News of 1914 – august 2: the mobilization

The people want peace, but Russia has ignored the ultimatum. Now Kaiser Wilhelm II has decided to mobilize the German army.

Full of enthusiasm, German soldiers go to war in August 1914. Image: dpa

The Reichsanzeiger publishes the following imperial decree in a special edition:

"I hereby decree: The German Army and Imperial Navy are to be prepared for war in accordance with the mobilization plan for the German Army and Imperial Navy.

August 2, 1914, is set as the first day of mobilization.

Berlin, August 1, 1914

Aera online is a simulation of live reporting from 1914. The magazine publishes news that people in Germany read in their newspapers one hundred years ago to the day. Three historical newspapers were retrieved from the archives and evaluated. The texts have been preserved in their original wording, headlines and short summaries have been partially adapted to modern reading habits.

The project is a cooperation between zero one film and Leuphana University Luneburg. cooperates with the magazine and publishes selected news from 1914 every day. The entire aera online magazine can be found here.

Wilhelm 1. R. v. Bethmann Hollweg"

Russia has not agreed to revoke its mobilization and respect the German borders. Consequently, as announced in the ultimatum, the Emperor has ordered the mobilization of the army and navy and the German army will, if necessary, know how to repel the Russian invasion. The German people may say of itself once again at this hour that it did not want this war, which has so suddenly appeared before it in all its awfulness. But it will not allow the soil of the Fatherland to be flooded and devastated by the Russian regiments.

Yesterday was as full of tension and excitement as any in recent decades. The people of Berlin went about their work calmly as usual, but anxious expectation weighed heavily on all those who do not unthinkingly welcome a great war as a colorful diversion, but feel the deep seriousness of such a decision. In official, military, and diplomatic circles it was almost universally believed that either no reply or a negative reply would come from Russia and that German mobilization would be decreed in the afternoon or evening. In the first hours of the afternoon the news arrived here that the German Ambassador in Petersburg, Count Pourtalès, had presented the ultimatum to the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs the night before last, as it was intended, and a reply from the Russian side seemed to be in prospect. Hour after hour passed and the answer did not arrive. The ambassadors and envoys of the foreign states were constantly calling at the Foreign Office to make inquiries, and the army’s leading offices naturally remained in constant contact with the bureaus on Wilhelmstrasse.

When at half past five there was no Russian reply, it was clear that the deadline had been deliberately allowed to elapse in Petersburg and that no reply was forthcoming, and those who bore responsibility for the security of the Reich and for the course of military operations could wait no longer if the success of the German mobilization was not to be jeopardized. Before six o’clock, Chief of General Staff v. Moltke appeared at the Foreign Office to announce officially that the Kaiser had ordered mobilization.

At this time, the Reich Chancellor and State Secretary v. Jagow were with the Kaiser. They had driven to the palace at half past five in an open automobile with the chancellor’s adjutant. The conference, which took place at the Emperor’s, may have concerned not mobilization, which had now already been decided and was only in the hands of the military authorities, but other questions, of a diplomatic nature. At the same time, Under Secretary Zimmermann went to see the Minister of War.

In a second extra, which we issued in the evening hours, we pointed out that the German ultimatum did not speak of a severance of diplomatic relations and that, as a result, the recall of the German Ambassador in Petersburg was also not to be expected immediately. Nor can it be intended under such circumstances to deliver the Russian Ambassador’s passports in Berlin, which by its very nature could only happen if we were already at war with Russia. For the time being, war does not yet exist between Germany and Russia – and between Germany and France, whose intentions have not yet been clarified – but we are only at the stage of mobilization. By this mobilization Germany wants to and will secure the inviolability of its territory.

It sends its sons into the field not in lust for conquest and glory, but for defense. And whoever sees the German people today must find it admirable how they take this duty of defense upon themselves as something self-evident. And how – as the Kaiser rightly pointed out in yesterday’s address – all parties, including the opposition, are united in this sense of duty.

Source: Berliner Tageblatt

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