Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Log of a Noncombatant by Horace Green

Part 2 out of 2

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

It was a five-hours' run from The Hague to Bentheim, a small country
village on the German frontier. The train stopped a quarter of a mile
north of the border. Dutch officials came aboard to examine
passports and baggage of every passenger. They were good-natured
and talkative, and did not go minutely into details, as those leaving
the country were less carefully watched than "immigrants." Me,
however, they mistook for an Englishman (as was usually the case in
Germany) and told me I could not cross the frontier. A Dutch
manufacturer, with whom I had struck up an acquaintance, explained
my identity, and the official, who looked astonished, waved me ahead
with a doubtful expression, as much as to say, "On your own head be
it, young man."

That first night passed without trouble. At the border station we lined
up, immigrant fashion, and went through an inspection by a number
of the businesslike German militariat attached to the Zollamt, or
customs service. For ten minutes I stood in suspense while a
fiery-looking officer, with a snapping blue eye, looked through my
credentials in silence. He wrote my name in a notebook, looked
through my eye as if he would read my very soul, and then, without a
remark, passed me on. I filed through a narrow gate--and so into
the Realms of the Kaiser.

It was now eleven o'clock at night and the Berlin express came
through Bentheim at 7.45 the next morning. We stayed at a little inn,
somewhat resembling the Wayside Inn, at Sudbury, Massachusetts.
Here I fell in with a German manufacturer whom I had seen several
weeks before as we were bringing the good news from Ghent to Aix. I
was surprised at this man's change of opinion regarding the conflict.
On the first occasion he laughed outright at the idea of an extended
fight. Now, all through his arguments, he repeated such phrases as,
"Well, if Germany doesn't win," or, "Suppose the war does last two
years," etc., etc.

In the morning I had a peculiarly disagreeable experience at Lohne,
some distance from the German frontier, where we had again to
change trains en route to the capital. Experience had by this time
taught me, when thrown with people on the road, to show them my
papers and make my identity known as soon as possible.

I therefore clung pretty closely to my argumentative German
acquaintance of Bentheim and Aix. During the melee of changing
cars I was, however, separated from him, and became engaged in
conversation (spoken in English) with a Dutch chocolate merchant.
The argument must have been interesting, for I did not at first notice a
crowd of twenty or thirty travelers and villagers gathering around us: I
did, however, notice when they began to push and jostle in a manner
obviously intended for insult. When I tried to retreat the exits were
locked. The crowd, convinced that I was an English spy, closed more
compactly and manhandled me off toward an officer on the street
behind the platform. My hat was knocked off, and for a brief moment I
recalled the lynching anger which I had seen in the eyes of Belgian
mobs, as German spies in Antwerp were being led to the police

At the last moment my rescuer came in the shape of the German
friend of Bentheim, who broke through the mob and whispered in my
ear, "Speak German. Always speak in German, you fool!"

I admitted the soft impeachment.

"Ich bin ein Amerikaner--ein correspondent," I explained to the row
of angry faces; and while my German friend soothed and reassured
his testy compatriots, I moved away, glad enough to escape another
visit to jail. Those personally conducted jail tours were not so bad, I
had found, with a handsome gendarme at your side; but a howling
crowd was altogether another matter.

I reached the capital that night. One of my letters says, a few days

"The atmosphere is oppressive to the Anglo-Saxon visitor. His looks,
his manner, his accent betray him as one of the English-speaking
pest, and the crowd, with its mind so full of English hatred, does not
readily distinguish the American. So drop into a word of English in a
cafe: your neighbor glowers and draws away. You face it out with a
nonchalant air, but gradually the tension grows, especially when, as
happened to-day at the prisoners' camp at Zossen, twenty miles
south of Berlin, a great burly Prussian puts a menacing eye on you
and says, without introduction: 'It is very dangerous for an
Englishman here!'

"Day by day here the hatred grows of England and things English:
judging from the press and the temper of the people, one would think
that England is the only foe. As a nation and as individuals they bear
no particular malice toward France. They even feel sorry for
'misguided' Belgium--betrayed by the British, they say. But England
they look upon as the root of all their trouble, the despicable,
retreating enemy they cannot touch, the enemy, they maintain,
whose clever, but selfish, diplomacy has forced the brunt of the
fighting on the others, while she sits back to wait for the spoils."

On my arrival in Berlin I delivered the mail packet to Ambassador
Gerard. Two days later I presented my credentials at the Auswartige
Amt, or Foreign Office, hoping to get permission to go to the western
front with the Crown Prince's army. I was told to see Baron von
Mumm Schwartzenstein, who was officially designated by Von Jagow
to handle neutral correspondents, and who, unofficially, I have reason
to believe, is connected with the Secret Service. He is a pudgy sort of
man, with a watery skin, and decidedly not of military build or bearing.
When, after much red tape, I was finally admitted to an outer office,
he stepped out to see me, merely taking my name and the names of
the papers I represented. I was told to come back in the evening.
When I did so and was admitted to His Holy of Holies, he said to me
at once:--

"I was expecting you to come yesterday. Why did you not?"

This was rather startling, but his next remark altogether took away my

"Were you satisfied with your treatment by the War Office in Brussels,
Herr Green? And why, if you have already been wiss ze army in
scenes of war, do you now come to me for permission?"

Mind you, I had at this time spoken scarcely a word, and had certainly
told nothing of my age or previous condition of servitude in Brussels.
But the Government that never forgets knew all about my
movements. He smiled at my discomfiture, and, within the next few
minutes, proved to be such a genial German (for war-time) that I
soon told him all about my adventures, including the fact that I had
gone back into Antwerp and entered Belgian lines, after escaping
from German surveillance at Aix. I happened to speak of the
marvelous efficiency and preparedness of the German army in

"Yes, that iss quite so," remarked His Excellency, with a smile. "You
see, we were prepared for everysing--except," he added after a
pause,--"except ze invasion of ze American newspaperman. When
he iss out of our sight, zen we do not feel secure."

Several weeks later, after I had come out of the Kaiser's realm, a
representative of the "Boston Journal," who had been looking for me
all over the Continent, ran me down just as I was leaving The Hague
for England.

