Leading up to The First World War.
Mentioned in our original analyses of how the First War started, the Matscheko Memorandum, composed before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, was adapted and presented to the German Kaiser on 5 July which resulted in the issuing of the infamous blank check assurance.
But to understand why the Matscheko memorandum is so important one needs to take a closer look at two weeks before Franz Ferdinand was murdered including when the latter and Kaiser Wilhelm II met at Konopischt where he and Franz Ferdinand discussed the possibility of a future war.
One of the myths about the late Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy, promoted by legions of historians, is that the Habsburg elites, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand in particular, had seriously considered reforming the Empire in a way that would tackle both their internal South Slav question and the perceived external threat from independent Serbia. This supposed project of reform revolved around so-called “Trialism”, the political movement that aimed to reorganize the bipartite Empire into a tripartite one, creating a Croatian state equal in status to Austria and Hungary, meaning a third, South Slav, unit would be established with its centre in Zagreb, possessing such power of attraction as would neutralize anything that Belgrade could offer. It has to be said, however, that these were just balloons of fantasy visualized largely by nationalist Croats at the time. With the exception of Aehrenthal, no one of any consequence among the statesmen of the Monarchy had actually proposed Trialism. And even Aehrenthal quickly gave up on the idea. Franz Joseph was decidedly against it – his abortive experiment with Czech Trialism in 1871 had left him allergic to any structural reform of the Empire. Even more important was the Hungarian opposition to any imperial restructuring that would entail a loss of lands under the Crown of St Stephen.
Nor can the Heir to the Throne be described as an advocate of Trialism, He cannot, in fact, be seen as a champion of any meaningful reform. Such tentative sympathy as Franz Ferdinand may have had for Trialism-related to his obsession with weakening Hungary and collapsed completely after the establishment in Croatia-Slavonia, in 1905, of the Croato-Serb alliance – an alliance favoring the ultra-nationalist Hungarians against Vienna. Both the Archduke and his associates then considered Trialism a dangerous idea, for they saw the South Slavs as unreliable. Against the evidence, many historians still speculate that only the assassination of Franz Ferdinand prevented the realization of his trialist plans concerning the South Slavs. Some even suggest that those plans had caused the assassination. Then there are others who write books in which the Archduke is keen to promote not Trialism, but rather federalism along national lines. Yet he never even remotely contemplated any kind of power-sharing system, let alone one based on the principle of nationality. His vision, in so far as he had one, was that of a strong centralized state in which historic Habsburg Crown Lands, not national units, would be allowed a degree of local autonomy. And although he had had many years in which to prepare for power, his one and only practical post-accession plan in 1914 was to destroy the hated dualist structure which enabled Budapest to deal with Vienna on an equal footing.
The man who would be Emperor
It is accepted that in the weeks before he set out on his journey to Sarajevo, Franz Ferdinand had expected to become Emperor fairly soon. Such anticipation was not unreasonable. In April, Franz Joseph’s serious pneumonia condition had caused widespread concern both at home and abroad.
Recalling a conversation with Colonel Alexander Brosch, in which the latter had cited the Hofburg doctor Professor Neusser, Heinrich Lammasch the constitutional adviser of Franz Ferdinand related that medical opinion in 1910-1911 gave Franz Joseph one or two years at most.1
The Emperor did eventually recover from his illness, but in the light of his advanced age in 1914 (he being in his eighty-fourth year) the outlook was justifiably pessimistic. On reaming of his uncle’s poor health, Franz Ferdinand reacted immediately. The “workshop,” as Milan Hodza called the Belvedere circle of associates and advisers, was “hurriedly summoned to meet and to prepare all details of procedure and action.” Members of the group drafted and revised texts of a manifesto, and also worked on the wording of an appropriate Bosnian title for the next Emperor. He was to be “Konig und Herr von Bosnien und Herzegovina”(King and leader of Bosnien und Herzegovina).2 Early in May Franz Ferdinand’s friend Count Adalbert Sternberg told Josef Redlich that Franz Joseph’s days were “numbered”, and that the Archduke had long ago completed his plans for the succession, but kept them secret.3 In mid-May Paul Samassa revealed to Redlich that various drafts of these were held by Baron Johann Eichhoff The plan was, according to Samassa, to cancel Franz Ferdinand’s crowning in Hungary; replacing it instead with the imposition Wktroyierung) of universal suffrage on the country.4
On 28 May Hans Schlitter noted in his diary that Franz Joseph was “furious” with Franz Ferdinand because the latter had already begun to behave as the supreme commander during the Emperor’s illness.5 Further evidence of the take-over fever in those days is provided by Andreas von Morsey in the unpublished sections of his memoir. The young Morsey was Franz Ferdinand’s Dienstedmmerer, a kind of all-purpose personal secretary and equerry. An employee at the Staatsarchiv in Vienna, he had been allocated to Franz Ferdinand’s office at the beginning of 1914. On 20 June the Archduke and his entourage moved from Konopischt to his estate in Chlumetz (Chlumec) east of Prague where they expected, on 23 June, the arrival of Russia’s Grand Duke Cyril. This was to be a secret visit. According to a member of the archduke’s staff, Baron Morsey, the Belvedere had received reliable information about the Russians indicating their wish to move closer to an Austria under Franz Ferdinand; such a rapprochement was for them out of the question while Franz Joseph still lived (because of memories stretching back to the Crimean War), but they had nothing against the person of Franz Ferdinand. “At this time the old Emperor was dangerously ill,” Mosley wrote, “a calamity was not impossible, and this placed Cyril’s arrival in a special light.” The Grand Duke never arrived, however, and there was speculation in Franz Ferdinand’s circle that the visit might have been stopped by an intrigue from Berlin or by the Pan-Slavists in Russia. 6
Be that as it may, Franz Ferdinand was showing every sign of anticipating a speedy accession, wondering aloud how Karl, Otto’s son, would manage as his Thronfolger, and telling Morsey that he wanted to get rid of, among others, Prince Alfred of Montenouvo and Rudolf Sieghart the governor of the Boden-Creditanstalt. His special contempt was reserved for the Hungarian Prime Minister István Tisza who, he said, considered himself “We, by the Grace of God, the uncrowned King of Hungary.” And he raged against his uncle, asking an embarrassed Morsey whether he thought that under Franz Joseph any reform in any area, even a modest reform, was imaginable at all in the “Great Austrian sense.” The Emperor had, Franz Ferdinand thundered, “surrendered, step by step, every power anchor [Machtposition] of the Dynasty.” The reference to reforms “in grossosterreichischem Sinne,” together with his concern for the Dynasty, do incidentally provide the last recorded evidence about where Franz Ferdinand stood with regard to his internal restructuring plans for the Empire just before he was killed.7
And whereas the old Emperor was not so well at this time, neither was the Heir to the Throne himself – at least not according to some observers. A number of reports and rumors exists about the Archduke’s worsening state in 1913-1914, but there is little agreement on the cause of his condition. In March and again in April Hans Schlitter was writing in his diary about Franz Ferdinand’s renewed suffering from tuberculosis.8 Early in August 1914 Julius Szeps, editor-in-chief of the semi-official Fremdenblatt, told Sir Maurice de Bunsen, the British Ambassador to Vienna, that Franz Ferdinand had had something seriously wrong with his bladder and only one year to live.9 Henry Wickham Steed, until 1913 the Vienna correspondent of The Times, maintained in May of that year that Franz Ferdinand had contracted syphilis twenty years previously; now leading to “progressive paralysis which is already so far advanced as to cause grave doubt whether the brain is not to the point of being affected”. The historian John W Boyer has suggested that Steed’s information came from Tomas Masaryk and others.10 An Austrian study from 1970, hostile to Steed, also named Masaryk as Steed’s source on the Archduke’s state of health.11 In 1913 Franz Ferdinand himself told Kristoffy that he was not well and that he feared he would not live to ascend the throne.12 In his diary entry for 7 May 1914, Josef Redlich made only brief mention of the illness of Emperor Franz Joseph, dwelling instead on the Archduke and the rumors of him as suffering from paralysis. The Senate President Miroslav Ploj told Redlich that for the past year and a half the Archduke had been having “fits of raging madness” and had nearly strangled a servant. “It will be a tragedy,” Redlich opined, ‘when Franz Ferdinand ascends the Throne, but it will not last long.13
Whatever his future, the Heir to the Throne could hardly complain about a surfeit of official engagements before the Bosnian maneuvers of June 1914 (and the concluding procession through the city of Sarajevo). In mid-April, he paid a visit on behalf of Franz Joseph to the Bavarian Court in Munich. Given his reforming intentions, he was seen there as an “interesting puzzle,” embodying an almost uri-Austrian toughness. Bavaria’s Crown Prince Rupprecht was apparently skeptical about the Archduke’s chances of bringing about an organic transformation and consolidation of Austria-Hungary. Twenty years earlier Rupprecht had traveled in the south-eastern parts of the Empire. Now he noted in his diary that there was always a lot being said about the Habsburg’s state-building formula of divide et imperia, but so much was being divided in Austria-Hungary that there would be little left for imperare. 14
Early on the morning of 29 April, the Thronfolger arrived in Budapest to address the Delegations on behalf of the still-recovering Emperor, only to leave the hated Hungarian soil just a few hours later as fast as he could. Such was his aversion to that country that he would lower the curtains in the compartment while his train was traveling through Hungary.15 In the weeks before he left for Bosnia by far the most important event in Franz Ferdinand’s engagements book was his meeting with the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, which took place at Konopischt over two full days, on 12 and 13 June. Given the assassination in Sarajevo soon after that and the world war which followed several weeks later, the meeting has figured considerably on the pages of history. There is enough documentation about it to suggest that even if the assassination had not taken place, the Konopischt episode would still have formed an outstanding short chapter in international affairs regarding developments in south-eastern Europe at an important moment: with Russia’s Tsar Nicholas expected to visit the Romanian King at Constanza on 14 June.
