1. The war was premeditated by the Central Powers together with their Allies, Turkey and Bulgaria, and was the result of acts deliberately committed in order to make it unavoidable.
2. Germany, in agreement with Austria-Hungary, deliberately worked to defeat all the many conciliatory proposals made by the Entente Powers and their repeated efforts to avoid war.
Violation of the neutrality of Belgium and Luxemburg.
Germany is burdened by a specially heavy responsibility in respect of the violation of the neutrality of Belgium and Luxemburg. Article I of the Treaty of London of the 19th April 1839, after declaring; that Belgium should form a ‘perpetually neutral State’ had placed his neutrality under the protection of Austria, France, Great Britain, Russia and Prussia. On the 9th August, 1870, Prussia had declared ‘her fixed determination to respect Belgian neutrality.’
On the 22nd July 1870 Bismarck wrote to the Belgian Minister at Paris, ‘This declaration is rendered superfluous by existing treaties.’
It may be of interest to recall that the attributes of neutrality were specifically defined by the fifth Hague Convention, of the 18th October l907.
That Convention was declaratory of the law of nations, and contained these provisions: ‘The territory of neutral Powers is inviolable ‘(Article I).’ Belligerents are forbidden to move troops or convoys, whether of munitions of war- or of supplies, across the territory of a neutral Power ‘(Article 2).’ ‘The fact of a neutral Power resisting- even by force- attempts against its neutrality cannot be regarded as a hostile act’. (Article 10).
There can be no doubt of the binding force of the treaties which guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium. There is equally no doubt of Belgium’s sincerity or of the sincerity of France in their recognition and respect of this neutrality.
On the 29th July, 1914, the day following the declaration of war by Austria- Hungary against Serbia, Belgium put her army on its reinforced peace strength, and so advised the Powers by which her neutrality was guaranteed and also Holland and Luxemburg.
On the 31st July the French Minister at Brussels visited the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs to notify him of the state of war proclaimed in Germany and he spontaneously made the following statement:
‘I seize this opportunity to declare that no incursion of French troops into Belgium will take place, even if considerable forces are massed upon the frontiers of your country. France does not wish to incur the responsibility, so far as Belgium is concerned, of taking the first hostile act. Instructions in this sense will be given to the French authorities’.
On the 1st August, the Belgian Army was mobilised.
On the 31st July, the British Government had asked the French and German Governments separately if they were each of them ready to respect the neutrality of Belgium, provided that no other Power violated it.
In notifying the Belgian Government on the same day of the action taken by the British Government, the British Minister added:
‘In view of existing treaties, I am instructed to inform the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs of the above, and to say that Sir Edward Grey presumes that Belgium will do her utmost to maintain her neutrality, and that she desires and expects that the other Powers will respect and maintain it’.
The immediate and quite definite reply of the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs was that Great Britain and the other nations guaranteeing Belgian independence could rest assured that she would neglect no effort to maintain her neutrality.
On the same day, Paris and Berlin were officially asked the question to which reference was made in the British communication.
At Paris the reply was categorical: ‘The French Government are resolved to respect the neutrality of Belgium, and it would only be in the event of some other Power violating that neutrality that France might find herself under the necessity, in order to assure the defence of her own security, to act otherwise.’
On the same day as this reply was made at Paris, the French Minister at Brussels made the following communication to M. Davignon, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs:
‘I am authorised to declare that, in the event of an international war, the French Government, in accordance with the declarations they have always made, will respect the neutrality of Belgium. In the event of this neutrality not being respected by another Power, the French Government, to secure their own defence might find it necessary to modify their attitude.’
It was decided that this communication should forthwith be made to the Belgian press.
Meanwhile the attitude of the German Government remained enigmatic. At Brussels the German Minister, Herr von Below, made efforts in his discussions to maintain confidence but at Berlin, in reply to the question which had been officially asked by the British Government, the Secretary of State informed the British Ambassador that ‘he must consult the Emperor and the Chancellor before he could possibly answer.’
