27/7/1914 “You have cooked this broth, now you will eat it.”

Kaiser Wilhelm II arrives at Wildpark Station in Potsdam at 1:00 pm, having taken the overnight train from Kiel. Despite Bethmann Hollweg’s messages downplaying the international crisis, the Kaiser knows from other sources that the situation is increasingly grave. The Chancellor has been ordered to meet the Kaiser at the station. There he admits that, yes, things are much more serious than he had implied in his communiques. The Kaiser is furious and Bethmann Hollweg offers to resign. But Wilhelm rejects his resignation, retorting: “You have cooked this broth, now you will eat it.”

Later in the afternoon, the Kaiser meets again with Bethmann Hollweg and other senior figures. The Chancellor does not pass on reports from St. Petersburg of Russian military preparations, instead, he focusses on accounts of Sazonov’s more conciliatory conversations with Pourtalès. He does mention Grey’s proposal for four-power mediation. The proposal does not appeal to Bethmann Hollweg, but he feels that it demonstrates Britain’s lack of interest in war.

Bethmann Hollweg himself writes to Vienna with the other British proposal, for Germany to mediate between Austria-Hungary and Russia. But he does not recommend it. In a separate conversation with the Austro-Hungarian ambassador, foreign minister Jagow emphasises that Austria-Hungary should do what it likes.

A report arrives from Tschirschky in Vienna, saying that the Austro-Hungarians will soon declare war on Serbia, perhaps tomorrow or the day after. This appears not to be passed on to the Kaiser. And much later, a courier arrives at Wilhelm’s palace in Potsdam with the text of Serbia’s reply to the ultimatum. The Kaiser is in bed and the courier has been ordered not to wake him.

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