My Four Years in Germany
James W. Gerard
Part 1 out of 6
Produced by Robert J. Hall
[Illustration: AN INVITATION TO ATTEND THE OPENING OF THE ROYAL
[Illustration: AN INVITATION TO A COURT BALL.]
[Illustration: SAFE CONDUCT FOR AMBASSADOR GERARD AND HIS FAMILY,
UNDER THE SIGNATURE OF SECRETARY ZIMMERMANN, FEBRUARY, 5, 1917.]
[Illustration: AMBASSADOR GERARD SAYING GOOD-BYE TO THE AMERICANS
LEAVING ON A SPECIAL TRAIN, AUGUST, 1914.]
MY FOUR YEARS IN GERMANY
BY JAMES W. GERARD
LATE AMBASSADOR TO THE GERMAN IMPERIAL COURT
TO MY SMALL BUT TACTFUL FAMILY OF ONE
I am writing what should have been the last chapter of this book
as a foreword because I want to bring home to our people the
gravity of the situation; because I want to tell them that the
military and naval power of the German Empire is unbroken; that of
the twelve million men whom the Kaiser has called to the colours
but one million, five hundred thousand have been killed, five
hundred thousand permanently disabled, not more than five hundred
thousand are prisoners of war, and about five hundred thousand
constitute the number of wounded or those on the sick list of
each day, leaving at all times about nine million effectives
I state these figures because Americans do not grasp either the
magnitude or the importance of this war. Perhaps the statement
that over five million prisoners of war are held in the various
countries will bring home to Americans the enormous mass of men
There have been no great losses in the German navy, and any losses
of ships have been compensated for by the building of new ones.
The nine million men, and more, for at least four hundred thousand
come of military age in Germany every year, because of their
experience in two and a half years of war are better and more
efficient soldiers than at the time when they were called to
the colours. Their officers know far more of the science of this
war and the men themselves now have the skill and bearing of
Nor should anyone believe that Germany will break under starvation
or make peace because of revolution.
The German nation is not one which makes revolutions. There will
be scattered riots in Germany, but no simultaneous rising of the
whole people. The officers of the army are all of one class,
and of a class devoted to the ideals of autocracy. A revolution
of the army is impossible; and at home there are only the boys
and old men easily kept in subjection by the police.
There is far greater danger of the starvation of our Allies than
of the starvation of the Germans. Every available inch of ground
in Germany is cultivated, and cultivated by the aid of the old
men, the boys and the women, and the two million prisoners of
The arable lands of Northern France and of Roumania are being
cultivated by the German army with an efficiency never before
known in these countries, and most of that food will be added
to the food supplies of Germany. Certainly the people suffer;
but still more certainly this war will not be ended because of
the starvation of Germany.
Although thinking Germans know that if they do not win the war
the financial day of reckoning will come, nevertheless, owing to
the clever financial handling of the country by the government
and the great banks, there is at present no financial distress in
Germany; and the knowledge that, unless indemnities are obtained
from other countries, the weight of the great war debt will fall
upon the people, perhaps makes them readier to risk all in a
final attempt to win the war and impose indemnities upon not
only the nations of Europe but also upon the United States of
We are engaged in a war against the greatest military power the
world has ever seen; against a people whose country was for so
many centuries a theatre of devastating wars that fear is bred
in the very marrow of their souls, making them ready to submit
their lives and fortunes to an autocracy which for centuries has
ground their faces, but which has promised them, as a result of
the war, not only security but riches untold and the dominion of
the world; a people which, as from a high mountain, has looked
upon the cities of the world and the glories of them, and has
been promised these cities and these glories by the devils of
autocracy and of war.
We are warring against a nation whose poets and professors, whose
pedagogues and whose parsons have united in stirring its people
to a white pitch of hatred, first against Russia, then against
England and now against America.
The U-Boat peril is a very real one for England. Russia may either
break up into civil wars or become so ineffective that the millions
of German troops engaged on the Russian front may be withdrawn
and hurled against the Western lines. We stand in great peril,
and only the exercise of ruthless realism can win this war for us.
If Germany wins this war it means the triumph of the autocratic
system. It means the triumph of those who believe not only in
war as a national industry, not only in war for itself but also
in war as a high and noble occupation. Unless Germany is beaten
the whole world will be compelled to turn itself into an armed
camp, until the German autocracy either brings every nation under
its dominion or is forever wiped out as a form of government.
