What Germany Thinks - The War as Germans see it
by Thomas F. A. Smith
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There are good, even magnificent forces in the German nation; there are still noble-minded, high-thinking Germans who yearn to work in the great civilizing world enterprises. But—and therein lies the tragedy—"the good, the true, the pure, the just" are not to-day the predominating powers. They must work out their own salvation; but if the time ever comes when the finest and best German thought directs Germany's destinies, then there will be no lack of sympathizers in this country, who will hail the day as the advent of a new world era. For the present, all mutual jealousies, all the burning ambitions, all quarrels and hate, are submitted to the arbitrament of the sword. If Britain only wields her sword so well and honourably, as to gain unstinted victory, that will prove to be the firmest basis for future respect and enduring peace.



Mention has already been made of German disrespect, even contempt for England and the English. One of the reasons for this contempt was the smallness of the British army, and the fact that our soldiers are paid servants of the country. Germans apparently never could comprehend why a man should receive payment for serving his country by bearing arms, and that fact appeared to them to afford overwhelming evidence of the pedlar-soul (Kraemergeist). The second conclusion drawn, has generally been that the Britisher is devoid of all sense of duty and self-sacrificing patriotism. Probably the flocking of several million men to arms in defence of the Empire, and in defence of British conceptions of right and wrong has done something to convince Germans that the premises of the syllogism, were not so self-evident as they had imagined.

"Among all the great European Powers, England is the only one which has not introduced national service and remained true to the principle of keeping an army of paid soldiers. Hence, when in all other lands at the outbreak of war, the entire people stands ready to defend the national honour, England is compelled to beat the recruiting drums before she can wage war."[226]

[Footnote 226: Dr. H. Hirschberg: "Wie John Bull seine Soeldner wirbt" ("How John Bull recruits his Mercenaries"), p. 3. Hirschberg reproduces in facsimile a large number of the recruiting placards which have decorated the British Isles since the outbreak of war. "Your King and Country need you" is also given (English and German) with music.]

"England wages war on business lines. It is not the sons of the land who bleed for Britannia's honour; mercenaries from the four corners of the world—including blacks—carry on the war as a trade for England's business world and nobility. England might well smirk as she uttered blessings on the Triple Entente, for has she not borne the brand of perfidy for centuries? Her breast conceals the meanest pedlar's spirit in the, world.

"Every battle which Russia loses is a victory for England, and every defeat which France suffers means profit for England. She can afford to wait till her allies are beaten and then take over their business. 'First come, first served' does not hold good in England's case; for her motto is, the last to come gets the prize.

"Twelve Powers declared war on Germany. Then Japan, the thirteenth, poked out her yellow face and demanded Kiau Chou. A hyena had smelt corpses, but the blackmailing Mongol received no reply to his ultimatum. Grim laughter was heard in Germany—booming, bitter laughter at the band of thieves who hoped to plunder us. And in the wantonness of their righteous wrath, German soldiers scribbled on the barrack walls an immortal sentence: 'Declarations of war thankfully received!'"[227]

[Footnote 227: A. Fendrich: "Gegen Frankreich und Albion" ("Against France and Albion"). Stuttgart, 1915; pp. 11-12.]

"How wickedly the war was forced upon Germany! A ring of enemies surrounded her. Envy and ill-will were their motives, but they lacked the right measure for Germany's greatness. Our people stand invincible, united, staking life and everything they have—till the last enemy lies in the dust.

"Not much longer and the goal will be attained; the many-sided attack has been smashed and the war carried into enemy lands. Shining glory has been won by Germany's armies. The passionate elan of our soldiers, their death-despising bravery and one-minded strength, have gained victory after victory.

"Revenge begins to glow against the originator of the world-conflagration—against false England! Mute and astonished the world saw her baseness—wondering at her greatness and her sin. Envy and ill-will inspired her to cast the lives of millions into the scales, to open the flood-gates of blood, to spread pain and unspeakable misery—herself coldly smiling.

"What are men's lives to England? She pays for them. Her army of mercenaries which was to force her yoke on Europe, is paid with the gold of blackmailers. She sends hirelings into the field to defend the inheritance of her ancestors; paid mercenaries fight for her most sacred possessions, while those who pay the blood-money throng to see the masterly exponents of football. And England is proud of her splendid sons who prefer this intellectual game to stern battle with the enemy.

