File No. 763.72/9489

The Minister in the Netherlands ( Garrett) to the Secretary of State


2288. German press comment President’s speech.

Vorwärts, 8th: Tone of Wilson’s Baltimore speech admits of no possible doubt where we stand. Either we shall succeed in bringing war in west to conclusion in reasonable time with military means or future will look dark for us, that is to say, it will not be bright even if, as we all hope, the struggles of this spring and summer bring a favorable decision; but it would be far less bright if the decision should not be forthcoming. There can, therefore, be no difference of opinion among German people as to what must be desired and aimed at now; semi-official comment on speech differs very materially from what we have unfortunately been forced to read in the press so often. It says that speech shows what a lost war would mean for Germany. These are uncommonly serious words. In January 1917 almost all German papers, except Socialist press, said England would surrender in few months owing to unrestricted submarine war, that America’s war threat was nothing but bluff and not to be taken seriously, and that war would be over before America could even attempt to help Entente; had this prophecy been fulfilled the sanguinary battles now raging on western front would have been superfluous; we should have had peace long ago and Wilson would not have been able to deliver this speech. But we can be grateful to President for speech in certain sense for it recalls what many appear to have forgotten, that this war is not cherry-picking expedition. German people is still faced with tremendous effort which it must put forth if it is to withstand to end fanatical will for war of its adversaries. Of all nations affected by this war, the German has least reason to despair. But none of them, not even the German, has any reason to contemplate coming events lightly and overconfidently. America stands behind Allies with enormous material resources and tremendously stimulating moral power. Without [them] Allies would perhaps already have suffered economic and moral collapse as result of Russian defection. Hopes centered in great ally across ocean keep them together and incite to renewed resistance. How long this resistance will be kept up will depend on events now happening. There is no other solution of world confusion to be seen but hoped-for full German victory in west. Also Wilson’s speech further dissipates all doubt [Page 207] that bridges towards peace of accommodation were burnt by Brest treaty. Wilson, the undisputed political leader of Entente, will not recognize peace of Brest and gives Germany choice of retreating from her threats of force or of accepting battle of force with him. We German Socialists are far from considering every act of Germany’s policy right. Our political position is clearly outlined by what we said and wrote before outbreak war, before declaration of unrestricted submarine war and before conclusion of peace of Brest. In those three decisive moments Empire did not take course that we recommended; we always warned against consequences but nevertheless did our part in order to prevent them from becoming fatal. Situation so sharply illuminated by Wilson’s speech, this infinitely serious and decisive situation, was brought about by policy which was not that of Socialists, but situation is here and shows no other outlet than an early complete victory of Germany in west also. German people has put forth its full power for that victory and responsibility for success rests with military and political command. Peace if thus enforced, will bring abundance of complex problems which will severely tax those who govern in future but price is not too dear.

Schwäbische Tagwacht, 8th: True aspect of Wilson’s latest speech can only be seen when it is considered as reply to Czernin’s renewed peace invitation. Wilson says reply to his peace call was given not by German statesmen but by German generals, whose deeds clearly express aims and intentions of German policy, the complete domination of Russia, Balkans and east. Speech is abrupt declination of Czernin’s peace invitation and announcement that United States is determined to fight side by side with Allies until final victory. Regardless of whether Wilson’s reference to German policy in east is sincere or not, fact remains that that policy gives President possibility of talking of German’s policy of world domination carried out by military leaders. We called attention to this possibility when first signs of military policy of force in east became visible and we never [tired] of warning against such policy. Now that Wilson rejects invitation to peace negotiation, solely owing to Germany’s policy of force in east, we can only regret again that Germany’s political authorities did not possess power to prevent that policy.

Frankfurter Zeitung, 8th: It is difficult to account for President’s long silence. Perhaps explanation is that he tried to secure revision of Entente war aims but was disappointed. His omission to discuss Czernin’s recent amicable speech at all may also be due to this. President still declares readiness to discuss just honorable peace but is this more than mere words? Perhaps he won’t make peace with [Page 208] an unconquered Germany, perhaps he can’t negotiate owing to aggressive war policy of his allies. This can be matter of indifference to us since new speech has sole object of furnishing foundation for continuation of war. Policy of responsible statesmen of Centrals gives Wilson no ground for his proclamation of force, so he repeats his accustomed tactics of arbitrarily constructing an opponent by now differentiating between German statesmen and military leaders who dictate policy of force. Perhaps waste of time to reject such interference in our internal affairs; it is matter of course that German people resents it. President’s argument of eastern peace treaties fails because we sincerely sought peace of accommodation with Russia but were prevented by Trotsky’s open proclamation of policy based on force. Assertion that Centrals enforced peace in east ta secure absolute domination in whole eastern Europe and Asia is pure calumny. If Wilson has in mind former frontier nations of western Russia he must know that last word concerning their future has by no means been spoken and that Germany acknowledged their right of self-determination and enforced it against Russia. We shall not dwell on [Wilson’s] fine words about wanting justice from and equality of all nations; for his own deeds, the violent subjection of Filipinos and brutal oppression of all peace friends in America, contradict him daily. Material thing for us to say today Wilson can hear from the organ of Socialist Party on which his political tactics seem for most part to speculate. This American speech shows us again that Germans’ duty at this moment lies alone on battlefields in west, Germany’s mission and hope of peace.

Germania, 9th: Wilson’s speech plainly proves that ravages of anti-peace disease have now extended in like degree to America. There is no use in wasting time with his tirades any more, but it would be desirable if we should now finally cease to expect anything else from across the ocean than from Paris or London or argue that Wilson would have acted differently if our policy had taken different course on certain occasions. We no longer believe in any of the American’s phrases. He would have talked just the same had we submitted to [impudence] of Bolsheviks; thus peace in east in accordance with Socialist demands, would not have helped us but hurt us in west. We went just as far with Petrograd gentlemen as right and equity, combined with our just interests, warranted in circumstances. [Garbled passage.] Fact that Wilson will not condescend to recognize Brest peace does not prove it is bad peace but only that opposition to it suits Wilson’s policy. But all this dispute is of theoretical importance merely; main thing is that situation finds us Germans reunited. Even Vorwärts comes to conclusion [Page 209] there is no way to peace but over military victory and we should all act in full consciousness of this fact.

Vossische, 8th: Wilson’s failure to mention Czernin’s speech is noteworthy, the tone of speech with appeals to force unusually harsh, Brest peace being taken as justification. This confirms our earlier surmise that Wilson would take eastern peace as starting point for diplomatic campaign to incite Allies, particularly France, against Germany anew and to have Brest treaties revised.

Kölnische Volkszeitung, 8th: Wilson’s speech must be taken merely as part of political and psychological war campaign of enemies. It has no value as historic document and Wilson knew this, otherwise he would not have taken such liberties with truth. Nothing more could be expected of Wall Street’s agent, the great exponent of America’s war profits trust. Germans need not be frightened at his appeal to force. He charges Germany with aiming at world empire of force and greed but that is what he himself wants. This speech can be laid aside with the rest of them. The Americans will continue to throw good money after bad and American public can later settle with Wilson when it cannot get its money back. Speech is of small importance for Germany’s experience has adequately shown that her position cannot be overthrown with words.

Tageszeitung, 8th: We always maintained from [beginning] all [deference] to Washington was in vain; only thing to satisfy Washington was Germany’s defeat or her subjection to judgment of nations of earth. Wilson’s speeches always had the same theme. The veiled prime motive of his policy was always elimination German Empire as Continental power, as naval power, and as competitor in world market with any available means, cheaply if possible, but if necessary, at any cost.