Part 3 out of 5
"The People's Kitchen idea is now spreading throughout Germany.
But I believe in going further, I believe in putting every
German--I make no exception--upon rations. That is what is done in
a besieged city, and our position is sufficiently analogous to a
besieged city to warrant the same measures. All our food would
then be available for equal distribution, and each person would get
This earnest Social Democrat's idea is, of course, perfect in
theory. Even the able, hard-working Batocki, however, cannot make
it practicable. Why not? _The Agrarian, the great Junker of
Prussia_, not only will not make sacrifices, but stubbornly insists
upon wringing every pfennig of misery money from the nation which
has boasted to the world that its patriotism was unselfish and
The most important German crop of all at this juncture is potatoes,
for potatoes are an integral part of German and Austrian bread.
The handling of the crop, to which all Germany was looking forward
so eagerly, exhibits in its most naked form the horrid profiteering
to which the German poor are being subjected by the German rich.
It was a wet summer in Germany. Wherever I went in my rural
excursions I heard that the potatoes were poor. The people in the
towns knew little of this, and were told that the harvests were
An abominable deception was practised upon the public with the
first potato supply. For many months tickets had been in use for
this food, which is called the "German staff of life." Suddenly
official notices appeared that potatoes could be had for a few days
without tickets, and the unsuspecting public at once ordered great
The Agrarians thus got rid of all their bad potatoes to the mass of
the people. In many cases they were rotting so fast that the
purchaser had to bury them. It was found that they produced
illness when given to swine.
What other people in the world than the Germans would stand that?
But they did stand it. "These are only the early potatoes--the
main crop will be all right," said the profiteers right and left,
and gradually the masses began to echo them, as is usual in Germany.
Well, the main crop has been gathered, and Food Dictator von
Batocki is, according to the latest reports I hear from Germany,
unable to make the Agrarians put their potatoes upon the market
even at the maximum price set by the Food Commission.
They are holding back their supplies until they have forced up the
maximum price, just as a year ago many of them allowed their
potatoes to rot rather than sell them to the millions in the cities
at the price set by law.
Some Germans, mostly Social Democratic leaders, declare that since
their country is in a state of siege, the Government should, beyond
question, commandeer the supplies and distribute them, but just as
the industrial classes have, until quite recently, resisted war
taxes, so do the Prussian Junkers, by reason of their power in the
Reichstag, snap their fingers at any suggested fair laws for food
The Burgomaster--usually a powerful person in Germany--is helpless.
When on September 1 the great house-to-house inventory of food
supplies was taken, burgomasters of the various sections of Greater
Berlin took orders from the people for the whole winter supply of
potatoes on special forms delivered at every house. Up to the time
I left, the burgomasters were unable to deliver the potatoes,
Any dupes of German propaganda who imagine that there is much
self-sacrifice among the wealthy class in Germany in this war
should disabuse their minds of that theory at once. While the poor
are being deprived of what they have, the purchases of pearls,
diamonds, and other gems by the profiteers are on a scale never
before known in Germany.
One of the paradoxes of the situation, both in Austria and in
Germany, is the coincidence of the great gold hunt, which is
clearing out the trinkets of the humblest, with the roaring trade
in jewelry in Berlin and Vienna. As an instance I can vouch for
the veracity of the following story:--
A Berlin woman went to Werner's, the well-known jewellers in the
Unter den Linden, and asked to be shown some pearl necklaces.
After very little examination she selected one that cost 40,000
marks (2,000 pounds). The manager, who knew the purchaser as a
regular customer for small articles of jewelry, ventured to express
his surprise, remarking, "I well remember, madam, that you have
been coming here for many years, and that you have never bought
anything exceeding in value 100 marks. Naturally I am somewhat
surprised at the purchase of this necklace." "Oh, it is very
simple," she replied. "My husband is in the leather business, and
our war profits have made us rich beyond our fondest hopes."
Throughout Austria and Germany in every village and townlet are
appearing notices to bring in gold.
The following notice is to be met with in all parts of Germany:--
LET EVERY ONE WORTHY OF THE NAME OF GERMAN DO HIS DUTY NOW.
Our enemies, after realising that they cannot defeat us on the
field of battle, are striving to defeat us economically. But here
they will also fail.
OUT WITH YOUR GOLD.
Out with your gold! What is the value of a trinket to the life of
the dear one that gave it? By giving now you may save the life of
a husband, brother, or son.
Bring your gold to the places designated below. If the value of
the gold you bring exceeds five marks, you will receive an iron
memento of "Die grosse Zeit."
Iron chains will be given for gold chains. _Wedding rings of those
still living will not be accepted_.
From rural pulpits is preached the wickedness of retaining gold
which might purchase food for the man in the trenches.
The precedent of the historic great ladies of Prussia who exchanged
their golden wedding rings for rings of iron is drummed into the
smaller folk continuously. The example is being followed by the
exchange of gold trinkets for trinkets made of iron, with the
addition of the price paid at the central collecting station--paid,
of course, in paper, which is at a 30 per cent. discount in Germany
and 47 per cent. discount in Austria. Every bringer of a trinket
worth more than 5s. receives a small iron token of "_die grosse
Zeit_" (the great epoch).
The gold hunt has revealed unexpected possessions in the hands of
the German and Austrian lower classes. To me it was pathetic to
see an old woman tremblingly handing over treasures that had come
down probably for two or three generations--treasures that had
never been worn except on high days and festivals, weddings, and
perhaps on the day of the local fair. Particularly sad is this
self-sacrifice in view of the gigantic profits of the food usurers
and war profiteers. The matter is no secret in Germany or Austria.
It is denounced by the small Socialist minority in the Reichstag,
to whose impotence I have often referred. It is stoutly defended
in good Prussian fashion by those openly making the profits.
There has arisen a one-sided Socialism which no one but Bismarck's
famous "nation of lackeys" would tolerate. At the top is a narrow
circle of agrarian and industrial profiteers, often belonging to
the aristocratic classes. At the other end of the scale is, for
example, the small farmer, who has now absolutely nothing to say
concerning either the planting, the marketing, or the selling of
his crops. Regulations are laid down as to what he should sow,
where he should sell, and the price at which he should sell.
Unlike the Junker, he has not a long purse. He _must sell_.
What state of mind does this produce among the people? I know that
outside Germany there is an idea that every German is working at
top speed with the spirit of the Fatherland flaming him on. That
was the spirit I witnessed in the early days of the war, when
Germany was winning and food was plentiful.
In certain rural districts as well as in centres of population
there is an intense longing for peace--not merely for a German
peace--but any peace, and a peace not merely for military reasons,
but arising out of utter weariness of the rule of the profiteers
and the casualties not revealed by the doctored lists--ingeniously
issued lists, which, for example, have never revealed the loss of a
submarine crew, though intelligent Hamburg shipping people, who are
in close touch with German naval people, estimate the loss of
German submarines as at least one hundred. I have heard the figure
put higher, and also lower.
This kind of one-sided Socialism makes the people so apathetic that
in some parts of Germany it has been very difficult to induce them
to harvest their own crops, and in German Poland they have been
forced to garner the fields at the point of the bayonet.
When a man has no interest in the planting, marketing, and selling
price of his produce; when he knows that what he grows may be swept
away from his district without being sure that it will be of any
benefit to himself and his family; when, in addition, the father or
sons of the households lie buried by the Yser, the Somme, the Meuse
or the Drina, it is impossible for the authorities to inspire any
enthusiasm for life, let alone war, even among so docile a people
as those they deal with.
* * * * *
With regard to the other crops, rye is good; beets look good, but
are believed to be deficient in sugar owing to the absence of South
American fertilisers; wheat is fairly good; oats extremely good,
and barley also excellent. The Germans have boasted to the neutral
visitor that their artificial nitrates are just as good fertilisers
as those imported from South America. It is true that they do very
well for most crops when the weather is damp. But beets, strangely
enough, require the genuine Chilean saltpetre to produce their
maximum of sugar. The failure to get this, plus the use of sugar
in munition making, accounts for the dearth of that commodity among
the civilian population.
In order that nothing shall be wasted, the Government decreed this
year that the public should be allowed to scavenge the fields after
the harvest had been gathered, and this was a source of some
benefit to those residing near the great centres of population.
Schoolmasters were also ordered to teach the children the need of
gathering every sort of berry and nut.
Passing along an English hedgerow the other day, and seeing it
still covered with withered blackberries, I compared them with the
bare brambles which I saw in Germany from which all berries have
gone to help the great jam-making business which is to eke out the
gradually decreasing butter and margarine supply. Sickness and
death have resulted from mistakes made, not only in gathering
berries, but in gathering mushrooms and other fungi, which have
been keenly sought.
It is safe to say that the Germans are leaving no stone unturned to
avoid the starvation of the Seven Years' War. The ingenuity of the
chemists in producing substitutes was never greater. One of the
most disagreeable foods I have tasted was bread made of straw.
Countless experiments have been made in the last year to adapt
straw to the human stomach, but although something resembling bread
has been produced, it contains almost no nourishment and results in
People who reside in the cities and carefully shepherded visiting
neutrals, who do not go into the country, have little notion of the
terrific effort being put forward to make the fruits of Mother
Earth defeat the blockade, and _above all_ to extract any kind of
_oil_ from anything that grows.
Here is one notice:--
HOW THE CIVIL POPULATION CAN HELP IN THE WAR.
Our enemies are trying to exhaust us, but they
cannot succeed if every one
does his duty.
OIL _is a Necessity_.
You can help the Fatherland if you plant
poppies, castor plant, sunflowers.
In addition to doing important work for
the Fatherland you benefit yourself
because the price for oil is high.
I may say that the populace have responded. Never have I seen such
vast fields of poppies, sunflowers, rape plant, and other
oleaginous crops. Oil has been extracted from plum-stones,
cherry-stones, and walnuts.
The Government have not pleased the people even in this matter.
One glorious summer day, after tramping alone the sandy roads of
Southern Brandenburg, I came to a little red-brick village in the
midst of its sea of waving rye and blaze of sunflowers and poppies.
Taking my seat at the long table in front of the local _Gasthaus_,
and ordering some imitation coffee--the only refreshment provided
in the absence of a local bread ticket--I pointed out one of these
notices to the only other person at the table, who was drinking
some "extraordinarily weak beer," as he put it. "Have the people
here planted much of these things I see on that notice?" I asked,
pointing to one of the placards. "Yes," he said, "certainly. A
great deal; but the Government is going to be false to us again.
It will be commandeered at a price which they have already set."