We are in this war because we were forced into it: because Germany
not only murdered our citizens on the high seas, but also filled
our country with spies and sought to incite our people to civil
war. We were given no opportunity to discuss or negotiate. The
forty-eight hour ultimatum given by Austria to Serbia was not,
as Bernard Shaw said, "A decent time in which to ask a man to
pay his hotel bill." What of the six-hour ultimatum given to
me in Berlin on the evening of January thirty-first, 1917, when
I was notified at six that ruthless warfare would commence at
twelve? Why the German government, which up to that moment had
professed amity and a desire to stand by the _Sussex_ pledges,
knew that it took almost two days to send a cable to America! I
believe that we are not only justly in this war, but prudently
in this war. If we had stayed out and the war had been drawn
or won by Germany we should have been attacked, and that while
Europe stood grinning by: not directly at first, but through an
attack on some Central or South American State to which it would
be at least as difficult for us to send troops as for Germany.
And what if this powerful nation, vowed to war, were once firmly
established in South or Central America? What of our boasted
It is only because I believe that our people should be informed
that I have consented to write this book. There are too many
thinkers, writers and speakers in the United States; from now
on we need the doers, the organisers, and the realists who alone
can win this contest for us, for democracy and for permanent
Writing of events so new, I am, of course, compelled to exercise
a great discretion, to keep silent on many things of which I
would speak, to suspend many judgments and to hold for future
disclosure many things, the relation of which now would perhaps
only serve to increase bitterness or to cause internal dissension
in our own land.
The American who travels through Germany in summer time or who
spends a month having his liver tickled at Homburg or Carlsbad,
who has his digestion restored by Dr. Dapper at Kissingen or
who relearns the lost art of eating meat at Dr. Dengler's in
Baden, learns little of the real Germany and its rulers; and in
this book I tell something of the real Germany, not only that
my readers may understand the events of the last three years
but also that they may judge of what is likely to happen in our
future relations with that country.
I MY FIRST YEAR IN GERMANY.
II POLITICAL AND GEOGRAPHICAL.
III DIPLOMATIC WORK OF FIRST WINTER IN BERLIN.
IV MILITARISM IN GERMANY AND THE ZABERN AFFAIR.
V PSYCHOLOGY AND CAUSES WHICH PREPARED THE NATION FOR WAR.
VI AT KIEL JUST BEFORE THE WAR.
VII THE SYSTEM.
VIII THE DAYS BEFORE THE WAR.
IX THE AMERICANS AT THE OUTBREAK OF HOSTILITIES.
X PRISONERS OF WAR.
XI FIRST DAYS OF THE WAR: POLITICAL AND DIPLOMATIC.
XII DIPLOMATIC NEGOTIATIONS.
XIII MAINLY COMMERCIAL.
XIV WORK FOR THE GERMANS.
XV WAR CHARITIES.
XVII DIPLOMATIC NEGOTIATIONS. (Continued).
XVIII LIBERALS AND REASONABLE MEN.
XIX THE GERMAN PEOPLE IN WAR.
AMBASSADOR GERARD SAYING GOOD-BYE TO THE AMERICANS LEAVING ON
A SPECIAL TRAIN, AUGUST, 1914.
AMBASSADOR GERARD ON HIS WAY TO PRESENT HIS LETTERS OF CREDENCE
TO THE EMPEROR.
THE HOUSE RENTED FOR USE AS EMBASSY.
A SALON IN THE EMBASSY.
THE BALL-ROOM OF THE EMBASSY.
PROGRAMME OF THE MUSIC AFTER DINNER AT THE ROYAL PALACE.
THE ROYAL PALACE AT POTSDAM.
DEMONSTRATION OF SYMPATHY FOR THE AMERICANS AT THE TOWN HALL,
RACING YACHTS AT KIEL.
THE KAISER'S YACHT, "HOHENZOLLERN".
AMBASSADOR GERARD ON HIS WAY TO HIS SHOOTING PRESERVE.
A KEEPER AND BEATERS ON THE SHOOTING PRESERVE.
CROWDS IN FRONT OF THE EMBASSY, AUGUST, 1914.
OUTSIDE THE EMBASSY IN THE EARLY DAYS OF THE WAR.
AT WORK IN THE EMBASSY BALL-ROOM, AUGUST, 1914.
AMBASSADOR GERARD AND HIS STAFF.
COVER OF THE RUHLEBEN MONTHLY.
SPECIMEN PAGE OF DRAWINGS FROM THE RUHLEBEN MONTHLY.
