In addition to these kitchens the Government has opened throughout Germany "mittlestand kueche," a restaurant for the middle classes. Here government employees, with small wages, the poor who do not keep house and others with little means can obtain a meal for 10 cents, consisting of a stew and a dessert. But it is very difficult for people to live on this food. Most every one who is compelled by circumstances to eat here is losing weight and feels under-nourished all the time.
A few months ago, after one of my secretaries had been called to the army; I employed another. He had been earning only $7 a week and had to support his wife. On this money they ate at the middle class cafes. In six months he had lost twenty pounds.
Because the food is so scarce and because it lacks real nourishment people eat all the time. It used to be said before the war that the Germans were the biggest eaters in Europe—that they ate seven meals a day. The blockade has not made them less eaters, for they eat every few hours all day long now, but because the food lacks fats and sugars, they need more food.
Restaurants are doing big business because after one has eaten a "meal" at any leading Berlin hotel at 1 o'clock in the afternoon one is hungry by 3 o'clock and ready for another "meal."
Last winter the Socialists of Munich, who saw that the rich were having plenty of food and that the poor were existing as best they could in food kitchens, wrote Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg and demanded the immediate confiscation of all food in Germany, even that in private residences.
The Socialists' demand was, as are most others, thrown into the waste basket because men like the Chancellor, President Batocki, of the Food Department, wealthy bankers, statesmen and army generals have country estates where they have stored food for an indefinite period. They know that no matter how hard the blockade pinches the people it won't starve them.
When the Chancellor invites people to his palace he has real coffee, white bread, plenty of potatoes, cake and meat. Being a government official he can get what he wants from the food department. So can other officials. Therefore, they were willing to disregard the demand of the Bavarian Socialists.
But the Socialists, although they don't get publicity when they start something, don't give up until they accomplish what they set out to do. First, they enlisted the Berlin Socialists, and the report went around to people that the rich were going to Copenhagen and bringing back food while the poor starved. So the Government had to prohibit all food from coming into Germany by way of Denmark unless it was imported by the Government.
That was the first success of the Bavarian Socialists. Now they have had another. Batocki is reported as having announced that all food supplies will be confiscated. The Socialists are responsible.
Excepting the very wealthy and those who have stored quantities of food for the "siege," every German is undernourished. A great many people are starving. The head physician of the Kaiserin Augusta Victoria Hospital, in Berlin, stated that 80,000 children died in Berlin in 1916 from lack of food. The Lokal-Anzeiger printed the item and the Foreign Office censor prohibited me from sending it to New York.
But starvation under the blockade is a slow process, and it has not yet reached the army. When I was on the Somme battlefields last November and in Rumania in December the soldiers were not only well fed, but they had luxuries which their families at home did not have. Two years ago there was so much food at home the women sent food boxes to the front. To-day the soldiers not only send but carry quantities of food from the front to their homes. The army has more than the people.
It is almost impossible to say whether Germany, as a nation, can be starved into submission. Everything depends upon the next harvest, the length of the war and future military operations. The German Government, I think, can make the people hold out until the coming harvest, unless there is a big military defeat. In their present undernourished condition the public could not face a defeat. If the war ends this year Germany will not be so starved that she will accept any peace terms. But if the war continues another year or two Germany will have to give up.
I entered Germany at the beginning of the Allied blockade when one could purchase any kind and any quantity of food in Germany. Two years later, when I left, there were at least eighteen foodstuffs which could not be purchased anywhere, and there were twelve kinds of food which could be obtained only by government cards. That is what the Allied blockade did to the food supplies. It made Germany look like a grocery store after a closing out sale.
Suppose in the United States you wanted the simplest breakfast—coffee and bread and butter. Suppose you wanted a light luncheon of eggs or a sandwich, tea and fruit. Suppose for dinner you wanted a plain menu of soup, meat, vegetables and dessert. At any grocery or lunch counter you could get not only these plain foods, but anything else you wanted.
Not so in Germany! For breakfast you cannot have pure coffee, and you can have only a very small quantity of butter with your butter card. Hotels serve a coffee substitute, but most people prefer nothing. For luncheon you may have an egg, but only one day during two weeks. Hotels still serve a weak, highly colored tea and apples or oranges. For dinner you may have soup without any meat or fat in it. Soups are just a mixture of water and vegetables. Two days a week you can get a small piece of meat with a meat card. Other days you can eat boiled fish.
People who keep house, of course, have more food, because as a rule they have been storing supplies. Take the Christian Scientists as an instance. Members of this Church have organised a semi-official club. Members buy all the extra food possible. Then they divide and store away what they want for the "siege"—the time when food will be scarcer than it is to-day.
Two women practitioners in Berlin, who live together, bought thirty pounds of butter from an American who had brought it in from Copenhagen. They canned it and planned to make this butter last one year. Until a few weeks ago people with money could go to Switzerland, Holland and Denmark and bring back food with them, either with or without permission. Some wealthy citizens who import machinery and other things from outside neutral countries have their agents smuggle food at the same time.
While the Dutch, Danish and Swiss governments try to stop smuggling; there is always some going through. The rich have the money to bribe border officers and inspectors. When I was in Duesseldorf, last October, I met the owner of a number of canal boats, who shipped coal and iron products from the Rhine Valley to Denmark. He told me his canal barges brought back food from Copenhagen every trip and that the border authorities were not very careful in making an investigation of his boats.
In Duesseldorf, too, as well as in Cologne, business men spoke about the food they got from Belgium. They did not get great quantities, of course, but the leakage was enough to enable them to live better than those who had to depend upon the food in Germany.
When the food supplies began to decrease the Government instituted the card system of distribution. Bread cards had been very successful, so the authorities figured that meat, butter, potato and other cards would be equally so. But their calculations were wrong.
When potato cards were issued each person was given nine pounds a week. But the potato harvest was a big failure. The supply was so much less than the estimates that seed potatoes had to be used to keep the people satisfied. Even then the supply was short; and the quantity to be sold on potato cards was cut to three pounds a week. Then transportation difficulties arose, and potatoes spoiled before they reached Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Dresden, Leipsic and other large cities.
The same thing happened when the Government confiscated the fruit crop last year.
One day I was asked on the telephone whether I wanted to buy an 11-pound ham. I asked to have it sent to my office immediately. When it came the price was $2.50 a pound. I sent the meat back and told the man I would not pay such a price.
"That's all right," he replied. "Dr. Stein and a dozen other people will pay me that price. I sent it to you because I wanted to help you out."
Dr. Ludwig Stein, one of the editors of the Vossiche Zeitung, paid the price and ordered all he could get for the same money.
When I left Berlin the Government had issued an order prohibiting the sale of all canned vegetables and fruit. It was explained that this food would be sold when the present supplies of other foods were exhausted. There were in Berlin many thousand cans, but no one can say how long such food will last.
When Americans ask, "How long can Germany hold out?" I reply, "As long as the German Government can satisfy the vanity and stimulate the nerves of the people, and as long as the people permit the Government to do the nation's thinking."
How long a time that will be no one can say. It was formerly believed that whenever a nation reached the limit which Germany has reached it would crumple up. But Germany fails to crumple. Instead of breaking up, she fights harder and more desperately. Why can she do this? The answer is simple: Because the German people believe in their Government and the Government knows that as long as it can convince the people that it is winning the war the people will fight.
Germany is to-day in the position of a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown; in the position of a man who is under-nourished, who is depressed, who is weighed down by colossal burdens, who is brooding over the loss of friends and relatives, but of a man who feels that his future health and happiness depend upon his ability to hold out until the crisis passes.
If a physician were called in to prescribe for such a patient his first act would in all probability be to stimulate this man's hope, to make him believe that if he would only "hold out" he would pass the crisis successfully. But no physician could say that his patient could stand it for one week, a month or a year more. The doctor would have to gamble upon that man's nerves. He would have to stimulate him daily, perhaps hourly.
