Zimmermann Telegram | The 20th century | World history | Khan Academy

As we enter into 1917,
the United States has been able to maintain
its neutrality in World War I. In fact, President Wilson
has just won a re-election based on the platform that
he kept us out of war. And to large degree, he was
able to keep the US out of war because the German
Empire had pulled back from its unrestricted
submarine warfare. After the sinking
of the Lusitania and how angered
America had gotten, they said, OK, we’re
not going to attack passenger vessels anymore. We’re only going to attack
things that are definitely British, non-passenger vessels. But as we go into January
1917, the British blockade on the Central Powers
was having its effect. And the Central Powers
were getting desperate, in particular Germany. And so they are eager
to essentially do the same to the British. Once again, go with the
unrestricted submarine warfare. But the Germans
knew that if they were to go back to this, that
it’s likely that the US would enter the war on the
side of the Allies. So knowing that was
likely to happen. They said, well, how
could we slow the US down. And the thinking was, well,
maybe we could somehow enlisted the help of
Mexico which at the time was not the best terms
with the United States. And so Arthur Zimmerman who was
the German Foreign Secretary, the equivalent of the United
States Secretary of State. The Foreign Minister,
Arthur Zimmerman sends an encoded a
telegram to the Mexicans. And it’s encoded,
especially because it has to go over lines that are
controlled by the Americans. And in it, he actually
proposes an alliance to slow the Americans down. So this is what he wrote. So this is a coded telegram. And then, it was
actually intercepted by British intelligence
and decoded and then shared with the Americans,
and then that was also then made public
to the American public. And so this is why it’s
fascinating to actually read this stuff. This is January 1917. This is the Germans
talking to the Mexicans. “We intend to begin on
the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor
in spite of this to keep the United States
of America neutral. In the event of
this not succeeding, we make Mexico a
proposal alliance on the following basis–
make war together, make peace together, generous financial
support, and an understanding on our part that Mexico
is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New
Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in
detail is left to you. You will inform the
President–” they’re talking about the
president of Mexico. “–of the above most secretly
as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of
America is certain and add the suggestion that he
should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate
adherence and at the same time mediate between
Japan and ourselves. Please call the President’s
attention to the fact that the ruthless
employment of our submarines now offers the prospect
of compelling England in a few months to make peace. Signed Zimmerman.” Now, the Mexicans,
when they read this, they really didn’t
take it too seriously. They didn’t think that
they could seriously engage the US in a war. They couldn’t
seriously take back or occupy these territories. So they didn’t really
think much of it. The real effect of
this telegram was to make the American
public angry. They were going to go back
into the unrestricted submarine warfare. And the Germans, themselves,
talk about ruthless– “ruthless employment of our
the submarines.” So when people talk about,
what were the causes. What brought the US into war? The ones that are
typically cited are the unrestricted
submarine warfare. The sinking of the Lusitania. The Zimmerman telegram
that was trying to get Mexico to somehow
get into a war with the US and reclaim these territories. And as we’ll see, a
few months after this, the US actually does
declare war on Germany and enter into World War I.

Comments 58

  • Very well done.

  • Sal can we stick with linear algebra ?

  • I would like to see reliable evidence behind that point.

  • And not a very good fake, either, being sent from London, in English, via cryptography that the Germans did not yet use.

  • It was carrying guns and ammunition though, which made it a viable target for the Germans to sink.

  • This. The exact same thing happened with Roosevelt claiming the Germans had plans to physically invade the US in World War 2 with, again, falsified documents made by the British.

  • Thank You Salman

  • The German ambassador admitted he sent the telegram, there's no conspiracy here.

  • Activate A3-21 Recall Code Violet.

  • They had submarines in 1917?

  • Proof?

  • REQUEST: Could you please put in the video description what course series a video belongs to? Preferably even what part it is?
    Thanks in advance!

  • Zimmerman said, not gonna lie that was me. Or words to that effect fucktards

  • A lot of ships had cannon. They sold those shitty brass cannon for pretty cheap, and marketed them towards idiots. A lot of people bought them, a lot of ships had cannon. That doesn't mean they are 'war ships.'

  • Ignorant people and their conspiracy, aliens made the pyramid, we never landed on the moon, and the english lies on the zimmerman telegraph. never mind the germans did start unrestricted submarine warfare on the exact date the telegraph stated. of course we all know those were british submarines made to look like germans and all the documents the germans had on the orders was all made up as well.

  • The Germans were the only ones with usable submarines at the time.

  • Exactly my point. The telegraph was not an english conspiracy. the Germans did just what they said in the telegram. unrestricted submarine warfare on the exactdate.

  • Plus it was full of ammunition…

    A "false flag" attack in a long list of false flags.

  • Conspiracy's are all around you, and they are provable through declassified documents; stop trying to belittle others for their ability to actually research things, and try to do some thinking with that brain of yours.

  • Just a note: this was sent to the German ambassador in Mexico, not to the Mexican government.

  • You've obviously been watching to much Glen Beck, and Rush Limbaugh. Unfortunately for you, rather then seeing you as a well informed historian; saying such things makes smart people look at you like a silly sycophant who needs the golden falice of your favorite governmental body ever present in your mouth.

    I strongly advice you to grow a pair of balls, and get off your knees.

  • I can't imagine asking Mexico to bum a cigarette.. Can you imagine asking them "Hey, would you go ahead and go to war with us?"

  • Sounds forged. Why would Germany talk of his own submarine warfare as unrestricted and ruthless. And why do they feel the need to ask Mexico to invite Japan and mediate between Germany and Japan…
    On the other hand if you want the U.S to join this is pretty much what you'd write in just a single letter. Mexico is coming, so is Japan. And German subs will attack everything that moves.
    But I could be wrong. Just a hunch.

