Panic sweeps Europe; Russia and Germany closer and closer to war.
Special to The Great War Project
(31 July) Austria-Hungary counters yesterday’s order of full Russian mobilization with full mobilization of its own forces against Russia.
The Austrian action is taken with the expectation that if Russia declares war, Germany will back Vienna. In the afternoon, Germany does just that. Berlin sends an ultimatum to St. Petersburg, warning it to “cease every war measure against us and Austria-Hungary.” Late that night Berlin gives the Russians twelve hours to carry out this demand. The German ambassador in Russia says if Germany mobilizes, it would bring the two nations “extraordinarily near to war.”
Russia rejects this ultimatum. It looks like Germany is about to declare war on Russia.
But first, Berlin demands that France remain neutral in a German-Russian war. Paris says no. And immediately orders its three million soldiers to take the necessary steps to be ready for war.
Cheering crowds greet Kaiser Wilhelm when he appears in public in Berlin.
Fearful that Germany has plans to attack Paris first through Belgium – the key action in the notorious Schlieffen Plan — Britain’s government asks both France and Germany if they intend to respect Belgium’s neutrality.
France says yes. Ominously, Germany is silent.
France’s top general Joseph Joffre asks the government to authorize full mobilization. Not ready for such a step, France’s top civilian leaders say no.
But sentiment in Paris for full mobilization grows quickly, even among workers and leftist groups, which preach solidarity among the working classes of Europe’s great powers.
Jean Jaures, the popular leader of the French Socialist Party, calls for the mobilizations and war preparations to cease.
On this night, a century ago, Jaures is shot in the head while dining at a Paris restaurant. The killer: a fanatical nationalist who despises Jaures’s anti-war stance.
“The clouds are blacker and blacker,” writes Winston Churchill on this day a century ago. For the first time in this tense week, there are calls in Britain for general mobilization. In the next 24 hours, the argument goes, Germany could be moving across the French border.
Panic is sweeping across Europe.