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With General Smuts to Southeastern Europe

[This chapter was added to this electronic edition from Stephen Bonsal's Pulitzer Price winning 1944 book Unfinished Business. Bonsal was sent by Colonel House to afact-finding tour in central and eastern Europe between April 1 and April 10, 1919. His first hand information about the conditions in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest during the Communist Revolution in Hungary is uniquely interesting.

NOTE: General Smuts[27] left on his tour of southeastern Europe on April 1st and the following excerpts are from the diary of Colonel Bonsai, who joined him in Vienna. Generally, but not invariably, they are headed by the day of the week and not by the day of the month. While, as will appear, Colonel Bonsal on this tour covered a good deal of ground, he was back in Paris on the afternoon of April's 11th to resume his duties with the Commission engaged in drafting the League and the Covenant.

March 30th, 1919

The Colonel came in this morning, quite excited. "Smuts," he announced, "is leaving tomorrow night for a tour of investigation and, as we hope, of pacification in southeastern Europe. With him on the mission will be a Frenchman and an Italian, and he has asked me to let you accompany him as the American representative. He intimates that the Frenchman and the Italian will merely serve as camouflage or window dressing but that he wants you, whom he regards as a `commonsense' American, to assist him because you are perfectly familiar with conditions down there before propaganda got to work and covered up the facts. Here," explained the Colonel, "as regards the Covenant, things are at a standstill and will remain so for two or three weeks, and by that time you will be back. Perhaps Smuts will not accomplish much but he will learn a lot about the actual situation at first hand and that cannot fail to be helpful.

* * * *

From Prague to Vienna; April 3, 1919

Before we reached Vienna, Smuts sent for me. He wished to set me straight as to the various versions of his talk with Kun which have appeared in the papers. "Unfortunately," he explained, "his first answer to my inquiries as to the course he meant to pursue was so offensive to our allies, the Roumanians, that I declined to receive it. My information is that the little man is at the end of his tether and my purpose was to facilitate his departure which cannot be long delayed. I came here with the impression that we have neglected the many and grave problems resulting from the collapse of the Dual Monarchy. As a result of my personal survey this impression has deepened into a strong conviction. In my talk with him it was clear that Masaryk also was of this opinion; he insisted that there should be no further delay in tackling problems too long neglected."

"Hearing nothing from Paris," Masaryk admitted, "I have been forced into entering into tentative negotiations as to our boundaries with the Reich through a German agent who is now in Prague."

After a moment's reflection, Smuts went on to say that further delay was unwise and would prove costly. "It is absolutely necessary for the Supreme War Council to call a subconference to deal with the problems which we have inherited upon the demise of Austria. Where should it be convened? That also is quite a problem. If it is summoned to meet in any of the capitals of the Succession States that would not fail to provoke bickerings among the statesmen of the brand-new political creations. When I return to Paris I shall insist upon such a conference being called, and in my judgment it should sit in Paris."

We pulled into Vienna late in the afternoon. I separated from the mission and went to the hotel to enjoy a rest, of which I was in great need. In the morning I learned that Smuts had been called back to Paris; the tour to Belgrade and Bucharest had been abandoned. Now he was to delve into the baffling Irish problem. Perhaps Dublin was to be his next port of call and of course I immediately advised Paris of this sudden and radical change of plan.

When, on the following day, my instructions came, detaching me from the mission and instructing me to continue certain researches as a "lone wolf," I sought out General Smuts, but as I did not find him I saw no reasons why I should not tell the other members of the mission I met with that I was not returning to Paris with the general that evening. According to Thomson, this step provoked severe criticism from at least one of my colleagues, little Captain L'Hopital, one of Foch's socially ornamental aides, in distinction to his fighting aides, who represented France on the mission, and who burst out with, "I have heard of shirt-sleeve diplomacy as practiced across the Atlantic and now I see it. This is very discourteous to our general. The American commandant should return to Paris with General Smuts and then when released act according to his instructions."

To keep the record clear, I went after Smuts again, found him this time at the English Mission, and explained the point of etiquette that had been raised. He roared with laughter. "I approve of your course. I suppose I m something of a shirt-sleeve diplomat myself. I think it would be absurd for you to go to Paris with me and then return. Then he said something about L'Hopital which I shall not repeat; it would not further cement the entente cordiale. "I give you my blessing and my thanks but on one condition. I, too, wish I could remain down here longer. We are just beginning to find things out, but the P.M. has wired me he wants me to meddle in the Irish business and after all that is nearer home. The condition I make on releasing you is that when you return to Paris you call on me and tell me what you have found out."

Vienna, April 4th.

There came for me today a telegram which put me back in diplomacy, even in secret diplomacy. And yet it was not in code, but open and aboveboard for anybody to read, and it ran:

If a complete set of Grillparzer's works, the 1872 edition, is available, secure an option and wire me the price.


I understood now why I had been detained in Vienna and detached from the Smuts mission. My instructions had nothing to do with the sale of the Viennese dramatic poet's works, and if, through a leak in the telegraph office, the Graben booksellers had run up their prices, they would have suffered a costly disappointment.

Before I left Paris, I had had a long talk with House and out of it had been arranged the enigmatic telegram which I had drawn up and now received. For some weeks the papers had been filled with rumors to the effect that the brand-new Austrian Republic had decided to throw in its lot with the Reich. These telegrams came from Berne or Basle, the starting points of so much misinformation. But, on the other hand, they might be trial balloons and probably were. As early as mid-January Clemenceau had spoken to the Colonel as to his anxiety on the subject, and he discussed the question again at some length with House on the day that I left Paris to join Smuts.

