Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Although he was only German foreign secretary for 10 months during 1916-17, Zimmermann exercised a profound influence over world politics and the First World War. From August 1914, Zimmermann, then director of the eastern division of the German foreign office, was in contact with Sir Roger Casement - an Irish-born British consular official and member of the outlawed Irish Volunteers - and agreed to provide help for a planned uprising against British authority. In the event, the ship transporting the German weapons arrived at the wrong time and was intercepted by the British. However, the still went ahead in 1916 and proved to be a major watershed in British and Irish political life. Casement was hanged for treason.In early 1917, Zimmermann was involved in the scheme which allowed Lenin and other Bolshevik to return to Russia from exile following the first revolution against the Tsar. The foreign secretary and others hoped that Lenin's return would undermine Russia's war effort and destabilise the provisional government. These hopes were realised when the Bolsheviks seized power in October. The new government and the Central Powers quickly concluded a ceasefire and treaty that eventually released half a million German soldiers for service on the Western Front.However, Zimmermann will be best remembered for his unsuccessful attempt to foment war between Mexico and the US in 1917. The to his ambassador in Mexico was intercepted and decoded by British intelligence, and its contents relayed to the American authorities. Five weeks after details of the telegram were published in the US press (and Zimmermann confirmed their authenticity), the United States declared war on Germany. This greatly influenced the outcome of the entire conflict.


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