Germany responds to the American declaration of war (1917)


In April 1917 the German chancellor, Bethmann-Hollweg, issued this statement in response to the American declaration of war:

The directors of the American nation have been convened by President Wilson for an extraordinary session of Congress in order to decide the question of war or peace between the American and German nations.

Germany has never had the slightest intention of attacking the United States of America, and does not have such intention now. It never desired war against the United States of America and does not desire it today.

How did these things develop? More than once we told the United States that we made unrestricted use of the submarine weapon, expecting that England could be made to observe, in her policy of blockade, the laws of humanity and of international agreements. This blockade policy, I expressly recall, has been called illegal and indefensible by President Wilson and Secretary of State Lansing.

Our expectations, which we maintained during eight months, have been disappointed completely. England not only did not give up her illegal and indefensible policy of blockade, but intensified it. England, together with her allies, arrogantly rejected the peace offers made by us and our allies and proclaimed her war aims, which aim at our annihilation and that of our allies.

Then we took unrestricted submarine warfare into our hands. Then we had to, for our defence. If the American nation considers this a cause for which to declare war against the German nation, with which it has lived in peace for more than 100 years, if this action warrants an increase of bloodshed, we shall not have to bear the responsibility for it. The German nation, which feels neither hatred nor hostility against the United States of America, shall also bear and overcome this.

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