So it is with the German nation. The country is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Men and women, business men and generals, long ago lost their patience. They are under-nourished. They are depressed, distressed, suffering and anxious for peace. It is as true of the Hamburg-American Line directors as it is true of the officers at the front.
There have been more cases of nervous breakdowns among the people during the last year than at any time in Germany's history. There have been so many suicides that the newspapers are forbidden to publish them. There have been so many losses on the battlefields that every family has been affected not once, but two, three and four times. Dance halls have been closed. Cafes and hotels must stop serving meals by 11 o'clock. Theatres are presenting the most sullen plays. Rumours spread like prairie fires. One day Hindenburg is dead. Two days later he is alive again.
But the Kaiser has studied this war psychology. He and his ministers know that one thing keeps the German people fighting—their hope of ultimate victory; their belief that they have won already. The Kaiser knows, too, that if the public mind is stimulated from day to day by new victories, by reports of many prisoners, of new territory gained, of enemy ships torpedoed, or by promises of reforms after the war, the public will continue fighting.
So the Kaiser gambles from day to day with his people's nerves. For two years he has done this, and for two years he has been supported by a 12,000,000-man-power army and a larger army of workers and women at home. The Kaiser believes he can gamble for a long time yet with his people.
Just as it is impossible for a physician to say how long his patient can be stimulated without breaking down, so is it impossible for an observer in Germany to say how long it will be before the break-up comes in Germany.
Many times during the war Germany has been on the verge of a collapse. President Wilson's ultimatum after the sinking of the Sussex in the English Channel brought about one crisis. Von Falkenhayn's defeat at Verdun caused another. The Somme battle brought on a third. General Brusiloff's offensive against the Austrians upset conditions throughout the Central Powers. Rumania's declaration of war made another crisis. But Germany passed all of these successfully.
The ability of the German Government to convince the people that Wilson was unneutral and wanted war caused them to accept Germany's note in the Sussex case. The defeat at Verdun was explained as a tactical success. The Somme battles, with their terrible losses, failed to bring a break-up because the Allies stopped attacking at the critical moment.
Von Hindenburg as chief of the General Staff of Central Europe remedied the mistakes of the Austrians during Brusiloff's attacks by reorganising the Dual Monarchy's army. The crisis which Rumania's entrance on the Allies' side brought in Germany and Hungary was forgotten after von Mackensen took Bucharest.
In each of these instances it will be noticed that the crisis was successfully passed by "stimulation." The German mind was made to believe what the Kaiser willed.
But what about the future? Is there a bottomless well of stimulation in Germany?
Before these questions can be answered others must be asked: Why don't the German people think for themselves? Will they ever think for themselves?
An incident which occurred in Berlin last December illustrates the fact that the people are beginning to think. After the Allies replied to President Wilson's peace note the Kaiser issued an appeal to the German people. One morning it was printed on the first pages of all newspapers in boldface type. When I arrived at my office the janitor handed me the morning papers and, pointing to the Kaiser's letter, said:
"I see the Kaiser has written US another letter. You know he never wrote to US in peace time."
There are evidences, too, that others are beginning to think. The Russian revolution is going to cause many Socialists to discuss the future of Germany. They have discussed it before, but always behind closed doors and with lowered voices. I attended one night a secret meeting of three Socialist leaders of the Reichstag, an editor of a Berlin paper and several business men. What they said of the Kaiser that night would, if it were published, send every man to the military firing squad. But these men didn't dare speak that way in public at that time. Perhaps the Russian revolt will give them more courage.
But the Government is not asleep to these changes. The Kaiser believes he can continue juggling public opinion, but he knows that from now on it will be more difficult. But he will not stop. He will always hold forth the vision of victory as the reward for German faithfulness. Today, for instance, in the United States we hear very little about the German submarine warfare. It is the policy of the Allies not to publish all losses immediately; first because the enemy must not be given any important information if possible, and, secondly, because, losses have a bad effect upon any people.
But the German people do not read what we do. Their newspapers are printing daily the ship losses of the Entente. Submarines are returning and making reports. These reports are published and in a way to give the people the impression that the submarine war is a success. We get the opposite impression here, but we are not in a position better to judge than the Germans, because we don't hear everything.
The important question, however, is: What are the German people being told about submarine warfare?
Judging from past events, the Kaiser and his Navy are undoubtedly magnifying every sinking for the purpose of stimulating the people into believing that the victory they seek is getting nearer. The Government knows that the public favours ruthless torpedoing of all ships bound for the enemy, so the Government is safe in concluding that the public can be stimulated for some months more by reports of submarine victory.
Military operations in the West are probably not arousing the discussion in Berlin that the plans against Russia are. The Government will see to it that the press points regularly to the possibilities of a separate peace with Russia, or to the possibility of a Hindenburg advance against England and France.
The people have childlike faith in von Hindenburg. If Paul von Hindenburg says a retreat is a victory the people will take his judgment. But all German leaders know that the time is coming when they will have to show the German people a victory or take the consequences themselves.
Hence it would not be surprising if, after present military operations are concluded, either by an offensive against Russia or by an attack on the Western line, the Chancellor again made peace proposals. The Socialists will force the Chancellor to do it sooner or later. They are the real power behind the throne, although they have not enough spunk to try to oust the Kaiser and tell the people to do their own thinking.
A big Allied military victory would, of course, change everything. Defeat of the German army would mean defeat of von Hindenburg, the German god. It would put an end to the Kaiser's juggling with his people's nerves. But few people in Germany expect an Entente victory this year, and they believe that if the Allies don't win this year they never will win.
Germany is stronger militarily now than she has been and Germany will be able for many months to keep many Entente armies occupied. Before the year is passed the Entente may need American troops as badly as France needed English assistance last year. General von Falkenhayn, former chief of the German General Staff, told me about the same thing last December, in Rumania.
"In war," he remarked, "nothing is certain except that everything is uncertain, but one thing I know is certain: We will win the war."
America's entrance, however, will have the decisive effect. The Allies, especially the French, appreciate this. As a high French official remarked one day when Ambassador Gerard's party was in Paris:
"There have been two great moments in the war for France. The first was when England declared war to support us. The second was the breaking of diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany."
The Germans don't believe this. As General von Stein, Prussian Minister of War, said, Germany doesn't fear the United States. He said that, of course, for its effect upon the German people. The people must be made to believe this or they will not be able to hate America in true German fashion.
America's participation, however, will upset Hindenburg's war plans. American intervention can put a stop to the Kaiser's juggling with his people's minds by helping the Allies defeat Germany. Only a big military defeat will shake the confidence of the Germans in the Kaiser, Hindenburg and their organised might. The people are beginning to think now, but they will do a great deal more thinking if they are beaten.
So the answer to the question: "How long can Germany hold out?" is really answered by saying that Germany can keep on until she is decisively defeated militarily.
THE PEACE DRIVE OF DECEMBER 12TH
Disturbed by internal political dissension and tormented by lack of food the German ship of state was sailing troubled waters by November, 1916. Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg's speech to the Reichstag on September 28th satisfied no one. After he had spoken the only thing people could recall were his words:
"The mighty tasks which await us in all the domains of public, social, economic, and political life need all the strength of the people for their fulfilment. It is a necessity of state which will triumph over all obstacles to utilise to the utmost those forces which have been forged in the fire and which clamour for work and creation. A free path for all who are capable—that must be our watch-word. If we carry it out freely, without prejudice, then our empire goes to a healthy future."