"I have instructed Allizé, our man in the Austrian capital, to urge upon Chancellor Renner not to tie up with Berlin or, rather, Weimar. Certainly not before we take up with him the Austrian Treaty. He must remember that by the Armistice terms he is under political duress. And in view of the leisurely way we are proceeding with the German Treaty, the Austrian Treaty is hardly in sight. Allizé is not at all certain that his words have sunk in and he complains that he is getting no support from his Italian colleagues, who are so busy robbing the picture galleries that they have no time for matters of less import. "I think it would be helpful," concluded Clemenceau, "if you advise Renner to stand pat until he or his delegates come to Paris to discuss permanent arrangements."

House agreed. He, too, thought it more considerate to give a friendly word of caution in advance rather than an order later on to the Austrians to withdraw from a position which it was feared they might be induced by the many Berlin agents in Vienna to take up.

"If the President approves, I will do as you suggest," said House.

And the Grillparzer telegram showed that approval had come from Washington and I was to make an essay in shirt-sleeve diplomacy. I sent a request to the Presidency (Presidium) asking for an audience at eleven o'clock that morning. The answer came back promptly, and an hour later I presented myself at the Ballplatz. Karl Renner was a plain man, undistinguished in appearance. He had risen to his unenviable eminence in the hard way. He had been a printer, then a subeditor, and finally, by sheer merit and persistence, had become the editor in chief of the Arbeiter Zeitung. Unlike Bauer and several of his more brilliant colleagues, Renner wrote but little; he contented himself with executive supervision of the paper and in keeping his eyes on the Kassa.

I gave my message as briefly as I could. For a moment he was silent, and then he began to speak, slowly.

"It is unfortunate," he said, "this message has reached me so late, but I hope not too late. Botho Wedel, the German Minister, has just left me and what I told him he is even now wiring to his government. It was that we would join with the Reich. I was quite frank with him and I told him that we were doing it without any enthusiasm; I made it quite plain that the lessons derived from our relations during the war were too fresh in our memories for that. What else was I to do?" Renner inquired of me. I could see no ausweg, no other way out. He left me an hour ago, and I told him that I would submit his proposal to the Council in the morning and that I hoped that our alliance would be more successful in organizing the Peace than it had been in winning the war.

"Of course this expression of opinion, this word of advice from the American delegation will carry great weight with us; it will certainly reawaken the doubts that were expressed in our last council, but what can you offer in the way of assistance? We know that we cannot stand alone. Austria-Hungary has been dismembered, not by the Allies, but by the action of the little nations who formed the Empire. Now, what can you offer us?"

I told Renner frankly that I could offer him nothing, that I had complied with my instructions and that it would be unwise for me, and anything but helpful to him, if I exceeded them. I did suggest that it might be proper for him to recall that America had shown great reluctance in declaring war on the Austrian Empire.

"We refrained from doing so until we were forced by the course of events. There is a reservoir of great good will for your people in America. Practical evidence of this is the relief program now under way, of which you spoke with so much appreciation when I first came to Vienna. It will be continued; we will do all we can for the people who, as we believe, without being consulted, were trapped into the war and who are now its most-to-be-pitied victims."

Poor Renner paced up and down the apartment and then with a sigh returned to the ornate desk at which had sat Metternich and so many of his princely predecessors. Then he straightened himself up and said resolutely:

"I do not know how we can manage it. I shall, of course, have to confer with my colleagues, but you can tell Colonel House that somehow and in some way as yet unexplored we shall follow his advice."

An hour later I sent my telegram: the desired edition of Grillparzer was available at a fair price, and it meant that at least for the time being the Anschluss was postponed. There would be no immediate action, and that indeed was all we asked for.

This was the only occasion on which I saw Renner seated at the desk where Metterich spun his alliances or where in my own day I had so often fenced with Graf Kalnoky about the Balkan situation or, and this was more to his liking, gossiped about the coming horse races in the Freudenau. For reasons that I could understand, and approved of, Renner preferred to confer with me at my hotel. The beautiful desk of Metternich I thought rather turned up its nose at its new occupant. There were, moreover, other notable changes in the furniture of the historic salon. The busts of Kaunitz and the other famous chancellors of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy which had looked down upon the inquiring correspondent from America, as recently as 1915 when I here interviewed de Burian on the prospects of war or of peace, had been removed. And that was wise; they certainly had no place in this new galère!

Vienna, April undated.

"Would you like to talk to Paris?" said young Captain Clapp to me the other day.

"I should say I would," was my answer, "but, of course, it is impossible." (Telegrams were greatly delayed and letters rarely reached me and always many days old. Lacking definite instructions, I was in something of a quandary.) Clapp is a telephone expert attached to the Hoover organization and, as it turned out, something of a miracle worker.

"Nothing is easier," explained young Clapp. "We have a perfect connection with Paris via Cologne. I established it some ten days ago, but we have to be very secretive about it because if it were known the authorities 'here or there might take it into their heads to interrupt it. We are working entirely through subordinates, telephone men like myself, and we are in agreement to send no military information."

That was not a handicap for me. I had no military information to send. Within twenty minutes I was talking to House at the Crillon and our conversation was as clear as if I had been talking from Versailles. This system of clandestine grapevine communication was a great resource to me in the following days and I hope it did not prove too great a nuisance to the Colonel.

Vienna, April 9th.

