Part 4 out of 5
system, in that misty period called "after the war," will he very
completely revised. The huge sums of money mentioned in the
Reichstag as having been expended on secret service have, so far as
England is concerned, proved of no political value, and the
topographical and personal knowledge gained would only be of
service in case of actual invasion and the consequent exactions of
ransoms from individuals, cities, and districts.
THE IRON HAND IN ALSACE-LORRAINE
The state of affairs in Alsace-Lorraine is one of Germany's moat
carefully hidden secrets.
In the first months of the war I heard so much talk in
Germany--talk based upon articles in the Press--of how the
Alsatians, like the rest of the Kaiser's subjects, "rushed to the
defence of the Fatherland," that I was filled with curiosity to go
and see for myself if they had suddenly changed. I could hardly
believe that they had, for I had studied conditions in the "lost
provinces" before the war.
Still, the Wilhelmstrasse propaganda was convincing millions that
the Alsatians received the French very coldly when they invaded the
province to Mulhouse, and that they greeted the German troops most
heartily when they drove back the invader. Indeed, Alsatian
fathers were depicted as rushing into the streets to cheer the
German colours, while their wives and daughters "were so beside
themselves with joy that they hung upon the necks of the brave
German Michaels, hailing them as saviours."
A pretty picture of the appreciation of the blessings of German
rule, but was it true?
Some months later in Paris, when I stood in the Place de la
Concorde before the Monument of Strassburg, covered with new
mourning wreaths and a British flag now added, I felt an
irresistible yearning to visit the closely guarded region of
secrecy and mystery.
On my subsequent trip to Germany I planned and planned day after
day how I could get into Alsace and go about studying actual
conditions there. When I told one American consul that I wished to
go to Strassburg to see things for myself, he threw up his hands
with a gesture of despair and reminded me that not an American or
other consulate was allowed in Alsace-Lorraine, even in peace time.
When I replied that I was determined to go he looked grave, and
said earnestly: "Remember that you are going into a damn bad
country, and you go at your own, risk."
It is extremely difficult for Germans, to say nothing of
foreigners, to enter the fortress-city of Strassburg. Business
must be exceedingly urgent, and a military pass is required. A
special pass is necessary to remain over night.
How did I get into Strassburg in war-time?
That is my own story, quite a simple one, but I do not propose to
tell it now except by analogy, in order not to get anybody into
During my last voyage across the ocean, which was on the Dutch
liner _Rotterdam_, I went into the fo'castle one day to talk to a
stowaway, a simple young East Prussian lad, who had gone to sea and
had found himself in the United States at the outbreak of war.
"How on earth did you manage to pass through the iron-clad
regulations at the docks of Hoboken (New York) without a permit,
and why did you do it?" I asked.
"I was home-sick," he answered, "and I wanted to go back to Germany
to see my mother. I got on board quite easily. I noticed a
gentleman carrying his own baggage, and I said to him, 'Can I carry
your suitcases on board, sir?'"
Once on board his knowledge of ships told him how to hide.
Having myself stood for more than two hours on the quay in a long
and growling queue of passengers, I could not but be amused by the
simple device by which this country youth had outwitted the
stringent war embarkation regulations of war-time New York. He was
in due course taken off by the British authorities at Falmouth, and
is now probably enjoying the sumptuous diet provided at the
Alexandra Palace or the Isle of Man.
Well, that is not exactly how I got into Strassburg, but I got in.
Night had fallen when I crossed the Rhine from Baden. I was
conscious of an indescribable thrill when my feet touched the soil
so sacred to all Frenchmen, and I somehow felt as if I were walking
in fairyland as I pushed on in the dark. I had good fortune,
arising from the fact that a great troop movement was taking place,
with consequent confusion and crowding.
On all sides from the surrounding girdle of forts the searchlights
swept the sky, and columns of weary soldiers tramped past me on
that four-mile road that led into Strassburg. I kept as close to
them as possible with some other pedestrians, labourers returning
from the great electric power plant.
Presently I was alone on the road when suddenly a soldier lurched
from the shadows and accosted me. I let him do the talking. But
there was no need to be alarmed; he was only a drunken straggler
who had got separated from his company and wanted to know whether
any more troops were coming on.
I had already passed through two cordons of functionaries outside,
and felt little fear in Strassburg itself, so long as I was duly
cautious. I had thought out my project carefully. I realised that
I must sleep in the open; for, unprovided with a pass it was
impossible for me to go to an hotel. Thankful that I was familiar
with my surroundings I wended my way to the beautiful park, the
Orangerie, where I made myself comfortable in a clump of bushes and
watched the unceasing flash of searchlights criss-cross in the sky
until I fell asleep.
Next day I continued my investigations, but in Alsace as elsewhere
my personal adventures are of no importance to the world unless, as
in some instances, they throw light on conditions or are necessary
to support statements made, whereas the facts set down belong to
the history of the war. Therefore I shall here summarise what I
found in the old French province.
The Germans have treated Alsace-Lorraine ruthlessly since the
outbreak of war is no part of the Empire is the iron hand so
evident. In Strassburg itself all signs of the French have
disappeared. Readers who know the place well will remark that they
were vanishing before the war. Externally they have now gone
altogether, but the hearts and spirit of the people are as before.
What I saw reminded me of the words of a Social Democrat friend in
Berlin, who told me that the Prussian Government determined, at the
beginning of the war that they would have no more Alsace-Lorraine
problem in the future.
They have, therefore, sent the soldiers from these two provinces to
the most dangerous places at the various fronts. One Alsace
regiment was hurled again and again at the old British Army on the
Yser in November, 1914, until at the end of a week only three
officers and six men were left alive. Some of the most perilous
work at Verdun, was forced upon the Alsatians.
The Prussian authorities deliberately retain with the colours
Alsatians and Lorrainers unfit for military service, and wounded
men are not allowed to return to their homes.
In the little circle to which I was introduced in Strassburg I
talked with one sorrowing woman, who said that her son, obviously
in an advanced state of tuberculosis, had been called up in spite
of protests. He died within three weeks. Another young man,
suffering from haemorrhage of the lungs, was called up. He was
forced to stand for punishment all one winter's day in the snow.
In less than two months a merciful death in a military hospital
released him from the Prussian clutch.
The town of Strassburg is a vast hospital. I do not think I have
ever seen so many Red Cross flags before. They waved from the
Imperial Palace, the public library, the large and excellent
military hospitals, the schoolhouses, hotels, and private
residences. The Orangerie is thronged with convalescent wounded,
and when hunger directed my steps to the extensive Park Restaurant
I found it, too, converted into a hospital. Even the large concert
room was crowded with cots.
The glorious old sandstone Cathedral, with its gorgeous facade and
lace-like spire, had a Red Cross flag waving over the nave while a
wireless apparatus was installed on the spire. Sentries paced
backwards and forwards on the uncompleted tower, which dominates
the region to the Vosges.
The whole object of Prussia is to eliminate every vestige of French
influence in the two provinces. The use of the French language,
whether in speech or writing, is strictly forbidden. To print,
sell, offer for sale, or purchase anything in French is to commit a
crime. Detectives are everywhere on the alert to discover
violations of the law. All French trade names have been changed to
their German equivalents. For example, the sign _Guillaume Rondee,
Tailleur_, has come down, and if the tradesman wants to continue in
his business _Wilhelm Rondee, Schneider_, must go up. He may have
a quantity of valuable business forms or letter-heads in
French--even if they contain only one French word they must be
destroyed. And those intimate friends who are accustomed to
address him by his first name must bear in mind that it is
Eloise was a milliner at the outbreak of the war. Today, if she
desires to continue her business, she is obliged to remove the
final "e" and thus Germanise her name.
After having been fed in Berlin on stories of Alsatian loyalty to
the Kaiser, I was naturally puzzled by these things. If Guillaume
had rushed into the street to cheer the German colours when the
French were driven back, and Eloise had hung upon the neck of the
German Michael, was it not rather ungrateful of the Prussians
subsequently to persecute them even to the stamping out of their
names? Not only that, but to be so efficient in hate that even
inscriptions on tombstones may no longer be written in French?
Alsace-Lorraine is to be literally _Elsass-Lothringen_ to the last
The truth of the matter is that the Alsatians greeted the French as
deliverers and were depressed when they fell back. This, as might
be expected, exasperated Prussia, for it was a slap in the face for
her system of government by oppression. Thus, at the very time
that the _Nachrichtendienst_ (News Service) connected with the
Wilhelmstrasse was instructing Germans and neutrals that the
Alsatians' enthusiastic reception of German troops was evidence of
their approval of German rule, the military authorities were
posting quite a different kind of notice in Alsace, a notice which
reveals the true story.
"During the transport of French prisoners of war a portion of the
populace has given expression to a feeling of sympathy for these
prisoners and for France. This is to inform all whom it may
concern that such expressions of sympathy are criminal and
punishable, and that, should they again, take place, the persons
taking part in them will be proceeded against by court-martial, and
the rest of the inhabitants will be summarily deprived of the
privileges they now enjoy.
"All crowding around prisoners of war, conversations with them,
cries of welcome and demonstrations of sympathy of all kinds, as
well as the supply of gifts, is strictly prohibited. It is also
forbidden to remain standing while prisoners are being conducted or
to follow the transport."
The result of the persecution of the French-speaking portion of the
population has been a boomerang for Prussia. The Germans of the
region, most of whom never cared much for Prussia, are now bitterly
hostile to her, and thus it is that all citizens of Alsace, whether
French or German, who go into other parts of Germany are under the
same police regulations as alien enemies.
In order to permit military relentlessness to proceed smoothly
without any opposition, the very members of the local Parliament,
the Strassburg Diet, are absolutely muzzled. They have been
compelled to promise not to criticise at any time, or in any way,
the military control; otherwise their Parliament will be closed.
As for the local Councils, they are not allowed to discuss any
political questions whatsoever. A representative of the police is
present at every meeting to enforce this rule to the letter.
The people do not even get the sugared Reichstag reports, as does
the rest of Germany. These are specially re-censored at Mulhouse.
The official reports of the General Staff are often days late, and
sometimes do not appear at all. In no part of the war zone is
there so much ignorance about what is happening at the various
fronts as in the two "lost provinces."