The press interpreted this as meaning that the Chancellor might some day change his mind about the advisability of a ruthless submarine warfare. Early in November when it appeared that the Allies would not succeed in breaking through at the Somme peace forces were again mobilised. But when various neutral countries sounded Germany as to possible terms they discovered that Germany was the self-appointed "victor" and would consider only a peace which recognised Germany as the dominant power in Europe. The confidence of the army in the victory was so great that the following article was printed in all the German newspapers:
"FAITH IN VICTORY"
"Great Headquarters sends us the following:
"Since the beginning of the war, when enemies arose on all sides and millions of troops proceeded from all directions—since then more than two long years have brought no more eventful days than those of the present. The unity of the front—our enemies have prepared it for a long time past with great care and proclaimed it in loud tones. Again and again our unexpected attacks have disturbed this boldly thought out plan in its development, destroying its force, but now at last something has been accomplished that realises at least part of the intentions of our enemies and all their strength is being concentrated for a simultaneous attack. The victory which was withheld from them on all the theatres of war is to be accomplished by an elaborate attack against the defensive walls of our best blood. The masses of iron supplied them by half the world are poured on our gallant troops day and night with the object of weakening their will and then the mass attacks of white, yellow, brown and black come on.
"The world never experienced anything so monstrous and never have armies kept up a resistance such as ours.
"Our enemies combine the hunger and lie campaign with that of arms, both aimed at the head and heart of our home. The hunger campaign they will lose as the troublesome work of just an equal administration and distribution of the necessities of life is almost complete. And a promising harvest has ripened on our broad fields. From the first day of the war, we alone of all the belligerent nations published the army reports of all of our enemies in full, as our confidence in the constancy of those at home is unlimited. But our enemies have taken advantage of this confidence and several times a day they send out war reports to the world; the English since the beginning of their offensive send a despatch every two hours. Each of these publications is two or three times as long as our daily report and all written in a style which has nothing in common with military brevity and simplicity. This is no longer the language of the soldier. They are mere fantastic hymns of victory and their parade of names and of conquered villages and woods and stormed positions, and the number of captured guns, and tens of thousands of prisoners is a mockery of the truth.
"Why is all this done? Is it only intended to restore the wearying confidence of their own armies and people and the tottering faith of their allies? Is it only intended to blind the eagerly observing eye of the neutrals? No, this flood of telegrams is intended to pass through the channels which we ourselves have opened to our enemy, and to dash against the heart of the German people, undermining and washing away our steadfastness.
"But this despicable game will not succeed. In the same manner as our gallant troops in the field defy superior numbers, so the German people at home will defy the enemies' legions of lies, and remember that the German army reports cannot tell them and the world at large everything at present, but they never publish a word the truth of which could not be minutely sifted. With proud confidence in the concise, but absolutely reliable publications of our own army administration, Germany will accept these legions of enemy reports at their own value, as wicked concoctions, attempting to rob them of calm and confidence which the soldier must feel supporting him, if he joyfully risks his all for the protection of those at home. Thus our enemies' legions of lies will break against the wall of our iron faith. Our warriors defy the iron and fire—those at home will also defy the floods of printed paper and remain unruffled. The nation and army alike are one in their will and faith in victory."
This is a typical example of the kind of inspired stories which are printed in the German newspapers from time to time to keep up the confidence of the people. This was particularly needed last fall because the people were depressed and melancholy over the losses at the Somme, and because there was so much criticism and dissatisfaction over the Chancellor's attitude towards the submarine warfare and peace. People, too, were suffering agonies in their homes because of the inferior quality of the food,—the lack of necessary fats and sugar which normal people need for regular nourishment. The Socialists, who are in closer touch with the people than any others, increased their demands for peace while the National Liberals and the Conservatives, who wanted a war of exhaustion against Great Britain, increased their agitation for the submarine warfare. The Chancellor was between two tormentors. Either he had to attempt to make peace to satisfy the Socialists and the people, or he had to give in to the demands for submarine warfare as outlined by the National Liberals. One day Scheidemann went to the Chancellor's palace, after he had visited all the big centres of Germany, and said to von Bethmann-Hollweg:
"Unless you try to make peace at once the people will revolt and I shall lead the revolution!"
At the same time the industrial leaders of the Rhine Valley and the Army and Navy were serving notice on the Government that there could not possibly be a German victory unless every weapon in Germany's possession, which included of course the submarine, was used against Germany's so-called chief foe—England.
Confronted by graver troubles within Germany than those from the outside, the Chancellor went to Great Headquarters to report to the Kaiser and to discuss with von Hindenburg and Ludendorf what should be done to unite the German nation.
While the Army had been successful in Roumania and had given the people renewed confidence, this was not great enough to carry the people through another hard winter.
While Germany had made promises to the United States in May that no ships would be sunk without warning, the submarines were not adhering very closely to the written instructions. The whole world was aroused over Germany's repeated disregard of the rules and practice of sea warfare. President Wilson through Ambassador Gerard had sent nine inquiries to the Foreign Office asking for a report from Germany on the sinking of various ships not only contrary to international law but contrary to Germany's pledges. In an attempt to ward off many of the neutral indictments of Germany's sea warfare the official North German Gazette published an explanation containing the following:
"The activity of our submarines in the Atlantic Ocean and White Sea has led the press of the entire world to producing articles as to the waging of cruiser warfare by means of submarines. In both cases it can be accurately stated that there is no question of submarine warfare here, but of cruiser warfare waged with the support of submarines and the details reported hitherto as to the activities of our submarines do not admit of any other explanation, in spite of the endeavours of the British press to twist and misrepresent facts. It is also strictly correct to state that the cruiser warfare which is being waged by means of submarines is in strict compliance with the German prize regulations which correspond to the International Rules laid down and agreed to in the Declaration of London which are not being any more complied with by England. The accusations and charges brought forward by the British press and propaganda campaign in connection with ships sunk, can be shown as futile, as our position is both militarily and from the standpoint of international law irreproachable. We do not sink neutral ships per se, as was recently declared in a proclamation, but the ammunition transports and other contraband wares conducive to the prolongation of the war, and the rights of defensive measures as regards this cannot be denied Germany any more than any other country.
"Based on this idea, it is clearly obvious that the real loss of the destruction of tonnage must be attributed to the supplies sent to England and not to the attitude displayed by Germany which has but recourse to purely defensive measures. If the attitude displayed by England towards neutrals during the course of this war be considered, the manner in which it forced compulsory supplies of contraband goods, etc., it can be further recognised that England is responsible for the losses in ships; as it is owing to England's attitude that the cause is to be found. . . .
"Although England has hit and crippled legitimate trade to such an extent, Germany does not wish to act in the same manner, but simply to stop the shipments of contraband goods calculated to lengthen the war. England evidently is being hard hit by our defensive submarine measures and is therefore doing all in her power to incite public opinion against the German methods of warfare and confuse opinion in neutral countries. . . .
"Therefore it must again be recalled that it is:
"England, which has crippled neutral trade!
"England, which has rendered the freedom of the seas impossible!
"England, which has extended the risk of contraband wares in excess of international agreements, and now raises a cry when the same weapons are used against herself.
"England, which has compelled the neutrals to supply these shipments of contraband goods calculated to lengthen the war!
"As the neutrals quietly acquiesced when there was a question of abandoning trade with the Central Powers they have remedies in hand for the losses of ships which affect them so deeply. They need only consider the fact that the German submarines on the high seas are able to prevent war services to the enemy in the shipments of contraband goods, in a manner that is both militarily and from the standpoint of international law, irreproachable. If they agree to desist from the shipment of contraband goods and cease yielding to British pressure then they will not have to complain of losses in ships and can retain the same for peaceful aims."
This was aimed especially at America. Naval critics did not permit the opportunity to pass to call to the attention of the Government that Germany's promises in the Sussex case were only conditional and that, therefore, they could be broken at any time. The Chancellor was in a most difficult situation; so was von Hindenburg and the Kaiser. On December 10th it was announced that the Reichstag would be called to a special session on the twelfth and that the Chancellor would discuss the international situation as it was affected by the Roumanian campaign.
The meeting of December 12th was the best attended and most impressive one of the Reichstag since August 4th, 1914. Before the Chancellor left his palace he called the representatives of the neutral nations and handed them Germany's peace proposal. The same day Germany sent to every part of the globe through her wireless stations, Germany's note to the Allies and the Chancellor's address.