"The Foreign Office in Berlin told me where to find you," he said.
"They told me that in Berlin you had stayed first at the Esplanade, and
then you had moved to the Kaiserhof. They said you had left the city
[this was when I went out toward Poland], that you had returned to
Berlin, and that on such and such a date at 8.45 you had departed for
The Hague."!!

The military and civil authorities looked upon the correspondent as an
embryo spy. And if the correspondent's sympathies were foreign, he
was a thousand times worse than the ordinary spy, because he could
make use of the cable and press to spread his information.

While waiting in Berlin for a chance to go to the front, I became,
therefore, more and more conscious of surveillance. Whether it was
the fact of being so much alone, or due perhaps to an unfortunately
English-like appearance, I do not know. At all events, the long arm of
the Secret Service continuously cast a shadow over my shoulder: I
even became suspicious of myself.

For one who has not been through the experience it is difficult to
appreciate the strain of such constant, unending suspicion. On July
17,1912, I stood beside the body of Herman Rosenthal, the gambler,
as it lay in the coffin in the parlor of his house in the Tenderloin. My
newspaper had sent me to "cover" the funeral, and I managed,
because of some previous knowledge of the household, and by
giving the impression of a mourner, to gain access. The murderers
had not yet been caught. Because the public knew nothing of "Lefty"
Louie, or "Gyp the Blood," or even of the late Lieutenant Becker, it
was common gossip that the criminals lurked in the neighborhood,
and that, in order to avoid suspicion, they would appear among the
chief mourners. Therefore, each eye was turned against its neighbor,
and each man, as he passed you, asked the silent question,--"Did
you shoot Herman Rosenthal?" During all the months on the
Continent, and particularly in Germany, I felt myself at Rosenthal's

To a greater or less degree other correspondents had similar
experiences. I must mention one or two of them, in spite of the fact
that they may dim the importance of my own adventures. There was
Swing, of Chicago, German by relationship and sympathy, who
championed the Kaiser's cause and in his dispatches blew the
Teuton horn in the Middle West of America. Swing was given
exceptional privileges, including a typewriter and telephone near the
Foreign Office. Yet Swing himself was constantly shadowed, and it is
a fact that every time he used the telephone (and he was never
permitted to speak in English) a Secret Service agent cut in on the
wire to listen to the conversation.

An anecdote which I have heard in connection with the same
correspondent, although I do not vouch for its accuracy, shows that
"keeping the lid" on newspaper men had its humorous side. It
likewise indicates the initiative and aggressiveness of many American
correspondents, who, as a rule, went right ahead in the face of
military regulations, in some cases risking their lives, and in almost
every case refusing to be "bluffed out," even where the threatened
penalty was death. Swing had made his way to the battle front near---
-----, where he was taken into custody and brought before Von
Mumm, then on a visit to Staff Headquarters.

"I find one of your countrymen wizin ze army lines," is the way
Excellency von Mumm is reported as telling the story, "and I say to
him, 'Herr Swing, it iss strongly forbidden zat a newspaper man come
to ze front. It is not permitted zat any one come here; you must go

"Very goot, Excellency," said Swing.

"Ze next day I am extr-r-remely sorry to encounter ze same
chentleman, and I say to him, 'Go away at once. If you are not gone
in one hour you will be shot!'

"Very goot, Excellency," answered Herr Swing. "Auf wiedersehn."

"Zat Very afternoon, to my sur-r-r-prise and gr-r-reat astonishment, I
see him again. He was still in ze army lines. And I say to him, 'Now I
have you! This time you will be shot at sunrise!'

"And he look at me and say:--

"'Very goot, Excellency. Zat make perfectly bully story for my paper.'

"And I look at him for a minute, and I do not know whether to shoot
him or to laugh.

"And you know, I cannot help myself but to laugh."

And finally there was the case of Cyril Brown, staff correspondent of
the "New York Times" in Berlin, with whom I floundered through the
maze of official red tape and military snares that entangled the
reporter at the German capital. Brown is an individual with a sense of
humor and a Mark Twain penchant for ten-pfennig cigars. He takes
his work seriously, but, unlike most war correspondents, not himself.
After some interesting freight-car adventures of his own planning, he
reached the Grosser Hauptquartier, a small city on the Meuse, where
at that time the brain of the German fighting machine was located.
This most vulnerable spot of the entire German Empire was,
paradoxically, in France. The Kaiser, the King of Saxony, the Crown
Prince of Germany, and Field Marshal von Moltke were here holding
council of war. It was therefore of utmost importance to conceal the
locality. Neutral correspondents were not allowed: the German press,
even if it knew, would not dare to breathe its whereabouts. When
Brown by strategy got inside the red-and-white striped poles which
marked the entrance to the Over War Lord's quarters, he was at once
arrested and taken before Major Nikolai, head of the Kaiser's
bodyguard and chief of the field detectives.

It was late at night, and it was determined that Brown should go on the
first military Postzug, which left at 7 A.M. If he was not gone by that
time there were terrible threats of what would happen to him.

It so happened that the day was the Crown Princess's birthday. Soldiers,
grenadiers, and servants of the Kaiser's household celebrated the fact.
Brown evaded his intoxicated sentinels and deliberately missed the
train. The following morning Major Nikolai discovered him behind the
guardhouse, himself feigning intoxication. Major Nikolai was about to
throw Brown into jail "for the duration of the war" when the young man

"But, Major, I overslept. What loyal German could possibly remain sober
on the Crown Princess's birthday?"

"Gott im Himmel!" exclaimed the major, bursting into a laugh; "vatever
can be done mit such a man?"

To-day Brown has free run of the Foreign Office and the War Office in
Berlin, and is sending to his paper, in my humble opinion, the best
information obtainable in this country on the way in which the German
civil and military mind views the "crisis" with the U. S. A.

Chapter VIII

The Sorrow Of The People

I was conscious of a distinct break between the crisp, official
atmosphere of Berlin--where the war hurts least and the mechanical
appearance of success is strong--and the sentiment of the rank and file
of people whose suffering, as the war continued, became a more and more
important factor.