Those who do not sympathise with Germany in her career of conquest
upon which she so joyfully and ruthlessly embarked in August, 1914,
may well point to Alsace-Lorraine as an argument against the
probability of other peoples delighting in the rule which she would
force upon them.
She has become more intolerant, not less, in the old French
provinces. It will be recalled that by the Treaty of Frankfurt,
signed in March, 1871, they became a "Reichsland," that is, an
Imperial Land, not a self-governing State like Bavaria, Saxony, or
Wurttemberg. As Bismarck bluntly and truly said to the Alsatian
deputies in the Reichstag: "It is not for _your_ sakes nor in
_your_ interests that we conquered you, but in the interests of the
For more than forty years Prussia has employed every means but
kindness to Germanise the conquered territory. But though she has
hushed every syllable of French in the elementary schools and
forced the children to learn the German language and history only;
though freedom of speech, liberty of the Press, rights of public
meeting, have been things unknown; though even the little children
playing at sand castles have been arrested and fined if in their
enthusiasm they raised a tiny French flag, or in the excitement of
their mock contest cried "Vive la France!"; though men and women
have been fined and thrown into prison for the most trifling
manifestations that they had not become enthusiastic for their
rulers across the Rhine; and though most of the men filling
Government positions--and they are legion--are Prussians, the
Alsatians preserve their individuality and remain uncowed.
Having failed in two score of years to absorb them by force,
Prussia during the war has sought by scientific methods carried to
any extreme to blot out for ever themselves and their spirit.
To do the German credit, I believe that he is sincere when he
believes that his rule would be a benefit to others and that he is
genuinely perplexed when he discovers that other people do not like
his regulations. The attitude which I have found in Germany
towards other nationalities was expressed by Treitschke when he
said, "We Germans know better what is good for Alsace than the
unhappy people themselves."
The German idea of how she should govern other people is an
anachronism. This idea, which I have heard voiced all over
Germany, was aptly set forth before the war by a speaker on "The
Decadence of the British Empire," when he sought to prove such
decadence by citing the fact that there was only one British
soldier to every 4,000 of the people of India. "Why," he
concluded, "Germany has more soldiers in Alsace-Lorraine alone than
Great Britain has in all India."
That is a bad spirit for the world, and it is a bad spirit for
Germany. She herself will receive one great blessing from the war
if it is hammered out of her.
THE WOMAN IN THE SHADOW
The handling of the always difficult question of the eternal
feminine was firmly tackled by the German Government almost
immediately after the outbreak of war.
To understand the differences between, the situation here and in,
Germany it is necessary first to have a little understanding of the
German woman and her status. With us, woman is treated as
something apart, something on a pedestal. In Germany and in
Austria the situation is reversed. The German man uses his home as
a place to eat and sleep in, and be waited upon. The attitude of
the German woman towards the man is nearly always that of the
obedient humble servant to command. If a husband and wife are out
shopping it is often enough the wife who carries the parcels. In
entering any public place the middle-class man walks first and the
wife dutifully follows. When leaving, it is the custom for the man
to be helped with his coat before the woman. Indeed, she is
generally left to shift for herself.
Woman is the under sex, the very much under sex, in Germany,
regarded by the man as his plaything or as his cook-wife and nurse
of his children; and she will continue to be the under sex until
she develops pride enough to assert herself. She accepts her
inferiority without murmur; indeed, she often impresses one as
delighting in it.
It is no dishonour for a girl of the middle or lower class to have
a liaison with some admirer, particularly if he is a student or a
young officer; in fact, it is quite the proper thing for him to be
welcomed by her parents, although it is perfectly well understood
that he has not the slightest idea of marrying her. The girls are
doing their part to help along the doctrine of free love, the
preaching and practice of which are so greatly increasing in the
modern German State.
After marriage the woman's influence in the world is nearly zero.
The idolatry of titles is carried to an extreme in Germany which
goes from the pathetic to the ludicrous. One does not address a
German lady by her surname, as Frau Schmidt, but by her husband's
title or position, as Frau Hauptmann (Mrs. Captain), Frau Doktor,
Frau Professor, Frau Bakermeister (Mrs. Bakershopowner), or even
Frau Schornsteinfegermeister (Mrs. Master Chimneysweep), although
her husband may be master over only some occasional juvenile
assistant. In military social functions, and they are of daily
occurrence in garrison towns, Mrs. Colonel naturally takes
precedence in all matters over the wives and daughters of other
members of the regiment. Contemplate the joyful existence of a
vivacious American or British girl, accustomed to the respectful
consideration of the other sex, married to a young lieutenant and
ruled over by all the wives of his superior officers!
To try to marry money is considered praiseworthy and correct in
German military circles. In Prussia a lieutenant in peace times
receives for the first three years 60 pounds a year, from the
fourth to the sixth year 85 pounds, from the seventh to the ninth
year 99 pounds, from the tenth to the twelfth year 110 pounds, and
after the twelfth year 130 pounds a year. A captain receives from
the first to the fourth year 170 pounds, from the fifth to the
eighth year 230 pounds, and the ninth year and after 355 pounds.
Thus it is that no young lady, however ugly, need be without an
officer husband if she has money enough to buy one. If he has not
a private income, the Government forbids him to marry until his pay
is sufficient. That point is seldom reached before he is
thirty-five years of age. Marriage helps him out of the
difficulty, and since the army is so deified in the Fatherland that
the highest ambition of nearly every girl is to marry an officer,
his opportunity of trading shoulder-knots for a dowry is excellent.
The efforts of some women to increase their fortune sufficiently to
enable them to invest in a military better-half are pathetic from
an Anglo-Saxon point of view. One woman who requested an interview
with me said that as I was an American correspondent I might be
able to advise her how she could dispose of a collection of
autographs to some American millionaire. She explained that her
financial condition was not so good as formerly, but she was
desperate to better it as she was in love with an officer, who,
although he loved her, would have to marry another if she could not
increase her income. The autographs she showed me were from Prince
Henry of Prussia, Prince Bulow and other notables, and most of them
were signed to private letters.
Take the story of Marie and Fritz, both of whom I knew in a
garrison city in eastern Germany. Nothing could illustrate better
the difference between the German attitude and our own on certain
matters. She was a charming, lovable girl of nineteen engaged to
an impecunious young lieutenant a few years older. They moved in
the best circle in the _Garnisonstadt_.
Two years after their engagement her father lost heavily in
business and could no longer afford to settle 5,000 pounds on her
to enable them to marry.
It mattered not; theirs was true love, and they would wait until
his pay was sufficient,
All went well until another girl, as unattractive as Marie was
charming, decided that she would try to buy Fritz as a husband.
After four months of her acquaintance he found time at the end of a
day's drill to write a few lines informing the young lady, nine
years of whose life he had monopolised, of his intention to marry
the new rival. Life became black for Marie, the more as she
realised that she and Fritz had only to wait a little longer and
his pay would be sufficient.
How would Fritz be regarded in this country, and how was he
regarded according to German standards? That is what makes the
story worth telling. With us such a man as Fritz would have been
cut socially and there would have been great sympathy for the sweet
girl whose years had been wasted. But on the other side of the
Rhine women exist solely for the comfort of men. In militaristic
Germany Fritz lost not an iota of the esteem of his friends of
either sex; as for Marie, she had failed in a fair game, that was
all. The girl's mother even excused his conduct by saying that he
was ambitious to get ahead in the army. Like most of her sex in
Germany she has been reared to venerate the uniform so much that
anything done by the man who wears it is quite excusable. Indeed,
Marie's mother still listens with respectful approval at
_Kaffeeklatsch_ to Fritz's mother when she boasts of what her son
is doing as a major over Turkish troops.
German women have many estimable qualities, but a proper amount of
independence and pride is noticeably foreign to their natures. Is
it surprising that the American girl of German parents requires
only a very brief visit to the Fatherland to convince her that the
career of the _Hausfrau_ is not attractive.
On the whole, the efforts of the German woman have almost doubled
the national output of war energy. Except in Berlin few are idle,
and these only among the newly-rich class. The women of the upper
classes, both in Germany and Austria, are either in hospitals or
are making comforts for the troops. Women have always worked
harder in Germany and at more kinds of work than in Britain or the
States, and what, judging by London illustrated papers, seems to be
a novelty--the engagement of women in agricultural and other
pursuits--is just the natural way of things in Germany. It should
always be remembered, when estimating German man-power and German
ability to hold out, that the bulk of the work of civil life is
being done by prisoners and women. A German woman and a prisoner
of war, usually a Russian, working side by side in the fields is a
common sight throughout Germany.
It is the boast of the Germans that their building constructions
are going on as usual. I have myself seen plenty of evidence of
this, such as the grading of the Isar at Munich, the completion of
the colossal railway station at Leipzig, the largest in Germany,
the construction of the new railway station at Gorlitz, the
complete building since the war of the palatial Hotel Astoria at
Leipzig, also two gigantic new steel and concrete palaces in the
same city for the semi-annual fair, the erection of a new
Hamburg-America Line office building adjacent to the old one and
dwarfing it. The slaughter-house annexes, contracted for in days
of peace, continue their slow growth, although Berlin has no
present need for such extension in these half-pound-of-meat-a-week
The construction of the Nord-Sud Bahn of the underground railway,
for linking up the north and south sections of Berlin has proceeded
right along, the women down in the pit with picks and shovels doing
the heavy work of navvies. That department of the German
Government whose duty it is to enlighten Neutrals is not too proud
of the fact, surprisingly enough. An American kinematograph
operator, Mr. Edwards, of Mr. Hearst's papers, was desirous of
taking a film of these women navvies--heavy, sad creatures they
are. The Government stepped in and suggested that, although they
had no objection to a personally conducted and posed picture--in
which the women would no doubt smile to order--they could not
permit the realities of this unwomanly task to be shown in the form
of a truth-telling moving picture.
German authorities are utilising every kind of woman. The social
evil, against which the Bishop of London and others are agitating
in England, was effectively dealt with by the German authorities,
not only for the sake of the health of the troops, but in the
interests of munitions. Women of doubtful character were first
told that if found in the neighbourhood of barracks or in cafes
they were liable to be arrested, and when so found were immediately
removed to their native places, and put into the nearest cartridge
filling or other shop. The double effect has been an increased
output of munitions for the army and increased health for the
soldier, and such scenes as one may witness in Piccadilly or other
London streets at night have been effectively squelched by the
strong Prussian hand, with benefit to all concerned.