Evidently the wires are crossed between Archibald Coolidge, of the Enquiry, and the delegation in Paris, and doubtless this is one of the reasons why I am detained here. Coolidge says, in his indignation, that a letter to Santa Claus has a better chance of being answered than an inquiry sent to the delegation! The Peace Commissioners come back with the statement that if you ask Coolidge for facts to aid in an appreciation of the actual situation, he replies with a learned disquisition on the Pragmatic Sanction. He is a learned man, but muy pesado, as the Spaniards have it. And he is living in the eighteenth century.

On the other hand, Professor Brown, in Budapest, is regarded as a "pink," by some even as a Bolshevik, because he pays some attention to the Bela Kun movement in Hungary. I have had an opportunity to read some of Brown's dispatches, and they are excellent. The highhanded proceedings of the territorial lords and magnates share with Moscow responsibility for the anarchy that prevails on the Hungarian plain. Most of the agents down there, diplomatic and otherwise, are greatly handicapped by the fact that all wire communications are interrupted. Thanks, however, to the Hoover organization and the diplomatic as well as mechanical ability of their telephone expert, Captain Clapp, I now talk to my colonel in the Crillon whenever I want to. It is difficult to maintain, but I am sworn to secrecy, for if this surreptitious means of communication were even suspected, a way undoubtedly would be found to interrupt it.

Vienna, Tuesday.

To escape the hospital smell that pervaded the Bristol, I went to the opera last evening. I was in uniform, and when I presented myself at the ticket window they were opposed to taking my money. "Soldiers, officials, do not pay," quavered a voice through the little window, but I insisted. I was hardly settled in my stall and was gazing up at the fourth or fifth gallery which was where I sat in my student days, when I was suddenly surrounded by what seemed the whole management. There they were crowding my neighbors, bowing and scraping.

"It was unerhört," they asserted. "I must occupy a box - otherwise they would die of shame." To be sure, as they admitted, the imperial box was crowded; there, where Franz Josef had so often snoozed throughout the performances, was a badly dressed flock of civil servants of the new government and their ladies. But we have an archducal box we would most gladly place at your disposal. "Euer Gnaden, come! Do us this favor. No, no! Euer Gnaden! here you must not sit." Say it they did not, but in gestures they pointed with contempt to the fairly common herd by whom I was surrounded. But I wouldn't move. In Berlin, of course, I could be arrogant and assertive, but not in my dear Vienna. Just because I was in uniform, a temporary officer and a make-believe conqueror, I would not even seem to crack the whip. I would sit with my friends, the good, the gemütliches Volk of the Kaiser-stadt. At last the management withdrew and my neighbors beamed on me. I sat with them because in other years I had shared their joys and some of their sorrows, too. I had lived with them as a corps student with Bummler aufgesetzt. In 1915 I had driven many great nails in the Wehrmann in Eisen out on the Schwarzenberg Platz in the hope that by its forbidding mien and some mystic quality it would defend these liebe Leute from their war allies of the north, and if I was only a Wiener Kind by adoption I was the father of a real authentic child of the Kaiser-stadt because my second son had come to us one happy day in the Pelikangasse.

So I sat with the dear plain people who in former years had perched up in the highest gallery just as I did. As my thoughts were far away, in time at least, if not in space, it is perhaps not strange that I do not remember the opera and now only twenty-four hours later I cannot recall its name. It was, to be sure, a sad spectacle, and as the tenore robusto tottered across the stage I noticed how shrunken were his shanks, how feeble his voice. But truth to tell, I peopled the stage and the boxes with figures that have for the most part vanished from the scene. There I used to see Princess Pauline graciously giving to Count Hübner her hand to be kissed, the favorite of Metternich and perhaps the first of the old-school diplomats who had circumnavigated the world on his grand tour. There swaggered Count Kalnoky and here passed Taaffe with his soft, gliding step. And on the stage I saw Cerale and Fräulein Abel pulsating with life, resplendent in beauty, and yet now they are as dead as Maria Theresa, and Josef and Kaunitz and the King of Rome!


Vienna, always a cave of the winds, with every breeze bearing upon it a fantastic rumor (such certainly was my experience here in my days as a correspondent), is even surpassing itself in this respect now. I shall make a brief record of the news that reaches me from many quarters, but I begin with one that is certainly not fantastic. Here it is in black and white in all the official newspapers. This one explains perhaps why the authorities are so desirous for me to live in one of the palaces and so protect it with our flag. The decree reads:

"All palaces, castles, and country houses with the adjacent buildings are to be taken possession of by the State to house the invalids, the sick, and all others who are without shelter. The up-to-now owners must turn their property over to the State without indemnity; the farm lands attached to these properties will be taken possession of when they are needed. In such cases (that of the farm lands) an appropriate indemnity will be paid. For the period of twelve months the previous occupants of these residences may continue to live in them, but they may only occupy the space absolutely necessary to shelter their families. From this date, none of these properties can be offered for sale or have existing mortgages increased."

Even the Neue Freie Presse, which since the revolution has piped down and can hardly be recognized as the organ of the bankers, is outraged by this plan, which it says infringes upon all law and equity. "The seizure of property without indemnity," it writes, "destroys the fundamentals of our civilization."

A few hours after this bombshell was exploded, I came across my old friend Fuchs, long the most active editor of the paper; he was seated on a bench out on the Ring just opposite the Stadt-Park.

"I am writing my editorial out here," he explained, "because the office is in turmoil and our printers have taken possession of the editorial rooms and are about to proclaim a soviet."

