Secondly, the three professors, like all others of their class in the Fatherland, have sworn an oath on taking office not to do anything, either by word or deed, detrimental to the interests of the German State of which they are official members. An ordinary German in writing on Germany may be under the subjective influences of his national feelings, but a German who has taken the "Staatseid" (oath to the State) cannot be objective in national questions and interests—his oath leaves only one course open to him, and any departure from that course may mean the loss of his daily bread.
The author has the greatest respect for the achievements of German professors in the domains of science and abstract thought; by those achievements they have deservedly become famous, but in all judgments where Germany's interests are concerned they are bound hand and foot.
[Footnote 137: Towards the close of 1913 I had a conversation with half a dozen Germans (average age twenty-five) in Erlangen Gymnasium (State Secondary School); they were candidates in training for the teaching profession, all university men. I listened patiently to their diatribes concerning the perfidy of English Statesmen, and then pointed out, giving chapter and verse in German biographies, that Bismarck's record was exceedingly tortuous; the forgery of the Ems telegram was given as an instance.
A few weeks later I met the vice-principal of the school at a private party; this gentleman was a good friend of mine. He reminded me of the above conversation, and gave me a friendly warning never again to make such statements to my pupils. The candidates had talked it over, and although they had provoked the discussion, proposed to have me reported to the Minister for Education for uttering such opinions. The vice-principal had intervened and prevented the Denunziation.
If a professor of history in a German university expressed any opinion in his academic lectures unfavourable to modern Germany, he would be immediately denunziert to the State authorities by his own students. Should he publish such opinions in book form, of course the process of cashiering him would be simpler. Germans do not desire the truth so far as their own country is concerned; they do not will the truth; they will Deutschland ueber alles, and all information, knowledge, or propaganda contrary to their will is prohibited. If space permitted I could mention numerous cases in which famous professors have been treated like schoolboys by the German State—their stern father and master.]
When a German conscript enters the army he takes the Fahneneid (oath on, and to, the flag), which binds him to defend the Fatherland with bayonet and bullet. In like manner it may be said that German professors are bound by the Staatseid either to discreet silence, or to employ their intellectual pop-guns in defending Germany. That these pop-guns fire colossal untruths, innuendoes, word-twistings, and such like missiles, giving out gases calculated to stupefy and blind honest judgments, will become painfully evident in the course of our considerations.
That any and every German obeys the impulse to defend his country is just and praiseworthy; but in our search for truth we are compelled to note the fact that German professors are merely intellectual soldiers fighting for Germany. Without departing from the truth by one jot or tittle, readers may even call them "outside clerks" of the German Foreign Office, or the "ink-slingers" under the command of the German State.
These premises have been laid down in extenso because some fifty books will be discussed in this work, which emanate from German universities. A neutral reader may retort: You also are not impartial, for you are an Englishman! Having anticipated the question, the author ventures to give an answer. If he could make a destructive attack on Britain's policy—the attack would be made without the least hesitation. Such an attack, if proved to the hilt, would bring any man renown, and in the worst case no harm. But if a German professor launched an attack, based upon incontrovertible facts, against Bethmann-Hollweg and Germany's policy, that professor would be ruined in time of peace and in all probability imprisoned, or sent to penal servitude in time of war.
Nothing which the present author could write would ever tarnish the reputation of German professors as men of science, but in the narrower limits as historians of the Fatherland and propagandists of the Deutschland-ueber-alles gospel they are tied with fetters for the like of which we should seek in vain at the universities of Great Britain or America. It would be in the interests of truth and impartiality if every German professor who writes on the "Causes of the World War," "England's Conspiracy against Germany," "The Non-Existence of Belgian Neutrality," and similar themes, would print the German Staatseid on the front page of his book. The text of that oath would materially assist his readers in forming an opinion regarding the trustworthiness and impartiality of the professor's conclusions.
Professor Frank commences his historical sketch of Belgian neutrality with the year 1632, when Cardinal Richelieu proposed that Belgium should be converted into an independent republic. Doubtless the desire to found a buffer State inspired Richelieu, just as it did the representatives of Prussia, Russia, France, Austria and England when they drew up the treaty guaranteeing Belgium's neutrality in perpetuity, at the Conference of London, 1839.
But an additional motive actuated the diplomatists of 1839, viz., Belgium was henceforth to be the corner-stone supporting the structure commonly designated "the balance of power in Europe."
An objection has been made to the validity of the treaty signed in London, viz., England herself did not consider it reliable and binding, or she would not have asked for, and obtained, pledges from both Prussia and France to respect Belgian neutrality in 1870. Another objection is the claim that the German Empire, founded in 1870, was not bound by the Prussian signature attached to a treaty in 1839. Other writers have endeavoured to show that the addition of African territory (Congo Free State) to Belgium changed the political status of that country, exposed it to colonial conflicts with two great colonial Powers, and thus tacitly ended the state of neutrality.
Each of the professors in question overrides these objections, and Frank remarks, p. 13: "Lawyers and diplomatists refuse, and rightly so, to accept this view." Again, p. 14.: "There is no international document in existence which has cancelled Belgian neutrality."
Germany's alleged violation of her promise to regard Belgium as a neutral country is justified on quite other grounds. Belgium had herself violated her neutrality by a secret alliance with France and England. Frank argues that a neutral State has certain duties imposed upon it in peace time, and in support of his contention quotes Professor Arendt (Louvain University, 1845), who wrote: "A neutral State may not conclude an alliance of defence and offence, by which in case of war between two other States it is pledged to help one of them. Yet it is free and possesses the right to form alliances to protect its neutrality and in its own defence, but such defensive alliances can only be concluded after the outbreak of war."
Another authority quoted to support his point is Professor Hilty (University of Bern, 1889). "A neutral State may not conclude a treaty in advance to protect its own neutrality, because by this means a protectorate relationship would be created."
Frank continues (p. 21): "Hence Belgian neutrality was guaranteed in the interests of the balance of power in Europe, and I have already pointed out that the same idea prevailed when the barrier-systems of 1815 and 1818 were established.
"Considering the matter from this point of view, the falsity of modern Belgium's interpretation at once becomes apparent. According to Belgian official opinion her neutrality obligations only came into force in the event of war, and therefore could not be violated during peace. But this balance of power was to be maintained, above all in time of peace, and might not be disturbed by any peaceful negotiations whatever, especially if these were calculated to manifest themselves in either advantageous or prejudicial form, in the event of war.
"In this category we may place the surrender of territory. No impartial thinker can deny that the cession of Antwerp to England would have been a breach of neutrality on the part of Belgium, even if it had occurred in peace time. The same is true for the granting of occupation rights, and landing places for troops, or for the establishment of a harbour which might serve as a basis for the military or naval operations of another State.
"Moreover, it is unnecessary to exert one's imagination in order to discover 'peaceful negotiations' which are incompatible with permanent neutrality, for history offers us two exceedingly instructive examples. When a tariff union between France and Belgium was proposed in 1840, England objected because the plan was not in accord with Belgian neutrality. Again in 1868, when the Eastern Railway Company of France sought to obtain railway concessions in Belgium, it was the latter country which refused its consent, and in the subsequent parliamentary debate the step was designated an act of neutrality."
From this extract it is evident that Professor Frank has undermined his own case. Belgian neutrality was intended by the great powers to be the corner-stone of the European balance of power. During the last forty years Germany's carefully meditated increase of armaments on land and sea threatened to dislodge the corner-stone. When the Conference of London declared Belgium to be a permanently neutral country, there was apparent equality of power on each side of the stone. In 1870 the Franco-German war showed that the balance of power was already disturbed at this corner of the European edifice. Still Germany's pledged word was considered sufficient guarantee of the status quo.
Since 1870 the potential energy on the German side of the corner-stone has increased in an unprecedented degree, and this huge energy has been consistently converted into concrete military and naval forces. This alteration in the potential status quo ante has been partly the result of natural growth, but in a still greater degree, to Germany's doctrine that it is only might which counts.
Another German professor had defined the position in a sentence: "Germany is a boiler charged to danger-point with potential energy. In such a case is it a sound policy to try to avert the possibility of an explosion by screwing down all its safety-valves?" Recognizing that Belgian neutrality has existed for many years past solely on Germany's good-will, it became the right and urgent duty of the other signatory powers to endeavour to strengthen the corner-stone. Germany absolutely refused to relax in any way the pressure which her "potential energy" was exercising at this point, therefore it was necessary above all for France and Great Britain to bolster up the threatened corner.
