter silence reigns. Have they gone? Is the attack over? Has one been hit? Forced to land? The minutes go by. We are all now on the balcony—the women, too—watching the scene. Again comes the well-known sound—once heard never forgotten—as though the wind were getting up, then a dull thud and explosion. This time it is farther away towards the forts. Again the firing breaks out, and machine-guns bark at the friendly moon; searchlights career across the heavens, but find nothing. Again there falls a bomb—much nearer this time—and again comes the noise of the propellers louder and louder. Shrapnel bursts just over the Embassy, and the Zeppelin is over our heads. We hear the noise very distinctly, but can see nothing. Again a sudden silence everywhere, which has a curious effect after the terrible noise. Time passes, but nothing more is heard. The first rays of dawn are seen in the east; the stars slowly pale.

"A child is heard to cry somewhere, far away: strange how clearly it sounds in the silent night. There is a feeling as though the terrified town hardly dared breathe or move for fear the monster might return. And how many more such nights are there in prospect? In the calm of this fairylike dawn, slowly rising, the crying of the child strikes a note of discord, infinitely sad. But the crying of the child—does it not find an echo among the millions whom this terrible war has driven to desperation?

"The sun rises like a blood-red ball. For some hours the Roumanians can take to sleep and gather fresh strength, but they know now that the Zeppelin's visit will not be the last.

"Bucharest, September, 1916.

"The Press is indignant about the nocturnal attack. Bucharest is certainly a fortress, but it should be known that the guns are no longer in the forts. It was stated in the Adeverul that the heroic resistance put up in defence was most successful. That the airship, badly damaged, was brought down near Bucharest, and that a commission started off at once to make sure whether it was an aeroplane or a Zeppelin!

"Bucharest, September, 1916.

"The Zeppelin returned again this evening and took us by surprise. It seemed to come from the other side of Plojest, and the sentries on the Danube must have missed it. Towards morning the night watch at the Embassy whose duty it is to see that there is no light in the house saw a huge mass descending slowly over the Embassy till it almost touched the roof. It hovered there a few minutes, making observations. No one noticed it until suddenly the engines started again, and it dropped the first bomb close to the Embassy. A direct hit was made on the house of the Ambassador Jresnea Crecianu, and twenty gendarmes who were there were killed. The royal palace was also damaged. The Government is apparently not satisfied with the anti-aircraft forces, but concludes that practice will make them perfect. Opportunity for practice will certainly not be lacking.

"Our departure is being delayed by every sort of pretext. One moment it seems as though we should reach home via Bulgaria. This idea suited Bratianu extremely well, as the Bulgarian willingness to grant permission was a guarantee that they had no plans of attack. But he reckoned in this without his host. E. and W. are greatly alarmed because the Roumanians intend to detain them, and will probably hang them as spies. I have told them, 'Either we all stay here or we all start together. No one will be given up.' That appears to have somewhat quieted their fears.

"As might be expected, these nocturnal visits had disagreeable consequences for us. The Roumanians apparently thought that it was not a question of Zeppelins, but of Austro-Hungarian airships, and that my presence in the town would afford a certain protection against the attacks; after the first one they declared that for every Roumanian killed ten Austrians or Bulgarians would be executed, and the hostile treatment to which we were subjected grew worse and worse. The food was cut down and was terribly bad, and finally the water supply was cut off. With the tropical temperature that prevailed and the overcrowding of a house that normally was destined to hold twenty, and now housed 170, persons, the conditions within the space of twenty-four hours became unbearable and the atmosphere so bad that several people fell ill with fever, and neither doctor nor medicine was obtainable. Thanks to the energetic intervention of the Dutch Ambassador, Herr von Vredenburch, who had undertaken the charge of our State interests, it was finally possible to alter the conditions and to avert the outbreak of an epidemic."

* * * * *

It was just about that time that our Military Attache, Lieut.-Colonel Baron Randa, made a telling remark. One of our Roumanian slave-drivers was in the habit of paying us a daily visit and talking in the bombastic fashion the Roumanians adopted when boasting of their impending victories. The word "Mackensen" occurred in Randa's answer. The Roumanian was surprised to hear the name, unknown to him, and said: "Qu'est-ce que c'est que ce Mackensen? Je connais beaucoup d'Allemands, mais je n'ai jamais fait la connaissance de M. Mackensen." "Eh bien," replied Randa, patting him on the shoulder, "vous la ferez cette connaissance, je vous en guarantie." Three months after that Mackensen had occupied all Wallachia and had his headquarters at Bucharest. By that time, therefore, his name must have been more familiar to our Roumanian friend.

At last we set off for home via Russia and had a very interesting journey lasting three weeks, via Kieff, Petersburg, Sweden, and Germany. To spend three weeks in a train would seem very wearisome to many; but as everything in this life is a matter of habit we soon grew so accustomed to it that when we arrived in Vienna there were many of us who could not sleep the first few nights in a proper bed, as we missed the shaking of the train. Meanwhile, we had every comfort on the special train, and variety as well, especially when, on Bratianu's orders, we were detained at a little station called Baratinskaja, near Kieff. The reason of this was never properly explained, but it was probably owing to difficulties over the departure of the Roumanian Ambassador in Sofia and to the wish to treat us as hostages. The journey right through the enemy country was remarkable. Fierce battles were just then being fought in Galicia, and day and night we passed endless trains conveying gay and smiling soldiers to the front, and others returning full of pale, bandaged wounded men, whose groans we heard as we passed them. We were greeted everywhere in friendly fashion by the population, and there was not a trace of the hatred we had experienced in Roumania. Everything that we saw bore evidence of the strictest order and discipline. None of us could think it possible that the Empire was on the eve of a revolution, and when the Emperor Francis Joseph questioned me on my return as to whether I had reason to believe that a revolution would occur, I discountenanced the idea most emphatically.

This did not please the old Emperor. He said afterwards to one of his suite: "Czernin has given a correct account of Roumania, but he must have been asleep when he passed through Russia."


The development of Roumanian affairs during the war occurs in three phases, the first of which was in King Carol's reign. Then neutrality was guaranteed. On the other hand, it was not possible during those months to secure Roumania's co-operation because we, in the first period of the war, were so unfavourably situated in a military sense that public opinion in Roumania would not voluntarily have consented to a war at our side, and, as already mentioned, such forcible action would not have met with the King's approval.