ALLEGED DUM-DUM BULLETS.
THE "LUSITANIA" MEDAL.
PAGE FROM "FOR LIGHT AND TRUTH".
AMBASSADOR GERARD AND PARTY IN SEDAN.
IN FRONT OF THE COTTAGE AT BAZEILLES.
FOOD ALLOTMENT POSTER FROM THE CHARLEVILLE DISTRICT.
FAC-SIMILE REPRODUCTION OF THE KAISER'S PERSONAL TELEGRAM TO
FAC-SIMILE OF SECRETARY OF STATE'S REQUEST TO AMBASSADOR GERARD
TO CALL IN ORDER TO RECEIVE SUBMARINE ANNOUNCEMENT.
THE REMODELLED DRAFT OF THE TREATY OF 1799.
INSTRUCTIONS SENT TO THE GERMAN PRESS ON WRITING UP A ZEPPELIN
PETITION CIRCULATED FOR SIGNATURE AMONG AMERICANS IN EUROPE.
PAGE FROM LISSAUER'S PAMPHLET SHOWING "HYMN OF HATE".
INSTRUCTIONS REGULATING APPEARANCE AT COURT.
A BERLIN EXTRA.
MY FIRST YEAR IN GERMANY
The second day out on the _Imperator_, headed for a summer's
vacation, a loud knocking woke me at seven A. M. The radio, handed
in from a friend in New York, told me of my appointment as Ambassador
Many friends were on the ship. Henry Morgenthau, later Ambassador
to Turkey, Colonel George Harvey, Adolph Ochs and Louis Wiley
of the _New_York_Times_, Clarence Mackay, and others.
The _Imperator_ is a marvellous ship of fifty-four thousand
tons or more, and at times it is hard to believe that one is
on the sea. In addition to the regular dining saloon, there is
a grill room and Ritz restaurant with its palm garden, and, of
course, an Hungarian Band. There are also a gymnasium and swimming
pool, and, nightly, in the enormous ballroom dances are given,
the women dressing in their best just as they do on shore.
Colonel Harvey and Clarence Mackay gave me a dinner of twenty-four
covers, something of a record at sea. For long afterwards in
Germany, I saw everywhere pictures of the _Imperator_ including
one of the tables set for this dinner. These were sent out over
Germany as a sort of propaganda to induce the Germans to patronise
their own ships and indulge in ocean travel. I wish that the
propaganda had been earlier and more successful, because it is
by travel that peoples learn to know each other, and consequently
to abstain from war.
On the night of the usual ship concert, Henry Morgenthau translated
a little speech for me into German, which I managed to get through
after painfully learning it by heart. Now that I have a better
knowledge of German, a cold sweat breaks out when I think of
the awful German accent with which I delivered that address.
A flying trip to Berlin early in August to look into the house
question followed, and then I returned to the United States.
In September I went to Washington to be "instructed," talked
with the President and Secretary, and sat at the feet of the
Assistant Secretary of State, Alvey A. Adee, the revered Sage
of the Department of State.
On September ninth, 1913, having resigned as Justice of the Supreme
Court of the State of New York, I sailed for Germany, stopping on
the way in London in order to make the acquaintance of Ambassador
Page, certain wise people in Washington having expressed the
belief that a personal acquaintance of our Ambassadors made it
easier for them to work together.
Two cares assail a newly appointed Ambassador. He must first
take thought of what he shall wear and where he shall live. All
other nations have beautiful Embassies or Legations in Berlin,
but I found that my two immediate predecessors had occupied a
villa originally built as a two-family house, pleasantly enough
situated, but two miles from the centre of Berlin and entirely
unsuitable for an Embassy.
There are few private houses in Berlin, most of the people living
in apartments. After some trouble I found a handsome house on
the Wilhelm Platz immediately opposite the Chancellor's palace
and the Foreign Office, in the very centre of Berlin. This house
had been built as a palace for the Princes Hatzfeld and had later
passed into the possession of a banking family named von Schwabach.
The United States Government, unlike other nations, does not
own or pay the rent of a suitable Embassy, but gives allowance
for offices, if the house is large enough to afford office room
for the office force of the Embassy. The von Schwabach palace
was nothing but a shell. Even the gas and electric light fixtures
had been removed; and when the hot water and heating system,
bath-rooms, electric lights and fixtures, etc., had been put
in, and the house furnished from top to bottom, my first year's
salary had far passed the minus point.