The Konopischt meeting has in the past been presented as no less than a “war council” by some and vehemently denied as such by others. Thus in 1925, Robert Seton-Watson described as “credible” the assumption that, at Konopischt, “Franz Ferdinand had propounded a scheme for Serbia’s overthrow, and that William II had promised Germany’s support’.16 In 1953 Rudolf Kiszling, Franz Ferdinand’s deferential biographer described the whole idea as “the worst slander.” 17 What is the truth?
The alleged informal character of the occasion
Much has been made in many accounts of the Konopischt meeting about the informal character of the occasion. Von Jagow; Germany’s Foreign Minister in 1914, wrote soon after the war that Franz Ferdinand had invited Wilhelm II to Konopischt because he wanted to show him the rose blooms on his beloved estate – the visit was of a “purely friendly” nature.18 Such a view has prevailed to this day. However, Prince Lichnowsky, Germany’s Ambassador to London, recorded in his memoirs: “I do not know whether the plan of an active policy against Serbia had already been decided on at Konopischt.”19 It seems, at the very least, that he did not think the Konopischt meeting to have been merely about inspecting blooming roses. In his recent work on the Imperial Austrian Army, Richard Bassett also takes a dissenting view when he writes that the horticultural theory about the Konopischt meeting “simply does not stand up to close scrutiny.”20
Certainly, Franz Ferdinand’s famous rose garden, on which he had spent a massive amount of money, had been presented in the press as the object of the visit. Yet Paul Nikitsch-Boulles, Franz Ferdinand’s secretary, clearly remembered that in June 1914 “not a single rose bloomed in the whole of Konopischt.” Nikitsch-Boulles even spelled out the purpose of the Kaiser’s arrival: “to discuss the important political questions of the day,” safely removed from the bustle of a big city and its prying journalists.” True, as Morsey recorded, artificial means were used to force the roses to bloom, such as watering them with water warmed to the correct temperature. Morsey also suggested that Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, accompanying Wilhelm II, had been invited by the Archduke because he was a well-known lover of flowers, especially roses. Yet Tirpitz himself recognized the farcical aspect of whitewashing the rationale for a visit in this way. He could not imagine, he told Morsey jokingly with regard to the inspection of roses, “what the English would make of it”.22 Indeed. The Admiral noted a day or so after the visit that Wilhelm II had talked with Franz Ferdinand about the desirability of moving the whole of the German fleet to the Mediterranean where, the Kaiser said to his host, “united with the Austrians and the Italians we can jointly strike.”23 There was, clearly, more to the Konopischt meeting than just a pleasant stroll through the rose garden. “It is a curious thing,” Theodor Wolff, editor of the Berliner Tageblatt, noted, “that neither William II in his Erinnerungen nor Admiral von Tirpitz in his big volumes devotes a single syllable to this last visit to Franz Ferdinand’s palace.”14
At least some of what was discussed at the Bohemian castle can be ascertained from the record in the often quoted Grosse Politik, Germany’s official collection of documents whose purpose was to disseminate the official government position that Germany was the victim of Allied aggression in 1914. Carl-Georg von Treutler from the German Foreign Office had been brought along for the trip by the Kaiser, and he subsequently wrote a report (in the form of a private letter to Under-Secretary Arthur Zimmermann), partly on the basis of his brief attendance during one of the exchanges between Franz Ferdinand and Wilhelm II, and partly on the basis of what the latter chose to relate to him the following morning.25 Whether Treutler can be seen as a reliable chronicler is very much open to question. In his fragmentary memoirs he claimed that Ottokar Czernin had also been present at Konopischt, and that he had seen Czernin walking with Wilhelm II in front of himself and Franz Ferdinand, who had described Czernin as “my future minister for foreign affairs”.26 All of which is rather remarkable because Czernin was at this time at his post in Romania as his telegrams to Vienna from Bucharest-Sinaia dated 12 and 13 June attest.27
Be that as it may, according to Treutler’s report Franz Ferdinand was sceptical about the Italians, telling the Kaiser that in the long term a relationship with Italy was “impossible”. He pointed out, for example, that in Albania the Italians were acting in bad faith, with Baron Carlo Aliotti’s continued presence in Durazzo being a case in point. Wilhelm II, for his part, tried to put a more positive light on Italy’s attachment to the Triple Alliance. The Archduke further fulminated against the Hungarians, describing conditions in Hungary as “anachronistic and medieval” – ironically perhaps, given the absence of any progressive ideas in his own political outlook. But it was important to Franz Ferdinand that he make his points against Hungary: for the German Kaiser, despite his pro-Romanian line, had taken a liking to the Hungarian Prime Minister Tisza. The two had first met a short time previously, in Vienna on 23 March – and the very fact of this meeting seems to have greatly upset Franz Ferdinand.28 Indeed, according to Paul Samassa who was closely involved in the Archduke’s circle, the Konopischt meeting was all about making sure that the German Kaiser properly understood the situation in Hungary – since the Archduke, when he ascended the Throne, intended to get rid of Tisza.29 The relevant report in Grosse Politik supports this interpretation of the meeting to some extent. Franz Ferdinand described Tisza to the visiting German Emperor as being “already a dictator” in Hungary, and aiming to become the same in Vienna. What was particularly alarming, he went on, was that Tisza made no secret of his view that a separate Hungarian army was something to be strived for. Wilhelm II, however, interrupted his host to argue that Tisza should not be thrown overboard, for he was an “energetic” man whose estimable talents should be utilized. Undeterred, the Archduke went on to criticize Tisza’s policy of suppressing the Romanians of Hungary at the precise time when it was necessary to cultivate the neighbouring state of Romania, and even asked the Kaiser to instruct the German Ambassador to Vienna to constantly remind the Hungarian Prime Minister about this problem.30
This attempt by Franz Ferdinand to get a foreign power to influence the internal affairs of the Habsburg Empire evidences the extent of his impotence with regard to Hungary. But Treutler’s report provides strange reading. One would expect to find references in it to Serbia, to the rumours about an impending union between Serbia and Montenegro and, especially, to the speculation about a new, Russian-backed Balkan alliance directed at Austria-Hungary and thus also at Germany. There is none of that in the report although these were all hot topics in june 1914 – at least in Vienna. Most surprising of all, Russia is only mentioned in one sentence. This in itself is proof that the Grosse Politik record of what went on at Konopischt is very incomplete. A wider discussion must have taken place. In fact, that single sentence is the concluding one in Treutler’s report and also perhaps the most significant: “In the opinion of the Archduke Russia is not to be feared; the internal difficulties are too great to allow an aggressive foreign policy to this country.” 31
Not to be “feared” in what context? Was Franz Ferdinand, a fortnight before he was killed, contemplating with the German Emperor a war in the Balkan theatre (with, realistically, only Serbia and Montenegro as possible targets) and dismissing the chance of a Russian reaction? Of course, the objection may be raised that something as specific as that should not be inferred from what would have been a perfectly normal and sensible review of the general international situation on the part of Franz Ferdinand and Wilhelm II – during which the position of Russia would inevitably have been discussed. On the other hand, the question of Austro-Hungarian and German designs in the Balkans at this time is a necessary one to raise in the light of what Conrad disclosed about the Konopischt meeting in the fourth volume of his memoirs. On 5 July 1914 he had an audience with Franz Joseph. The Chief of General Staff had come to press for war against Serbia in the wake of the Sarajevo assassination. “Quite right”, Franz Joseph commented, “but how are we going to wage war if then everybody pounces on us, Russia in particular?” Conrad protested that Germany provided the backing. “Are you sure of Germany?”, the Emperor asked. He then explained that he had asked Franz Ferdinand to clarify at Konopischt with Wilhelm II whether Austria-Hungary could in the future “unconditionally” reckon with Germany’s support. But, according to Franz Joseph, the German Kaiser “had evaded the question, giving no answer”.32
Needless to say, the inquiry about Germany’s unconditional support could only have related to support for Vienna’s intentions in the Balkans – Austria-Hungary was hardly going to act unilaterally against Italy, let alone Russia. Since 1878 its ‘Great Power’ radius had not extended beyond South-Eastern Europe. Conrad went back to the office after the audience and informed Colonel Josef Metzger, the head of the Operations Bureau, about his talk with the Emperor. When he came to the point about Franz Joseph’s doubts as to whether Germany would come along in the event of war “imposed” on Austria-Hungary, Metzger suddenly remembered something important. Interjecting, he said that on the evening of 27 June, at the Ilidza hotel outside Sarajevo, Franz Ferdinand had asserted to him that, at Konopischt, about this particular question the German Kaiser had said: “If we did not get going Uosgingenl, the situation would get worse.”33 The implication of German backing, indeed encouragement, of an Austro-Hungarian strike in the Balkans was fairly clear, and war “imposed” on Austria-Hungary would have been its war against Serbia.