The world was astonished and surprised at the German move but no one knew whether it was to be taken seriously. Great Britain instructed her embassies and legations in neutral countries to attempt to find out whether the Chancellor really desired to make peace or whether his statements were to be interpreted as something to quiet internal troubles.
During the days of discussion which followed I was in close touch with the Foreign Office, the American Embassy and the General Staff. The first intimation I received that Germany did not expect the peace plan to succeed was on December 14th at a meeting of the neutral correspondents with Lieut. Col. von Haeften. When von Hindenburg became Chief of the General Staff he reorganised the press department in Berlin and sent von Haeften from his personal staff to Berlin to direct the press propaganda. As a student of public opinion abroad von Haeften was a genius and was extremely frank and honest with the correspondents.
"We have proposed peace to our enemies," he said to the correspondents, "because we feel that we have been victorious and because we believe that no matter how long the war continues the Allies will not be able to defeat us. It will be interesting to see what effect our proposal has upon Russia. Reports which we have received, coming from unquestionable sources, state that internal conditions in Russia are desperate; that food is scarce; that the transportation system is so demoralised and that it will be at least eight months before Russia can do anything in a military way. Russia wants peace and needs peace and we shall see now whether she has enough influence upon England to compel England to make peace. We are prepared to go on with the war if the Allies refuse our proposals. If we do we shall not give an inch without making the Allies pay such a dear cost that they will not be able to continue."
The Foreign Office was not optimistic over the possibilities of success; officials realised that the new Lloyd-George Cabinet meant a stronger war policy by Great Britain, but they thought the peace proposals might shake the British confidence in the new government and cause the overthrow of Lloyd-George and the return of Asquith and Viscount Edward Grey.
From all appearances in Berlin it was evident to every neutral diplomat with whom I talked that while Germany was proclaiming to the whole world her desire for peace she had in mind only the most drastic peace terms as far as Belgium, certain sections of northern France, Poland and the Balkans were concerned. Neutrals observed that Germany was so exalted over the Roumanian victory and the possibilities of that campaign solving the food problem that she was not only ready to defy the Allies but the neutral world unless the world was ready to bow to a German victory. There were some people in Germany who realised that the sooner she made peace the better peace terms she could get but the Government was not of this opinion. The Allies, as was expected, defiantly refused the Prussian olive branch which had been extended like everything else from Germany with a string tied to it. For the purposes of the Kaiser and his Government the Allies' reply was exactly what they wanted.
The German Government was in this position: If the Allies accepted Germany's proposal it would enable the Government to unite all factions in Germany by making a peace which would satisfy the political parties as well as the people. If the Allies refused, the German Government calculated that the refusal would be so bitter that it would unite the German people political organisations and enable the Government to continue the war in any way it saw fit.
Nothing which had happened during the year so solidified the German nation as the Allies' replies to Berlin and to President Wilson. It proved to the German people that their Government was waging a defensive war because the Allies demanded annexation, compensation and guarantees, all of which meant a change in the map of Europe from what it was at the beginning of the war. The interests which had been demanding a submarine warfare saw their opportunity had come. They knew that as a result of the Allies' notes the public would sanction an unrestricted sea warfare against the whole world if that was necessary.
From December 12th until after Christmas, discussions of peace filled the German newspapers. By January 1st all possibilities of peace had disappeared. The Government and the public realised that the war would go on and that preparations would have to be made at once for the biggest campaign in the history of the world in 1917.
Throughout the peace discussions one thing was evident to all Americans. Opposition to American intervention in any peace discussion was so great that the United States would not be able to take any leading part without being faced by the animosity of a great section of Germany. When it was stated in the press that Joseph O. Grew, the American Charge d'Affaires, had received the German note and transmitted it to his Government, public indignation was so great that the Government had to inform all of the German newspapers to explain that Germany had not asked the United States to make peace; that Germany had in fact not asked any neutrals to make peace but had only handed these neutrals the German note in order to get it officially before the Allies. At this time the defiant attitude of the whole nation was well expressed in an editorial in the Morgen Post saying: "If Germany's hand is refused her fist will soon be felt with increased force."
The Conferences at Pless
As early as September, 1916, Ambassador Gerard reported to the State Department that the forces demanding an unrestricted submarine campaign were gaining such strength in Germany that the Government would not be able to maintain its position very long. Gerard saw that not only the political difficulties but the scarcity of food and the anti-American campaign of hate were making such headway that unless peace were made there would be nothing to prevent a rupture with the United States. The latter part of December when Gerard returned from the United States after conferences with President Wilson he began to study the submarine situation.
He saw that only the most desperate resistance on the part of the Chancellor would be able to stem the tide of hate and keep America out of the war. On January 7th the American Chamber of Commerce and Trade in Berlin gave a dinner to Ambassador Gerard and invited the Chancellor, Dr. Helfferich, Dr. Solf, Minister of Foreign Affairs Zimmermann, prominent German bankers and business men, leading editors and all others who a few months before during the Sussex crisis had combined in maintaining friendly relations. At this banquet Gerard made the statement, "As long as such men as Generals von Hindenburg and Ludendorf, as long as Admirals von Capelle, von Holtzendorff and von Mueller headed the Navy Department, and the Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg directed the political affairs there would be no trouble with the United States." Gerard was severely criticised abroad not only for this statement but for a further remark "That the relations between Germany and the United States had never been better than they were to-day." Gerard saw before he had been in Berlin a week that Germany was desperate, that conditions were getting worse and that with no possibilities of peace Germany would probably renew the von Tirpitz submarine warfare. He chose desperate means himself at this banquet to appeal to the democratic forces in Germany to side with the Chancellor when the question of a ruthless submarine warfare again came up.
The German Government, however, had planned its moves months in advance. Just as every great offensive on the battlefields is planned, even to the finest details, six months before operations begin, so are the big moves on the political chessboard of Europe.
There are very few men in public life in Germany who have the courage of their convictions to resign if their policies are overruled. Von Jagow, who was Secretary of State from the beginning of the war until December, 1916, was one of these "few." Because von Jagow had to sign all of the foolish, explanatory and excusing notes which the German Government sent to the United States he was considered abroad as being weak and incapable. But when he realised early in November that the Government was determined to renew the submarine warfare unless peace was made von Jagow was the only man in German public life who would not remain an official of the Government and bring about a break with America. Zimmermann, however, was a different type of official. Zimmermann, like the Chancellor, is ambitious, bigoted, cold-blooded and an intriguer of the first calibre. As long as he was Under Secretary of State he fought von Jagow and tried repeatedly to oust him. So it was not surprising to Americans when they heard that Zimmermann had succeeded von Jagow.
The Gerard banquet, however, came too late. The die was cast. But the world was not to learn of it for some weeks.
On the 27th of January, the Kaiser's birthday, the Chancellor, Field Marshal von Hindenburg, First Quartermaster General Ludendorf, Admirals von Capelle, von Holtzendorff and von Mueller and Secretary of State Zimmermann were invited to Great Headquarters to attend the Kaiser's birthday dinner.
Ever since von Hindenburg has been Chief of the General Staff the Grand Chief Headquarters of the German Army have been located at Pless, on the estate of the Prince of Pless in Silicia. Previously, the Kaiser had had his headquarters here, because it was said and popularly believed that His Majesty was in love with the beautiful Princess of Pless, an Englishwoman by birth. When von Hindenburg took his headquarters to the big castle there, the Princess was exiled and sent to Parkenkirchen, one of the winter resorts of Bavaria.
On previous birthdays of the Emperor and when questions of great moment were debated the civilian ministers of the Kaiser were always invited. But on the Kaiser's birthday in 1917 only the military leaders were asked. Dr. Helfferich, Minister of Colonies Solf, German bankers and business men as well as German shippers were not consulted. Germany was becoming so desperate that she was willing to defy not only her enemies and neutral countries but her own financiers and business men. Previously, when the submarine issue was debated the Kaiser wanted to know what effect such a warfare would have upon German economic and industrial life. But this time he did not care. He wanted to know the naval and military arguments.
