Germany’s “Blank Cheque” to Austro-Hungary

This is an English translation of the so-called “Blank Cheque” letter that gave the Austro-Hungarians the absolute backing of the German empire in their dispute with Serbia. It was sent from the German chancellor, Bethmann-Hollweg, to the German Ambassador in Vienna.

The Austro-Hungarians, thus assured that, should the Russians support Serbia, the Germans would support them, were emboldened in their demands against Serbia. This meant that escalation was the likely course of action as each side believed that its allies were committed to the cause.

Berlin, July 6th 1914

Confidential. For Your Excellency’s personal information and guidance.

The Austro-Hungarian Ambassador yesterday delivered to the Emperor a confidential personal letter from the Emperor Franz Josef, which describes the present situation from the Austro-Hungarian point of view, and describes the measures which Vienna has in view. A copy is now being forwarded to Your Excellency.

I replied to Count Szagyeny today on behalf of the Kaiser, that the Kaiser sends his thanks to the Emperor Francis Joseph for his letter and would soon answer it personally. In the meantime the Kaiser desires to say that he is not blind to the danger which threatens Austria-Hungary and thus the Triple Alliance as a result of the Russian and Serbian Pan-Slavic terrorism. Even though the Kaiser is known to feel no unqualified confidence in Bulgaria and her ruler… he quite understands that the Emperor Franz Josef, in view of the attitude of Rumania and of the danger of a new Balkan alliance, is anxious to bring about an understanding between Bulgaria and the Triple alliance…

Finally, as far as Serbia is concerned, His Majesty the Kaiser cannot, of course, interfere in the dispute now going on between Austria-Hungary and that country, as it is a matter outside his jurisdiction. The Emperor Franz Josef may, however, rest assured that His Majesty will faithfully stand by Austria-Hungary, as is required by the obligations of his alliance and of his ancient friendship.