Then came the usual string of grumbles which one hears everywhere
in the agricultural districts. I will not repeat them. They all
have to do with the food shortage, profiteering, and discontent at
the length of the war.
Though all Germans, with the exception of a few profiteers, are
grumbling at the length of the war, it must not be supposed that
they have lost hope. In fact their grumblings are punctuated
frequently by very bright hopes. When Douaumont fell, food
troubles were forgotten. The bells rang, the flags were unfurled,
faces brightened, crowds gathered before the maps and discussed the
early fall of Verdun and the collapse of France. Again I heard on
every hand the echo of the boasts of the first year of the war.
The glorious manner in which France hurled back the assault was
making itself felt in Germany with a consequent depression over
food shortage when the greatest naval victory in history--so we
gathered, at least, from the first German reports--raised the
spirits and hopes of the people so high that they fully believed
that the blockade had been smashed. On the third day of the
celebration, Saturday, June 3rd, I rode in a tram from Wilmersdorf,
a suburb of Berlin, to the heart of the city through miles of
streets flaring with a solid mass of colour. From nearly every
window and balcony hung pennants and flags; on every trolley pole
fluttered a pennant of red, white and black. Even the ancient
horse 'buses rattled through the streets with the flags of Germany
and her allies on each corner of the roof. The newspapers screamed
headlines of triumph, nobody could settle down to business, the
faces one met were wreathed in smiles, complaining was forgotten,
the assurance of final victory was in the very air.
Unter den Linden, the decorations on which were so thick that in
many cases they screened the buildings from which they hung, was
particularly happy. Knots of excited men stood discussing the
defeat of the British Fleet. Two American friends and I went from
the street of happy and confident talk into the Zollernhof
Restaurant. With the din of the celebration over the "lifting of
the blockade" ringing in our ears from the street, we looked on the
bill of fare, and there, for the first time, we saw _Boiled Crow_.
Through the spring and early summer the people were officially
buoyed up with the hope that the new harvest would make an end of
their troubles. They had many reasons, it is true, to expect an
improvement. The 1915 harvest in Germany had fallen below the
average. Therefore, if the 1916 harvest would be better per acre,
the additional supplies from the conquered regions of Russia would
enable Germany to laugh at the efforts of her enemies to starve her
out. Once more, however, official assurances and predictions were
wrong, and the economic condition grew worse through every month of
A LAND OF SUBSTITUTES
The only food substitute which meets the casual eye of the visitor
to England in war time is margarine for butter. Germany, on the
contrary, is a land of substitutes.
Since the war, food exhibitions in various cities, but more
especially in Berlin, have had as one of their most prominent
features booths where you could sample substitutes for coffee,
yeast, eggs, butter, olive oil, and the like. Undoubtedly many of
these substitutes are destined to take their place in the future
alongside some of the products for which they are rendering
vicarious service. In fact, in a "Proclamation touching the
Protection of Inventions, Designs, and Trade Marks in the
Exhibition of Substitute-Materials in Berlin-Charlottenburg, 1916,"
it is provided that the substitutes to be exhibited shall enjoy the
protection of the Law. Even before the war, substitutes like
Kathreiner's malt coffee were household words, whilst the roasting
of acorns for admixture with coffee was not only a usual practice
on the part of some families in the lower middle class, but was so
generally recognised among the humbler folk that the children of
poor families were given special printed permissions by the police
to gather acorns for the purpose on the sacred grass of the public
parks. To deal with meat which in other countries would be
regarded as unfit for human consumption there have long been
special appliances in regular use in peace time. The so-called
_Freibank_ was a State or municipal butcher's shop attached to the
extensive municipal abattoirs in Berlin, Munich, Cologne, and
elsewhere. Here tainted meat, or meat from animals locally
affected by disease, is specially treated by a steam process and
other methods, so as to free it from all danger to health. Meat so
treated does not, of course, have the nutritive value of ordinary
fresh meat, but the Germans acted on the principle that anything
was better than nothing. Such meat was described as _bedingt
tauglich_ (that is, fit for consumption under reserve). It was
sold before the war at very low rates to the poorer population, who
in times of scarcity came great distances and kept long vigils
outside the _Freibank_, to be near the head of the queue when the
sale began. Thus we see that many Germans long ago acquired the
habit of standing in line for food, which is such a characteristic
of German city life to-day.
Horseflesh was consumed before the war in Germany, as in Belgium
and France. Its sale was carefully controlled by the police, and
severe punishment fell upon anyone who tried to disguise its
character. An ordinary butcher might not sell it at all. He had
to be specially licensed, and to maintain a special establishment
or a special branch of his business for the purpose. Thus, when
wider circles of the population were driven to resort to
substitutes, there was already in existence a State-organised
system to control the output.
Since the war began, sausage has served as a German stand-by from
the time that beef and pork became difficult to obtain. In the
late spring, however, the increased demand for sausage made that
also more difficult to procure, and we often got a substitute full
of breadcrumbs, which made the food-value of this particular
_Wurst_ considerably less than its size would indicate. It was
frequently so soft that it was practically impossible to cut, and
we had to spread it on our bread like butter.
The substitute of which the world has read the most is war bread.
This differs in various localities, but it consists chiefly of a
mixture of rye and potato with a little wheat flour. In Hungary,
which is a great maize-growing country, maize is substituted for
Imitation tea is made of plum and other leaves boiled in real tea
To turn to substitutes other than food, it will be recalled that
Germany very early began to popularise the use of benzol as an
alternative to petrol for motor engines. This was a natural
outgrowth of her marvellously developed coal-tar industry, of which
benzol is a product. Prizes for the most effective
benzol-consuming engine, for benzol carburettors, etc., have been
offered by various official departments in recent years, and I am
told that during the war ingenious inventions for the more
satisfactory employment of benzol have been adopted. Owing to the
increased use of potatoes as food, the alcoholic extract from them,
always a great German and Austro-Hungarian industry, has had to be
It is an ill wind that blows nobody good, as I learned from the
owner of a little general shop in a Brandenburg village. He told
me that about twenty-five years ago, when kerosene became widely
used in the village for illuminating purposes, he was left with a
tremendous supply of candles which he could never sell. The oil
famine has caused the substitution of candle light for lamp light
during the war, and has enabled him to sell out the whole stock at
inflated prices. All oils are at a premium. The price of
castor-oil has risen fivefold in Germany, chiefly owing to the fact
that it is being extensively used for aeroplane and other
But it is oil from which explosives are derived that chiefly
interests Germany. Almost any kind of fruit stone contains
glycerine. That is why notices have been put on all trains which
run through fruit districts, such as Werder, near Berlin, and
Baden, advising the people to save their fruit stones and bring
them to special depots for collection.
Five pounds of fat treated with caustic soda can be made to yield
one pound of glycerine. This is one reason, in addition to the
British blockade, which causes the great fat shortage among the
Glycerine united with ammonium nitrate is used in the manufacture
of explosives. Deprived of nitrogenous material from South
America, Germany has greatly developed the process for the
manufacture of artificial nitrates. She spent 25,000,000 pounds
after the outbreak of war to enable her chemists and engineers to
turn out a sufficient amount of nitric acid.
Toluol, a very important ingredient of explosives, is obtained from
coal-tar, which Germany is naturally able to manufacture at present
better than any other country in the world, since she bad
practically a monopoly in coal-tar products before hostilities
Evidently, however, substitutes to reinforce goods smuggled through
the blockade have not sufficed to meet the chemical demands of the
German Government, for great flaming placards were posted up all
over the Empire announcing the commandeering of such commodities as
sulphur, sulphuric acid, toluol, saltpetre, and the like.
Germany long ago claimed to have perfected woodpulp as a substitute
for cotton in propulsive ammunition. She made this claim very
early, however, for the purpose of hoodwinking British blockade
advocates. Her great need eventually led her to take steps to
induce the United States to insist on the Entente Powers raising
the blockade on cotton. She went to great trouble and expense to
send samples by special means to her agents in America.
The cotton shortage began to be seriously felt early in 1916 in the
manufacturing districts of Saxony, where so many operatives were
suddenly thrown out of work that the Government had to set aside a
special fund for their temporary relief, until they could be
transferred to other war industries.
The success which Germany claimed for a cotton-cloth substitute has
been greatly exaggerated. When the Germans realised that Great
Britain really meant business on the question of cotton they
cultivated nettle and willow fibre, and made a cloth consisting for
the most part of nettle or willow fibre with a small proportion of
cotton or wool.
It was boasted in many quarters that the exclusion of cotton would
make but little difference so far as clothing was concerned. Not
only does the universal introduction of clothing tickets falsify
this boast, but the cloth is found to be a mere makeshift when
tested. Blouses and stockings wear out with discouraging rapidity
when made of the substitute.
My personal investigations still lead me to believe in the motto of
the Sunny South that: "Cotton is king."
Paper, although running short in Germany, is the substitute for
cloth in many cases. Sacking, formerly used for making bags in
which to ship potatoes and other vegetables, has given way to it.
Paper-string is a good substitute widely used, although "no string"
was the verbal substitute I often got when buying various articles,
and it was necessary for me to hold the paper on to the parcel with
The craze for substitutes has spread so extensively that there have
been some unpleasant results both for the purchaser and the
producer, as was the case with several bakers, who were finally
detected and convicted of a liberal use of sawdust in their cakes.
Germany has worked especially hard to find a substitute for
indiarubber, though with only moderate success. I know that the
Kaiser's Government is still sending men into contiguous neutral
countries to buy up every scrap of rubber obtainable. In no other
commodity has there been more relentless commandeering. When
bicycle tyres were commandeered--the authorities deciding that
three marks was the proper price to pay for a new pair of tyres
which had cost ten--there was a great deal of complaining.
Nevertheless, without an excellent reason, no German could secure
the police pass necessary to allow him to ride a bicycle. Those
who did obtain permission to ride to and, from their work had to
select the shortest route, and "joy-riding" was forbidden.
"Substitute rubber" heels for boots could be readily obtained until
the late summer, but after that only with difficulty. They were
practically worthless, as I know from personal experience, and were
as hard as leather after one or two days' use.
Despite the rubber shortage, the Lower Saxon Rubber Company, of
Hildersheim, does a thriving business in raincoats made from rubber
substitutes. The factory is running almost full blast, all the
work being done by women, and the finished product is a tribute to
the skill of those in charge.