"How different it is with our men! With shouts of joy they march forth to meet the foe, offering their lives in a spirit of glad sacrifice for the highest and best which the world has to offer humanity. Storming forwards with the song, 'Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles,' our youthful hosts, greeting death with a smile, hurl themselves upon the enemy. Truly, wherever and so long as men are men, the glory of our warriors will find remembrance in brave hearts."[228]

[Footnote 228: J. Bermbach: "Zittere, England!" ("England, tremble!"). Weimar, 1915; p. 5 et seq.]

"It would be neither right nor just to accuse English soldiers of a want of courage. They have fought everywhere, by land and sea, with respect-inspiring gallantry—for mercenaries! But the warlike virtues of England's armies cannot atone for the cowardice with which she has conducted the struggle for naval supremacy. Albion means England's rulers. And this England of Messrs. Grey and Churchill, has covered herself with shame for all time by the manner of her warfare on sea.

"Albion has not changed. She has hidden her battleships in the bays of northern Ireland, and conducts war on sea—not against our ships and soldiers, but against those at home, German women and children! 'The pinch of hunger makes the heart weak,' said the noble-minded Churchill."[229]

[Footnote 229: Fendrich: "Gegen Frankreich und Albion," p. 152 et seq.]

"According to its composition the English army is an army of mercenaries. On that account, however, it would be a great mistake to despise the quality of the soldiers or to cherish contempt for them. The standard of physical fitness demanded of the recruits was—at least up till a short time ago—more severe than that imposed in other lands. There is no doubt, our German brothers who have met the English on the field of battle, admit that they fight not only with valour but with unyielding stubbornness.

"This results not so much from barrack-yard drill and field manoeuvres, as from the practical experience of warfare gained in many campaigns. England is occupied almost uninterruptedly, in warlike enterprises in some part of the world or other. Further, the officers—belonging mostly to the upper circles—have distinguished themselves in the field by a rash bravery which was marked perhaps, not so much by military as sportsmanlike behaviour.

"All in all the strategic value of the English army in regard to leadership, training, discipline and the spirit of the troops, cannot compare with the conscript armies of other lands—especially the German army. Yet the contempt which has been expressed for it in the Press as an army of hirelings, is just as little merited to-day as it was in the past when it added many a glorious page to England's history.

"These remarks are intended as a refutation to the reproaches made against the English army. It is true, those unjust criticisms did not originate with experts, or they would imply a dangerous under-estimation of the enemy. But in consequence of the widespread acceptance among the masses they unjustly feed the fires of hate."[230]

[Footnote 230: Dr. G. Landauer: "England." Vienna; 1915, pp. 74-5.]

"For the last ten days we have been resting to the west of Lille not far from Armentieres; an English army is opposed to us. My battery is one of the links in the long chain of growlers[231] which daily pour fire and iron on to the enemy. We gave up counting the days and fights, for every day has its battle. Besides the English there are Indian troops, and a few French batteries in front of us.

[Footnote 231: The Germans call their big guns "Brummer," i.e., growler.—Author.]

"Every day confirms our experience that we are faced by an enemy with incomparable powers of resistance and endurance. An enemy who can hardly be shaken by the sharpest rifle-fire or the most awful rain of shell and shrapnel. We gain ground slowly, exceedingly slowly, and every step of soil has to be paid for dearly.

"In the trenches taken by storm the English dead lie in rows, just like men who had not winced or yielded before the bayonets of the stormers. From the military point of view it must be admitted that such an enemy deserves the greatest respect. The English have adapted the experiences gained in their colonial wars to European conditions in a particularly clever manner.

"Every attempt to cross the canal was thwarted by artillery fire and in many places the enemy was more advantageously situated than our men. His trenches were at least dry while ours were flooded with water. I went into the front trenches by Dixmude and found them lined half a yard deep with faggots and wood, yet at every step our feet sank into the water and slush.

"On the other bank of the Yser lay the enemy and fired continuously. Anyone who saw our soldiers under these conditions and heard their jokes will never forget the sight. All the folk at home who grumbled at the slow progress ought to have been sent for a single day and night into that mud-swamp!