On the night of my second arrival in the capital I sat in the rear of a
motion-picture theater, just off the Friedrichstrasse. It was a long,
dark hallway, such as one may see in any of the cheaper "movies" on
Washington Street or Broadway, where the audience sits in silence broken
by the whirr of the cinematograph and in darkness pierced by the
flickering light upon the screen. The woman in the seat beside mine was
the typical Hausfrau of the middle class. She was, of course, dressed
in mourning: the heavy veil, which was thrown back, revealed the
expression so common to the German widow of to-day --that set, defiant
look which begs no pity, and seems to say: "We've lost them once; we 'd
endure the same torture again if we had to."

It was a sad enough story that the reel clicked off, and about as
melodramatic as "movies" usually are. But the woman kept herself well
in hand, since the public display of grief is forbidden and they who
sorrow must sorrow alone.

A Bavarian boy, as I recall it,--the youngest son,--runs away from home
to join his father's regiment in Poland. When his captain calls for
volunteers for a dangerous mission, the boy steps forward. For hours
they trudge over the snow until surrounded by a Cossack patrol. The
Bavarian boy, although having a chance to escape, goes back under fire
to succor his wounded comrade. Just as he is about to drag the comrade
into the zone of safety, a bullet pierces his lung. For two days he
suffers torture on the snow. The body is found and brought home to his

Now and then the widow next me bit her lip and clenched her fist, but
she gave no other sign of emotion. Another film was thrown on the
screen, humorous, I believe. Suddenly the woman began to laugh. She did
not stop laughing. It was a long, mirthless, dry, uncanny sort of
cackle. People stared. She laughed still louder. An usher came down
the aisle, and stood there, uncertain what to do. Hysterics had given
way to weeping: the tears were now streaming down the woman's face. She
tried to control herself, but could not, and then arose and between
choking sobs and laughter fled from the darkened room out into the

I mention this incident--the sort of thing that must have existed
everywhere, if one had eyes to see it--merely because it gave a glimpse
through the veil of public optimism into the wells of sorrow hidden for
the sake of public duty. Military and official Berlin was "staged," one
might almost say. It was on show to impress the neutral stranger, no
less than its own inhabitants, with the glorious sense of victory.

But beneath it lay untold suffering which could be endured only because
of such united loyalty and team play as the world has seldom seen.

This undercurrent of suffering, which increased week by week as the
writing on the wall grew longer, was in pitiful contrast to the
enthusiasm with which the women sent their men and sons away to war.
More than once I watched troops drilling at Spandau Hof, the great
barracks and training-grounds, a few kilometers west of the city. When,
on the evening of my first visit, a half dozen battalions of Landwehr,
just whipped into shape, entrained for the front, the people threw bits
of earth upon them, and, according to custom, stuck green twigs in the
end of every Mauser barrel, that each man might carry a bit of the
Vaterland with him on to the enemy's soil. In unspotted field uniforms,
and helmets still without the green-gray canvas service covering, they
clattered past the reviewing officers, each right leg coming down with
the thumping goose-step salute, until halls and barracks echoed with the
staccato tread of thousands of hob-nailed boots. The lusty military
band blazoned out "Die Wacht am Rhein" and other martial airs, until the
creepers began to run up and down your back and you felt a lump rising
in your throat. Friends, relatives, widows, mothers already in black
for other sons, and more than the usual hurrahing crowd had gathered
under the arch leading to the railway track. As the close-locked fours
went through the gate, the people broke the ranks and pounded each man
on the back, while all the time the crowd was shouting.

I asked my neighbor what they were calling.

A German friend in the group explained: "The people shout

At that moment a Red Cross train returning with twenty carloads of
wounded stood on the siding. Scores of bandaged heads and limp arms
stuck out of the windows,--these were the slightly wounded, --and even
the half-dead figures strapped to the cots turned feebly toward the
marching troops. Most of these also waved, and those who were
physically able shouted the same words--"Bravo!" "Congratulations!"

That is the way after many months of war that the women and children
send their men away--no regrets, no holding back. "Good luck! Good
work! You've got a chance to die for Germany!!"

Such a spirit, and with it a sincerity of purpose that could only come
from the conviction of right, is typical of the rank and file of
citizens. It cannot fail to impress the neutral stranger, though he has
traveled far in other countries at war and seen and lived with their
citizens and soldiers. One was forced to believe that the militarists
acted in conformity with the feelings of the whole people, and that this
hideous war was not merely the result of personal ambition. Except, of
course, among the soldiers the belief was most noticeable among the
lower classes. One found it among the peasants, one's neighbor in the
day coach, the artisan, the shopkeeper. You might reason with a
professor, a doctor, or perhaps an official in the Foreign Office at
Berlin. But it was not safe to try it on a sturdy peasant with three
sons on the firing line. It was like telling a man his mother is no
better than she should be.

From the Log

"Among both fighters and those left at home, there is distinctly less of
the matinee hero business than in either England or France. The high
official in the civil government who said that the women were the best
fighters in the German army was not so far from the truth. The pluck of
the women is astonishing. There isn't the slightest display of sorrow
or call for sympathy. You see them everywhere in the streets, cafes,
and shops of Berlin; not in such great numbers, however, as in the
lesser provinces and the smaller towns, where the drain of men is
enormously heavier.

"Later: Have been twice to the Casualty List Office, or Information
Bureau, where the names of the verwundet und gefallen are posted --
column after column, company after company, regiment after regiment of
fine black type--nothing more or less than a printer's morgue, crowding
into one dark hallway the cemetery of a nation. There were fathers,
mothers, brothers, and children quietly and unemotionally scanning the
lists. It took me back to the terrible week at the White Star offices,
after the Titanic went down. At that time the relatives wept (some of
them) and nearly all harangued the officials, asking questions, sending
telegrams, begging for news. Here they look for the names of their
dead,--that's all,--and then go out without a question. You can't ask
questions of a Government! The Titanic lasted a week, and this goes on--
God knows how long!

"Had supper with Brown. Later a mother in black and a girl, also in
black (the daughter, or daughter-in-law, I should judge), came into the
Heiniger ( ?) Cafe while I was sitting there. For three quarters of an
hour they listened to the music, neither of them, I'll swear, speaking a
word. Then they paid twenty-five pfennigs for their beer and went out,
--still silent,--and the Ober bowed low and very respectfully. I asked
the waiter who they were, and he said the woman had that day heard of
the death of C... her fourth son. Something like the Bixby woman to
whom Lincoln wrote his famous letter. And there must be, literally,
thousands of them.