It is impossible to buy a real tennis hall in the German Empire
to-day. A most hopeless makeshift ball has been put on the market,
but after a few minutes' play it no longer keeps its shape or
Germany has been very successful in the substitution of a sort of
enamelled-iron for aluminium, brass, and copper. Some of the
Rhenish-Westphalian iron industries have made enormous war profits,
supplying iron chandeliers, stove doors, pots and pans, and other
articles formerly made of brass to take the place of those
commandeered for the purpose of supplying the Army with much-needed
For copper used in electrical and other industries she claims to
have devised substitutes before the war, and her experts now assert
that a two-years' supply of copper and brass has been gathered from
the kitchens and roofs of Germany. The copper quest has assumed
such proportions that the roof of the historic, world-renowned
Rathaus at Bremen has been stripped. Nearly half the church bells
of Austria have found their way to the great Skoda Works.
Of course Germans never boast of the priceless ornaments they have
stolen from Belgium and Northern France. They joyfully claim that
every pound of copper made available at home diminishes the amount
which they must import from abroad, and pay for with their
The authorities delight in telling the neutral visitors that they
have found adequate substitutes for nickel, chromium, and vanadium
for the hardening of steel. If that is really so, why does the
_Deutschland's_ cargo consist mainly of these three commodities?
THE GAGGING OF LIEBKNECHT
Although Bismarck gave the Germans a Constitution and a Parliament
after the Franco-Prussian War as a sop for their sacrifices in that
campaign, he never intended the Reichstag to be a Parliament in the
sense in which the institution is understood in Great Britain.
What Bismarck gave the Germans was a debating society and a
safety-valve. They needed a place to air their theories and
ventilate their grievances. But the Chancellor of Iron was very
careful, in drawing up the plans for the "debating society," to see
that it conferred little more real power on the nation's
"representatives" than is enjoyed by the stump-speakers near Marble
Arch in London on Sundays.
Many people in England and the United States of America, I find, do
not at all understand the meaninglessness of German Parliamentary
proceedings. When they read about "stormy sittings" of the
Reichstag and "bitter criticism" of the Chancellor, they judge such
things as they judge similar events in the House of Commons or the
American House of Representatives. Nothing could be more
inaccurate. Governments do not fall in Germany in consequence of
adverse Reichstag votes, as they do in England. They are not the
peopled Governments, but merely the Kaisers creatures. They rise
and fall by his grace alone.
Even this state of affairs needs to be qualified and explained to
the citizens of free countries. The Government is not a Cabinet or
_The German Government is a one-man affair. It consists of the
Imperial Chancellor_. He, and nobody else, is the "Government,"
subject only to the All-Highest will of the Emperor, whose bidding
the Chancellor is required to do.
The Chancellor, in the name of the "Government," brings in Bills to
be passed by the Reichstag. If the Reichstag does not like a Bill,
which sometimes happens, it refuses to give it a majority. But the
"Government" does not fall. It can simply, as it has done on
numerous occasions, dissolve the Reichstag, order a General
Election, _and keep on doing so indefinitely_, until it gets
exactly the kind of "Parliament" it wants. Thus, though the
Reichstag votes on financial matters, it can be made to vote as the
As I have said, the Reichstag was invented to be, and has always
served the purpose hitherto of, a forum in which discontented
Germany could blow off steam, but achieve little in the way of
remedy or reform. _But during the war the Reichstag has even
ceased to be a place where free speech is tolerated_. It has been
gagged as effectually as the German Press. I was an eyewitness of
one of the most drastic muzzling episodes which has occurred in the
Reichstag during the war--or probably in the history of any modern
Parliament--the suppression of Dr. Karl Liebknecht, member for
Potsdam, during the debate on military affairs on January 17, 1916.
That event will be of historic importance in establishing how
public opinion in Germany during the war has been ruthlessly
trampled under foot.
The Reichstag has practically nothing to do with the conduct of the
Up, practically, to the beginning of 1916 the sporadic Social
Democratic opposition to the war, mainly by Dr. Liebknecht, was
ignored by the Government. The war-machine was running so
smoothly, and, from the German standpoint, so victoriously, that
the Government thought it could safely let Liebknecht rant to his
Dr. Liebknecht had long been a thorn in the War Party's side. He
inherited an animosity to Prussian militarism from his late father,
Dr. Wilhelm Liebknecht, who with August Bebel founded the modern
German Social Democratic Party. Four or five years before the war
Liebknecht, a lawyer by profession, campaigned so fiercely against
militarism that he was sentenced to eighteen months' fortress
imprisonment for "sedition." He served his sentence, and soon
afterwards his political friends nominated him for the Reichstag
for the Royal Division of Potsdam, of all places in the world,
knowing that such a candidature would be as ironical a blow as
could be dealt to the war aristocrats. He was elected by a big
majority in 1913, the votes of the large working-class population
of the division, including Spandau (the Prussian Woolwich), being
more than enough to offset the military vote which the Kaiser's
henchmen mobilised against him. Some time afterwards Liebknecht
was also elected to represent a Berlin Labour constituency in the
_Prussian Diet_, the Legislature which deals with the affairs in
the Kingdom of Prussia, as distinct from the Reichstag (the
_Imperial Diet_), which concerns itself with Empire matters only.
Dr. Liebknecht is forty-four years old. Of medium build, he wears
a shock of long, curly, upstanding hair, which rather accentuates
his "agitator" type of countenance, and is a skilful and eloquent
debater. A university graduate and well-read thinker and student,
he turned out to be the one consistent Social Democratic politician
in Germany on the question of the war. When the war began the
Socialist Party was effectually and willingly tied to the
Government's chariot--including, nominally, even Liebknecht. A few
hours before making his notorious "Necessity-knows-no-law" speech
in the Reichstag on August 4, 1914, Bethmann-Hollweg conferred with
all the Parliamentary parties, and convinced them (including the
Socialists) that Germany had been cruelly dragged into a war of
defence. Later in the day, following other party leaders, Herr
Haase, spokesman for the Socialists, got up in the House, voiced a
few harmless platitudes about Socialist opposition to war on
principle, and then pledged the party's 111 votes solidly to the
War Credits for which the Government was asking. When the
Chancellor afterwards made his celebrated speech it was cheered to
the echo by the entire House, _including the Socialists_. I do not
know whether Liebknecht was present, though he is almost certain to
have been, but if so he made no note-worthy protest. How
completely the Government befooled the Socialists about the war was
proved a few days later when Dr. Franck, one of the Social
Democracy's most shining lights and the man who was in line to be
Bebel's successor, _volunteered_ for military service. He was one
of the first to fall fighting in September, somewhere in the West.
The authorities might have known that Liebknecht was a hard man to
keep quiet if he ever decided to speak out. Fresh in the
Government's mind was his bold exposure of the Krupp bribery
scandals at the War Office (in 1913) and his disclosures about how
the German munition trust for years systematically stirred up war
fever abroad, in order to convince the German people of the
necessity of speeding up their own huge armaments on land and sea.
As soon as Liebknecht's Reichstag and Prussian Diet speeches began
to show that he was tired of the muzzle, the Government called him
up for military service. They stuck him into the uniform of an
_Armierungssoldat_ (Army Service Corps soldier). This meant that
his public speeches in connection with the war had to be confined
to the two Parliaments in which he held seats. Anything of an
opposition character which he said or did _outside_ would be
"treason" or "sedition."
Liebknecht was put to work on A.S.C. jobs behind the fronts
alternately in the East and West, I believe, but was given leaves
of absence to attend to his Parliamentary duties from time to time.
On these occasions he would appear in the Reichstag in the dull
field-grey of an ordinary private--the only member so clad in a
House of 397 Deputies, among whom are dozens of officers in uniform
up to the rank of generals.
I was particularly fortunate to be able to secure a card of
admission to the Strangers' Gallery of the Reichstag on January 17,
the day set for discussion of military matters. I went to my place
early--a few minutes past the noon hour, as the Reichstag usually
convenes at 1 p.m. The floor was still quite empty, though the
galleries were filled with people anxious, like myself, to see the
show from start to finish.
The Reichstag's decorative scheme is panelled oak and gilt-paint.
The members' seating space spreads fanlike round the floor, with
individual seats and desks exactly like those used by schoolboys,
which is not an inappropriate simile. On the extreme right are the
places of the Conservative-Junker--landowners--Party; to their left
sit, in succession, the Roman Catholic Clericals (who occupy the
exact centre of the floor and are thus known as the _Zentrum_, or
Centre Party). The "Centre" includes many priests, mostly
Rhinelanders and Bavarians. Then come the National Liberals, the
violently anti-British and anti-American Party, the Progressive
People's Party, and the Social Democrats. The latter are on the
"extreme left." That is why they are often so described in reports
of Reichstag proceedings abroad. The Socialists comprise 111 out
of 397 members of the House, so their segment of the fan is the
largest of all. Next in size is the Centre Party, with eighty-five
or ninety seats, the Conservatives, National Liberals, and
Progressives accounting for the rest of the floor in more or less
The outstanding aspect of the Reichstag is the tribune for
speakers, which faces the floor and is elevated above it some five
or six feet. It is flanked on the right by the Government "table,"
consisting of individual seats and desks for Ministers. In the
centre of the tribune the presiding officer, who is "President,"
not Speaker, of the House, sits. On his left is a row of seats and
desks, like the opposite Government "table," for the members of the
_Federal Council_. The Federal Council, I may remind my readers,
consists of the delegates of the various States of Germany. They
are not elected by the people, but are appointed by the rulers of
the several States. They constitute practically an Imperial Upper
Chamber, and are the real legislative body of the Empire. Bills
require the Federal Council's approval before submission to the
On so-called "big days" in the Reichstag a host of small fry from
the Departments collects behind the Government and this dominent
Federal Council. The Chancellor, whose place is at the corner of
the Government "table" nearest the President, is always shepherded
by his political aide-de-camp, Dr. Wahnschaffe. There is always a
group of uniformed Army and Navy officers on the tribune, too, and
to-day, of course, as the Army discussions were on the agenda,
there was an unusually brave array of gold braid and brass buttons.
Herr von Oldenburg, a prominent Junker M.P., once said if he were
the Kaiser he would send a Prussian lieutenant and ten men to close
up the Reichstag.
Liebknecht arrived early, a slight and unimpressive figure in
somewhat worn field-grey, the German khaki. The "debate" having
begun, I noticed how he listened eagerly to every word spoken,
jotting down notes incessantly for the evident purpose of replying
to the grandiloquent utterances about our "glorious army of
_Kultur_-bearers" which were falling from the lips of "patriotic"
party orators. Liebknecht had earned the displeasure of the House
a few days before by asking some embarrassing questions about
Turkish massacres in Armenia. He was jeered and laughed at
hilariously; when he went on to say that a "Black Chamber" was
spying on his every movement, shadowing other members of the
Reichstag, even eavesdropping on their telephone conversations and
opening their private correspondence.