Why, then, did Franz Joseph tell Conrad on 5 July that Wilhelm II had been evasive at Konopischt about guaranteeing unconditional future support to Austria-Hungary? Either the old Emperor had not been accurately informed by his nephew on what had been said at Konopischt with regard to German support or, much more likely, he wanted to keep Conrad on the leash while awaiting news from the mission he had sent to Berlin to extract a renewed pledge from Germany’s Wilhelm II that very day, 5 July. Be that as it may, the records of the Konopischt meeting appear to have been heavily censored or destroyed. Robert Seton-Watson concluded that von Treutler’s report ‘may be presumed not to be complete.”34 In 1927 historian Hermann Kantorowicz expressed his incredulity at the idea that, in conversations which had encompassed all issues relating to the Balkans, not a word had been said about Serbia. Ironically, Kantorowicz’s work on the question of war guilt was itself suppressed and did not see publication until 1967.35 Meanwhile, Alfred von Wegerer’s postwar claim that von Treutler had written “an extensive report” was an attempt to convince the world that the talks at Konopischt “involved neither Serbia, nor were any warlike intentions and plans mentioned”.36 Yet at the time, Franz Ferdinand told Foreign Minister Count Berchtold soon after the Kaiser had departed that they had “thoroughly” discussed “all possible questions” and had in every respect found themselves in full agreement.”37 In fact, when Colonel Bardolff published his memoirs in 1938, he stated, without elaborating, that the German Kaiser and Franz Ferdinand had discussed at Konopischt the Monarchy’s relations with Serbia and Montenegro.38 This makes it even odder that there is no mention of it in the available record.
The evidence stemming from the Konopischt meeting, fragmentary as it is, thus points to the conclusion that three key players (Franz Joseph, Franz Ferdinand and Wilhelm II) were in mid-June 1914 mulling over the scenario of an Austro-Hungarian move against Serbia. Theodor Sosnosky, Franz Ferdinand’s biographer, argued rather unconvincingly that Colonel Metzger had on 27 June at Ilidza either “misunderstood” the Archduke, or that the latter had “wrongly expressed” himself. Interestingly, however, Sosnosky did not try to dispute that Franz Joseph had asked Franz Ferdinand to quiz Wilhelm II at Konopischt about the kind of support the Monarchy could expect of Germany.39 Albertini, on the other hand, maintains that Metzger had probably understood correctly, but that the Archduke, who did not believe in the desirability of an attack on Serbia, had not been frank with Franz Joseph. However, Luigi Albertini does not address the question of why, at this stage, the Emperor and his nephew would have been interested in ascertaining Wilhelm’s position in the first place.40
Sidney Fay relegates the whole Metzger-Conrad episode to a footnote – merely quoting Conrad, but without even beginning to discuss the implications.41 Bernadotte Schmitt, by contrast, gives the matter his full attention, considering it as “evident” that the question of an early strike had been raised at Konopischt.42 In his 1928 study of the 1914 war guilt, H.W: Wilson wrote that action against Serbia ‘must have been examined’ by Franz Ferdinand and the German Kaiser, ‘but Treutler, in his very incomplete report on the meeting, is entirely silent on the subject.”43
Russia could not wage any war, and we would certainly be able to see the Serbs off
Indeed, Conrad’s writings indicate that Franz Joseph and Franz Ferdinand had undoubtedly conferred on Balkan issues and decided that Wilhelm II should be sounded out at Konopischt. This step of consulting the ally was necessary in any case: all the more so because Wilhelm II had in the past revealed himself to be a highly inconsistent ally. But Franz Joseph and Franz Ferdinand were now knocking on an open door: Colonel Metzger’s talk with Conrad makes it fairly clear that the German Kaiser was at Konopischt even urging a timely action. Hermann Kantorowicz has chronicled the bewildering swings in a choice of policy displayed by Wilhelm II when replying to Austria-Hungary’s requests that Berlin back its various Balkan entanglements – from his bombastic expressions of Nibelungentreue during the Bosnian annexation crisis to his enthusiastic support for the Balkan League against Turkey. However, the respected German scholar maintained that, from October 1913, the Kaiser adopted a hostile attitude towards Serbia that was still there in July 1914.44
This development did not occur as early as October 1913. It may be said that the German Emperor in fact never had any strong feelings about the Serbs – except, possibly, that he could not forgive them for being Slavs. What really concerned him was to ensure that the Serbian Army should not be an opponent in any future war with Russia. Serbia should, therefore, be tied to the Triple Alliance – by stick or carrot – preferably the latter. So it was that soon after declaring support for Austria-Hungary in October 1913 at the time of the Albanian imbroglio he was telling Berchtold over a cup of tea at the German Embassy in Vienna that everybody in Serbia, beginning with King Peter, could be had for money. He also suggested Austria-Hungary should provide military training to the Serbs and offer trade privileges. In return, Serbia should be “submissive” and its troops, which had shown that they were capable, should be placed at the disposal of Austria-Hungary. But if the Serbs refused, Belgrade should be “bombarded” and held until the will of the Austrian Emperor was fulfilled.45
According to Heinrich von Tschirschky’s report to Bethmann Hollweg on this meeting between Berchtold and Wilhelm II, the latter stated that: “Austria-Hungary must do everything to establish, if at all possible it l’amiable, an economic and political understanding with Serbia, but if that could not be achieved by peaceful means more energetic methods must be employed. Somehow or other Serbia must in all circumstances be made to join forces with the Monarchy, particularly in the military sphere; so that in case of a conflict with Russia the Monarchy will not have the Serb army against it but on its side.”46
And this was not just Wilhelm II advocating an Austro-Serbian rapprochement – it was official German policy. For example, in November 1913 both Behmann Hollweg and Arthur Zimmermann, Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, were insistently telling the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador in Berlin that it would be to Vienna’s great advantage if the differences with Serbia could be somehow ironed out.47 And it has to be said that the German Emperor himself was consistent in backing such an approach to Serbia. In December 1913, in Munich, he continued on this theme to Ludwig Velics, the Austro-Hungarian Minister in Bavaria. One way or another, Serbia had to be attached to the Monarchy, he said, and then suggested eminently sensible policies: for example major financial investment in Serbia, and opening to the Serbs (‘wide open’) Austria’s academies and institutes, including the leading secondary school in Central Europe, Vienna’s Theresianum Gymnasium. The Germans, he explained, meaning also the Austrian Germans, could not be unconcerned about whether or not in the event of a conflict (he meant a European war), “twenty of their divisions” were earmarked to march against South Slavdom.48
The Kaiser’s position was to change dramatically, however, not very long before the Konopischt meeting. On 23 May he announced to Szogyeny, the Austro- Hungarian Ambassador to Berlin, a stunning aboutface. Though he considered the establishment of friendly neighbor relations with Serbia “extremely desirable”, he said he fully realized that the attitude of Serbia’s Government, and public opinion, was causing Austria-Hungary “virtually insuperable difficulties” in this regard. Szogyeny provided no elaboration in his report to Vienna, and perhaps there was nothing too elaborate. Suddenly, Wilhelm II had adopted a point of view on relations with Serbia practically identical to that held by Berchtold and his mandarins. Only a few weeks earlier, at the beginning of April, he had still insisted that: “For Serbia, a tempting modus vivendi with the Dual Monarchy must be found.”49
The German Emperor’s change of direction was extraordinary, but what is also notable is the curious fact that historiography has paid it no attention whatsoever.50 After all, the support extended by Germany to Austria-Hungary at the beginning of the July Crisis was to entirely determine its outcome, i.e., a Balkan war leading to a European one, and the importance of Wilhelm’s personal role in this cannot be exaggerated. Quite simply, Austria-Hungary would never have declared war on Serbia in 1914 had it not been sure of the support of the German Kaiser and his Government. The question of how and why he had come to view Austro-Serbian relations from the Ballhausplatz perspective is in fact one of the more interesting regarding the immediate origins of the war of 1914. Within some three months, he had transformed himself from an impatient advocate of Austro-Serbian rapprochement to a protagonist, early in July, of a confrontation with Serbia. The question of why will probably remain an unresolved one. Certainly, the reasons given by the Kaiser (the attitude of the Serbian Government and Serbian public opinion) could not possibly have played a role, for, as seen in previous chapters, the Serbian Government was at the time at its most conciliatory towards Vienna and, in any case from spring 1914, entirely absorbed with the Army and the Black Hand over the so-called Priority Decree. It is true that Serbian public opinion had always been hostile, but no more so than that of Romania, and nothing had occurred in the spring of 1914 to make it raise its voice in a manner louder than usual.
