Primary Documents - Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg on Romania's Entry into the War, August 1916
Reproduced below is the reaction of the German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg to news of Romania's entry into the First World War on the side of the Entente Powers. For Bethmann-Hollweg the matter was a clear-cut case of betrayal given Romania's pre-war - and for Germany still valid - treaty with Germany and Austria-Hungary.
Click here to read King Ferdinand's proclamation to the Romanian people; click here to read the King's proclamation to the Romanian Army issued the dame day; click here to read former Romanian Prime Minister Take Jonescu's statement in support of the war effort. Click here to read the statement issued by the Romanian Ambassador to the U.S. in October 1917. Click here to read a memoir of the invasion of Romania by Queen Marie.
Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg on Romania's Entry into the War
Our relations with Rumania before the war were based on the treaty of alliance first concluded between Austria-Hungary and Rumania, and then enlarged by the accession of Germany and Italy. The contracting parties engaged under the treaty to assist each other in case of unprovoked attack by a third party.
When the war broke out King Carlos with all his energy stood up for the idea that Rumania owed to the Central Powers thirty years of political security and wonderful economic development, and that, therefore, Rumania must support the Central Powers, not only on account of the provisions of the treaty but also for the sake of the country's honour.
The late King regarded as sophistry the objection that Rumania had not been informed and consulted in regard to the Austro-Hungarian demarche in regard to Serbia.
But when the deciding session of the Crown Council was held the aged King did not succeed as against the Government, whose Prime Minister, notwithstanding treaty obligations, sympathized with the Entente Powers.
A short time later the King died in consequence of the emotions caused by realization that Rumania was a traitor to her allies.
The Rumanian policy was now guided by Premier Bratianu, who attempted to gain riches, without making great sacrifices, at the expense of the party suffering defeat in the war.
The main point was to discover in time which party was about to win final victory, in order not to be too late. Nevertheless, during the first year of the war, probably after the fall of Lemberg, Premier Bratianu, leaving his sovereign in ignorance, concluded a treaty of neutrality with Russia.
After the fall of Przemysl he thought the time had come to reach an understanding in regard to pay for his Judas-like treason, but the negotiations failed. Russia desired to increase her own vast territory by taking the Bukowina, while Rumania not only coveted this same Bukowina, but also all Hungarian territory as far as the Theiss.
The Russian offensive this spring made Premier Bratianu believe he saw the breaking down of the Central Powers. Accordingly he decided to obtain a share when the robbery of the dead body began.
Furthermore, the Entente Powers had a freer hand in conducting negotiations than others. Serbia had been conquered, and the protectors of small, feeble States were no longer obliged to show any consideration for Serbia's former wishes in regard to annexation of territory. They could be more liberal toward Rumania.
In the middle of August Bratianu came to terms with our enemies. He reserved for himself, however, the decision as to the time actual hostilities were to be inaugurated, and attempted to make it dependent on military conditions.
The King of Rumania up to that time had repeatedly given the most binding assurances that under all circumstances he would remain neutral. Finally, the Rumanian Minister in Berlin, on the order of the King, gave to me a formal declaration that the King desired to maintain Rumania's neutrality and that the Government was in a position to do so.
Premier Bratianu declared to the German Minister at Bucharest, Baron von Bussche-Haddenhausen, that he fully indorsed the declaration of the King.
However, we were not deceived. We were informed continuously in regard to Bratianu's negotiations during August, and constantly directed the King's attention to the secret intrigues of his Prime Minister.
The King declared several times that Bratianu was not bound or binding himself to the Entente. As late as three days before the declaration of war the King said to our Minister that he knew the overwhelming majority of the Rumanian Nation did not desire war. To an intimate friend the King declared on the same day in the most categorical fashion that he would not sign an order for mobilization.
On August 26th, the day preceding Rumania's declaration of war, the King said to the Austro-Hungarian Minister that he did not wish war. I add in passing that Bratianu at the same time assured the Austro-Hungarian representative that he had decided to maintain neutrality, and that the outcome of the session of the Crown Council which had been called for the following day would prove the truth of his words.
As late as August 23rd the Entente Powers had not decided at what moment Rumania ought to declare war. We knew this from a most reliable source. The Rumanian army still lacked preparedness, and particularly lacked munitions, as was proved later, at the time of the fall of Turtukai and Silistria.
Then events were precipitated. From information which may be considered reliable it appears that Russia suddenly presented an ultimatum that she would cross the unprotected Rumanian frontier if Rumania did not begin war before August 28th. Whether this ultimatum was a piece of comedy prearranged with Bratianu, in order to influence the hesitating King, I leave undecided, but the die was cast.
M. Briand, in his latest discourse, praised the beauty and loveliness of Rumania's procedure. Political conditions of such a nature that orders of Kings and Ministers amount to nothing show the doubtful value of those ideals of liberty, justice, and civilization for which the Entente pretends that it fights.
Since the beginning of the world war Rumania has followed a policy of piracy, depending upon the general war situation. Rumania's military capitulation will prove as mistaken as her political capitulation to her Entente friends, which already has been proved to have been wrong.
They must have hoped earnestly that Rumania's participation in the war would cause the defection of Bulgaria and Turkey, but Turkey and Bulgaria are not the same as Rumania and Italy. Firm and inviolable stands their faithfulness as allies, and they have won glorious victories in the Dobrudja.
Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. V, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923
A "red cap" was a British military policeman.
- Did you know?