On the 2nd August, in the course of the day, Herr von Below insisted to the Belgian Minister. M. Davignon upon the feelings of security which Belgium had the right to entertain towards her eastern neighbour and on the same day, at 7 o’clock in the evening, he sent him a very confidential note, which was nothing more than an ultimatum claiming free passage for German troops through Belgian territory. It was impossible to be under any delusion as to the purely imaginary character- of the reason alleged by the German Government in support of its demand. It pretended that it had reliable information leaving ‘no doubt as to the intention of France to move through Belgian territory’ against Germany, and consequently had notified its decision to direct its forces to enter Belgium.
The facts themselves supply the answer to the German allegation that France intended to violate Belgian neutrality. According to the French plan of mobilisation the French forces were being concentrated at that very moment on the German frontier, and it was necessarily, by reason of the situation created by the German violation of Belgian territory, to modify the arrangements for their transport.
In the meantime, at seven o’clock in the morning of the 3rd August, at the expiration of the time limit fixed by the ultimatum, Belgium had sent her reply to the German Minister. Affected neither by Germany’s promises nor her threats, the Belgian Government boldly decIared that an attack upon Belgian independence would constitute a flagrant violation of international law. No strategic interest justifies such a violation of law. The Belgian Government, if they were to accept the proposals submitted to them, would sacrifice the honour of the nation and betray their duty towards Europe. In conclusion, the Belgian Government declared that they were ‘firmly resolved to repel by all the means in their power every attack upon their rights’. Even on the 3rd August, Belgium refused to appeal to the guarantee of the Powers until there was an actual violation of territory. It was only on the 4th August, after German troops had entered Belgian territory, that the Belgian Government sent his passports to Hr von Below, and it then appealed to Great Britain, France and Russia to co-operate as guaranteeing Powers in the defence of her territory.
At this point it may be recalled that the pretext invoked by Germany in justification of the violation of Belgian neutrality, and the invasion of Belgian territory, seemed to the German Government itself of so little weight, that in Sir Edward Goschen’s conversations with the German Chancellor, Von Bethmann Hollweg and with Von Jagow, the Secretary of State, it was not a question of aggressive French intentions, but a matter of life and death to Germany to advance through Belgium and violate the latters neutrality and of ‘a scrap of paper’.
Further, in his speech on the 4th August, the German Chancellor made his well-known avowal. ‘Necessity knows no law. Our troops have occupied Luxemburg and perhaps have already entered Belgian territory. Gentlemen, that is a breach of international law… . We have been obliged to refuse to pay attention to the justifiable protests of Belgium and Luxemburg. The wrong -I speak openly- the wrong we are thereby committing we will try to make good as soon as our military aims have been attained. He who is menaced, as we are, and is fighting for his all can only consider how he is to hack his way through.’
To this avowal of the German Chancellor there is added the overwhelming testimony of Count von Lerchenfeld who stated in a report of the 4th August, 1914, that the German General Staff considered it ‘necessary to cross Belgium’.
France can only be successfully attacked from that side. At the risk of bringing about the intervention of England, Germany cannot respect Belgian neutrality. - against Belgium,’ but as early as the middle of the month ’ the motor batteries sent by Austria have proved their excellence in the battles around Namur. As appears from a proclamation of the German general who at the time was in command of the fortress of Liege, which German troops had seized. Consequently, the participation of Austria-Hungary in the violation of Belgian neutrality is aggravated by the fact that she took part in that violation without any previous declaration of war.
The neutrality of Luxemburg was guaranteed by Article 2 of the Treaty of London, 11th May, 1867, Prussia and Austria-Hungary being two of the grantor Powers. On the 2nd August, 1914, German troops penetrated the territory of the Grand Duchy.
Mr. Eyschen, Minister of State of Luxemburg, immediately made an energetic protest.
The German Government alleged ‘that military measures had become inevitable, because trustworthy news had been received that French forces were marching on Luxemburg.’ This allegation was at once refuted by Mr.Eyschen.
The neutrality of Belgium, guaranteed by the Treaties of the 19th April, 1839, and that of Luxemburg, guaranteed by the Treaty of the 11th May, 1867, were deliberately violated by Germany and Austria- Hungary.