In August, 1914, when the Chancellor and a very small group of people were appealing to His Majesty not to go to war, the Kaiser sided with General von Moltke and Admiral von Tirpitz. During the various submarine crises with the United States it appeared that the Kaiser was changing—that he was willing and ready to side with the forces of democracy in his own country. President Wilson and Ambassador Gerard thought that after the downfall of von Tirpitz and von Falkenhayn the Kaiser would join hands with the reform forces. But in 1917 when the final decision came the Kaiser cast his lot with his generals against the United States and against democracy in Germany. The Chancellor, who had impressed neutral observers as being a real leader of democracy in Germany, sided with the Kaiser. Thus by one stroke the democratic movement which was under way in Germany received a rude slap. The man the people had looked upon as a friend became an enemy.
The Break in Diplomatic Relations
On January 30th the German Government announced its blockade of all Allied coasts and stated that all shipping within these waters, except on special lanes, would be sunk without notice. Germany challenged the whole world to stay off of the ocean. President Wilson broke diplomatic relations immediately and ordered Ambassador Gerard to return home. Gerard called at the Foreign Office for his passports and said that he desired to leave at once. Zimmermann informed him that as soon as the arrangements for a train could be made he could leave. Zimmermann asked the Ambassador to submit a list of persons he desired to accompany him. The Ambassador's list was submitted the next day. The Foreign Office sent it to the General Staff, but nearly a week passed before Gerard was told he could depart and then he was instructed that the American consuls could not accompany him, but would have to take a special train leaving Munich a week or two later. American correspondents, who expressed a desire to accompany the Ambassador, were refused permission. In the meantime reports arrived that the United States had confiscated the German ships and Count Montgelas, Chief of the American division of the Foreign Office, informed Gerard the American correspondents would be held as hostages if America did this. Gerard replied that he would not leave until the correspondents and all other Americans were permitted to leave over any route they selected. Practically all of the correspondents had handed in their passports to the Foreign Office, but not until four hours before the special train departed for Switzerland were the passports returned. When Gerard asked the Foreign Office whether his passports were good to the United States the Foreign Office was silent and neither would the General Staff guarantee the correspondents a safe conduct through the German submarine zone. So the only thing the Ambassador could do was to select a route via Switzerland, France and Spain, to Cuba and the United States.
The train which left Berlin on the night of February 10th carried the happiest group of Americans which had been in Europe since the war began. Practically no one slept. When the Swiss border was reached the Stars and Stripes were hung from the car windows and Americans breathed again in a free land. They felt like prisoners escaping from a penitentiary. Most of them had been under surveillance or suspicion for months. Nearly every one had had personal experiences which proved to them that the German people were like the Government—there was no respect for public sentiment or moral obligation. Some of the women had upon previous occasions, when they crossed the German frontier, submitted to the most inhuman indignities, but they remained in Germany because their husbands were connected in some way with United States government or semi-public service work. They were delighted to escape the land where everything is "verboten" except hatred and militarism. The second day after Gerard's arrival in Berne, American Minister Stoval gave a reception to the Ambassador and invited the Allied diplomats. From that evening on until he sailed from Coruna, Spain, the Ambassador felt that he was among friends. When the Americans accompanying the Ambassador asked the French authorities in Switzerland for permission to enter France the French replied:
"Of course you can go through France. You are exiles and France welcomes you."
After the Americans arrived in Paris they said they were not considered exiles but guests.
* * * * * * * *
On the Kaiser's birthday services were held in all Protestant churches in Germany. The clergy was mobilised to encourage the people. On January 29th I sent the following despatch, after attending the impressive services in the Berlin Cathedral:
"Where one year ago Dr. Dryander, the quiet white-haired man who is court preacher, pleaded for an hour for peace in the services marking the Kaiser's birthday, this year his sermon was a fiery defence of Germany's cause and a militant plea for Germany to steel herself for the decisive battle every one believes is coming.
"In this changed spirit he reflected the sentiment of the German people. His sermon of Saturday has evoked the deepest approval everywhere.
"'We know,' be said, 'that before us is the decisive battle which can be fought through only with the greatest sacrifices. But in all cases of the past God has helped us, and God will fight for us to-day, through our leaders and our soldiers. We neither willed nor wanted this war—neither the Kaiser nor the people. We hoped for peace as the Kaiser extended his peace proposal, but with unheard of frivolity and insults our enemies slapped the back of the Kaiser's extended hand of peace.
"'To such enemies there is only one voice—that of the cannon. We continue the war with a clear conscience and with trust in God that he will bring us victory. God cannot—he will not—permit the German people to go down.'"
"GOD WILL NOT PERMIT THE GERMAN PEOPLE TO GO DOWN"
* * * * * * * *
THE BERNHARDI OF THE SEAS
After the break in diplomatic relations the slogan of German Militarism became:
"Win or lose, we must end the war."
To many observers it seemed to be insanity coupled with desperation which caused the Kaiser to defy the United States. There was no doubt that Germany was desperate, economically, morally and militarily. While war had led German armies far into enemy territory, it had destroyed German influence throughout the world; it had lost Germany's colonies and Pacific possessions and it had turned the opinion of the world against Germany. But during the time Germany was trying to impress the United States with its sincerity after the Sussex incident the German Navy was building submarines. It was not building these ships to be used in cruiser warfare. It was building them for the future, when submarine war would be launched on a big scale, perhaps on a bigger scale than it had ever before been conducted.
After the new blockade of the Allied Coast was proclaimed, effective Feb. 1, 1917, some explanation had to be made to convince the public that the submarine war would be successful and would bring the victory which the people had been promised. The public was never informed directly what the arguments were which convinced the Kaiser that he could win the war by using submarines. But on the 9th of February there appeared a small book written by Rear Admiral Hollweg entitled: "Unser Recht auf den Ubootkrieg." (Our Right in Submarine Warfare.) The manuscript of this book was concluded on the 15th of January, which shows that the data which it contained and the information and arguments presented were those which the Admiralty placed before the Kaiser on his birthday. The points which Rear Admiral Hollweg makes in his book are:
1. America's unfriendly neutrality justifies a disregard of the United States;
2. The loss of merchant ships is bringing about a crisis in the military and economic conditions of the Allies;
3. England, as the heart of the Entente, must be harmed before peace can be made;
4. Submarines can and must end the war.
This book is for the German people a naval text book as General von Bernhardi's book, "Germany and the Next War," was a military text book. Bernhardi's task was to school Germany into the belief in the unbeatableness of the German army. Hollweg's book is to teach the German people what their submarines will accomplish and to steal the people for the plans her military leaders will propose and carry through on this basis.
The keynote of Hollweg's arguments is taken from the words of the German song: "Der Gott der Eisen wachsen Liesz," written by Ernst Moritz Arndt. Hollweg quotes this sentence on page 23:
"Lieber ein Ende mit Schrecken, als ein Schrecken ohne Ende."
("Rather an end with Terror than Terror without End.")
In the chapter on "The Submarine War and Victory" the writer presents the following table:
Status of merchant ships in 1914:
Sunk or Captured Percentage
England (Exclusive of colonies) .......... 19,256,766 2,977,820 15.5 France .............. 2,319,438 376,360 16.2 Russia .............. 1,053,818 146,168 13.8 Italy ............... 1,668,296 314,290 18.8 Belgium ............. 352,124 32,971 9.3 Japan ............... 1,708,386 37,391 0.22
(Figures for Dec. 1916 estimated) The World Tonnage at beginning of war was.... 49,089,553 Added 1914-16 by new construction............ 2,000,000 ————— 51,089,553
Of this not useable are:
Tonnage Germany ... 5,459,296 Austria ... 1,055,719 Turkey ... 133,158
In Germany and Turkey held enemy shipping .......... 200,000
Ships in U. S. A... 2,352,764
Locked in Baltic and Black Sea ......... 700,000
Destroyed enemy tonnage ........... 3,885,000 ————— Total 13,785,937
Destroyed neutral tonnage (estimated) 900,000 ————— 14,685,937
Requisitioned by enemy countries for war purposes, transports, etc.