"This people is terribly in earnest,--deluded, of course, with devotion
to a false idea, but it is the delusion that spells accomplishment. The
country is earnestly and honestly possessed with an Idea, and the idea
is that Might is Right. That is the awful pity of it. When will the
awakening come?

"Later: To-day I had an interview of three quarters of an hour with Herr
Dr. R. W. Drechsler, head of the American Institute, attached to the
University of Berlin. To-morrow I hope to see Excellency von Harnach,
president of the University of Berlin, to whom I have a letter. Dr.
Drechsler was kind, agreeable, extremely interesting. He showed me some
New York newspapers--the first real news of the war I have had for
weeks. The 'Tribune' and 'Times' had an account of us fellows down in
the cellar at Antwerp. Drechsler and I had an interesting argument, and
before I left he deluged me with pamphlets and literature for the
improvement of my mind and sympathies. Even so he was unlike the
average German. As a rule they have attempted to cram their arguments
down my throat. These Teutons think they can force you to believe.

"Dr. Drechsler and the proprietor of the Kaiserhof, and, of course, the
Foreign Office warned me that it was forbidden to go to the prisoners'
camps, either at Zossen or Doeberitz. Some correspondents had been
taken on 'personally conducted' tours; but because of misinformation
sent out the tours were no longer in vogue. So I thought that I would
risk it, without permit, and, wishing to take a swing through rural
Germany, I decided to visit the camp at Zossen, twenty-five kilometers
south of the capital. When the guards weren't looking, I slipped boxes
of cigarettes through the barbed-wire fence to Irish privates, and
listened to the talk of captured Cossacks, and watched the British
Tommies kicking around a 'soccer' football, squabbling about fouls and
penalties, and as much excited about the score as if they were at home
on Hampstead Heath."

It was chiefly in my wanderings through rural Germany that I was able to
rub elbows with the rank and file of citizens, and to get that barometer
of public feeling which Colonel Roosevelt, I believe, has called the
barber-shop opinion. I think I am justified in saying that during the
winter there were many evidences, too many to be overlooked, that a
growing minority, suffering through loss of life and realizing the
territorial advantages which are now Germany's, earnestly longed for
peace on any reasonable terms. The sooner peace came, they felt, the
better would be the strategic position of the Vaterland. Some of this
minority, in addition to the women, were business men, or professors, or
merchants, or doctors.

It was not far from Hanover, where you change cars for Cologne and Aix-
la-Chapelle, dispatching-centers of the troops for the northern line of
battle, that the Frankfort doctor in the seat next mine began to talk.
He was an oldish man over sixty, dressed in mourning, and careworn. He
had been to Berlin, he said, to verify the report of his son's death,
and was now headed for Aix, where the body lay.

After Uhlman, the fat merchant, left, we were alone in the second-class
compartment, and the doctor got up and shut the door on the noise of
Landwehr soldiers singing in the section of the troop train attached
behind the car. Presently he showed me two postals from his boy. They
were the stereotyped cards allotted to the men on the field: on one side
space for the address, on the other side the printed word "well," space
for the date (but no locality), and the signature. The third card was a
casualty report, signed, probably, by the company captain, with the
three printed words "slightly wounded," "wounded," and "severely
wounded." The first and last were scratched out, but after the word
"wounded" was written, "condition low."

The boy must have held out--because the body was sent to Aix--until well
along the homeward Red Cross trip. During the Antwerp bombardment, at
Brussels, Liege, and Louvain, I had seen scores of the wounded, and had
myself slept on those trains with their households of blood and pain and
ether, and their long lines of mail cars, box cars, and converted tram
cars fitted with their triple rows of berths, one above another. As the
old doctor talked, I could see the wheeled hospitals stealing into the
city in the darkness--for the troops go off with bands and holiday
accompaniment, but the return is made at dead of night, that the public
may not know the human cost.

"We must have peace," the doctor finished, "and we must have it soon. I
do not say this because I have lost a son, and I do not say it alone.
There are thousands who feel it just as much, but they are afraid to
speak what is in their mind. You are a traveler from the great city
[Berlin], and you do not know what war means. All you have heard is the
talk of fight and victory and glory, and that is all you see if you do
not look close. You must live in the smaller cities, must see the
villages and farms without men, and you must come with me and see the
homes without husband or son." For the third time he interrupted himself
to ask:--"You are Amerikaner--yes? And why do you come?"

"To see the war and find out what the German people think."

"Then go home and tell your country what I think and say, and many
others like me."

It was not easy to forget his tears and final words as he came up on the
platform at Hanover, and, looking around to see that no one overheard,
whispered hoarsely: "Fangen sie ihre Propagande an, junger Mann, und
Gott starke ihre Bemuhungen"--"Start your peace propaganda, young man,
and Heaven help the undertaking."

The southern part of this trip was not without its crop of stories, some
humorous, and some atrocious. It was impossible to verify the statement
of the Bavarian travelers who boasted of the treatment of English
prisoners en route to the detention camp. On one occasion sixty were
captured, they said, and only five brought home alive. The Bavarian
soldiers guarding them said with a laugh, "But they were tired, so we
had to shoot the rest"; and the officer answered with a wink, "What
happens to English prisoners need never be reported." One never needed
more one's sense of the probabilities.

And there was the good-natured cavalry lieutenant who said the Germans
had found a way to keep their prisoners in training. "You see," he
explained, "we lock twenty of the 'red-trousers' [Frenchmen] and twenty
Englishmen in the same room at night and shut the windows. You know a
Frenchman can't stand air, and a Kitchener will die without it. So we
stand outside to watch the fun. First a window goes up, and then it
goes down, and pretty soon there are growls, grumbles, and oaths. In
ten minutes a terrible fight ensues; in half an hour the Frenchmen are
badly beaten,--they always are,--and twenty battered English heads come
sticking out the window for a breath of air."

