German Note to Neutral Powers relative to the Entente Reply to the Peace Proposals, January 11, 1917

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WWI Document Archive > 1916 Documents > Official Communications and Speeches Relating to Peace Proposals 1916-1917 > German Note to Neutral Powers relative to the Entente Reply to the Peace Proposals, January 11, 1917

German Note to Neutral Powers relative to the Entente Reply to the Peace Proposals, January 11, 19171

     The Imperial Government is aware that the Government of the
United States of America, the Royal Spanish Government, and the
Swiss Government have received the reply of their enemies to the
note of December 12, in which Germany, in concert with her allies,
proposed to enter forthwith into peace negotiations. Our enemies
rejected this proposal, arguing that it was a proposal without sin-
cerity and without meaning. The form in which they couched their
communication makes a reply to them impossible. But the German
Government thinks it important to communicate to the neutral Powers
its view of the state of affairs.
     The Central Powers have no reason to enter again into a con-
troversy regarding the origin of the world war. History will judge
on whom the blame of the war falls. Its judgment will as little
pass over the encircling policy of England, the revanche policy of
France, and Russia's aspiration after Constantinople as over the
provocation by Serbia, the Serajevo murders, and the complete Rus-
sian mobilization, which meant war on Germany.
     Germany and her allies, who were obliged to take up arms to
defend their freedom and their existence, regard this, which was
their war aim, as attained. On the other hand, the enemy Powers
have departed more and more from the realization of their plans,
which, according to the statements of their responsible statesmen,
are directed, among other things, toward the conquest of Alsace-
Lorraine and several Prussian provinces, the humiliation and diminu-
tion of Austria-Hungary, the disintegration of Turkey, and the dis-
memberment of Bulgaria. In view of such war aims, the demand
for reparation, restitution, and guarantees in the mouth of our enemies
sounds strange.
     Our enemies describe the peace offer of the four allied powers as
a war manoeuvre. Germany and her allies most emphatically pro-
test against such a falsification of their motives, which they openly-
stated. Their conviction was that a just peace acceptable to all bel-
ligerents was possible, that it could be brought about, and that fur-
ther bloodshed could not be justified. Their readiness to make known
their peace conditions without reservation at the opening of nego-
tiations disproves any doubt of their sincerity.
     Our enemies, in whose power it was to examine the real value
of our offer neither made any examination nor made counter-pro-
posals. Instead of that, they declared that peace was impossible so
long as the restoration of violated rights and liberties, the acknowl-
edgment of the principle of nationalities, and the free existence of
small States were not guaranteed. The sincerity which our enemies
deny to the proposal of the four allied Powers can not be allowed
by the world to these demands if it recalls the fate of the Irish peo-
ple, the destruction of the freedom and independence of the Boer
Republics, the subjection of Northern Africa by England. France
and Italy, the suppression of foreign nationalities in Russia, and,
finally, the oppression of Greece, which is unexampled in history.
     Moreover, in regard to the alleged violation of international rights
by the four allied Powers, those Powers which, from the beginning
of the war, have trampled upon right and torn up the treaties on
which it was based have no right to protest. Already in the first
weeks of the war England had renounced the Declaration of London,
the contents of which her own delegates had recognized as binding
in international law, and in the further course of the war she most
seriously violated the Declaration of Paris, so that, owing to ar-
bitrary measures, a state of lawlessness began in the war at sea.
The starvation campaign against Germany and the pressure on neu-
trals exercised in England's interest are no less grossly contrary to
the rules of international law than to the laws of humanity.
     Equally inconsistent with international law and the principles of
civilization is the employment of coloured troops in Europe and the
extension of the war to Africa, which has been brought about in
violation of existing treaties. It undermines the reputation of the
white race in this part of the globe. The inhumane treatment of
the prisoners, especially in Africa and Russia, the deportation of
the civil population from East Prussia, Alsace-Lorraine, Galicia, and
the Bukovina are further proofs of our enemies' disregard for right
and civilization.
     At the end of their note of December 30, our enemies refer to
the special position of Belgium. The Imperial Government is un-
able to admit that the Belgian Government has always observed its
obligations. Already before the war Belgium was under the influence
of England and leaned towards England and France, thereby her-
self violating the spirit of the treaties which guaranteed her inde-
pendence and neutrality.
     Twice the Imperial Government declared to the Belgian Govern-
ment that it was not entering Belgium as an enemy, and entreated
it to save the country from the horrors of war. In this case it of-
fered Belgium a guarantee for the full integrity and independence
of the kingdom and to pay for all the damage which might be caused
by German troops marching through the country. It is known that
in 1887 the Royal British Government was determined not to op-
pose on these conditions the claiming of a right of way through
Belgium. The Belgian Government refused the repeated offer of
the Imperial Government. On it and on those Powers who induced
it to take up this attitude falls the responsibility for the fate which
befell Belgium.
     The accusation about German war methods in Belgium and the
measures which were taken there in the interest of military safety
have been repeatedly repudiated as untrue by the Imperial Gov-
ernment. It again emphatically protests against these calumnies.
     Germany and her allies made an honest attempt to terminate the
war and pave the way for an understanding among the belligerents.
The Imperial Government declares that it solely depended on the
decision of our enemies whether the road to peace should be taken
or not. The enemy Governments have refused to take this road.
On them falls the full responsibility for the continuation of bloodshed.
     But the four allied Powers will prosecute the fight with calm trust
and confidence in their good cause until a peace has been gained
which guarantees to their own peoples honour, existence, freedom,
and development, and gives all the Powers of the European Con-
tinent the benefit of working united in mutual esteem at the solution of
the great problems of civilization.

1The Times, London, January 13, 1917.