Anthology – Peoples’ Plan for Life, Now and Forever …
“On the afternoon of July 4, 1914, twelve hours after Franz Ferdinand’s burial, a courier was about to carry Franz Joseph’s letter to Berlin. Suddenly Alexander Hoyos volunteered to take it himself. Why? Because, Hoyos claimed, His Majesty’s words (and their nuances) would be amplified by the fact that they traveled to Germany with a senior official of the Austrian Foreign Minister’s office.
“Such reasoning made sense to the Foreign Minister. He thought he was finessing General Conrad through his Emperor’s letter to the Kaiser. Actually he was being finessed by General Conrad through Count Hoyos.
“Hoyos arrived in Berlin on July 5, just after the German Foreign Minister Gottlieb von Jagow had left for his honeymoon in Lucerne. The timing, while accidental, served Hoyos well. As mere chef du cabinet he would have had no easy access to von Jagow, a personage of full ministerial rank in Berlin. But the German Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs who acted for the Minister in his absence was a different matter.
“While the “Wrinkled Gypsy” (the Kaiser’s name for Szögyény-Marich, Austria’s aged ambassador to Germany) was at Potsdam Palace, presenting Franz Joseph’s letter to the Kaiser, Hoyos sat in the Under Secretary’s office “interpreting the letter’s unofficial essence.” He explained that Franz Joseph’s phrase “neutralizing Serbia as a political power factor” meant nothing less than the detoxification of Serbia by full force. Hoyos also “interpreted” an implication that, he said, Franz Joseph was too diplomatic to spell out, namely, that the time had come for Germany to prove herself a full-blooded and reliable ally at long last, and that furthermore, only Germany’s outspoken willingness to place its unique might behind Austria’s action would prevent reprisals by other powers. Berlin’s courage would do more than buttress the brother-Empire; it would ensure the peace of Europe.
“The German Under Secretary listened and took fire. He telephoned the Kaiser’s Chancellery at Potsdam Palace to ask, urgently, for an audience.
“Next morning the Kaiser strolled the Palace gardens with his Chancellor and the Under Secretary. Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, the German Chancellor, “Lanky Theo” (in the Kaiser’s badinage), was eager to return to his country estate, wary of Balkan complications yet also too weary to interrogate the Under Secretary who was aflame with Hoyos’s oral elaboration: of the letter from Vienna. The Chancellor let the Under Secretary spout.
“And the Kaiser lent his ear. His stroll became a strut. He heard that between the lines Franz Joseph was appealing to his, Wilhelm’s valor as Germany’s first soldier, to Wilhelm’s chivalry as a Prussian knight who would not fail his venerable fellow-sovereign in Vienna. Then and there Wilhelm swore not to fail him. And since, by not failing him, Wilhelm at the same time was ensuring the peace of Europe, he could take off safely for his Scandinavian cruise.
“On July 6, at 9:15 a.m., Wilhelm’s train steamed for the port of Kiel where his yacht Hohenzollern rode anchor. “This time,” he told the industrialist Gustav von Krupp at an on-board dinner that night, “this time I haven’t chickened out.”
“Austria-Hungary saw proof of that the following day. Berchtold in Vienna and Tisza in Budapest received telegrams from Berlin. They were identical and both were signed by the Wrinkled Gypsy, the Hapsburg ambassador to Germany. However, both had been drafted by the victorious Hoyos. “His [German] Majesty,” the cable read, “authorized me to convey to our august sovereign…that we may count on the full support of the German Reich. He quite understands that His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty [Franz Joseph], with his well-known love for peace, would find it hard to march into Serbia, but if we [Austrians] really recognize the necessity of military measures against Serbia, he [Kaiser Wilhelm] would deplore our not taking advantage of the present moment which is so favorable to us.”
“This, of course, was drastically different from previous German advice on the subject. It almost mandated the occupation of Serbia. An astonished Berchtold began to telephone long distance. He discovered the turn of events in Berlin. In vain he reported to the Vienna cabinet that Hoyos had overstepped his authority. That Hoyos had not been empowered to meet substantively with the German Under Secretary. That Hoyos had expressed his personal opinions, not those of the Emperor or the Austrian government. That Hoyos’s distorted account of the Habsburg position had distorted the Kaiser’s response.
“All in vain. All too late. Hoyos had maneuvered irrevocably well. The Kaiser himself had been recruited in General Conrad’s cause. Who dared unrecruit the Kaiser – especially a Kaiser away on his Norse cruise? Who dared resist Conrad’s imperative to crush the Serb skull, now that Prussia’s spiked helmets were massing behind the General?
“No one in Vienna. Wafflers in the cabinet, like Finance Minister Bilinski, came around to General Conrad’s side. After a while even Tisza relented. And Berchtold? Berchtold caved in quickly, easily, even lithely. No deep convictions encumbered the Count. The wind had veered and he veered with it, making the movement into ballet.
“The new Berchtold proposed that Serbia should be invaded, yes; but only after it had rejected Austrian demands that were diplomatically impeccable as well as absolutely unacceptable.
“The cabinet nodded. General Conrad agreed, too. A diplomatic showdown would condition the populace for a call to arms. And it would give him time to mobilize fully for the crushing of the Serb skull for the total extirpation of Serb power.
“Now the cabinet’s collective sense must receive All-Highest approval. On the night of July 8, Berchtold entrained for Bad Ischl where Franz Joseph had returned after the Archduke’s funeral. It is a measure of Berchtold’s spinelessness that he invited Hoyos along, to brief His Majesty on the strength of the new German support. It was as though Hoyos had never tricked Berchtold in Berlin.
“Berchtold smoothly submitted the cabinet’s position. The early morning sun shone on this crucial encounter. Outside the windows of the Imperial villa, thrushes and larks were in sweet voice. Franz Joseph pondered. Yes, the restoration of order, the redemption of Austria as a major power that couldn’t limply suffer the gunning-down of its Crown Prince – yes, that did require a settling of accounts with Serbia. But a settling so dangerous? Causing what repercussions? International war was a supreme disorder Franz Joseph had no wish to face at his age. Berchtold, however, spoke only of a police action deftly justified, well prepared in advance, and executed fast enough to render pointless any aid Serbia’s friends might want to extend.
“How to decide on such a sun-dappled day? Frau Schratt was waiting to be taken for a stroll through lilies in full flower. As a lover, Franz Joseph was an ascetic, but an ascetic with style. Nothing but style underpinned the Empire – style and an army with the world’s smartest uniforms. That’s why the Emperor held on to his stylish Berchtold. Perhaps Berchtold’s proposal carried some risks. But it was not raw. It was steeped in style. The Emperor nodded at the Count. The Count bowed from the waist. An hour later he and Hoyos boarded his salon car at Ischl station and rode back to Vienna. The ultimatum was on its way.”