While a Socialist comrade, Herr Davidssohn, was speaking from the
desk in the centre of the tribune, at which all members must stand
when addressing the House, I now saw Liebknecht walking up the
aisle leading from the Socialist seats to the President's chair as
unobtrusively as possible. He was walking furtively and he cut the
figure of a hunted animal which is conscious that it is surrounded
by other animals anxious to pounce upon it and devour it if it
dares to show itself in the open.
Liebknecht has now reached the President's side. The President, a
long-whiskered septuagenarian, is popularly known as "Papa" Kaempf.
I see Liebknecht whispering quietly in Kaempf's ear. He is asking
for permission to speak, probably as soon as comrade Davidssohn has
finished making his innocuous suggestions of minor reforms to
relieve discomforts in the trenches. Kaempf is shaking his head
negatively. As the official executor of the House's wishes, the
old man understands perfectly well that Liebknecht must under no
circumstances have a hearing. Davidssohn has now stopped talking.
Liebknecht has meantime reached the bottom step of the stairway of
five or six steps leading from the tribune to the level of the
floor. He can be plainly seen from all sections of the House. I
hear him start to say that he has a double right to be heard on the
Army Bill, not only as a member of the House, but as a soldier. He
gets no further. The Chamber is already filled with shouts and
jeers. "_Maul halten_!" (shut your mouth!) bursts from a dozen
places in the Conservative and rational Liberal and Centre benches.
"'_Raus mit ihm!" (throw him out!) is another angry taunt which I
can distinguish in the bedlam. Liebknecht has been howled down
many times before under similar circumstances. He is not terrified
to-day, though his face is pale with excitement and anger. He
stands his ground. His right arm is extended, a finger levelled
accusingly at the Right and Centre from which imprecations,
unceasingly, are being snarled at him. But he cannot make himself
heard amid the uproar.
A Socialist colleague intervenes, Ledebour, a thin, grey-haired,
actor-like person, of ascetic mien and resonant voice. "Checking
free speech is an evil custom of this House," declares Ledebour.
"Papa" Kaempf clangs his big hand-bell. He rules out "such
improper expressions as 'evil custom' in this high House." Ledebour
is the Reichstag's master of repartee. He rejoins
smilingly:--"Very well, not an 'evil custom,' but not altogether a
pleasant custom." Now the House is howling Ledebour down. He,
too, has weathered such storms before. He waits, impassive and
undismayed, for a lull in the cyclone. It comes. "Wait, wait!" he
thunders. "My friend Liebknecht and I, and others like us, have a
great following. You grievously underestimate that following.
Some day you will realise that. Wait----" Ledebour, like
Liebknecht, can no longer proceed. The House is now boiling, an
indistinguishable and most undignified pandemonium. I can detect
that there is considerable ironical laughter mixed with its
indignation. Members are not taking Ledebour's threat seriously.
Liebknecht has temporarily returned to his seat under cover of the
tornado provoked by Ledebour's intervention, but now I see him
stealthily crawling, dodging, almost panther-like, back to the
steps of the tribune. He is bent upon renewing the attempt to
raise his voice above the hostile din. The sight of him unchains
the House's fury afresh. The racket is increased by the mad
ding-donging of "Papa" Kaempf, trying hopelessly to restore a
semblance of quiet. It is useless. The House will not subside
until Liebknecht is driven from the speakers' tribune. He is not
to have even the chance of the lull which enabled Ledebour to say a
pertinent thing or two. A score of embittered deputies advance
toward the tribune, red-faced and gesticulating in the German way
when excitement is the dominant passion. Their fists are clenched.
I say to myself that Liebknecht will this time be beaten down, if
he is not content to be shouted down. He makes an unforgettable
figure, alone there, assailed, barked and snarled at from every
side, a private in the German Army bidding defiance to a hundred
men, also in uniform, but superior officers. Mere _Kanonenfutter_
(cannon fodder) defying the majestic authority of its helmeted and
epauletted overlords! An unprecedented episode, as well as an
unforgettable one. . .
Liebknecht insists upon tempting fate once more. He is going to
try to outshout the crazy chorus howling at him. He succeeds, but
only for an instant and to the extent of one biting phrase:--"Such
treatment," I can hear him shrieking, "is _unverschaemt_
(shameless) and _unerhoert_ (unheard of)! It could take place in
no other legislative body in the world!"
With that the one German Social Democrat of conviction, courage,
and consistency retires, baffled and discomfited. Potsdam's
representative in the Reichstag is at last effectually muzzled, but
in the muzzling I have seen the German Government at work on a task
almost as prodigious as the one it now faces on the Somme--the task
of keeping the German people deaf, dumb, and blind.
Of what has meantime happened to Liebknecht the main facts are
known. He was arrested on May 1 for alleged "incitement to public
disorder during a state of war," tried, convicted, and sentenced to
penal servitude. A couple of months previously (on March 13) he
had delivered another bitter attack on the War Government in the
Prussian Diet. He accused the German educational authorities of
systematically teaching hate to school children and of distorting
even contemporary history so as to poison their minds to the
glorification of Prussian militarism. He said it was not the
business of the schools to turn children into machines for the
Moloch of militarism.
"_Let us teach history correctly_," declared Liebknecht, "_and tell
the children that the crime of Sarajevo was looked upon by wide
circles in Austria-Hungary and Germany as a gift from Heaven. Let
us. . . ._"
He got no farther, for the cyclone broke. He had dared to do what
no other man in Germany had done. He had publicly accused his
Government of making the war. From that moment his doom was
This narrative should be instructive to those Britishers and
Americans who think it possible that German Socialists may one day
have the power to end the war. There are two effective replies to
this curious Anglo-Saxon misunderstanding of Germany. The first is
that Liebknecht had not, and has not, the support of his own party;
the second, that were that party twice as numerous as it is its
votes would be worthless in view of the power wielded by the
Kaiser's representative, von Bethmann-Hollweg, backed up by the
It is difficult to drive this fact into the heads of British and
American people, who are both prone to judge German institutions by
For, remember always that behind the dominant Imperial Chancellor,
von Bethmann-Hollweg, stands the All-Highest War Lord, and behind
him, what is still, if damaged, the mightiest military machine in
the world--the German Army. Opposed to that there is at present a
slowly increasing Socialist vote--the two have grown to about
In the beginning of the war, when all seemed to be going well,
there was no disunity in Germany. When Germany was winning victory
after victory, practically no censorship was needed in the
newspapers; the police were tolerant; every German smiled upon
every other German; soldiers went forth singing and their trains
were gaily decorated with oak leaves; social democracy praised
All that has changed and the hosts who went singing on their way in
the belief that they would be home in six weeks, have left behind
homes many of them bereaved by the immense casualties, and most of
them suffering from the increased food shortage.
Class feeling soon increased. The poor began to call the rich
agrarians "usurers." The Government forbade socialistic papers
such as the _Vorwaerts_ to use the word "usurer" any more, because
it was applied to the powerful junkers. Such papers as the
_Tagliche Rundschau_ and the _Tageszeitung_ could continue to use
it, however, for they applied it to the small shopkeeper who
exceeded the maximum price by a fraction of a penny.
As the rigour of the blockade increased, the discontent of the
small minority who were beginning to hate their own Government
almost as much as, and in many cases more, than they hated enemies
of Germany, assumed more threatening forms than mere discussion.
Their disillusionment regarding Germany's invincibility opened
their eyes to faults at home. Some of the extreme Social Democrats
were secretly spreading the treasonable doctrine that the German
Government was not entirely blameless in the causes of the war. It
has been my custom to converse with all classes of society, and I
was amazed at the increasing number of disgruntled citizens.
But the German Government is still determined to have unity. They
had enlisted the services of editors, reporters, professors,
parsons and cinema operators to create it; they are now giving the
police an increasingly important role to maintain it.
As the German Parliament in no way resembles the British
Parliament, so do the German, police in no way resemble the British
police. The German police, mounted or unmounted, are armed with a
revolver, a sword, and not infrequently provided with a
machine-gun. They have powers of search and arrest without
warrant. They are allowed at their discretion to strike or
otherwise maltreat not only civilians, but soldiers. Always armed
with extraordinary power, their position during the past few months
has risen to such an extent that the words used in the Reichstag,
"The Reign of Terror," are not an exaggeration.
Aided and even abetted by a myriad of spies and
_agents-provocateurs_, they have placed under what is known as
"preventive arrest" throughout the German Empire and Austria so
great a number of civilians that the German prisons, as has been
admitted, are filled to repletion.
With the Reichstag shut up, and the hold on the newspapers
tightening,-what opportunity remains by which independent thought
can be disseminated?
In Poland meetings to consider what they call "Church affairs," but
which were really revolutionary gatherings, afforded opportunity
for discussion. These have been ruled out of order.
The lectures taking place in their thousands all over Germany might
afford a chance of expression of opinion, but the professors, like
the pastors, are, as I have said, so absolutely dependent upon the
Government for their position and promotion, that I have only heard
of one of them who had the temerity to make any speech other than
those of the "God-punish-England" and "We-must-hold-out" type. His
resignation from the University of Munich was immediately demanded,
and any number of sycophants were ready to take his place.
Clubs are illegal in Germany, and the humblest working-men's
_cafes_ are attended by spies. In my researches in the Berlin
East-end I often visited these places and shared my adulterated
beer and war bread with the working folk--all of them over or under
One evening a shabby old man said rather more loudly than was
necessary to a number of those round him:--"I am tired of reading
in the newspapers how nice the war is. Even the _Vorwaerts_ (then
a Socialist paper) lies to us. I am tired of walking home night
after night and finding restaurants turned into hospitals for the
He was referring in particular to the great _Schultheiss_
working-men's restaurants in Hasenheide. His remarks were received
with obvious sympathy.
A couple of nights later I went into this same place and took my
seat, but it was obvious that my visit was unwelcome. I was looked
at suspiciously. I did not think very much of the incident, but
ten days later in passing I called again, when a lusty young fellow
of eighteen, to whom I had spoken on my first visit, came forward
and said to me, almost threateningly, "You are a stranger here.
May I ask what you are doing?"
I said: "I am an American newspaper correspondent, and am trying to
find out what I can about the ways of German working folk."
