Primary Documents - German Reaction to the Japanese Capture of Tsingtao, 8 November 1914

Japanese artillery in Shantung province enroute to Tsingtao Reproduced below is a commentary which appeared in a German newspaper on 8 November 1914, the day after the German-held territory of Tsingtao fell into Japanese control.  The author of the article was Rear-Admiral Schlieper, who had served in Tsingtao some years earlier, and who had rejoiced in the territory's superior management by Germany.

In his article Schlieper mourned the loss of Tsingtao in passionate terms, and heaped scorn upon its joint conquerors, Japan and Britain.

Click here to read the ultimatum sent by Japanese Prime Minister Okuma to Berlin shortly before war was declared between Japan and Germany.  Click here to read Minister for Foreign Affairs Baron Kato's rationale for the decision to go to war.

German Reaction to the Fall of Tsingtao - A Newspaper Commentary by Rear-Admiral Schlieper, 8 November 1914

"We guarantee performance of our duty - to the last!"

A solemn heritage have these words become, these words which the governor, naval Captain Meyer-Waldeck, just managed to have transmitted by telegraph to his Commander-in-Chief, from far-away Kiau-chau as a characteristic German pledge.

Each one of us here in the Fatherland, clearly realizing that the message voiced much bitter tragedy, was grateful in his inmost soul to the brave man.  Those of us, however, who had been permitted to witness that which out yonder had been undertaken and developed with enthusiasm and flaming love of country, will to-day, on the morning of November 8th, have felt especially sorrowful when they read these words: "Tsing-tau has fallen!"

The flags were yet waving in celebration of the German naval victory along the coast of Chile off Coronel - and already there comes in the quick succession of events the solemn tidings of the end of an heroic struggle, which was maintained on a rocky height against gigantic odds.

We saw it coming - and yet our thoughts rebelled against the accomplished fact, our whole being revolted against so much baseness and deceit which a dual alliance, consisting of our white cousins and of wily yellow Asiatics, had instigated against German possessions.

A sudden pang may flash through us when we view so much German blood spilled, but at the same moment our hearts should beat in fervent gratitude for our heroes of Tsing-tau.

For seventeen years the German flag waved above yonder rocky post.  When in the nineties the awakening of the Asiatic East steadily progressed, when a slit-eyed island folk became always more desirous of mastering everything considered European, the time had come for Germany to get a foothold in order to be able to maintain her "place in the sun."

The commanders of our naval military forces had long had their orders for this reason to look around; and when the murder of two German missionaries in Shantung demanded energetic action, Admiral von Diedrichs, with the landing troops of the ships under his command, occupied the Chinese barracks on the northern cape of the bay of Kiau-chau.

On the same day he raised the German flag in spite of the vehement protests of the Chinese general who was stationed there.  On March 6, 1898, China agreed to a lease which should run for ninety-nine years, by which the bay of Kiau-chau, and a territory, in accordance with her wishes, was ceded to Germany.

Thereupon, by sending a division, consisting of ships and marines and detachments of sailor-artillery, care was taken that the new possession received augmented protection.  After the barracks and dwellings had been first of all thoroughly cleansed for weeks - as a brother-officer wrote to me at the time - German Kultur could placidly make its entrance in Tsing-tau and the surrounding country.  And this came to pass.

With what love and care, with what pride and desire to create, the work was carried on in our far distant Kiau-chau, this pen is not capable of describing.  But one could easily follow it up in the monographs and plans published annually by the Imperial naval office.

It has been my privilege to visit many of our colonies and for a long time, but nowhere did I meet such a beneficent joy in creating as in Tsing-tau.  Every one wished to accomplish great things, and to emulate the other workers.  Everything was permeated with German thought and German soundness.  There it was demonstrated to foreigners, to those who have now stolen it from us.  The German can colonize, even if he has pursued it only in recent years.

