Arthur Zimmermann
Arthur Zimmermann was State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 from November 22, 1916, until his resignation on August 6, 1917. His name is associated with the Zimmermann Telegram
Zimmermann Telegram
The Zimmermann Telegram was a 1917 diplomatic proposal from the German Empire to Mexico to make war against the United States. The proposal was caught by the British before it could get to Mexico. The revelation angered the Americans and led in part to a U.S...

 during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. However, he was also closely involved in plans to support an Irish rebellion
Easter Rising
The Easter Rising was an insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic at a time when the British Empire was heavily engaged in the First World War...

, an Indian rebellion, and to help the Communist
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

s undermine Tsarist Russia.


He was born in Marggrabowa, East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

, then in the Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

 (now called Olecko
Olecko is a town in Masuria, in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship of Poland, near Ełk and Suwałki. It is situated at the mouth of the Lega river into the Great Olecko Lake on its south-western shore...

, Mazury, Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

), and died of pneumonia in Berlin. He studied law from 1884 to 1887 in Königsberg
Königsberg was the capital of East Prussia from the Late Middle Ages until 1945 as well as the northernmost and easternmost German city with 286,666 inhabitants . Due to the multicultural society in and around the city, there are several local names for it...

, East Prussia, and Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

. A period as a junior lawyer followed and later he received his doctorate of law. In 1893, he took up a career in diplomacy and entered the consular service in Berlin. He arrived in China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 in 1896 (Canton
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

 in 1898), and rose to the rank of consul in 1900. While stationed in the Far East
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

, he witnessed the Boxer Rebellion
Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion, also called the Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the "Righteous Harmony Society" , or "Righteous Fists of Harmony" or "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" , in China between...

 in China.

Later he was called to the Foreign Office, became Under Secretary of State in 1911, and on November 24, 1916, he accepted his confirmation as Secretary of State, succeeding Gottlieb von Jagow
Gottlieb von Jagow
Gottlieb von Jagow was a German diplomat. He served as the foreign minister of Germany between January 1913 and 1916....

 in this position. Actually, he had assumed a large share of his superior's negotiations with foreign envoys for several years prior to his appointment because of von Jagow's reservedness in office. He was the first non-aristocrat to serve as foreign secretary.


As acting secretary he had also taken part in the so-called Kronrat, the deliberations in 1914, with Kaiser Wilhelm II and Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, in which the decision was taken to support Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 after the assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria at Sarajevo
Sarajevo |Bosnia]], surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated along the Miljacka River in the heart of Southeastern Europe and the Balkans....

, which ultimately was to lead to the outbreak of war. He later disavowed the name Kronrat since it was the Kaiser's opinion that was decisive in the discussion, but with which Bethmann Hollweg and Zimmermann concurred.

Irish rebellion

In late 1914 Zimmermann was visited by Roger Casement
Roger Casement
Roger David Casement —Sir Roger Casement CMG between 1911 and shortly before his execution for treason, when he was stripped of his British honours—was an Irish patriot, poet, revolutionary, and nationalist....

, the Irish revolutionary. A plan was laid to land 25,000 soldiers in the west of Ireland with 75,000 rifles. However the German general staff did not agree. In 1916 Casement returned to Ireland in a U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 and was captured and executed. A German ship renamed the "Aud", flying Norwegian colours, shipped 20,000 rifles to the south Irish coast but it failed to link up with the rebels and was scuttled. Planning on this support, a minority of the Irish volunteers
Irish Volunteers
The Irish Volunteers was a military organisation established in 1913 by Irish nationalists. It was ostensibly formed in response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers in 1912, and its declared primary aim was "to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland"...

 launched the Easter Rising
Easter Rising
The Easter Rising was an insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic at a time when the British Empire was heavily engaged in the First World War...

 in Dublin. Though the Rising failed, its political effect led on to the Anglo-Irish war in 1919-1922 and the formation of the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...


Zimmermann telegram and resignation

On August 6, 1917, he resigned as foreign secretary and was succeeded by Richard Von Kühlmann
Richard von Kühlmann
Richard von Kühlmann was a German diplomat and industrialist. From 6 August 1917 to 9 July 1918, he served as Germany's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.-Biography:Kühlmann was born in Constantinople...


One of the causes of his resignation was the famous Zimmerman Telegram he sent on January 16, 1917. Two-and a half years into World War I, the United States had maintained a status of neutrality while the Allied armies had been fighting those of the Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

 in the trenches of northern France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

. Although President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

 had been re-elected – winning the election on the slogan, "He kept us out of the war" – it became increasingly difficult to maintain that position.