[Footnote 138: Hermann Oncken (Heidelberg), in the Quarterly Review, October, 1913. The author of the article charges Great Britain with screwing down the valves, which is a deliberate distortion of the truth. Britain has always opened her markets free to German goods and admitted the same privileges to her rival—so far as these did not run contrary to established rights—in all parts of the world. With regard to territorial expansion a treaty had been drawn up between the two Powers and was ready to be signed just when war broke out. That treaty would have afforded Germany immense opportunities for expansion, but not at the expense of Europe. Germany, however, desired European expansion, and according to her accepted teaching, the fate of extra-European territories will be decided on the battlefields of Europe.]
The former Power could have achieved this purpose by building a chain of huge fortresses along her Belgian frontier. Why this precautionary measure was never taken is difficult to surmise, but had it been taken, Germany would have ascribed to her neighbour plans of aggression—and declared war.
Great Britain could have restored the balance by creating an army of several millions. Lord Haldane has announced that the late Liberal Government was "afraid" to do this, although the fear of losing office may have been greater than their fear for Germany.
The measures which England did take were merely non-binding conversations with the military authorities of France and Belgium; the making of plans for putting a British garrison of defence on Belgian territory in the event of the latter's neutrality being violated or threatened; and the printing of books describing the means of communication in Belgium.
[Footnote 139: "Belgium, Road and River Reports," prepared by the General Staff, Vol. I., 1912; II., 1913; III. & IV., 1914. Copies of this work have been seized by the Germans in Belgium, and capital is being made of the incident to prove a violation of Belgian neutrality. If the British General Staff had nothing better to do than to compile guide-books to Belgium for a non-existent British army, it appears merely amusing. But if the late Liberal Government believed that Germany's potential energy could be prevented from breaking through into Belgian territory by a barricade of guide-books—it was a lamentable error of judgment. On the whole we are forced to call it a tragical irony, that the only defences which Belgium possessed against the furor teutonicus—excepting the Belgian army—were a "scrap of paper" and a barricade of the same material.]
As a result of these measures, Belgium stands charged by Germany with having broken her own neutrality, and German writers are naively asking why Belgium did not give the same confidence to Germany which she gave to England. The German mind knows quite well, that in building strategic railways to the Belgian frontier she betrayed the line of direction which the potential energy was intended to take, when the burst came. Unofficially Germany has long since proclaimed her intention to invade Belgium; it was an "open secret."
The denouement of August 4th, 1914, when Belgian neutrality was declared a "scrap of paper," was not the inspiration of a moment, nor a decision arrived at under the pressure of necessity, but the result of years of military preparation and planning. It had been carefully arranged that the boiler should pour forth its energy through the Belgian valve.
[Footnote 140: This famous phrase was employed as far back as 1855 by a Belgian Minister in the House of Deputies, Brussels. M. Lebeau in pleading for greater military preparation used these words: "History has shown what becomes of neutralities which were guaranteed, by what may be termed a 'scrap of paper.'"]
Or to draw another comparison, it is a modern variety of the wolf and the lamb fable, with this difference: the wolf has first of all swallowed the lamb, and now excuses himself by asserting that the traitorous wretch had muddied the stream.
Belgians were painfully aware of the danger threatening them, and would have made greater efforts to protect themselves, had not their own Social Democrats resisted every military proposal. As the matter stands to-day, however, all the efforts which Belgium did make, are classed by Germany as intrigues of the Triple Entente, threatening her (Germany's) existence, and all the horrors which have fallen upon this gallant "neutral" country the German Pecksniff designates "Belgium's Atonement." It is to be feared that sooner or later, unless Germany's military pride and unbounded greed of her neighbour's goods can be checked, German professors will be engaged in the scientific task of proving that the waters of the upper Rhine are unpalatable because the lamb residing in Holland has stirred up mud in the lower reaches of the same river!
[Footnote 141: Belgien's Suebne, the title of a chapter describing the desolation and havoc of war, in a book entitled "Mit dem Hauptquartier nach Westen," by Heinrich Binder. Berlin, 1915.]
Belgium knew that England and France had no other interest than the maintenance of her neutrality. Belgium saw and felt, where the storm clouds lowered, and probably sought or accepted advice from those Powers who wished to perpetuate both the territorial integrity and neutrality of Belgium. Germany's afterthought on the point is: "It was Belgium's duty to protect her neutrality, and she owed this duty to all States alike in the interests of the balance of power—a conception to which she owes her existence.
"She was bound to treat all the signatory Powers in the same manner, but she failed to do so, in that she permitted one or two of them to gain an insight into her system of defence. By this means she afforded the States admitted to her confidence, certain advantages which they could employ for their own ends at any moment.
"By allowing certain of the great Powers to see her cards, Belgium was not supporting the European balance, but seriously disturbing it. Even Belgium's Legation Secretary in Berlin had warned his Government concerning the political dangers arising out of intimacy with England. By revealing her system of defence to England, Belgium destroyed its intrinsic value and still more—she violated her international obligations."
[Footnote 142: Professor Frank's work, pp. 29-30.]
Considering that the British army at that time was small, that Britain had no idea of annexing Belgian territory, one naturally wonders how the value of Belgium's defence system had been depreciated by conversations with British officers. In effect, Germany maintains that Belgium should have behaved as a nonentity, which is contrary to all reason.
The Berlin Government has always treated her small neighbour as a sovereign State, equal in quality, though not in power, to any State in the world. If Germany recognized Belgium's sovereignty, why should not England do the same, and, above all, why had Belgium no right to think of her self-preservation, when she knew the danger on her eastern frontier grew more menacing month by month?
Frank concludes his dissertation with his opinion of England and quotes Thucydides, V., 105, as the best applicable characterization of the British with which he is acquainted. "Among themselves, indeed, and out of respect for their traditional constitution, they prove to be quite decent. As regards their treatment of foreigners, a great deal might be said, yet we will try to express it in brief. Among all whom we know they are the most brazen in declaring what is good to be agreeable, and what is profitable to be just."
The very offence which Germany accuses England of having premeditated, she committed herself many years before. When France seemed to threaten Belgium's existence, King Leopold I. concluded a secret treaty with the king of Prussia, whereby the latter was empowered to enter Belgium and occupy fortresses in case of France becoming dangerous. The French danger passed away, and its place was taken by a more awful menace—the pressure of German potential energy; and when Belgium in turn opened her heart (this is the unproved accusation which Germany makes to-day—Author) to England, then she has violated her neutrality and undermined the balance of power. There is even a suspicion that Leopold II. renewed this treaty with Germany in 1890, in spite of the fact that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Prince de Chimay, in an official speech denied its existence.
[Footnote 143: Germans love anything which is "secret." "Geheimniskraemerei" ("affectation of mysteriousness and secrecy") is a national and individual characteristic of the German people.—Author.]
[Footnote 144: Karl Hampe: "Belgiens Vergangenheit und Gegenwart" ("Belgium Past and Present"), p. 49.]
Professor Schoenborn's essay on Belgian neutrality is the least satisfactory exposition of the three professorial effusions; it is no credit to a man of learning, and is merely the work of an incapable partisan trying to make a bad cause into a good one. Schoenborn commences with the customary German tactics by stating that Bethmann-Hollweg's "scrap-of-paper" speech, and von Jagow's (German Secretary of State) explanations to the Belgian representative in Berlin on August 3rd, 1914, are of no importance in deciding the justice of Germany's violation of her pledged word. One is led to inquire, When is a German utterance—whether given in the Reichstag by the Chancellor or on paper in the form of a treaty—final and binding?
[Footnote 145: "Deutschland und der Weltkrieg" ("Germany and the World War"), pp. 566-8.]
Subterfuges, insinuations, distortions, even brazen falsehoods, are scattered throughout German war literature, thicker "than Autumnal leaves in Vallombrosa's brook." It is to be feared that just as Germans have lied for a century to prove that the English were annihilated at the battle of Waterloo, and for over forty years to show that Bismarck was not a forger, so they will lie for centuries to come in order to prove that the invasion of Belgium was not what Bethmann-Hollweg called it, a "breach of international law."
Like his confreres, Herr Schoenborn admits that Germany was pledged to respect the neutrality of Belgium, but the said neutrality was non-existent, which appears somewhat paradoxical. Yet this is not the least logical part of his case. "The passage of German troops through Belgium was indispensable in the interests of the preservation of the German Empire. A successful resistance to the annihilation-plans which our enemies had wrought for our downfall seemed possible only by this means. The Government regretted that, by so doing, we should commit a formal infringement of the rights of a third State (Belgium), and promised to make all possible compensation for the transgression.