In the second phase of the war, dating from King Carol's death to our defeat at Luck, conditions were quite different. In this second phase were included the greatest military successes the Central Powers ever obtained. The downfall of Serbia and the conquest of the whole of Poland occurred during this period, and, I repeat, in those months we could have secured the active co-operation of Roumania. Nevertheless, I must make it clearly understood here that if the political preliminaries for intervention on the part of Roumania were not undertaken, the fault must not be ascribed to the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, but to the vis major which opposed the project under the form of a Hungarian veto. As previously stated, Majorescu, as well as Marghiloman, would only have given his consent to co-operation if Roumania had been given a slice of the Hungarian state. Thanks to the attitude of absolute refusal observed at the Ballplatz, the territory in question was never definitely decided on, but the idea probably was Transylvania and a portion of the Bukovina. I cannot say whether Count Burian, if he had escaped other influences, would have adopted the plan, but certain it is that however ready and willing he was to act he would never have carried out the plan against the Hungarian Parliament. According to the Constitution, the Hungarian Parliament is sovereign in the Hungarian State, and without the use of armed means Hungary could never have been induced to cede any part of her territory.

It is obvious, however, that it would have been impossible during the world war to have stirred up an armed conflict between Vienna and Budapest. My then German colleague, von dem Busche, entirely agreed with me that Hungary ought to make some territorial sacrifices in order to encourage Roumania's intervention. I firmly believe that then, and similarly before the Italian declaration of war, a certain pressure was brought to bear direct on Vienna by Berlin to this end—a pressure which merely contributed to strengthen and intensify Tisza's opposition. For Germany, the question was far simpler; she had drawn payment for her great gains from a foreign source. The cession of the Bukovina might possibly have been effected, as Stuergkh did not object, but that alone would not have satisfied Roumania.

It was quite clear that the opposition to the ceding of Transylvania originated in Hungary. But this opposition was not specially Tisza's, for whichever of the Hungarian politicians might have been at the head of the Cabinet he would have adopted the same standpoint.

I sent at that time a confidential messenger to Tisza enjoining him to explain the situation and begging him in my name to make the concession. Tisza treated the messenger with great reserve, and wrote me a letter stating once for all that the voluntary cession of Hungarian territory was out of the question; "whoever attempts to seize even one square metre of Hungarian soil will be shot."

There was nothing to be done. And still I think that this was one of the most important phases of the war, which, had it been properly managed, might have influenced the final result. The military advance on the flank of the Russian army would have been, in the opinion of our military chiefs, an advantage not to be despised, and through it the clever break through at Goerlitz would have had some results; but as it was, Goerlitz was a strategical trial of strength without any lasting effect.

The repellent attitude adopted by Hungary may be accounted for in two ways: the Hungarians, to begin with, were averse to giving up any of their own territory, and, secondly, they did not believe—even to the very last—that Roumania would remain permanently neutral or that sooner or later we would be forced to fight against Roumania unless we in good time carried her with us. In this connection Tisza always maintained his optimism, and to the very last moment held to the belief that Roumania would not dare take it upon herself to attack us. This is the only reason that explains why the Roumanians surprised us so much by their invasion of Transylvania and by being able to carry off so much rich booty. I would have been able to take much better care of the many Austrians and Hungarians living in Roumania—whose fate was terrible after the declaration of war, which took them also by surprise—if I had been permitted to draw their attention more openly and generally to the coming catastrophe; but in several of his letters Tisza implored me not to create a panic, "which would bring incalculable consequences with it." As I neither did, nor could, know how far this secrecy was in agreement with our military counter-preparations, I was bound to observe it. Apparently, Burian believed my reports to a certain extent; at any rate, for some time before the declaration of war he ordered all the secret documents and the available money to be conveyed to Vienna, and entrusted to Holland the care of our citizens; but Tisza told me long after that he considered my reports of too pessimistic a tendency, and was afraid to give orders for the superfluous evacuation of Transylvania.

After the unexpected invasion, the waves of panic and rage ran high in the Hungarian Parliament. The severest criticism was heaped upon me, as no one doubted that the lack of preparation was due to my false reports. Here Tisza was again himself when, in a loud voice, he shouted out that it was untrue; my reports were correct; I had warned them in time and no blame could be attached to me; he thus took upon himself the just blame. Fear was unknown to him, and he never tried to shield himself behind anyone. When I arrived back in Vienna after a journey of some weeks in Russia, and only then heard of the incident, I took the opportunity to thank Tisza for the honourable and loyal manner in which he had defended my cause. He replied with the ironical smile characteristic of him that it was simply a matter of course.

But for an Austro-Hungarian official it was by no means such a matter of course. We have had so many cowards on the Ministerial benches, so many men who were brave when dealing with their subordinates, toadied to their superiors, and were intimidated by strong opposition, that a man like Tisza, who was such a contrast to these others, has a most refreshing and invigorating effect. The Roumanians attempted several times to make the maintenance of their neutrality contingent on territorial concessions. I was always opposed to this, and at the Ballplatz they were of the same opinion. The Roumanians would have appropriated these concessions and simply attacked us later to obtain more. On the other hand, it seemed to me that to gain military co-operation a cession of territory would be quite in order, since, once in the field, the Roumanians could not draw back and their fate would be permanently bound up with ours.

Finally, the third phase comprises the comparatively short period between our defeat at Luck and the outbreak of the war in Roumania, and was simply the death throes of neutrality.

War was in the air and could be foreseen with certainty.

As was to be expected, the inefficient diplomacy displayed in the preparations for the world war brought down severe criticism of our diplomatic abilities, and if the intention at the Ballplatz was to bring about a war, it cannot be denied that the preparations for it were most inadequate.

Criticism was not directed towards the Ballplatz only, but entered into further matters, such as the qualifications of the individual representatives in foreign countries. I remember an article in one of the most widely-read Viennese papers, which drew a comparison between the "excellent" ambassador at Sofia and almost all of the others; that is, all those whose posts were in countries that either refused their co-operation or even already were in the field against us.

In order to prevent any misunderstanding, I wish to state here that in my opinion our then ambassador to Sofia, Count Tarnowski, was one of the best and most competent diplomats in Austria-Hungary, but that the point of view from which such praise was awarded to him was in itself totally false. Had Count Tarnowski been in Paris, London or Rome, these states, in spite of his undeniable capabilities, would not have adopted a different attitude; while, on the other hand, there are numbers of distinguished members of the diplomatic corps who would have carried out his task at Sofia just as well as Count Tarnowski.

In other words, I consider it is making an unwarrantable demand to expect that a representative in a foreign land should have a leading influence on the policy of the state to which he is accredited. What may be demanded of a diplomatic representative is a correct estimate of the situation. The ambassador must know what the Government of the state where he is will do. A false diagnosis is discreditable. But it is impossible for a representative, whoever he may be, to obtain such power over a foreign state as to be able to guide the policy of that state into the course desired by him. The policy of a state will invariably be subservient to such objects as the Government of that period deem vital, and will always be influenced by factors which are quite outside the range of the foreign representative.

In what manner a diplomatic representative obtains his information is his own affair. He should endeavour to establish intercourse, not only with a certain class of society, but also with the Press, and also keep in touch with other classes of the population.