After the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 had been engaged in a successful naval blockade against all German shipping for some time, the German Supreme High Command concluded that only a total submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

 offensive would break the stranglehold. Although the decision was made on January 9, 1917, the Americans were not informed of the operation until January 31. The Germans abrogated their Sussex pledge
Sussex pledge
The Sussex pledge was a promise made in 1916 during World War I by Germany to the United States prior to the latter's entry into the war. Early in 1916, Germany had instituted a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, allowing armed merchant ships – but not passenger ships – to be torpedoed...

 (not to sink merchant ships without due warning and to save human lives wherever possible) and began an unrestricted U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 campaign on February 1, 1917. Since it was obvious that US shipping would also come under attack in the course of this operation, it became just a matter of time before the USA was drawn into the conflict. The US was very angered by this and was surprised that Germany would plan such an attack on them.


Germany had been pursuing various interests in Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 from the beginning of the 20th century. Although a latecomer in the area, with Spain, Britain and France having established themselves there centuries earlier, the Kaiser's Germany attempted to secure a continuing presence. This entailed many different approaches to the Mexican Republic and its changing, often revolutionary, governments as well as assuring the United States (most of the time) of Germany's peaceful intentions. German diplomacy in the area depended on sympathetic relations with the Mexican government of the day. Among the options discussed during Arthur Zimmermann's period in office was a German offer to improve communications between the two nations and a suggestion that Mexico purchase German submarines for its navy.

After Francisco Villa's cross-border raids into New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

 President Wilson sent a punitive expedition
Punitive expedition
A punitive expedition is a military journey undertaken to punish a state or any group of persons outside the borders of the punishing state. It is usually undertaken in response to perceived disobedient or morally wrong behavior, but may be also be a covered revenge...

 into Mexico to pursue the raiders.
This encouraged the Germans to believe (mistakenly) that this and other US concerns in the area would tie up US resources and military operations for some time to come, sufficiently to justify the overtures made by Arthur Zimmermann in his telegram to the Venustiano Carranza
Venustiano Carranza
Venustiano Carranza de la Garza, was one of the leaders of the Mexican Revolution. He ultimately became President of Mexico following the overthrow of the dictatorial Huerta regime in the summer of 1914 and during his administration the current constitution of Mexico was drafted...

His proposals included an agreement for a German alliance with Mexico, while Germany would still try to maintain a state of neutrality with the United States. If this policy were to fail, the note suggested, the Mexican government should make common cause with Germany, try to persuade the Japanese government to join the new alliance, and attack the US. Germany for its part would promise financial assistance and the restoration of its former territories of Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

 and Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

 to Mexico.


On 16 January 1917 Foreign Secretary Zimmermann sent the telegram to the German ambassador in Washington, Johann von Bernstorff, who in his turn forwarded it secretly to the German ambassador in Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt
Heinrich von Eckardt
Heinrich von Eckardt was the ambassador for the German Empire in Mexico, assuming office around 1915 and spending most of his time as ambassador during World War I...


British intelligence intercepted it on 17 January, but were unable to decipher it at that stage as it had been sent in a new code which neither the British cryptographers nor the German embassy in Mexico possessed. It was only when it had been transcribed for von Eckardt into the old code, which too was duly intercepted, that the British were able to compare the two codes and so were able to read the latest code and learn the contents of the message.

It was at this stage that British intelligence realized that to transmit the telegram without delay to President Wilson would indicate to the Germans that Britain was able to decipher
Decipherment is the analysis of documents written in ancient languages, where the language is unknown, or knowledge of the language has been lost....

 their code
Code (cryptography)
In cryptography, a code is a method used to transform a message into an obscured form, preventing those who do not possess special information, or key, required to apply the transform from understanding what is actually transmitted. The usual method is to use a codebook with a list of common...

s, a fact which would jeopardize British intelligence operations. A British agent then obtained a copy of the Mexican version of the cable, with slight variations in the text, and thus rendered it plausible how Britain knew of the telegram.


On February 24, the telegram was finally delivered to the US ambassador in Britain, Walter Hines Page
Walter Hines Page
Walter Hines Page was an American journalist, publisher, and diplomat. He was the United States ambassador to the United Kingdom during World War I.-Biography:...

, who two days later retransmitted it to President Wilson. On March 1, the United States Government passed the text of the telegram to the press.

At first, some sectors of the US papers, especially those of the Hearst
William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst was an American business magnate and leading newspaper publisher. Hearst entered the publishing business in 1887, after taking control of The San Francisco Examiner from his father...

 press empire, tried to claim that the telegram was a forgery by British intelligence in an attempt to persuade the US government to enter the war on Britain's side. This opinion was reinforced by German and Mexican diplomats, as well as pro-German and pacifist opinion-formers in the United States. However, on March 29, 1917, Arthur Zimmermann gave a speech confirming the text of the telegram and so put an end to all speculation as to its authenticity.

By that time a number of US ships had been torpedoed with heavy loss of life, and on April 2, President Wilson asked Congress to agree to declare war on Germany, and on April 6 Congress complied. The United States had entered World War I on the Allied
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...


