World War I, The Imperial Chancellor Defends the Invasion of Belgium

14 August, 1914
The Imperial Chancellor Defends the Invasion of Belgium

The German Imperial Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg appeared before the Reichstag on August 4, 1914, just after the German invasion of Belgium, to define the German war position.

A stupendous fate is breaking over Europe. For forty-four years, since the time we fought for and won the German Empire and our position in the world, we have lived in peace and have protected the peace of Europe. In the works of peace we have become strong and powerful, and have thus aroused the envy of others. With patience we have faced the fact that, under the pretense that Germany was desirous of war, enmity has been awakened against us in the East and the West, and chains have been fashioned for us. The wind then sown has brought forth the whirlwind which has now broken loose. We wished to continue our work of peace, and, like a silent vow, the feeling that animated everyone from the Emperor down to the youngest soldier was this: Only in defense of a just cause shall our sword fly from its scabbard.

The day has now come when we must draw it, against our wish, and in spite of our sincere endeavors. Russia has set fire to the building. We are at war with Russia and France -- a war that has been forced upon us.

Gentlemen, a number of documents, composed during the pressure of these last eventful days, is before you. Allow me to emphasize the facts that determine our attitude.

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Last Updated: February 1, 1996.