The palace was not ready for occupancy until the end of January,
1914, and, in the meantime, we lived at the Hotel Esplanade,
and I transacted business at the old, two-family villa.
There are more diplomats in Berlin than in any other capital in
the world, because each of the twenty-five States constituting
the German Empire sends a legation to Berlin; even the free cities
of Hamburg, Lubeck and Bremen have a resident minister at the
Invariable custom requires a new Ambassador in Berlin to give
two receptions, one to the Diplomatic Corps and the other to
all those people who have the right to go to court. These are
the officials, nobles and officers of the army and navy, and
such other persons as have been presented at court. Such people
are called _hoffahig_, meaning that they are fit for court.
[Illustration: AMBASSADOR GERARD ON HIS WAY TO PRESENT HIS LETTERS
OF CREDENCE TO THE EMPEROR.]
[Illustration: THE HOUSE ON THE WILHELM PLATZ, RENTED FOR USE
AS THE EMBASSY.]
It is interesting here to note that Jews are not admitted to
court. Such Jews as have been ennobled and allowed to put the
coveted "von" before their names have first of all been required
to submit to baptism in some Christian church. Examples are the
von Schwabach family, whose ancestral house I occupied in Berlin,
and Friedlaender-Fuld, officially rated as the richest man in
Berlin, who made a large fortune in coke and its by-products.
These two receptions are really introductions of an Ambassador
to official and court society.
Before these receptions, however, and in the month of November,
I presented my letters of credence as Ambassador to the Emperor.
This presentation is quite a ceremony. Three coaches were sent
for me and my staff, coaches like that in which Cinderella goes
to her ball, mostly glass, with white wigged coachmen, outriders
in white wigs and standing footmen holding on to the back part
of the coach. Baron von Roeder, introducer of Ambassadors, came
for me and accompanied me in the first coach; the men of the
Embassy staff sat in the other two coaches. Our little procession
progressed solemnly through the streets of Berlin, passing on
the way through the centre division of the arch known as the
Brandenburger Thor, the gateway that stands at the head of the
Unter den Linden, a privilege given only on this occasion.
We mounted long stairs in the palace, and in a large room were
received by the aides and the officers of the Emperor's household,
of course all in uniform. Then I was ushered alone into the adjoining
room where the Emperor, very erect and dressed in the black uniform
of the Death's Head Hussars, stood by a table. I made him a little
speech, and presented my letters of credence and the letters
of recall of my predecessor. The Emperor then unbent from his
very erect and impressive attitude and talked with me in a very
friendly manner, especially impressing me with his interest in
business and commercial affairs. I then, in accordance with custom,
asked leave to present my staff. The doors were opened. The staff
came in and were presented to the Emperor, who talked in a very
jolly and agreeable way to all of us, saying that he hoped above
all to see the whole of the Embassy staff riding in the Tier
Garten in the mornings.
The Emperor is a most impressive figure, and, in his black uniform
surrounded by his officers, certainly looked every inch a king.
Although my predecessors, on occasions of this kind, had worn a
sort of fancy diplomatic uniform designed by themselves, I decided
to abandon this and return to the democratic, if unattractive and
uncomfortable, dress-suit, simply because the newspapers of America
and certain congressmen, while they have had no objection to the
wearing of uniforms by the army and navy, police and postmen,
and do not expect officers to lead their troops into battle in
dress-suits, have, nevertheless, had a most extraordinary prejudice
against American diplomats following the usual custom of adopting
a diplomatic uniform.
Some days after my presentation to the Emperor, I was taken to
Potsdam, which is situated about half an hour's train journey from
Berlin, and, from the station there, driven to the new palace and
presented to the Empress. The Empress was most charming and affable,
and presented a very distinguished appearance. Accompanied by Mrs.
Gerard, and always, either by night or by day, in the infernal
dress-suit, I was received by the Crown Prince and Princess, and
others of the royal princes and their wives. On these occasions
we sat down and did not stand, as when received by the Emperor
and Empress, and simply made "polite conversation" for about
twenty minutes, being received first by the ladies-in-waiting
and aides. These princes were always in uniform of some kind.
At the reception for the _hoffahig_ people Mrs. Gerard stood
in one room and I in another, and with each of us was a
representative of the Emperor's household to introduce the people
of the court, and an army officer to introduce the people of the
army. The officer assigned to me had the extraordinary name of
der Pfortner von der Hoelle, which means the "porter of Hell."