He could tell by my accent that I was a foreigner, and said: "We
thought that you had told the Government about that little free
speaking we had here a few days ago. You know that the little old
man who was complaining about the restaurants being turned into
hospitals has been arrested?"
This form of arrest, by which hundreds of people are mysteriously
disappearing, is one of the burning grievances of Germany to-day.
In its application it resembles what we used to read about Russian
police. It has created a condition beneath the surface in Germany
resembling the terrorism of the French Revolution. In the absence
of a Habeas Corpus Act, the victim lies in gaol indefinitely, while
the police are, nominally, collecting the evidence against him.
One cannot move about very long without coming across instances of
this growing form of tyranny, but I will merely give one other.
A German family, resident in Sweden, were in correspondence with a
woman resident in Prussia. In one of her letters she incautiously
remarked, "What a pity that the two Emperors cannot be taught what
war really means to the German peoples." She had lost two sons,
and her expression of bitterness was just a feminine outburst,
which in any other country, would have been passed by. She was
placed under preventive arrest and is still in gaol.
The police are armed with the censorship of the internal postal
correspondence, telegrams and telephones. One of the complaints of
the Social Democrat members of the Reichstag is that every movement
is spied upon, and their communications tampered with by what they
call the "Black Chamber."
There is no reason to suppose that the debates in the closing
session of the Reichstag in 1916 on police tyranny, the Press
censorship, the suppression of public opinion, will lead to any
result other than the familiar expressions of mild
indignation--such as that which came from the National Liberal and
Pan-German leader, Dr. Paasche--and perhaps a little innocent
legislation. But the reports of the detailed charges against the
Government constitute, even as passed by the German censorship for
publication, a remarkable revelation. It should be remembered in
reading the following quotations that the whole subject has been
discussed in the secrecy of the Reichstag Committee, and that what
is now disclosed is in the main only what the Government has been
unable to hush up or hide.
In his famous speech on "preventive arrest" the Social Democratic
Deputy, Herr Dittmann said:--
"Last May I remarked that the system of preventive arrest was
producing a real reign of terror, and since then things have got
steadily worse. The law as it was before 1848 and the Socialist
Law, of scandalous memory, are celebrating their resurrection. The
system of denunciation and of _agents-provocateurs_ is in full
bloom, and it is all being done under the mask of patriotism and
the saving of the country. Anybody who for personal or other
reasons is regarded by the professional _agents-provocateurs_ as
unsatisfactory or inconvenient is put under suspicion of espionage,
or treason, or other crime. And such vague denunciations are then
sufficient to deprive the victim of his freedom, without any
possibility of defence being given him. In many cases such arrest
has been maintained by the year without any lawful foundation for
it. Treachery and low cunning are now enjoying real orgies. A
criminal is duly convicted and knows his fate. The man under
preventive arrest is overburdened by the uncertainty of despair,
and is simply buried alive. The members of the Government do not
seem to have a spark of understanding for this situation, the
mental and material effects of which are equally terrible.
"Dr. Helfferich said in the Budget Committee in the case of Dr.
Franz Mehring that it is better that he should be under detention
than that he should be at large and do something for which he would
have to be punished. According to this reasoning the best thing
would be to lock up everybody and keep them from breaking the law.
The ideal of Dr. Helfferich seems to be the German National Prison
of which Heine spoke. The case of Mehring is classical proof of
the fact that we are no longer far removed from the Helfferich
Herr Dittmann went on to say that Herr Mehring's only offence was
that in a letter seized by the police he wrote to a Reichstag
deputy named Herzfeld in favour of a peace demonstration in Berlin,
and offered to write a fly-sheet inviting attendance at such a
meeting. Mehring, who is over 70 years of age, was then locked up.
Herr Dittmann continued:--
"How much longer will it be before even thoughts become criminal in
Germany? Mehring is one of the most brilliant historians and
writers, and one of the first representatives of German
intellectual life--known as such far beyond the German frontiers.
When it is now known abroad that such a man has been put under a
sort of preventive arrest merely in order to cut him off from the
public for political reasons, one really cannot be astonished at
the low reputation enjoyed by the German Government both at home
and abroad. How evil must be the state of a Government which has
to lock up the first minds of the country in order to choke their
Herr Dittmann's second case was that of Frau Rosa Luxemburg. He
said that she was put under arrest many months ago, without any
charge being made against her, and merely out of fear of her
intellectual influence upon the working classes. All the Socialist
women of Germany were deeply indignant, and he invited the
Government to consider that such things must make it the positive
duty of Socialists in France, England, Italy and Russia "to fight
against a Government which imprisons without any reason the
best-known champions of the International proletariat." The
treatment of both Mehring and Frau Luxemburg had been terrible.
The former, old and ill, had had the greatest difficulty in getting
admission to a prison infirmary. Frau Luxemburg a month ago was
taken from her prison bed in the middle of the night, removed to
the police headquarters, and put in a cell which was reserved for
prostitutes. She had not been allowed a doctor, and had been given
food which she could not eat. Just before the Reichstag debate she
had been, taken away from Berlin to Wronke, in the Province of
Herr Dittmann then gave a terrible account, some of it unfit for
reproduction, of the treatment in prison of two girls of eighteen
whose offence was that on June 27th they had distributed
invitations to working women to attend a meeting of protest against
the procedure in the case of Herr Liebknecht. He observed that
they owed it entirely to themselves and to their training if they
had not been ruined physically and morally in their "royal Prussian
prison." When they were at last released they were informed that
they would be imprisoned for the rest of the war if they attended
any public meeting. Herr Dittmann proceeded:--
"Here we have police brutality in all its purity. This is how a
working-class child who is trying to make her way up to knowledge
and _Kultur_ is treated in the country of the promised 'new
orientation,' in which (according to the Imperial Chancellor) 'the
road is to be opened for all who are efficient.' These are the
methods by which the spirit of independence is systematically to be
billed. That is the reason for the arrests of members of the
Socialist party who stand on the side of determined opposition.
You imagine that by isolating the leading elements of the
opposition you can crush the head of the snake."
Herr Dittmann's next case was that of Dr. Meyer, one of the editors
of _Vorwaerts_, who was arrested many months ago. He is suffering
from tuberculosis, but is not allowed to go to a sanatorium.
Another Socialist journalist named Regge, father of six children,
has been under arrest since August, his only offence being that he
has agitated against the militarist majority. Herr Dittmann then
dealt at length with the Socialist journalist named Kluhs, who has
been in prison for eight months, also for his activity on behalf of
the Socialist minority against the majority, and was prevented from
communicating with his dying wife or attending her funeral,
Herr Dittmann gave the details of three cases at Dusseldorf and one
at Brunswick, and then explained how the military authorities in
many parts of Germany are deliberately offering Socialists the
choice between silence and military service. A well-known trade
union official at Elberfeld, named Sauerbrey, who had been declared
totally unfit for military service because he had lost several
fingers on his left hand, was arrested and charged with treason.
He was acquitted, but instead of obtaining his freedom he was
immediately called up and is now in training for the front. Herr
Dittmann said that this case had caused intense bitterness, and
"The Military Command at Munster is surprised that the feeling in
the whole Wupper Valley is becoming more and more discontented, and
the military are now hatching new measures of violence in order to
be able to master this discontent. One would think that such
things came from the madhouse. In reality they represent
conditions under martial law, and this case is only one of very
Herr Dittmann gave several instances of men declared unfit for
service who had been called up for political reasons, and he ended
his speech as follows:--
"In regard to all this persecution of peaceful citizens there is a
regular apparatus of _agents-provocateurs_, provided by officials
of all kinds, and the apparatus is growing every day. If these
persecutions were stopped a great number of these agents and
officials could be released for military service. In most cases
they are mere shirkers, and that is why they cling to their posts
and _seek every day to prove themselves indispensable by
discovering all sorts of crimes_. Because they do not want to go
to the trenches other people must go to prison. Put an end to the
state of martial law, and help us to root up a state of things
which disgraces the German name."
The Alsatian deputy, Herr Haus, said that Alsace-Lorraine is
suffering more than any other part of the country, and that more
than 1,000 persons have been arrested without any charge being
brought against them. Herr Seyda, for the Poles, said that the
Polish population of Germany suffers especially from the system of
In his contemptuous reply, which, showed that the Government was
confident that it had nothing to fear from the majority in the
Reichstag, Herr Helfferich said:--
"The institution of the dictator comes from ancient Rome, from the
classical Republic of antiquity. (Laughter.) When the State was
fighting for its existence it was found necessary to place supreme
power in the hands of a single man, and to give this Roman dictator
authority which was much greater than the authority belonging to
preventive arrest and martial law. The whole development proceeds
by way of compromise between the needs of the State and the needs
of protection for the individual. The results vary according to
the particular level of civilisation reached by the particular
State. (Socialist cries of 'Very true.') We are not at the lowest
level. When one considers the state of things in Germany in peace
time we can be proud. (Socialist interruptions.) I am proud of
Germany. I think that our constitutional system before the
outbreak of war and our level of _Kultur_ were such as every German
could be proud of. ('No, no.') I hope that we shall soon be able
to revert to those conditions."
Herr Helfferich went on to argue that repression in Germany is
really much milder than in France, England, or Italy; and for the
debate on the censorship, which followed the debate on preventive
arrest, he came armed with an account of the Defence of the Realm
Acts. When he enlarged upon the powers of the British Government
he was interrupted by cries of "It is a question not of theory but
of practice," and the Socialist leader Herr Stadthagen made a
scathing reply. He said:--
"Even if everything in England is as Herr Helfferich described it,
the state of things is much better there than in Germany. Herr
Helfferich stated the cases in which arrest and search of dwellings
may take place, but those are cases in which similar action can be
taken in Germany in time of peace under the ordinary criminal law.
The Englishman has quite other rights. He has the right to his
personality, and, above all, the officials in England, unlike
Germany, are personally responsible. When we make a law, that law
is repealed by the Administration. That is the whole point, but
Herr Helfferich does not see it, and he does not see that we live
in a Police State and under a police system. Did it ever occur to
anybody in England to dispute the right of immunity of members of
parliament? Did it ever occur to anybody in England to go to
members of the Opposition in Parliament and demand that they should
resign their seats on pain of arrest? Or has anybody in England
been threatened with arrest if he does not withdraw a declaration
against the committee of his party? Two newspapers have been
suppressed in England because they opposed munitions work. I
regret this check upon free criticism in England, but what would
have happened in Germany? In Germany there would undoubtedly have
been a prosecution for high treason. In England, moreover, the
newspapers are allowed to reappear, and that without giving any
guarantees. In Germany we are required to give guarantees that the
papers shall be conducted by a person approved of by the political
police. Herr Helfferich employs inappropriate comparisons. I will
give him one which applies. The political police in Germany is
precisely what the State Inquisition was in Venice."
