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Jul-1914: The July Crisis
The Month of the Plotters

Two women at the beach celebrate Bank Holiday Monday in Great Britain, 3-Aug-1914. They converse while a newsboy carries a placard announcing:
"War Declared - It's Official."

"The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

British Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey 3-Aug-1914

Listed below are the events that turned what should have been a localized incident, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, into a world conflict. It was a month that could have been used to "turn things off." Instead, certain individuals decided to use the assassination as a means to an end. The flames of that day in Sarajevo would be fanned until they reached tragic proportions. I have decided to just list the events as they occurred. If they seem confused and complex with double dealing and backpedalling then I've succeeded in getting the atmosphere across to you. So go on, you be judge of who the true villains were during the long month of July in the summer of 1914.
  • The Archduke is assassinated in Sarajevo.
  • Assassins Princip and Cabrinovic are taken into custody.
  • Belgrade wires its condolences to Vienna.
  • Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pasic renounces the Black Hand and orders all public meeting places closed.
  • The week long festival celebrating St. Vitus Day festival is cancelled.
  • Widespread rioting and looting by Croats and Moslems in Sarajevo directed towards the Serbian population. Good deal of property damage with injuries.
  • Austrian Foreign Minister Count Leopold von Berchtold's initial stance is one of moderation; dismiss Belgrade's minister of police, jail all suspected terrorists, and dissolve extremist groups. Austrian army Chief of Staff General Conrad von Hotzendorff wants invasion but needs sixteen days to mobilize his troops.
  • The Austrians are aware of a trip by French President Raymond Poincare and Prime Minister Rene Viviani to Russia that will end 23-Jul-1914. It was agreed that no action should take place until then. It would not do to have French and Russians in such close contact during the crisis to follow.
  • Hungarian Prime Minister, Count Istvan Tisza, does not want any action that could bring war with Russia. He is in direct conflict with Austrian counterpart, Count Berchtold.
  • London newspaper runs headline: "To Hell with Serbia". However, King George V decrees seven days of mourning.
  • Not to be outdone, Czar Nicholas II orders twelve days of mourning.
"Serbia must learn to fear us again. Otherwise, our old border regions, and not just the annexed provinces, will be in danger."

Austrian Charge d'Affaires in Belgrade, Wilhelm Ritter von Storck
  • German Ambassador to Vienna, Count Heinrich von Tschirschky, warns Berchtold against employing "hasty measures in settling accounts with Serbia".
"For me, it is a great worry less."

Austrian Emperor Franz Josef on the Archduke's death
  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand is buried.
  • Victor Naumann, messenger for the German Foreign Office, arrives in Vienna to assure German support in the event Russia was provoked by Austrian action.
  • Foreign Office Chief Alexander Hoyos volunteers to take the letter requesting support, composed by Franz Josef and Berchtold, to Berlin and deliver it to the Kaiser personally. The letter has been composed with moderation. Hoyos will see that it is interpreted with hostility.
  • German Foreign Minister Gottlieb von Jagow leaves for his honeymoon in Lucerne.
  • Hoyos arrives in Berlin and is accompanied to Potsdam Palace by the Austrian Ambassador to Germany, Count L. de Szogyeny-Marich, where they meet with the Kaiser. The goal of the mission is to secure German backing for any actions Austria-Hungary might take. No notes exist from this meeting but it is widely accepted that they received the promises of support they sought. The blank check had been given. [ø view text of the 'blank check']
  • All but one of the seven assassins have now been apprehended. Mehmedbasic would be the only member of the assassination team to escape. See Jun-28-1914: Assassination in Sarajevo for more details.
"Russia is in no way prepared for war."