"The judicial point of view which influenced the decision of the German Government is perhaps, best illustrated by a parallel taken from the ordinary laws of the country: A forester (game-keeper) is attacked by a poacher, and in that same moment perceives a second poacher bearing a gun at full-cock, creeping into a strange house in order to obtain a better shot at the forester. Just as he is about to enter the house the forester breaks the door open and thus forestalls him—in order to surprise and overcome him. The forester is justified in taking this step, but must make good all damage resulting to the householder."
[Footnote 146: Ibid., p. 575.]
The instance holds good in the land of Kultur, where law and order affords so little protection to a civilian and his property; but in countries where laws are based upon culture the author believes that the forester would receive condign punishment for breaking into another man's house, no matter under what pretext. Unconsciously the learned professor is humorous when he compares Germany to a gamekeeper and Russia and France to poachers; but he is naive to a degree of stupidity, when he makes France carry a weapon fully prepared to shoot the forester.
We will consult another German authority to show that France's weapons were not at full-cock.
"During the last ten years France has given special attention to the fortresses on the German frontier. But those facing Belgium have been so carelessly equipped that we see clearly to what a degree she relied upon her neighbour. The forts are in the same condition as they were twenty or thirty years ago. As some of these fortifications were built fifty years ago, various points on the frontier are strategically, absolutely useless.
"A typical example of this, is Fort les Ayvelles, which is intended to protect the bridges and Meuse crossings south of Mezieres-Charleville; the fort was levelled to the ground by 300 shots from our 21-centimetre howitzers. It was built in 1878 and armed with forty cannon; of these the principal weapons consisted of two batteries each containing six 9-centimetre cannon, which, however, were cast in the years 1878-1880, and in the best case could only carry 4,000 yards. Then there were some 12-centimetre bronze pieces cast in 1884, and a few five-barrelled revolver cannon.
"Besides these there were old howitzers from the year 1842; muzzle-loaders with the characteristic pyramids of cannon ball by the side, such as are often used in Germany at village festivals or to fire a salute. The fort itself was a perfect picture of the obsolete and out-of-date. Apart from the crude, primitive equipment, the organization must have been faulty indeed.
"On the road leading up to the fort we saw some tree-branches which had been hurriedly placed as obstacles, and higher up wire entanglements had been commenced at the last moment. At least one battery was useless, for the field of fire was cut off by high trees, and at the last minute the garrison had tried to place the guns in a better position.
"Our artillery which fired from a north-westerly position displayed a precision of aim which is rare. One battery had had nearly every gun put out of action by clean hits. In several cases we saw the barrel of the gun yards away from its carriage, and only a heap of wheels, earth, stones, etc., marked the place where it had stood.
"Another proof of the excellent work done by the artillery, was the fact that hardly a shell had struck the earth in the 500 yards from the battery to the fort. After the former had been disposed of, the artillery fire was concentrated on the fort, which was reduced to a heap of rubbish. The stonework and the high walls—yards thick—had tumbled to pieces like a child's box of bricks.
"A garrison of 900 men had been placed in this useless cage, and they had fled almost at the first shot. Instead of putting these men in trenches, their superiors had put them at this 'lost post' and allowed them to suffer the moral effects of a complete, inevitable defeat.
"Near the fort I saw the grave of its commander, the unfortunate man who had witnessed the hopeless struggle. He lived to see his men save their lives in wild flight—and then ended his own."
[Footnote 147: Heinrich Binder: "Mit dem Hauptquartier nach Westen," pp. 107-9.]
Here we have a sorry picture of the poacher whom Germany feared so much. The world knows now that neither Britain, France nor Russia were prepared for war, which excludes the probability that they desired or provoked a conflict. But Germany knew that, and much more, in the month of July, 1914. Bethmann-Hollweg when addressing the Reichstag drew a terrifying picture of French armies standing ready to invade Belgium, but he knew full well that the necessary base-fortresses were lacking on the Franco-Belgian frontier.
[Footnote 148: Richard Grasshoff in his work "Belgien's Schuld" ("Belgium's Guilt"), p. 14 et seq., reproduces several confessions alleged to have been made by French soldiers, prisoners of war in Germany, stating that they entered Belgian territory on July 31st, 1914. At present it is impossible to test the value of this evidence. Cf. p. 151.]
As regards the alleged plans which Germany's enemies had made to annihilate Germany, it will be necessary for Professor Schoenborn to prove that the Entente Powers had: (1.) Caused the murder in Serajewo; (2.) Despatched the ultimatum to Serbia; (3.) Prepared themselves for war. Until he proves these three points the world will continue to believe that it was Germany alone who cherished "annihilation-plans."
Schoenborn mentions too, Britain's refusal to promise her neutrality even if Germany respected the neutrality of Belgium. This offer was made to Sir Edward Grey, who declined it. According to Professor Schoenborn Germany's final decision to invade Belgium was only taken after that refusal. It is a striking example of the immorality which prevails both in Germany's business and political life. She gave her solemn pledge in 1839, yet endeavoured to sell the same pledge in 1914—for Britain's neutrality!
The author once made an agreement with a German, but soon found that the arrangement was ignored and wrote to the person in question: "You have employed our arrangement merely as a means for making further incursions into my rights."
That summarizes the Teutonic conception of a treaty, either private or national. It is only a wedge with which to broaden the way for a further advance. Usually a man signs an agreement with an idea of finality, and looks forward to freedom from further worry in the matter. Not so the German; with him it is an instrument to obtain, or blackmail, further concessions; and as individuals, instead of occupying their thoughts and energies in the faithful fulfilment of its terms, they plot and plan in the pursuit of ulterior advantages.
Heidelberg's great scholar seems to have had doubts concerning his simile of the gamekeeper; hence in his last footnote he makes the innocuous remark: "Because the house-breaking gamekeeper fired the first shot, it is not usual to draw the conclusion that the poacher had only defensive intentions" (p. 590).
All in all, Professor Schoenborn's attempt at partisanship is a miserable failure, and as an academic thesis it is doubtful whether the faculty of law in any German university would grant a student a degree for such a crude effort.
Various facts indicate Germany's intention to annex Belgium, if not the entire country, then those districts in which Flemish is spoken. Germany has suddenly remembered that the Flemings are a Low German people and that they have been "oppressed" by the Walloons. The hypocrisy of the plea becomes evident when we recall German (including Austrian) oppression of the Poles, Slavs and Hungarians.
One writer has even endeavoured to prove that the House of Hesse has a legitimate historical claim to the province of Brabant. But as the following extracts will show, there is method in this madness. No pains are being spared to stir up racial feeling between the two peoples (Flemings and Walloons) who form King Albert's subjects. All the internal differences are being dished up to convince the inhabitants of Flanders that they will be much better off under the German heel.
[Footnote 149: Dr. Karl Knetsch: "Des Hauses Hessen Ansprueche auf Brabant" ("The House of Hesse's Claims to Brabant"). Marburg, 1915.]
[Footnote 150: The Muenchner Neueste Nachrichten for September 19th, 1915, contains a long account of a petition which was presented to Herr von Hissing, General Governor of Belgium, by a branch of the General Union of the Netherlands. The branch society is in Lierre (a town occupied by the Germans), and the petition is a statement of Flemish national and language aspirations. Unfortunately the document in question "makes a bitter attack on Franco-Belgian endeavours to rob the Flemings of their rights." It is superfluous to quote more; this sentence alone shows the origin of the petition to be German.]
Forgetting their tyrannous efforts to stamp out the Polish language and Polish national feelings, the Germans are now sorrowing over the alleged attempts of the Walloons to suffocate the Flemish dialect. German war books breathe hate and contempt for the Walloons, but bestow clumsy bear-like caresses (no doubt unwelcome to their recipients) on the Flemings.
In a work already cited the following passages occur, in addition to three whole chapters intended to supply historical proof that Flanders is by the very nature of things a part of the German Empire.
[Footnote 151: Wilhelm Kotzde: "Von Luettich bis Flandern" ("From Liege into Flanders"). Weimar, 1914.]
"The German people committed a grave crime, when they fought among themselves and left their race-brothers on the frontier, defenceless and at the mercy of a foreign Power. Therefore we have no right to scold these brothers (the Flemings), but should rather fetch them back into the German fold" (p. 40).