I am not speaking of German morals in general, which are notorious.
I merely state the practical way the Germans turn the women of the
street into useful munition makers.
The lot of the German woman has been much more difficult than the
lot of her sister in the Allied countries, for upon her has fallen
the great and increasing burden of the struggle to get enough to
eat for her household. In practically all classes of Germany it
has been the custom of the man to come home from his work, whether
in a Government office, bank, or factory, for his midday meal,
usually followed by an hour's sleep.
The German man is often a greedy fellow as regards meals. For him
special food is always provided, and the wife and children sit
round patiently watching him eat it. He expects special food
to-day. The soldier, of course, is getting it, and properly, but
the stay-at-homes, who are men over forty-five or lads under
nineteen, still get the best of such food as can be got.
Exceptions to the nineteen to forty-five rule are very few indeed.
National work in Germany means war work pure and simple, and now
the women are treated exactly as the men in this respect, except
that they will not be sent to the front.
In January, 1917, Germany at length began formally to organise the
women of the country to help in the war. Each of the six chief
army "commands" throughout the Empire now has a woman attached to
it as Directress of the "Division for Women's Service." Hitherto,
as in England, war work by women has been entirely voluntary. The
Patriotic Auxiliary Service (Mass Levy) Law is not compulsory so
far as female labour is concerned. German women, however, having
proclaimed that they regard themselves liable for national service
under the spirit if not the letter of the law, it has finally been
decided to mobilise their services on a more systematic basis than
in the past.
None of the countless revolutions in German life produced by the
war outstrips in historical importance this official linking up of
women with the military machine. Equally striking is the fact that
the directresses of Women's Service, who hold office in Berlin,
Breslau, Magdeburg, Coblenz, Konigsberg, and Karlsruhe, are all
feminist leaders and promoters of the women's emancipation
movement. The directress for the Mark of Brandenburg (the
Berlin-Potsdam district) is an able Jewess named Dr. Alice Salomon,
who is one of the pioneers of the German women's movement. The
main object of the "Women's Service" Department is to organise
female labour for munitions and other work from which men can be
liberated for the fighting line.
I have nothing but praise and admiration for the way in which the
German women have thrown themselves into this struggle. Believing
implicitly as they have been told--and with the exception of the
lower classes, after more than two years of war, they believe
everything the Government tells them--that this war was carefully
prepared by "Sir Grey" (Lord Grey of Fallodon), "the man without a
conscience," as he is called in Germany, they feel that they are
helping to fight a war for the defence of their homes and their
children, and the cynics at the German Foreign Office, who
manufacture their opinions for them, rub this in in sermons from
the pastors, novels, newspaper articles, faked cinema films,
garbled extracts from Allied newspapers, books, and bogus
photographs, Reichstag orations by Bethmann-Hollweg, and the rest
of it, not forgetting the all-important lectures by the professors,
who are unceasing in their efforts all over Germany.
To show how little the truth of the war is understood by the German
women, I may mention an incident that occurred at the house of
people of the official class at which I was visiting one day. The
eldest son, who was just back from the Somme trenches, suffering
from slight shell-shock, brought home a copy of a London
illustrated paper, which had been thrown across the trenches by the
English. In this photograph there was a picture of a long
procession of German prisoners captured by the English. The
daughter of the house, a well-read girl of nineteen, blazed up at
the sight of this photograph, and showed it to her mother, who was
equally surprised. The son of the house remarked, "Surely you know
the English have taken a great many prisoners?"
His mother, realising her mistake, looked confused, and simply
said, "I didn't think." In other words, the obvious fact that
Germans were sometimes captured had never been pointed out to her
by the Government, and most Germans are accustomed to think only
what they are officially told to think.
While there are an increasing number of doubters among the German
males as to the accuracy of statements issued by the Government, in
the class with which I mostly came into contact in Germany, the
women are blindfold and believe all they are told. So strong, too,
is the influence of Government propaganda on the people in Germany
that in a town where I met two English ladies married to Germans,
they believed that Germany had Verdun in her grasp, had annihilated
the British troops (mainly black) on the Somme, had defeated the
British Fleet in the battle of Skagerrak (Jutland), and reduced the
greater part of the fortifications, docks, and munition factories
of London to ruins by Zeppelins.
Their anguish for the fate of their English relations was sincere,
and they were intensely hopeful that Britain would accept any sort
of terms of peace in order to prevent the invasion which some
people in Germany still believe possible.
At the beginning of the war the click of the knitting needle was
heard everywhere; shop-girls knitted while waiting for customers,
women knitted in trams and trains, at theatres, in churches, and,
of course, in the home. The knitting is ceasing now for the very
practical reason that the military authorities have commandeered
all the wool for the clothing of the soldiery. A further reason
for the stoppage of such needlework is the fact that women are
engaged in countless forms of definite war work.
Upon the whole it is beyond question that the German women are not
standing the losses as well as the British women. I have been
honoured in England by conversations with more than one lady who
has lost many dear ones. The attitude is quieter here than in
Germany, and is not followed by the peace talk which such events
produce in German households.
What surprises me in England is the fact that the word "peace" is
hardly ever mentioned anywhere, whereas in any German railway train
or tramcar the two dominant words are Friede (peace) and Essen
(food). The peace is always a German idea of peace--for the
extreme grumblers do not talk freely in public--and the food talk
is not always the result of the shortage, but of the great
difficulty in getting what is to be obtained, together with the
increasing monotony of the diet.
It must not be supposed, however, that the life of feminine Germany
is entirely a gloomy round of duty and suffering. Among the women
of the poor, things are as bad as they can be. They are getting
higher wages than ever, but the food usury and the blockade rob
them of the increase.
The middle and upper classes still devote a good deal of time to
the feminine pursuits of shopping and dressing. The outbreak of
war hit the fashions at a curious moment. Paris had just abandoned
the tight skirt, and a comical struggle took place between the
Government and those women who desired to be correctly gowned.
The Government said, "In order to avoid waste of material, you must
stick to the tight skirt," and the amount of cloth allowed was
carefully prescribed. Women's desire to be in the mode was,
however, too powerful for even Prussianism. Copies of French
fashion magazines were smuggled in from Paris through Switzerland,
passed from dressmaker to dressmaker, and house to house, and
despite the military instructions and the leather shortage, wide
skirts and high boots began to appear everywhere,
This feminine ebullition was followed by an appeal from the
Government to abandon all enemy example and to institute new German
fashions of their own making. Models were exhibited in shop
windows of what were called the "old and elegant Viennese
fashions." These, however, were found to be great consumers of
material, and the women still continued to imitate Paris.
The day before I left Berlin I heard an amusing conversation in the
underground railway between two women, one of whom was talking
about her hat. She told her friend that she found the picture of
the hat in a smuggled fashion paper, and had it made at her
milliner's and she was obviously very pleased with her taste.
The women in the munition factories, who number millions, wear a
serviceable kind of uniform overall.
The venom of the German women in regard to the war is quite in
contrast to the feeling expressed by English women. They have read
a great deal about British and American women and they cordially
detest them. Their point of view is very difficult to explain.
When I have told German women that in many States in my country
women have votes, their reply is, "How vulgar!" Their attitude
towards the whole question of women's franchise is that it is a
form of Anglo-Saxon lack of culture and lack of authority.
The freedom accorded to English and American girls is entirely
misunderstood. A Dutch girl who, in the presence of some German
ladies, expressed admiration for certain aspects of English
feminine life, was fiercely and venomously attacked by that
never-failing weapon, the German woman's tongue. The poor thing,
who mildly expressed the view that hockey was a good game for
girls, and the fine complexions and elegant walk of English women
were due to outdoor sports, was reduced almost to tears.
The intolerance of German women is almost impossible to express. I
know a case of one young girl, a German-American, whose parents
returned to Hamburg, who declined to repeat the ridiculous German
formula, "Gott strafe England," and stuck to her point, with the
result that she was not invited to that circle again.
To the cry "Gott strafe England" has been added "Gott strafe
Amerika," the latter being as popular with the German women as the
German men. The pastors, professors, and the Press have told the
German women that their husbands and sons and lovers are being
killed by American shells. A man who ought to know better, like
Prince Rupert of Bavaria, made a public statement that half of the
Allies' ammunition is American. After the British and French
autumn offensive of 1915 the feeling against America on the part of
German women became so intense that the American flag had to be
withdrawn from the American hospital at Munich, although that
hospital, supported by German-American funds, has done wonderful
work for the German wounded.
Arguments with German women about the war are absolutely futile.
They follow the war very closely after their own method, and
believe that any defeats, such as on the Somme or Verdun, are
tactical rearrangements of positions, dictated by the wisdom of the
General Staff, and so long as no Allied troops are upon German soil
so long will the German populace believe in the invincibility of
its army. I am speaking always of the middle and upper classes,
who are on the whole, but with increasing exceptions, as intensely
pro-war as the lower classes are anti-war.
The modern German Bible is the _Zeitung_ (the rough translation of
which is "newspaper") and German women are even more fanatical than
the men, if possible, in their worship of it.
On one occasion, when I candidly remarked that von Papen and Boy-Ed
came back to the Fatherland for certain unbecoming acts, some of
which I enumerated, a Frau Hauptmann jumped to her feet and, after
the customary brilliant manner of German argument, shrieked that I
was a liar. She declared that their _Zeitung_ had said nothing
about the charges I mentioned, therefore they, were not true. She
furthermore promised to report me to Colonel ------ at the
_Kriegsministerium_ (War Office), and she kept her word.
The neglect, and, in some cases refusal, to attend the British
wounded by German nurses are a sign both of their own intensity of
feeling in regard to the war and their entirely different
mentality. Again and again I have heard German women say, "In the
event of a successful German invasion of England the women will
accompany the men, and teach the women of England that war is war."
Their remarks in regard to the women of my own country are equally
offensive. Indeed, States that Germany regards as neutral, and who
are treated by the officially controlled German Press with a
certain amount of respect, are loathed by German women. Their
attitude is that all who are not on their side are their enemies.