And finally there was the Landwehr captain's letter, a thing in keeping
with the tales which come across the Polish border. Westward, in
Belgium and in France, the fight was modern and of the day. Move
eastward from Berlin and you got the mediaeval note. It was not to be
found at the English prisoners' camp at Doeberitz, where the Germans
stare with infinite contempt and satisfaction at Tommy Atkins behind his
triple row of wire gratings. But wander among the thousands of captured
Cossacks building their own prisons at the camp at Zossen, hear them
muttering "Nichevo"--"this is fate"--"I do not care," and, listening to
the stories of their captors, you felt the atmosphere of centuries gone
by. One such was called to my attention in the form of a Prussian
captain's letter, which was, I believe, published in Berlin. Here is
his letter of the war in Poland, not long ago received by relatives. So
much as is not private is given as he wrote it:--

"The inhabitants go out of our way like frightened dogs, with childish
fear. When they wish to ask a question, they kneel down and kiss the
border of our coats, as in the days of the serf system. We are
stationed here in Poland, about eight kilometers from the so-called
road, in a so-called village far from all civilization. The village
consists of a number of tumble-down cottages, with rooms which we should
not consider fit for stables for our horses. The rain is streaming down
unceasingly, as if Heaven wished to wash away all the sins of the world.
Our horses sink into the mud up to their knees.

"We took up our quarters in this village after fifty-four hours'
marching, and came just in time to witness the end of a strange and
tragic romance. When I was about to open the door of a farm, it was
opened from the inside, and a subaltern came out, with a face beaming
with satisfaction. He reported that a little while ago he, with a few
of his men, partly captured and partly shot down half a company of

"'We were concealed' he told me. 'We let them come quite near, and then
we started firing.'

"We entered a low-ceilinged room, or pen, sparsely lighted by wax
candles. The first object which caught my attention was a youthful
Russian soldier, almost a child, lying on a straw mattress, smiling as
if asleep. I approached; I put my hand on his forehead ... ice-cold--
dead. Some of the men approached to take off the clothing; others stood
around in a half-circle, silently looking on. Suddenly there was a
murmur... They seemed awe-stricken, these brave fellows, who are not
daunted even by overwhelming odds. They hesitated, and one of them,
advancing a few paces to me, reports: 'This Russian soldier is a girl.'

"This happened in the year 1914.

"We found out that the girl was the betrothed of a Russian officer, and
fought side by side with him throughout the campaign, until killed by a
shot in the breast. The officer was taken prisoner. I buried her
myself that same day..."

In order to make clear what happened when I crossed the German border
for the last time, I should explain that I now had with me several
trophies which I had obtained with great difficulty and was
correspondingly anxious to bring home. Among them was a German
private's helmet and an original Iron Cross of the second degree. The
marking on the temple band of the helmet said, "48th Regiment, 4th Army
Corps, Company 7, No. 57, 1909-1914,"--meaning that the owner started
service in 1909 and the helmet was issued to him in 1914. It is
believed it belonged to a soldier who was either wounded or killed
outside of Antwerp. The Iron Cross has on it: "1870" (when the order
was started), and the letter "F" (Friedrich), and the date of its
issuance. I should add that I did not rob a dead or dying soldier of
these trophies, but I was asked not to show them in either Belgium or
England, nor to state how I came by them. And I have kept my promise.

I had also a fragment of shrapnel casing from a 32 cm. shell--the only
bomb which hit the Antwerp Cathedral during the German attack. It was
given to me by Mr. Edward Eyre Hunt, who picked it up on the morning of
the German entry. There were also some Belgian bullet clips and a bit
of shrapnel picked up near the spot where I was knocked down by the
concussion of a bursting shell on that same morning.

When I reached Bentheim we were put through the usual search by the
border patrol and military officials of the Zollamt. I had pinned the
Iron Cross to my undershirt, but the helmet was a bit bulky for such

"Take it out!" roared the officer who discovered the headgear wrapped in
a sweater in my rucksack. "Dass ist str-r-reng ver-r-rboten!"

When I explained that I had come by it honestly, and wanted to take it
home, he burst into a passion. The fact that I showed a letter from Von
Bernstorff and explained that I was known in the Foreign Office in
Berlin made no impression whatsoever. The officer said that if the
owner was dead, the helmet could not even go to his family. It was
government property and should return, therefore, to the commissary
department. At all events, it must not leave the Empire.

I missed my train and was kept in Bentheim overnight. In the morning I
again tried persuasion, but without success. As it was now a question
of myself or the helmet, I decided to get myself home. I went back once
more, and as a final chance put up this proposition to my officer. I
showed my credentials and explained that I was going to The Hague.
Would he in the mean time put my name on the helmet, and if within
forty-eight hours he received a wire both from the Foreign Office in
Berlin and The Hague Legation, would he send the helmet after me? He
glared at me for a moment. Yes, he said, he would.

At The Hague I immediately visited the German Legation and told them of
the customs officer's promise.

From bitter experience I realized that in war-time out of sight is lost,
so far as baggage is concerned. Consequently I had given up all hope of
my trophy. A week later, when I happened to be in Dr. van Dyke's study,
I noticed a conical-shaped object resting on one of the secretary's
desks. There, on top of a pile of letters, with "Herr Horace Green"
scribbled in German script on a piece of paper pinned to the green-gray
service covering, lay my dented, battered, and long-lost German
private's helmet!

Simply because the fiery customs officer had given his word, the German
Legation at The Hague had telegraphed to Bentheim and also, I take it,
to Excellency von Mumm at Berlin; and the customs officials had shipped
the helmet to the Dutch capital, where the German Legation, obedient to
promise, had turned it over to the American Legation for delivery to me.
The whole proceeding seemed typical of the overbearing gruffness, the
systematic attention to detail, and at the same time the thoroughgoing
honesty of the German character.

So I tucked the helmet under my arm, and, saying good-bye to Dr. van
Dyke and Mr. Langhome, who had made my stay at The Hague so pleasant, I
crossed the mine-strewn English Channel for Piccadilly Circus.

Two weeks later I was aboard the Red Star liner Lapland, driven one
hundred miles out of her course through fear of German war craft, yet
pounding along through a thick fog and hopefully headed in the general
direction of the good old Statue of Liberty.

Appendix: Atrocities

I gained the impressions given below and compiled many of the instances
on the now threadbare subject of atrocities during the time that I was
in the war zone. The opinions will not meet with favor in this country,
particularly at present, when we seem on the point of breaking
diplomatic relations with Germany.