It is possible, on the other hand, that the Kaiser’s new line of thought reflected the influence which Istvan Tisza had recently begun to exert on him. The Hungarian Prime Minister had by all accounts captivated Wilhelm II at their meeting in Vienna on 23 March. Tschirschky wrote two days after the meeting that the Kaiser “now stands completely under Tisza’s impact”. A member of his entourage noted that “Count Tisza had made an extraordinary impression on His Majesty”. For the first time, according to this report, the Kaiser had heard in Vienna ‘a positive programme, instead of complaints and resignation’. In reality, he had been the subject of a highly successful brainwashing operation. What Tisza had done in that meeting was to carefully guide the German Emperor towards the Austro-Hungarian, and more specifically Hungarian, understanding of the Balkans, making sure all the time not to challenge any of his well-known views on the region. The key here was to take into account Wilhelm’s soft spot for Romania. Thus Tisza lied shamelessly about progress being made in the talks with the Romanians of Hungary – despite the fact that, as has been seen, those negotiations had already broken down in February. Pursuing his pro-Bulgarian line and knowing what his interlocutor thought about the Bulgarian King, Ferdinand, he stated judiciously that he did not wish to draw the King’s person into the debate, but was arguing that the Bulgarians were a “strong people” whose future had to be reckoned with. Cleverly, he painted a bleak picture of a devious Russian plan for the Balkans: to build up an anti-Austrian grouping of Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. Whether by guessing or by knowing Wilhelm’s view, Tisza additionally asserted what Wilhelm also believed in: that the union of Serbia and Montenegro was ‘inevitable’. But here he employed Berchtold’s argument that Serbia, as an outpost of Russia, should be kept away from the Adriatic, and if the union did materialize then the Montenegrin littoral should be assigned to Albania. Amazingly, he added that, ‘as a compensation to Bulgaria’, the latter should be given the Serbian-held districts of Ischtip (Stip) and Kotschana (Kocani) in eastern Macedonia – presumably as a compensation for the enlargement of Albania. For good measure, the Hungarian Prime Minister emphasized that the Balkan policy of the Monarchy had to be conducted in mutual understanding with Romania.51
What is surprising is that Wilhelm II bought into this scenario. As noted above, at the beginning of April he was still insisting that a modus vivendi be found between Austria-Hungary and Serbia – this was after his meeting with Tisza. He had apparently been upset by what he heard in Vienna from Berchtold and Franz Joseph about not letting Serbia unite with Montenegro even at the price of war. On 5 April, anticipating that Vienna would make such bellicose noises at first and then accept a Serbo-Montenegrin union anyway, with the inevitable loss of prestige, he backed Tisza’s suggestion that the Montenegrin coast be allotted to Albania as compensation, arguing that Tisza’s ‘sensible estimation’ should be adopted.” Yet the implementation of Tisza’s proposals would have meant provoking major trouble in the Balkans anyway – one war or more. For it is inconceivable that Montenegro and Serbia would have stood idly by as some of their territories were grabbed up; and horrendous complications would assuredly have arisen with Italy and Russia, creating an accompanying European diplomatic crisis of the first order. The Kaiser had clearly been mesmerized by Tisza. At their meeting in March he told him that Hungary had every reason to stand fast with ‘Germanentum’ against the “Slavonic tide”. The best way to combat the latter was, he said, “a German Austria and a Magyar Hungary”.53 No wonder Tisza was delighted. “In an East European war”, he wrote subsequently, “we can reckon with almost half of German armed forces.”54
Whoever or whatever it was that influenced the German Emperor to consider Austro-Serbian differences as irreconcilable may remain a matter of debate. But there can be little doubt that by the time he arrived in Konopischt to meet Franz Ferdinand he was no longer preaching rapprochement between Vienna and Belgrade. It is also important to emphasize that the Kaiser did not fear that Balkan adventures might lead to a European war since, in his view, Russia was still weak. Thus in March 1914 he assured the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to Berlin that Russia could not think about a war “for some considerable time.55 In October 1913 he had been very specific regarding this length of time, telling Berchtold that one did not need to worry about Russia for the next six years.56 His Foreign Minister von Jagow was also convinced of this, telling the former minister in Belgrade Janos Forgach in September 1913 that the power of Russia was “in every respect overrated”. 57
Austro- Hungarian statesmen, diplomats, and soldiers also thought along such lines. The idea that an opportunity for action against Serbia existed as Russia was still weak was already being expressed at the beginning of 1914 by a person well placed to make such an assessment: Count Friedrich von Szapary, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to St Petersburg. On 17 January, in Vienna, Szapary talked privately with Hans Schlitter, who noted Szapary’s words in his diary: “Russia could not wage any war, and we would certainly be able to see the Serbs off.”58 Only a few weeks earlier, in December 1913, Baron Julius Szilassy, the Austro-Hungarian Minister in Athens, had visited Prime Minister Tisza who told him that “war with Serbia was unavoidable, but on account of internal reasons Russia would not and could not intervene under any circumstances.”59 Franz Ferdinand, evidently, was not isolated in his view about Russia’s weakness. It is noteworthy that both Szapary and Tisza talked about it in the context of envisaging a war against Serbia. This belief that Russia was fragile was in any case widely shared in 1914 at the top of the Austro-Hungarian state. In August 1914, shortly after the war broke out, finance minister Leon von Biliński maintained that it was wrong to overestimate Russia as its Empire was politically “in complete disintegration”.60 Soon after the Sarajevo assassination, Prince Franz von Hohenlohe, the Austro-Hungarian Military Attache in St Petersburg, told Nicolas de Basily of the Russian Foreign Office: “Do you understand that you cannot go to war? If you do, you will expose yourself to revolution and the ruin of your power.”61 Already in February 1913, Conrad questioned, in a letter to Berchtold, whether an action against Serbia would necessarily involve a Russian intervention.62
There may have been an element of wishful thinking in such prognoses and calculations. Yet it cannot be said that either the Kaiser or the Archduke had at Konopischt completely dismissed the danger of a general conflict. A European war had been anticipated by them, though they talked about it in rather hypothetical terms and also differed in their predictions. According to Jaroslav Thun, the German Emperor said: “If – God forbid we should ever have a war against France and Russia, then Italy will be with us.” Predictably, Franz Ferdinand commented: “If-God forbid – we should ever have a war against Russia, then Italy will be against us.!”63 One particular scenario leading to a European war was definitely discussed at Konopischt. In the unpublished part of his memoir, Andreas von Morsey relates what he had heard being discussed by the Archduke and his guest: “As a result of the turmoil in Albania, one feared that there would be a Serbo-Greek attack on Albania, which would then make Bulgaria march and without fail also Romania, leading inevitably to the outbreak of a European conflagration.”64 Just how this would have worked out to such a culmination is not explained by Morsey, but presumably he meant that Austria-Hungary and Germany would at some stage intervene. It is at least clear that Franz Ferdinand and Wilhelm II had been considering worst-case eventualities.