American women who are making shells for the British, French, and
Russians are just as much the enemies of Germany as the Allied
soldiers and sailors. One argument often used is that to be
strictly neutral America should make no munitions at all, but it
would not be so bad, say the Germans, if half the American
ammunition went to Germany and half to the Allies.
I lost my temper once by saying to one elderly red-faced Frau,
"Since you have beaten the British at sea, why don't you send your
ships to fetch it?" "Our fleet," she said, "is too busy choking
the British Fleet in its safe hiding places to afford time to go to
America. You will see enough of our fleet one day, remember that!"
Summing up this brief and very sketchy analysis of German
femininity in the war, I reiterate views expressed on previous
visits to Germany, that German women are not standing the anxiety
of the war as well as those of France and Britain.
They have done noble work for the Fatherland, but the grumblings of
the lower third of the population are now such as have not been
heard since 1848. German officials in the Press Department of the
Foreign Office try to explain the unrest away to foreign
correspondents like myself, but many thinking Germans are surprised
and troubled by this unexpected manifestation on the part of those
who for generations have been almost as docile and easily managed
THE WAR SLAVES OF ESSEN
Essen, the noisiest town in the world, bulks largely in the
imagination of the Entente Allies, but "Essen" is not merely one
city. It is a centre or capital of a whole group of arsenal towns.
Look at your map of Germany, and you will see how temptingly near
they are to the Dutch frontier. Look at the proximity of Holland
and Essen, and you will understand the Dutch fear of Germany. You
will grasp also the German fear, real as well as pretended, that
the battle of the Somme may one day be accompanied by a thrust at
the real heart of Germany, which, is Westphalia--Westphalia with
its coal and iron and millions of trained factory hands.
I saw when in Germany extracts from speeches by British politicians
in which the bombing of Essen by air was advocated. Perhaps the
task would have been easier if the bombing had come first and the
speeches afterwards. Forewarned, forearmed; and Essen is now very
All German railroads seem to lead to this war monster. Attached to
almost every goods train in Germany you will see wagons marked
"Essen--special train." Wagons travel from the far ends of Austria
and into Switzerland, which is showing its strict neutrality by
making munitions for both sides.
On the occasion of my second visit to Essen during the war I
arrived at night. It was before the time of the bombing speeches,
and, though it was well into the hours when the world is asleep,
the sky glowed red with a glare that could be seen for full thirty
miles. My German companion glowed also, as he opened the carriage
window and bade me join him in a peep at what we were coming to.
"This is the place where we make the stuff to blow the world to
pieces," he proudly boasted. "If our enemies could only see that
the war would be over."
I suggested that Essen was not the only arsenal. There were, for
instance, Woolwich, Glasgow, Newcastle, Creusot, and in my own
strictly neutral country Bethlehem, Bridgeport, and one or two
other humble hamlets. He brushed aside my remarks, "But we have
also here is this very region Dortmund, Bochum, Witten, Duisburg,
Krefeld, Dusseldorf, Solingen, Elberfeld and Barmen."
As we approached nearer, freight trains, military trains and
passenger trains were everywhere. Officers and soldiers crowded
the station platforms, and though it was night the activity of
these Rhenish-Westphalian arsenal towns impressed me with the
belief that unless the British blockade can strictly exclude
essentials, such as copper and nickel, especially from their
roaring factories, the war will be needlessly protracted.
It is not necessary to be long in Rhineland and Westphalia to
realise that a shortage in these and other essentials is much more
disturbing to the heads of these wonderful organisations than the
fear of aerial bombs.
On the occasion of my first war-time visit to Essen it would have
been easy to have bombed it. There is an old saying that a
shoemaker's children are the worst shod, and the display of
anti-aircraft guns which has since manifested itself was then
non-existent. The town was ablaze. It is still ablaze, but the
lighting has been cunningly arranged to deceive nocturnal visitors,
and any aeroplanes approaching Essen at a height of twelve or
fifteen thousand feet would find it hard to discover which was
Essen, and which Borbeck, and which was Steele.
Mulheim is easily found, because it is close to the River Ruhr. We
had to halt a long time outside the station of Essen, so great was
the pressure of traffic. The cordon surrounding the entrance to
the city is some distance away, and having passed that safely I had
no fear of being again interrogated.
I told the hotel manager that I was a travelling newspaper
correspondent, and should like to see as many as possible, of the
wonders of his town. After praise of his hostelry, which, as the
sub-manager said, was too good for the Essenites, I set out on my
travels to see the sights of the city, foremost among them being
the regulation statue of William I.
It was easy to find Krupps, for I had only to turn my steps towards
the lurid panorama in the sky. As I came nearer, not only my sense
of sight but my sense of hearing told me that Germany's great
arsenal was throbbing with unwonted life. The crash and din of
mighty steam hammers and giant anvils, the flame and flash of
roaring blast furnaces, the rumbling of great railway trucks
trundling raw and finished products in and out, chimneys of dizzy
height belching forth monster coils of Cimmerian smoke, seem to
transport one from the prosaic valley of the Ruhr into the
deafening realm of Vulcan and Thor. The impression of Krupps by
night is ineffaceable. The very air exudes iron and energy. You
can almost imagine yourself in the midst of a thunderous artillery
duel. You are at any rate in no doubt that the myriad of hands at
work behind those carefully guarded walls are even more vital
factors in the war than the men in the firing line. The blaze and
roar fill one with the overpowering sense of the Kaiser's limitless
resources for war-making. For you must roll Sheffield and
Newcastle-on-Tyne and Barrow-in-Furness into one clanging whole to
In some way Essen is unlike any other town I have visited. It has
its own internal network of railways, running to and from the
various branches of Krupps, and as the trains pass across the
streets they naturally block the traffic for some minutes. They
are almost continuous and the pedestrians' progress is slow, but it
is exciting, for it is here that one realises what it means to be
at war with Germany. If the resolution of the German people were
as rigid as the steel in the great cranes and rolling mills, the
Allied task would be impossible.
The brief noon-tide rush of the workpeople resembles our six
o'clock rush in America towards Brooklyn Bridge. I can say no more
than that. There is nothing like it in London. The home-going
crowd round the Bank of England does not compare with the Essen
crowd, because the crowd at Essen is for a few minutes more
concentrated. Old and young, men and women, refugees and prisoners
of several nationalities (I saw no British), Poles and Russians
predominating, grimy, worn, and weary, they pour out in a solid
mass, and cover the tramcars like bees in swarming time. The
pedestrians gradually break up into little companies, most of them
going to Kronenberg and other model colonies founded by Frau
Krupp--"Bertha," as she is affectionately called throughout
Germany. The highest honour the Germans can bestow upon her is to
name their 16-inch howitzer "Fat Bertha." Frau Bertha Krupp, it
may be well to recall, was the heiress to the great Krupp fortune,
and on her marriage in 1906 to Herr von Bohlen und Halbach, a
diplomatist, he changed his name to Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach.
Though a private corporation with 12,500,000 pounds share capital
owned by the "Cannon Queen" and her family, it is to all intents
and purposes a Government Department just as Woolwich Arsenal is an
adjunct of the British War Office. In the past, as the elaborate
centenary (1910) memorial proudly recites, fifty-two Governments
throughout the world have bought Krupp guns, armour, shells, and
warships, with Germany by far the biggest customer.
Out of the stupendous profits of war machines the Krupps have built
workpeople's houses that, as regards material comfort, would not be
easy to excel. These houses are provided with ingenious
coal-saving stoves, that might well be copied elsewhere, for though
Essen is in the coal centre of Germany, they are just as careful
about coal as though it were imported from the other end of the
Frau Bertha and her husband (a simple and modest man, who is, I was
informed, entirely in the hands of his specialists, and who has the
wisdom to let well alone) have put up a big fight with Batocki, the
food dictator. The semi-famine had not reached its height when I
was in Essen, and the suffering was not great there. A
munition-maker working in any of the Rhenish-Westphalian towns is
regarded by Germans as a soldier. As the war has proceeded he has
been subject to continuous combing out.
The amount of food allowed to those engaged in these great
factories and rolling mills is, I estimate, 33 per cent. more than
that allowed to the rest of the civil population. In all the
notices issued throughout Germany in regard to further food
restrictions, there is appended the line, "This change is necessary
owing to the need for fully supplying your brothers in the army and
the munition works."
Essen is a town that before the war had a population exceeding
300,000. A conservative estimate makes the figure to-day nearly
half a million. The Krupp Company employ about 120,000. A
prevalent illusion is that Krupps confine their war-time effort
exclusively to making war material. That is a mistake. A
considerable part of Krupp's work is the manufacture of articles
which can be exchanged for food and other products in neighbouring
countries, thus taking the place of gold. At Lubeck, I saw the
quays crowded with the products of Essen in the shape of steel
girders and other building machinery going to Sweden in exchange
for oil, lime from Gotland, iron ore, paper, wood, and food
A mining engineer of the great mines at Kiruna, Lapland, told me
that he had just given an order for steam shovels from the
Westphalian manufacturers, who are also sending into Holland knives
and scissors and other cutlery and tools.
Germany's principal bargaining commodities with contiguous neutral
nations are steel building materials, coal, and dye-stuffs. Coal
dug in Belgium by Belgian miners is a distinct asset for Germany,
when she exchanges it for Swiss cattle, Dutch cheese, and Swedish
wood. When we consider that the great industrial combinations of
Rhineland and Westphalia are not only reaping enormous munition
profits, but supply the steel and coal which form the bulk of
German war-time exports, we can easily understand why some Social
Democrats grew dissatisfied because the all-powerful National
Liberals resisted a war profits tax for two years. It is
noteworthy that several of the more outspoken German editors have
been suspended for attacking these profiteers.
I should qualify this statement of exports slightly by saying that
they pertained up to November, 1916. The effort to put more than
ten million men into military uniform resulted not only in the
slave-raids in Belgium but in a concentration in munition output
that stopped further exports of steel products and coal on a large
We should always remember in this great war of machinery that
Germany secured a tremendous advantage at the expense of France at
the outset when she occupied the most important French iron region
of Longwy-Briey. The Germans, as I previously observed, have been
working the French mines to the utmost--indeed, they boast that
they have installed improved machinery in them. They have,
furthermore, been importing ore steadily from Sweden, some of the
Swedish ore, such as Dannemora, being the best in the world for the
manufacture of tool steel--so important in munition work.
