File No. 763.72119/1798

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


3433. Following German text of Hertling’s speech1 given by Kölnische Zeitung:


Regarding the events of the last few days the gentlemen have already been informed by the statements of the Vice Chancellor von Payer. However, I thought that the gentlemen might possibly wish to have me appear here myself and announce my stand on these events. The change in the Foreign Office does not mean a change-in the political course. The Imperial Chancellor is alone responsible for the policy of the [German] Empire. The Secretary of Foreign Affairs has charge of the foreign policy, and he has to act with the-consent and under the responsibility of the Imperial Chancellor. This has been a principle of the German Empire from the beginning. This principle still holds today. As I stated in my speech of November 29, 1917, in the full session of the Reichstag, I adhere absolutely to my political stand both regarding our domestic and our foreign-policy, and no change will be made in it as long as I remain in this-position. Regarding our domestic policy I have fully redeemed my [Page 285] former promises as far as it lay within my power, and I shall insist that my promises also continue to be carried out in future and that any obstacles be energetically overcome. The gentlemen may rely upon this.

As regards our foreign policy, I clearly indicated my stand on November 29, when I told the gentlemen [I] adhere to the position taken in the Kaiser’s answer to the peace note of the Pope of August 1, last year.1 The peaceful sentiment which animated this answer also animated me. But I added that the peaceful sentiment (willingness for peace) should not afford the enemies carte blanche for an indefinite prolongation of the war. But what have we now experienced? While there can be no doubt of our willingness for years to extend our hand for an honorable peace, we have up to the very last few days been bearing the provocative speeches of foreign statesmen. President Wilson wants war to annihilation, and what Mr. Balfour said must really send the blood of anger into the face of every German. However, we have a feeling for the honor of our native country, and we cannot allow ourselves to be continually insulted publicly in this manner. Behind these insults stands the desire of our enemies to annihilate us. As long as this desire to annihilate us exists we must hold out with our faithful people. I am convinced, I know that an earnest willingness exists throughout the widest circles of our people to hold out as long as the desire of the enemy to annihilate us continues. And we shall hold out trusting to our troops, to our army commanders, and to our glorious people, who have so wonderfully borne this hard period with its great privations and continued sacrifices.

No change will be made in the direction of our policy, but I must say right here that if, in spite of these hostile utterances on the part of foreign statesmen, serious movements occur in any quarter looking toward paving the way for peace or if even the first steps toward such a movement should become apparent, we would certainly not assume a declinatory attitude from the start but we would immediately meet such seriously meant (I say emphatically, seriously meant) overtures. Of course it is not enough that this or that agent should come and say that he is authorized to bring about peace parleys here and there, but it is necessary that authorized representatives of the hostile powers who are expressly empowered by their governments should give us to understand that discussions are possible. Naturally these discussions would take place at first within a restricted circle. However, the statesmen who have thus far spoken have not mentioned such possibilities. If such possibilities arise and if a serious inclination for peace shows itself on the other side, we will at once consider it, that is, we will not reject it. At first we will talk in a small circle. I can also say to you that this stand is not only my own but that it is expressly shared by the highest army commanders, for not even the highest army commanders are carrying on the war for war’s sake, but have told me that as soon as a serious willingness for peace becomes perceptible on the other side, we must take the matter up.

  1. Before the Main Committee of the Reichstag, July 11.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1917, Supplement 2, vol. I, pp. 328331, 217219, and 162164, respectively.