German White Book

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Dispatches Between Kaiser and Tsar


I have heard with the greatest anxiety of the impression which is caused by the action of Austria-Hungary against Serbia. The unscrupulous agitation which has been going on for years in Serbia, has led to the revolting crime of which the archduke Franz Ferdinand has become a victim. The spirit which made the Serbians murder their own king and his consort still dominates that country. Doubtless you will agree with me that both of us, you as well as I, and all other sovereigns, have a common interest to insist that all those who are responsible for this horrible murder shall suffer their deserved punishment.

On the other hand, I by no means overlook the difficulty encountered by you and your government to stem the tide of public opinion. In view of the cordial friendship which has joined us both for a long time with firm ties, I shall use my entire influence to induce Austria-Hungary to obtain a frank and satisfactory understanding with Russia. I hope confidently that you will support me in my efforts to overcome all difficulties which may yet arise.

I am glad that you are back in Germany. In this serious moment I ask you earnestly to help me. An ignominious war has been declared against a weak country, and in Russia the indignation, which I fully share, is tremendous. I fear that very soon I shall be unable to resist the pressure exercised upon me and that I shall be forced to take measures which will lead to war. To prevent such a calamity as a European war would be, I urge you, in the name of our old friendship, to do all in your power to restrain your ally from going too far.

I have received your telegram and I share your desire for the preservation of peace. However, I cannot — as I told you in my first telegram — consider the action of Austria-Hungary as an "ignominious war." Austria-Hungary knows from experience that the promises of Serbia, as long as they are merely on paper, are entirely unreliable.

According to my opinion the action of Austria-Hungary is to be considered as an attempt to receive full guarantee that the promises of Serbia are effectively translated into deeds. In this opinion I am strengthened by the explanation of the Austrian cabinet that Austria-Hungary intended no territorial gain at the expense of Serbia. I am therefore of opinion that it is perfectly possible for Russia to remain a spectator in the Austro-Serbian war, without drawing Europe into the most terrible war it has ever seen. I believe that a direct understanding is possible and desirable between your government and Vienna, an understanding which — as I have already telegraphed you — my government endeavors to aid with all possible effort. Naturally, military measures by Russia, which might be construed as menace by Austria-Hungary, would accelerate a calamity which both of us desire to avoid and would undermine my position as mediator, which — upon your appeal to my friendship and aid — I willingly accepted.

My ambassador has instructions to direct the attention of your government to the dangers and serious consequences of a mobilization. I have told you the same in my last telegram. Austria-Hungary has mobilized only against Serbia, and only a part of her army. If Russia, as seems to be the case, according to your advice and that of your government, mobilizes against Austria-Hungary, the rôle of mediator with which you have intrusted me in such friendly manner and which I have accepted upon your express desire, is threatened, if not made impossible. The entire weight of decision now rests upon your shoulders: you have to bear the responsibility for war or peace.

I thank you from my heart for your quick reply. I am sending to-night Tatishev (Russian honorary aide to the kaiser) with instructions. The military measures now taking form were decided upon five days ago, and for the reason of defense against the preparations of Austria. I hope with all my heart that these measures will not influence in any manner your position as mediator, which I appraise very highly. We need your strong pressure upon Austria so that an understanding can be arrived at with us.

1 , exhibits Nos. 20–23a.

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Chicago: German White Book in Readings in Modern European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: D.C. Heath, 1926), 435–436. Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2022,

MLA: . German White Book, in Readings in Modern European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, D.C. Heath, 1926, pp. 435–436. Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2022.

Harvard: , German White Book. cited in 1926, Readings in Modern European History, ed. , D.C. Heath, Boston, pp.435–436. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2022, from