The Konopischt meeting, Samuel Williamson insisted in 1991, had been “quite prosaic and humdrum”65 Curiously, some historians have been hard at work even quite recently to deny that anything of any importance happened at Konopischt.66 “It had all been very innocent”, maintains another book about Franz Ferdinand.67 However, it is worth noting how Franz Ferdinand’s Slovak adviser at the Belvedere, Milan Hodza, recollected Konopischt: “It was not an improvised exchange of views. Carefully prepared memoranda had been dispatched from Belvedere and Berlin, and were treated on the same level as certain Austro- Hungarian military problems which at that time attracted the attention of Berlin and Vienna.” 68 Baron Eichhoff wrote in 1926 that, two months before the Kaiser’s arrival in Konopischt, Franz Ferdinand (staying at Miramare near Trieste at the time) was already busy preparing for the visit.69 The fact that the Konopischt meeting was no ordinary social get-together of royals is also confirmed in Burian’s diary. Burian was at the time Tisza’s official representative in Vienna and would make it his business to pry into everything. He recorded (on 17 June) his disappointment at what he saw as the “very weak” result of the meeting: “weak interrogation [of Wilhelm Il], unsatisfactory answer on Romania and Bulgaria, pussyfooting around’. It would appear that Burian (intensely disliked by Franz Ferdinand) had only heard a watered-down account of the meeting – for if Conrad von Hötzendorf, who had himself admittedly fallen out of Archducal favour by this time, only found out from Colonel Metzger on 5 July that Wilhelm II had at Konopischt recommended speedy action, there is no reason to suppose that Burian would have been better informed. But his diary observations do at least demonstrate that there had been high expectations surrounding the German Emperor’s visit.70
Was, then, the mid-june 1914 meeting at a Bohemian castle meant to coordinate sinister plans for war? The thesis that Konopischt was a “council of war” for a general European conflict is certainly incorrect. Even Fritz Fischer, proponent of German guilt for World War One, rejected this thesis about Konopischt. He maintained, however, that “it is correct as far as the preparations for a war between Austria and Serbia were concerned”.71 That is to say, for a localised European war. Graydon Tunstall, a noted authority on Austro-Hungarian and German military planning before 1914, notes briefly that the Konopischt meeting was meant “to reaffirm Germany’s unconditional support for Austria-Hungary”.71 An obvious question arises here: why would Franz Ferdinand, given his known preference for sorting out domestic matters before embarking on an aggressive foreign policy, contemplate a hostile action against Serbia in June 1914? After all, as he so vigorously stated to Berchtold in a letter of 1 February 1913, the first thing was “to put one’s own house in order”. He wanted external peace in order to be able to carry out “an energetic internal clean-up”, and only then “the time will come to pursue a vigorous foreign policy”.73 For the Archduke, this concern over domestic affairs meant above all the abolition of Dualism. But the Emperor, after what the Belvedere circle had in spring assumed to be his last days, continued stubbornly to live on. Franz Ferdinand thus had to postpone his showdown with the Hungarians. Would he therefore not oppose rather than support a risky foreign adventure given that nothing had yet changed at home?
As discussed in the preceding pages, however, by mid-1914 much had changed for the worse in Austria-Hungary’s Balkan position. And some impetus for an active Balkan engagement may well have come from Franz Joseph himself rather than his nephew: According to the testimony of Geza von Daruvary who had worked in the Emperor’s cabinet, Franz Joseph had since the Balkan War of 1912 become increasingly convinced that it would come to an armed conflict with Serbia.” It was seen in a previous chapter that during the October 1913 crisis concerning Serbian troops in Albania he was prepared to go all the way along a military path and that he even envisaged circumstances in which he would initiate a war against Serbia (i.e., that he would not allow a Serbo-Montenegrin union). Certainly, Franz Joseph was by mid-1914 highly concerned about the Balkan situation in general. Burian’s diary supplies evidence that he was especially worried about Romania. On 8 June Burian had a long meeting with the Emperor who told him that he had “lost all confidence in Romania”.75 His instruction to Franz Ferdinand to investigate with Wilhelm II at Konopischt whether Austria-Hungary could count on Germany reflected these concerns and could only have been related to the idea of a pre-emptive strike.
Some experts, it should be emphasized, have emphatically argued that no Konopischt scheme against Serbia existed in the first place. Thus Samuel Williamson: “At no point, however, had the archduke and the German Kaiser discussed any military action against Serbia.” But Williamson does not address some relevant points made by Jozsef Galantai, the Hungarian historian on whose work he does sometimes rely. In 1979 Galantai published, in German, his book on Austria-Hungary and the World War, an oeuvre which stands out because of its mastery of important Hungarian sources. About Konopischt, Galantai notes the position agreed there by Franz Ferdinand and Wilhelm II, whereby “Austria-Hungary should stand up to Serbia – the sooner, the better – even if that provokes Russia’s intervention which Kaiser Wilhelm guaranteed to shield.” And then Galantai continues with reference to the Archduke’s well-known fondness for an alliance of the three conservative Empires (Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia): “At this time Franz Ferdinand’s preferred foreign policy conception had already been shaken, and he no longer believed that a revival of the Three Emperors’ League was still relevant to actual situation.”77 If so, and if the Archduke, as will be seen below; had also come round to the Ballhausplatz (and Hungarian) view that Romania was defecting and that Bulgaria should be cultivated instead, then the idea of crushing Serbia must have become quite appealing to him.
For with one blow the regional strategic picture could be enormously altered to the advantage of Austria-Hungary. Serbia was the military strategic key to the whole of the Balkans: with Serbia out of the way, Romania’s Balkan position would collapse in the face of a revisionist Bulgaria to the south and a Dual Monarchy threatening from the west. And if, as everyone in Vienna and Budapest reckoned, a war with Russia was inevitable at some point, proceeding against Serbia certainly made a great deal of sense in order to secure the all-important south-eastern flank before any such general conflict became reality. Franz Ferdinand’s view; expressed to the German Kaiser at Konopischt, that Russia would for the time being remain inactive on account of internal exigencies, underlined the need for timeliness in such bold forward planning. A regional strike at Serbia therefore carried wider geostrategic benefits for Germany and Austria-Hungary in terms of the overall European balance of power.
From Konopischt to the Matscheko Memorandum
While a historiographical consensus about what took place at Konopischt may never emerge, one particular vignette spun about the meeting at the Bohemian castle and relating to the idea of a general war is no longer seriously discussed, as historians generally agree that it rested on fiction. The matter in question is a startling article published in 1916 by Henry Wickham Steed, the former Vienna correspondent of The Times. Here he quoted information that he had received to the effect that the Kaiser had come to Konopischt proposing a dramatic transformation of Europe after a European war that Germany would begin by provoking Russia: following a German victory, the old Polish state, also comprising Lithuania and the Ukraine, would come to life again – a kingdom for Franz Ferdinand, to be inherited by his eldest son, Maximilian; whereas the Archduke’s second son, Ernst, would become the king of a new realm that would include Bohemia, Hungary, most of Austria’s Southern Slav lands, Serbia and Salonika. German-Austria would come under Archduke’s Otto’s son, Karl, but it would be, with Trieste, brought into the German Reich so Germany would become an Adriatic power. This enlarged Germany would enter into a close and perpetual military and economic alliance with the proposed two new states, making the new power constellation “the arbiter of Europe,” commanding the Balkans and the route to the East. Berlin could look then at will bring, say, Holland and Belgium, into “the Great Confederated German Empire.”