Dusseldorf, probably the most attractive large manufacturing city
in the world, had planned an industrial exhibition for 1915 or
1916, and the steel skeletons of many of the buildings had already
been erected at the outbreak of war. But the Germans immediately
set to work to tear down the steel frames to use them for more
practical purposes. "We were going to call it a _German Fair_,"
said a native manufacturer to me early in the war; "but we can have
it later and call it a _World's Fair_, as the terms will be
Isolated near the Rhine is the immense reconstructed Zeppelin shed
which British airmen in November, 1914, partly destroyed, together
with the nearly completed Zeppelin within it. The daring exploit
evidently work up the newly appointed anti-aircraft gunners, for
they subsequently annihilated two of their own machines approaching
from the West.
The badly paid war slaves of Essen are working the whole
twenty-four hours, seven days a week, in three shifts a day of
eight hours each, under strict martial law. The town is a hotbed
of extreme Social Democracy, and as a rule the Socialists of
Westphalia are almost as red as those of the manufacturing
districts of Saxony. But Socialists though they be, they are just
as anti-British as the rest of Germany, and they like to send out
their products with the familiar hall-mark of "Gott strafe
England," or "Best wishes for King George." It is the kind of
Socialism that wants more money, more votes, less work, but has no
objection to plenty of war. It is a common-sense Socialism, which
knows that without war Essen might shrink to its pre-war dimensions.
Essen is very jealous of the great Skoda works near Pilsen in
Austria. My hotel manager spoke with some acerbity of the amount
of advertising the Austrian siege howitzers were receiving. "You
can accept my assurance," he said, "that the guns for the
bombardment of Dover were made here, and not at the Skoda works, as
the Austrians claim."
Every German in Essen seems to feel a personal pride in the
importance of the works to the Empire at the fateful hour. The
43-centimetre gun "which conquered Belgium"--as the native puts
it--is almost deified. Everybody struts about in the consciousness
that he or she has had directly or indirectly something to do with
the murderous weapon which has wrought such death and glory in
Germany's name. "The Empire has the men, Essen has the
armour-plate, the torpedoes, the shells, the guns. It is the
combination which must win." That is the spirit in Kruppville.
TOMMY IN GERMANY
One day the world will be flooded with some of the most dramatic,
horrible, and romantic of narratives--the life-stories of the
British soldiers captured in the early days of the war, their gross
ill-treatment, their escapes, and attempts at escape. I claim to
be the only unofficial neutral with any large amount of
eye-witness, hand-to-hand knowledge of those poor men in Germany.
One of the most difficult tasks I assumed during the war was the
personal and unconducted investigation of British prisoners of war.
The visitor is only allowed to talk with prisoners when visiting
camps under the supervision of a guide. My tramps on foot all over
Germany gave me valuable information on this as on other matters.
My task was facilitated by the Germany policy of showing the hated
British captives to as many people as possible; thus the 30,000 men
have been scattered into at least 600 prison camps. In the
depleted state of the German Army it is not easy to find efficient
guards for so many establishments. Prisoners are constantly being
moved about. They are conveyed ostentatiously and shown at railway
stations en route, where until recently they were allowed to be
spat upon by the public, and were given coffee into which the
public were allowed to spit. These are but a few of the slights
and abominations heaped upon them. Much of it is quite unprintable.
Many a night did I lie awake in Berlin cogitating how to get into
touch with some of these men. I learned something on a previous
visit in 1914, when I saw the British prisoners at one of the
camps. At that time it was impossible to get into conversation
with them. They were efficiently and continually guarded by
comparatively active soldiers.
On this occasion I came across my first British prisoner quite by
accident, and, as so often happens in life, difficult problems
settle themselves automatically. In nothing that I write shall I
give any indication of the whereabouts of the sixty prisoners with
whom I conversed privately, but there can be no harm in my
mentioning the whereabouts of my public visit, which took place in
one of the regular neutral "Cook's tours" of the prisoners in
The strain of my work in so suspicious a place as Berlin, the
constant care required to guard one's expressions, and the anxiety
as to whether one was being watched or not got on my nerves
sometimes, and one Sunday I determined to take a day off and go
into the country with another neutral friend. There, by accident,
I came across my first private specimen of Tommy in Germany.
We were looking about for a decent Gasthaus in which to get
something to eat when we saw a notice high up in large type on a
wall outside an old farmhouse building, which read:--
Jeder Verkehr der Zivilbevolkerung mit den
Kriegsgefangenen ist STRENG VERBOTEN,
"Any intercourse of the civil population with the prisoners of war
is strictly forbidden."
These notices, which threaten the civilian population with heavy
penalties if they exchange any words with the prisoners, are
familiar all over Germany, but I did not expect to find them in
that small village.
My neutral friend thought it would make a nice photograph if I
would stand under the notice, which I did after a cautious survey
showed that the coast was clear.
As I did so a Russian came out of the barn and said, in rather bad
German, "Going to have your photograph taken?" I replied, in
He heard me speaking English to my friend, and then, looking up and
down the street each way to see if we were being watched, he
addressed me in English with a strong Cockney accent.
"You speak English, then?" I said.
"I am English," he replied. "I'm an English prisoner."
"Then what are you doing in a Russian uniform?"
"It is the only thing I could get when my own clothes wore out."
Keeping a careful eye up and down the street, he told us his story.
He was one of the old Expeditionary Force; was taken at Mons with
five bullet wounds in him, and, after a series of unpublishable
humiliations, had been drafted from camp to camp until he had
arrived at this little village, where, in view of the German policy
of letting all the population, see an Englishman, he was the
representative of his race in that community. "The local M.P." he
called himself, in his humorous way.
Robinson Crusoe on his island was not more ignorant of the truth
about the great world than that man, for, while he had learnt a few
daily expressions in German, he was unable to read it. The only
information he could gather was from the French, Belgian, and
Russian prisoners with him, and some he got by bribing one of the
Landsturm Guards with a little margarine or sugar out of his parcel
from England. He was full of the battle of Mons and how badly he
and his comrades in Germany felt at the way they had been left
unsupported there. None the less, though alone, with no Englishman
for miles, living almost entirely on his parcels, absolutely cut
off from the real facts of the war, hearing little but lies, he was
as calmly confident of the ultimate victory of the Allies as I am.
I asked him if he heard from home.
"Yes," he said, "now and then, but the folks tell me nothing and I
can tell them nothing. If you get back to England you tell the
people there not to believe a word that comes from English
prisoners. Those who write favourably do so because they have to.
Every truthful letter is burned by the military censor. Tell the
people to arrange the parcels better and see that every man gets a
parcel at least once a week--not send five parcels to one man and
no parcels to some poor bloke like me who is alone. How is the war
going on, guv'nor?" he asked. I gave him my views. "I think it's
going badly for the Germans--not by what they tell me here or what
I gets in that awful _Continental Times_ paper, but from what I
notice in the people round about, and the officers who visit us.
The people are not so abusive to the English as they used to be.
The superior officers do not treat us like dogs, as they did, and
as for the Landsturmers--well, look at old Heinrich here."
At that moment a heavy, shabby old Landsturm soldier came round the
corner, and the Cockney prisoner treated him almost as though he
were a performing bear.
"You're all right, ain't you, Heiny, so long as I give you a bit of
sugar now and then?" he said to his decrepit old guardian in his
This state of affairs was a revelation to me, but I was soon to
find that if the British prisoners are weary of their captivity
their old German guardians are much more weary of their task.
These high-spirited British lads, whom two years of cruelty have
not cowed, are an intense puzzle to the German authorities.
"You see," remarked a very decent German official connected with
the military censorship department, "everyone of these Britishers
is different. Every one of them sticks up for what he calls his
'rights': many of them decline to work on Sunday, and short of
taking them out on Sunday morning at the point of the bayonet we
cannot get them to do it. We have to be careful, too, with these
Englishmen now. As a man of the world, you will realise that
though our general public here do not know that the English have
captured many Germans lately, and the fact is never mentioned in
the _communiques_, we have had a hint from Headquarters that the
British prisoners may one day balance ours, and that hardship for
these _verfluchte Englander_ may result in hardship for our men in
That incident was long ago. It is important to relate that since
the beginning of the battle of the Somme there is, if I was
correctly informed, a marked improvement in the condition of
English prisoners all over Germany--not as regards food supplied by
the authorities, because the food squeeze naturally affects the
prisoners as it does their guardians, but in other ways.
In addition to the British capturing numbers of German hostages on
the Somme to hold against the treatment of their men in Germany, I
think I may claim without undue pride that much good work has been
done by the American Ambassador and his staff of attaches, who work
as sedulously on behalf of the prisoners as though those prisoners
had been American.
The German authorities hate and respect publicity and force in
matters not to their liking, and Mr. Gerard's fearlessness in
reports of conditions and urgent pleas for improvement have been of
great service. All the threats and bluster of Germany have failed
to cow him.
To continue my narrative of the Cockney soldier in Russian uniform.
So many Englishmen are in Russian uniform, Belgian uniform, French
uniform, or a mix-up uniform that there is no possibility of my
Cockney Russian being recognised by the authorities, and the
photograph which my neutral friend took of him and me was taken
under the very eyes of his Landsturmer.
"Heiny," said the Russian Cockney, "is fed up with the war. Aren't
you, old Heiny? During the last few weeks a fresh call for more
men has cleared the district of everything on two legs. We have
had to work fourteen hours a day, and I wonder what my mates at
home would think of 3 shillings pay for ten days' work?"
I was able to comfort him by giving him some cigars, and a great
deal of really true and good news about the war, all of which he
repeated to Landsturmer Heinrich. I suggested that this might be
unwise. "Not a bit of it," he said. "Lots of these old Germans
are only too anxious to hear bad news, because they think that bad
news will bring the thing to a stop."