England ....... 9,000,000 France ........ 1,400,000 Italy ......... 1,100,000 Russia ........ 400,000 Belgium ....... 250,000 ————— 12,150,000 ————— 26,835,937 ————— Remaining for world freight transmission still useable at the beginning of 1917............ 24,253,615 tons
To the Entente argument that Germany has not considered the speedy construction of merchant ships during war time the author replies by citing Lloyd's List of December 29, 1916, which gave the following tonnage as having been completed in British wharves:
1913 .......... 1,977,000 tons 1914 .......... 1,722,000 tons 1915 .......... 649,000 tons 1916 .......... 582,000 tons
"These figures demonstrate that England, which is the leader of the world as a freight carrier is being harmed the most." Admiral Hollweg cites these figures to show that ship construction has decreased in England and that England cannot make good ship losses by new construction.
On page 17 Rear Admiral Hollweg says:
"We are conducting to-day a war against enemy merchant vessels different from the methods of former wars only in part by ordinary warships. The chief method is by submarines based upon the fundamentals of international law as dictated by German prize court regulations. The German prize regulations were at the beginning of the war based upon the fundamental principles of the London Declaration and respected the modern endeavours of all civilised states to decrease the terrors of war. These regulations of sea laws were written to decrease the effects of the unavoidable consequences of sea warfare upon non-combatants and neutrals. As far as there have been changes in the regulations of the London Declaration during the war, especially as far as changes in the contraband list have been extended, we Germans have religiously followed the principle set by the English of, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'"
On page 19 he states:
"Americans would under no circumstances, not even to-day, if they were faced by a superior sea power in war, refuse to follow this method of warfare by the ruthless use of pirate ships. May our submarine campaign be an example for them! The clever cruiser journey of U-53 off the Atlantic Coast gave them clearly to understand what this method was. Legally they cannot complain of this warfare. The other neutrals cannot complain either against such sea warfare because they have ever since the Middle Ages recognised the English method of sea warfare."
In the chapter entitled "The Opponent," on page 27 the author says:
"Before there is a discussion of our legal right to the submarine warfare a brief review of the general policies of our opponents during the war will be given. This account shall serve the purpose of fortifying the living feeling within us of our natural right and of our duty to use all weapons ruthlessly.
"If we did not know before the publication of the Entente Note [The Allies' peace reply to Germany] what we were up against, now we know. The mask fell. Now we have confirmation of the intentions to rob and conquer us which, caused the individual entente nations to league together and conduct the war. The neutrals will now see the situation more clearly. For us it is war, literally to be or not to be a German nation. Never did such an appeal [The Entente Note] find such a fruitful echo in German hearts. . . ."
* * * * *
"I begin with England, our worst enemy."
On page 31 Admiral Hollweg speaks of the fact that at the beginning of the war many Germans, especially those in banking and business circles, felt that Germany was so indispensable to England in peace time that England would not conduct a war to "knock out" Germany. But Hollweg says the situation has now changed.
On pages 122 to 126 he justifies the ruthless submarine warfare in the following way:
"It is known that England and her allies declared at the beginning of the war that they would adhere to the Declaration of London. It is just as well known that England and the Allies changed this declaration through the Orders in Council and other lawless statements of authority until the declaration was unrecognisable and worthless—especially the spirit and purpose of the agreement were flatly pushed aside until practically nothing more remains of the marine laws as codified in 1909. The following collection of flagrant breaches of international law will show who first broke marine laws during the war."
"Ten gross violations of marine law in war time by England.
"1. Violation of Article IV of the Maritime Declaration of April 16th, 1855. Blockading of neutral harbours in violation of international law.
"2. Violation of Article II of the same declarations by the confiscation of enemy property aboard neutral ships. See Order in Council, March 11th, 1915.
"3. Declaration of the North Sea as a war zone. British Admiralty Declaration, November 3, 1914.
"4. England regarded food as contraband since the beginning of the war. The starvation war. England confiscated neutral food en route to neutral states whenever there was a possibility that it would reach the enemy. This violated the recognised fundamental principles of the freedom of the seas.
"5. Attempt to prevent all communications between Germany and neutral countries through the violation of international law and the seizing of mail.
"6. Imprisonment of German reservists aboard neutral ships.
"7. a. Violation of Article I of The Hague Convention by the confiscation of the German hospital ship Ophelia. b. Murdering of submarine crew upon command of British auxiliary cruiser Baralong. c. Violation of Article XXIX, No. 1, of London Declaration by preventing American Red Cross from sending supplies to the German Red Cross.
"8. a. Destruction of German cruisers Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse in Spanish territorial waters by English cruiser Highflyer. b. Destruction of German cruiser Dresden in Chinese waters by British cruiser Glasgow. c. Attack of British warships on German ship Paklas in Norwegian waters.
"9. England armed her merchant ships for attack.
"10. Use of neutral flags and signs by British merchantmen in violation of Articles II and III of the Paris Declaration."
On page 134, after discussing the question of whether the English blockade has been effective and arguing that England by seizing neutral ships with food on the supposition that the food was going to Germany, he says:
"We may conclude from these facts that we Germans can now consider ourselves freed from the uncomfortable conditions of the London Declaration and may conduct the war as our own interests prescribe. We have already partially done this in as much as we followed the English example of extending the lists of war contraband. This has been inconvenient for the neutrals affected and they have protested against it. We may, however, consider that they will henceforth respect our proposals just as they have in the past accepted English interests. England demanded from them that they assist her because England was fighting for the future of neutrals and of justice. We will take this principle also as basis for what we do and even await thereby that we will compel England to grant us the kind of peace which can lay new foundations for sea warfare and that for the future the military acts of belligerents against neutrals will not be carried to the extremes they have been for centuries because of England's superior sea power. This new era of civilised warfare we bring under the term 'freedom of the seas.'"
Hollweg's next justification of the unlimited submarine warfare is that Secretary of State Lansing in a note to Count von Bernstorff at first said merchant ships could not be armed and then changed his mind.
On page 160 Hollweg says: "And now in discussing the question of the legal position of the submarine as a warship I cite here the statements of the German authority on international law, Professor Dr. Niemeyer, who said: 'There can be absolutely no question but that the submarine is permitted. It is a means of war similar to every other one. The frightfulness of the weapon was never a ground of condemnation. This is a war in which everything is permitted, which is not forbidden.'"
On page 175 in the chapter entitled "The Submarine War and Victory" the author says:
"Every great deed carries with it a certain amount of risk. After the refusal of our peace proposal we have only the choice of victory with the use of all of our strength and power, or, the submission to the destructive conditions of our opponents."
He adds that his statements shall prove to the reader that Germany can continue the hard relentless battle with the greatest possibility and confidence of a final victory which will break the destructive tendencies of the Entente and guarantee a peace which Germany needs for her future existence.
On page 193 he declares: "All food prices in England have increased on the average 80% in price, they are for example considerably higher in England than in Germany. A world wide crop failure in Canada and Argentine made the importation of food for England more difficult.
"England earns in this war as opposed to other wars, nothing. Part of her industrial workers are under arms, the others are working in making war munitions for her own use, not, however, for the export of valuable wares."
Admiral Hollweg has a clever theory that the German fleet has played a prominent role in the war, although most of the time it has been hugging the coasts of the Fatherland. He declares that the fleet has had a "distance effect" upon the Allies' control of the high seas. On page 197 he says:
"What I mean in extreme by 'fernwirkung' [distance effect] I will show here by an example. The English and French attack on Constantinople failed. It can at least be doubted whether at that time when the connection between Germany and Turkey was not established a strong English naval unit would have brought the attack success. The necessity of not withdrawing the English battleships from the North Sea prevented England from using a more powerful unit at Constantinople. To this extent the German battle fleet was not without influence in the victory for the defender of Constantinople. That is 'distance effect.'"
