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Germany and the Ultimatum: Heinrich von Tschirschky and Bögendorff (Vienna) to Gottlieb von Jagow (July 10, 1914)

This memorandum from Heinrich von Tschirschky and Bögendorff (1858-1916), the German ambassador in Vienna, to his superior in Berlin, Foreign Minister Gottlieb von Jagow (1863-1935), illustrates the hesitancy of the Austrian government in presenting the ultimatum to Serbia. Wilhelm’s marginalia suggests his rash and desultory approach to decision-making. By inserting a quotation from Frederick the Great at the end of the memorandum, he indicates his aversion to diplomatic consultations as well as his frustration regarding Germany’s options.

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Tel. no. 85
Vienna, July 10, 1914

Top secret!
Count Berchtold provided me with the following details of his
discussion in Ischle yesterday with His Majesty Emperor Franz Joseph:
His Majesty the Emperor discussed the circumstances with
great equanimity. He first expressed his heartfelt thanks for the
comments made by our Majesty and the imperial government
Since H.M.’s pro memoria and he said that he entirely agreed with us—a decision had to
is about fourteen days old, be reached immediately in order to put an end to the
this has been going on intolerable situation involving Serbia. Count Berchtold added
quite some time! It was only that H.M. was fully aware of the consequences of such a
drawn up to illustrate the decision.
reasons for the decision!
The minister then told the emperor about two possible
modalities concerning additional steps against Serbia. H.M.
believed that they could possibly be united, but all told, H.M.
And how! generally believed that concrete demands had to be made of
Unambiguous ones too! Serbia. The minister said he did not wish to deny the
advantages of such an approach. It would eliminate the odium
that would otherwise fall upon the monarchy if it surprised
Serbia, and it would place Serbia in the position of blame. This
approach would also make it a lot easier for Romania and
They’ve certainly had enough England to adopt a neutral stance. A main concern here
time for this currently lies in formulating suitable demands against Serbia,
and Count Berchtold said he was eager to know the prevailing
view in Berlin. He believed that one demand could be for an
agency of the Austro-Hungarian government to be installed in
Belgrade to monitor the activities of Greater Serbia from there.
Another possible demand could be the dissolution of societies
All! and the dismissal of a few of the compromised officers. Serbia
should be given a very short period to respond, probably 48
Hartwig is dead! hours. Of course, Belgrade would still have time enough to
Clear the sanjak! That’ll cause a obtain instructions from Petersburg. If the Serbs accept all the
row! Austria must get it back demands, that solution would be “very disagreeable” to him,
immediately in order to prevent and he is considering making demands that would be entirely
reconciliation between Serbia impossible for the Serbs to accept.
and Montenegro and to keep
Serbia from reaching the sea! Finally, the minister once again complained about the stance of
Count Tisza, who is making it difficult for him to deal with
Serbia in a resolute fashion. Count Tisza claims that one must
proceed in a “gentleman-like” manner, but this is hardly
Against murderers after all that suitable in view of such important state interests and especially
has happened! Nonsense! in the case of an opponent like Serbia.
The minister would gladly follow the imperial government’s
suggestion that the press be used to sway public opinion in
England against Serbia—Count Szögyény sent a telegram
concerning this matter. But in his opinion this must be done
carefully so as not to alarm Serbia prematurely.
The war minister will be going on holiday tomorrow, and Baron
Conrad von Hötzendorf will also be leaving Vienna for a time.
As Count Berchtold confided in me, they are doing so
Childish! deliberately in order to avoid causing any alarm.
Similar to the Silesian wars!
“I am against councils of war and counseling, especially since the
more timid party always gains the upper hand.”
Frederick the Great

Source: Heinrich von Tschirschky and Bögendorff (Vienna) to Gottlieb von Jagow (July 10, 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. 29

Original German text reprinted with marginalia in Imanuel Geiss, Julikrise und Kriegsausbruch 1914 [The July-Crisis and the Outbreak of War 1914]. 2 vols., Hannover, 1963-64, vol. 1, pp. 144-45.

Translation: Adam Blauhut

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