Seventeen years under the German flag!  How everything developed during that time!  German hydraulic architecture and energy called into existence an extensive harbour.  Lighthouses, casting their beams far and wide, were erected on points and steep ridges.  One villa after another arose, not pretentious and obtrusive, no, rather tasteful and snug.

Soon whistled the locomotive; the powerful step of our splendid marine artillery resounded on the well-cared-for new roads.  Where once upon a time bleak rocks stood out prominently against the sky, the green of German afforesting soon covered the bare surfaces.  Everything was furthered - even the annual stream of guests, who, coming especially from Shanghai, disported themselves on the beach of Tsing-tau.

The governors, Truppel and Jaeschke, shaped a territory which a Meyer-Waldeck with his faithful followers was to defend to the knife in the past months.

Yes, everything flourished in Kiau-chau; but for this very reason, desire, greed, always came nearer and wished to taste, no, not to taste, to possess the whole of it.  The opportunity for highway robbery could not have been more favourable.

The World War had been enkindled - so quickly help yourself, for Germania has her hands full at home.  Therefore act quickly; for we'll never gain our object more easily, and our white colleague there under the Union Jack, who always acts as if he were so superior but who really fears us yellow folks out here, he is fighting on our side, wants to crush his cousin with us.  So quickly send an ultimatum to Germany, an insolent one to be sure, what does that matter.  "Near is my shirt, but nearer is my skin"; and our colleague, John Bull, he would so much like it.

A disdainful rejection was the answer of Germania and then Meyer-Waldeck drew his sword!  "War! War!" was re-echoed in the region of Tsing-tau, "war against a fine pair of brothers! So let it be: we shall fight to the last drop of blood."

And how they did fight!  Nothing came of the desire to present the fall of Tsing-tau as a birthday present to the Mikado on October 31st, as the Japanese had planned.  There was bitter fighting.  The enemy often sustained bloody repulses.

The warships, including the Kaiserin Elizabeth, of the Austro-Hungarian navy, valiantly assisted.  The Kaiserin Elizabeth wanted at all events to fight with us, to conquer, or to sink.  Then on September 28th, Tsing-tau was completely cut off by land; the situation steadily became more serious.  From far and near the compatriots had hastened there - they would not desert their dear Tsing-tau at such a critical time.

On September 27th combined Japanese and English forces had advanced to the Litsun River.  In the ensuing engagements they left one hundred and fifty dead and wounded on the place of combat.

On October 14th two German forts fell after a heavy bombardment on the part of the hostile warships.  But the German guns answered smartly.  A 20-centimetre projectile strikes the deck of the English man-of-war Triumph and causes heavy damage.

In the meantime the German torpedo-boat S-90 has destroyed the Japanese cruiser Takashiho in a bold attack.  What does it matter that it had later on to sacrifice itself, as it would otherwise have fallen the prey of a large hostile superior force!  It was able to save its crew.

The odds steadily increase, the glances toward the German eagle become more covetous, as the latter, bleeding from many wounds, stakes his all to keep what he has acquired, but which under his protection only too readily has stirred up the envy of others, even as this despicable trait of our opponents is the real reason for the World War.

A dreary, melancholy, grey November day without!  Gone is the decoration of flags and the rejoicing of the day of Coronel!  Everything in its time!  To-day the throb of our hearts belongs to you heroes out yonder, our whole mood, our whole sentiment; for you have fought as German heroes have never been better able to do.

But we here at home, we will continually repeat it to our children: Do not forget November 7, 1914: do not forget to pay back those yellow Asiatics, who had learned so much from us, for the great wrong they have done to us, stirred up though they were by the petty English mercenary spirit!

My pen refuses to go on!  But one thing more I should like to attest to: Of a truth, ye heroes - ye dead, ye mortally wounded ones and ye survivors - ye did your duty to the last!

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

The Austro-Hungarian declaration of war was the first ever delivered by telegram.

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Primary Docs