"In those fields and canals, in this endless morass—made impassable by flooding—many, many brave German soldiers have sacrificed their lives. During the autumn and winter months of 1914 the whole Yser domain was transformed into a vast graveyard.

"The battle-front was determined by the nature of the land. It stretched from the sea through Ramscapelle, Dixmude, Roulers, Paschendaal to Ypres and the rage of battle swayed like a tossing ship in ocean storm. Even now Germany does not know the greatness and terror of the battles fought there. Only names are known, such as Middelkerke, Zonnebeeke, Warneton, etc.

"The Belgians fought with the courage of despair. Their battle-cry was 'Louvain!' and 'Termonde!' Highlanders, Indians, Sikhs, Ghurkas, Zouaves, Turkos, Canadians, Belgians, French and English were thrown into the line, and ever-new regiments landed at Calais. Houses and villages were taken and re-taken at the point of the bayonet, as many as seven times. Towns and bridges were conquered and lost often eight times in succession, accompanied by heavy artillery duels and incredible losses."[232]

[Footnote 232: Heinrich Binder: "Mit dem Hauptquartier nach Westen," p. 123 et seq.]

"We[233] have just gone into billets. Not far off are the positions of the enemy—the English. There will be a battle to-morrow and everybody is serious. Mostly by the evening, we are too tired to think, but it is not so to-day.

[Footnote 233: Extracts from the diary of a German soldier, published in "Der Weltkrieg" ("The World War"). Leipzig, 1915; p. 632 et seq.]

"Again and again I arrive at the same conclusion—war is too great a thing to comprehend. Now we are going into battle with the black-white-gold band on our breasts. Greetings to you all at home, above all to you, father. I have your blessing, haven't I?

"October 24th.—We are lying before the road from Ypres to Paschendaal. The Lt. Colonel has just told us that 'the losses cannot go on at this rate.' By the side of the brook, on this side the road, English sharpshooters are in hiding. They shoot damned straight. Our artillery is not yet up; the reason for our heavy losses yesterday.

"The infantry advance with a rush towards the windmill, but we no sooner top the hill than the English machine guns begin to rattle. Our front ranks are mown down. Every attempt to advance fails. The order was given to lie down and there we remained for four hours. Then we rush one after the other through a hedge. When darkness fell we had nearly reached the English trenches, but were recalled and spent the night in our trench.

"The next morning passed quietly, except for rifle-fire. Captain von K. was hit, and rolled over in front of the trench. Three comrades crept out one after the other to fetch him—all three fell. At last our wounded captain was still too—killed by a second bullet. Being compelled to watch this scene without power to help, was the beginning of our day.

"Just after mid-day the music began. Crash! a shell lands in our trench on the right. A short pause, and crash follows crash as the shells are dropped into our trench at distances of four yards. Death walks slowly up the trench towards us. We know that he is coming, we see him. Everybody is lying flat on the ground. We are waiting for 'our' shell.

"If we had a communication trench we could escape—but there isn't one. We reckon the distance: twenty-five yards away another direct hit. Crash! only twenty yards. Fifteen yards! We have only five minutes to live. Thoughts of God and home and parents rush through the mind; yet they are only numb feelings. Crash! ten yards; one more and then comes 'ours.' But no, the next boom was in the trench behind, and in the same manner that trench was cleared from end to end.

"'Lieutenant T. killed, Lieutenant K. takes command' was passed along. We have hardly left the trench when bullets begin to whistle round our heads. Man after man remains behind. At last night sinks and hides the horrors of the day. I have lost my company and spend the night in the open with a few others.

"The next morning the sun shone brightly; the morning wind blows coldly over the furrows and over the dead. I have no words to describe what I saw—but my heart bled! Near Paschendaal I found my company. Altogether there are thirty of us—out of two hundred and fifty."

German war literature affords a complete picture of the transformation of German contempt for the British army into profound respect. As witness the following:

"It cannot be denied that the English have supported Joffre's offensive with valour, strength and vigour. The battles which have raged since the end of September on the front between Givenchy la Gobelle and Armentieres, have confirmed the deadly seriousness of the English. And if they have not obtained great successes, still, in this gigantic grapple, they have displayed desperate courage which compels the admiration of their opponents.