How true that remark was I knew from my minute investigations. The
incident was closed by the distant appearence of a _Feldwebel_
(sergeant-major). My Cockney vanished, and Heinrich patrolled
This particular incident is not typical of the life of a British
prisoner in Germany, but it is indicative of the position many of
the 30,000 prisoners have taken up by reason of their strong
individuality and extraordinary cheerfulness and confidence. My
impression of them is of alert, resourceful men (their escapes have
been wonderful)--men who never know when they are beaten. If
Britain has sufficient of these people she cannot possibly lose the
* * * * *
The world does not need reminders such as that of Wittenberg or of
such singularly accurate narratives as several in _Blackwood's
Magazine_ to know what _has_ happened to British prisoners in
It is common knowledge throughout the German Empire that the most
loathsome tasks of the war in connection, with every camp or cage
are given to the British. They have had to clean the latrines of
negro prisoners, and were in some cases forced to work with
implements which would make their task the more disgusting. One
man told me that his lunch was served to him where he was working,
and when he protested he was told to eat it there, or go without.
Conversations that I have had here in London about prisoners give
me the impression that the British public does not exactly
apprehend what a prisoner stands for in German eyes.
First, he is a hostage. If he be an officer his exact social value
is estimated by the authorities in Berlin, who have a complete card
index of all their officer prisoners, showing to what British
families they belong and whether they have social or political
connections in Britain. Thus when someone in England mistakenly,
and before sufficient German prisoners were in their hands, treated
certain submarine marauders differently from other prisoners, the
German Government speedily referred to this card-index, picked out
a number of officers with connections in the House of Lords and
House of Commons, and treated them as convicts.
The other German view of the prisoner is his cash value as a
labourer. I invite my readers to realise the enormous pecuniary
worth of the two million prisoner slaves now reclaiming swamps,
tilling the soil, building roads and railways, and working in
factories for their German taskmasters.
The most numerous body of prisoners in Germany are the Russians.
They are to be seen everywhere. In some cases they have greater
freedom than any other prisoners, and often, in isolated cases,
travel unguarded by rail or tramway to and from their work. If
they are not provided with good Russian uniforms, in which, of
course, they would not be able to escape, they are made conspicuous
by a wide stripe down the trouser or on the back. They are easy,
docile, physically strong, and accustomed to a lower grade of food
than any other prisoners, except the Serbs.
The British, of course, are much the smallest number in Germany,
but much the most highly prized for hate propaganda purposes.
"More difficult to manage," said one _Unteroffizier_ to me, "than
the whole of the rest of our two million." It is, indeed, a fact
that the 30,000 British prisoners, though the worst treated, are
the gayest, most outspoken, and rebellious against tyranny of the
There is, however, a brighter side to prison life in Germany, I am
happy to record. A number of really excellent camps have been
arranged to which neutral visitors are taken. When I told the
German Foreign Office that I would like to see the good side of
prison life, I was given permission by the _Kriegsministerium_ (War
Office) to visit the great camp at Soltau, with its 31,000 inmates
with Halil Halid Bey (formerly Turkish Consul in Berlin) and Herr
Muller (interested in Germany's Far Eastern developments).
Five hours away from Berlin, on the monotonous _Luneberger Heide_
(Luneberg Heath), has sprung up this great town with the speed of a
boom mining town in Colorado.
On arrival at the little old town of Soltau we were met by a
military automobile and driven out on a road made by the prisoners
to the largest collection of huts I have ever seen.
There is nothing wrong that I could detect in the camp, and I
should say that the 300 British prisoners there are as well treated
as any in Germany. The Commandant seems to be a good fellow. His
task of ruling so great an assemblage of men is a large and
difficult one, rendered the easier by the good spirit engendered by
his tact and kindness.
I had confirmation of my own views of him later, when I came across
a Belgian who had escaped from Germany, and who had been in this
camp. He said:--"The little captain at Soltau was a good fellow,
and if I am with the force that releases the prisoners there after
we get into Germany, I will do my best to see that he gets extra
Our inspection occupied six hours. Halil Halid Bey, who talks
English perfectly, and looks like an Irishman, was taken for an
American by the prisoners. In fact, one Belgian, believing him to
be an American official, rushed up to him and with arms
outstretched pleaded: "Do you save poor Belgians, too, as well as
The physical comfort of the prisoners is well looked after in the
neat and perfectly clean dormitories. The men were packed rather
closely, I thought, but not more than on board ship.
One became almost dazed in passing through these miles of huts,
arranged in blocks like the streets of an American town.
We visited the hospital, which was as good as many civilian
hospitals in other countries. There I heard the first complaint,
from a little red-headed Irishman, his voice wheezing with asthma,
whose grievance was not against the camp itself, but against a
medical order which had reversed, what he called his promise to be
sent to Switzerland. He raised his voice without any fear, as our
little group, accompanied by the Commandant and the interpreter,
went round, and I was allowed to speak to him freely. I am not a
medical man, but I should think his was a case for release. His
lungs were obviously in a bad state.
We were also accompanied by an English sergeant, one Saxton--a
magnificent type of the old Army, so many of whom are eating out
their days in Germany. He spoke freely and frankly about the
arrangements, and had no complaint to make except the food shortage
and the quality of the food.
The British section reminded one now and then of England.
Portraits of wives, children, and sweethearts were over the beds;
there was no lack of footballs, and the British and Belgians play
football practically every day after the daily work of reclaiming
the land, erecting new huts, making new roads, and looking after
the farms and market gardens has been accomplished.
An attempt has been made to raise certain kinds of live stock, such
as pigs, poultry, and Belgian hares--a large kind of rabbit. There
were a few pet dogs about--one had been trained by a Belgian to
perform tricks equal to any of those displayed at variety theatres.
Apparently there is no lack of amusement. I visited the
cinematograph theatre, and the operator asked, "What would you like
to see--something funny?" He showed us a rather familiar old film.
The reels are those that have been passed out of service of the
German moving picture shows. In the large theatre, which would
hold, I should think, seven hundred to a thousand people, there was
a good acrobatic act and the performing dog, to which I have
referred, with an orchestra of twenty-five instruments, almost all
prisoners, but a couple of German Landsturmers helped out. The
guarding of the prisoners is effected by plenty of barbed wire and
a comparatively small number of oldish Landsturmers.
A special cruelty of the Germans towards prisoners is the provision
of a lying newspaper in French for the Frenchmen, called the
_Gazette des Ardennes_. The _Gazette des Ardennes_ publishes every
imaginable kind of lie about the French and French Army, with
garbled quotations from English newspapers, and particularly _The
Times_, calculated to disturb the relations of the French and
English prisoners in Germany. For the British there is a paper in
English which is quite as bad, to which I have already referred,
called the _Continental Times_, doled out three times a week. The
_Continental Times_ is, I regret to say, largely written by
renegade Englishmen in Berlin employed by the German Government,
notably Aubrey Stanhope, who for well-known reasons was unable to
enter England at the outbreak of war, and so remains and must
remain in Germany, where, for a very humble pittance, he conducts
this campaign against his own country.
For the Russians a special prevaricating sheet, called the _Russki
Visnik_, is issued. All these newspapers pretend to print the
official French, British, and Russian communiques.
For a long time the effect on the British prisoners was bad, but
little by little events revealed to them that the _Continental
Times_, which makes a specialty of attacks on the English Press,
The arrival of letters and parcels is, of course, the great event
for the prisoners and, so far as the large camps are concerned, I
do not think that there are now any British prisoners unprovided
with parcels. It is the isolated and scattered men, moved often
from place to place for exhibition purposes, who miss parcels.
Soltau, although a model camp, is bleak and dreary and isolated.
At the outset cases of typhus occurred there, and in a neat,
secluded corner of the camp long lines of wooden crosses tell the
tale of sadness. The first cross marked a Russian from far-away
Vilna, the next a Tommy from London. East had met West in the
bleak and silent graveyard on the heather. Close to them slept a
soldier from some obscure village in Normandy, and beside him lay a
Belgian, whose life had been the penalty of his country's
determination to defend her neutrality. Here in the heart of
Germany the Allies were united even in death.
As I made the long journey back to Berlin I reflected with some
content on the good things I had seen at Soltau, and I felt
convinced that the men in charge of the camp do everything within
their power to make the life of the prisoners happy. But as the
train pounded along in the darkness I seemed to see a face before
me which I could not banish. It was the face of a Belgian,
kneeling at the altar in the Catholic chapel, his eyes riveted on
his Saviour on the Cross, his whole being tense in fervent
supplication, his lips quivering in prayer. My companions had
gone, but I was held spellbound, feeling "How long! How long!" was
the anguish of his mind. He must have been a man who had a home
and loved it, and his whole expression told unmistakably that he
was imploring for strength to hold out till the end in that dreary,
cheerless region of brown and grey.
His captors had given him a chapel, to be sure, but why was he in
Germany at all?
* * * * *
Soltau and other camps are satisfactory--but there are others, many
others, such as unvisited punishment camps. The average Britisher
in confinement in Germany is under the care of an oldish guard,
such as Heiny of the Landsturm, but the immediate authority is
often a man of the notorious _Unteroffizier_ type, whose cruelty to
the _German_ private is well known, and whose treatment of the most
hated enemy can be imagined.
The petty forms of tyranny meted out to German soldiers such as
making a man walk for hours up and down stairs in order to fill a
bath with a wineglass; making him shine and soil then again shine
and soil hour after hour a pair of boots; making him chew and
swallow his own socks have been described in suppressed German
I believe that publicity, rigorous blockade and big shells are the
only arguments that have any effect on the Prussians at present.
It is publicity and the fear of opinion of certain neutrals that
has produced such camps as Soltau. It is difficult for the
comfortable sit-at-homes to visualise the condition of men who have
been in the enemy atmosphere of hate for a long period. All the
British soldiers whom I met in Germany were captured in the early
part of the war when their shell-less Army had to face machine-guns
and high explosives often with the shield of their own breasts and
Herded like cattle many of the wounded dying, they travelled
eastwards to be subject to the insults and vilifications of the
German population. That they should retain their cheery confidence
in surroundings and among a people so ferociously hostile so
entirely un-British, so devoid of chivalry or sporting instinct, is
a monument to the character of their race.
HOW THE PRUSSIAN GUARD CAME HOME FROM THE SOMME
Early in August, 1916, I was in Berlin. The British and French
offensive had commenced on July 1st. Outwardly it appeared to
attract very little notice on the part of Germany and I do not
believe that it attracted sufficient attention even in the highest
military quarters. It was considered to be Great Britain's final
"bluff." The great maps in the shop windows in every street and on
the walls in every German house showed no change, and still show no
change worth noticing. "Maps speak," say the Germans.