  • What's funny is that Glenn Beck is a huge conspiracy theorist on the world wars as well. There's a video of him on Youtube talking about World War I where he goes into "the banks" and everything else.

  • Heck, in 1917 we Mexicans were in the middle of a Civil War. To wage a war against the US would've been pretty freaking stupid. There was no acting president in Mexico at that time. A figure that would've sufficed said post was Venustiano Carranza who at that time was holed up in the city of Querétaro writing a new constitution.

  • both arguments are legitimate, popular opinion is not proof enough that the telegraph is actually from the Germans, although it could and probably is the correct statement, after all a bunch of people did once think that the world was flat.

  • Dude, Zimmerman made a public speech during the war after the message was released to the public. This was his work.

  • You are wrong. Zimmerman make a public response regarding the contents of the letter after it was released. Its hard for 21st century modern individuals to understand how policy of determined strength was seen as good. Mind you these policy makers grew up in the 18th century. Our world was not connected as it is now.

  • I haven't heard Zimmerman's response and am no expert on this topic. I could easily be wrong.
    The letter did indeed sound rather strange.


  • The Germans admitted a-lot of things under direst, but that does not prove the point to anyone with a brain that functions properly./ However not once did I claim that this telegram was a fraud; I was simply illuminating your stupidity in thinking that conspiracy's are just something "ignorant people" follow.

  • There is STILL people who believe that the earth is flat… shows how much you know. The "Flat Earth Society" still exists to this day, and is headed by a man by the name of Daniel Shenton.

  • the mexicans are making a comeback.

  • This is nice!

  • What's a telegram? Haha jk

  • Actually, recent history is mostly accurate. More distant history takes a hit from the lack of methods to easily record, effectively preserve and quickly distribute information. I'm aware that governments or other bodies have tried to conceal intelligence before but it's not possible to just "Hide information". Independent historians record these events, and eventually information is declassified. In the case of World War I, I am positive that all available information has been declassified.

  • Absolutely life-saving stuff right here.

  • Zimmermann himself publicly admitted the telegram was genuine.

  • dude dont be rude, maybe he's wrong maybe he is right. Dont be rude ok leave the rudeeness at home or on facebook

  • the message was towards dsglop

  • You need to Keep your mouth shut and stop being a bully

  • prick.

  • Nazi's love this telegram idk why

  • it makes much more sense that this was a ploy from someone within the the TRIPLE POWERS to lure America into war. the central powers couldn't have been that dumb to think an idea like the Zimmerman telegram would have worked. surly Wilson and his staff were aware of this as well. maybe it was actually a ploy by his administration to convince America we should  enter the war.

  • Damn, i wish we would have taken back Those lost territories. 🙁
    Mexico got fucked over by the big bad USA

  • To start a war or a "world" war because of a Telegram?? This is new in history and Germany even did not mobilsed any troops against the USA – so Germany had no war intentions! But what can you expect from USA? The USA even had sent own innocent citizen with ships from USA to europe into secure death – there were no problems to stop this ships by USA – but USA did not! My opinion is not that Kaiser Germany made no mistakes but I have never heard that country or even Kaiser Germany has sent own people into secure death – only to have a war reason?

  • where is the difference between mexico and afghanistan or any other war hu? man stopsearching in the history like this bullshit or ask the indians who was zimmermann at this time. war is bullshit and everybody who try to make his (what ever that means) country look like, we did the right thing is the same criminal like each war lord on mother earth!

  • America should have stayed out of WW1.

  • USA declared war on Germany – so USA wanted war and not peace!
    In 1917 the USA was the only power that could make peace in europe and between the european nations – a big chance for USA and the world but even for europe and the idiotic european nations!

  • You all know nothing, I am the grate grandson of the man the one man how intercepted it. My family has all the info so most of the fact which he is taking about, are rubbish

  • anyone else cramming for the ap world exam on thursday?

  • Zimmerman telegram was a hoax. Britain forged that document after Russia started its revolution

  • https://archive.org/stream/41766889080599#page/n0/mode/2up

    6 March 1915 signal from Z 147 USN Naval attache in Germany. He records the 'violent anti American' view of the press and public. Why? The warning from the USA over attacks on US merchant ships without confirming neutrality. This warning enraged the Kaiser, who wrote 'this is an insult to the German people, I have never seen such impertinence'. The belief of the German people that the USA was supplying the UK through the U boat 'food' blockade of British ports. Germany softened this approach when she realized that the USA was in dispute with England and France over the right of US ships to trade with Germany. Germany believed it could count on US support in international disputes and possibly assist Germany. The sinking of the Lusitania after inter government assurances that Germany would not knowingly attack ships carrying American citizens. Records show that when the U boat captain was ordered to Berlin to explain, he recorded that he was met by his fellow naval officers with hostility and disgust at 'disobeying orders'. It does beg the question, even if Germany suspected the ship was carrying arms, did the high command in Germany order the attack? Surely they would have been aware of the recent improvement in US/German relations would they have been prepared to once again lose that goodwill? Or was it as some naval officers suggested that the commander had disobeyed orders.


  • Thank you. I love you.

  • This kinda glosses over an insanely interesting part. The British intercepted this because they had tapped American lines underwater. This was seen as unethical and immoral because you're not supposed to spy on your friends. They needed a way to tell the Americans however because they knew that this might draw them into the war making it easier to win. So instead since the telegram went from Germany through neutral lines to Washington DC, and then was redirected to a western union in downtown Mexico city where the german ambassador had to go pick it up. Instead the Brits staged a break in at the Western Union and said that the thugs who broke in read the telegram and decided they had something important, and then sold it to the Brits, who took it to America saying that they had been sold the information.

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