I have often wondered since by what prophetic instinct he was
sent to introduce me to the two years and a half of world war
which I experienced in Berlin. This unfortunate officer, a most
charming gentleman, was killed early in the war.
The Berlin season lasts from about the twentieth of January for
about six weeks. It is short in duration because, if the
_hoffahig_ people stay longer than six weeks in Berlin, they
become liable to pay their local income tax in Berlin, where
the rate is higher than in those parts of Germany where they
have their country estates.
The first great court ceremonial is the _Schleppencour_,
so-called from the long trains or _Schleppen_ worn by the
women. On this night we "presented" Mr. and Mrs. Robert K. Cassatt
of Philadelphia, Mrs. Ernest Wiltsee, Mrs. and Miss Luce and
Mrs. Norman Whitehouse. On the arrival at the palace with these
and all the members of the Embassy Staff and their wives, we
were shown up a long stair-case, at the top of which a guard of
honour, dressed in costume of the time of Frederick the Great,
presented arms to all Ambassadors, and ruffled kettle-drums.
Through long lines of cadets from the military schools, dressed
as pages, in white, with short breeches and powdered wigs, we
passed through several rooms where all the people to pass in
review were gathered. Behind these, in a room about sixty feet by
fifty, on a throne facing the door were the Emperor and Empress,
and on the broad steps of this throne were the princes and their
wives, the court ladies-in-waiting and all the other members of
the court. The wives of the Ambassadors entered the room first,
followed at intervals of about twenty feet by the ladies of the
Embassy and the ladies to be presented. As they entered the room
and made a change of direction toward the throne, pages in white
straightened out the ladies' trains with long sticks. Arrived
opposite the throne and about twenty feet from it, each Ambassador's
wife made a low curtsey and then stood on the foot of the throne,
to the left of the Emperor and Empress, and as each lady of the
Embassy, not before presented, and each lady to be presented
stopped beside the throne and made a low curtsey, the Ambassadress
had to call out the name of each one in a loud voice; and when
the last one had passed she followed her out of the room, walking
sideways so as not to turn her back on the royalties,--something
of a feat when towing a train about fifteen feet long. When all the
Ambassadresses had so passed, it was the turn of the Ambassadors,
who carried out substantially the same programme, substituting low
bows for curtsies. The Ambassadors were followed by the Ministers'
wives, these by the Ministers and these by the dignitaries of
the German Court. All passed into the adjoining hall, and there
a buffet supper was served. The whole affair began at about eight
o'clock and was over in an hour.
At the court balls, which also began early in the evening, a
different procedure was followed. There the guests were required
to assemble before eight-twenty in the ball-room. As in the
_Schleppencour_, on one side of the room was the throne with
seats for the Emperor and Empress, and to the right of this throne
were the chairs for the Ambassadors' wives who were seated in the
order of their husbands' rank, with the ladies of their Embassy,
and any ladies they had brought to the ball standing behind them.
After them came the Ministers' wives, sitting in similar fashion;
then the Ambassadors, standing with their staffs behind them on
raised steps, with any men that they had asked invitations for,
and the Ministers in similar order. To the left of the throne
stood the wives of the Dukes and dignitaries of Germany and then
their husbands. When all were assembled, promptly at the time
announced, the orchestra, which was dressed in mediaval costume
and sat in a gallery, sounded trumpets and then the Emperor and
Empress entered the room, the Emperor, of course, in uniform,
followed by the ladies and gentlemen of the household all in
brilliant uniforms, and one or two officers of the court regiment,
picked out for their great height and dressed in the kind of
uniform Rupert of Hentzau wears on the stage,--a silver helmet
surmounted by an eagle, a steel breast-plate, white breeches
and coat, and enormous high boots coming half way up the thigh.
The Grand Huntsman wore a white wig, three-cornered hat and a
long green coat.
On entering the room, the Empress usually commenced on one side
and the Emperor on the other, going around the room and speaking
to the Ambassadors' wives and Ambassadors, etc., in turn, and
the Empress in similar fashion, chatting for a moment with the
German dignitaries and their wives lined up on the opposite side
of the room. After going perhaps half way around each side, the
Emperor and Empress would then change sides. This going around
the room and chatting with people in turn is called "making the
circle", and young royalties are practised in "making the circle"
by being made to go up to the trees in a garden and address a
few pleasant words to each tree, in this manner learning one
of the principal duties of royalty.