An interesting point in the censorship debate was the disclosure of
the fact that the local censors do what they please. Herr Seyda
protested against the peculiar persecution of the Poles. He
remarked that at Gnesen no Polish paper has been allowed to appear
for the past two years.
But as significant as anything was Herr Stadthagen's account of the
recruiting for the political police. He said that the police
freely offer both money and exemption from military service to boys
who are about to become liable for service. He gave a typical case
of a boy of seventeen. The police called at his home and inquired
whether he belonged to any Socialist organisation and whether he
had been medically examined for the Army. A police official then
waylaid the boy as he was leaving work and promised him that, if he
would give information of what went on in his Socialist
association, he could earn from 4 pounds to 4 pounds 10 shillings a
month and be exempt from military service.
There is a peculiar connection between censorship and police. The
evil effect of the censorship of their own Press by the German
Government is to hypnotise the thousands of Government bureaucrats
into the belief that that which they read in their own controlled
Press is true.
No people are more ready to believe what they want to believe than
the governing class in Germany. They wanted to believe that Great
Britain would not come into the war. They had got into their
heads, too, that Japan was going to be an ally of theirs. They
wrote themselves into the belief that France was defeated and would
Regarding the Press, as they do, as all-important, they picked from
the British Press any articles or fragments of articles suitable
for their purpose and quoted them. They are adepts in the art of
dissecting a paragraph so that the sense is quite contrary to that
meant by the writer.
But the German Government goes further than that. It is quite
content to quote to-day expressions of Greek opinion from Athens
organs well known to be subsidised by Germany. Certain bribed
papers in Zurich and Stockholm, and one notorious American paper,
are used for this process of self-hypnotism. The object is
two-fold. First, to influence public opinion in the foreign
country, and, secondly, by requoting the opinion, to influence
their own people into believing that this is the opinion held in
the country from which it emanates. Thus, when I told Germans that
large numbers of the Dutch people are pro-Ally, they point to an
extract from an article in _De Toekomst_ and controvert me.
These methods go to strengthen the hands of the police when they
declare that in acting severely they are only acting against
anarchistic opinions likely to create the impression abroad that
there is disunity within the Empire.
Never, so far as I can gather, in the world's history was there so
complete a machine for the suppression of individual opinion as the
The anti-war demonstrations in Germany range all the way from the
smashing of a few food-shop windows to the complete preparations
for a serious crippling of the armies in the field by a general
Half-way between were the so-called "Liebknecht riots" in Berlin.
The notices summoning these semi-revolutionary meetings were
whispered through factories, and from mouth to mouth by women
standing in the food lines waiting for their potatoes, morning
bread, meat, sugar, cheese, and other supplies. Liebknecht was
brought to secret trial on June 27th, on the evening of which
demonstrations took place throughout the city. I was present at
the one near the Rathaus, which was dispersed towards midnight when
the police actually drew their revolvers and charged the crowd.
The following evening I was at an early hour in the Potsdamer
Platz, where a great demonstration was to take place. It was the
second anniversary of the murder at Sarajevo. The city was clearly
restless, agitated; people were on the watch for something to
happen. The Potsdamer Platz is the centre through which the great
arteries of traffic flow westward after the work of the day is
done. The people who stream through it do not belong to the poorer
classes, for these live in the east and the north. But on this
mild June evening there was a noticeably large number of working
men in the streets leading into the Platz. I was standing near a
group of these when the evening editions appeared with the news
that Liebknecht had been sentenced. A low murmur among the
workmen, mutterings of suppressed rage when they realised the
significance of the short trial of two days, and a determined
movement toward the place of demonstration.
I hurried to the Potsdamer Platz. The number of police stationed
in the streets leading into it increased. The Platz itself was
blue with them, for they stood together in groups of six, ten and
twelve. I went along the Budapester Strasse to the Brandenburger
Tor, through which workmen from Moabit had streamed at noon
declaring that they would strike. They had been charged by the
mounted police, who drove them back across the Spree. There was a
blue patrol along the Unter den Linden now. A whole army corps of
police were on the alert in the German capital.
I returned to the Potsdamer Platz. It was thick with people
now--curious onlookers. There were crowds of workmen in the
adjacent streets, but they were not allowed to approach too near.
Again and again they tried, but, unarmed, they were powerless when
the horses were driven into them, I saw a few of the most obstinate
struck with the flat of sabres, and on others were rained blows
from the police on foot. Nobody hit Back, or even defended himself.
There was practically no violence such as one expects from a mob.
It was something else which impressed me. It impressed my
police-lieutenant friend, also. That was the dangerous ugliness in
the workmen. Hate was written in their faces, and the low growl in
the crowd told all too plainly the growing feeling against the war.
The Government realised this. They had already seen that the unity
they had so artificially created could only be held by force. They
had used force in the muzzling of Liebknecht, and quietly they were
employing a most potent force every day, the force of preventive
In July there was agitation for the great munition strike which was
to have taken place on the day of the second anniversary of the
war. The dimensions of the proposed rising were effectually
concealed by the censorship. The ugly feeling in the Potsdamer
Platz had taught the Government a lesson.
No detail was neglected in the preparations against the strike.
There was a significant movement of machine-guns to all points of
danger, such as the Moabit district of Berlin, and Spandau,
together with countless warnings against so-called "anarchists."
Any workman who showed the slightest tendency to be a leader in a
factory group was taken away. The expressions of intention not to
work the first four days of August became so strong that the Press
issued a warning that any man refusing to work would be put into a
uniform, and he would receive not eight or more marks a day as in
munition work, but three marks in ten days. Even the Kaiser
supplemented his regular anniversary manifestoes to the armed
forces of the Empire and the civilian population with a special
appeal to the workmen.
I was up and ready at an early hour on the morning of August 1st.
Again the city was blue with police. But this time they were
reinforced. As I walked through streets lined with soldiers in
the workingmen's quarters, I realised the futility of any further
anti-war demonstrations in the Fatherland.
I stood in the immense square before the Royal Palace, and
reflected that two years ago it was packed with a crowd wild with
joy at the opportunity of going to war. There was unity. I stood
on the very spot where the old man was jeered because he had said,
"War is a serious business, young fellow."
On August 1st, 1916, there were more police in the square than
civilians. On Unter den Linden paced the blue patrol. There was
still unity in Germany, but a unity maintained by revolver, sword
POLICE RULE IN BOHEMIA
In his speech to the Senate President Wilson, said: "No peace can
last, or ought to last, which does not recognise and accept the
principle that Governments derive all their just powers from the
consent at the governed. . . . No nation should seek to extend its
polity over any other nation or people, but every people should be
left free to determine its own policy, its own way of development,
unhindered, unthreatened, unafraid, the little along with the great
The realisation of these admirable sentiments presents infinite
problems in various sections of Europe, but nowhere, perhaps, more
than in Austria-Hungary. In his heterogeneous collection of
peoples, the old Emperor had to make a choice between two courses
in order to hold his thirteen distinct races together in one
Empire. He could have tried to make them politically contented
through freedom to manage their own affairs while owing allegiance
to the Empire as a whole, or he could suppress the individual
people to such an extent that he would have unity by force.
He chose the second course. With the Germans dominant in Austria
and the Magyars in Hungary, other nations have been scientifically
subjugated. As in the case of the procedure of "Preventive Arrest"
in Germany, the authorities seek to work smoothly and silently,
with the result that only an occasional echo reaches the outside
The description of the relations of the various peoples and the
"Unity-Machine" employed would fill a large book. Control of
public opinion has been the first action of the rulers of the Dual
Monarchy. In peace time, not only were the suppressed nations,
such as the Czechs, Slovaks, Rumanians, Luthenians, Poles,
Slovenes, Italians, but all the citizens of Austria-Hungary, denied
the right of free speech and freedom of the Press. Some of the
regulations by which the Government held absolute sway over its
(1) No newspaper or other printing business could be established
until a heavy deposit was made with the police for the payment of
fines, such fines to be arbitrarily imposed by the police--in whom
is vested extraordinary power--when anything political was written
which did not please them. They are difficult to please, I may add.
(2) A complete copy of each edition must be sent to the police
before it was put on sale. "Good" editors whose inspiration was of
a nature to enable them to interpret the wishes of the Government,
sometimes received a dispensation from this formality.
(3) No club might hold a private meeting. A representative of the
police must be present. This rule was often extended even to
friendly gatherings in private homes in such places as Bohemia.
(4) No political meeting might be held without a permit, and a
representative of the police must be present. Often he sat on the
platform. It is amusing for the visitor from a free country to
attend a political meeting where the chairman, speaker and
policeman file up on the stage to occupy the three chairs reserved
for them. The policeman may be heard by those in the front rows
continually cautioning the speaker. If he thinks the speaker is
talking too freely he either intervenes through the chairman and
asks him to be moderate or dismisses the meeting.
These regulations, I again remind the reader, were in force in
peace time. It is easy to see how an extension of them effectually
checks attempts of the Czechs (Bohemians) and other peoples to
legislate themselves into a little freedom.
When I came to England early in the war from Austria-Hungary and
Germany I heard many expressions of hope that the discontented
races in the Empire of Francis Joseph would rebel, and later
expressions of surprise that they did not. Englishmen held the
opinion that such races would be decidedly averse from fighting for
the Hapsburgs. The opinion was correct, and nobody knew this
better than the Hapsburgs themselves.
Like the German Government in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, the
Austrian Government has endeavoured to mislead public opinion in
foreign countries as to the state of mind of the Czechs by false
information and to conceal the true military and political
situation from the population at home. Austria's first problem at
the outbreak of war--a problem which has been worked out to the
last detail--was rapidly to move the soldiers of the subjugated
races from their native lands. Since the Bosnians, for example,
are of the Serbian race, they were mobilised secretly in the middle
of July and sent out of Bosnia. I saw 30,000 moved through Trieste
several days before war was declared on Serbia. A German
acquaintance, with great shipping interests, enthusiastically
indiscreet at sight of them, exclaimed to the little group of which
I was one: "A wonderful system--a wonderful system! The Bosnians
could not be trusted to fight the Serbs. But we Germans can use
them if they prove troublesome to Austria," he continued excitedly.
"We can send them against the French. We will tell them that if
they do not shoot the French, we will shoot _them_." I thought
this a rather curious conversation for July 25th, 1914.