Kaiser Wilhelm II
  • Having completed his meeting with Hoyos and Szogyeny, the Kaiser departs for his annual North Sea cruise. The twenty day cruise had been planned for months and the Kaiser saw nothing in events that would cause him to cancel it. Besides it might appear that something was wrong should the cruise be cancelled.
  • The Austro-Hungarian Ministerial Council meets to consider the implications of the 'blank check'. Some sort of action will be taken against Serbia. Hungarian Prime Minister Tisza voices reservations on these plans.
  • Szogyeny, still in Berlin, sends a wire prepared by Hoyos to Tisza and Berchtold. The wire intimates that "The Kaiser would deplore our not taking advantage of the present moment which is favorable to us." Hoyos had fabricated this statement, and by doing so, brought the shadow of the Kaiser to Conrad's cause.
  • Berchtold, detecting a change in the political wind also comes around to Conrad's side. Serbia must be invaded. Hungarian Prime Minister Tisza must be converted to the war camp.
  • Berchtold recommends that Conrad and Minister of War, Baron Alexander von Krobatin, proceed with their vacation plans lest something be suspected.
"It would be a good thing if you and the War Minister would go on leave for awhile so as to keep up an appearance that nothing is going on.""

Austrian Foreign Minister Count Leopold von Berchtold to Austrian army Chief of Staff General Conrad von Hotzendorff
  • The Austrians meet to formalize their strategy. A non-ultamatum super-ultimatum will be used. A non-ultimatum in that it will be in the form of a simple timed note; a super-ultamatum in that it will be formulated to generate a refusal. The fate of Serbia has been sealed.
  • Berchtold dispatches Friedrich von Wiesner to Sarajevo to report on the assassination inquest's findings.
  • The Russian minister to Serbia drops dead.
  • Wiesner wires his findings back to Berchtold: Nothing has been found to implicate the Serbian government in the assassination. Berchtold keeps the findings away from Franz Josef.
  • Krobatin leaves for vacation in Bad Gastein as planned.
"The note is being composed so that the possibility of its acceptance is practically excluded."

German Ambassador to Vienna, Count Heinrich von Tschirschky, to German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg
  • Berchtold wins over Tisza by promising that no territorial demands will be placed upon Serbia. Berchtold was lying - Serbia had already been partitioned on paper. Tisza had written several letters to Emperor Franz Josef pleading for leniency in dealing with Serbia. Berchtold had these intercepted before they made it to the Emperor. He and Conrad would have the war against Serbia for which they had waited so long.
  • Conrad leaves for vacation in Innichen as planned.
"Now we can no longer hold back. It will be a terrible war."

Emperor Franz Josef upon hearing of the Kaiser's support
  • Poincare and Viviani depart France for their visit to Russia.
  • Both the Italian and Russian ambassadors in Vienna warn the Russian government in St. Petersburg: Austria is considering decisive action against the Serbs.
  • Word of the planned Austrian action against Serbia has hit the diplomatic circuit. The British are now aware that something is up in Austria.
  • Berchtold visits British Ambassador to Vienna, Sir Maurice de Bunsen. The ambassador notes that the Foreign Minister "was unusually chatty and agreeable."
  • The Austrian Ministerial Council meets in secret. It is decided that Conrad shall be given his chance and Serbia will be "beaten to earth."
  • The Ultimatum to Serbia is drafted. [ø view text of the ultimatum]
  • The ultimatum is delivered to Bad Ischl. Franz Josef get his first look at the "jewel".
"This duplicity of Austria is intolerable."