The publication of these decrees, expropriating private property, seemed to indicate that the radical wing of the Social Democrats is getting the upper hand and calls attention to a possible development of the Austrian situation which not a few have regarded for some weeks now as a probability. The Reds are now in control in Budapest and in much of Russia, and they also seem to be sweeping all resistance before them in the Ukraine that vast reservoir of men and of greatly needed food. Should the Bolsheviks join up with the troops of Bela Kun and threaten Vienna, that would entail a campaign in eastern Europe for which hundreds of thousands of troops would be required. Many people are asking me what the Allies would do in these circumstances, and indeed Renner put the question to me this afternoon, and my answer was I did not know, but hoped that they would act intelligently. Naturally, he finds my answer unsatisfactory and unsatisfactory it is. It is true, of course, that a few days after the Armistice Foch proposed that we send a hundred thousand men to Moscow to "clean up," but his proposal fell on deaf ears. No one was in favor of another campaign, everybody wanted to be demobilized and go home.

Vienna, Thursday.

The papers here are filled, you might even say ablaze, today, with contradictory reports from western Europe in regard to the proposed war indemnities. Lloyd George is reported as saying that Germany must pay the full amount of war damage, even if it takes fifty years to do so. Wilson is reported as not backing him up very strongly. He thinks the Allies should be content with getting the money to replace what has been actually destroyed, and no more - reparation payments but no indemnities. Also, under unusually striking headlines the papers publish a report which they ascribe to Havas. This runs:

"Yesterday the budget committee of the French Chamber reached a unanimous report on the actual financial situation and the immediate prospects, and sent it on to Clemenceau. It reads: 'It is now clear that the financial burden of the French people will reach twenty-two milliards of francs annually, in which sum pensions for widows, the invalids of war, and also for civilians who have been crippled, are included. In the light of these figures, it is an elementary and a just demand that the enemy should be made to pay war burdens as well as damages, with priority being given to the bill for replacing what human values have been destroyed or impaired. The sums that will be required for this purpose should not be estimated on present capacity to pay; the future ability to pay, after financial recuperation, should be carefully weighed.'"

These reports have created consternation and some rather unusual expressions of sympathy for those whom the Viennese persistently call "the Germans of the north." "From our carcase they will get nothing," said Renner to me today; "perhaps a few feathers; and if they ask too much of Germany, they will kill the goose that might, with coddling, be induced to lay a few, a very few, golden eggs. But the end of Austria is in sight; the time has come to write Finis Austriae. No wrong or insult is being spared us. The Italians are taking from our public galleries and private collections pictures and works of art which belong to us as much as does the tower of St. Stephen's Cathedral. The Czechs are on the march and they have reached the Danube; some of their advanced posts are in Lower Austria; the Roumanians are devastating Hungary; the South Slays are not lagging behind, they are within a few miles of Graz. I try to keep an open mind on the veto of the Anschluss which you brought me, but in my heart I feel that the Allies are acting in a very shortsighted manner. I am not blind to the consideration that weighs heavily with them. They feel, and feel very keenly, that the defeated Germans should not emerge from the war with an increase of territory and a greater population. I suppose they would not deign to read German history, but if they did, they could learn that, not so long ago, Louis Napoleon sent an ambassador to Nikolsburg to prevent the union of the northern and southern Germans; and that this ill-advised step led to Sedan. That they would see if they were not blind. I seem to remember that in one of the classics it is written that those whom the gods mean to destroy are first made mad." For the first time Renner was bitter.

These press rumors brought Botho Wedel, the German Minister, into action. He was now back from Berlin. He sent for an editor of the Neue Freie Presse and, expressing great indignation, asked that the following statement be printed: (This is on the authority of Fuchs.)

"Our delegation has been invited to appear in Paris on April the 25th to receive the Allied terms. I hope then we shall get some light on the future, but even now our position is clear. I cannot see how anyone should be uncertain about it. In accordance with the offer of the Allies, we accepted a preliminary peace on the basis of the Fourteen Points. This agreement we shall carry out, although in view of our losses and the distress prevailing among our people before and since the Armistice it will be difficult for us to live up to a peace settlement, even on the Wilson terms. Certainly we cannot do more, and I am conlident we shall refuse to attempt it. No honest man would sign a promise to pay which he knows it is quite impossible for him to fulfill. We are all of one mind on this point, the Government, the National Assembly, and Das Volk. We have a proverb which runs:

`Where nothing remains, not even the Kaiser can collect,' and that, of course, applies to the presidents of a republic in a similar unhappy plight. Undoubtedly my people would even prefer a continuance of the anarchic conditions with which we are confronted, than to sign a treaty which would surely destroy Germany and make of us and our descendants slaves. No sane man would sign his own death warrant, and anyone who thinks we shall, has lost his sense of reality."

Friday, April.

M. Allizé (the French agent), who is always urging, at least un-officially, the union of Austria with Bavaria, handed in a note to Dr. Bauer, secretary of the Government for Foreign Affairs, yesterday, in which he broached a new topic, and also revealed the anxiety, which so many feel, that the present government here is turning very rapidly to the Left. He said:

"France, like the other Allies, is seeking to send food here for the distressed population; hitherto this has been scanty because with us at home very little food is available, and the difficulties of transport are great. Now, however, as the outlook is more promising, we have entered into negotiations with the proper authorities and are hopeful of being able to route food trains over Switzerland."

Then he concludes with a word of warning:

"All these efforts, however, will be arrested unless we receive assurances that law and order throughout Austria can be maintained; there must be no political interference with the distribution of food."

Saturday, April.

