“Let Papa plan not war, for with the war will come the end of Russia and yourselves, and you will lose to the last man.”
Grigory Rasputin; telegram to Anna Vyrubova, July 30, 1914.
“Batiushka. I write you while in pain and stretched out in a hospital bed. Dear friend, I will say again a menacing cloud is over Russia. Lots of sorrow and grief. It is dark and there is no light to be seen. A sea of tears, immeasurable, and as to blood? What can I say? There are no words. The horror of it is indescribable. I know they keep wanting war from you evidently not knowing that this is destruction. Heavy is God’s punishment. When he takes away reason that is the beginning of the end. Thou art the Tsar Father of the People, don’t allow the madmen to triumph and destroy themselves and the people. They will conquer Germany, and what about Russia? If one then thinks very hard, there has not been a greater sufferer since the beginning of time. She is all drowned in blood. Terrible is the destruction and without end will be the grief.”
Grigory Rasputin; telegram to Tsar Nicholas, July 30, 1914.
We thus get the following summary:
COLONIAL POSSESSIONS OF THE GREAT POWERS
(Million square kilometers and million inhabitants)
|Total for 6 Great Powers||40.4||273.8||65.0||523.4||16.5||437.2||81.5||960.6|
|Colonies of other powers (Belgium, Holland, etc.)||9.9||45.3|
|Semi-colonial countries (Persia, China, Turkey)||14.5||361.2|
|Total for whole world||133.9||1,657.0|
V. I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism
"We shall not escape war now! Germany is obviously evading the mediatorial intervention for which we asked her and all she is after is to gain time to complete her military preparations in secret. In these circumstances I don’t think Your Majesty can postpone the order for general mobilization any longer."
The Tsar was deadly pale and replied in a choking voice
"Just think of the responsibility you’re advising me to assume! Remember it’s a question of sending thousands and thousands of men to their death!"
" Neither your Majesty’s conscience nor mine will have anything to be reproached with if war breaks out. Your Majesty and the Government will have done everything to spare the world this terrible visitation. But now I feel certain that diplomacy has finished its work. We must henceforth think of the safety of the empire. If Your Majesty stops our preliminary mobilization all you will do is to dislocate our military organization and disconcert our allies. The war will break out just the same at Germany’s appointed time – and will catch us in hopeless confusion. "
After a moment’s reflection the Tsar said in a firm voice:
"Sergei Dimitrievitch, ring up the Chief of Staff and tell him I order general mobilization."
Sazonov went down to the hall of the palace where the telephone cabinet was and transmitted the imperial order to General Janushkevitch.
It was exactly four o’clock.
Maurice Paléologue- An Ambassador’s Memoirs
The last session of the International Socialist Bureau was held at Brussels on July 29, 1914. The following resolution was adopted: “The International Socialist Bureau, at its meeting held today, July 29, upon listening to the reports of the representatives of all countries that may be involved in a world war on the political situation in those countries, has resolved unanimously that it shall be the duty of the workers of all nations concerned not only to continue but to further intensify their demonstrations against the war, for peace, and for the settlement of the Austro-Serbian conflict by international arbitration. The German and the French workers shall exert the most energetic pressure upon the governments of their respective countries in order that Germany shall restrain the war ardor of Austria, and that France shall obtain from Russia noninterference in the conflict. The British and Italian workers shall, on their part, support those efforts with all their energy. The extraordinary congress which is being called to meet at Paris will be a vigorous expression of this will for peace of the international proletariat.”
|The German language of my childhood was the dialect that was spoken also in Lower Bavaria; I was neither able to forget it nor to learn the Viennese jargon. The longer I stayed in this city, the more my hatred increased against the mixture of foreign nations that began to eat up this site of old German culture. The idea that this State could still be maintained even then seemed ridiculous to me. Austria was at that time like an old mosaic; the cement which held the single little stones together had become old and brittle; as long as the masterpiece is untouched, it can still pretend to be existent, but as soon as it is given a blow, it breaks into a thousand fragments. The question, therefore, was only when the blow would come. … If formerly in Vienna, Germany had above all else appeared to me as an unshakable colossus, now, however, anxious doubts sometimes began to rise in my mind. With myself and in the small circles of my acquaintances, I was wrathful at German foreign politics, and also at what seemed to me an unbelievably frivolous manner with which one faced the most important problem that confronted Germany in those days: Marxism. I really could not understand how one was able to stagger blindly towards a danger the ultimate effects of which, corresponding to its own intentions, were one day bound to be monstrous. In those days I warned those around me, as I am doing today on a larger scale, against the fervent prayer of all cowardly wretches: ‘Nothing can happen to us!’ Was not Germany subject to exactly the same laws as all other human communities? In the years 1913 and 1914, in various circles, some of which today stand faithfully by the movement, I expressed for the first time the conviction that the question of the future of the German nation is the question of the destruction of Marxism. … DURING the years of my unruly youth nothing had grieved me more than having been born at a time when temples of glory were only erected to merchants or State officials. The waves of historical events seemed to have calmed down to such an extent that the future appeared really to belong to the ‘peaceful competition of nations’ that means a quiet mutual cheating, excluding forceful measures. The individual States began more and more to resemble enterprises which cut the ground from under each other, stole each other’s customers and orders, and tried to cheat each other by every means, setting this in a scene which was as noisy as it was harmless. This development, however, not only seemed to endure, but it was intended to transform the world (with general approval) into one big department store, in the lobbies of which the busts of the most cunning profiteers and the most harmless administration officials were to be stored for eternity. The business men were to be supplied by the English, the administration officials by the Germans; the Jews, however, would have to sacrifice themselves to being proprietors, because, as they themselves admitted, they never earn anything but only ‘pay’ and, besides, they speak most of the languages. Why could one not have been born a hundred years earlier? For instance, at the time of the Wars of Liberation when a man really was worth something, even without ‘business’?! … Already during my Viennese time there hovered over the Balkans that fallow sultriness which usually announces a hurricane, but at times a brighter light flashed up only to return immediately into the uncanny darkness. But then came the Balkan War, and with it the first gust of wind swept over a Europe which had grown nervous. The time that followed, however, weighed heavily upon the people like a nightmare, brooding like the feverish heat of the tropics, so that in consequence of the continued anxiety, the feeling of the impending catastrophe finally turned into longing; might Heaven at last let Destiny, no longer to be restrained, take its full course! … On the southeast border of her realm Austria had an inexorable and mortal enemy who challenged the monarchy at shorter and shorter intervals, and who would not have given in till finally the favorable moment for the destruction of the realm had actually come. One had reason to fear that this event would happen not later than with the death of the old emperor; but then perhaps the monarchy would no longer be in a position to render any serious resistance. The entire State, during these last years, was represented to such an extent by the person of Franz Joseph that from the beginning, the death of this aged personification of the realm was looked upon by the great masses as the death of the realm itself. It was indeed the most cunning artfulness of the Slav policy to create the impression as though the Austrian State owed its existence to the really wonderful and unique skill of this monarch; a flattery which was the more favorably received in the Hofburg as it corresponded least of all to the actual merits of the emperor. … If at that time the Viennese government had given the ultimatum another, milder wording, this would not have changed anything in the situation except perhaps the fact that the government itself would have been swept away by the indignation of the people. Because, in the eyes of the great masses, the tone of the ultimatum was much too considerate and in no way too brutal or even too far-reaching. Those who today try to deny this are either forgetful empty-heads or quite deliberately cheats and liars. The fight of the year 1914 was certainly not forced upon the masses, good God! but desired by the entire people itself. One wanted at last to make an end to the general uncertainty. Only thus is it understandable that for this most serious of all struggles more than two million German men and boys joined the flag voluntarily, ready to protect it with their last drop of blood. To me personally those hours appeared like the redemption from the annoying moods of my youth. Therefore I am not ashamed today to say that, overwhelmed by impassionate enthusiasm, I had fallen on my knees and thanked Heaven out of my overflowing heart that it had granted me the good fortune of being allowed to live in these times. A struggle for freedom had broken out, greater than the world had ever seen before; because, once Fate had begun its course, the conviction began to dawn on the great masses that this time the question involved was not Serbia’s or Austria’s fate, but the existence or non-existence of the German nation. For the last time in many years, the German nation had become clairvoyant about its own future. Thus, at the very beginning of the enormous struggle the intoxication of the exuberant enthusiasm was mixed with the necessary serious undertone… What man desires, he hopes and believes. The overwhelming majority of the nation had long been tired of the eternally uncertain state of things; thus one could only too readily understand that one no longer believed in a peaceful adjustment of the Austro-Serbian conflict, but hoped for the final settlement. I, too, belonged to these millions. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf|
Herr Settembrini belonged to the Francophile party in his own country. which was not surprising when one recalled that his grandfather had compared the six days of the July Revolution to the six days of the creation, and seen that they were as good. But the understanding between the en- lightened republic and Byzantine Scythia was too much for him, it oppressed his breast, and at the same time made him breathe quicker for hope and joy at the thought of the strategic meaning of that network of railways. Then came the Serajevo murder, for everyone excepting German Seven-Sleepers a storm-signal; decisive for the informed ones, among whom we may reckon Herr Settembrini. Hans Castorp saw him shudder as a private citizen at the frightful deed, while in the same moment his breast heaved with the knowledge that this was a deed of popular liberation, directed against the citadel of his loathing. On the other hand, was it not also the fruit of Muscovite activity, and as such giving rise to great heart-searchings? Which did not hinder him, three weeks later, from characterizing the extreme demands of the monarchy upon Servia as a hideous crime and an insult to human dignity, the consequences of which he could foresee well enough, and awaited in breathless excitement.