Kotzde reports a conversation which he had with an educated Fleming last autumn. "'We do not like the French and English,' said the Fleming. 'But what about Brussels?' I remarked. 'They are a people for themselves. The Flemish capital is Antwerp' he answered.
"Our paths led in different directions, but we parted with the consciousness that we are tribal brothers. So much seems certain, that when the Flemings are freed from the embittering influence of the Walloons and French, then this Low German tribe will again learn to love everything German—because they are German. Furthermore, that will make an end of the French language in Flemish districts" (p. 84).
"German infantry marched with us into Antwerp. How deeply it touched me to hear them sing the 'Wacht am Rhein' and then 'Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles,' in the very city which was to serve as an English base for operations against our dear Fatherland. And my Flemish companion softly hummed this splendid German song of faith.
"In that moment a spasm of pain went through my heart, that the Flemings should have to fight against us in this great struggle for the existence of Germany: these, our lost brothers, of whom so many yearn to be with us again" (p. 86).
"With the fall of Antwerp, Flanders—the land of the German Hanse period, of Ghent, Ypres and Bruges—became German once more" (p. 147).
Kotzde concludes his work as follows:—
"Holland was compelled to bow before the might of France and consent to Belgium becoming an independent State. From that moment the Flemings, cut off in every way from their German brothers, were delivered up to the Walloons, behind whom stood the French.
"The Germans at that time lacked a Bismarck to unite them and interest them in the fate of their outlying brother tribe. This war has freed our hands, which hitherto had been bound by the dictates of conscience. Of himself the German would never have kindled this world conflagration, but others have hurled the torch into our abode—and our hands are free!
"We do not yet know what Belgium's fate will be, but we can be perfectly sure that the Flemings will never again be left to the mercy of the Walloons and French. They have had a wild and chequered history; and although they have often shown signs of barbarism in the fight, they have not waged this war with the devilish cruelty of the Walloons.
"They lack the discipline which alone a well-ordered State can bestow. The training and education of the German military system and German administration, will be a blessing to them. Even to-day many Flemings bless the hour of their return into the German paternal home" (p. 190).
"In a struggle which has lasted for nearly a century, the Flemings have displayed their unconquerable will to maintain their national peculiarities. Without outside aid, and with little or no deterioration, they have maintained their nationalism. Now the horrors of war have swept over the lands of the Flemings and Walloons. The Belgian army, consisting of 65 per cent. Flemings, has been decimated by German arms. North and south of the Meuse a wicked harvest of hate has sprung up. But the most remarkable point is that this hate is not directed against the Germans alone; the mutual dislike of Flemings and Walloons has turned into hatred. The Walloons cherish bitter suspicions of the Flemings; they scent the racial German, and are promising that after the war they will wage a life and death feud against the German part of the Flemish nature."
[Footnote 152: Ulrich Rauscher: "Belgien heute und morgen" ("Belgium to-day and to-morrow"). Leipzig, 1915; p. 35.]
The same writer claims that the Germans had conquered Antwerp before its fall, by peaceful penetration. "In 1880 the British share of Antwerp's trade was 56 per cent., Germany's 9 per cent.; in 1900, British 48 per cent., German 23-1/2 per cent. Not only had the British flag been beaten in percentages but also in absolute figures; in the year 1912-1913 German trade to Antwerp increased by 400,000 tons, while that of Great Britain decreased by 200,000 tons. The commercial future of Antwerp will be German!"
[Footnote 153: Ibid., p. 64.]
"To-day Antwerp is the second largest port on the Continent, with over 400,000 inhabitants, and now Germany's war banner waves above its cathedral. Germany's maritime flag has waved during the last twenty years above Antwerp's commercial progress. Antwerp's progress was German progress."
[Footnote 154: Ibid., p. 68.]
After which follows a glowing account of Belgium's mineral wealth. "It is Belgium's mission to be a gigantic factory for the rest of the world," and of course this mission will be directed by—Germany!
"Those who had warned us for years past that England is our greatest enemy were right. To-day every German recognizes who is our principal opponent in this world war. Against Russia and France we fight, as the poet expresses it, 'with steel and bronze, and conclude a peace some time or other.' But against England we wage war with the greatest bitterness and such an awful rage, as only an entire and great people in their holy wrath can feel. The words of Lissauer's 'Hymn of Hate' were spoken out of the innermost depths of every German soul.
"When Hindenburg announces a new victory we are happy; when our front in the Argonne advances we are satisfied; when our faithful Landsturm beats back a French attack in the Vosges, it awakes a pleasurable pride in our breasts. But when progress is announced in Flanders, when a single square yard of earth is captured by our brave troops in the Ypres district, then all Germany is beside herself with pure joy. The seventy millions know only too well, that everything depends upon the development of events in Flanders, as to when and how, we shall force England to her knees.
"Hence of all the fields of war, Belgium is the most familiar to us, and we love best of all to hear news from that quarter. May God grant that in the peace negotiations we shall hear much more and good tidings about Flanders."
[Footnote 155: Dr. Fritz Mittelmann: "Kreuz und Quer durch Belgien" ("Round and about Belgium"). Stettin, 1915: p. 8. Dr. Mittelmann is a personal friend of the Liberal leader, Herr Bassermann, who accompanied him on some of his journeys.]
Dr. Mittelmann's book is a prose-poem in praise of Germany's ineffable greatness. He sees in the present war, "a holy struggle for Germany's might and future," and like all his compatriots, makes no mention of Austria. If the Central Powers should be victorious, there is no doubt that Germany would seize the booty. In justifying the destruction of churches, cathedrals, etc., Herr Mittelmann asserts that "one single German soldier is of more worth than all the art treasures of our enemies" (p. 12).
His book deserves to be read by all Britishers who imagine that we can win Germany's love and respect—by weakness and compromise. "In this war Germans and English soldiers are opposed to each other for the first time. All the scorn and hate which had accumulated for years past in the German nation has now broken loose with volcanic force. Whoever assumes that the English were ever other than what they are—is wrong. They have never had ideals, and seek singly and alone their own profit. Whenever they have fought side by side with another nation against a common foe, they have done their best to weaken their ally and reap all the glory and advantage for themselves."
[Footnote 156: Ibid., p. 29.]
Pity for the Belgians suffering through Germany's brutal war of aggression does not appear to be one of Dr. Mittelmann's weaknesses. "The principal industrial occupation of the inhabitants seems at present to be begging. In spite of their hostile glances the crowd did not hesitate to gather round as we entered our car, and quite a hundred greedy hands were stretched towards us for alms. But in Liege, without the shadow of a doubt the best of all was the magnificent Burgundy which we drank there; perhaps we had never relished wine so much in our lives." One wonders whether these pioneers of Kultur relished the wine so much because they knew themselves to be surrounded by thousands of hungry, "greedy" Belgians.
[Footnote 157: Ibid., p. 44.]
On page 93, Mittelmann relates at length his genuine Prussian joy at humiliating a Belgian policeman before the latter's compatriots. None enjoy having their boots licked, so much as those who are accustomed to perform that service for others.
Our author pays the customary compliments to the Flemings. It must be remembered that the above incident took place in Liege among the Walloons, but it would seem that the Germans try to behave with decency when among their Low German brothers.
"One feels at home in the house of a Flemish peasant; the racial relationship tends to homeliness. The painful cleanliness of the white-washed cottages makes a pleasant contrast to the homes of the Walloons. War and politics are never mentioned, as these delicate subjects would prevent a friendly understanding."
[Footnote 158: Ibid., p. 90.]
"A dream. An old German dream. A land full of quaintness which the rush of modern life has left untouched. On all sides cleanliness and order which makes the heart beat gladly. And this joyful impression is doubly strong when one comes direct from the dirty, disorderly villages of the Walloons.
"Just as a mother may give birth to two children with entirely different natures, so Belgium affords hearth and home to two peoples in whose language, culture and customs there is neither similarity nor harmony. The Flemings are absolutely German, and in this war they treat us with friendly confidence. Their eyes do not glitter with fanatical hate like those of the Walloons."
[Footnote 159: Heinrich Binder: "Mit dem Hauptquartier nach Westen," p. 102.]
Herr Binder's meditations on the slaughter in the valley of the Meuse are not without interest. "A vale which has been won by German blood! In recent days the waters of the Meuse have often flowed blood-red. Many a warrior has sunk into these depths. Longing and hope rise in our hearts: May destiny determine that all these dead, after a triumphant war, shall sleep at rest in a German valley!"
