German Intrigues in Persia: The Diary of a German Agent


In November 1914, after the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of Germany and the Central Powers, Sultan-Caliph Mehmed V issued a call for a worldwide jihad against Britain and France. The Germans and their Turkish allies hoped to stir up Muslims against British rule in India and to draw Persia and Afghanistan, both of which had declared their neutrality, into the war on the side of the Central Powers. In furtherance of these objectives, Germany, with the active support of the Turks, sent a mission led by Captain Oskar von Niedermayer and diplomat Werner-Otto von Hentig from Berlin to Afghanistan (via Constantinople, Baghdad, and Isfahan) with the aim of convincing its ruler, Amir Habibullah Khan, to join the war on the German-Turkish side and to attack the British in India. The mission ultimately failed, as the cautious amir feared that if he entered the war he would be exposed to attack by Russia and the British Empire and would lose the benefits of trade with these two neighboring empires. German Intrigues in Persia is an English translation of a diary by a certain W. Griesinger, a German agent who is described in the anonymously written introduction as having split off from the main Niedermayer mission in Baghdad in order to carry out subversive activities against the British in southern Persia. The diary, which is said to have fallen into the hands of the British authorities, was translated and published in New York in 1918, no doubt as part of the widespread British propaganda effort to fan anti-German sentiment in the American public. It reveals Griesinger as an unscrupulous individual, in the words of the introduction, “a very interesting figure of a German intriguer, at once brutal and hysterical, stopping at no outrage… ready to intrigue with anyone….”

Last updated: November 14, 2017