One of the reproaches made to the "old regime" was the assumed preference for aristocrats in diplomacy. This was quite a mistake. No preference was shown for the aristocracy, but it lay in the nature of the career that wealth and social polish were assets in the exercise of its duties. An attache had no salary. He was, therefore, expected to have a tolerably good income at home in order to be able to live conformably to his rank when abroad. This system arose out of necessity, and was also due to the unwillingness of the authorities to raise salaries in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The consequence was that only sons of wealthy parents could adopt such a career. I once told some delegates who interviewed me in connection with the subject that a change of the system depended entirely on themselves and their increased munificence.

A certain amount of social polish was just as necessary for diplomats of the old regime as was the requisite allowance for their household and a knowledge of foreign languages. So long as courts exist in Europe, the court will always be the centre of all social life, and diplomats must have the entree to such circles. A young man who does not know whether to eat with his fork or his knife would play a sorry part there—his social training is not an indifferent matter. Preference is, therefore, not given to the aristocracy, but to young men of wealth familiar with European society etiquette.

That does not mean that a diplomat is to consider it his duty only to show himself at all the parties and fetes given by the upper ten thousand, but it is one of his duties, as at such places he might gain information unobtainable elsewhere. A diplomat must be in touch with all sources from which he can glean information.

Individual capabilities and zeal will naturally play a great part; but the means that a Government places at the disposition of its foreign missions are also of the highest importance.

There are people in the East—I do not know whether to say in contradistinction to the West—who are not immune to the influence of gold. In Roumania, for instance, Russia, before the war, had completely undermined the whole country and had lavished millions long before the war in the hope of an understanding with that country. Most of the newspapers were financed by Russians, and numbers of the leading politicians were bound by Russian interests, whereas neither Germany nor Austria-Hungary had made any such preparations. Thus it happened that, on the outbreak of war, Russia was greatly in advance of the Central Powers, an advance that was all the more difficult to overtake as from the first day of war Russia opened still wider the floodgates of her gold and inundated Roumania with roubles.

If the fact that the scanty preparation for war is a proof of how little the Central Powers reckoned on such a contingency it may on the other hand explain away much apparent inactivity on the part of their representatives. Karl Fuerstenberg, my predecessor at Bucharest, whose estimate of the situation was a just one, demanded to have more funds at his disposal, which was refused at Vienna on the plea that there was no money. After the war began the Ministry stinted us no longer, but it was too late then for much to be done.

Whether official Russia, four weeks in advance, had really counted on the assassination of the Archduke and the outbreak of a war ensuing therefrom remains an open question. I will not go so far as to assert it for a fact, but one thing is certain, that Russia within a measurable space of time had prepared for war as being inevitable and had endeavoured to secure Roumania's co-operation. When the Tsar was at Constanza a month before the tragedy at Sarajevo, his Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sassonoff, paid a visit to Bucharest. When there, he and Bratianu went on a walking tour together to Transylvania. I did not hear of this tactless excursion until it was over, but I shared Berchtold's surprise at such a proceeding on the part of both Ministers.

I once, in 1914, overheard by chance a conversation between two Russians. It was at the Hotel Capsa, known later as a resort for anti-Austrians. They were sitting at the table next to mine in the restaurant and were speaking French quite freely and openly. They appeared to be on good terms with the Russian Ambassador and were discussing the impending visit of the Tsar to Constanza. I discovered later that they were officers in mufti. They agreed that the Emperor Francis Joseph could not live very much longer, and that when his death occurred and a new ruler came to the throne It would be a favourable moment for Russia to declare war on us.

They were evidently exponents of the "loyal" tendency that aimed at declaring war on us without a preceding murder; and I readily believe that the majority of the men in Petersburg who were eager for war held the same view.




My appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs was thought by many to indicate that the Emperor Charles was carrying out the political wishes of his uncle, Ferdinand. Although it had been the Archduke's intention to have made me his Minister for Foreign Affairs, my appointment to the post by the Emperor Charles had nothing to do with that plan. It was due, above all, to his strong desire to get rid of Count Burian and to the lack of other candidates whom he considered suitable. The Red Book that was published by Count Burian after the outbreak of war with Roumania may have attracted the Emperor's attention to me.

Although the Emperor, while still Archduke, was for several years my nearest neighbour in Bohemia—he was stationed at Brandeis, on the Elbe—we never became more closely acquainted. In all those years he was not more than once or twice at my house, and they were visits of no political significance. It was not until the first winter of the war, when I went from Roumania to the Headquarters at Teschen, that the then Archduke invited me to make the return journey with him. During this railway journey that lasted several hours politics formed the chief subject of conversation, though chiefly concerning Roumania and the Balkan questions. In any case I was never one of those who were in the Archduke's confidence, and my call to the Ballplatz came as a complete surprise.

At my first audience, too, we conversed at great length on Roumania and on the question whether the war with Bucharest could have been averted or not.

The Emperor was then still under the influence of our first peace offer so curtly rejected by the Entente. At the German Headquarters at Pless, where I arrived a few days later, I found the prevailing atmosphere largely influenced by the Entente's answer. Hindenburg and Ludendorff, who were apparently opposed to Burian's demarche for peace, merely remarked to me that a definite victory presented a possibility of ending the war, and the Emperor William said that he had offered his hand in peace but that the Entente had given him a slap in the face, and there was nothing for it now but war to the uttermost.

It was at this time that the question of the unrestricted U-boat warfare began to be mooted. At first it was the German Navy only, and Tirpitz in particular, who untiringly advocated the plan. Hohenlohe,[5] who, thanks to his excellent connections, was always very well informed, wrote, several weeks before the fateful decision was taken, that the German Navy was determined and bent on that aim. Bethmann and Zimmermann were both decidedly against it. It was entirely in keeping with the prudent wisdom of the former not to risk such experiments; Bethmann was an absolutely dependable, honourable and capable partner, but the unbounded growth of the military autocracy must be imputed to his natural tendency to conciliate. He was powerless against Ludendorff and little by little was turned aside by him. My first visit to Berlin afforded me the opportunity of thoroughly discussing the U-boat question with the Imperial Chancellor, and we were quite agreed in our disapproval of that method of warfare. At all events, Bethmann pointed out that such essentially military matters should in the first instance be left to military decision, as they alone were able to form a correct estimate of the result, and these reflections made me fear from the very first that all reasonable political scruples would be upset by military arguments. On this my first visit to Berlin, when this question naturally was the dominating one, the Chancellor explained to me how difficult his position was, because the military leaders, both on land and at sea, declared that if the unrestricted U-boat warfare were not carried out they would not be able to guarantee the Western front. They thus brought an iron pressure to bear on him, for how could he, the Chancellor, undertake to guarantee that the Western front could hold out? As a matter of fact, the danger of introducing the unrestricted U-boat campaign became greater and greater, and the reports sent by Hohenlohe left no doubt as to the further development of affairs in Berlin.

On January 12 he reported as follows:

The question of the extension of the U-boat warfare, as Your Excellency is aware from the last discussions in Berlin, becomes daily more acute.

