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The Army Intervenes in the Crisis: Helmuth J. L. von Moltke to Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (July 29, 1914)

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One cannot deny that Russia has cleverly orchestrated this affair. Making continued assurances that it has not yet “mobilized” but is merely making preparations “just in case,” that it has “thus far” not called up reservists, Russia has managed to make such comprehensive preparations for war that it will be ready to advance just a few days after announcing mobilization. This puts Austria in a desperate situation and means it will be forced to take the lead by protecting itself from any unforeseen action taken by Russia. Russia will say: “Austria, you are mobilizing against us. You want to go to war against us.” Russia claims it does not intend to take any action against Germany, but the Russians know full well that Germany cannot remain on the sidelines in the event of a hostile clash between its ally and Russia. Germany will also be forced to mobilize, and, once again, Russia will be able to say to the world: “I did not want war; Germany is the cause.” The matter will and must proceed in this manner if there is no last-minute miracle to avert a war that is destined to destroy, for decades to come, almost all of European civilization.

Germany does not want to be the cause of this egregious war, but the German government knows that it would fatefully violate the deepest bonds of national loyalty—one of the noblest features of the German psyche—that it would go against national sentiment if it did not come to its ally’s aid just when this ally’s destiny is hanging in the balance.

Current intelligence tells us that France also appears to be taking preparatory measures for a possible mobilization. It is clear that Russia and France are acting jointly in these actions.

So if the clash between Austria and Russia is inevitable, German will also have to mobilize and be prepared to fight on two fronts.

As for our intended military measures, it is extremely important to clarify as soon as possible whether Russia and France are willing to risk a war with Germany. As our neighbors proceed with their preparations, they will be in a position to carry out mobilization more quickly than us. As a result, the military situation is becoming less and less favorable by the day, which could have calamitous consequences for us if our probable opponents’ preparations carry on unchecked.

Source: Helmuth J. L. von Moltke to Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (July 29, 1914), in Walther Schücking and Max Montgelas, eds., Die Deutschen Dokumente zum Kriegsausbruch [German Documents on the Outbreak of the War]. 5 vols., Berlin, 1922, vol. 5, p. 349.

Original German text reprinted in Imanuel Geiss, Julikrise und Kriegsausbruch 1914 [The July-Crisis and the Outbreak of War 1914]. 2 vols., Hannover, 1963-64, vol. 2, pp. 261-63.

Translation: Adam Blauhut

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