Nevertheless, I think these notes present a point of view which ought to
be known, if only for the purpose of showing the other side of the
shield--and of checking, to some extent, the nursery tales in regard to
personal atrocities, which become more fanciful the farther they are
told from the scene of reported occurrence. After the horrible
Lusitania crime and other evidences of German Schrecklichkeit for which
there can be no justification, it is hard for Americans to reason fairly
in questions involving Teutonic methods of warfare. I am therefore
appending the notes in spite of a rather careful study of the Bryce
Report on German atrocities in Belgium. They are, of course, to be
taken into consideration merely as the evidence of what one man happened
to see or as was often more the case, not to see.

In order that there may be no misunderstanding, it is well to define the
meaning of the word "atrocity."

I suppose all will agree with me that the term does not include what may
be called the necessary horrors of war--such as hunger and poverty
resulting from the destruction of homes and loss of livelihood, the
suffering of refugees driven by necessity from captured towns,
starvation through no fault of the invader, the accidental wounding of
noncombatant peasants, farmers, etc. For the present purpose the word
is intended to include all cases of unnecessary, unprovoked personal
cruelty, as well as, of course, the outraging of women. Such acts, for
example, as the reported gouging-out of the eyes of prisoners, cutting
off the wrists of children, the alleged stabbing of old women, cutting
off the wrists and ears of nurses, and the more refined cruelties of
which I have heard reports, are, it goes without saying, atrocities.
Let us examine one or two of these.

Near Osnabruck, Germany, an American visitor, pacing up and down a
railroad siding early one morning, chewing a mouthful of stale sausage
meat between thick crusts of rye bread, heard a particular cruelty story
which may be used here as an example. It was told by an army surgeon
with whom he was having his peripatetic breakfast. On the track
alongside stood a so-called Red Cross train, consisting of a combination
of well-equipped hospital coaches with their triple rows of berths slung
one above the other as in a sleeper; attached in the rear were a few
coal carriages and freight trucks. This train was waiting for the
outbound traffic to pass by. You see, the outbound traffic consisted of
fresh troops, being rushed to the front in one of those quick
transcontinental shifts which have played so important a part in German
strategy. But the eastbound train carried only wounded and dying on
their way back home. So, of course, the hospital cars must wait as long
as necessary, since they had no right or standing in the ruthless game
called war.

In the cheerless interior of one of these freight cars (much the same
kind of car as that in which we were confined during the trip from
Brussels to Aix--apparently used as a horse-stall on the previous trip,
and with no bedding beyond a damp pile of straw in one corner) the
American noticed a young German private. This particular fellow was not
wounded. He wore no bandages; he was the only occupant of the
horse-stall; and he paced up and down the boards, muttering, muttering,
continually muttering to himself. Now and then he snatched up a musket,
went through the form of fixing a bayonet, and again and again lunged
savagely at the wall of the car.

The Red Cross surgeon to whom the American went for information
dismissed the matter casually by merely tapping his forehead with his
index finger.

"Just one of those insane cases," he said.

Later in the day on better acquaintance the surgeon explained the matter
in this fashion:--

"The fellow was quartered in a village near Lille, doing sentry duty on
a house occupied by German officers. There was an uprising of citizens.
From across the way native franc-tireurs fired shots into the house,
killing one officer and wounding a second. Tracing the firing across
the street, the remaining officers entered a bakery-shop where they
found several men and a woman, all armed. They ordered the men to be
shot. The woman had in her hand a revolver with one of the cartridge
chambers empty. The German lieutenant saw that she was about to become
a mother. He then explained the gravity of her offense, told her that
she was practically guilty of murder, and took away her weapon. But
under the circumstances he ordered her released instead of being shot.
He turned his back and walked away about five paces. Suddenly the woman
snatched another revolver from behind the counter and fired point-blank.
As he fell, the officer called out to his orderly, 'Bayonet the woman.'

"The sentry did what he was ordered, but, you see, it has affected the
poor fellow's mind."

This story, along with a few others, I have picked out from hundreds of
atrocity tales which I heard during four months spent in England,
Belgium, Germany, and Holland. It will serve as an example, not only
because it has the earmarks of truth,--having been told in an offhand
way merely as an explanation of the private's insanity,--but because it
is typical of the kind of incident which in the telling is, nine times
out of ten, twisted into atrocious and wholly unrecognizable form.

Under the law of military reprisal was there justification for the death
of this woman? Was the dying officer guilty of barbarian conduct? And
did the private, ordered against his will to perform an act whose memory
drove him insane, commit an atrocity? Without answering the question,
let us consider for a moment how that particular anecdote would be told
by a Belgian partisan. In my wanderings through Termonde, Liege, and
Louvain, I heard tales--unspeakable and on their face utterly
unbelievable--of which this kind of thing must have been the foundation.

When the body of this woman was found, let us say, by French peasants
returning to their ruined homes, think how the horrible fact would be
seized, without whatsoever there was of justification! How the British
and French papers would describe that mutilated form! Think of the
effect of a two-column word-picture of the wanton sack and ruin of the
town, the shooting of its helpless citizens, and the description of that
mangled body sacrified to the Huns! Think how the fact would be clutched
by fear-crazed inhabitants, would be bandied from mouth to mouth,
distorted and dressed up to suit a partisan press, and "twisted by
knaves to make a trap for fools"!

One of the first atrocity accounts which I heard in Belgium, as well as
one of the most persistent, had to do with scores of children whose
wrists had been cut by the Kaiser's troops. Hundreds of them were
reported to be in Belgium and Dutch hospitals or in the care of relief
committees. The gossip was so prevalent and in some instances so
specific that I had high hopes of tracking down and seeing, with my own
eyes, an instance. In each case which I heard abroad, my informant's
husband or brother or best friend had seen the children; but somehow or
other it was never arranged that I could see one of them myself. This
type of cruelty was so widely talked about that in plenty of cases the
German soldiers believed that some of their men had committed these
crimes. One of them told me that he understood that near Tirlemont the
wrists of several young children had been cut. He said that thirty or
forty children and peasants had fired on and killed German troops
marching through a neighboring village. A squad was sent to round up
the offenders, all of whom were found armed. Instead of killing the
snipers, whose age was between ten and seventeen, the surgeons were
ordered to slice the tendons of the wrist so that the noncombatants
should be prevented from holding a gun or using a knife.

