Primary Documents - Kaiser Wilhelm on Austria's Ultimatum, July 1914

Kaiser Wilhelm II and sons Reproduced below are a series of telegrams sent by Baron Tschirschky - German ambassador in Vienna - to the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II.

Tschirschky reported upon events in Vienna surrounding preparation currently underway for presentation of a strict ultimatum to Serbia in retaliation for the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand a few days earlier in Sarajevo.

Of most interest however are the Kaiser's annotated notes upon the telegrams.  These are indicated in the text in italics.

Telegrams from Baron Tschirschky to Kaiser Wilhelm II, 30 June-14 July 1914

30 June 1914

Count Berchtold told me to-day there was every indication that the threads of the conspiracy of which the Archduke was the victim centre at Belgrade.  The affair was so cleverly designed that very young persons had been expressly selected to execute the crime, since they could not be sentenced to more than secondary penalties.  (I certainly hope this is not the case.)  The Minister spoke with intense bitterness of the Serbian plots.

I have heard even people of moderation and responsible judgment express a desire to settle once for all Austria's account with the Serbs.  (Now or never!)  They think one should submit to the Serbs a series of conditions, and in case they do not accept them, should take vigorous measures.

I am seizing every opportunity to dissuade people quietly but seriously from precipitate measures.  (Who has authorised that?  Utterly stupid!, It's none of his business!  It is for Austria alone to decide what she considers it necessary to do.  If things go wrong later, they will say: Germany opposed!  Let Tschirschky do me the favour to drop such foolishness.  The Serbs must be settled with as soon as possible.  That is self-evident.  It is something that requires no argument.)

First of all, it is important for people to know precisely what they wish.  Up to the present, I have heard nothing but very vague and confused impressions.  It would be well to weigh carefully the possible results of any act, and to bear in mind that Austria-Hungary is not the only country in the world; that she must show due consideration for her allies and keep in view the European situation as a whole; especially that she should not lose sight of Italy's and Rumania's attitude in matters concerning Serbia.

10 July 1914

Berchtold is complaining of Count Tisza's attitude, which makes it difficult to proceed vigorously against Serbia.  Tisza pretends that they should act "like gentlemen."  (With assassins! After all that has happened! Stupidity!)

14 July 1914

During the discussion to-day it was unanimously decided that it was advisable to wait until Poincare had left Russia before taking up matters with Belgrade.  (Too bad!)  For it is important, so far as is possible, to prevent the relations of those two Powers from being influenced, and perhaps determined, at St. Petersburg during the exhilaration of champagne dinners and demonstrations of fraternity by Poincare, Iswolsky, and the Grand Dukes.  It would be better to have the toast over before the Ultimatum is sent.  We shall be able to go ahead on July 25.

14 July 1914 (later)

Count Tisza called on me to-day after seeing Count Berchtold.  He told me that he was a man who always counselled prudence, but that every day strengthened his opinion that the Monarchy must make up its mind to act energetically (Certainly!) in order to prove its vigour and to end once for all the deplorable situation on its southeastern border.

The language of the Serbian press and of Serbian diplomats is insupportably arrogant.  Tisza told me: "It has been disagreeable for me to advise war; but I am now fully convinced that it is necessary, and I shall exert myself to the utmost in behalf of the Monarchy."

The final text of the note to be delivered to Serbia is not yet drafted.  It will be ready Sunday (July 19).  It has been decided that it will be better to wait until Poincare leaves St. Petersburg, that is, until July 25, before delivering it to Serbia.  (What a pity!)

But as soon as the period allowed Serbia to reply has elapsed, or in case she does not accept all the conditions without reservations, mobilization will be ordered.  The note has been drafted in such a way that it will be practically impossible for Serbia to accept it. (William II underlined this sentence twice.)

[Tschirschky then explained that Berchtold was considering what demands had best be put forward to make Serbia's acceptance wholly impossible. To this the Kaiser noted]

Evacuate the Sandjak (note: certain Turkish territory previously ceded by Austria to Serbia) then the row will begin.  Austria must without fail get it back so as to stop the unification of Serbia and Montenegro and the Serbs reaching the sea.

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

'minnie' was a term used to describe the German trench mortar minnenwerfer (another such term was Moaning Minnie).

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