Arthur Zimmermann's speech

The speech was intended to explain his side of the situation. He began that he had not written a letter to Carranza but had given instructions to the German ambassador via a "route that had appeared to him to be a safe one".

He also said that despite the submarine offensive, he had hoped that the USA would remain neutral. His instructions (to the Mexican government) were only to be carried out after the US declared war, and he believed his instructions to be "absolutely loyal as regards the US". In fact, he blamed President Wilson for breaking off relations with Germany "with extraordinary roughness" after the telegram was received, and that therefore the German ambassador "no longer had the opportunity to explain the German attitude, and that the US government had declined to negotiate".

Thinking that the USA would remain neutral while their ships were being attacked does indicate extreme naivety on Arthur Zimmermann's part. However, it is possible he was hoping (in an equally naïve way) the world would see the desperate situation Germany had found itself in during the blockade of German shipping, and it would bring some understanding to that situation.

There was honesty in his speech since he would have had occasion to reflect on the impact of the telegram and its aftereffects in the meantime, yet still was prepared to present its original ideas. However, it also revealed he was seriously misinformed about the real strength of the United States vis-à-vis its southern neighbour, but that was the fault of the German intelligence services.

Mexico's reply

Later, a general assigned by Carranza to assess the realities of a Mexican takeover of their former provinces came to the conclusion that it would not work. Taking over the three states would almost certainly cause future problems and possibly war with the US; Mexico would also be unable to accommodate a large Anglo population within its borders; and Germany would not be able to supply the arms needed in the hostilities that would surely arise.
Carranza declined Zimmermann's proposals on April 14.

The fact-finding mission of Nuncio Pacelli

At the end of June 1917, Zimmermann found the first real opportunity for paving the way to peace negotiations during his period of administration. At several meetings with the Bavarian Nuncio
Apostolic Nuncio to Bavaria
The Apostolic Nunciature to Bavaria was an ecclesiastical office of the Roman Catholic Church in Bavaria. It was a diplomatic post of the Holy See, whose representative was called the Apostolic Nuncio to Bavaria, a state – consecutively during the nunciature's existence – of the Holy Roman Empire,...

 Eugenio Pacelli (later to become Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 Pius XII) and Uditore Schioppa, who were on a fact-finding mission, Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg and Arthur Zimmermann outlined their plans. There would be no annexations of territories, no border adjustments with Russia, Poland was to remain an independent state, all occupied areas of France and Belgium were to be evacuated, and Alsace-Lorraine
The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle region of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east...

 would be ceded to France. The only exception in return was to be the restitution of all former German colonies to Germany.

None of these plans came to fruition because neither of the two German participants would be very much longer in office.

As an afterthought, it was Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg's belief – unlike that of the General Staff's – that once the United States entered the war, the prospects for Germany would indeed be bleak.

Nurse Edith Cavell's execution

Arthur Zimmermann as foreign secretary also felt called upon to comment on Edith Cavell
Edith Cavell
Edith Louisa Cavell was a British nurse and spy. She is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from all sides without distinction and in helping some 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during World War I, for which she was arrested...

's execution by firing squad on October 12, 1915. The incident had caused a sensation in the UK and US press and political capital was being made out of it. He began by saying that "it was a pity that Miss Cavell had to be executed", but that it was necessary.

He continued by saying that although it was a terrible thing that the woman had been executed, consideration should be given to the consequences if a state, particularly one at war, were to leave women unpunished after they had committed crimes aimed at the safety of its armies. No criminal court in the world – least of all one with jurisdiction over the laws of war – would make such a distinction (as man and woman are equal before the law), etc. He had before him the court's verdict and was "convinced that no court in the world would have given any other verdict", and so on.

Looked at in those days, although it was part of his office to defend the indefensible, to the world it would have been easy to condemn him for this, especially since these crimes in peacetime almost certainly would have been no crimes at all. But with hindsight, we have gained some understanding of some of the processes which caused these "miscarriages" of justice, especially since the offence of "cowardice before the enemy", for example, was punishable by firing squad in most armies.

Peace in the East

In March 1917, with the imminent collapse of the Russian front, Zimmermann took steps to promote Peace in the East with the Russians, a proposal that was of immense importance to Germany at the time. The foreign secretary set forth the following: regulations for frontline contacts with the opposite side; reciprocal withdrawal of the occupied areas; an amicable agreement about Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 and Kurland; and a promise to aid Russia in its reconstruction and rehabilitation. Last not least, Lenin and the émigré revolutionaries would be allowed to pass through Germany to Russia by train. These proposals once carried out, would free Germany's armies in the east and allow them to be concentrated in the west, a master-stroke that would reinforce the German western front vastly. Zimmermann thus contributed to the outcome of the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.