The Zimmermann Telegram

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Was Germany's defeat in WWI caused by a telegram?

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In the August of 1914, seven hundred thousand German troops crossed Belgium with the intent to attack Paris directly. From across the channel, Britain also declared war against Germany. Even Russia, located far away in the East, advanced on Germany. At the time, the continent of Europe was heavily polluted with gunfire and smoke. This is where the First World War began.

As we all know, this lengthy war devastated Europe and weakened the power of basically all European countries. Additionally, it caused a shift in the world order and awakened many people’s national consciousness. Nevertheless, very few people are aware that this war came to an end through a single telegram. Today, this event is known as the “Zimmermann telegram”.

This book is written by Barbara W. Tuchman, a well-known writer of American history. Her skillful combination of literature with historical accuracy is hailed as "a miracle in the science of history." In her own words, "I’m just a writer who happens to be writing about history."

Tuchman possesses a delicate but realistic style of writing, and is good at creating an atmosphere. Even boring events in history always become vivid through her works. Tuchman regards herself as not only a spectator of history, but also as someone who has experienced it. Because of this, she even tries her best to restore details such as the weather. For instance, in her masterpiece ‘The Guns of August’, there is a description of the thunder rumbling from far away and the sun, red as blood, setting in the west. You probably view this as merely a literary rendering. However, Tuchman actually researched the weather on that day and made note of it. Not surprisingly, Tuchman’s name will be remembered forever in the history of non-fiction literature. She even won the Pulitzer Prize for this book in 1963.

Tuchman is always able to identify the distinctive traits of historical figures in real history. In her books, the German emperor has the biggest mouth in Europe, and the Marshal of France is as amiable and straightforward as Santa Claus. The Russian Secretary of State is a treacherous old man, who is infatuated with a young lady and trying to make this beautiful woman his fourth wife. Such an interesting depiction of real history makes readers feel as if it is happening all around them. This is what’s amazing about Tuchman’s writing.

The book we are going to talk about today, ‘The Zimmermann Telegram’, is one of Tuchman’s early works. The wheels of history are often rolling faster than our expectations. Who would believe that a short telegram broke the deadlock in the world war? The German Foreign Minister at the time sent a telegram to persuade Mexico to enter the war. Due to this Foreign Minister’s name, this telegram was henceforth called the “Zimmermann telegram”. It was of strategic importance for Germany. However, due to repeated mistakes, this telegram, which was designed to lead to victory, caused Germany to lose the war. For this reason, the Zimmermann telegram has become the most famous single telegraph in the world. What did the telegraph say? What were its careless mistakes?‘The Zimmermann Telegram’ will answer all of your questions and reveal the undisclosed thrilling stories of the First World War.

We will now break down the key points of the book, ‘The Zimmermann Telegram’, in to three aspects:

Part One, the background of the “Zimmermann telegram” incident.

Part Two, the occurrence of the “Zimmermann telegram” incident.

Part Three, how did a single telegram draw America into the war?

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