A man who knows history and recalls it, as so few of us do, wrote interestingly yesterday in the Frankfurter Zeitung about the flight of Emperor Karl:

"This is indeed poetic justice," he writes. "For hundreds of years the House of Austria sought to destroy the independence of the Swiss Confederation and the rights of free men. Had it succeeded, the Swiss would have become lieges of Austria and today they could not have offered a refuge to the last of the Hapsburgs, now landless and forlorn. Had the Swiss not driven out this family five hundred years ago, and by so doing preserved their independence, they could not be offering, as they are doing today, safe refuge and asylum to the last of this unhappy line. Today the Hapsburgs are flocking for safety to their home country they sought to enslave. They come as aliens to their old home, but, like all refugees from oppression, they are eligible to citizenship if they demonstrate that they have the proper qualifications for this honor and are alive to the responsibilities that go with it."

* * * *

This afternoon Dr. Lodgmann, Landes-Hauptman of German Bohemia, as rightly or wrongly he styles himself, came in with four or five of his indignant followers. He accused Masaryk of double-dealing, of disseminating misleading information, and indeed of many other and even more terrible things. He is especially outraged by a report in the Viennese papers that the new President (in Prague) proposes to give the Germans (of Bohemia) complete autonomy. "This news comes from Berne and we do not think much of news from Berne. Masaryk will never let us vote on the question as to whether we would like to join up with German Austria or remain with the Czechs as a self-governing state. He is simply trying to mislead the conference in Paris. If the powers really want peace, and I try to think that they do, they must take into consideration our situation, and they should remember that neither the people in Prague nor the delegates in Paris can determine our future; that is in our hands; there is no possibility of Gemeinschaft or even federation with the Czechs, and they are entirely responsible for this strong and universal lack of sympathy. If they should wish to put it to the test, we do not shun an election, but of course such an election would have to be held under non-partisan, international control."

An hour later came a delegation of the German citizens of Reichenberg. They are greatly excited as to the purpose of the Smuts visit to Prague. They think he wanted to urge Masaryk to send Czech troops into Hungary, and they sought to find out what I knew on the subject; this was easy. Officially I knew absolutely nothing; personally, I knew next to nothing.

They then placed before me a manifesto or a petition signed by five or six members of what they call the Provisional Government of German Bohemia; among them was the name of the famous Dr. Herold. The petition was addressed to President Wilson and read:

"Hearing through the European press that the German populations of Bohemia, Moravia, and German Silesia are to be denied the right of self-determination, we, members of the Peoples and of the Socialist parties, called upon to rule provisionally our communities, draw your attention the injustice of this decision and request that our representatives may be admitted to the Peace Conference. If it is decided to hold a plebiscite, and that is what the ends of justice demand, we hope that you will insist that the vote be taken under the control of the Allied and Associated Powers. In no other way could a fair election be held. We do not hesitate to say that in case this step is not taken, there is grave danger to the peace of Europe. Three and a half million Germans will never submit to the alien rule that the Czechoslovaks are seeking to impose."

I accepted both of these statements[28] and promised to send them on to Paris by a courier who was passing through Vienna on the following day, but I urged them to also send formal copies to the secretary general of the Peace Conference, M. Dutasta. Many here are of the opinion, and among these are the members of our Food Administration, that Botho Wedel, the German Minister, is very active in stirring up these complaints. It is evident, however, that there is rough going ahead for Masaryk. How these people hate one another talk of the Kilkenny cats!

Chancellor Renner, who, owing to the illness of Dr. Bauer, is also acting as Minister of Foreign Affairs, took me yesterday to visit the Burg, and though I suspected from the first that behind the courteous gesture there was a plan, perhaps a deep-laid plan, I was glad to go. I visited Francis Joseph s apartment. I saw that, as the tradition had it, there was no water laid on. I scrutinized his Gummi portable bathtub and saw that now it was full of holes. The starving mice that had formerly lived on the fat tidbits that fell from the imperial table, reduced to starving rations like all living things in the Danube capital, were gnawing on it. I sat in the window from which in 1904 I had seen the old Emperor presenting his grandson, little Karl, to the loyal populace. The old Emperor had smiled his empty, vacant smile and the people had shouted: "What a magnificent Buberl he is." Now the Emperor is moldering in the vaults of the Capuchin church and little Karl is a refugee in Switzerland. Wild-eyed people were pushing their way through the dark and dismal corridors and the few guards in evidence did but little to control their curiosity. And then Renner developed his plan.

"You would be more comfortable here than at the Bristol," he suggested, "and you would be better protected. Wild people from all over the monarchy are streaming into the starving city, and a man who is well dressed and well fed, who looks as though he had foreign valuta in his pocket, is far from safe. But if you moved here and raised your flag over the Burg you would be perfectly safe and you would protect the palace from the roving bands of hoodlums who may at any moment get out of hand."

I expressed my appreciation of the invitation but declined it. It would never do for a democrat with no heraldic quarterings to take up his abode where once the Caesars of the Holy Roman Empire had lodged. Besides, I had no flag except the little pennant which I flew from my car when I was fortunate enough to have one. That would look ridiculous flying from this great edifice with its hundreds of deserted, unswept, and smelly rooms.... Renner then very goodnaturedly dropped the subject.

As to the contacts which General Smuts may or may not have had with Herr Renner before he returned to Paris, I have little or no information. In one of our talks Herr Renner said: "Ich bin mit ihm nur flüchtig in beruhrung gekommen [My contact with him was only of a superficial character]." Evidently nothing very satisfactory had resulted from the conversations that may have taken place - which are reported at great length in all the sensational papers.

