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I have at all times laid all personal feelings entirely aside, and have thought only of the business and the interests of my country. While I was kicking my heels in Berlin for all those weeks, waiting upon a summons to the Emperor, I was arged by many people to try and obtain an interview with General Ludendorff, in order to enlighten him regarding American affairs, as in this respect he was very badly informed. The latter fact, has, at all events, been substantiated by General Ludendorff himself, in his evidence before the Committee. The gentlemen who urged me to obtain this interview, themselves made efforts to bring it about. But these efforts were of no avail, and I therefore regarded them as too insignificant to be mentioned in my own evidence. In all my atterances before the Committee, I refrained from all allusion to personal and subjective matters.
General Ludendorff has further maintained that I impugned his honor by declaring that, generally speaking, he did not wish to conclude peace. I naturally never made such a nonsensical statement. Immediately after my visit to General Ludendorff at G. H. Q., I made notes of the essential passages of our interview; because I suspected, what in my opinion has since become a certainty, to wit, that the General wished to heap all the blame of the war with America upon my shoulders. Every impartial reader who examines the Notes given below, will be forced to admit, that they contain nothing whatsoever except assertions, which have been confirmed by all the evidence given before the Committee of the National Assembly; that is to say:
(1) That I wished to accept Mr. Wilson's offer of mediation.
(2) That the Imperial Government—that is to say, G. H. Q. or whoever was responsible for taking the final decision -- did not wish to accept Mr. Wilson's offer of mediation, in order to declare the unrestricted U-boat war instead.
(3) That the Naval Authorities had declared themselves in a position to bring about a desire for peace in England in five months from the 1st of February.
My notes about the interview I had with General Ludendorff ran as follows:
General Ludendorff received me with the following words:
“In America you wanted to make peace. You evidently thought we were at the end of our tether."
“No, I did not think that; but I wanted to make peace before we came to the end of our tether."
Whereupon the General said:
“We, however, did not want to. Besides, it would not have been surprising if you had thought that we had come to the end of our resources. The communications you received, which I read from time to time, certainly led to that conclusion."
Later on in the conversation, General Ludendorff asked me when, in my opinion, the Americans would participate in the war with great force. I replied that in twelve months a large American army was to be expected in France, and that this army would be organized with comparative ease. To this the General rejoined that in that case we had ample time to end the war meanwhile; for the U-boats would force England to a peace in three months. He had received absolutely certain information on this point. When I was on the point of leaving, General Ludendorff repeated this remark very positively.
Though the sense was the same, the actual wording of my evidence before the Examination Committee differs somewhat from that of the notes given above. This is explained, however, by the fact that I spoke quite freely, and therefore prefaced my remarks with the words : “So far as I can remember, and so far as I am able to say, under oath, the conversation was more or less as follows," etc.
I did not enter into the personal views which General Ludendorff thought fit to express in his evidence before the Examination Committee; for I am of the opinion that the duty of the Committee was simply to establish the real truth by an inquiry into the facts. It is open to the Committee to put to me any questions they like concerning my activities in Washington, and I will answer them frankly; but I think that a quarrel between witnesses about their own personal opinions would have been an undignified spectacle, in which I distinctly refused to participate. I gladly leave it to the reader of the present volume to form his own ideas regarding my work in America.
In May, 1917, I left G. H. Q., feeling quite convinced that for the moment there was no room for me in German diplomacy; for the only policy which I regarded as right, had no prospect of being realized. After my return from America, I was placed on half-pay. I was therefore at liberty to return home, however unwilling I may have felt, at that moment of great tribulation for my country, to give myself up to a life of ease and idleness. During my period of rest, a Reichstag resolution was passed, and there was a change of Chancellors.
When Herr von Kühlmann, who is a friend of mine, took over the Foreign Office, he summoned me by telegram to Berlin, and told me that the Imperial Chancellor, Michaelis, was going to offer me the post of Ambassador
in Constantinople. Some years previously Herr von Kühlmann and I had worked together in London. We had been on very good terms, and since then I had never lost touch with him. As he assured me very positively that he had taken over the Foreign Office in order to conclude peace, I felt no qualms about returning once more to diplomatic duties. I did not, however, conceal from Herr von Kühlmann, that I expected that there would be very strong opposition at G. H. Q. to my being employed again on Foreign Service. The Secretary of State was of the opinion that we might confidently leave this side of the question to the Imperial Chancellor, who at that moment was on his honeymoon, and was therefore admirably situated to carry things through. My interview with Herr Michaelis only made me more eager than ever to undertake the Mission to Constantinople. He said to me that he was offering me a very difficult and unpleasant billet, for I should have to wring concessions from the Turks with the object of bringing about peace. This view of the situation corresponded entirely with my own. Contrary to my expectations, the Imperial ratification of my appointment arrived; but the Monarch also seized the opportunity of making certain remarks about my democratic views, without, however, withholding his signature from my credentials.
In September I set out for Constantinople, where thirty years previously I had started my diplomatic career, and where I was now to end it.