[Footnote 160: Ibid., p. 122.]
SAIGNER A BLANC.
[Footnote 161: "To bleed white." Bismarck employed this phrase on two occasions in addressing the Reichstag; his purpose could have been no other than to bully France.—Author.]
It would be superfluous to review here the history of Franco-German relations during the last half century; other writers have already performed the task. Yet the whole trend of development in the relations between the two powerful neighbours may be defined by two watch-words: saigner a blanc in Germany, and the revanche idee in France. But there is this difference: the former has become ever more and more, and the latter less and less, a factor in European politics.
While the German nation has been gradually and systematically leavened with the teaching that might alone is right, the French revenge party has been weakened year by year by national prosperity, colonial expansion and the growth of a powerful anti-military party. Whatever may be said of French chauvinists, this much remains an immovable fact—the party was incapable of providing adequate national defences against the Germanic neighbour, while plans of reconquest can only be assigned to the domain of myths.
On every occasion that the revanche cry has been resuscitated, the direct cause is to be sought in Germany. Having displaced France in 1870 from her position of the first military power in Europe, Germany has endeavoured by fair and foul means to prevent her neighbour from again raising her head, and that policy alone is to blame for the suspicion and hatred which have marked Franco-German relations during the whole period and plunged Europe into an era of armaments, ending in a world war. England and Russia prevented Bismarck from annihilating France in 1875, an incident which aroused justified fear throughout France and gave an impulse to the revenge party.
In 1881 the Iron Chancellor told the French Ambassador: "Outside Europe you can do what you like." Bismarck's intention was to divert reviving French energies to colonial work, and if possible involve her in conflicts with the other Colonizing Powers. In both of these plans he succeeded, but the common sense and loyalty of Great Britain and Italy prevented the conflicts from assuming a dangerous form—war—as desired by the Government in Berlin.
As soon as the latter perceived that French genius and persistency were bearing fruit in a magnificent colonial empire, the innate jealousy and greed of the German nation led to a policy of colonial pinpricks on the part of the Kaiser's Government. This seems the most probable explanation of Germany's attitude during the last decade before 1914. The natural consequence was that those powers which had most to fear through German ill-will were welded together more firmly in a policy of self-protection.
Germany cannot, or will not, recognize that the causes of the above-mentioned development are to be found solely and alone in her own actions. On the contrary, she designates the "consequences" a world-wide conspiracy against German interests. In naval affairs she adopts the same naive line of argument. First and foremost Germany committed herself to a policy of unlimited—even provocative—naval expansion. When the Power most concerned—Great Britain—took precautionary measures to guarantee British interests in view of Germany's "peaceful" development, then the latter Power declared the consequences of her own actions to be a hostile initiative directed against her.
A defence of this kind may be convincing for those who observe events in the German perspective, but it will be unable to withstand impartial historical criticism. Boxers expect a rebound when they "punch the ball," but none of them would be so foolish as to deny having delivered a blow when the rebound takes place. Yet that is the unscientific defence which Germany has adopted in her endeavours to explain away her aggressive attitude to Belgium, France, and Great Britain.
In a word, the principles underlying saigner a blanc have grown during the past four decades into a possible avalanche possessing huge potential energy; the momentum was given to it in August, 1914.
If it were necessary, a picture of German popular opinion might be projected, showing how that opinion was influenced and formed during the critical days at the close of July last year. But from considerations of space only the outlines of the picture can be given. Before the war German newspapers abounded in reports of French unpreparedness and chaos. The German public was informed that France dreaded and feared war with Germany.
"Without any exaggeration it may be said that a state of nerves has seized the French nation, such as we should seek for in vain at the time of Tangiers and Agadir. There is tremendous excitement, which in many reports suggests absolute panic."
[Footnote 162: Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten, August 1st.]
The Paris correspondent of the Koelnische Zeitung (August 4th) on returning to Cologne wrote: "Conditions in France afford a striking picture of bad organization. War rage possesses the people; but such an enthusiasm as I found in Germany on my return is unknown to them."
On the same day the Hamburger Nachrichten reported: "A German refugee who has returned from the French capital says that there is no enthusiasm in Paris. Men and women may be seen weeping in the streets, while the crowds are shouting: 'Down with war!' 'We desire no war!'"
Probably there is no better way to incite a ferocious bully than to tell him that his opponent is weak, unprepared and afraid. Almost simultaneously false reports of French troops crossing the frontier and of French airmen dropping bombs on Nuremberg were spread by the Berlin General Staff, and thus an excuse found for a declaration of war on France.
From the French point of view events appeared quite different. "This morning German troops have violated French territory at three different points: in the direction of Longwy by Luneville, at Cirey and by Belfort. War has thus been declared, and the endeavours for peace as described in the President's proclamation have been in vain. For the last eight days Herr von Schoen (German Ambassador in Paris) has lulled us to sleep with endearing protestations of peace. Meanwhile Germany has mobilized troops in a secret and malevolent manner.
"The war upon which we must enter is for civilization against barbarism. All Frenchmen must be united not merely by the feeling of duty, but also in hatred for an enemy who seeks no other goal than our annihilation—the destruction of a nation which has always been a pioneer of justice and liberty in the world.
"To-night our five covering-corps will take up their positions and face the enemy till our plan of concentration is completed. Russia is with us.
"Minister for War."
From the moment that Germany declared war on France, new tactics were adopted in the Press. A campaign of calumny began which is the exact counterpart of that against Belgium and the Belgians. Uncorroborated tales of Germans having been ill treated in all parts of France were spread broadcast. According to one journal sixty to eighty Germans had been murdered on the platforms of the Gare de l'Est in Paris.
[Footnote 163: Koelnische Volkszeitung, August 5th.]
Still there is one accusation which even German newspapers have never dared to make, viz., that Frenchmen murdered and ill-treated Frenchmen, or that war delirium led them to destroy property on a wholesale scale. On the other hand, the picture obtainable of Germany during August, 1914, proves that similar peaceful conditions did not prevail in the great nation of "drill and discipline."
France was even "convicted" of having caused the war; instead of being unprepared, she had laid the fuse and was the guilty power in causing the European explosion. "The German Government has now obtained absolute proof that France has been standing at arms, ready to fall upon Germany, for many weeks past."
[Footnote 164: Hamburger Fremdenblatt, August 13th.]
Above all, President Poincare has been marked down in Germany's senseless, unnecessary hunt for a scapegoat upon whom to fix her own guilt. Even in the year 1915 there is a section of the German public which believes that the French President—a native of Lorraine—has worked for years past in building up a revanche conspiracy ending in the European war.
[Footnote 165: Dr. Max Beer: "Tzar Poincarew, die Schuld am Kriege" ("Czar Poincarew, the War-guilty"). Berlin, 1915.]
Germany despised France and has tried in vain to patronize her. For many years past the average German has held that the French are a nation of "degenerate weaklings." Inspired by these sentiments, with a mixture of hate, the German troops invaded France, and it is a promising symptom that during twelve months of war respect for French valour has taken the place of contempt.
The first engagements are described in the official telegrams from the German army head-quarters. "August 11th. Enemies' troops, apparently the 7th French army corps and an infantry division from the Belfort garrison, were driven out of a fortified position by Muelhausen. Our losses were inconsiderable, those of the French heavy.
"August 12th. Our troops attacked a French brigade by Lagarde. The enemy suffered heavy losses and was thrown back into the Paroy forest. We captured a flag, two batteries, four machine guns and about seven hundred prisoners. A French general was among the killed.
"August 18th. The fight by Muelhausen was little more than a skirmish. One and a half enemy corps had invaded Upper Alsace before our troops could be collected and placed on a war-footing. In spite of their numerical inferiority they attacked the enemy without hesitation and hurled him back in the direction of Belfort.
"Meanwhile an artillery contingent from Strasbourg has suffered a check. Two battalions with cannon and machine guns advanced from Shirmeck on the 14th. They were attacked by hostile artillery fire while passing through a narrow pass. The cannon, etc., were badly damaged and therefore left. No doubt they were captured by the enemy.
"The incident is of no importance and will have no influence on our operations, but it should serve as a warning to our soldiers against over-confidence and carelessness. The men mustered again and reached the fortress in safety: they had lost their guns but not their courage. Whether treachery on the part of the inhabitants had any part in the affair has not yet been ascertained.
"August 22nd. Our troops are in pursuit of the French army defeated between Metz and the Vosges. The enemies' retreat became a flight. Up till now more than ten thousand prisoners have been taken and at least fifty cannon captured. The French had eight army corps in the field.