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg
  • Berchtold visits Franz Josef at Bad Ischl to get final approval of the ultimatum to Serbia. Berchtold finesses approval from the Emperor.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov warns German Ambassador Count Friedrich von Pourtales that Russia will not allow Austria-Hungary to take any military action against Serbia.
  • Everything is ready. Now it's just a waiting game until the French president and prime minister end their Russian visit on the 23rd.
  • After viewing the text of the ultimatum, German Undersecretary Arthur Zimmermann comments that "the note is too sharp."
  • Austrian Ambassador to Serbia, Baron Vladimir von Giesl, delivers the ultimatum at 6:00 pm sharp. The reply must come within 48 hours.
  • Giesl has been instructed to regard any reply as unacceptable.
  • Pasic and many of his cabinet are in the southern provinces on a political tour. The Minister of Public Information, Ljuba Jovanovic is the first Serb to see the "note."
  • Pasic and the cabinet are called back to Belgrade.
  • Pasic returns to Belgrade at 5:00 am.
  • Giesl and staff begin burning sensitive diplomatic papers and cipher books. They are already preparing for their departure from Belgrade on tomorrow's evening train.
  • Prince Alexander urgently wires the Russian Czar for assistance and guidance in the matter.
  • Russia advises Pasic to "proceed with extreme caution." [ø view text of the advice]
  • Serbia makes the contents of the ultimatum public in a hope to gain public support. The world is aghast at the contents. They ask for the impossible.
  • The Kaiser hears about the ultimatum from his yacht's radio officer who read it in the Norwegian newspaper.
"The most formidable demand ever imposed on one state by another."

British Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey on the Austrian ultimatum
  • The reply to the note is formulated in such a way as to yield where at all possible. This reply must also win public support.
  • The Serbian leadership fears for the worst. Austria will attack no matter what the contents of the reply. Serbia orders general mobilization of it's army at 3:00 pm. Nobody knew it, but, World War I had just begun.
  • With a mere 5 minutes to go, Pasic personally delivers the reply to Giesl at 5:55 pm. The reply yields almost everywhere. It might as well have yielded nothing. [ø view text of the reply]
  • The Austrian legation departs Belgrade on the 6:30 pm train as planned. The train is across the Danube and back in the Empire by 6:40 pm.
  • The Austrian mobilization order must be signed by Emperor Franz Josef. Berchtold obtains this signature at 7:23 pm by telling the aged Emperor that the Serbs were already attacking. Conrad was given his marching orders. Alarm Day for the Austrian army was set for 27-Jul and troop movements would begin on the day following.
  • An oversight: Germany has not been informed of these actions by her ally, Austria-Hungary.
"Part of your demands we have accepted... For the rest, we place our hopes on your loyalty and chivalry as an Austrian general."

Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pasic delivering the reply to the Austrian ambassador, Baron Vladimir von Giesl
  • A copy of the ultimatum is wired to Poincare aboard the French battle cruiser France.
  • Russia enters state of pre-mobilization.
  • Conrad informs Berchtold that he will not be ready for full military action before 15-Aug-1914. Shelling would have to do until then.
"How did it all happen?"

The Kaiser's first words to Bethmann-Hollweg upon his return
  • Wilhelm cuts short his cruise and returns to Potsdam.
  • The British fleet has just completed its summer maneuvers and is preparing to return to routine duty. Churchill orders the fleet to proceed to war stations. The fleet would be ready if the crisis got out of hand.
  • Germany officially and publicly advises Austria against British mediation.
  • Grey feels out the British cabinet by posing the hypothetical question of Great Britain's entering into a war if France were attacked by Germany.
  • The French Chief of Staff, Joffre, and the French War Minister, Adolphe Messimy, express their hopes through the military attache in St. Petersburg that should war break out, the Russians would immediatly take the offensive in East Prussia.
  • The French issue standby mobilization orders.
Draft copy of the Austrian declaration of war on Serbia
  • Serbian armed forces Chief of Staff, General Radomir Putnik is taken prisoner in Budapest as he was returning from vacation by train. After being held for a time, he is released on "orders from an all highest level". He is escorted to the Serbian frontier in Conrad's private railroad car.
  • 11:00 am. One month after the assassination, almost to the minute, Austria telegrams a declaration of war to Serbia. A telegram declaring war? At first Belgrade thinks it is a hoax. [ø view text of the Austrian declaration of war]
  • British Foreign Minister Grey proposes a meeting of French, German, and Italian diplomats in an effort to cool the crisis. No one is interested.
  • German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg admits he was duped by the Austrians and offers his resignation to the Kaiser. The Kaiser refuses stating: "You have cooked this broth, now you will eat it.". The Chancellor vents his frustration with Austria in a wire to the German Ambassador to Vienna, Tschirschky. [ø view text of the wire]
  • Austrian artillery opens up fire on Belgrade from across the Danube.
  • Word of the Austrian declaration of war reaches Saint Petersburg late in the afternoon. Maurice Paleologue, French Ambassador to Russia, is quick to assure the Czar that Russia can count on France to the fullest extent.
"Serbia has in fact met the Austrian demands in so wide-sweeping a manner that if the Austro-Hungarian Government adopted a wholly uncompromising attitude, a gradual revulsion of public opinion against it in all of Europe would have to be reckoned with."