I made a pilgrimage this morning to the imperial vaults under the Capuchin church where all, or nearly all, the Hapsburgs, with their secrets, their sorrows, their benefactions, and alas, as I also fear, their crimes, have been laid away. The aged monk who opened the postern gate to my knock seemed not a little nervous at the sight of my uniform, but after I dropped a silver coin in the little leather bag for contributions which he carried, he lit a great beeswax candle and led me through the purple twilight of the great cellar. I stood by the leaden coffin of Francis Joseph, whom I had seen as an act of penitence washing the feet of the selected beggars on Maundy Thursday, years ago. I tarried for a moment by the smaller leaden sarcophagus that contains all that was mortal of the beautiful Empress Elizabeth she whom I had first seen in my boyhood as alone and unattended she walked through the garden of the Hofburg. What a noble bearing she had and what a carriage! To me she appeared as a goddess descended from on high, and in the words of Aeneas I hailed the beautiful vision as that of a Dea certe! What a strange life was hers and what a strange ending! Her troubled, tumultuous heart was pierced by a stiletto in the hand of a crazy anarchist, and those who saw the weapon say that it looked no more formidable than a hatpin and yet it sufficed. At her side rests her unfortunate son, Rudolph, the hero, or the victim, of the mystery of Mayerling where he died. Ten weeks after the tragic event I came from Turkey to investigate the mystery that so intrigued the world. How Rudolph met his end I do not know, and I do not think the world will ever know. The official stories, as well as those put out by the Empress Eugénie, who had also lost an only son in the heyday of life, as well as the doubtless sincere gossip of Käthi Schradt, the Emperor's dearest friend, were invented with the natural purpose of misleading a morbid world. Someday, perhaps, I shall set forth the reasons why I do not think the Archduke shot himself after killing his mistress. They are, I admit, not entirely convincing. Of all the royal mysteries, that of Mayerling remains unsolved, and is likely to remain so.

With some show of emotion the monk now led me to the little vacant space, all that now remains unoccupied in this centuries-old Charnel house. He lifted his eyes to the roof of the dark vault and said:

"Who will occupy?"

I had no answer; no one knows, and perhaps the leaden coffins will all disappear in the next whirlwind of war. Even in 1917, I am told, the suggestion was made by the editor of a fugitive Communist sheet that they be melted down into bullets to kill the oppressors who ride roughshod over the proletarian world.

As I turned to leave, I caught sight of my old friend of the Balkan days, René Pinon, now for many years the lynx-eyed observer of the European scene for the Revue des Deux Mondes. He had been kneeling in prayer, and as we walked out together he brushed the dust of the ages from his trouser knees. I think I understood his thought which, however, he did not voice. He was a loyal and patriotic Frenchman and he was happy that France had survived the world catastrophe that for four long years had menaced her; but he was also a true son of the Church, and a Rightist. There was moisture in his eye as he greeted me and surveyed the uniform I now wore as a pawn in the crusade to make the world safe for democracy. I do not think he mourned the fall of the Hapsburg emperors, but he did regret the disappearance of the great Catholic power which as recently as 1903 had exercised its traditional veto and prevented Cardinal Rampolla, suspected of being tainted by a touch of modernity, from becoming the successor to St. Peter.

Vienna, Tuesday.

I dined tonight with Admiral Höhnel; General Margutti was also his guest, but how different were the circumstances and the temper of the party from that evening in March 1915 when they dined with me at the Bristol. Then the Russians were being driven back over the Carpathians, according to War Office reports, and the war would be over in a few weeks! Now the war was over, and the government that had displaced the Empire had told them that as they had both been appointed to their respective services from Trieste, now annexed to Italy, they had better apply to Rome for their pensions. Höhnel was living on the sale of his stamp collection and the general, I understood, was living very much from hand to mouth.

For seventeen years Margutti had been the personal aide and adjutant to the Emperor Francis Joseph, and certainly no one was closer to him and deeper in his confidence than he. Naturally in these circumstances I gave a wide berth to war topics, but Margutti not to be denied; with him the responsibility for the war was an obsession. Every few minutes he insisted: "I live over and over again every day those tragic hours when the ultimatum to Belgrade was being fashioned. Even then all might have been well. The Emperor knew that Francis Ferdinand could not have been brought to life again. That was not a practical demand on the Serbians and he was asking himself why thousands should die to avenge him? That was the thought of my imperial master, and I was hopeful that with a little good will in Belgrade peace could be preserved. Then, however, almost daily the telephone would ring and Budapest was on the wire, the Chancellery of the Minister President, and I was told that Count Tisza had started for Vienna on a special train, that he had matters of vital importance to lay before the Emperor-King and that I should arrange an audience. I did arrange it in the great study, and I was present at it, as I was expected to be, but of course, as was proper, I kept my distance. While Count Tisza spoke in a loud voice, in a voice that was unseemly and with an emphasis that shocked me, I could not understand, I could not gather the meaning of his words, but the import of his coming was clear. He wanted war! In all the years I had served His Majesty no one had ever addressed him in such outrageous tones. At times he bellowed, and the condescension of my imperial master in trying to calm him was of but little avail. The Emperor was visibly affected and was very upset after the Count left, but he said nothing, keeping his own counsel and bearing his own heavy burdens - as was his custom. It was Tisza who drove us into war," concluded Margutti. "May God forgive him I cannot!"

Truly a wonderful inside story of undoubted authenticity, and had I been in my usual and normal role of a news correspondent a very few minutes would have elapsed before I had placed it on the wire and what a world sensation would have resulted and from what an unimpeachable source! But now I was dealing with the aftermath of the great catastrophe and this, the true story though it was of its initiation and origin, could wait.

