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From Empire to Republic

 | 
Peter Berger
, 
Günter Bischof
, 
Fritz Plasser

Introduction

Leopold Count Berchtold: The Man Who Could Have Prevented the Great War

Samuel R. Williamson

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19 July 1914: “Berchtold came at 6 and stayed to dine. He was very human and pleasant but with M[aurice de Bunsen, her husband and the British Ambassador] as secretive as he always is with all Ambassadors and let no word fall as to his intentions towards Serbia.”1 Only later would Berta de Bunsen learn that her dinner guest had earlier that same day given final approval of an ultimatum designed to provide a pretext for war with Serbia. Her secretive guest was the one person who could have prevented the outbreak of war.2 Had he counseled Emperor Franz Joseph to continue a policy of militant diplomacy instead of a policy of hostile, military confrontation, peace would have been preserved, regardless of German pressures. But after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Leopold Berchtold, the Habsburg foreign minister, almost immediately resolved for a military showdown; no German pressure was needed.3

Berchtold’s performance as foreign minister before Jul...

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