One hot evening in Berlin I met a young officer whom I had known on
a previous visit to Germany, and who was home on ten days'
furlough. I noticed that he was ill or out of sorts, and he told
me that he had been unexpectedly called back to his regiment on the
Western front. "How is that?" I said. He made that curious and
indescribable German gesture which shows discontent and
dissatisfaction. "These ------ English are putting every man they
have got into a final and ridiculous attempt to make us listen to
peace terms. My leave is cut short, and I am off this evening."
We had a glass of beer at the Bavaria Restaurant in the
"You have been in England, haven't you?" he inquired. I told him
that I had been there last year. "They seem to have more soldiers
than we thought," he said. "They seem to be learning the business;
my battalion has suffered terribly."
Within the next day or two there were other rumours in
Berlin--rumours quite unknown to the mass. How and where I heard
these rumours it would be unfair to certain Germans, who were
extremely kind to me, to say, but it was suggested to me by a
friend--a member of the Extreme Left of the Social Democratic
Party--that if I wanted to learn the truth I should go out to
Potsdam and see the arrival of the wounded men of the famous
Prussian Guard, who had, he said, had a terrible experience at the
hands of the English at Contalmaison on July 10th.
He drew me aside in the Tiergarten and told me, for he is, I am
sure, a real German patriot, that the state of things in the Somme,
if known throughout Germany, would effectively destroy the
pretensions of the annexationist party, who believed that Germany
has won the war and will hold Belgium and the conquered portion of
France and Poland.
He told me to go out to Potsdam with caution, and he warned me that
I should have the utmost difficulty in getting anywhere near the
military sidings of the railway station there.
I asked another usually extremely well-informed friend if there was
anything particular happening in the war, and told him that I
thought of going to Potsdam, and he said, "What for? There is
nothing to be seen there--the same old drilling, drilling,
drilling." So well are secrets kept in Germany.
The 4th of August is the anniversary of what is known in Germany as
"England's treachery"--the day that Britain entered the war in what
the German Government tells the people is "a base and cowardly
attempt to try and beat her by starving innocent women and
On that sunny and fresh morning I looked out of the railway
carriage window some quarter of a mile before we arrived at Potsdam
and saw numerous brown trains marked with the Ked Cross, trains
that usually travel by night in Germany.
There were a couple of officers of the Guard Cavalry in the same
carriage with me. They also looked out. "_Ach, noch 'mal_"
("What, again?") discontentedly remarked the elder. They were a
gloomy pair and they had reason to be. The German public has begun
to know a great deal about the wounded. They do not yet know all
the facts, because wounded men are, as far as possible, hidden in
Germany and never sent to Socialist centres unless it is absolutely
unavoidable. The official figures which are increasing in an
enormous ratio since the development of Britain's war machine, are
falsified by manipulation.
And if easy proof be needed of the truth of my assertion I point to
the monstrous official misstatement involved in the announcement
that over ninety per cent. of German wounded return to the firing
line! Of the great crush of wounded at Potsdam I doubt whether any
appreciable portion of the serious cases will return to anything
except permanent invalidism. They are suffering from shell wounds,
not shrapnel, for the most part, I gathered.
As our train emptied it was obvious that some great spectacle was
in progress. The exit to the station became blocked with staring
peasant women returning from the early market in Berlin, their high
fruit and vegetable baskets empty on their backs. When I
eventually got through the crowd into the outer air and paused at
the top of the short flight of steps I beheld a scene that will
never pass from my memory. Filmed and circulated in Germany it
would evoke inconceivable astonishment to this deluded nation and
would swell the malcontents, already a formidable mass, into a
united and dangerous army of angry, eye-opened dupes. This is not
the mere expression of a neutral view, but is also the opinion of a
sober and patriotic German statesman.
I saw the British wounded arrive from Neuve Chapelle at Boulogne; I
saw the Russian wounded in the retreat from the Bukovina; I saw the
Belgian wounded in the Antwerp retreat, and the German wounded in
East Prussia, but the wounded of the Prussian Guard at Potsdam
surpassed in sadness anything I have witnessed in the last two
The British Neuve Chapelle wounded were, if not gay, many of them
blithe and smiling--their bodies were hurt but their minds were
cheerful; but the wounded of the Prussian Guard--the proudest
military force in the world--who had come back to their home town
decimated and humbled--these Guards formed the most amazing
agglomeration of broken men I have ever encountered. As to the
numbers of them, of these five Reserve regiments but few are
believed to be unhurt. Vast numbers were killed, and most of the
rest are back at Potsdam in the ever growing streets of hospitals
that are being built on the Bornstadterfeld.
One of the trains had just stopped. The square was blocked with
vehicles of every description. I was surprised to find the great
German furniture vans, which by comparison with those used in
England and the United States look almost like houses on wheels,
were drawn up in rows with military precision. As if these were
not enough, the whole of the wheeled traffic of Potsdam seemed to
be commandeered by the military for the lightly wounded--cabs,
tradesmen's wagons, private carriages--everything on wheels except,
of course, motor-cars, which are non-existent owing to the rubber
shortage. Endless tiers of stretchers lay along the low embankment
sloping up to the line. Doctors, nurses, and bearers were waiting
in quiet readiness.
The passengers coming out of the station, including the women with
the tall baskets, stopped, but only for a moment. They did not
tarry, for the police, of which there will never be any dearth if
the war lasts thirty years, motioned them on, a slight movement of
the hand being sufficient.
I was so absorbed that I failed to notice the big constable near me
until he laid his heavy paw upon my shoulder and told me to move
on. A schoolmaster and his wife, his _Rucksack_ full of lunch, who
had taken advantage of the glorious sunshine to get away from
Berlin to spend a day amidst the woods along the Havel, asked the
policeman what the matter was.
The reply was "_Nichts hier zu sehen_" ("Nothing to be seen here.
Get along!"). The great "Hush! Hush! Hush!" machinery of Germany
was at work.
Determined not to be baffled, I moved out of the square into the
shelter of a roadside tree, on the principle that a distant view
would be better than none at all, but the police were on the alert,
and a police lieutenant tackled me at once. I decided to act on
the German military theory that attack is the best defence, and,
stepping up to him, I stated, that I was a newspaper correspondent.
"Might I not see the wounded taken from the train?" I requested.
He very courteously replied that I might not, unless I had a
special pass for that purpose from the _Kriegsministerium_ in
I hit upon a plan.
I regretfully sighed that I would go back to Berlin and get a pass,
and retracing my steps to the station I bought a ticket.
A soldier and an Unteroffizier were stationed near the box in which
stood the uniformed woman who punches tickets.
The Unteroffizier looked at me sharply, "No train for an hour and a
half," he said.
"That doesn't disturb me in the least when I have plenty to read,"
I answered pleasantly, at the same time pointing to the bundle of
morning papers which I carried, the _Norddeutsche Allgemeine
Zeitung_ of the Foreign Office, on the outside.
I knew Potsdam thoroughly, and was perfectly familiar with every
foot of the station. I knew that there was a large window in the
first and second-class dining-room which was even closer to the
ambulances in the square than were the exit steps.
I did not go directly to the dining-room, but sat on one of the
high-backed benches on the platform and began to read the papers.
The Unteroffizier looked out and found me fairly buried in them.
He returned a little later and saw me asleep--or thought he did.
When he had gone I sauntered along the platform into the
dining-room, to find it vacant save for a youthful waiter and a
barmaid. I walked straight to the window--where the light would be
better for reading--and ordered bread and Edam cheese, tearing off
a fifty gram amount from my Berlin bread ticket, which was
fortunately good in Potsdam.
My position enabled me to look right out upon the square below, but
rendered me inconspicuous from the street.
By this time the wounded were being moved from the train. The
slightly wounded were drawn up in double ranks, their clean white
arm- and head-bandages gleaming in the noonday light. They stood
dazed and dejected, looking on at the real work which was just
beginning--the removal of the severely wounded.
Then it was that I learned the use of those mammoth furniture vans.
Then it was I realised that these vans are part of Germany's plans
by which her wounded are carried--I will not say secretly, but as
unobtrusively as possible. In some of the mammoths were put
twelve, into others fourteen; others held as many as twenty.
The Prussian Guard had come home. The steel corps of the army of
Germany had met near Contalmaison the light-hearted boys I had seen
drilling in Hyde Park last year, and in a furious counter-attack,
in which they had attempted to regain the village, had been wiped
These were not merely wounded, but dejected wounded. The whole
atmosphere of the scene was that of intense surprise and
depression. Tradition going back to Frederick the Great, nearly
two hundred years ago, had been smashed--by amateur soldiers. The
callow youth of sixteen who served my lunch was muttering something
to the barmaid, who replied that he was lucky to be in a class that
was not likely to be called up yet.
The extreme cases were carried at a snail's pace by bearers, who
put their feet down as carefully as if they were testing very thin
ice, and who placed the comfortable spring stretchers in the very
few vehicles which had rubber or imitation rubber tyres. The work
was done with military precision and great celerity. The
evacuation of this train was no sooner finished than another took
its place, and the same scene was repeated. Presently the great
furniture vans returned from having deposited their terrible loads,
and were again filled. One van was reserved for those who had
expired on the journey, and it was full.
This, then, was the battered remnant of the five Reserve regiments
of the Prussian Guard which had charged the British lines at
Contalmaison three weeks before in a desperate German
counter-attack to wrest the village from the enemy, who had just
occupied it. Each train discharged between six and seven hundred
maimed passengers. Nor was this the last day of the influx.
The Guard had its garrisons chiefly in Potsdam, but also partly in
Berlin, and represents the physical flower of German manhood. On
parade it was inspiring to look at, and no military officer in the
world ever doubted its prowess. Nor has it failed in the war to
show splendid courage and fighting qualities. English people
simply do not understand its prestige at home and among neutrals.
The Guard is sent only where there is supreme work to be done. If
you hear that it has been hurled into a charge you may rest assured
that it is striving to gain something on which Germany sets the
highest price--for the life-blood of the Guard is the dearest that
she can pay.