I waited, meaning perhaps only to make a verbal report upon my return to Paris, and how fortunate it was that I did. Within a few days, under orders from Bauer and Renner, competent historians explored the secret archives, and among the many illuminating disclosures was one in regard to these interviews in which Count Tisza had presumed to raise his voice. His tempestuous words had been a plea not to enter a war which was unnecessary and one in which, in his judgment, whoever won Austria-Hungary would be the loser. Further, a memorandum was brought to light in which Tisza had marshaled all his very cogent arguments against the Serbian adventure. Tisza was murdered in the presence of his wife by a group of cowardly soldiers who made him responsible for all their sufferings. And yet in killing him they wreaked their vengeance on the man of all others who was least responsible for the hostilities, although when the battle was engaged he, too, fought stubbornly. The incident has given me a realizing sense of the dangers of special cabled correspondence even when the most authentic sources are tapped. Those (Ambassadors and Ministers and such) whose dispatches are filed away in the secret archives have much the best of it. They do not come to light for years, and by that time no one cares truth or fiction? "Es ist alles eins," as they say in Viennese.


Today, alone, I again visited the Burg Palace. All the great figures who in their little day had strutted across this scene, the aged Francis Joseph, the beautiful Elizabeth, the luckless Rudolph of the Mayerling mystery, have vanished now, and the millennial empire of the Hapsburgs lies in squalid ruins. But there was one in the hungry crowd who recalled the well-fed days. He was tattered and torn, but from his manner it was evident that in the happier days he had been a palace lackey and his thoughts ran to food.

"The Kaiser sat him down to lunch," he said, "and what they brought did not appeal to his appetite. `I crave,' he said, `a slice of salmon.' There was a hurried conference and then, greatly embarrassed and chagrined, the major-domo said, `Majestät, there is no salmon today!'

" `Let us see your diet books, remonstrated the Kaiser. They were brought, and then, 'I see you bought sixty kilos of salmon yesterday,' said the Kaiser. 'Is it all gone?' `All gone, bleated the major-domo. 'Well, for tomorrow order seventy kilos so that the Kaiser may have a stückl - a little piece.

"Seventy kilos of salmon," the famished mob that had invaded the Burg kept repeating as they wandered through the damp and dreary salons where in other days these great feasts had been spread and now were spread no more.

Vienna, April.

In the following days Herr Renner called upon me several times at the Bristol. It was evident he wished to discuss further the Anschluss, but as I had delivered my message and had no further instructions I kept off the subject. Our purpose had been achieved, at least for the present, and Allizé, the French agent, told me that, in high dudgeon, the German Minister, Botho Wedel, had gone back to Berlin. The secondary purpose of his visits was to renew his plea and to induce me to take up my residence in the Hofburg, but I was not tempted. He evidently feared that some of the mobs and the riotous demonstrations that emerge almost every day from the working quarters of the city would brush aside the few police who were guarding it and set the old palace, from which the Hapsburgs now have fled, on fire. My presence and the American flag would safeguard the edifice, but I declined the opportunity to dwell in the abode of emperors and kings and remained in my democratic quarters at the hotel.

But on other matters I liked to talk with Renner. He was, in my judgment, the most intelligent of the Austrian postwar leaders. I found him surprisingly fair to his political opponents. Like all the other actors in the tragic days, he was inclined to talk about the lost opportunities for peace and to point out who was responsible for losing them. Of Count Czernin's activities he took a very lenient view. It is so different from the popular, the almost universal judgment of the "sporting" Minister of Foreign Affairs that it seems to me worthy of record.

"Czernin went halfway toward a separate peace and then stopped midstream and all unite in blaming him, but the blame should be placed squarely on the shoulders of his predecessors where it belongs," said Renner.

"Ballplatz had excellent information about the Balkan situation but did not act upon it. There was the report of the Markgraf Pallavicini, our Ambassador in Constantinople in 1913.[29] This able man had spent his whole life in the Balkans and he was as familiar with its currents and its crosscurrents as he was with the lines in the palm of his hand. Well, months before the war came he wrote officially to his chief that the monarchy was headed for war and if it was the desire in Vienna to avoid it there was only one way and that was to give Russia a free hand and to abandon the drang nach Osten. This report has since vanished from the archives but I have talked with many, and very responsible people they are, who read it. Curiously enough, it is also a matter of record that the report was turned over to the Archduke Francis Ferdinand for his examination only a few days before he went

to Sarajevo and met with his tragic end...

"Now about Czernin being blamed for stopping midstream for not driving on with his plan of a separate peace with the Western Powers, I do not think this is quite fair. Obviously his idea was to intimidate Berlin, to make Ludendorff and those madmen see that Austria was finished, and also that without Austria, Germany was lost. It didn't work, and we stayed on to the end. Now let us see what would have happened had Czernin pulled out of the war. Well, right off the Germans would have overpowered Austria before any assistance could have reached us from the Entente. Long before the Allied armies could have put in an appearance in Bavaria or Bohemia, as was planned, or rather hoped, we would have been snug in the Prussian military straitjacket. As a matter of fact, throughout the war the Germans had a large force in and around Vienna, and when they began to suspect that Czernin wanted to quit, they moved many divisions of second-line troops into the Tyrol to prepare for all possible contingencies. In the end Germany would have been defeated and she would have been compelled to hoist the white flag, as she did in October 1918. The war might have been ended perhaps a month or two sooner if Czernin had had his way, but the price? Austria and Bohemia would have been devastated, as Belgium and northern France and Serbia had been. Not even the Czechs would have liked that. As a matter of fact, I think Czernin was wise to desist from his project when he did. The evil wind was sown when his predecessors ignored the storm signals. Infelix, not Felix Austria, was to meet the whirlwind these old men had sown, and her complete destruction was inevitable."