On the one hand, all leading military and naval authorities insist on making use of this means as speedily as possible, as they declare it will end the war much more rapidly; on the other hand, all statesmen have grave fears as to what effect it will have on America and other neutrals.

The Supreme Military Command declares that a new offensive on a very large scale is imminent in the West and that the armies which are to resist this attack will not be able to understand why the navy should not do all that lies in its power to prevent, or at any rate to decrease, the reserves and ammunition being sent to our adversaries. The absence of co-operation on the part of the navy in the terrible battles the troops on the Western front will again have to face will have a most injurious effect on their moral.

The objections put forward as to the effect the proceeding might have on America are met in military circles by the assumption that America will take good care not to go to war; that she, in fact, would not be able to do so. The unfortunate failure of the United States military machine in the conflict with Mexico clearly proves what is to be expected from America in that respect. Even a possible breaking off relations with America does not necessarily signify war.

Meanwhile all the leading naval authorities reassert that they may be relied on, even though they are not considered capable of crushing England, at least to be able, before America can come in, so to weaken the British Island Empire that only one desire will be left to English politicians, that of seating themselves with us at the Conference table.

To this the Chancellor asked who would give him a guarantee that the navy was right and in what position should we find ourselves in case the admirals were mistaken, whereupon the Admiralty promptly asked what sort of position the Chancellor expected to find when autumn arrived without having made a proper use of the U-boats and we found ourselves, through exhaustion, compelled to beg for peace.

And thus the scales went up and down, weighing the chances for or against the U-boat war, and there was no possibility of positively determining which decision was the right one.

Doubtless the German Government in the near future will be constrained to take up a definite standpoint respecting the question, and it is obvious—whatever the decision may be—that we also shall be largely involved. Nevertheless, it appears to me that when the German Government does approach us in that connection we should act with all possible reserve. As the matter now stands, a positive decision as to which course is the right one is not possible. I have, therefore, thought it inadvisable to take side definitely with either party and thus remove much of the responsibility from the German Government and render it possible for them to lay it upon us.

The Imperial and Royal Ambassador,


The concluding passage of the above cited report had already been anticipated by me in a telegraphic communication in which I begged the ambassador with all possible energy to urge the political arguments opposed to the unrestricted U-boat warfare, which is proved by a telegram from Hohenlohe on January 13 as follows:

Reply to yesterday's telegram No. 15.

In accordance with the telegram mentioned, and after discussing it with Baron Flotow, I went to the Secretary of State—not being able to see the Chancellor to-day—and in conformity with Your Excellency's intentions called his attention to the fact that we should participate in the results of the U-boat war just as much as Germany and that, therefore, the German Government is bound to listen to us also. All the leading German statesmen know that Your Excellency, during your stay here, expressed yourself as opposed to the movement, but that I had come once more as Your Excellency's representative to repeat the warning against too hasty action. I further emphasised all the arguments against the U-boat warfare, but will not trouble Your Excellency with a repetition of them, nor yet with the counter-arguments, already known to Your Excellency, that were put forward by the Secretary. I gave a brief summary of both these standpoints in my yesterday's report No. 6 P.

Herr Zimmermann, however, laid special stress on the fact that the information he was receiving convinced him more and more that America, especially after the Entente's answer to Mr. Wilson, which was in the nature of an insult, would very probably not allow it to come to a breach with the Central Powers.

I did all I possibly could to impress upon him the responsibility Germany was taking for herself and for us by her decision in this question, pointing out very particularly that before any decision was arrived at our opinion from a nautical-technical standpoint must also be heard, in which the Secretary of State fully concurred.

I have the feeling that the idea of carrying out the U-boat warfare is more and more favourably received, and Your Excellency had the same impression also when in Berlin. The last word as to the final attitude to be adopted by the German Government will no doubt come from the military side.

In conformity with the instructions received, I will nevertheless uphold with all firmness the political arguments against the U-boat warfare.

Baron Flotow will have occasion to meet the Secretary of State this afternoon.

I had sent Baron Flotow, a Chief of Department, to Berlin at the same time, in order that he might support all Hohenlohe's efforts and spare no pains to induce Germany to desist from her purpose.

Flotow sent me the following report on January 15:

After a two-days' stay in Berlin my impression is that the question of the unrestricted U-boat warfare has again been brought to the front by the leading men in the German Empire. This question—according to Herr Zimmermann—under conditions of the greatest secrecy where the public is concerned, is now under debate between the heads of the Army and Navy and the Foreign Office; they insist on a decision. For if the unrestricted U-boat warfare is to be opened it must be at a time when, in view of the vast impending Anglo-French offensive on the Western front, it will make itself felt. The Secretary of State mentioned the month of February.

I wish in the following account to summarise the reasons put forward by the Germans for the justification of the unrestricted U-boat warfare:

Time is against us and favours the Entente; if, therefore, the Entente can keep up the desire for war there will be still less prospect of our obtaining a peace on our own terms. The enemy's last Note to Wilson is again a striking example of their war energy.

It will be impossible for the Central Powers to continue the war after 1917 with any prospect of success. Peace must, therefore, unless it finally has to be proposed by the enemy, be secured in the course of this year, which means that we must enforce it.

The military situation is unfavourable owing to the impending Anglo-French offensive, which, it is presumed, will open with great force, as in the case of the last offensive on the Somme. To meet the attack, troops will have to be withdrawn from other fronts. Consequently, an offensive against Russia with intent to bring that enemy to his knees, which perhaps a year ago would have been possible, can no longer be reckoned on.

If, therefore, the possibility of enforcing a decision in the East becomes less and less, an effort must be made to bring it about in the West, and to do it at a time when the unrestricted U-boat warfare would affect the coming Anglo-French offensive by impeding the transport of troops and munitions sailing under a neutral flag.

In estimating the effect on England of the unrestricted U-boat warfare, there will be not only the question of hindering the transport of provisions, but also of curtailing the traffic to such a degree as would render it impossible for the English to continue the war. In Italy and in France this will be felt no less severely. The neutrals, too, will be made to suffer, which, however, might serve as a pretext to bring about peace.

America will hardly push matters further than breaking off diplomatic relations; we need not, therefore, count for certain on a war with the United States.

It must not be overlooked that the United States—as was the case in regard to Mexico—are not well prepared for war, that their one anxiety is Japan. Japan would not allow a European war with America to pass unheeded.

But even if America were to enter the war it would be three to four months before she could be ready, and in that space of time peace must have been secured in Europe. According to the estimate of certain experts (among others, some Dutch corn merchants), England has only provisions sufficient for six weeks, or three months at the outside.

It would be possible to carry on the U-boat warfare on England from fifteen bases in the North Sea, so that the passage of a large vessel through to England would be hardly conceivable. Traffic in the Channel, even if not entirely stopped, would be very limited, as travelling conditions in France exclude the possibility of suitable connection.

