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  • My name is Indy Neidell and this channelThe Great Waris going to cover the first world war,

  • week by week, as it unfolded 100 years later. From today until November 2018,

  • so you can really get a sense of just what happened as it happened. The active weeks, the passive weeks,

  • the weeks of carnage and the weeks of hopewe'll follow them all one by one.

  • And we've made a couple of special episodes about the prelude to war so you can get some

  • idea of all of the forces in motion. We've also made an episode about the assassination

  • of the archduke and his wife as it was one of the pivotal

  • moments in our history. All three of these episodes will come out in the next few days.

  • 100 years ago today, on July 28th, 1914, the empire of Austria-Hungary declared

  • war on the Kingdom of Serbia. Now, as you are probably aware, this snowballed within days into the

  • First World War.

  • Now people often talk of theblank check” – when Kaiser Wilhelm said on July 5th, 1914

  • that he would unconditionally support Austria in whatever actions she took against Serbia,

  • and this is seen as the main argument for Germany's responsibility for the war, but

  • this is a little too simple.

  • In the days following the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo

  • by the Serb Gavrilo Princip, there were anti-Serbian riots and demonstrations in much of Bosnia

  • and official dispatches to Vienna that there was Serbian complicity in the plot, but general

  • European reactions to the killings were quite mild. Austria, however, had big ideas, many

  • of them coming from Army Chief of Staff Conrad vontzendorf. And I love that name.

  • Conrad was a vehement imperialist for Austria and Austrian greatness. He's also

  • been described as beingthe most dangerous kind of officer...both stupid and intensely energetic."

  • There you have it.

  • In fact, in the year and a half before today, 1914, he asked his government

  • to go to war no less than 26 times. And it's very important to note here that his main

  • counterweight, the man who repeatedly urged emperor Franz Josef against war with Russia

  • or war with Serbia, not to listen to Conrad, was Archduke Franz Ferdinand, now deceased.

  • The assassination was, to Conrad, a heaven sent means to curb Serbian power and ambition.

  • Now to understand the next few weeks we really need to look a bit at both Germany and Russia

  • In 1912, the Kaiser had told army chief of staff von Moltke and Grand Admiral

  • von Tirpitz thatAustria had to act vigorously against the foreign Slavs... If Russia were

  • to support the Serbs war would be inevitable for us.”

  • Although we think of pre-war Russia today as a backwater,

  • this was not really the case. Russia had become the world's fourth largest economy by 1914.

  • Okay! Shortage of money had always meant before that she had never been able to build and

  • equip her army like the Germans could, but more importantly, her railways. By 1914, though,

  • Russian currency was on the gold standard and the railroads were booming and Russia

  • would be able to easily and quickly defend her borders in only a few years.

  • Now this was a big fear in the German high commandsince Russia obviously had the manpower advantage,

  • once her railways were a match for Germany, well... German Chancellor von Bethman Hollweg's

  • diary from July 7th tells us these thoughts: that Russia had become a nightmare, and that

  • the German generals say there must be a war before it was too late. By 1917, Germany

  • has no hope, so better 1914.

  • As an aside herethis was the opinion of the generals and some government

  • leaders but it was not the opinion of the German people at large.

  • You see Germany had the largest population of socialists in Europe and they and others comprised

  • a big anti-war segment of society.

  • So the Kaiser wrote on June 30, “the Serbs must

  • be disposed of, and right soon!” and he did pledge German support for Austria, and

  • he did tell the Austrian ambassador on July 5th that should war between Austria-Hungary

  • and Russia prove unavoidable, Germany would be at Austria's side. HOWEVER, and this

  • is really important, he also told his chancellor that he did not think there was a real prospect

  • of warthat Russia was not close to being ready.

  • The next day, he went on his annual three-week vacation cruise to Norway, which is kind of

  • not what you'd do if you were basically the most powerful man in the world and you

  • were about to go to a major war, so in spite of it all, a world war was not on the Kaiser's mind.

  • So on July 7th, the Austro-Hungarian cabinet met to discuss Serbia, and they were

  • for a war to reduce Serbia's size and make her dependent on Austria.

  • On July 13th, a secret report reached Vienna from Sarajevo that there was zero evidence

  • the Serbian government had anything to do with the assassination. Now, this didn't really

  • change anything, but THIS did:

  • Franz Josef finally became convinced that Austria could take action against Serbia

  • without other powers interfering, so he agreed to issue an ultimatum. The terms of the ultimatum

  • were finalized on July 19th. It had a total of 15 demands and it linked the Belgrade government

  • with the assassination, even without evidence.

  • Now, you can look up the demands yourself, but here are a couple that really stick out:

  • the Serbian government must condemn anti-Austrian propaganda and punish anyone who made or distributed it,

  • and the big oneAustrian officials would participate in the judicial process.

  • In Serbia. Yep, they would be in charge of justice in another country.

  • Now, as you may guess, this ultimatum was designed to be rejected. It was sent on July

  • 23rd, with 48 hours for Serbia to agree to it. 6 PM on

  • July 25th, Serbia answered the ultimatum. She agreed that anti-Austrian propagandists

  • would be punished and subversive movement suppressed, and actually agreed to almost

  • everything else, but as to Austria participating in the judicial process within Serbia, Serbia

  • simply asked that this demand be submitted to the tribunal in The Hague.

  • Now, everybody except Austria thought this response was just fine, but Austria was determined

  • to go to war. Actually, Russia suggested two days later that negotiations between

  • her and Vienna should be opened to try and sort things out. This was refused. A British attempt that same

  • day to talk Germany into having a four-power conference to also try to sort things out

  • was rejected as well.

  • And you know what? Here's something that happened then that remained secret until after the war:

  • on July 28th, 100 years ago today, Kaiser Wilhelm finally read the full

  • text of the Austrian ultimatum and Serbia's response. And he could see no reason at all

  • for Austria to declare war. Yep. After all this that had happened, The Kaiser wrote:

  • “a great moral victory for Vienna, but with it every reason for war is removed...”

  • And just about an hour after the Kaiser scribbled that in the margins, Emperor Franz Josef signed

  • a declaration of war on Serbia, confident of German support. And that declaration would

  • turn out to be the death warrant of his own empire.

  • We'll see you next week. Click subscribe to get each and every episode as it comes

  • out, and if you like the show but English isn't your best language, once again, this

  • show is also available in German and Polishyou can find links to those channels below.

  • Now I'm sure many of you have comments, ideas, and suggestions; we're happy to hear them.

  • See you next week!

My name is Indy Neidell and this channelThe Great Waris going to cover the first world war,

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The Outbreak of WWI - How Europe Spiraled Into the GREAT WAR - Week 1

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    黃耀霆 posted on 2019/10/30
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