Less than fortnight later I saw two Bohemian regiments arrive at
Prasso, Transylvania, the province farthest removed from their
homes, to be garrisoned in a region, the population of which is
Rumanian, Hungarian and Saxon. I was told later that the Rumanians
who had left the garrisons at Prasso had gone to Bohemia. As I
observed these initial steps in the great smooth-running
Austro-Hungarian military machine, I was impressed with the
impossibility of revolution. With the soldier element
scientifically broken up and scattered all over the country, who
could revolt--the women and children?
The Slav soldiers of Austria-Hungary desert to Russia at every
opportunity. The fact that she now has upwards of 1,200,000
Austro-Hungarian prisoners is sufficient refutation of the
sugar-coated propaganda describing how all the peoples who make up
Austria-Hungary rushed loyally and enthusiastically to arms to the
defence of their Emperor and common country. This is perfectly
true of the politically dominant races, the Germans and the
Magyars, but the "enthusiasm" I witnessed among the subjugated
races consisted chiefly of sad-faced soldiers and weeping women.
The Bohemians have given most trouble. One German officer who was
sent to Austria to help bolster up her army told me that he didn't
worry over the desertion of Bohemians singly and in small groups.
He expected that. But he did take serious exception to the
increasingly popular custom of whole battalions with their officers
and equipment passing over to the Russian lines intact.
The story of the Bohemian regiment trapped in the Army of Leopold
of Bavaria is generally known in Austria. When the staff learned
that this regiment planned to cross to the Russians on a certain
night, three Bavarian regiments, well equipped with machine-guns,
were set to trap it. Contrary to usual procedure, the Bohemians
were induced by the men impersonating the Russians to lay down
their arms as an evidence of good faith before crossing. The whole
regiment was then rounded up and marched to the rear, where a
public example was made of it. The officers were shot. Then every
tenth man was shot. The Government, in order to circumvent any
unfavourable impression which this act might make in Bohemia,
caused to be read each day for three days in the schools a decree
of the Emperor, condemning the treachery of this regiment, the
number of which was ordered for ever to be struck from the military
rolls of the Empire.
During the terrific fighting at Baranowitchi in the great Russian
offensive last summer, at a time when the Russians repeatedly but
unsuccessfully stormed that important railway junction, some
Prussian units found their right flank unsupported one morning at
dawn, because two Bohemian battalions had changed flags during the
night. The next Russian attack caused the Prussians to lose 48 per
cent. of their men.
This was the final straw for the Staff of Leopold's Army. An Order
was issued explaining to the troops that henceforth no more Czechs
would have the honour of doing first line duty, since their courage
was not of as high a degree as that of the others. I found that
the Prussians, despite their depleted state, actually believed this
explanation, which filled them with pride in themselves and
contempt for the Czechs.
But the German officers in charge of reorganising the
Austro-Hungarian Army were not content to let Bohemians perform
safe duties in the rear. Consequently, they diluted them until no
regiment contained more than 20 per cent.
The authorities have been no less thorough with the civilian
population. From the day of mobilisation all political life was
suspended. The three parties of the Opposition, the Radicals, the
National-Socialists, and the Progressives, were annihilated and
their newspapers suppressed. Their leaders, such men as Kramarzh,
Rasin, Klofatch, Scheiner, Mazaryk, Durich, the men who served as
guides to the nation, were imprisoned or exiled. This is surely a
violation of the principle that Governments derive their just
powers from the consent of the governed, for all these men were the
true representatives of the people. The fact that the Government
was obliged to get rid of the leaders of the nation shows what the
real situation in Bohemia is.
The Czech deputies who were considered dangerous, numbering forty,
were mobilised. They were not all sent to the front; some were
allowed temporary exemption; but the Government gave them to
understand that the slightest act of hostility towards the Monarchy
on their part would result in their being called up immediately and
sent to the front.
The fetters of the Press were drawn more tightly. Even the German
papers were not allowed into Bohemia. For some months, two or
three enterprising editors used to send a representative to Dresden
to read the German and English papers there. At present
three-quarters of the Czech papers and all the Slovak newspapers
have been suppressed. The columns of those which are still allowed
to appear in Bohemia and Moravia are congested by mandates of the
police and the military authorities, which the editors are
compelled to insert. Recently the Government censorship has been
particularly active against hooks, collections of national songs,
and post-cards. It has even gone so far as to confiscate
scientific works dealing with Slav questions, Dostoyevski's novels,
the books of Tolstoi and Millioukoff, and collections of purely
scientific Slav study and histories.
The Government, however, have had to proceed to far greater
lengths. By May, 1916, the death sentences of civilians pronounced
in Austria since the beginning of the war exceeded 4,000. Of
these, 965 were Czechs. A large proportion of the condemned were
women. The total of soldiers executed amounts to several thousands.
Is it not peculiar that among people which the Viennese propaganda
represents as loyal, hostages are taken in Bohemia, and condemned
to death, under the threat of execution if a popular movement takes
place? The people are told of this and are given to understand
that the hostages have hopes for mercy if all is quiet.
Not only have the authorities confiscated the property of all
persons convicted of political offences and of all Czechs who have
fled from Austria-Hungary, but a system has been established by
which the property of Czech soldiers who are prisoners in Russia is
confiscated. The State profits doubly by this measure, for it
further suppresses the allowances made to the families of these
soldiers. In order to terrorise its adversaries through such
measures, the Government instructs the Austrian newspapers to
publish long lists of confiscations and other penalties.
After a time, however, the Austrian Government practically
abdicated in favour of the Prussians and now undertake to carry out
the measures of Germanisation dictated by Berlin. The rights in
connection with the use of the Czech language in administration, in
the Law Courts and on the railways, rights which were won by the
desperate efforts of two generations of Czech politicians, have
been abrogated. The management of the railways has been placed in
the hands of Prussian military officials; the use of the Czech
language has been suppressed in the administration, where it had
formerly been lawful. The Czechs have been denied access to the
Magistrature and to public offices where they had occasionally
succeeded in directing the affairs in their own country.
SPIES AND SEMI-SPIES
A comprehensive account of the German system of espionage would
need something resembling the dimensions of a general
encyclopaedia, but for the present I must endeavour to summarise
the subject in the course of a chapter.
Spying is just as essential an ingredient of Prussian character as
conceit, indifference to the feelings of others, jealousy, envy,
self-satisfaction, conceit, industry, inquisitiveness, veneration
for officialdom, imitativeness, materialism, and the other national
attributes that will occur to those who know Prussia, as distinct
from the other German States.
Prussian men and women hardly know the meaning of the word
"private," and, as they have Prussianised to a great or less degree
all the other States of the Empire, they have inured the German to
publicity from childhood upwards.
In the enforcement of food regulations the hands of the Government
in Germany are strengthened by certain elements in the German
character, one of which is the tendency of people to spy upon each
other. Here is a case. Last Easter the customary baking of
cakes--a time-honoured ceremony in Germany---was forbidden all over
Prussia from April 1 to 26. A certain good woman of Stettin, whose
husband was coming home from the trenches, thought that she would
welcome her soldier with one of the cakes of which German men and
women are so fond. She foolishly displayed her treasure to a
neighbour, who had dropped in for gossip. The neighbour cut short
the interview, went home to her telephone, called up the police
and, as she put it, did her duty. I suppose from the German point
of view it is the duty of people to spy in each other's houses.
From an Anglo-Saxon point of view it is something rather like
sneaking at school.
With these elements in their character, it is natural that the
Germans should be past masters in the art of espionage. It does
not follow that they are equally successful in the deductions
formed from their investigations in foreign matters, but they are
so egoistical and so literal, so fond of making reports, so fond of
seeing things only from their own point of view, that, while they
may be successful in obtaining possession by spying, purchase, or
theft, of the plans, say, of a new battleship, they are not able to
form an accurate estimate of the character and intentions of the
people among whom they may be spying.
Their military spying is believed to be as perfect as such work can
be, marred occasionally by the contempt they feel for other nations
in military matters. I presume that there is not much difference
in the systems of various nations except that the German military
spying is probably more thorough.
It is also true that Germans of social distinction will often take
positions far beneath their rank in order to gather valuable
information for their Government. The case of the hall porter in
the _Hotel des Indes_, the most fashionable hotel in The Hague, is
a notorious example. He is of gentle birth, a brother of Baron von
Wangenheim, late German Ambassador to Constantinople.
In one of the most luxurious dining-saloons on one of the most
luxurious of the great German liners--I promised my trustworthy
informant not to be more definite--the man who was head-waiter
during the year preceding the war impressed those under him with
being much more interested in some mysterious business ashore than
in his duties aboard ship. He threw most of his work on
subordinates, who complained, though unsuccessfully, to the
management. Unlike other head-waiters and chief stewards, he was
never aboard the ship when it was in port. He was the only German
in the dining-saloon, and he seemed to have great influence. He
conversed freely with influential passengers of various
The liner was in the English Channel eastward bound, when news came
that Germany had declared war upon Russia. What little interest he
had previously displayed in his duties now vanished completely, and
he paced the deck more and more impatiently as the vessel neared
Cuxhaven. He was one of the first to go ashore, but before leaving
he turned to two of the stewards and exclaimed, "Good-bye. I am
going to Wilhelmshaven to take command of my cruiser."
In general, the work of military attaches of all countries is added
to by more or less formal reports by officers who may be travelling
on leave. But German military spying goes much farther than this,
for inasmuch as most Germans have been soldiers, the majority of
Germans travelling or resident in a foreign country are trained
observers of military matters and, often act as semi-spies.
The system of "sowing" Germans in foreign countries, as I have
heard it called in Germany, and getting them naturalised, was begun
by Prussia before the war of 1866 against Austria. It was so
successful under the indirect auspices of the Triumvirate--Moltke,
Roon, and Bismarck--that it was developed in other countries. Thus
it is that, while there are comparatively few Frenchmen, for
example, naturalised in England, many German residents go through
this more or less meaningless form just as suits their particular
business or the German Government, double nationality being
regarded as a patriotic duty to the Fatherland.
There are, as a rule, three schools of German espionage in other
countries--the Embassy, the Consulates, and the individual spies,
who have no connection with either and who forward their reports
direct to Germany.