And if the unrestricted U-boat warfare once were started, the terror caused by it (the sinking of the vessels without warning) would have such an effect that most vessels would not dare to put to sea.

The above already hints at the rejoinder to be put forward to the arguments advanced by us against the opening of the unrestricted U-boat warfare, and also combats the view that the corn supply from the Argentine is not at the present moment so important for the United States as would be a prompt opening of the U-boat campaign, which would mean a general stoppage of all traffic.

The fact that America would not be ready for war before the end of three months does not exclude the possibility that it might even be as long as six or eight months, and that she therefore might join in the European war at a time when, without playing our last card, it might be possible to end it in a manner that we could accept. It must not be forgotten, however, that in America we have to do with an Anglo-Saxon race, which—once it had decided on war—will enter on it with energy and tenacity, as England did, who, though unprepared for war as to military matters, can confront to-day the Germans with an army of millions that commands respect. I cannot with certainty make any statement as to the Japanese danger to America at a time when Japan is bound up with Russia and England through profitable treaties and Germany is shut out from that part of the world.

Among other things I referred to the great hopes entertained of the Zeppelins as an efficient weapon of war.

Herr Zimmermann said to me: "Believe me, our fears are no less than yours; they have given me many sleepless nights. There is no positive certainty as to the result; we can only make our calculations. We have not yet arrived at any decision. Show me a way to obtain a reasonable peace and I would be the first to reject the idea of the U-boat warfare. As matters now stand, both I and several others have almost been converted to it."

But whether, in the event of the ruthless U-boat warfare being decided on, it would be notified in some way, has not yet been decided.

Zimmermann told me he was considering the advisability of approaching Wilson, and, while referring to the contemptuous attitude of the Entente in the peace question, give the President an explanation of the behaviour of the German Government, and request him, for the safety of the life and property of American citizens, to indicate the steamers and shipping lines by which traffic between America and other neutrals could be maintained.

Vienna, January 15, 1917.


On January 20 Zimmermann and Admiral Holtzendorff arrived in Vienna, and a council was held, presided over by the Emperor. Besides the three above-mentioned, Count Tisza, Count Clam-Martinic, Admiral Haus and I were also present. Holtzendorff expounded his reasons, which I recapitulate below. With the exception of Admiral Haus, no one gave unqualified consent. All the arguments which appear in the official documents and ministerial protocols were advanced but did not make the slightest impression on the German representatives. The Emperor, who took no part in the debate, finally declared that he would decide later. Under his auspices a further conference was held in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 2 o'clock; the report is as follows:

Report of a conference held January 20, 1917, in the Imperial and Royal Ministry of Home and Foreign Affairs. Members: Dr. Zimmermann, Secretary of State of the German Foreign Affairs Department; Admiral von Holtzendorff, Chief of the German Naval Staff; Count Czernin, Imperial and Royal Minister for Foreign Affairs; Count Tisza, Royal Hungarian Prime Minister; Count Clam-Martinic, Imperial and Royal Prime Minister; Admiral Haus, the German naval attache in Vienna; Baron von Freyburg, the Imperial and Royal naval attache in Berlin; Count B. Colloredo-Mannsfeld.

On January 20 a discussion took place in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the question of establishing unrestricted U-boat warfare.

As evidenced by Admiral v. Holtzendorff's statements, the German naval authorities hold the standpoint that there exists an absolute necessity for the quickest possible inauguration of an unrestricted U-boat campaign. The arguments employed in support of this thesis are known from the reports of the Imperial and Royal Ambassador in Berlin (report of 12/1/17 Nr. 6/P, and telegram of 13/1 Nr. 22), and may be summarised in the following sentences: Lack of time, decreasing human material in the Central Powers, progressive deterioration of the harvest, impending Anglo-French offensive on the Western front with improved and increased means for fighting, and the necessity arising therefrom to prevent or at least check the reinforcements required for such undertaking, the impossibility of obtaining a decision on land, the necessity of raising the moral of the troops by ruthlessly obtained results and the use of every available means in war, certainty of the success of an unrestricted U-boat warfare in view of provisions in England only being sufficient for two to three months, as well as the stoppage of the munitions output and industrial production owing to the lack of raw material, the impossibility of supplying coal to France and Italy, etc., etc.

Concerning the carrying out of the plan, the German Navy owns at present for that purpose 120 U-boats of the latest type. In view of the great success achieved by the U-boats at the beginning of the war, when there were only 19 of an antiquated type, the present increased numbers of the vessels offer a safe guarantee of success.

February 1 is suggested on the part of the Germans as the date on which to start the unrestricted U-boat warfare and also to announce the blockade of the English coast and the west coast of France. Every vessel disobeying the order will be torpedoed without warning. In this manner it is hoped to bring England to reason within four months, and it must here be added that Admiral von Holtzendorff expressis verbis guaranteed the results.

As regards the attitude to be taken by the neutrals, leading German circles, although aware of the danger, hold optimistic views. It is not thought that either the Scandinavian countries or Holland will interfere with us, although, in view of the possibility of such happening, military precautions have been taken. The measures taken on the Dutch and Danish frontiers will, in the opinion of the Germans, hold those countries in check, and the possibility of sharing the fate of Roumania will frighten them. Indeed, it is expected that there will be a complete stoppage of all neutral shipping, which in the matter of supplies for England amounts to 39 per cent. of the cargo space. Meanwhile concessions will be granted to the neutrals by fixing a time limit for the withdrawal of such of their vessels as may be at sea on the opening day of the U-boat warfare.

With regard to America, the Germans are determined, if at all possible, to prevent the United States from attacking the Central Powers by adopting a friendly attitude towards America (acting upon the proposals made at the time of the Lusitania incident), but they are prepared for and await with calmness whatever attitude America may adopt. The Germans are, nevertheless, of the opinion that the United States will not go so far as making a breach with the Central Powers. If that should occur, America would be too late and could only come into action after England had been beaten. America is not prepared for war, which was clearly shown at the time of the Mexican crisis; she lives in fear of Japan and has to fight against agricultural and social difficulties. Besides which, Mr. Wilson is a pacifist, and the Germans presume that after his election he will adopt a still more decided tendency that way, for his election will not be due to the anti-German Eastern States, but to the co-operation of the Central and Western States that are opposed to war, and to the Irish and Germans. These considerations, together with the Entente's insulting answer to President Wilson's peace proposal, do not point to the probability of America plunging readily into war.

These, in brief, are the points of view on which the German demand for the immediate start of the unrestricted U-boat warfare is based, and which caused the Imperial Chancellor and the Foreign Affairs Department to revise their hitherto objective views.