On page 187 Hollweg declares: "England not only does not make money to-day by war but she is losing. The universal military service which she was forced to introduce in order to hold the other Allies by the tongue draws from her industry and thereby her commerce, 3,500,000 workmen. Coal exportation has decreased. During the eleven months from January to November, 1916, 4,500,000 tons less coal was exported than in 1915. In order to produce enough coal for England herself the nation was compelled by the munitions obligation law to put miners to work."
On page 223 the author declares:
"That is, therefore, the great and important role which the submarines in this war are playing. They are serving also to pave the way in the future for the 'freedom of the seas.'"
He adds that the submarines will cut the thread which holds the English Damocles' sword over weak sea powers and that for eternity the "gruesome hands" of English despotism will be driven from the seas.
Germany's submarine warfare which was introduced in February, 1915, began by sinking less than 50,000 tons of ships per month. By November, 1915, the amount of tonnage destroyed per month was close to 200,000 tons. By January, 1916, the tonnage of ships destroyed by submarines had fallen to under 100,000 tons. In April, 1916, as Grand Admiral von Tirpitz' followers made one more effort to make the submarine warfare successful, nearly 275,000 tons were being destroyed a month. But after the sinking of the Sussex and the growing possibilities of war with the United States the submarine warfare was again held back and in July less than 125,000 tons of shipping were destroyed.
At this time, however, the submarine campaign itself underwent a change. Previously most of the ships destroyed were sunk off the coast of England, France or in the Mediterranean. During the year and a half of the submarine campaign the Allies' method of catching and destroying submarines became so effective it was too costly to maintain submarine warfare in belligerent waters. The German Navy had tried all kinds of schemes but none was very successful. After the sinking of the Ancona the Admiralty planned for two submarines to work together, but this was not as successful as it might have been. During May, June and July the submarine warfare was practically given up as the losses of ships during those months will show. There was a steep decline from a quarter of a million tons in April to less than 140,000 tons in May, about 125,000 tons in June and not much more than 100,000 tons in July.
During these three months the Navy was being bitterly criticised for its inactivity. But as the events six months later will show the German navy simply used these months to prepare for a much stronger submarine campaign which was to begin in August. By this time it was decided, however, not to risk a submarine campaign off the Allied coasts but to operate in the Atlantic, off the coasts of Spain and Norway. This method of submarine warfare proved very successful and by November, 1916, Germany was sinking over 425,000 tons of ships per month.
During this swell in the success of the submarine campaign the U-53 was despatched across the Atlantic to operate off the United States coasts.
U-53 was sent here for two purposes: First, it was to demonstrate to the American people that, in event of war, submarines could work terror off the Atlantic coast. Second, it was to show the naval authorities whether their plans for an attack on American shipping would be practical. U-53 failed to terrorise the United States, but it proved to the Admiralty that excursions to American waters were feasible.
On February 1, when the Kaiser defied the United States by threatening all neutral shipping in European waters, Germany had four hundred undersea boats completed or in course of construction. This included big U-boats, like the U-53, with a cruising radius of five thousand miles, and the smaller craft, with fifteen-day radius, for use against England, as well as supply ships and mine layers. But not all these were ready for use against the Allies and the United States at that time. About one hundred were waiting for trained crews or were being completed in German shipyards.
It was often said in Berlin that the greatest loss when a submarine failed to return was the crew. It required more time to train the men than to build the submarine. According to Germany's new method of construction, a submarine can be built in fifteen days. Parts are stamped out in the factories and assembled at the wharves. But it takes from sixty to ninety days to educate the men and get them accustomed to the seasick motion of the U-boats. Besides, it requires experienced officers to train the new men.
To meet this demand Germany began months ago to train men who could man the newest submarines. So a school was established—a School of Submarine Murder—and for many months the man who torpedoed the Lusitania was made chief of the staff of educators. It was a new task for German kultur.
For the German people the lessons of the Lusitania have been exactly opposite those normal people would learn. The horror of non-combatants going down on a passenger liner, sunk without warning, was nothing to be compared to the heroism of aiming the torpedo and running away. Sixty-eight million Germans think their submarine officers and crews are the greatest of the great.
When the Berlin Foreign Office announced, after the sinking of the Sussex, that the ruthless torpedoing of ships would be stopped the German statesmen meant this method would be discontinued until there were sufficient submarines to defy the United States. At once the German navy, which has always been anti-American, began building submarines night and day. Every one in the Government knew the time would come when Germany would have to break its Sussex pledge.
The German navy early realised the need for trained men, so it recalled, temporarily, for educational work the man who sank the Lusitania.
"But, who sank the Lusitania?" you ask.
"The torpedo which sank the Lusitania and killed over one hundred Americans and hundreds of other noncombatants was fired by Oberleutnant zur See (First Naval Lieutenant) Otto Steinbrink, commander of one of the largest German submarines."
"Was he punished?" you ask.
"Kaiser Wilhelm decorated him with the highest military order, the Pour le Merite!"
"Where is Steinbrink now?"
"On December 8, 1916, the German Admiralty announced that he had just returned from a special trip, having torpedoed and mined twenty-two ships on one voyage."
"What had he been doing?"
"For several months last summer he trained officers and crews in this branch of warfare, which gained him international notoriety."
It is said that Steinbrink has trained more naval men than any other submarine commander. If this be true, is there any wonder that Germany should be prepared to conduct a ruthless submarine warfare throughout the world? Is it surprising that American ships should be sunk, American citizens murdered and the United States Government defied when the German navy has been employing the man who murdered the passengers of the Lusitania as the chief instructor of submarine murderers?
The Krupp interests have played a leading role in the war, not only by manufacturing billions of shells and cannon, and by financing propaganda in the United States, but by building submarines. At the Krupp wharves at Kiel some of the best undersea craft are launched. Other shipyards at Bremen, Hamburg and Danzig have been mobilised for this work, too. Just a few weeks before diplomatic relations were broken a group of American doctors, who were investigating prison camp conditions, went to Danzig. Here they learned that the twelve wharves there were building between 45 and 50 submarines annually. These were the smaller type for use in the English Channel. At Hamburg the Hamburg-American Line wharves were mobilised for submarine construction also. At the time diplomatic relations were severed observers in Germany estimated that 250 submarines were being launched annually and that preparations were being made greatly to increase this number.
Submarine warfare is a very exact and difficult science. Besides the skilled captain, competent first officers, wireless operators and artillerymen, engineers are needed. Each man, too, must be a "seadog." Some of the smaller submarines toss like tubs when they reach the ocean and only toughened seamen can stand the "wear and tear." Hence the weeks and months which are necessary to put the men in order before they leave home for their first excursion in sea murder.
But Germany has learned a great deal during two years of hit-and-miss submarine campaigns. When von Tirpitz began, in 1915, he ordered his men to work off the coasts of England. Then so many submarines were lost it became a dangerous and expensive military operation. The Allies began to use great steel nets, both as traps and as protection to warships. The German navy learned this within a very short time, and the military engineers were ordered to perfect a torpedo which would go through a steel net. The first invention was a torpedo with knives on the nose. When the nose hit the net there was a minor explosion. The knives were sent through the net, permitting the torpedo to continue on its way. Then the Allies doubled the nets, and two sets of knives were attached to the German torpedoes. But gradually the Allies employed nets as traps. These were anchored or dragged by fishing boats. Some submarines have gotten inside, been juggled around, but have escaped. More, perhaps, have been lost this way.
Then, when merchant ships began to carry armament, the periscopes were shot away, so the navy invented a so-called "finger-periscope," a thin rod pipe with a mirror at one end. This rod could he shoved out from the top of the submarine and used for observation purposes in case the big periscope was destroyed. From time to time there were other inventions. As the submarine fleet grew the means of communicating with each other while submerged at sea were perfected. Copper plates were fastened fore and aft on the outside of submarines, and it was made possible for wireless messages to be sent through the water at a distance of fifty miles.