"August 24th. Yesterday the German Crown Prince, advancing on both sides of Longwy, achieved a victory over the opposing forces and hurled them back.
"The troops under the leadership of the Bavarian Crown Prince have also been victorious and crossed the line Luneville-Blamont-Tirey. To-day the 21st army corps occupied Luneville.
"The pursuit has brought rich booty. Besides numerous prisoners and standards the left wing of the Vosges army has already captured 150 cannon.
"To-day the German Crown Prince's army has continued the pursuit beyond Longwy.
"The army under Duke Albrecht of Wuerttemberg has advanced on both sides of Neufchateau and completely defeated the French army which had crossed the Semois. Numerous cannon, standards and prisoners—among the latter several generals—were captured.
"West of the Meuse our troops are advancing on Maubeuge. An English cavalry brigade which appeared on their front was defeated.
"August 27th. Nine days after the conclusion of our concentration the armies in the West have gained victory after victory and penetrated the enemy's territory from Cambrai to the Southern Vosges. At all points the enemy has been driven out of his positions and is now in full retreat.
"It is not yet possible to estimate, even approximately, his losses in killed, prisoners and booty; the explanation for this is the enormous extent of the battlefields, broken by thick forests and mountainous country.
"General von Kluck's army defeated the English at Maubeuge and to-day has attacked them in an encircling move south-west of that place.
"After several days' fighting about eight army corps of French and Belgian troops between the Sambre, Namur and the Meuse were completely defeated by the German armies under Generals von Buelow and von Hausen.
"Namur has fallen after two days' cannonade. The attack on Maubeuge has commenced. Duke Albrecht's army pursued the defeated enemy over the Semois and has now crossed the Meuse.
"On the other side of Longwy the German Crown Prince has captured a fortified enemy position, and thrown back a heavy attack from the direction of Verdun. His army is advancing towards the Meuse. Longwy has fallen.
"New hostile forces from Nancy attacked the Bavarian Crown Prince's army during its pursuit of the French army before it. The attack failed.
"General von Heeringen's army is pursuing the enemy in the Vosges, and driving him southwards. Alsace has been cleared of enemy forces.
"Up till the present the lines of communication have been guarded by the various armies; now the troops left behind for that purpose are urgently required for our further advance. Hence His Majesty has ordered the mobilization of the Landsturm.
"The Landsturm will be employed in protecting the lines of communication and for the occupation of Belgium. This land which now comes under German administration will be utilized for supplying all kinds of necessities for our armies, in order that Germany may be spared as much as possible."
During the first month of hostilities on the Western front, the Germans claimed that their captures amounted to 233 pieces of heavy artillery, 116 field guns, 79 machine guns, 166 wagons and 12,934 prisoners. On September 8th General Quartermaster von Stein announced: "Maubeuge capitulated yesterday; 40,000 prisoners of war, including four generals, 400 cannon and immense quantities of war materials fell into our hands."
A German war correspondent, who was present at the fall of Maubeuge, wrote: "The march out of the prisoners began on the same day at 2.30 p.m. and lasted over six hours. They were conducted to trains and despatched to Germany. Some of the infantry made a good impression, while the pioneers and artillery can only be classed as passable.
[Footnote 166: Heinrich Binder: "Mit dem Hauptquartier nach Westen," p. 96.]
"To the great disappointment of our troops there were only a hundred and twenty English among the prisoners who had been cut off from the main army; young fellows about eighteen to twenty years of age. When marching out these English youths were so stupid as to offer the hand to their German victors in token of the gentlemanlike manner in which they accepted defeat. In accordance with Albion's ancient boxing custom, they desired to show the absence of any bitter feeling by a handshake; just as one does after a football match.
"Our men returned a few cuffs for this warlike behaviour, whereupon the English—richer in experience—drew back astonished at German unfriendliness."
Germany's rush for Paris reached as far as the Marne; they claim that patrols penetrated to within seven kilometres of the French capital. The report announcing the turn of the tide is worthy of quotation.
"Chief Headquarters, September 10th. Our army in their pursuit of the enemy in the direction east of Paris had passed beyond the Marne. There they were attacked by superior forces between Meaux and Montmirail. In two days' heavy fighting they have kept the enemy back and even made progress.
"When the approach of new, stronger hostile forces was announced our wing was withdrawn; the enemy made no attempt at pursuit. Up till now the booty captured in this battle includes fifty cannon and some thousands of prisoners.
"West of Verdun the army is engaged in an advancing battle. In Lorraine and the Vosges district the situation is unchanged."
This seems to be all that the German nation has heard from official sources of the German defeat on the Marne and the hurried retreat to the Aisne. Almost every report issued by the German headquarters during the succeeding three weeks informed the world that a "decision had not yet fallen."
Evidently the nation awaited and hoped for a decision which would leave Paris at the mercy of the invading army. They are still awaiting that decision, but whether the waiting is seasoned by hope cannot easily be determined.
A soldier present at the battle of the Marne has chronicled his experiences. "We passed over long, undulating hills and valleys, and towards 1 p.m. obtained our first glimpse down the beautiful vale of the Marne. Standing on the heights of Chateau Thierry, we beheld the town nestling on both sides of the river in the valley below.
[Footnote 167: H. Knutz: "Mit den Koenigin-Fusilieren durch Belgien und Frankreich,", p. 49 et seq.]
"Then we entered the town and saw on all sides the tokens of street fighting. All the windows were smashed by shell fire; some houses had been entirely gutted. Dead Frenchmen lay around in heaps, some corpses so mutilated by shrapnel as to appear hardly human. With a shudder we turned our eyes from this horrible scene.
"Crossing the Marne by a sand-stone bridge, we climbed the opposing heights under a burning sun. At the top we deployed, but for that day our artillery sufficed to drive the enemy in headlong flight to the south; the night we spent under the open sky.
"Sunday, September 6th. Before breakfast we intended to bathe in a stream, when our dreams of a rest-day were dispelled by an order to hold ourselves ready for the march. 'The 17th division is under heavy rifle fire and the 18th must advance to their support.' Meanwhile, the chicken soup was almost ready, but the order 'form ranks' resounded, and with empty stomachs we marched through Neuvy up a hill and dug ourselves in behind a wood.
"The thunder of the enemies' artillery is terrible; shrapnel is bursting on our left. Captain von Liliencron discusses the situation with the major and then turns to us. 'Our regiment attacks! go for the dogs, children!' he exclaims with gleaming eyes.
"Next we advance round the wood and lie down behind a hedge; axes are held in readiness to hack a way through the latter. Five steps from me a machine gun hammers away at full speed; it is now impossible to hear commands, so they are roared from man to man—it could not be termed shouting. 'Ambulance to the right!' somebody is severely wounded, but the ambulance men have more than they can do on the left.
"The hell-music is at its loudest; shrapnel is bursting in the wood behind us; suddenly there is an awful explosion half a dozen yards away; I hear the screams of my comrades, then we rush forwards. The rush across the field was awful—flank fire from the right. Here and there a comrade bites the grass.
"At last I throw myself down, but there is no cover; the wounded crouch there too. None of my company are there; it seems that the two last shells have played havoc with them. The enemies' (French) main position is nearly a mile away in a forest.
"Up the next slope our dead lie thick around, and here too a deadly bullet had found the breast of our heroic captain. But in the strip of forest French and Turko bodies are still thicker. The cat-like Turkos have climbed into the trees and are shot down like crows. A maddening infantry and artillery fire greets us as we reach the top. Every ten to twenty yards shells strike, and shrapnel bursts, filling the air with earth, dust, smoke and smell.
"Forward! till almost exhausted I throw myself down again; a hundred to a hundred and fifty Fusiliers form a firing-line. Columns of infantry pour a murderous fire on to us from the forest. It cannot go on thus; one after the other is wounded or killed. We have advanced nearly eight hundred yards over open ground. On the right there is a small thicket of reeds. Some of the company have already sought shelter there, and I make a rush there with the same hope.
"'For heaven's sake, lie down, corporal,' screamed a man as I came up. In fact, the reeds afford no cover whatever. Wounded and dead lie there and bullets keep hitting them. In front of me lay a man from the fourth company; a bullet had entered his chest and passed out of his back; the blood was oozing out of a wound about the size of a shilling. The horror was too much for me, and I crept to the other end of the strip.