Both the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Hungarian Prime Minister pointed out what disastrous consequences would ensue from America's intervention, in a military, moral, agricultural and financial sense, and great doubt was expressed of the success of a blockade of England. Count Czernin held that the Germans overlooked the possibility of lowering the consumption in England, taking into consideration the fact that since the war consumption in the countries of the Central Powers had been reduced by half. Further, Count Czernin referred to the very vague and by no means convincing data of the German naval authorities. It was also debated whether a continuation of the U-boat war to the present extent (the destruction on an average of 400,000 tons per month) would not be more likely to achieve the desired end, and if it were not more advisable not to play our last and best card until all other means had been tried. The possibility of being able to start a ruthless U-boat warfare hung like a Damocles' sword over the heads of our adversaries, and would perhaps be a more effectual means of ending the war than the reckless use of the U-boat as a weapon of war, carrying with it the danger of an attack by the neutrals. If the effect expected by Germany was not realised, which was within the bounds of possibility, we must be prepared to see the desire for war in the enemy greatly intensified. However that may be, the vanishing of the desire for peace must be accepted as an established fact. Finally, it was pointed out that the arguments recently put forward by the Germans show a complete novum, namely, the danger on the Western front in view of the great Anglo-French offensive that is expected. Whereas formerly it was always said that the attacks of the enemy would be repulsed, it is now considered necessary to relieve the land army by recklessly bringing the navy into the line of action. If these fears are justified, then most certainly should all other considerations be put on one side and the risk ensuing from the ruthless employment of the U-boats be accepted. Both Count Czernin and Count Tisza expressed their grave doubts in this connection.

To meet the case, the Hungarian Prime Minister pointed out the necessity of immediately starting propagandist activities in the neutral countries and particularly in America, by which the Central Powers' political methods and aims would be presented to them in a proper light; and then later, after introducing unrestricted U-boat warfare, it would be seen that no other choice was left to the peaceful tendencies of the Quadruple Alliance as the means for a speedy ending of the struggle between the nations.

The leaders of the foreign policy agreed to take the necessary steps in that direction, and remarked that certain arrangements had already been made.

Admiral Haus agreed unreservedly with the arguments of the German Navy, as he declared that no great anxiety need be felt as to the likelihood of America's joining in with military force, and finally pointed out that, on the part of the Entente, a ruthless torpedoing of hospital and transport ships had been practised for some time past in the Adriatic. The Admiral urged that this fact be properly recognised and dealt with, to which the Foreign Affairs leaders on both sides gave their consent.

The Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, in conclusion, said that the definite decision to be taken must be left to the conclusions arrived at by both sovereigns, whereupon the 26th inst. was fixed for a meeting to be held for that purpose.

After the general discussion, I had a private talk with the Emperor, and found that he still had the same aversion to that means of warfare and the same fears as to the result. We knew, however, that Germany had definitely made up her mind to start the campaign in any case, and that all our arguments would be of no practical value. It remained to be decided whether we should join them or not. Owing to the small number of our U-boats, our holding aside would not have had any great effect on the final issue of the experiment, and for a moment I entertained the idea of proposing to the Emperor that we should separate from Germany on that one point, although I was aware that it might lead to the ending of our alliance. But the difficulty was that the U-boat effort would also have to be carried on in the Mediterranean in order that it should not lose its effect in the North Sea. If the Mediterranean remained exempt, the transports would take that route and proceed by land via Italy, France, and Dover, and thus render the northern U-boat warfare of no effect. But in order to carry it on in the Mediterranean, Germany would need our support in the Adriatic from Trieste, Pola, and Cattaro. If we allowed her at those places it involved us in the campaign, and if we refused to let our few U-boats go out, it would be attacking Germany in the rear and we should become embroiled with her, which would lead to the definite severance of the Alliance.

This was again one of those instances that prove that when a strong and a weak nation concert in war, the weak one cannot desist unless it changes sides entirely and enters into war with its former ally. None who were in the Government would hear of that, and with a heavy heart we gave our consent. Bulgaria, who was not affected by this phase of the war, and had kept up diplomatic relations with America, was differently situated, being able to stand aside without paralysing the German plans. Apart from this, I was already persuaded then that Bulgaria's not joining in would make a bad impression on the outside world, and would not help her in any way. Although her relations with America were maintained up to the last, they did not, as a matter of fact, make her fate easier.

Had we been able to make Germany desist from the unrestricted U-boat warfare, the advantage would have been very great; whether we joined in or not was a matter of indifference viewed from the standpoint of our treatment by the Entente, as is proved by the instance of Bulgaria. As soon as America had declared war on Germany, a conflict with us was inevitable in any case, as Austro-Hungarian troops and artillery were then on the Western front facing Americans. We were compelled to go to war with America, seeing that Germany was already at war with her.

It was not possible, therefore, for us to remain in a state of even nominally peaceful relations with America, such as existed between her and Bulgaria to the very end of the war.

It is not quite clear when Germany really recognised the fact that the unrestricted U-boat warfare had no effect, and was thus a terrible mistake. To the public, as well as to the Allied Cabinets, the German military authorities continued to profess the greatest optimism, and when I left my post in April, 1918, the standpoint held in Berlin was still that England would be defeated by the naval war. Writing on December 14, 1917, Hohenlohe reported that in competent German circles the feeling was thoroughly optimistic. I, however, certainly perceived definite signs of doubt beginning in some German minds, and Ludendorff in replying to the reproaches I made to him said: "Everything is risky in war; it is impossible before an operation to be sure of the results. I admit that the time limit was a mistake, but the final result will show that I was right." In order to exculpate themselves all the leaders in Germany declared that America would, in any case, have gone to war, and that the U-boat had merely given the last impetus. Whether this is quite true appears doubtful; it cannot either be asserted or denied positively.

The world has become used to looking upon Hindenburg and Ludendorff as one; they belonged together. Together they rose to highest power, to be forcibly separated in their fall. In all business transactions Ludendorff was in the foreground. He was a great speaker, but always in a sharp tone, suggestive of the Prussian military system. It usually aroused a scene, but he seemed to take nothing amiss, and his anger vanished as rapidly as it broke out. Hindenburg's retiring modesty made him attractive. Once when we were speaking of the photographers who besieged every conference in Berlin, the old gentleman remarked: "I have lived to be seventy, and nobody ever thought there was anything wonderful about me; now they seem all at once to have discovered that I have such an interesting head." He was much more staid and quiet than Ludendorff, nor was he so sensitive to public opinion as the latter. I remember once how Ludendorff, when I exhorted him to yield on the peace question, rejoined with vigour: "The German people wishes for no peace of renunciation, and I do not intend to end by being pelted with stones. The dynasty would never survive such a peace." The dynasty has departed, the stones have been thrown, and the peace of renunciation has become a reality, and is certainly more terrible than the gloomiest pessimist could ever have believed!


The rupture between America and Germany occurred on February 3, 1917.

The Ambassador, Count Tarnowski, remained in Washington, but was not received by Wilson, and had intercourse with Lansing only. I still hoped to maintain these semi-official relations with America, in case America, in breaking off relations with Germany, might be content with that and not declare war on her. The German Government would have preferred our breaking off diplomatic relations simultaneously with them.

