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The September Memorandum (September 9, 1914)

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4. A central European economic association is to be constructed through common customs agreements, to comprise France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Austria-Hungary, Poland (!) and possibly Italy, Sweden, and Norway. This association will probably have no common constitutional head and will provide for ostensible equality among its members, although it will in fact be under German leadership; it must stabilize Germany’s economic predominance in central Europe.

5. The question of colonial acquisitions, above all the creation of a contiguous central African colonial empire, will be considered later; so will the question of German goals vis-à-vis Russia.

As the foundation for economic arrangements with France and Belgium, a short, provisional formula for a possible preliminary peace is to be found.

6. Holland. Means and measures should be considered by which Holland can be brought into closer association with the German Empire.

In view of the Dutch character, this closer association must be free of any sense of coercion; it must not alter the Dutch way of life, nor change Dutch military obligations. It will thus leave Holland ostensibly independent but in fact dependent upon us. Perhaps an alliance that extends to the colonies, in any case a close customs union, possibly the incorporation of Antwerp into Holland might be considered, in return for their granting Germany the right to keep troops in the fortress of Antwerp as well as at the mouth of the Schelde.

Source: Bethmann Hollweg Denkschrift [Memorandum by Bethmann Hollweg], September 9, 1914, Bundesarchiv-Lichterfelde, Reichskanzlei, Grosses Hauptquartier 21, No. 2476.

Reprinted in Wolfdieter Bihl, Deutsche Quellen zur Geschichte des Ersten Weltkrieges [German Sources on the History of the First World War]. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1991, pp. 61-62.

Translation: Jeffrey Verhey and Roger Chickering

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