A submarine cannot aim at a ship without some object as a sight. So one submarine often acted as a "sight" for the submarine firing the torpedo. Submarines, which at first were unarmed, were later fitted with armour plate and cannon were mounted on deck. The biggest submarines now carry 6-inch guns.
Like all methods of ruthless warfare the submarine campaign can be and will be for a time successful. Germany's submarine warfare today is much more successful than the average person realises. By December, 1916, for instance, the submarines were sinking a half million tons of ships a month. In January, 1917, over 600,000 tons were destroyed. On February nearly 800,000 tons were lost. The destruction of ships means a corresponding destruction of cargoes, of many hundreds of thousands of tons. When Germany decided the latter part of January to begin a ruthless campaign German authorities calculated they could sink an average of 600,000 tons per month and that in nine months nearly 6,000,000 tons of shipping could be sent to the bottom of the ocean,—then the Allies would be robbed of the millions of tons of goods which these ships could carry.
In any military campaign one of the biggest problems is the transportation of troops and supplies. Germany during this war has had to depend upon her railroads; the Allies have depended upon ships. Germany looked at her own military situation and saw that if the Allies could destroy as many railroad cars as Germany expected to sink ships, Germany would be broken up and unable to continue the war. Germany believed ships were to the Allies what railroad carriages are to Germany.
The General Staff looked at the situation from other angles. During the winter there was a tremendous coal shortage in France and Italy. There had been coal riots in Paris and Rome. The Italian Government was so in need of coal that it had to confiscate even private supplies. The Grand Hotel in Rome, for instance, had to give up 300 tons which it had in its coal bins. In 1915 France had been importing 2,000,000 tons of coal a month across the Channel from England. Because of the ordinary loss of tonnage the French coal imports dropped 400,000 tons per month. Germany calculated that if she could decrease England's coal exports 400,000 tons a month by an ordinary submarine campaign that she could double it by a ruthless campaign.
Germany was looking forward to the Allied offensive which was expected this Spring. Germany knew that the Allies would need troops and ammunition. She knew that to manufacture ammunition and war supplies coal was needed. Germany calculated that if the coal importations to France could be cut down a million tons a month France would not be able to manufacture the necessary ammunition for an offensive lasting several months.
Germany knew that England and France were importing thousands of tons of war supplies and food from the United States. Judging from the German newspapers which I read at this time every one in Germany had the impression that the food situation in England and France was almost as bad as in Germany. Even Ambassador Gerard had somewhat the same impression. When he left Germany for Switzerland on his way to Spain, he took two cases of eggs which he had purchased in Denmark. One night at a reception in Berne, one of the American women in the Gerard party asked the French Ambassador whether France really had enough food! If the Americans coming from Germany had the impression that the Allies were sorely in need of supplies one can see how general the impression must have been throughout Germany.
When I was in Paris I was surprised to see so much food and to see such a variety. Paris appeared to be as normal in this respect as Copenhagen or Rotterdam. But I was told by American women who were keeping house there that it was becoming more and more difficult to get food.
After Congress declared war it became evident for the first time that the Allies really did need war supplies and food from the United States more than they needed anything else. London and Paris officials publicly stated that this was the kind of aid the Allies really needed. It became evident, too, that the Allies not only needed the food but that they needed ships to carry supplies across the Atlantic. One of the first things President Wilson did was to approve plans for the construction of a fleet of 3,000 wooden ships practically to bridge the Atlantic.
During the first three months of 1917 submarine warfare was a success in that it so decreased the ship tonnage and the importations of the Allies that they needed American co-operation and assistance. So the United States really enters the war at the critical and decisive stage. Germany believes she can continue to sink ships faster than they can be built, but Germany did not calculate upon a fleet of wooden bottom vessels being built in the United States to make up for the losses. Germany did not expect the United States to enter the war with all the vigour and energy of the American people. Germany calculated upon internal troubles, upon opposition to the war and upon the pacifists to have America make as many mistakes as England did during the first two years of the war. But the United States has learned and profited by careful observation in Europe. Just as England's declaration of war on Germany in support of Belgium and France was a surprise to Germany; just as the shipment of war supplies by American firms to the Allies astonished Germany, so will the construction of 3,000 wooden vessels upset the calculations of the German General Staff.
While American financial assistance will be a great help to the Allies that will not affect the German calculations because when the Kaiser and his Generals decided on the 27th of January to damn all neutrals, German financiers were not consulted.
Neither did the German General Staff count upon the Russian Revolution going against them. Germany had expected a revolution there, but Germany bet upon the Czar and the Czar's German wife. As Lieutenant Colonel von Haeften, Chief Military Censor in Berlin, told the correspondents, Germany calculated upon the internal troubles in Russia aiding her. But the Allies and the people won the Russian Revolution. Germany's hopes that the Czar might again return to power or that the people might overthrow their present democratic leaders will come to naught now that America has declared war and thrown her tremendous and unlimited moral influence behind the Allies and with the Russian people.
Rear Admiral Hollweg's calculations that 24,253,615 tons of shipping remained for the world freight transmission at the beginning of 1917, did not take into consideration confiscation by the United States of nearly 2,500,000 tons of German and Austrian shipping in American ports. He did not expect the United States to build 3,000 new ships in 1917. He did not expect the United States to purchase the ships under construction in American wharves for neutral European countries.
The German submarine campaign, like all other German "successes," will be temporary. Every time the General Staff has counted upon "ultimate victory" it has failed to take into consideration the determination of the enemy. Germany believed that the world could be "knocked out" by big blows. Germany thought when she destroyed and invaded Belgium and northern France that these two countries would not be able to "come back." Germany thought when she took Warsaw and a great part of western Russia that Russia would not he able to continue the war. Germany figured that after the invasion of Roumania and Servia that these two countries would not need to be considered seriously in the future. Germany believed that her submarine campaign would be successful before the United States could come to the aid of the Allies. German hope of "ultimate victory" has been postponed ever since September, 1914, when von Kluck failed to take Paris. And Germany's hopes for an "ultimate victory" this summer before the United States can get into the war will be postponed so long that Germany will make peace not on her own terms but upon the terms which the United States of Democracy of the Whole World will dictate.
One day in Paris I met Admiral LeCaze, the Minister of Marine, in his office in the Admiralty. He discussed the submarine warfare from every angle. He said the Germans, when they figured upon so many tons of shipping and of supplies destroyed by submarines, failed to take into consideration the fact that over 100 ships were arriving daily at French ports and that over 5,000,000 tons of goods were being brought into France monthly.
When I explained to him what it appeared to me would be the object of the German ruthless campaign he said:
"Germany cannot win the war by her submarine campaign or by any other weapon. That side will win which holds out one week, one day or one hour longer than the other."
And this Admiral, who, dressed in civilian clothes, looked more like a New York financier than a naval officer, leaned forward in his chair, looked straight at me and concluded the interview by saying:
"The Allies will win."
THE OUTLAWED NATION
During the Somme battles several of the American correspondents in Berlin were invited to go to the front near Peronne and were asked to luncheon by the Bavarian General von Kirchhoff, who was in command against the French. When the correspondents reached his headquarters in a little war-worn French village they were informed that the Kaiser had just summoned the general to decorate him with the high German military order, the Pour le Merite. Luncheon was postponed until the general returned. The correspondents watched him motor to the chateau where they were and were surprised to see tears in his eyes as he stepped out of the automobile and received the cordial greetings and congratulations of his staff. Von Kirchhoff, in a brief impromptu speech, paid a high tribute to the German troops which were holding the French and said the decoration was not his but his troops'. And in a broken voice he remarked that these soldiers were sacrificing their lives for the Fatherland, but were called "Huns and Barbarians" for doing it. There was another long pause and the general broke down, cried and had to leave his staff and guests.