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T. von Bethmann-Hollweg, German Imperial Chancellor, in Statement to Ritzau’s Danish Press Bureau, Sept. 13, 1914.
The English Prime Minister, in his Guildhall speech, reserved to England the role of protector of the smaller and weaker States, and spoke about the neutrality of Holland, Belgium and Switzerland as being exposed to danger from the side of Germany. It is true that we have broken Belgium’s neutrality because bitter necessity compelled us to do so, but we promised Belgium full indemnity and integrity if she would take account of this state of necessity. If so, she would not have suffered any damage, as, for example, Luxemburg. If England, as protector of the weaker States, had wished to spare Belgium infinite suffering she should have advised Belgium to accept our offer. England has not “protected” Belgium, so far as we know; I wonder, therefore, whether it can really be said that England is such a disinterested protector.
We knew perfectly well that the French plan of campaign involved a march through Belgium to attack the unprotected Rhineland. Does any one believe England would have interfered to protect Belgian freedom against France?
We have firmly respected the neutrality of Holland and Switzerland; we have also avoided the slightest violation of the frontier of the Dutch Province of Limburg.
It is strange that Mr. Asquith only mentioned the neutrality of Belgium, Holland and Switzerland, but not that of the Scandinavian countries. He might have mentioned Switzerland with reference to France, but Holland and Belgium are situated close to England on the opposite side of the Channel, and that is why England is so concerned for the neutrality of these countries.
Why is Mr. Asquith silent about the Scandinavian countries? Perhaps because he knows that it does not enter our head to touch these countries’ neutrality; or would England possibly not consider Denmark’s neutrality as a noli me tangere for an advance in the Baltic or for Russia’s warlike operations.