Soon after my ship, the Lapland, docked in America, I heard a case of
whose verity, owing to the source from which it came, I had no doubt.
The refugee in question, according to my informant, was an English
nurse, and lay with both wrists cut off at a well-known New York
hospital on Madison Avenue. She had been in Brussels at the time of the
German entry, and, being willing to work for the sake of humanity
wheresoever there were sick to care for, she had nursed wounded German
officers. Eventually, with a handful of English nurses still remaining
in Brussels, she had been deported to Holland, because it was feared
that German secrets were leaking out in letters sent by these English
nurses. This latter part coincided so precisely with the facts which
during my stay in Brussels I had found to be true, that I had no doubt
of the whole business. On recovery the nurse was to exhibit herself and
lecture for Red Cross funds. I was told this in strict confidence and I
was to see and talk to the handless lady on condition that the "story"
should not reach the press. I agreed. But to my bitter disappointment
the ----- Hospital had never heard of the woman. My informant then
confessed that his informant had made a mistake in the name of the
hospital. I offered four persons ten dollars each to trace the matter
to its source, the final result being a telephone call from my informant
saying that an English lawyer now in New York stated that to the best of
his belief there was "some such person in a hospital somewhere in New

Merely for what they may be worth, and not in any sense as conclusive, I
mention the cases which came to my attention. During a month spent in
that part of Belgium where the most savage of the atrocities were
reported,--a month devoted to a diligent search for the truth,--I could
run down only two instances where the facts were proved, and where taken
all in all and looked at from both sides they constituted an atrocity.
I lived in an atmosphere of popular apprehension frequently amounting to
terror. A friend of mine saw children throw up their hands in terror
and fall down on their knees before a squad of German Uhlans who
suddenly dashed into a village near Vilvorde. The incident does not
prove that Uhlans are in the habit of acting atrociously; it does prove
the popular fear of them. Near the same town I investigated the case of
a peaceful villager, reported in the current conversation of the story
to have had his ears cut off and to have been finished off with a
half-dozen bayonet wounds. This I got at first hand from the man who
had seen the body. I asked him how he knew the man had been bayoneted by
Germans. My informant said that he himself was running from the village,
where a skirmish was going on between a regiment of the enemy (Germans)
and Belgian carabineers, that he was racing for his life through a rain
of bullets, etc., etc., and that under fire of sharpshooters he stumbled
across this body. He did not know the man was dead; but the case
interested him. So later he went back (still under fire of the
sharpshooters) and counted the number of holes in the man's shirt; there
were six, he told me, and he was sure from the shape of the holes that
they were the result of bayonets, not bullets.

At one time when driving from Ghent toward Brussels with Julius Van Hee,
the acting Consul-General of the United States at Ghent, we passed a
little hillock of ground upon which was a small square slab of stone,
topped by a pair of sticks--hardly more than sticks--in the shape of a
cross. There was a yarn floating around the neighborhood, which had
almost crystallized into legend, that this was the fresh grave of a
child murdered by the Germans because it refused to salute. They said
the feet had been cut off and the boy was left to bleed to death.
Conceivably the story was true. We did not stop, for we could not carry
the investigation to the point of digging up a fresh grave.

On the evening previous Van Hee had gone over to his office to lock up
preparatory to our early start for Brussels. A woman of Louvain stood
on the doorstep. How on earth she had ever got back to Ghent, neither
Van Hee nor Luther, who was in Van Hee's office and who told me the
story, could make out from her incoherent words. She had been torn from
her family, driven from house and home with a mob of wretched women, and
shipped into Cologne, Germany. She was almost starved; several others
went mad for lack of water. She now believed herself a widow. Between
tears and hysterics she told how soldiers had entered her house, how two
of them had held her husband against the wall at the point of a
revolver, while "several" others in succession violated her before her
husband's eyes!!

These stories are not pleasant. But in seeking the real facts one
cannot work with kid gloves. Of the hundreds I have heard I have
mentioned a few of those which show the kind of thing believed to have
occurred in the ravaged country. Of all those which I heard, the last
mentioned and the one at the head of this chapter--for which there was
justification--appeared to have the greatest probability of truth.

During the first rush of war the German system of destruction, and the
doctrine of "awfulness," as I saw it applied to physical objects, was
barbaric, relentless, and totally unjustified. At Louvain, Aerschot,
and Termonde it was at its height. On the other hand, in the mind of an
impartial student of the facts there cannot be the slightest doubt that
at Louvain there was an organized attack on the invaders by snipers and
franc-tireurs armed with knives, guns, revolvers of every description.
A half-day spent en route from burning Antwerp with a Jesuit priest of
Louvain and the testimony of several villagers would have convinced me
of this, had I not already been convinced by the stories of other

The burning of villages is one matter, the outraging and torturing of
women and children another. The truth of the former should not in any
way convict a German officer, much less Private Johann Schmidt, of
unprovoked personal cruelty.

There undoubtedly were, though I did not happen to see them, numerous
cases of unprovoked cruelty and other evidences of barbarity that are
bound to happen in any war of invasion. The fact that I, personally,
did not happen to see them, and have found scarcely a non-partisan
observer who did, is neither here nor there. I merely state the fact as
one of the many bits of evidence which should be taken into
consideration. I have no case for Prussian militarism in so far as
applied to inanimate objects. The German system of destruction in the
early part of the war was utterly without excuse or justification; the
wreck and desolation, the hunger and suffering of the larger portion of
Belgium are utterly beyond the comprehension of those who have not been
there. Certainly words cannot convey the impression. The suffering,
particularly during the weeks following the fall of Antwerp, was so
awful and on so large a scale that the senses refused to grasp it. It
has been said that in the Civil War Sheridan was commanded, in pushing
up the Shenandoah Valley, to leave the countryside in such condition
that a crow could not live on it. A sparrow could not have existed in
many parts of Belgium.

