The German government’s idea was to make the people think that they were entering a defensive war and were in no way the aggressors. With the assassination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand, the Austro-Hungarian Empire engaged the hostilities.
On the 2nd of August 1914, while France was mobilizing its forces and sending them to the borders, Germany had already crossed the borders of the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, an important step in the execution of the Schlieffen Plan. As the plan stipulated, in order to proceed to the invasion of France, Germany had to pass through Belgium. However, since the independence in 1830, Belgium was and had to be a neutral nation. The government and King Albert I of the Belgians received an ultimatum from Germany.
The ultimatum asked Belgium to open its frontiers to the German army and to let them march towards the fortifications of the Meuse. In the ultimatum, it explained that a French army had the intention to break Belgium’s neutrality by entering the national territory and attack Belgium. Should the King accepts to let Germany in his country, they would protect Belgium from a French aggression and pledge to restore its full independence at the end of the war. Also, Belgium was expected to retain a ” friendly neutrality” and keep the population from committing any “anti-German” actions.
It was too much for King Albert. At the council, he explained to his ministers that the German requests were a breach of Belgium’s neutrality and independence and that it was time for the Belgians to defend themselves from Germany. The ministers, in a vast majority, agreed. Two days later, the first German troops entered Belgium.
The Belgian reaction helped the public opinion in Germany to believe they were in a defensive war.
Still during the 2nd of August, the German press claimed that France had bombed Nuremberg and for the public opinion, it meant that France was one of the aggressors of this war, and that Germany had the perfect right to defend itself.
24 hours before the official start of the war, the first of the millions victims to come was made in France, at Joncherey, near the town of Belfort and several kilometres from the borders. Lieutenant Albert Otto Walter Mayer, in a mission of reconnaissance in France was intercepted by the French patrol group of Corporal Jules-André Peugeot. Mayer fired three times in the direction of Peugeot. Wounded, Peugeot managed to fire one time at Mayer. An second French soldier hit Lieutenant Mayer in the head, killing him. The Lieutenant is the first German casualty of the war, before it started.
At 10:07am, the same day, Corporal Peugeot, who was teacher before the war, fell in front of the door of a certain Monsieur Docourt, succumbing to his wounds. Later, Monsieur Docourt, placed a memorial on his house : “Here died Corporal Peugeot, the 2nd of August 1914 “.
Corporal Peugeot and Lieutenant Mayer died before the war started.