August 1, 1914: War

At 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon of Saturday, August 1st 1914, Germany announced its mobilization. Two hours later, the German ambassador in St. Petersburg delivered the declaration of war to Sergei Sazonov, the Russian foreign minister:

The exchange took place in a mood of high emotion. There were mutual recriminations, accusations against each other, regrets, embraces, tears. The ambassador left Sazonov’s room “with tottering steps.”

In a crowd gathered in Munich to hear Germany’s proclamation of mobilization was 25-year old Adolf Hitler:

[I am] not ashamed to acknowledge that I was carried away by the enthusiasm of the moment and … sank down upon my knees and thanked Heaven … for the favor of having been permitted to live in such times.

John Keegan, The First World War.

Text of the German Declaration of War.


Combat between Russia and Germany would not begin until August 17. The clash on the Western front would come much, much sooner.


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