"The Commander of a division, with whom I spent the last few days, said to me in a tone of deep conviction: 'Nobody must talk lightly of English soldiers in my presence. Their bravery and the extraordinary courage of English officers compels my admiration. Regimental commanders and staff officers advanced in the first line of their troops. They fight and fall by the side of their men. I saw several high officers killed myself.' Besides, I have heard his Excellency's words confirmed by many of his officers."[234]

[Footnote 234: Julius Hirsch; War Correspondent with the German Army, in the Fraenkischer Kurier, October 22nd, 1915.]

In a previous work the author has expressed the opinion that Great Britain must employ all her strength in this, the greatest of all wars, and in concluding this work he repeats that warning still more emphatically. Only a true realization of the inevitable fact that British democracy is on trial by battle—"man to man and steel to steel"—will give the necessary courage, endurance, faith and hope to bring the issue to a victorious end.



Alleged Ill-Treatment of Germans in Belgium Appreciation, a German, of England Atrocities Attack on Liege by a Zeppelin Attitude of Germany and Austria Austrian mobilization

Battle of the Marne Belgian kindness to Germans Belgrade during the crisis Bethmann-Hollweg falsely accuses Russia of causing the war Bismarck Britain's position in the world British accused of plundering Army General Staff's guide-books to Belgium inefficiency Navy Socialists Brutal treatment of foreigners in Germany

Courage of British Army

Demonstrations in Favour of War Diplomatic battles

England's Attitude heir neutrality, German offers for Excitement in Germany

French Airmen, Alleged Attack near Nuremberg alleged attack on Frankfort

German Brutality towards Germans Chancellor's speech in the Reichstag comment on the conference proposal Crown Prince frontiers, alleged violation by the French General Staff, did it conspire to bring about war? German efficiency invasion of France losses methods mobilization nerves opinion of England plundering Press plays Germany a foul trick provocation to Belgians before the war State, a Nirvana German Socialists and conscription and universal peace cheer the announcement that Germany had invaded two neutral countries help Kaiser's government support the war vote for a war of aggression why they supported the war German Socialists' attitude to England campaign against Russia class-war peace programme proclamation on August 1st, 1914, German troops enter Belgium and Luxembourg unity war against civilians German White Book on atrocities by the Belgians Germans charge French with looting enter Brussels invade Belgium Germany declares war on France declares war on Russia made peace impossible rejects British friendship Germany's alleged efforts for peace case case against Belgian civilians hunt for phantom gold hunt for spies re-birth ultimatum to Russia Grey, Sir Edward Grey's, Sir Edward, conference proposal

Haldane Lord Hate literature Heligoland prepared for war

Ill-treatment, alleged, of Germans by British Ireland and Germany Iron Crosses Italian Socialists condemn their German comrades


Kaiser's return to Berlin threat threat to England Koenigin Luise starts to lay mines round the English coast

Lassalle's opinion of Austria Last protest against war Legend of gouged-out eyes Letter of Belgian Legation Secretary Louvain Lying, a foundation-stone of German policy

Macdonald, Mr. Ramsay Martial law proclaimed in Germany Militarism, spirit of

Necessity knows no law Neutrality of Belgium "Now there are only Germans"

Oncken, Professor Hermann Opinion in France at the outbreak of war

Peace, did Germany work for? Poisoned water-supply scare Press, German, condemns the Austrian ultimatum Prince Heinrich's telegram to King George Proclamation of the Social Democrats, July 25th, 1914 Propaganda for the annexation of Belgium

Reconciliation with Germany Roman Catholic Church refutes German atrocity legends Russia ignores the German ultimatum Russia's attitude during the crisis military measures right to intervene

Secret Belgian documents seized in Brussels Social Democratic demonstrations against war Social Democrats' report on Belgium Socialists, German, vote for war Spy scare and its results Status of German professors Swiss Neutral on Belgian neutrality

Terms of Triple Alliance Treatment of Belgian civilians Trevelyan's, Mr. Charles, remarkable promise Tricks of the German Press

Unprepared Condition of the Franco-Belgian Frontier

Violation of Belgian Neutrality Volksstaat (People's State)

War Delirium Warsaw citadel blown up Wolff's News Agency


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