On February 12 Count Wedel called on me, and his request and my settlement of it appear in the following telegram to Hohenlohe:

Vienna, Feb. 12, 1917.

To notify Your Excellency.

Count Wedel has been instructed to submit to me the following three requests from his Government:

(1) Count Tarnowski is not to hand over his credentials until the situation between Germany and America is clear.

(2) Count Tarnowski must protest to Mr. Wilson against his having tried to make the neutrals turn against Germany.

(3) On the outbreak of war with Germany Count Tarnowski must be recalled.

I have refused the first two items and accepted the last.

As we should not have been able to prevent Germany from beginning the U-boat warfare, the only alternative for us was to use all means in our power to maintain our relations with America, and thus enable us later to play the part of mediator, although this could only be for that period during which America, having broken off relations, had not yet declared war. My answer of March 5, 1917, to America's request for an explanation of our standpoint was sent with the object of preventing America from breaking off relations with us, and also to keep from the public the knowledge of our divergence from Germany. This will be found noted in the appendix.[6] It met with success so far that America continued diplomatic relations with us until April 9, 1917.

I had a very lively correspondence with Stephen Tisza in consequence of my answer. I received the following letter on March 3:

DEAR FRIEND,—In the interests of the cause I can only greatly regret that I had no opportunity of appreciating the definite sense of our aide-memoire before it was dispatched. Apart from other less important matters, I cannot conceal my painful surprise that we repeatedly and expressly admit having given a promise in our Ancona Note. I am afraid that we have placed ourselves in a very awkward position with Wilson, which so easily could have been avoided, as it was not in accordance with my views that we had given a promise.

An expression of opinion is not a promise. Without wishing to detract from its moral value, it has nevertheless a different legal character, and from the point of view of a third person has no legal authority in favour of that person as a promise.

By unnecessarily having admitted that we gave the Americans a promise we admit the existence of obligations on our side to them. In spite of the fine and clever argument in our Note, it will be easy for the Americans to prove that our present procedure cannot be reconciled with the previous statement; if the statement was a promise, then the American Government has the right to look for the fulfilment of it, and we will then be in an awkward predicament. I remarked in my notification that I would prefer to omit the admission that we had made any promise; there would have been the possibility of recurring to it. By placing this weapon in their hands we have exposed ourselves to the danger of a checkmate, and I very much fear that we shall greatly regret it.

Naturally this remains between us. But I was constrained to pour out my heart to you and justify my request that the text of all such important State documents which involve such far-reaching consequences may be sent to me in time for me to study and comment on them. Believe me, it is really in the interest of the cause and in every respect can only be for the best. In sincere friendship, your devoted



It may be presumed with some semblance of truth that the peace wave in America is progressing, and that President Wilson, influenced thereby, may perhaps be able at any rate to postpone a decision of a warlike nature. Even though I may be wrong in my presumption, it lies in our interests to avoid for as long as possible the rupture of our diplomatic relations with America.

Therefore the answer to the American aide-memoire, to be dispatched as late as possible, should be so composed as to give it the appearance of a meritorious handling of the theme put forward on the American side without falling into the trap of the question put forward in the aide-memoire.

If we answer yes, then President Wilson will hardly be able to avoid a breach with the Monarchy. If we give a negative answer we shall abandon Germany and the standpoint we took up on January 31.

The handle wherewith to grasp evasion of a clear answer is provided by the aide-memoire itself, as it identifies our statements in the Ancona and Persia question with the attitude of the German Note of May 4, 1916. We should, therefore, be quite consistent if we, as we did in our Note of December 14, 1915, were to declare that we should be governed by our own ideas of justice.

In our correspondence with the American Government respecting the Ancona, Persia and Petrolite questions we treated the concrete case always without going deeper into the individual principles of legal questions. In our Note of December 29, 1915, which contains the expression of opinion cited in the aide-memoire (it may also be noted that our expression of opinion was no pledge, as we had promised nothing nor taken any obligation upon ourselves), the Austrian Government distinctly stated that they would refer later to the difficult international questions connected with the U-boat warfare.

Present war conditions did not appear suited to such a discussion. In consequence, however, of the dealings of our enemies, events have occurred and a state of things been brought about which, on our side also, renders a more intense application of the U-boat question unavoidable. Our merchantmen in the Adriatic, whenever attainable, were constantly torpedoed without warning by the enemy. Our adversaries have thus adopted the standard of the most aggravated and unrestricted U-boat warfare without the neutrals offering any resistance.

The Entente when laying their minefields displayed the same ruthlessness towards free shipping and the lives of neutrals.

Mines are considered as a recognised weapon for the definite protection of the home coast and ports, also as a means of blockading an enemy port. But the use made of them as an aggressive factor in this war is quite a new feature, for vast areas of open sea on the route of the world's traffic were converted into minefields impassable for the neutrals except at the greatest danger of their lives.

There is no question but that that is a far greater check to the freedom of movement and a greater obstacle to neutral interests than establishing the unrestricted U-boat warfare within a limited and clearly marked-out zone, leaving open channels for neutral shipping, and by other measures giving due consideration to the interests of the neutrals.

Just at the moment when the President's appeal to the entire belligerent world coincided with the spontaneous statement of our group, in which we gave a solemn proof of our willingness to conclude a just peace and one acceptable by our enemies, a fresh and larger minefield was laid down in the North Sea on the route of the world's traffic, and, casting ridicule on the noble initiative of the United States, a war of destruction against our groups of Powers was announced by the Entente.

We urge the great aims that inspired the action of the American Government: the quickest possible cessation of the fearful slaughter of men and the founding of an honourable, lasting and blessed peace by combating with the greatest energy our enemies' furious war for conquest. The course we pursue leads to the common aims of ourselves and the American Government, and we cannot give up the hope of finding understanding in the people and the Government of the United States.


I answered as follows:

March 5.

DEAR FRIEND,—I cannot agree with you. After the first Ancona Note you veered round and declared in a second Note that "we agreed with the German standpoint in the main"—that was an obvious yielding and contained a hidden promise.

I do not think that any legal wiles will dupe the Americans, and if we were to deny the promise it would not advance us any further.

But, secondly and principally, it is altogether impossible with words to make the Americans desist from war if they wish it; either they will make straight for war and then no Notes will avail, or they will seek a pretext to escape the war danger and will find it in our Note.

So much for the merits of the matter.

What you demand is technically impossible. The Note was not easy to compile. I had to alter it entirely as time went on; His Majesty then wished to see it, made some alterations and sanctioned it. Meanwhile Penfield[7] importuned me and telegraphed even a week ago to America to reassure his people; the Germans, too, had to be won over for that particular passage.

You know how ready I am to discuss important matters with you, but ultra posse nemo tenetur—it was physically impossible to upset everything again and to expect His Majesty to alter his views.