The dancing is only by young women and young officers of noble
families who have practised the dances before. They are under
the superintendence of several young officers who are known as
_Vortanzer_ and when anyone in Berlin in court society gives
a ball these _Vortanzer_ are the ones who see that all dancing
is conducted strictly according to rule and manage the affairs
of the ball-room with true Prussian efficiency. Supper is about
ten-thirty at a court ball and is at small tables. Each royalty
has a table holding about eight people and to these people are
invited without particular rule as to precedence. The younger
guests and lower dignitaries are not placed at supper but find
places at tables to suit themselves. After supper all go back
to the ball-room and there the young ladies and officers, led
by the _Vortanzer_ execute a sort of lancers, in the final
figure of which long lines are formed of dancers radiating from
the throne; and all the dancers make bows and curtsies to the
Emperor and Empress who are either standing or sitting at this
time on the throne. At about eleven-thirty the ball is over,
and as the guests pass out through the long hall, they are given
glasses of hot punch and a peculiar sort of local Berlin bun, in
order to ward off the lurking dangers of the villainous winter
At the court balls the diplomats are, of course, in their best
diplomatic uniform. All Germans are in uniform of some kind, but the
women do not wear the long trains worn at the _Schleppencour_.
They wear ordinary ball dresses. In connection with court dancing
it is rather interesting to note that when the tango and turkey
trot made their way over the frontiers of Germany in the autumn
of 1913, the Emperor issued a special order that no officers of
the army or navy should dance any of these dances or should go
to the house of any person who, at any time, whether officers
were present or not, had allowed any of these new dances to be
danced. This effectually extinguished the turkey trot, the bunny
hug and the tango, and maintained the waltz and the polka in their
old estate. It may seem ridiculous that such a decree should
be so solemnly issued, but I believe that the higher authorities
in Germany earnestly desired that the people, and, especially,
the officers of the army and navy, should learn not to enjoy
themselves too much. A great endeavour was always made to keep
them in a life, so far as possible, of Spartan simplicity. For
instance, the army officers were forbidden to play polo, not
because of anything against the game, which, of course, is splendid
practice for riding, but because it would make a distinction in
the army between rich and poor.
[Illustration: A SALON IN THE AMERICAN EMBASSY.]
[Illustration: THE BALLROOM OF THE EMBASSY. THIS WAS AFTERWARD
TURNED INTO A WORKROOM FOR THE RELIEF OF AMERICANS IN WAR DAYS.]
The Emperor's birthday, January twenty-seventh, is a day of great
celebration. At nine-thirty in the morning the Ambassadors, Ministers
and all the dignitaries of the court attend Divine Service in the
chapel of the palace. On this day in 1914, the Queen of Greece and
many of the reigning princes of the German States were present.
In the evening there was a gala performance in the opera house,
the entire house being occupied by members of the court. Between
the acts in the large foyer, royalties "made the circle," and I
had quite a long conversation with both the Emperor and Empress
and was "caught" by the King of Saxony. Many of the Ambassadors
have letters of credence not only to the court at Berlin but
also to the rulers of the minor German States. For instance,
the Belgian Minister was accredited to thirteen countries in
Germany and the Spanish Ambassador to eleven. For some reason
or other, the American and Turkish Ambassadors are accredited
only to the court at Berlin. Some of the German rulers feel this
quite keenly, and the King of Saxony, especially. I had been
warned that he was very anxious to show his resentment of this
distinction by refusing to shake hands with the American Ambassador.
He was in the foyer on the occasion of this gala performance
and said that he would like to have me presented to him. I, of
course, could not refuse, but forgot the warning of my predecessors
and put out my hand, which the King ostentatiously neglected to
take. A few moments later the wife of the Turkish Ambassador was
presented to the King of Saxony and received a similar rebuff;
but, as she was a daughter of the Khedive of Egypt, and therefore
a Royal Highness in her own right, she went around the King of
Saxony, seized his hand, which he had put behind him, brought
it around to the front and shook it warmly, a fine example of
great presence of mind.
Writing of all these things and looking out from a sky-scraper
in New York, these details of court life seem very frivolous
and far away. But an Ambassador is compelled to become part of
this system. The most important conversations with the Emperor
sometimes take place at court functions, and the Ambassador and
his secretaries often gather their most useful bits of information
over tea cups or with the cigars after dinner.
Aside from the short season, Berlin is rather dull; Bismarck
characterised it as a "desert of bricks and newspapers."
In addition to making visits to the royalties, custom required
me to call first upon the Imperial Chancellor and the Minister
of Foreign Affairs. The other ministers are supposed to call
first, although I believe the redoubtable von Tirpitz claimed
a different rule. So, during the first winter I gradually made
the acquaintance of those people who sway the destinies of the
German Empire and its seventy millions.
