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Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg

Reich's Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg in military uniform with an Iron Cross, signed and dated April 10, 1916.
Text:
Signed and dated Bethmann Hollweg, April 10, 1916
Reverse:
Postkarte des Deutschen Frauenverein vom Roten Kreuz für die Kolonien, Verband Groß-Berlin
Postcard of the German Women's Association of the Red Cross for the Colonies, Greater Berlin Association

Reich's Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg in military uniform with an Iron Cross, signed and dated April 10, 1916.

Image text

Signed and dated Bethmann Hollweg, April 10, 1916

Reverse:

Postkarte des Deutschen Frauenverein vom Roten Kreuz für die Kolonien, Verband Groß-Berlin

Postcard of the German Women's Association of the Red Cross for the Colonies, Greater Berlin Association

Other views: Larger

German Imperial Chancellor from 1909 to 1917, and distrusted by the German left and right through much of his time in office.

In July 1914, Bethmann Hollweg first urged Austria-Hungary to strike Serbia, then pulled back. In addressing the Reichstag on August 4, he said, "Our invasion of Belgium is contrary to international law but the wrong - I speak openly - that we are committing we will make good as soon as our military goal is reached."

The same day, citing Germany's violation of neutral Belgium, Britain declared war on Germany. The British Ambassador called on von Bethmann Hollweg. It was during their interview that Bethmann Hollweg expressed his disbelief that Britain would go to war over a "scrap of paper," the guarantee of Belgian neutrality that Britain and Germany had both signed. His phrase came to crystallize the trope that Germany disregarded international law to suit its aims.

After the German defeat at the Marne, the end of the Race to the Sea, and his failure to achieve victory in the Battle of Flanders, the new Chief of the General Staff Erich von Falkenhayn told the Chancellor he thought victory could not be achieved, and argued for a separate peace with Russia to encourage peace with France and Britain. Bethmann Hollweg refused as he would again in 1915 after the German victory in the Gorlice-Tarnow campaign when Falkenhayn made his argument again. From January 3, 1915, the Chancellor sided with Ludendorff and von Hindenburg in their campaign to replace Falkenhayn.

Skeptical of decisive victory, Bethmann Hollweg was incapable of arguing that Germany cede the territory it had gained in the war. He believed unrestricted submarine warfare would bring the United States into the war, but he could not stop the campaign.

The Chancellor was forced to resign on July 13, 1917.

Germany

Roles held by Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg

Role Start Date End Date
Head of Government (e.g., Prime Minister) 1917-07-13