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg in a wire to the German Embassy in Vienna
  • At 1:00 am the Kaiser and Czar Nicholas II begin the famous Willy-Nilly correspondence via telegram. [ø view text of the telegrams]
  • The Czar orders mobilization of four military districts: Moscow, Kiev, Odessa, and Kazan.
  • Germany demands that Russia demobilize at once.
  • The Kaiser wires Saint Petersburg pleading for restraint since he is currently urging Austria to back off.
  • The Czar calls off mobilization, for the moment. The Russians decide on only partial mobilization and only against Austria, not Germany.
  • Austrian Ambassador, Count Szapary, urges Russian Foreign Minister Sazonov to call off Russian mobilization. During the meeting Sazonov is informed that Austrian monitors are shelling Belgrade from the Danube. The meeting ends in a shouting match and Szapary walks out.
  • In London, Grey warns German Ambassador Lichownowsky that British neutrality cannot be counted on.
Russian general mobilzation orders signed by the Czar
  • Just past midnight, Bethmann-Hollweg, worried about the true extent of the crisis, summons British Ambassador Edward Goschen in order to strike a bargain. Would Britain stay out if Germany's war with France placed no territorial demands on France or Belgium? The same could not be promised for the French colonies. Goschen discussed this offer with Grey who regarded it as a "disgrace." The answer was no.
  • Jagow warns Grey that if Germany mobilizes, France, current threat or not, would be attacked per Germany's war plan.
  • At 5:00 pm Austrian Emperor Franz Josef declares full mobilization.
  • Bethmann-Hollweg wires his Ambassador in Vienna, Tschirschky, that the Austrians must be made to negotiate some sort of settlement. Occupation of Belgrade would be preferable to war. The Chancellor is convinced that Britain will come in against Germany.
  • In a final attempt to avert war, Bethmann-Hollweg goes against earlier German advice and wires Berchtold that he should accept the British offer of mediation. Berchtold declines.
  • The Czar changes his mind for the third time: Russia proclaims general mobilization.
"A gray day, in keeping with my mood."

Czar Nicholas II's diary entry for 31-Jul-1914

French mobilization orders for the army and navy
  • Triggered by the Russian general mobilization, at 11:55 am Germany declares Kriegsgefahr Zustand. Danger of war - a state of pre-mobilization.
  • Germany issues an ultimatum to Russia: demobilize fully within 12 hours or Germany would begin mobilization and declare war on Russia.
  • Germany issues an ultimatum to France: declare neutrality within 18 hours and hand over the frontier forts at Liege and Namur in a show of good faith. [ø view text of the Italian declaration]
  • At 5:15 pm the French cabinet authorizes full mobilization.

German mobilization order signed by the Kaiser
Special free edition of the BerlinTageblatt announces "The War with France".
  • The German army violates Belgian neutrality as the Schlieffen Plan is put into motion. The invasion of France is on.
  • The British issue an ultimatum to Germany: withdraw all troops from Belgian soil by midnight or a state of war will exist between the two countries.
  • The British Ambassador, Sir Edward Goschen, calls on Bethmann-Hollweg for the final time. The Chancellor tells the ambassador: "just for a scrap of paper Great Britain was going to make war on a kindred nation who desired nothing better than to be friends with her." [ø view text of Goschen's account of the meeting]
  • Germany never responds to the the British ultimatum.

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