When he came to speak of the greatest of the lost opportunities for peace, Renner's thoughts centered around the International Socialist Congress in July 1917, in Stockholm, and he admitted that responsibility for failure rested squarely on the shoulders of some of the Social Democrats.

"Czernin was not hopeful, but he helped us as much as he could and he also persuaded Tisza to give the Hungarian delegates passports that permitted them to reach Sweden but, alas! we came there emptyhanded. We were forced to admit that the monarchy could not give up Trieste. Tisza said he would deserve to be shot if he gave up Transylvania and not merely the people in power in Berlin, but the very German Socialist delegates announced that they regarded Alsace Lorraine as a German province and that German it must remain. Would they consent to a plebiscite? Most definitely they would not. How wise Vandervelde was in speaking for his devastated Fatherland, when he said: 'What chance can there be for international action to further the peace movement when the German Socialist party remains silent in the face of the crimes of the German Army and excuses the barbarities of submarine warfare?

"I and my colleagues went to the Congress in good faith but very soon we saw that it was a plan to trap us all into a Hohenzollern peace. Soon I doubted even the good faith of the Dutch Socialists who had called the Congress. They went to Berlin and conferred there with Zimmerman too often. How Branting, an honest man and a convinced Socialist, could ever have been induced to preside, I have no idea. Doubtless he was hoodwinked like the rest of us."

"I gather then," I said, "that you are of the opinion that the Socialist delegates to the International Congress for Peace were as far apart and no more open to reason than were the militants of the predatory powers?"

"I am afraid that is so," admitted Renner sadly. An admission which I think should be recorded for the guidance of generations to come who may in their time be involved in the horrors of a world war.

"What do you think of Mr. Wilson's leadership in Paris?" I inquired. Renner shook his head sadly. "I am not so sure of his leadership," he answered. "Your President might have imposed his program on the predatory powers in 1917, but today I doubt it.

"I see some of your papers suggest that our President wash his hands of Europe and go home to happy America. What do you think of that suggestion?"

"I think nothing of it," replied Renner. "Wilson will not get what he wants, the wild animals of many countries are on the rampage now, but he must stick to his guns and make the best peace he can. If not, the law of the jungle will reign in Europe."

Vienna, April.

A report of German plotting in Belgrade forwarded by our delegation in Paris reached me yesterday. It came without an expression of belief or skepticism, merely registering a rumor to the effect that German agents in Yugoslavia, particularly in Croatia, are planning to supplant the pro-ally, Regent Alexander, by his elder brother, Prince George. For some months now, as was well known, George had been under restraint, practically under arrest, in a country house near Nish.

Apparently the young man[30] is quite mad and after he had, in an outburst of passion, murdered one of his aides, he was placed in the safe seclusion out of which it is feared that the Germans are trying to entice him for some dark purpose.

I did not have much confidence in the yarn and yet as the Germans were very active in making trouble in Vienna, they might well be doing their stuff in the White City on the Save also. While I was deliberating what to do, "Jimmy" Logan, formerly of the Army and now in charge of the Food Administration in southeastern Europe, came in. He was leaving for Serbia in the morning with a train laden with supplies and medical stores for the typhus-stricken Serbs. Would I go with him? And I accepted even before he told me that he would have a private car and the right of way. I concluded it would be interesting, though depressing, to see Belgrade again, although now in ruins, and I would have an opportunity to smoke out the Prince George story. In any event, I would escape the importunities of the new government and the great lords who, almost on bended knees, were beseeching me to take up residence in their palaces and hoist over them our protective flag.

Certainly we traveled in luxury and comfort that far surpassed anything that had been provided for the mission of the Right Honorable Lieutenant General Jan Christiaan Smuts, and now there were only two of us to loll about in the private car. It was decorated with the Hapsburg arms and other reminders of the great tribe that had ruled for so many centuries over what had been until quite recently Felix Austria. And on the panels there were several reproductions of the famous Ville d'Este near Rome.

"I forgot to tell you," explained Logan, "this is, or rather was, the private car of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, who in some way was descended from Beatrice d'Este, or Isabella, her also famous sister. In that historic villa near Rome he spent his honeymoon,. and it was in this car that with his lady he traveled to the shambles at Sarajevo. In our little sitting room their coffins were placed side by side on trestles on the journey that brought them back to Vienna. The Austrian railway people think the car is haunted, or at least unlucky, and they were very glad to turn it over to the Food Administration. We find it most useful in transporting medical supplies and the less bulky foods to where they are needed. Odd, isn't it? The car that carried that unlucky pair to their death, to where the avalanche of war and all its attending horrors started, helps us to alleviate some of the suffering and the epidemics that have followed in its train. Poetic justice, don't you think so?"

We traveled all day through a beautiful country, very different from the monotonous, if fertile, plains of Hungary over which I had traveled so often before on my journeys to Serbia and to Turkey beyond. With Bela Kun and his Communist cohorts controlling Budapest, the Magyar capital is boycotted by all the railways and there is some justification for this attitude. Logan tells me that the Smuts train is the only one that put into Budapest during the last two months and escaped confiscation at the hands of the Soviet!

The country we traveled through was not only new to me, it was most attractive. It looked like western Maryland and the upper reaches of the Potomac. For a moment we stopped at Zagreb, better known to me as Agram, and then we ran along the beautiful Save River, dotted with its crenellated castles, now for the most part deserted, and many of them in ruins.

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