Primary Documents - Germany's Appeal to Americans, August 1914

Captured Russian machine guns on display in Berlin Below is the text of a public appeal issued by prominent politicians, industrialists and bankers in Germany to the citizens of the then-neutral U.S.

Essentially a propaganda exercise the appeal was designed to instil in the minds of its American readers the firm notion that Russia was chiefly responsible for the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914, aided and abetted by France and Britain.

German Appeal to Americans

Issued by an Imposing Committee of Leading German Statesmen, Scholars, Bankers and Merchants, Including Prince von Bulow, Marshal von der Goltz, Matthias Erzerberger, Herr Ballin, Count von Reventlow, and the Head of the Imperial Bank

Listen, All Ye People!

Try to realize, every one of you, what we are going through!  Only a few weeks ago all of us were peacefully following our several vocations.  The peasant was gathering in this summer's plentiful crop, the factory hand was working with accustomed vigour.

Not one human being among us dreamed of war.  We are a nation that wishes to lead a quiet and industrious life.  This need hardly be stated to you Americans.  You, of all others, know the temper of the German who lives within your gates.

Our love of peace is so strong that it is not regarded by us in the light of a virtue, we simply know it to be an inborn and integral portion of ourselves.  Since the foundation of the German Empire in the year 1871, we, living in the centre of Europe, have given an example of tranquillity and peace, never once seeking to profit by any momentary difficulties of our neighbours.

Our commercial extension, our financial rise in the world, are far removed from any love of adventure, they are the fruit of painstaking and plodding labour.

We are not credited with this temper, because we are insufficiently known.  Our situation and our way of thinking are not easily grasped.

Every one is aware that we have produced great philosophers and poets, we have preached the gospel of humanity with impassioned zeal.  America fully appreciates Goethe and Kant, looks upon them as corner-stones of elevated culture.  Do you really believe that we have changed our natures, that our souls can be satisfied with military drill and servile obedience?

We are soldiers because we have to be soldiers, because otherwise Germany and German civilization would be swept away from the face of the earth.  It has cost us long and weary struggles to attain our independence, and we know full well that, in order to preserve it, we must not content ourselves with building schools and factories, we must look to our garrisons and forts.

We and all our soldiers have remained, however, the same lovers of music and lovers of exalted thought.  We have retained our old devotion to all peaceable sciences and arts; as all the world knows, we work in the foremost rank of all those who strive to advance the exchange of commodities, who further useful, technical knowledge.

But we have been forced to become a nation of soldiers, in order to be free.  And we are bound to follow our Kaiser, because he symbolizes and represents the unity of our nation.  To-day, knowing no distinction of party, no difference of opinion, we rally around him, willing to shed the last drop of our blood.

For though it takes a great deal to rouse us Germans, when once aroused, our feelings run deep and strong.  Every one is filled with this passion, with the soldier's ardour.  But when the waters of the deluge shall have subsided, gladly will we return to the plow and to the anvil.

It deeply distresses us to see two highly civilized nations, England and France, joining the onslaught of autocratic Russia.  That this could happen, will remain one of the anomalies of history.  It is not our fault: we firmly believed in the desirability of the great nations working together, we peaceably came to terms with France and England in sundry difficult African questions.

There was no cause for war between Western Europe and us, no reason why Western Europe should feel itself constrained to further the power of the Czar.

The Czar, as an individual, is most certainly not the instigator of the unspeakable horrors that are now inundating Europe.  But he bears before God and Posterity the responsibility of having allowed himself to be terrorized by an unscrupulous military clique.

Ever since the weight of the crown has pressed upon him, lie has been the tool of others.  He did not desire the brutalities in Finland, he did not approve of the iniquities of the Jewish Pogroms, but his hand was too weak to stop the fury of the reactionary party.

Why would he not permit Austria to pacify her southern frontier?  It was inconceivable that Austria should calmly see her heir apparent murdered.  How could she?

All the nationalities under her rule realized the impossibility of tamely allowing Serbia's only too evident and successful intrigues to be carried on under her very eyes.

The Austrians could not allow their venerable and sorely stricken monarch to be wounded and insulted any longer.  This reasonable and honourable sentiment on the part of Austria has caused Russia to put itself forward as the patron of Serbia, as the enemy of European thought and civilization.

Russia has an important mission to fulfill in its own country and in Asia.  It would do better in its own interest to leave the rest of the world in peace.  But the die is cast, and all nations must decide whether they wish to further us by sentiments and by deeds, or the government of the Czar.

This is the real significance of this appalling struggle, all the rest is immaterial.  Russia's attitude alone has forced us to go to war with France and with their great ally.

The German nation is serious and conscientious.  Never would a German Government dare to contemplate a war for the sake of dynastic interest, or for the sake of glory.  This would be against the entire bent of our character.

Firmly believing in the justice of our cause, all parties, the conservatives and the clericals, the liberals and the socialists, have joined hands. All disputes are forgotten, one duty exists for all, the duty of defending our country and vanquishing the enemy.

Will not this calm, self-reliant and unanimous readiness to sacrifice all, to die or to win, appeal to other nations and force them to understand our real character and the situation in which we are placed?

The war has severed us from the rest of the world, all our cable communications are destroyed.  But the winds will carry the mighty voice of justice even across the ocean.  We trust in God, we have confidence in the judgment of right-minded men.  And through the roar of battle, we call to you all.  Do not believe the mischievous lies that our enemies are spreading about!

We do not know if victory will be ours, the Lord alone knows.  We have not chosen our path, we must continue doing our duty, even to the very end.  We bear the misery of war, the death of our sons, believing in Germany, believing in duty.

And we know that Germany cannot be wiped from the face of the earth.

Photograph courtesy of Photos of the Great War website

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. II, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

"Lance corporal bacon" was the name used by Anzac soldiers to describe very fatty bacon with a sliver of lean meat running through it.

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