Centenary Anniversary: German ultimatum to Belgium

Date of Anniversary: 02 August 2014
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The wider context

Germany invades Luxembourg. Skirmishes break out amongst the warring nations of Europe.

Germany enters French territory and launches an invasion of what is now Poland (then divided between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia).

Russian forces enter East Prussia.

Germany presents a note to the Beglian Government that it must be prepared for occupation by Germany.

Germany stated that this was essential for it to be able to defend itself against an anticipated French attack.

German ultimatum

The following text contains extracts from the ultimatum delivered to the Belgian Government:

"Reliable information has been received by the German Government to the effect that French forces intend to march on the line of the Meuse by Givet and Namur. This information leaves no doubt as to the intention of France to march through Belgian territory against Germany...

"The German Government cannot but fear that Belgium, in spite of the utmost goodwill, will be unable, without assistance, to repel so considerable a French invasion with sufficient prospect of success to afford an adequate guarantee against danger to Germany.

"It is essential for the self-defence of Germany that she should anticipate any such hostile attack. The German Government would, however, feel the deepest regret if Belgium regarded as an act of hostility against herself the fact that the measures of Germany's opponents force Germany, for her own protection, to enter Belgian territory

"... Germany has in view no act of hostility against Belgium. In the event of Belgium being prepared in the coming war to maintain an attitude of friendly neutrality towards Germany, the German Government bind them selves, at the conclusion of peace, to guarantee the possessions and independence of the Belgian Kingdom in full...

"... Should Belgium oppose the German troops, and in particular should she throw difficulties in the way of their march by a resistance of the fortresses on the Meuse, or by destroying railways, roads, tunnels, or other similar works, Germany will, to her regret, be compelled to consider Belgium as an enemy.

"In this event, Germany can undertake no obligations towards Belgium, but the eventual adjustment of the relations between the two States must be left to the decision of arms".

Belgium rejected the ultimatum on the 3rd August 1914.

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