In true friendship, your


I thereupon, on March 14, received the following answer from Tisza:

DEAR FRIEND,—I also note with genuine pleasure the success of your American aide-memoire (meaning thereby America's resolve not to break off relations with us). But it does not alter my opinion that it was a pity to admit that a pledge had been given. It may be requited at a later stage of the controversy, and it would have been easy not to broach the subject for the moment.

Do you think me very obstinate? I have not suppressed the final word in our retrospective controversy so that you should not think me better than I am.

Au revoir, in true friendship, your


Tisza was strongly opposed to the U-boat warfare, and only tolerated it from reasons of vis major, because we could not prevent the German military leaders from adopting the measure, and because he, and I too, were convinced that "not joining in" would have been of no advantage to us.

Not until very much later—in fact, not until after the war—did I learn from a reliable source that Germany, with an incomprehensible misunderstanding of the situation, had restricted the building of more U-boats during the war. The Secretary of State, Capelle, was approached by competent naval technical experts, who told him that, by stopping the building of all other vessels, a fivefold number of U-boats could be built. Capelle rejected the proposal on the pretext "that nobody would know what to do with so many U-boats when the war was at an end." Germany had, as mentioned, 100 submarines; had she possessed 500, she might have achieved her aims.

I only heard this in the winter of 1918, but it was from a source from which I invariably gleaned correct information.

Seldom has any military action called forth such indignation as the sinking, without warning, of enemy ships. And yet the observer who judges from an objective point of view must admit that the waging war on women and children was not begun by us, but by our enemies when they enforced the blockade. Millions have perished in the domains of the Central Powers through the blockade, and chiefly the poorest and weakest people—the greater part women and children—were the victims. If, to meet the argument, it be asserted that the Central Powers were as a besieged fortress, and that in 1870 the Germans starved Paris in similar fashion, there is certainly some truth in the argument. But it is just as true—as stated in the Note of March 5—that in a war on land no regard is ever paid to civilians who venture into the war zone, and that no reason is apparent why a war at sea should be subject to different moral conditions. When a town or village is within the range of battle, the fact has never prevented the artillery from acting in spite of the danger to the women and children. But in the present instance, the non-combatants of the enemy States who are in danger can easily escape it by not undertaking a sea voyage.

Since the debacle in the winter of 1918, I have thoroughly discussed the matter with English friends of long standing, and found that their standpoint was—that it was not the U-boat warfare in itself that had roused the greatest indignation, but the cruel nature of the proceedings so opposed to international law. Also, the torpedoing of hospital ships by the Germans, and the firing on passengers seeking to escape, and so on. These accounts are flatly contradicted by the Germans, who, on their part, have terrible tales to tell of English brutality, as instanced by the Baralong episode.

There have, of course, been individual cases of shameful brutality in all the armies; but that such deeds were sanctioned or ordered by the German or English Supreme Commands I do not believe.

An inquiry by an international, but neutral, court would be the only means of bringing light to bear on the matter.

Atrocities such as mentioned are highly to be condemned, no matter who the perpetrators are; but in itself, the U-boat warfare was an allowable means of defence.

The blockade is now admitted to be a permissible and necessary proceeding; the unrestricted U-boat warfare is stigmatised as a crime against international law. That is the sentence passed by might but not by right. In days to come history will judge otherwise.


[5] The Ambassador, Gottfried, Prince Hohenlohe-Schillingsfurst.

[6] See p. 279.

[7] Mr. Penfield, American Ambassador to Vienna.




The constitutional procedure which prevails in every parliamentary state is ordered so that the minister is responsible to a body of representatives. He is obliged to account for what he has done. His action is subject to the judgment and criticism of the body of representatives. If the majority of that body are against the minister, he must go.

The control of foreign policy in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was in the hands of the delegations.

Besides which, however, there existed in the Hungarian Constitution a regulation to the effect that the Hungarian Prime Minister was responsible to the country for the foreign policy, and, consequently, the "foreign policy of the Monarchy had to be carried out, in conjunction, by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs in office and the Prime Minister."

It depended entirely on the personality of the Hungarian Prime Minister how he observed the regulation. Under Burian's regime it had become the custom for all telegrams and news, even of the most secret nature, to be communicated at once to Count Tisza, who then brought his influence to bear on all decisions and tactical events. Tisza possessed a most extraordinary capacity for work. He always found time to occupy himself very thoroughly with foreign policy, notwithstanding his own numerous departmental duties, and it was necessary, therefore, to gain his consent to every step taken. The control of our foreign policy was, therefore, twofold—both by the delegation and the Prime Minister.

Great as was my esteem and respect for Count Tisza and close the friendship between us, still his constant supervision and intervention put boundless difficulties in the way of the discharge of business. It was not easy, even in normal times, to contend with, on top of all the existing difficulties that confront a Minister for Foreign Affairs; in war, it became an impossibility. The unqualified presumption behind such twofold government would have been that the Hungarian Prime Minister should consider all questions from the standpoint of the entire Monarchy, and not from that of the Magyar centre, a presumption which Tisza ignored like all other Hungarians. He did not deny it. He has often told me that he knew no patriotism save the Hungarian, but that it was in the interests of Hungary to keep together with Austria; therefore, he saw most things with a crooked vision. Never would he have ceded one single square metre of Hungarian territory; but he raised no objection to the projected cession of Galicia. He would rather have let the whole world be ruined than give up Transylvania; but he took no interest whatever in the Tyrol.

Apart from that, he applied different rules for Austria than for Hungary. He would not allow of the slightest alteration in Hungary's internal conditions, as they must not be effected through external pressure. When I, forced thereto by the distress due to lack of provisions, yielded to Ukrainian wishes and notified the Austrian Ministry of the Ukrainian desire to divide Galicia in two, Tisza was fully in accordance therewith. He went even further. He opposed any expansion of the Monarchy as it might weaken Hungary's influence. All his life he was an opponent of the Austro-Polish solution, and a mortal enemy of the tripartist project; he intended that Poland at most should rank as an Austrian province, but would prefer to make her over to Germany. He did not even wish Roumania to be joined with Hungary, as that would weaken the Magyar influence in Hungary. He looked upon it as out of the question to grant the Serbians access to the sea, because he wanted the Serbian agricultural products when he was in need of them; nor would he leave an open door for the Serbian pigs, as he did not wish the price of the Hungarian to be lowered. Tisza went still further. He was a great stickler for equality in making appointments to foreign diplomatic posts, but I could not pay much heed to that. If I considered the Austrian X better fitted for the post of ambassador than the Hungarian Y, I selected him in spite of eventual disagreement.

This trait in the Hungarian, though legally well founded, was unbearable and not to be maintained in war, and led to various disputes between Tisza and myself; and now that he is dead, these scenes leave me only a feeling of the deepest regret for many a hasty word that escaped me. We afterwards made a compromise. Tisza promised never to interfere except in cases of the greatest urgency, and I promised to take no important step without his approval. Soon after this arrangement he was dismissed by the Emperor for very different reasons.

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