At the same time it is true that because of the tortures endured by the
Belgian people, because of the pain and horror of the war of invasion,
much of it unavoidable, the American public, because its sentiment is so
strongly anti-German, has been willing to believe anything of the race
against whom runs its prejudice. Truly remarkable is the rapidity with
which atrocity stories have been created and the relish with which they
are swallowed by drawing-room gossips. Those who have seen the war do
not find it necessary to talk about what does not exist. Mr. Arthur
Ruhl, who has seen and carefully studied all sides of the war, applies
the term "nursery tale" to the average atrocity story. Mr. Irvin Cobb,
John T. McCutcheon, and others who have been on the ground also took
them with a grain of salt. Curiously enough, the closer one got to the
actual fight, the less bitter was the feeling between participants, the
greater their respect for one another, and the less credulous their
belief in the enemy's barbarity.

An American who was recently discharged from seven months' service with
the British army tells me that during this time the only knowledge he
had of personal atrocities was through the British and French
newspapers. And there are well-known stories of opposing trenches so
closely situated that the soldiers taught each other their respective
national airs, and the choruses of their camp tunes.

To return to another form of alleged outrage, we have the ancient
argument on the case of Rheims.

An interesting contribution to the testimony has been given by Cyril
Brown, now special correspondent of the New York Times in Berlin. Brown
made his way to the German army lines before Rheims, where, among
others, he interviewed First Lieutenant Wengler, of the Heavy Artillery,
commander of a battery which shelled the church spire, but known among
his comrades as "the little friend of the Rheims Cathedral." According
to Lieutenant Wengler two shots only struck the church spire (one from a
fifteen centimeter howitzer, another from a twenty-one centimeter
mortar) and this after French observers had used the tower for five days
between September thirteenth and eighteenth. So sparing was this young
"barbarian," in spite of provocative fire obviously directed from the
French cathedral, that "the friend of the Rheims Cathedral" stuck to him
as a nickname.

In America Brown's statement provoked a storm of retort. Allied
correspondents claimed that a dozen shots at least crashed through the
roof, set the scaffolding ablaze, and that, at a time when Red Cross
flags were floating from the tower and red crosses were painted on the
roof, shells continued to devastate the beautiful interior, etc., etc.
There has been a quantity of discussion back and forth as to the number
of shots fired. Now, so far as the question of atrocity is concerned,
though every one will regret the ruin of this noble work of art, I hold
that it is not of the slightest importance whether there were fired two
shells or seventeen or seventy-seven. The important and only question at
issue is, whether the tower was used for observation purposes, or, in
other words, was there military justification for its attempted

Military men, English as well as German, to whom I have talked, take it
as a matter of course that the highest spot in any locality is used for
observation. As an English officer in Antwerp put it, "If the French
did not use the church tower they are d------fools."

By way of guide and for sake of likely comparison I can state what I
know did happen in two other cities: Termonde and Antwerp. In Chapter
II of this book I have told how we made our way across the broken bridge
at Termonde on the day of its second bombardment, and how that night
word came to us of the manner in which the Belgians took revenge on the
conquerors. I told how staff officers, entering with a scouting party
at the head of a German column, mounted the only remaining spire in the
town. With a few well-directed shots from their concealed batteries
west of the river, the Belgians destroyed the tower and killed the
officers. The Belgians took no little pride in their marksmanship on
that occasion, and boasted freely of it. In this case, the use, and
therefore the destruction, of the observation-post was looked upon by
the Belgians as a natural and necessary instance of the work of war. As
evidence, it is rather valuable because given unconsciously and without

Likewise at Antwerp. In all probability the fact has never been
appreciated that during the bombardment of this city,--the most
important, from a military point of view, in Belgium,--the spire of the
Notre Dame Cathedral was used as an outlook-station by the Belgian
defenders, if not by both Belgians and English. On the inadvertent
testimony of English themselves I know this to be true. On the second
night of the Antwerp bombardment the Americans who had not left the city
were gathered in the almost deserted Queen's Hotel along the water
front. Some time during the evening, I don't remember just when, but it
was while the British retreat was going on, an English lad called Lucien
Arthur Jones burst in upon us. At no little risk he had dodged through
the deserted streets and falling shells, much elated over the view of
the enemy he had just got from the cathedral tower.

"I've had bully luck," he confided to me, after I had done him a noble
service (i.e., lent him a safety razor). "Belgian signal officers took
me up to the tower, where they can see everything the Germans are

The following is taken from his account--an Englishman's account--
printed in the London Chronicle, and copied in the New York Times,
Tribune, and other papers:--

"I now return to the events of Thursday. At 12.30 o'clock in the
afternoon, when the bombardment had already lasted over twelve hours,
through the courtesy of a Belgian officer, I was able to ascend to the
roof of the cathedral, and from that point of vantage I looked down upon
the scene in the city. I could just discern through my glasses dimly in
the distance the instruments of culture of the attacking German forces
ruthlessly pounding at the city and creeping nearer to it in the dark.
At that moment I should say the enemy's front line was within four miles
of Antwerp.

"From my elevated position I had an excellent view also of the great oil
tanks on the opposite side of the Scheldt. They had been set on fire by
four bombs from a German Taube, and a huge, thick volume of black smoke
was ascending two hundred feet into the air. The oil had been burning
furiously for several hours, and the whole neighborhood was enveloped in
a mist of smoke.

"After watching for some considerable time the panorama of destruction
that lay unrolled all around me, I came down from my post of observation
on the cathedral roof, and at the very moment I reached the street a 28-
centimeter shell struck a confectioner's shop between the Place Verte
and the Place de Meir. It was one of these high-explosive shells, and
the shop, a wooden structure, immediately burst into flames."


The destruction of towns and villages, and the vengeance against
inanimate objects shown in the German march through Belgium was
barbaric. It was provoked by organized resistance on the part of
Belgian franc-tireurs, and by shooting from behind shutters, etc., and
other attacks by citizens of the invaded country. The Germans, though
truthful in the statement of the causes, inflicted punishment out of all
proportion to the crime.

The reports of unprovoked personal atrocities, it is nevertheless true,
have been hideously exaggerated. Wherever one real atrocity has
occurred, it has been multigraphed into a hundred cases. Each, with
clever variation in detail, is reported as occurring to a relative or
close friend of the teller. For campaign purposes, and particularly in
England for the sake of stimulating recruiting, a partisan press has
helped along the concoction of lies.

In every war of invasion there is bound to occur a certain amount of
plunder and rapine. The German system of reprisal is relentless; but
the German private as an individual is no more barbaric than his brother
in the French, the British, or the Belgian trenches.

The End

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest