File No. 763.72/11516

The Chargé in the Netherlands ( Bliss) to the Secretary of State


4569. Hertling, speaking before Main Committee of Reichstag, 24th, said:

Our last great offensive has not brought us the hoped-for success. This must be admitted at once. Military command has felt it necessary to withdraw our far-flung battle front to so-called Siegfried Line. Situation is serious but we have no cause for discouragement. We have already passed through sterner trials.

Chancellor then said that even if Russian situation cannot be regarded as composed and future appears uncertain, two enemies are out of way and many troops released for action in west. Old spirit of German soldiers is unbroken and paeans of victory of enemy will soon die down. Chancellor maintained that violation of written law by invasion of Belgium was based on right of defense [Page 314] and self-preservation and referred to Belgian archives which showed intentions of Western Powers in case of war and the fact that Belgian Government, in spite of German offer of restitution of damage caused by military measures, joined the combination of enemies. Just like Belgium, Germany in all later struggles was only on defensive everywhere. German Government showed that it had not thought of conquests.

After explaining in detail enemy war propaganda under cover of fighting for oppressed nations, Chancellor referred to present situation and attitude of German Government and people. He said:

Germany, conscious of her great past and her still greater mission in future, will stand erect and not grovel to earth. The wall of armies on western front will not be broken and submarine war slowly but surely accomplishes its task of diminishing cargo space and thereby threatening effectively the transport of troops and material from United States and limiting it more and more. The hour will arrive, because it must arrive, when our enemies too will listen to reason and will be ready to make an end to war before half of the world has become desert and flower of manhood lies blighted.

Speaking of internal political situation, Chancellor repeated unalterable determination of Prussian Government to insist on electoral reforms in a democratic and progressive spirit necessary by applying extreme constitutional measures.

He declared humanity trembles at thought that this terrible civilization-devouring war might not be the last but might cause future wars, and question is being more insistently asked whether it might not be possible to create organization among peoples longing for peace, substituting right for might and peaceful solutions for bloody conflicts. Chancellor referred to his declarations of January 241 approving of league of nations on condition that honest will to peace and recognition of equal rights for all states be guaranteed, while enemies are thinking of league of nations as armed against Germany. To realize league of nations, there must be general simultaneous gradual disarmament, the establishment of obligatory courts of arbitration, freedom of seas, and protection of small nations. Referring again to speech on January 24, he spoke of disarmament as within range of possibility if it were possible to form international combination requiring that questions in dispute among nations be always submitted to court of arbitration. If this duty could be imposed on members of league of nations, considerable step towards maintenance of general peace would doubtless be taken. More detailed considerations necessary, especially guarantees for acceptance of decisions of arbitral courts require careful and thorough examination.

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After remarking that problem of freedom of seas is main obstacle to free communication between nations and peoples, he went on to say that as regards protection of small nations, Germany could immediately and unconditionally subscribe to this as she had entirely clear conscience.

It is to be hoped that league of nations is not merely dream of future. May the thought penetrate deeply that all countries should, according to their abilities, their statesmen, and their invitations [inclinations?], prepare themselves for an honest and energetic desire for peace and justice.

  1. Ante, pp. 3842.