THE GREAT LIQUIDATION
TO DETERMINE how peace negotiations could best be undertaken, the Kaiser and his most important military and civilian advisers held a conference at Spa on 14 August. 1 Wilhelm's state of mind was pessimistic — "Look at me and you will see a defeated general," he had said a few days earlier - but he did not judge the situation to be so perilous that an immediate appeal needed to be made to the Allies. That could be deferred, at least for a while, until a favorable moment for negotiation presented itself. 2 He agreed with General Erich Ludendorff that although the military situation was grim, it was not hopeless, for German forces drawn up behind the Hindenburg Line could forestall any enemy attempt to attack Germany. The ever-solicitous state secretary Paul von Hintze soothingly minimized the danger by insisting that the recent military defeats were no more than "little setbacks" (kleine Echecs). The result of the Spa conference was negligible, the only agreement reached being that peace negotiations should be entered into not at once but instead when the Allied advance had been brought to a standstill. Measures were to be taken to create order in Germany, which was being rocked by strikes and dissent, to ensure the army's ability to continue the fight. 3 To all of this Wilhelm agreed, and he stressed that the resolve both of the home front, where lack of food and other rudimentary articles of daily life was creating exasperation, and of the army must be strengthened by a combination of flaming oratory and higher wages. Too many young Germans were to be seen lolling on the streets of Berlin, and the Kaiser declared that this sort of indolence was not to be tolerated in an hour of national crisis. 4
As the conference concluded, the Habsburg emperor Karl, a weak, nervous princeling who had succeeded his great-uncle Franz Joseph in November 1916, arrived at Spa to plead for an instantaneous conclusion of hostilities to prevent the Dual Monarchy's collapse. This would require
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Publication information: Book title: Wilhelm II. Volume: 2. Contributors: Lamar Cecil - Author. Publisher: University of North Carolina Press. Place of publication: Chapel Hill, NC. Publication year: 1996. Page number: Not available.
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