Steed presented his information in the context of the parental concern felt by Franz Ferdinand and Sophie for the future position of their children. Whatever scheme that may have entailed for the post-accession period, the second person in line to the Habsburg succession could not be ignored:
Karl, born in 1887 to Otto and a certain unfortunate Maria Josepha. In 1911 he married Zita von Bourbon-Parma who in the following year gave birth to their son Franz Josef Otto (later known as Otto von Habsburg) – thus strengthening the legitimate line of succession. This was the background to Steed’s sensational wartime account which, he admitted, was merely a “remarkable hypothesis.” Though he did not suggest in his article that Franz Ferdinand had accepted the Kaiser’s proposals, Steed nevertheless christened the episode “The Pact of Konopisht”.78
Quite a few historians have enjoyed attacking Steed, seeing his 1916 article as a piece of wartime propaganda. There was “not a shred of evidence,” thundered Sidney Fay, that the Archduke was plotting at Konopischt. Similarly, Luigi Albertini maintained that Steed’s story “is not authenticated and finds no credence among historians.” Interestingly, however, Alfred Dumaine, France’s Ambassador to Vienna in 1914, did not question in his memoirs the credibility of Steed’s account.79 In 1916 Robert Seton-Watson thought that Steed’s article was “extremely important,” deserving of “the most serious consideration,” though he was to adopt a more guarded attitude after the war.80 Bernadotte Schmitt, in his major work on the origins of the war, noted that Steed’s account was “discredited”, and yet added: “But the fact that it is not mentioned in the official reports of the Konopischt conversations proves nothing, as is often asserted to the contrary, for if the two August persons did discuss any such wild scheme as that alleged, they would in all probability keep the secret to themselves.” 81 Steed himself summarized his article again in 1924, revealing that his source had been an Austro-Polish aristocrat and that the Vatican had initially got hold of the sensational Konopischt story via the Papal Nunciature at Vienna. Its contents did not seem inherently impossible to him “given the semi-madness of the Archduke and the ambitions of the German Emperor.”82
Also in 2009 the memoirs of Vasily Strandtmann were published after lying neglected for decades at the University of Columbia. Strandtmann was the Russian Charge d’Affaires in Belgrade in 1914, who had in June that year gone to Venice for a health cure. Much of the diplomatic corps from Rome was also in Venice at that time of the year, and Strandtmann naturally tried to obtain political information from those sources. Intrigued by the news about the visit of Wilhelm II to Konopischt, he mentioned the subject to “Baroness” Ambrozy (she was, in fact, a Countess), the wife of Count Ludwig Ambrozy, a counselor at the Austro-Hungarian Embassy in Rome. Smiling, she told him that the Konopischt meeting had to do with a covert “plot” against Serbia. Strandtmann allowed himself a show of surprise, after that, the Countess added that the talk had also been about “the creation of an independent Poland, as well as about wider plans for a re-composition of Europe.” Strandtmann concluded this brief paragraph in his memoirs: Sensing that her openness had gone too far, my interlocutor added that these were rumors without any foundation since they emanate from people who are very skeptical towards the Duchess of Hohenberg.83
Strandtmann does not give the precise date of the conversation, but it is clear from the context that it took place several days before the assassination in Sarajevo. The casual manner in which he mentions this encounter with the Countess, and the otherwise reliability of his memoir, remove grounds to imagine that he might have wanted to fabricate evidence to support Steed’s disclosures. If the Konopischt story (as recounted by the Countess and by Steed) indeed originated in circles hostile to Franz Ferdinand’s wife, it could demonstrate that those circles were on permanent alert to identify and expose any conniving by the royal couple. And while Countess Ambrozy’s talking about some “plot” might have been unfounded rumors generated by the enemies of the Duchess of Hohenberg, but the simultaneous mention of a Konopischt plan regarding Serbia tallies, intriguingly, with the sketchy and yet compelling evidence presented by Conrad. 84
Wilhelm II was racing in his yacht Meteor at Kiel when the news reached him that the Archduke and his wife had been assassinated. Prince Lichnowsky, Germany’s Ambassador to London, was staying with Wilhelm II on his yacht on the day of the Sarajevo assassination, and related the Kaiser’s reaction to the event: “His Majesty regretted that his efforts to win the Archduke over to his political ideas had thus been rendered in vain.”85 Edward Goschen, the British Ambassador to Berlin, was also one of Wilhelm’s guests. On Monday 29 June Goschen was at the railway station as the Emperor was departing from Kiel. The Ambassador recorded him in his diary as saying what a “dreadful blow” the assassination had been to him: “both because it was only a fortnight ago that he had been staying with them and seen their happy family life – and because it was such an upset of everything they had planned and arranged together.”86
The German Kaiser left Konopischt late on 13 June. Just a day later, Foreign Minister Berchtold arrived at the Bohemian castle. Morsey speculates that Berchtold may have been kept away during Wilhelm’s stay because the Emperor was supposed to dislike him. But Morsey also gives what was probably a more important reason: “Berchtold’s presence would have sent alarm signals to the outside world, and one did not wish to ‘make Europe twitchy”.87 The Foreign Minister came accompanied by his wife, Nandine. Again, however, this was to be more than a social occasion. True, Berchtold did have the opportunity to inspect the rose garden and look at the Archduke’s weapons and art collections, but the two men then got down to a “confidential talk.”88 This must have been very confidential indeed, because when on 17 June Berchtold talked to Tschirschky, the German Ambassador to Vienna, the latter was told next to nothing about the Konopischt meeting. Franz Ferdinand, Berchtold said, had been “supremely” satisfied by Wilhelm’s visit. But the only matter specifically mentioned by the Foreign Minister, as reported by Tschirschky to Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg in Berlin, was the Archduke’s complaint to the Kaiser about Tisza and his treatment of Romanians in Hungary. Significantly, however, Berchtold did say that the Royals had “thoroughly” discussed “all possible questions,” and that they had reached full accord “in every respect”.89
Now, the fact that Berchtold had been briefed by Franz Ferdinand immediately after the meeting with Wilhelm II has been linked by some historians with the genesis of a famous document produced in Vienna on the eve of the July Crisis, named after Franz von Matscheko, the Ballhausplatz mandarin who had drafted it. Following the assassination in Sarajevo the revised version of this so-called “Matscheko Memorandum,” sent to Berlin, became famous as part and parcel of the so-called “Hoyos Mission” that was to obtain Germany’s notorious “blank cheque” for action against Serbia. It is, therefore, a paradox that the analyses and recommendations of the original, pre-assassination version of the document, which dealt with issues in the Balkans, are alleged, at times emphatically, to constitute proof of Austria- Hungary’s peaceful foreign policy intentions. If for no other reason, therefore, this document requires a detailed examination.
According to Manfried Rauchensteiner, it was Franz Ferdinand who had suggested to Berchtold during the latter’s visit to Konopischt that a detailed memorandum is prepared on the Balkan situation, and that this Austrian assessment should then be used for an intensive exchange of views with Berlin. “The Ballhausplatz,” Rauchensteiner writes, “went to work immediately.” 90 Whether the idea to produce a thorough appraisal of challenges facing Austria-Hungary in South Eastern Europe had indeed come from the Archduke cannot be established with certainty. But given that Franz Ferdinand had just had wideranging talks with the Emperor of Germany on precisely that subject, that he had summoned Berchtold to Konopischt immediately thereafter, and that a draft memorandum lay completed in the Ballhausplatz by 24 June, it is entirely feasible that the whole exercise had originated during Berchtold’s meeting with Franz Ferdinand on 14 June. Berchtold’s biographer Hugo Hantsch implies strongly that this was indeed the case. A memorandum was needed since it was not really certain whether, as Hantsch suggests, the Archduke had managed to educate the Kaiser about “the importance of Balkan problems for the Monarchy” – problems important also for the alliance between Austria-Hungary and Germany. 91 It is also entirely possible, however, that the Kaiser required no further education or convincing. As Berchtold had made clear to Tschirschky, the full accord had been established at Konopischt “in every respect, skeptics” and the Archduke had pronounced himself extremely happy about the visit. If so, the Kaiser did not need a Ballhausplatz memorandum, but his advisers presumably did – people like Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg, and Jagow; the Foreign Secretary – especially if a forward policy in the Balkans had been agreed on at Konopischt. For this reason, it could at Konopischt quite possibly have been Wilhelm II who suggested to Franz Ferdinand that such a memorandum be put together for the benefit of his Government – which could account for Berchtold’s presence in Konopischt so soon after the German guests had departed. In other words, complete agreement regarding Balkan policy had yet to be reached. What became known as the “Matscheko Memorandum” was certainly supposed to lead the way, that is, to convert Berlin’s skeptics into supporters of Vienna’s vision of what needed to be done in the Balkans.