"There I found everything far worse, but I cannot describe the terrors which I saw. One poor fellow begs for a drop of water; there is just another draught in my bottle. With grateful eyes he hands it back to me, and in the same moment I feel a stinging pain in the shoulder. My arm is numbed and helpless; hardly one of us who is not wounded.
"We can offer no resistance to the enemy; but the awful way back! At last the run back over eight hundred yards of open field begins. Now and again a comrade sinks to the ground, never to rise again. My breath is nearly gone; one last effort, and in truth I have escaped from the hail of bullets."
It is remarkable and noteworthy that German writers charge the French armies with looting and destruction in their own country. Probably this is merely a device to get rid of unpleasant accusations raised against the German army. Furthermore, the most reckless charges of uncleanliness are made. In commenting on the lot of the Landsturm troops quartered in the villages of Northern France, one author writes: "The Landsturm men pass their time as best they can in these holes, whose most conspicuous quality is their filth."
[Footnote 168: Erich Koehrer: "Zwischen Aisne und Argonnen" ("Between the Aisne and the Argonnes"), p. 25.]
The same author gives his impressions of a visit to Sedan. "Only one house has been completely and another partly destroyed, otherwise appearances are peaceful, and as far as possible, life goes on as usual. Here, too, many of the inhabitants have left their homes and fled. The stupidity of this flight becomes evident at every step. In numerous small hotels whose proprietors have remained, one sees German soldiers buying bottles of splendid Burgundy wine at a shilling a bottle.
"But in another hotel whose proprietor had fled, is it a matter for surprise that the men caroused on discovering a cellar containing three thousand bottles of wine? On the route I have myself purchased some of the oldest and best wines from our men at a price of three cigars a bottle, and the recollection of them belongs to the pleasantest memories of my sojourn at the front.
"Certainly the owner of Chateau Frenois, situated a few minutes' walk from the town, will be more unpleasantly surprised on his return than the hotel proprietor. In his home, French marauders and plunderers have destroyed and devastated the entire contents. It is impossible to comprehend the senselessness of this conduct, for which no reasons of military necessity can be advanced.
"Ancient family pictures which could not be taken out of their frames have been ruined by bayonet stabs, and from the shape of the cuts they were certainly the work of French bayonets. Even the library, which contained a valuable collection of old prints, had been robbed.
"Not far from this scene of desolation stands Chateau Bellevue, where King William met Napoleon in 1870. There, too, the traces of French plunderers are painfully evident; it was left to the 'Hun-Kaiser' to save this historic spot from complete annihilation. In September Wilhelm II. visited the chateau and seeing the signs of rapacity, ordered the place to be strictly guarded to prevent further desecration."
[Footnote 169: Ibid., pp. 22-3.]
It did not occur to Herr Koehrer to connect the carousals with the plundering; in one sentence he admits that French soldiers respected the wine-cellars and in the next accuses them of stealing books, etc. Every German writer, in describing the German advance, comments on the immense number of haversacks, weapons and equipment thrown away by the French in their "wild flight." Yet they desire their readers to believe that the same soldiers had time to rob and destroy, indeed, carry their plunder with them!
Since September no French troops have been in the district, yet the Kaiser found it necessary to place guards round Chateau Bellevue. Is it not more reasonable to assume that the precaution was taken against the predatory instincts of his own soldiery, who, admittedly, are in occupation of the province?
Herr Koehrer finds it almost beneath his dignity to reply to charges of barbarism and Hunnism; yet he devotes several pages to the art of white-washing. "The inhabitants who remained in their homes, and those who have returned since the flight—unfortunately it is only a small part of the entirety—have recognized long ago that the German soldier is not a barbarian. The terrible distress which prevails among the French is often enough relieved by the generosity of the German troops. Throngs of women and children from the filthy villages of the Argonne and the Ardennes gather round our field-kitchens and regularly receive the remains of the meals; while many a German Landsturm man, recollecting his own wife and children, fills the mouths of dirty French children instead of completely satisfying his own hunger."
[Footnote 170: Ibid., p. 34. Herr Koehrer has evidently never visited many Bavarian villages: otherwise he would be more careful with his adjectives when describing the villages of France.—Author.]
No one disputes the presence of kindly Germans in the Kaiser's armies, and it is pleasing to read about these acts of generosity in relieving distress which is entirely the result of Germany's guilt. But the point which all German writers miss is the explanation of positive evidence of brutal deeds. Their kindly incidents and proofs of German chivalry are all of a negative character, and do not overthrow one jot or tittle of the opposing positive evidence.
Iron crosses have fallen in thick showers on the German armies; during the month of July, 1915, no fewer than 3,400 of these decorations were awarded to the Bavarian army alone. Still, as far back as November of last year, Herr Koehrer wrote: "In the villages on the slopes of the Argonnes and on the banks of the Aisne, nearly every second soldier is wearing an iron cross. One has the certain conviction that it is not an army of fifty or sixty thousand, but a nation of heroes which occupies the plains of France and fights for us.
"They are all heroes at the front, including those who do not wear the outward symbol of personal bravery. When we see how our men live, it would seem that the earliest days of the human race have returned. They have become cave-dwellers, troglodytes in the worst form. Our heavy batteries are placed on the slopes of the Argonne forest, while the light field-howitzers occupy the summits.
"Near them holes have been dug in the wet clay or chalk, and meagrely lined with straw; these dark, damp caves are the dwellings of our officers and men for weeks at a time, while the shells from the enemy's artillery whiz and burst around. In them the differences of rank disappear, except that one sometimes sees a couple of chairs provided for officers. When duty does not call them to the guns, they are free to remain in the open exposed to a sudden and awful death, or to spend their time in the womb of mother earth. Yet one never hears a word of complaint; rather the hardships of this strange existence are borne with rough good-humour."
[Footnote 171: Ibid., p. 28.]
Contrary to the expectations of other nations, the war seems only to have increased the popularity of the military Moloch. Writers who look upon the Allies as deliverers who will free Germany from the degrading slavery imposed upon that country, will be disappointed to learn that Germans worship the bunte Rock (gay uniform) more than ever.
At a meeting of the National Liberal leaders held in Dortmund, July, 1915, a resolution was passed calling upon the Government to pursue a still greater naval and army programme. Both the Liberals and Conservatives have adopted the motto: Deutsche Machtpolitik frei von Sentimentalitaet (A German policy of might free from sentimentalism).
"This war of the nations, which has overthrown so many accepted standards and created new ones, will also give a new basis to the privileged position of German officers in public life. Millions of German men have seen how in this war the German lieutenant has again merited his special position for some generations to come. I wish to emphasize this point over and over again.
"During the first two months of hostilities nearly forty thousand iron crosses were awarded. To many of those at home this appeared to be overdoing it, like the many exaggerations in the domain of orders and honours with which we have become familiar during the last decade. As a matter of fact, the number of crosses given was too small.
[Footnote 172: Vide "The Soul of Germany," Chapter XIII.]
"Not forty thousand heroes are at the front, but a nation of heroes. In emphasizing why the work of our officers is so splendid I must lay down these premises. The bravery and joyous spirit of self-sacrifice in our men is above all praise, but the officers have higher and more responsible duties. They have not only to set an example of physical courage, but they must possess the mental capacity to lead and spur on their men—and that under conditions so hard and rude that the man at home has no conception of them.
"I have been in the trenches on the slopes of the Argonnes, where officers lie side by side with the men in clay and chalk, unwashed and filthy cut off from the outside world, exposed to continuous fire and thrown entirely upon themselves. I have seen them in the artillery positions on the Aisne, in the mud-caves of the heavy batteries, where they sit in the dark on empty packing-cases, listening to the music of exploding shells and whistling bullets. And everywhere I received the same impression: the men are enthusiastic in praise of their leaders.
"Many a one who has never voted for any other party than the Social Democrats has exclaimed: 'Lieutenants! Donnerwetter, yes! Hats off to them!' For the lieutenant is not only the first in the fight, but he is the soul of the company; untiring in his efforts to keep up their spirits in the intervals between the fighting.
"And when we again witness the scenes which often disgusted us before the war—the monocled young gentlemen in gay uniform, walking through the streets, nose in the air—when we see all this again, and perhaps a bit of iron pinned on the breast, then we must remember that for their life of danger and hardship in Argonnes clay, and Russian mud, no earthly compensation can be too great.
"No nation can ever imitate our lieutenant, and in this war of masses and technical perfection it is still the value of individual personality which will decide the issue. We may affirm that this value stands very high in our army—both as regards officers and men.