I dined with the Emperor and had long conversations with him on
New Year's Day and at the two court balls.
All during this winter Germans from the highest down tried to
impress me with the great danger which they said threatened America
from Japan. The military and naval attaches and I were told that
the German information system sent news that Mexico was full
of Japanese colonels and America of Japanese spies. Possibly
much of the prejudice in America against the Japanese was cooked
up by the German propagandists whom we later learned to know
It is noteworthy that during the whole of my first winter in
Berlin I was not officially or semi-officially afforded an
opportunity to meet any of the members of the Reichstag or any
of the leaders in the business world. The great merchants, whose
acquaintance I made, as well as the literary and artistic people,
I had to seek out; because most of them were not _hoffahig_
and I did not come in contact with them at any court functions,
official dinners or even in the houses of the court nobles or
those connected with the government.
A very interesting character whom I met during the first winter
and often conversed with, was Prince Henkel-Donnersmarck. Prince
Donnersmarck, who died December, 1916, at the age of eighty-six
years, was the richest male subject in Germany, the richest subject
being Frau von Krupp-Bohlen, the heiress of the Krupp cannon
foundry. He was the first governor of Lorraine during the war of
1870 and had had a finger in all of the political and commercial
activities of Germany for more than half a century. He told me, on
one occasion, that he had advocated exacting a war indemnity of
thirty milliards from France after the war of 1870, and said that
France could easily pay it--and that that sum or much more should
be exacted as an indemnity at the conclusion of the World War of
1914. He said that he had always advocated a protective tariff
for agricultural products in Germany as well as encouragement of
the German manufacturing interests: that agriculture was necessary
to the country in order to provide strong soldiers for war, and
manufacturing industries to provide money to pay for the army and
navy and their equipment. He made me promise to take his second
son to America in order that he might see American life, and the
great iron and coal districts of Pennsylvania. Of course, most
of these conversations took place before the World War. After
two years of that war and, as prospects of paying the expenses
of the war from the indemnities to be exacted from the enemies
of Germany gradually melted away, the Prince quite naturally
developed a great anxiety as to how the expenses of the war should
be paid by Germany; and I am sure that this anxiety had much to
do with his death at the end of the year, 1916.
Custom demanded that I should ask for an appointment and call on
each of the Ambassadors on arrival. The British Ambassador was
Sir Edward Goschen, a man of perhaps sixty-eight years, a widower.
He spoke French, of course, and German; and, accompanied by his
dog, was a frequent visitor at our house. I am very grateful
for the help and advice he so generously gave me--doubly valuable
as coming from a man of his fame and experience. Jules Cambon was
the Ambassador of France. His brother, Paul, is Ambassador to
the Court of St. James. Jules Cambon is well-known to Americans,
having passed five years in this country. He was Ambassador to
Spain for five years, and, at the time of my arrival, had been
about the same period at Berlin. In spite of his long residence
in each of these countries, he spoke only French; but he possessed
a really marvellous insight into the political life of each of
these nations. Bollati, the Italian Ambassador, was a great admirer
of Germany; he spoke German well and did everything possible
to keep Italy out of war with her former Allies in the Triple
Spain was represented by Polo de Bernabe, who now represents
the interests of the United States in Germany, as well as those
of France, Russia, Belgium, Serbia and Roumania. It is a curious
commentary on the absurdity of war that, on leaving Berlin, I
handed over the interests of the United States to this Ambassador,
who, as Spanish minister to the United States, was handed his
passports at the outbreak of the Spanish-American war! I am sure
that not only he, but all his Embassy, will devotedly represent
our interests in Germany. Sverbeeu represented the interests
of Russia; Soughimoura, Japan; and Mouktar Pascha, Turkey. The
wife of the latter was a daughter of the Khedive of Egypt, and
Mouktar Pascha himself a general of distinction in the Turkish
An Ambassador must keep on intimate terms with his colleagues.
It is often through them that he learns of important matters
affecting his own country or others. All of these Ambassadors
and most of the Ministers occupied handsome houses furnished
by their government. They had large salaries and a fund for
During this first winter before the war, I saw a great deal of
the German Crown Prince as well as of several of his brothers.