Historiography, however, has pointed out some deeper roots regarding the provenance of the Memorandum. Some scholars have traced it back to Tisza’s own “Denkschrift” of mid-March 1914. Sidney Fay called this “Tisza’s Peace Program,” and AJP. Taylor maintained that the Ballhausplatz memorandum of 24 June 1914 “had originated with Tisza”. Fritz Fischer went so far as to assert that the Memorandum handed to the Germans on 5 July had been “compiled by Tisza”.92 So what had Tisza been urging? In his analysis of 15 March, he attacked the 1913 Peace of Bucharest for having created a situation which could not bring genuine, lasting peace. His concern related primarily to the danger, as he saw it, of Bulgaria coming to terms with Romania, Serbia, and Greece – under Russian patronage. This, he argued, would tilt the military balance in Europe and provide the Russian-French combination with the necessary superiority to attack Germany. Europe’s center of gravity should thus be seen as lying in the Balkans, and Germany should understand that the region was of decisive importance to its interests and not just those of Austria-Hungary. “The Triple Alliance,” Tisza warned, “could not make a greater fatal error than to push Bulgaria away.” His analysis assumed throughout that Serbia was an enemy. Without offering any concrete proposals to placate Romania, he saw an improvement in relations with the latter only as a consequence of a stronger Austro-German affiliation. The task of Austria-Hungary was to work, together with Germany, on disentangling Romania and Greece from Serbia and getting those two reconciled with Bulgaria, which should be enlarged at Serbia’s expense.93 Implying a war against Serbia, this was hardly a peace program. Tisza’s biographer Gabor Vermes has observed that, although the memorandum did not mention territorial conquest, its goals “carried serious implications, because they involved reversing dominant trends in the Balkan peninsula.”94
As will be seen next; a great deal of Tisza’s reasoning would indeed be echoed in the Matscheko Memorandum of 24 June. To be continued in the next part…
1. Heinrich Lammasch. Seine Aufzeichnungen, sein Wirken und seine Politik. Edited by Marga Lammasch and Hans Sperl, 1922, p.81.
2. Milan Hodža, Federation in central Europe: reflections and reminiscences, 1942, p.51-52.
3. Josef Redlich, Schicksalsjahre Österreichs 1908–19: Das politische Tagebuch Josef Redlichs,1953, vol.I, diary entry for 6 May 1914, p.599.
4. Ibid., diary entry for 13 May 1914, p.602.
5. Kanja Kraler, Gott schütze Österreich! Vor seinen ,Staatsmännern’, aber auch vor seinen ‚Freunden’. Das Tagebuch des Hanns Schlitter, Diss. Innsbruck 2009., diary entry for 28 May 1914, p.228.
6. Andreas von Morsey in personalia. (Pisarna c. kr. nižje gimnazije) pp.53-54
7. Ibid., PP.55-56. In the 1920’s and 1930’s Morsey produced several versions of his memoir, one of which was published in a drastically abridged form: “Konopischt und Sarajewo. Erinnerungen”, Berliner Monatshefte, June 1934
8. Kraler, “Schlitter”, diary entries for 26 March 1914 and 2 April 1914, pp.131 and 145
9. Christopher H.D. Howard, The Vienna Diary of Berta de Bunsen, 28 June-17 August 1914, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, London, 51 (1978), p.222.
10. Boyer, Culture and Political Crisis, P.597, n.136, and p.365. Boyer criticizes Rudolf Kiszling, one of Franz Ferdinand’s biographers, for skirting this issue. Rumors about Franz Ferdinand’s health already began to emerge in the first half of 1913. At the beginning of April, Count Hardegg told Schlitter, the Director of Staatsarchiv, that the Heir of the Throne was ill, but stated the cause of illness as tuberculosis. See Kraler, “Schlitter”, P.145, diary entry for 2 April 1913.
11. Schuster, Henry Wickham Steed und die Habsburgermonarchie, P.114. On Steed see also Harry Hanak, Great Britain and Austria-Hungary During the First World War, London, 1962.
12. Redlich, Schicksalsjahre, vol.2, diary entry for I4 January 1917, p.259.
13. Ibid., vol.1, diary entry for 7 May 1914, p.599
14. Kurt Sendtner, Rupprecht von Wittelsbach. Kronprinz von Bayern, Munchen, 1954, pp.75-176
15. A. von Morsey MS, Personalia, P.40.
16. Robert William Seton-Watson, Sarajevo, a study in the origins of the Great War, 1926, p.100.
17. Rudolf Kiszling, Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand,1953 p.280.
18. G. von Jagow, Ursachen und Ausbruch des Weltkrieges, Berlin, 1919, p.
19. Prince Lichnowsky; Heading for the Abyss: Reminiscences, London, 1928, p.71.
20. Richard Bassett, For God and Kaiser: The Imperial Austrian Army from 1619 to 1916, New Haven-London, 2015, p.427.
21. Paul Nikitsch-Boulles, Vor dem Sturm,1925, p.82.
22. A. von Morsey MS, Personalia, pp.48-49.
23. “Der Tag von Sarajevo. Konopischt”, Die Kriegsschuldfrage: Berliner Monatshefte, Berlin, no.8, August 1925, p.562. The note by Tirpitz was dated “mid-June 1914” and was first published in Darmstadter Tageblatt on 28 June 1925.
24. Theodor Wolff, The Eve of 1914, 1936, p.391.
25. Die Große Politik der europäischen Kabinette 1871–1914, vol.39, 1926, no.15736, private letter Treutler to Zimmermann, 15 June 1914.
26. Karl-Heinz Janssen (ed.), Die graue Exzellenz. Aus den Papieren Karl Georg von Treutlers, Frankfurt/Main – Berlin, 1971, p.156.
27. Österreich-Ungarns Aussenpolitik von der Bosnischen Krise 1908 bis zum Kriegsausbruch 1914 (ÖUA), ed. L. Bittner, A. F. Pribram, H. Srbik and H. Uebersberger (9 vols., Vienna and Leipzig, 1930), vol.8, nos. 9845, 9846, 9847, 9852 and 9863.
28. Redlich, Schicksalsjahre, vol.I, diary entry for 28 April 1914, P.597.
29. Ibid., diary entry for 13 June 1914, p.606.
30. Große Politik, vol.39, no.15736.
32. Conrad von Hötzendorf, Aus meiner Dienstzeit, 1921, vol.4, P.36.
33. Ibid., pp.38-39.
34. Seton-Watson, Sarajevo, p.97
35. Hermann Kantorowicz,Gutachten zur Kriegsschuldfrage 1914,1967, p.223.
36. Alfred von Wegerer, Die Widerlegung der Versailler Kriegsschuldthese, Berlin, 1928, p.207.
37. Große Politik, vol.39, no.15737, letter Tschirschkyto Bethmann Hollweg, 17 June 1914.
38. Karl Freiherr von Bardolff, Soldat im alten Osterreich,1938, P.179.
39. Th.v. Sosnosky, Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand, 1929, p.166. Andreas Morsey was evidently also upset by Metzger’s revelation and wrote that he then checked with several witnesses who, just like Morsey, were present in the Ilidza hotel on 27 June 1914. Those witnesses reassured him that it was all “an absolute misunderstanding”. But Morsey does not inform his readers how it had come to such a misunderstanding, nor does he name his witnesses. See Morsey, Konopischt und Sarajewo, Berliner Monatshefte (June 1934) p.48.
40. Luigi Albertini, The Origins of the war of 1914, vol.2, pp.17-18.
41. Sidney Bradshaw Fay, The Origins of the World War,1928, vol.2, n-49, p.41.
42. Bernadotte E. Schmitt Schmitt, The Coming of the war 1914,1930, vol.I, p.169
43. H.W Wilson, The war Guilt, London,1928, p.169.
44. Kantorowicz, Gutachten, pp.225-226.
45. ÖUA, Vol.7, no.8934, report Berchtold, dated 28 October 1913, on a conversation with the German Emperor held in Vienna, on 26 October 1913.