"Only he who has seen for himself the burnt villages, devastated towns and desolate land of France can comprehend the full meaning of the awful word Krieg (war). Mere words cannot express what it means to Germans and Germany that the horrors of war have been carried almost alone into the enemy's territory.
"But then a spirit of irresistible ardour goes through the ranks of our warriors. From every eye, in every word, burns the deepest, most unbounded faith in victory. In the trenches, batteries and hospitals there is no doubt, no fear. One great thought hovers victoriously above all hardships, distress and suffering: Germany to the front in the world!
"And from out the blood which flows—and that is shed plenteously, very plenteously—(this is the sacred faith which I brought back from the battlefields) out of this blood the proud harvest will grow, whose blessings we shall all feel—the world dominion of the German idea!"
[Footnote 173: Ibid., p. 50 et seq.]
In spite of Koehrer's assurances that the relationship between officers and men in the German army is an ideal one, there is evidence that such is not always the case. The Social Democratic paper Karlsruhe Volksfreund (July 23rd, 1915) contained a long article by "comrade" Wilhelm Kolb, attacking the anti-annexation fraction of his party. Kolb accused the opposition with "speculating on the question of food-prices and the ill-treatment of soldiers at and behind the front. The power of the censor makes it exceedingly difficult, or even impossible, to ventilate this matter."
German writers are careful to impress their readers that the losses of the French were appalling, but here and there a stray word or sentence lifts the veil and discovers their own.
"Just before me are the graves of some German officers adorned with wooden crosses and helmets, and a little farther on a Massengrab (large common grave) containing several hundred German soldiers. At this point (Sedan) the battle raged with awful fury, and the Germans had to make heavy sacrifices. It seems almost incredible that the Germans could have forced the position.
"The country is hilly; not a tree or bush offered cover from the French bullets. French trenches at distances of from thirty to fifty yards, stretched across the land, and between them were wire entanglements and other obstacles. Besides which they had an open firing-range of over a mile in extent, with their artillery to cover them from a steep hill on the other side of the Meuse.
"At 5 a.m. the attack commenced, and by the afternoon the French had been hurled across the river. Then came the most difficult part of the operations. From the Meuse the ground rises gradually to a steep hill, on which the French artillery and machine guns were placed. The only bridge over the river, at Donchery, had been blown up at the last moment by the enemy, and although our pioneers had hastily constructed a bridge of tree-trunks—what was this for so many regiments!
"Many tried to ford or swim the stream. The French fire was murderous in its effect. Several times the ranks wavered, but again and again they pressed forward, till the heights were stormed and the enemy in flight. The battle raged on into the night and then the remains of the regiments gathered at the foot of the hill. They had won a costly but glorious victory. Those who have seen the successes which our troops have gained, even under the most difficult conditions, need have no fear as to the ultimate result of this war.
"I stood long at this spot on the blood-drenched soil of France, just where the regiments from Trier had fought so bravely and suffered so heavily. Serious thoughts arose in me as I gazed at the battlefield. What a dispensation! Two gigantic battles on the same spot in such a short space of time; two great victories over the French. And most remarkable of all, the nation which for forty-four years had desired revanche for Sedan, was again completely defeated at the same place—almost on the anniversary of the first battle.
[Footnote 174: The writer, Dr. W. Kriege, is a Roman Catholic priest from Trier (Treves). His book "Bilder vom Kriegsschauplatz" (Pictures from the Seat of War"), published in 1915, is both interesting and illuminating.]
"Twilight shadows fall deep upon the quiet fields where the dead rest. Squadrons of white clouds drift down the valley, as if to cover the sleeping heroes with a shroud of white. Above Sedan's heights appears the shining crescent of the moon and sheds a ghostly light over the wide field of death—the battlefield of Sedan."
[Footnote 175: Dr. W. Kriege: "Bilder vom Kriegsschauplatz," p. 45 et seq.]
"At last we arrive at our destination—Somme-Py. But what a sight! Nothing remains of the once beautiful, spacious village but a heap of rubbish. A few black-burnt walls are still standing and about three houses; among them, fortunately, the house occupied by Kaiser Wilhelm I. in 1870-71, when the victorious German army was marching on Paris. At present it serves as a field-hospital. Yes, this is the second time that a German army has marched this way; but the battles were never so bloody as this time.
"Somme-Py and the country round has a special meaning for us folk in Trier. For here our Trier regiments—above all the 29th and 69th—have fought with splendid valour, and here they have buried many a dear friend and comrade. Immediately before Somme-Py one of the largest mass-graves of the whole campaign may be seen.
"A simple iron railing surrounds the spot where hundreds of those rest who lived so happily in our midst, who marched so gaily and to whom we waved farewell greetings as they tramped through our streets.
"The fight for the village had been particularly fierce and bloody; the inhabitants had no time to flee. Half-burnt men and animals, soldiers and civilians, filled the houses and streets, or lay buried under the ruins—awful sacrifices to the war Fury! We must thank God and our brave soldiers that they have preserved our hearths and homes from such horror and misery."
[Footnote 176: Ibid., pp. 78-80.]
It is cheering to find a growing feeling of respect for the French in German war literature. One of many such expressions will be sufficient to quote here. The writer of it is a German author who enjoys much esteem in his own country, and was a guest at the German Crown Prince's headquarters in May, 1915.
"In conversations with numerous French prisoners I have found no traces of hate and rage either in their looks or words. The most are glad to have escaped in an honourable manner from the nerve-racking, trench warfare. In an honourable manner? Yes, for I have heard on all sides—from the highest officers and the simplest soldiers—that the French have fought well. For the most part they are well led—and always filled up with lies."
[Footnote 177: Rudolf Presber: "An die Front zum deutschen Kronprinzen" ("At the Front with the German Crown Prince"), p. 33.]
"Then we dined with the Crown Prince; soup, roast goose, fresh beans and dessert. The conversation was lively. In our small company—although the bravery of the enemy and his excellent leadership receives full recognition—there is not one who does not reckon with absolute conviction on complete victory on both fronts."
[Footnote 178: Ibid., p. 61.]
Herr Presber's book is free, neither from adulation nor hero-worship. He is a poet, sentimentalist, and evangelist for Greater Germany. His book is a collection of incidents, reflections, and conversations, carefully assorted and arranged, so as to allow the limelight to glare on the statuesque figure of a mighty Germanic hero, fresh from Walhalla—incarnated in the Crown Prince.
The Crown Prince's birthday dinner-party affords an excellent opportunity for the German nation to see the mighty one replying to the toast of his health. Presber affirms that the moment when his royal host raised his glass and uttered the words: "Ein stilles Glas den Toten!" ("A glass in silence to the memory of the fallen") will for ever be "most solemn and sacred" in his memory.
With genuine German inquisitiveness Herr Presber hunted through the various cupboards and drawers in his room and found a map of France as it was before the loss of Alsace-Lorraine. "The map is wrong and useless, and so I use it to line a drawer before placing my linen therein. This makes me think of the many changes which will be marked in the atlases which German children are now carrying to school in their satchels—after the cannon have ceased to roar. How the colouring of the maps has changed since I went to school, and yet once more a great 'unrest of colour' is about to change the map of Europe. And as far as I can see, large notes of interrogation must be placed not alone round the Poles and in Central Africa!"
[Footnote 179: Ibid., p. 101.]
"I spoke of the good understanding between the natives and our soldiers. Probably that is not so easy to attain everywhere. We drove long distances from the Prince's headquarters and once passed through a famous town which sees the German conquerors for a second time. (No doubt Sedan is meant.—Author.)
"Most of the inhabitants know it is the Crown Prince by the signs of reverence shown him on all sides, by officers and men alike. But the citizens of the twice-conquered town bite their lips, turn their heads aside, and pretend indifference. The women too—many of them in deep mourning—turn away, or sometimes stand and stare as if with suddenly aroused interest. Here the ancient hate glowers in silence.
"It seems as if a parole of mute non-respect has been passed round. This town, which has become world-famous on account of the debacle of the Third Empire, lives to see with gnashing of teeth the downfall of the Republic. But they do not believe it yet."
[Footnote 180: Ibid., p. 108.]
"French and Russian prisoners are working on the roads, wheeling barrows of stone and filling the holes made by shell fire. Some of them, without thinking, touch their caps when their guards stand stiffly at the salute. (And how few guards are necessary to watch this tame herd!) Others gaze at our car as it rushes past without giving any salute; their faces express astonishment, curiosity, but no excitement."