During those days of stifling expectation, when the nerves of Europe were on the rack, Hans Castorp did not see Herr Settembrini. The newspapers with their wild, chaotic contents pressed up out of the depths to his very balcony, they disorganized the house, filled the dining-room with their sulphurous, stifling breath, even penetrated the chambers of the dying. These were the moments when the “Seven-Sleeper,” not knowing what had happened, was slowly stirring himself in the grass, before he sat up,rubbed his eyes – yes, let us carry the figure to the end, in order to do justice to the movement of our hero’s mind: he drew up his legs, stood up, looked about him. He saw himself released, freed from enchantment – not of his own motion, he was fain to confess, but by the operation of exterior powers, of whose activities his own liberation was a minor incident indeed! Yet though his tiny destiny fainted to nothing in the face of the general, was there not some hint of a personal mercy and grace for him, a manifestation of divine goodness and justice? Would Life receive again her erring and “delicate” child – not by a cheap and easy slipping back to her arms, but sternly, solemnly, peni- tentially – perhaps not even among the living, but only with three salvoes fired over the grave of him a sinner? Thus might he return. He sank on his knees, raising face and hands to a heaven that howsoever dark and sulphurous was no longer the gloomy grotto of his state of sin.
And in this attitude Herr Settembrini found him – figuratively and most figuratively spoken, for full well we know our hero’s traditional reserve would render such theatricality impossible. Herr Settembrini, in fact, found him packing his trunk. For since the moment of his sudden awakening, Hans Castorp had been caught up in the hurry and scurry of a wild departure, brought about by the thunderpeal. “Home” – the Berghof – was the picture of an anthill in a panic: its little population was flinging itself, heels over head, five thousand feet downwards to the catastrophe-smitten flat-land. They stormed the little trains, they crowded them to the footboard – luggageless, if needs must, and the stacks of luggage piled high the station platform, the seething platform, to the height of which the scorching breath from the flat-land seemed to mount – and Hans Castorp stormed with them. In the heart of the tumult Ludovico embraced him, quite literally enfolded him in his arms and kissed him, like a southerner – but like a Russian too – on both his cheeks; and this, despite his own emotion, took our wild traveller no little aback. But he nearly lost his composure when, at the very last, Herr Settembrini called him “Giovanni” and, laying aside the form of address common to the cultured West, spoke to him with the thou!
“E cosi in giù” he said. “Cosi vai in giù finalmente – addio, Giovanni mio! Quite otherwise had I thought to see thee go. But be it so, the gods have willed it thus and not otherwise. I hoped to discharge you to go down to your work, and now you go to fight among your kindred. My God, it was given to you and not to your cousin, our Tenente! What tricks life plays! Go, then, it is your blood that calls, go and fight bravely. More than that can no man. But forgive me if I devote the remnant of my powers to incite my country to fight where the Spirit and sacro egoismo point the way. Addio! ”
Hans Castorp thrust out his head among ten others, filling the little open window-frame. He waved. And Herr Settembrini waved back, with his right hand, while with the ring-finger of his left he delicately touched the corner of his eye.
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
Both Ambassadors telegraph to their Foreign Offices, but Lichnowsky with true prophetic inspiration adds the words: “Grey’s proposal is the only possibility of avoiding a world war, in which for us there woidd be everything to lose and nothing to gain. . . . In case France should be drawn in, England would not dare to remain disinterested.”
At the same time Grey sends his third appeal to Petersburg: “Public opinion here would not sanction our going to war over a Serbian quarrel. If, however, war does take place, the development of other issues may draw us into it, and I am therefore anxious to prevent it. . . . The only chance of peace, in my opinion, is for the other four Powers to join in asking the Austrian and Russian Governments not to cross the frontier. … // Germany will adopt this view, I feel strongly that France and ourselves should act upon it.”
Thus on the same day the German reported to his Foreign Office as a supposition what England was reporting to her Embassies both at Berlin and Petersburg as a possibility: in case of war she could scarcely remain neutral.
Here the tragic chain of cause and effect begins. From this moment Grey revolves in his head one single thought: “Shall I tell the world—shall I tell Germany, openly, what I am telling my Ambassadors confidentially; that Germany must give way, because on the outbreak of war we, too, shall mobilise? Paris and Petersburg are waiting for our supporting assurance. I cannot give it, for only Parliament can decide the vital question. If I bind my country by a ‘yes’ to-day, that country can disavow me to-morrow, for neither I nor Asquith nor anyone else knows what the man in the street, what Press and Parliament will say when it comes to the point. Everything will then depend on the circumstances, on whether it looks as though we or the others were being the aggressors.” . . . “And yet I ought to threaten,” his thoughts run on. “In Berlin and Vienna the soldiers are working for war, and Germany’s terrible army, which is better prepared than that of its enemies, can hope for victory over two allies, but not over three.”
Grey afterwards described the central point of these inward struggles in these words:
“One danger I saw, so hideous that it must be avoided and guarded against at every word. It was that France and Russia might face the ordeal of war with Germany relying upon our support; that this support might not be forthcoming, and that we might then, when it was too late, be held responsible by them for having let them in for a disastrous war.”
Here is revealed, as in a classical tragedy, the desperate situation of a man in authority seeking with all the force of his heart and soul to avoid the false step whose fatal consequences he foresees; and yet fatally doomed, whichever way he turns, to take that false step because, in a weak moment, he had been led into making half-promises. Small is the guilt, pure the will, great the confusion, true the effort, tragic the end.
Emil Ludwig, July ’14