46. Cited in Fritz Fischer, War of Illusions, 1975 p.225. Emphases in the original.
47. ÖUA, Vol.7, no.9009, private letter Szogyeny to Berchtold, 19 November 1913.
48. ÖUA, vol.y, nO.9096, private letter Velics to Berchtold, 16 December 1913.
49. ÖUA, vol.8, nO.9739, telegram Szogyeny; 25 May 1914; GP, vol.jx, nO.15541, Beth¬mann Hollweg to Tschirschky, 6 April 1914.
50. In known essay, Professor John Rohl argues that in November 1912 Wilhelm II gave Austria-Hungary a “blank cheque” for a war of aggression against Serbia, and that, ever since, this was “the settled policy of the entire Berlin leadership”. Rohl does not mention the German Kaiser’s efforts in 1913 and 1914 to push Vienna towards reaching a rapprochement with Serbia in order to ease the burden of the anticipated war with Russia. See John C.G. Rohl, “Jetzt oder nie. The Resurgence of Serbia and Germany’s first “blank cheque” of November 1912′ in Dragoljub R. Živojinović, (ed.), The Serbs and the First World War, Belgrade, 2015, pp.57-77.
51. Große Politik, vol.39, no.15715, Tschirschky to Bethmann Hollweg, 23 March 1914; no, 15716, telegram Treutler, 24 March 1914.
52. Telegram Treutler, 5 April 1914, contained in Große Politik, vol.38, no.15541, Bethmann Bollweg to Tschirschky, 6 April 1914.
53. Große Politik, vol.39, no.15716, telegram Treutler, 24 March 1914.
54. Cited in Galantai, Die Osterreichisch-Ungarische Monarchie und der Weltkrieg, p.197.
55. ÖUA, vol.7, no.9470, report Szogyeny; 12 March 1914.
56. ÖUA, vol.7, no.8934, Berchtold’s account, dated 28 October 1913, of a conversation with Wilhelm II on 26 October 1913.
57. ÖUA, vol.7,no.8708, record of a meeting in Berlin between Jagow and Forgach, 25 September 1913.
58. Kraler, ‘Schlitter’, diary entry for 17 January 1914, P.194.
59. Szilassy, Der Untergang, p.259.
60. Somary, Erinnerungen, p.113.
61. Nicolas de Basily, Diplomat of Imperial Russia 1903-1917: Memoirs, Stanford, 1973, p.90.
62. Conrad, Aus meiner Dienstzeit, vol.3, p.119.
63. Kraler, “Schlitter”, diary entry for 5 August 1914, p. 259.
64. Morsey, Personalia, pp.51-52.
65. Williamson, Austria-Hungary and the Origins of the First 1Vorld war, p.164.
66. See, for example, Ales Skrrvan, Schwierige Partner. Deutschland und Osterreich-Ungarn in der europeischen Politik der Jahre 1906-1914, Bamburg, 1999, pp.377-379. In his book on Franz Ferdinand, Jean-Paul Bled also dismisses the Konopischt meeting, arguing that the talks were mainly about Romania and that the subject of Serbia was hardly broached. See Bled, Franz Ferdinand, p.274.
67. Greg King and Sue Woolmans, The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Murder that Changed the World, London, 2013, p.151.
68. Hodza, Federation in Central Europe, p.58
69. Reichspost, Wien, 28 March 1926, p.1.
70. István Diószegi (ed.), Aussenminister Stephan Graf Burian. Biographie und Tagebuchstelle, Annales Universitatis, Sectio historica, 8, p. 169-208, 1966.
71. Fischer, War of Illusions, p.419.
72. Graydon A. Tunstall, Jr., Planning for War Against Russia and Serbia: Austro-Hungarian and German Military Strategies, 1871-1914, Boulder, 1993, p.139.
73. Cited in Robert A. Kann, Stanley B. Winters. Archduke Franz Ferdinand And Count Berchtold During His Term As Foreign Minister, 1912-1914, pp..122-123.
74. Heinrich Friedjung, Franz Adlgasser, Margret Friedrich, Geschichte in Gesprächen, vol.2, p.449
75. István Diószegi, Burian. Biographie und Tagebuchstelle, diary entry for 8 June 1914,
76. Williamson, Austria-Hungary and the Origins of the First.World War, p.165.
77. Galantai, Die Osterreichisch-Ungarische Monarchie und der Weltkrieg, p.203
78. Henry Wickham Steed, The Pact of Konopisht, The Nineteenth Century and After, vol.79, February 1916, pp.253-273.
79. Fay, The Origins of the World war, vol.2, P.36; Luigi Albertini, The Origins of the war of 1914, Oxford, 1952, vol.2, p.18; Alfred Dumaine, La dernière ambassade de France en Autriche,1921, p.127. The United States diplomat Charles Vopicka, who served at the time as the envoy to Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria, provided in his memoirs a slight variation to the Konopischt story related by Steed (without mentioning Steed) in that he asserted Sophie’s personal involvement in plotting with the Kaiser against Serbia and also discussing with him war with Russia. Unlikely as this sounds, one should nevertheless bear in mind Sophie’s general interest in political matters. See Charles J. Vopicka, Secrets of the Balkans: Seven Years of a Dilomatist’s Life in the Storm Centre of Europe, Chicago, 1921, pp.46-47.
80. R.W Seton-Watson, German, Slav, and Magyar: A Study in the Origins of the Great war, London, 1916, pp.111-112; Seton-Watson, Sarajevo, pp.98-99.
81. Schmitt, The Coming of the war, vol.I, p.170.
82. Steed, Through Thirty Years, vol. I, pp.396- 199.
83. Strandman, Balkanske uspomene [Balkan Memoirs] Knjiga I.,Zagor Beograd, 2009, pp.254-
84. At this point, it should perhaps be noted that Kaiser Wilhelm II did have a predilection for suggesting grand re-arrangements of the continental order. In March 1914 the European press was speculating about an interview given to Novoe Vremya by an unnamed Russian source, generally assumed to have been Count de Witte, the former Finance Minister. The paper’s interlocutor revealed a sensational plan which had been broached: the concluding of an alliance between Germany and Russia, to partition the Habsburg Empire, and the subsequent establishment of a political coalition of Russia, France, Germany, and Britain as a guarantor of European peace and general disarmament. In fact, according to official Serbian documents, it was General Vladimir Sukhomlinov, the Russian War Minister, not de Witte, who had divulged this information to Novoe Vremya. And Sukhomlinov, in turn, had been told about the whole thing in 1913 by no less a person than Kaiser Wilhelm II. Spalajkovic, the Serbian Minister at St Petersburg, was informed in the editorial offices of Novoe Vremya that the Kaiser had suggested the following to Sukhomlinov: that the burgeoning armaments race was intolerable; that the conclusion of an alliance between Germany, Russia, France and Britain should put an end to it; and that this should be accompanied by a settlement of the Alsace- Lorraine question, as well as by a division of “Austria” (i.e., the Habsburg Empire) between Russia, Germany, the Czech lands, Hungary and the “Yugoslav states”. For the reaction in Austria-Hungary see, for example, Die Wahrheit über die Enthüllungen der Nowoje Wremja, Pester Lloyd, Budapest, 29 March 1914 (Morgenblatt).
85. Lichnowsky, Heading for the Abyss, p.71
86. Howard, The Diary of Edward Goschen, p. 289.
87. Morsey MS, Personalia, p.52
88. Hugo Hantsch, Leopold Graf Berchtold, 1963, vol.,2 p.544.
89. Große Politik, vol.39, no.15737, letter Tschirschky to Bethmann Hollweg, 17 June 1914.
90. Manfried Rauchensteiner, Der erste Weltkrieg, 2013, p.33.
91. Hantsch, Leopold Graf Berchtold, vol.2, p.545.
92. Fay; The Origins of the World war, vol.2,p.189; A.J.P. Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, Oxford, 1954, p.516; Fritz Fischer, Germany’s Aims in the First World War, New York, 1967, p.53.
93. ÖUA, vol.7, no.9482, memorandum Tisza, 15 March 1914.
94. Gabor Peter Vermes, Istvan Tisza,1966, p.212.