In the battle of the Marne the active regiments of the Guard
forming a link between the armies of von Bulow and von Hausen were
dashed like spray on jagged cliffs when they surged in wave after
wave against the army of Foch at Sezanne and Fere Champenoise.
Germany was willing to sacrifice those superb troops during the
early part of the battle because she knew that von Kluck had only
to hold his army together, even though he did not advance, and the
overthrow of Foch would mean a Teuton wedge driven between Verdun
One year and ten months later she hurled the Guard Reserve at
Contalmaison because she was determined that this important link in
the chain of concrete and steel that coiled back and forth before
Bapaume-Peronne must remain unbroken. The newly-formed lines of
Britain's sons bent but did not break under the shock. They were
outnumbered, but, like all the rest of the British that the
back-from-the-front German soldiers have told me about, these
fought on and on, never thinking of surrender.
I know from one of these that in a first onslaught the Guard lost
heavily, but was reinforced and again advanced. Another desperate
encounter and the men from Potsdam withered in the hand-to-hand
carnage. The Germans could not hold what they had won back, and
the khaki succeeded the field grey at Contalmaison.
The evacuation of the wounded occupied hours. I purposely missed
my train, for I knew that I was probably the only foreign civilian
to see the historic picture of the proudest soldiery of Prussia
return to its garrison town from the greatest battle in history.
Empty trains were pulled out of the way, to be succeeded by more
trains full of wounded, and again more. Doctors and nurses were
attentive and always busy, and the stretcher-bearers moved back and
forth until their faces grew red with exertion.
But it was the visages of the men on the stretchers that riveted my
attention. I never saw so many men so completely exhausted. Not
one pair of lips relaxed into a smile, and not an eye lit up with
the glad recognition of former surroundings.
It was not, however, the lines of suffering in those faces that
impressed me, but that uncanny sameness of expression, an
expression of hopeless gloom so deep that it made me forget that
the sun was shining from an unclouded sky. The dejection of the
police, of the soldier onlookers, of the walking wounded, and those
upturned faces on the white pillows told as plainly as words could
ever tell that the Guard had at last met a force superior to
themselves and their war machine. They knew well that they were
the idol of their Fatherland, and that they had fought with every
ounce of their great physical strength, backed by their long
traditions. They had been vanquished by an army of mere sportsmen.
My thoughts went back to Berlin and the uninformed scoffings at the
British Army and its futile efforts to push back the troops of
Rupprecht on the Somme. Yet here on the actual outskirts of the
German capital was a grim tribute to the machine that Great Britain
had built up under the protection of her Navy.
In Berlin at that moment the afternoon editions were fluttering
their daily headlines of victory to the crowds on the Linden and
the Friedrichstrasse, but here the mammoth vans were moving slowly
through the streets of Potsdam.
To the women who stood in the long lines waiting with the potato
and butter tickets for food on the other side of the old stone
bridge that spans the Havel they were merely ordinary cumbersome
How were they to know that these tumbrils contained the bloody
story of Contalmaison?
HOW GERMANY DENIES
Germany, according to Reichstag statements, is spending millions of
pounds upon German propaganda throughout the universe. The trend
of that propaganda is:--
1. To attempt to convince the neutral world that Germany cannot be
2. Above all, to convince Great Britain (the chief enemy) that
Germany cannot be beaten.
The only factors really feared by the Germans of the governing
class are the Western front and the blockade.
I went into Germany determined to try to find out the truth, and to
tell the truth. I had an added incentive to be thorough and work
on original lines, since I was fortunate enough to secure
possession of an official letter which advised those whom it
concerned to give no information of value to Americans in general.
I also got accurate information that the Wilhelmstrasse had singled
me out as one American in particular to whom nothing of value was
to be imparted.
The German, with his cast-in-a-mould mind, does not understand the
trait developed among other peoples of seeing things for
themselves. He is unacquainted with originality in human beings.
He thinks a correspondent does not observe anything unless it is
pointed out to him.
Last summer, for example, one could learn in the Wilhelmstrasse
that the potato crop was a glittering success. By walking through
the country and pulling up an occasional plant, also talking to the
farmers, I concluded that it was a dismal failure, which conclusion
I announced in one of the first newspaper articles I wrote after I
had left Germany. Recent reports from that country show that I was
right, which increases my conviction that the _confidential tips_
given by Germany's professional experts, who instruct neutral
visitors, do very well to make Germany's position seem better than
it actually is, but they seldom stand the acid test of history.
Seeking to invent excuses is not peculiar to the Germans, but it is
more prevalent among them than among any other people that I know.
In this one respect the German Government is a Government of the
people. Some of the diplomatic explanations which have emanated
from Berlin during the war have been weird in their absurdity and
an insult to the intelligence of those to whom they were addressed.
President Wilson did not accept the official lie concerning the
sinking of the _Arabic_, in view of the positive proof against
Germany, and Germany backed down. President Wilson did not accept
the official lie concerning the sinking of the _Sussex_.
Incomprehensible as it is to the Teutonic mind, he attached greater
weight to the first-hand evidence of reliable eye-witnesses, plus
fragments of the torpedo which struck the vessel, than to the
sacred words of the German Foreign Office, which had the
impertinence to base its case on a sketch, or alleged sketch,
hastily made by a U-boat manipulator whose artistic temperament
should have led him to Munich rather than to Kiel. The crime and
the lie were so glaring that Germany once more backed down.
Germany lied about the Dutch liner _Tubantia_. As in the case of
the _Sussex_, the evidence of the fragments of torpedo was so
incontrovertible that Berlin had to admit that a German torpedo
sank the _Tubantia_. Indeed, one fragment contained the number of
the torpedo. During my travels in the Fatherland at that time I
found no doubt in the minds of those with whom I discussed the
matter that a German submarine sank the vessel, though many were of
the opinion that it was a mistake.
The Wilhelmstrasse is tenacious, however, and we awoke one morning
to read, what was probably its most remarkable excuse. To be sure,
a German torpedo sank the _Tubantia_, but it was not fired by the
Germans. The expert accountant who was in charge of the U-boat
learned upon consulting his books that he fired that torpedo on
March 6. It did not strike the _Tubantia_ until March 16. So that
it had either been floating about aimlessly and had encountered the
liner, or perhaps the cunning British had corraled it and made use
of it. At any rate, Berlin disclaimed all responsibility for its
acts subsequent to the day it parted company with the German
The path of the torpedo, however, had been observed from the bridge
of the Tubantia.
I remarked to one of my well-informed confidants among the Social
Democratic politicians that although it is perfectly true that a
rolling stone gathers no moss, it is equally true that a moving
torpedo leaves no wake.
"Yes," he said with a twinkle in his eye, "our Foreign Office is
well aware of that. Have you not noticed the significance of the
two dates, March 6, when the torpedo is said to have been fired,
and March 16, when it struck? Do you not see that our diplomats
have still one more loop-hole in case they are pressed? Is it not
clear that they could find a way out of their absurd explanation by
shifting the responsibility to the man or the men who jotted down
the date and transferred it? The question in my mind is: Who lost
the 1 from the 16?"
Be that as it may, little Holland, enraged at the wanton
destruction of one of her largest vessels, was not in a position to
enforce her demands. Therefore Germany did not back down--that is,
My description of the return of the Prussian Guard to Potsdam
naturally aroused the wrath of a Government which strives
incessantly, to hide so much from its own people and the outside
Directly the article reached Germany the Government flashed a
wireless to America that no members of the _Potsdam_ Guard returned
to Potsdam from Contalmaison. This is a typical German denial
trick. I never mentioned the _Potsdam_ Guard.
I had referred to the _Prussian_ Guard.
If any reader of this chapter cares to look into the files of
English newspapers at the time of the Contalmaison battle, for such
it was, they will find confirmation of my statements as to the
presence of the Prussian Guard in the English despatches published
in the second week in July.
The Contalmaison article has in whole or in part been circulated in
the United States, and also in the South-American Republics, and
probably in other neutral countries. This has now called forth a
semi-official detailed denial, which I print herewith.
It is signed by the Head Staff Doctor at Potsdam, one Geronne, by
name. He divides his contradiction into ten clauses. Each of the
first nine contains an absolute untruth.
The last is a mere comment on a well-known, German statesman, who
told me that as I was seeking the truth in Germany I had better go
and find it at Potsdam.
I wish to deal with the denials one by one, as each is a revelation
of German psychology.
1. The hospital train, This says "Hospital
which reached Potsdam on train" (singular). I
August 4, and was there described hospital trains
unloaded, brought wounded (plural). It may be true
men from various troop that one train did not
divisions. There were no contain any Prussian Guards.
Prussian Guards among them. I did not happen to see
that train. All the trains
that I saw unloaded Prussian
2. No wounded man is I have never said that
kept concealed in Germany. any wounded man was
All are consigned to kept concealed in Germany.
public hospitals or I have pointed out
lazarets, where they may that the whole system of
at any time be visited the German placing of the
by their relatives and wounded is to hide from
friends. the German population,
and especially in Social
Democrat districts, the
extent of their wounded.
3. Hospital trains travel This is absolutely untrue.
by day as well as by night, The number of wounded arriving
and, in accordance with at the depots in Germany is
instructions, are unloaded now so great that the trains
only in the daytime. In are obliged to be unloaded
case they reach their whenever they arrive, by day
destination during the or by night. I have witnessed
night, the regulations both.
provide that they are to
wait until the following
morning before unloading.
4. In order that the loading The whole of this paragraph
or unloading of the vehicles is a transparent distortion
which transport the wounded of fact. What happens at
to the lazarets may proceed Potsdam and what happens
as rapidly as possible, it everywhere else is that a
is necessary to keep the cordon of police surrounds
surroundings of the train the scene and, drives the
clear. The wounded must public by force in the usual
also be spared all annoyance Prussian way, if necessary,
and curiosity on the part from the scene. I described
of the public. the method by which I
witnessed what was going on
at the railway station from
the railway station
refreshment room itself.
5. Dead men have never been I saw the dead men removed.
unloaded from the lazaret
trains at Potsdam--therefore
there could have been none on
August 4, 1916. The
principle of transporting
the wounded is based upon
the ability of the wounded
to bear transportation.
All those who suffer during