There is a fourth class of fairly well-paid professional spies, men
and women, of all classes, who visit foreign countries with letters
of introduction, who attend working-men's conventions, scientific,
military, and other industrial congresses, receiving from 40 pounds
to 100 pounds monthly by way of pay. The case of Lody, whom the
British caught and executed, was a type of the patriotic officer
spy. But his execution caused no real regret in Germany, for he
was regarded as a clumsy fellow, who roused the vigilance of the
British authorities, with the result, I was informed in Germany, of
the arrest and execution of several others, mostly, it is said,
Dutch, South American, and other neutrals.
The atmosphere of spying in business is a subtle and comparatively
modern form of German espionage, and has developed with the
remarkable rise of German industry in the last quarter of a
century. It fits in admirably with the Consular spy system, and
links up Germans, naturalised and otherwise, in a chain which binds
them together in a solidarity of workers for the cause. The
Deutsche Bank and the Hamburg-Amerika Line were very potent engines
Nor does the "Viktoria Insurance Company of Berlin" limit its
activities to the kind of business suggested by the sign over the
door. A "Special Bureau" in the Avenue de l'Opera, Paris,
consisted of German Reserve officers who spent a half-year or more
in France. As soon as one of these "finished his education" he was
replaced by another Reserve officer. Their duties took them on
long motor-trips through eastern France, strangely enough to
localities which might be of strategic importance in the event of
war. It is not without significance that all the clerks of the
"Special Bureau" left for Germany the day of mobilisation.
Many of the semi-spies of the German commercial, musical, and
theatrical world are, from their point of view, honest workers and
enthusiastic for German _Kultur_. They recently fastened upon
England, because the Germans for many years have been taught to
regard this country as their next opponent.
They are now as industrious in the United States as they were in
England before the war, because those Germans who think they have
won the war believe that the United States is their next enemy.
How active they have been in my country may be gathered from the
revelations concerning Bernstorff, von Papen, Boyed, Dumba, the
officials of the Hamburg-Amerika Line, and many others, whose
machinations have been revealed by the _New York World_ and other
It is the duty of the German Minister and his staff in any foreign
country, and particularly in countries likely to become hostile, to
get as close as possible to members of Governments, members of
Legislatures, leaders of thought and society, and members of the
Press, especially the first and the last in this category. Count
Bernstorff in the United States did exactly what Prince Lichnowsky
did in Britain before the war, and, if I may say so, did it a great
deal more successfully, though it is the plea of the Prince's
defenders that he succeeded in making very powerful and permanent
connections in Great Britain,
Our American Ambassadors, on the other hand, confine their
attention to strictly ambassadorial work, attend to the needs of
travelling Americans, and communicate with their Government on
matters vital to American interests.
The excellent German Consular system, which has done so much to
help German trade invaders in foreign countries, is openly a spy
bureau, and is provided in almost every important centre with its
own secret service fund. Attached to it are spies and semi-spies,
hotel-keepers, hairdressers, tutors, governesses, and employees in
Government establishments, such as shipbuilding yards and armament
factories. It is a mistake to suppose that all these are Germans.
Some, I regret to say, are natives of the laud in which the Germans
are spying, mostly people who have got into trouble and with whom
the German agents have got into touch. Such men, especially those
who have suffered imprisonment, have often a grudge against their
own country and are easily caught in the spy net.
Part of the system in England before the war was a commercial
information bureau resembling the American Bradstreets and the
English Stubbs, by which, on payment of a small sum, the commercial
standing of any firm or individual can be obtained. This bureau,
which had its branches also in France and Belgium, closed its
activities immediately prior to the war, the whole of the
card-indexes being removed to Berlin.
It is the German boast, and I believe a legitimate one, that they
know England better than do the English. _Their error is in
believing that in knowing England they know the English themselves_.
At the outset of the war, when the Germans were winning, Herr
Albert Ulrich, of the Deutsche Bank, and chief of their Oil
Development Department, speaking in perfect English, told me in a
rather heated altercation we had in regard to my country that he
knew the United States and Great Britain very thoroughly indeed,
and boasted that the American submarines, building at Fore River,
of which the Germans had secured the designs, would be of little
value in the case of hostilities between Germany and the United
States, which he then thought imminent.
It is typical of German mentality that when I met him in Berlin,
fifteen months later, he had completely altered his time as to the
war, and his tone was, "When is this dreadful war going to end?"
This, however, is by the way. Herr Ulrich is only an instance of
the solidarity of Pan-Germanism. An English or American banker
visiting a foreign country attends to his affairs and departs. A
German in a similar position is a sort of human ferret. An hotel
with us is a place of residence for transient strangers. The
Hotel Adlon and others in Berlin are excellent hotels as such, but
mixed up with spying upon strangers; Herr Adlon, senior, a friend
of the Kaiser's, assists the Government spies when any important or
suspicious visitor registers. The hotel telephones or any other
telephones are systematically tapped. German soldiers are granted
special leave for hotel service--that is to say, hotel spying.
When Belgium and France were invaded, German officers led their men
through particular districts to particular houses with certainty,
with knowledge gained by previous residence and spying. I know an
officer with von Kluck's army who received the Iron Cross, First
Class, for special information he had given to von Kluck which
facilitated his progress through Belgium.
Any German spies who may be working in England to-day have no great
difficulty in communicating with Germany, though communication is
slow and expensive. They can do so by many routes and many means.
As it is impossible to isolate Great Britain from Europe, it is
equally impossible to prevent the conveyance of information to the
enemy with more or less rapidity. Agents of the various
belligerent Powers are plentiful in Switzerland, Holland, Denmark,
Norway and Sweden, and the United States. So far as the maritime
countries are concerned, ships leave and enter daily. It is quite
impossible to control the movements of neutral sailors and others
engaged in these vessels. To watch all the movements of all those
men would require a detective force of impossible dimensions. That
information comes and goes freely by these channels is notorious.
That all the sailors are legitimate sailors I do not believe, and
as a matter of fact I know that they are not.
The transmission of documents via Switzerland, Holland, Denmark,
Sweden, and Norway has been rendered difficult, but not always
impossible. Cabling and telegraphing have been made very risky.
Judging by the impatience manifested in certain quarters in Berlin
at delay in getting news of Zeppelin raids, for example, I believe
that the steps taken to delay communication between England and
Germany have been effective, and delay in spy work is very often
fatal to its efficiency. The various tentacles of the German spy
system, its checks and counter-checks, whereby one spy watches
another; whereby the naval spy system has no connection with the
military spy system, and the political with neither, greatly mars
Take one great question--the question that was all-important to
Germany as to whether Great Britain would or would not enter the
war in the event of an invasion of Belgium or declaration of war
against France. I was informed on good Berlin authority that from
every part of Great Britain and Ireland came different reports.
So far as London was concerned, Prince Lichnowsky said "No." Baron
von Kuhlmann was non-committal. As a result Lichnowsky was
disgraced and von Kuhlmann continued in favour.
It is common knowledge in Berlin, and may be elsewhere, that the
most surprised person in Germany at Great Britain's action was the
Kaiser, whose violent and continual denunciations of Great
Britain's Government, of King Edward, and King George, are repeated
from mouth to mouth in official circles with a sameness that
All the ignorance of Great Britain's intentions in 1914 is to me
the best proof that the German minute system of working does not
always produce the result desired.
As one with Irish blood in my veins, I found that Germany's Irish
spy system (largely conducted by hotel waiters and active for more
than five and twenty years) had resulted in hopeless
misunderstanding of Irish affairs and Irish character, North and
German spies are as a rule badly paid. The semi-spies, such as
waiters, were usually "helped" by the German Government through
waiters' friendly societies. It was the duty of these men to
communicate either in writing or verbally with the Consul, or with
certain headquarters either in Brussels or Berlin, and it is only
in accordance with human nature that spies of that class, in order
to gain a reputation for acumen and consequent increase of pay,
provided the kind of information that pleased the paymaster. That,
indeed, was one of the causes of the breakdown of the German
political spy system. A spy waiter or governess in the County of
Cork, for instance, who assiduously reported that a revolution
throughout the whole of Ireland would immediately follow Great
Britain's entry into the war, received much more attention than the
spy waiter in Belfast who told the authorities that if Germany went
to war many Irishmen would join England. Ireland, I admit, is very
difficult and puzzling ground for spy work, but it was ground
thoroughly covered by the Germans according to their methods.
The military party in Germany, who are flaying von Bethmann-Hollweg
for his ignorance of the intentions of Britain's Dominions and of
Ireland, never cease to throw in his teeth the fact that he had
millions of pounds (not marks) at his hack to make the necessary
investigations, and that he failed. That and his lack of the use
of ruthlessness, his alleged three days' delay to mobilise in 1914,
are the principal charges against him--charges which, in my
opinion, may eventually result in his downfall.
The great mob of semi-spies do not derive their whole income from
Germany, nor are they, I believe, all actually paid at regular
intervals. The struggling German shopkeeper in England was helped,
and I have no doubt is still helped, by occasional sums received
for business development--sums nominally in the nature of donations
or loans from other Germans. The army of German clerks, who came
to England and worked without salary between 1875 and 1900,
received, as a rule, their travelling money and an allowance paid
direct from Germany, or, when in urgent need, from the Consul in
London or elsewhere. Their spying was largely commercial, although
many of them formed connections here which became valuable as
Germany began to prepare directly for war with Britain. They also
helped to spread the knowledge of the English language which has
enabled Germany to analyse the country by means of its books,
Blue-books, statistical publications, and newspapers. They also
brought back with them topographical and local knowledge that
supplemented the military spy work later achieved by the German
officers who came to live here for spying purposes, and the great
army of _trained_ spy waiters, who are not to be confused with the
semi-spies in hotels, who drew small sums from Consuls.
One of the finest pieces of spy work achieved by Germany was the
obtaining by a German professor of a unique set of photographs of
the whole of the Scottish coast, from north to south. Those
photographs showing every inlet and harbour, are now at the
Reichs-Marine-Amt (Admiralty) in the Leipsigerplatz. They have
been reproduced for the use of the Navy. I do not know how they
were obtained. I _know_ they are in existence, and they were taken
for geological purposes.
Thefts of documents from British Government Departments are not
always successfully accomplished by German agents, I was told.
Some of the more astute officials are alleged, especially by the
Naval Department, to have laid traps and supplied the spies with
purposely misleading designs and codes.
Assiduous fishing in the troubled waters around the
Wilhelmstrasse--waters that will become more and more troubled as
the siege of Germany proceeds--renders the gathering of information
not so difficult as it might appear.
By sympathising with the critics of the German Foreign Office in
the violent attacks upon the Government by the non-official Social
Democrats, a sympathetic listener can learn a great deal.
One thing I learned is that, beyond question, the German spy