I cannot subscribe to the general opinion of the Crown Prince. I
found him a most agreeable man, a sharp observer and the possessor
of intellectual attainments of no mean order. He is undoubtedly
popular in Germany, excelling in all sports, a fearless rider
and a good shot. He is ably seconded by the Crown Princess. The
mother of the Crown Princess is a Russian Grand Duchess, and
her father was a Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. She is a very
beautiful woman made popular by her affable manners. The one
defect of the Crown Prince has been his eagerness for war; but,
as he has characterised this war as the most stupid ever waged
in history, perhaps he will be satisfied, if he comes to the
throne, with what all Germany has suffered in this conflict.
The Crown Prince was very anxious, before the war, to visit the
United States; and we had practically arranged to make a trip
to Alaska in search of some of the big game there, with stops
at the principal cities of America.
The second son of the Kaiser, Prince Eitel Fritz, is considered
by the Germans to have distinguished himself most in this war.
He is given credit for great personal bravery.
Prince Adalbert, the sailor prince, is quite American in his
manners. In February, 1914, the Crown Prince and Princes Eitel
Fritz and Adalbert came to our Embassy for a very small dance to
which were asked all the pretty American girls then in Berlin.
It is never the custom to invite royalties to an entertainment.
They invite themselves to a dance or a dinner, and the list of
proposed guests is always submitted to them. When a royalty arrives
at the house, the host (and the hostess, if the royalty be a
woman) always waits at the front door and escorts the royalties
up-stairs. Allison Armour also gave a dance at which the Crown
Prince was present, following a dinner at the Automobile Club.
Armour has been a constant visitor to Germany for many years,
usually going in his yacht to Kiel in summer and to Corfu, where
the Emperor goes, in winter. As he has never tried to obtain
anything from the Emperor, he has become quite intimate with him
and with all the members of the royal family.
The Chancellor, von Bethmann-Hollweg, is an enormous man of perhaps
six feet five or six. He comes of a banking family in Frankfort.
It is too soon to give a just estimate of his acts in this war.
When I arrived in Berlin and until November, 1916, von Jagow
was Minister of Foreign Affairs. In past years he had occupied
the post of Ambassador to Italy, and with great reluctance took
his place at the head of the Foreign Office. Zimmermann was
an Under Secretary, succeeding von Jagow when the latter was
practically forced out of office. Zimmermann, on account of his
plain and hearty manners and democratic air, was more of a favourite
with the Ambassadors and members of the Reichstag than von Jagow,
who, in appearance and manner, was the ideal old-style diplomat
of the stage.
Von Jagow was not a good speaker and the agitation against him
was started by those who claimed that, in answering questions
in the Reichstag, he did not make a forceful enough appearance
on behalf of the government. Von Jagow did not cultivate the
members of the Reichstag and his delicate health prevented him
from undertaking more than the duties of his office.
As a matter of fact, I believe that von Jagow had a juster estimate
of foreign nations than Zimmermann, and more correctly divined the
thoughts of the American people in this war than did his successor.
I thought that I enjoyed the personal friendship of both von
Jagow and Zimmermann and, therefore, was rather unpleasantly
surprised when I saw in the papers that Zimmermann had stated in
the Reichstag that he had been compelled, from motives of policy,
to keep on friendly terms with me. I sincerely hope that what he
said on this occasion was incorrectly reported. Von Jagow, after
his fall, took charge of a hospital at Libau in the occupied
portion of Russia. This shows the devotion to duty of the Prussian
noble class, and their readiness to take up any task, however
humble, that may help their country.
POLITICAL AND GEOGRAPHICAL
My commission read, "Ambassador to Germany."
It is characteristic of our deep ignorance of all foreign affairs
that I was appointed Ambassador to a place which does not exist.
Politically, there is no such place as "Germany." There are the
twenty-five States, Prussia, Bavaria, Wurttemberg, Saxony, etc.,
which make up the "German Empire," but there is no such political
entity as "Germany."
These twenty-five States have votes in the Bundesrat, a body
which may be said to correspond remotely to our United States
Senate. But each State has a different number of votes. Prussia
has seventeen, Bavaria six, Wurttemberg and Saxony four each,
Baden and Hesse three each, Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Brunswick
two each, and the rest one each. Prussia controls Brunswick.
The Reichstag, or Imperial Parliament, corresponds to our House
of Representatives. The members are elected by manhood suffrage of
those over twenty-five. But in practice the Reichstag is nothing
but a debating society because of the preponderating power of the
Bundesrat, or upper chamber. At the head of the ministry is the
Chancellor, appointed by the Emperor; and the other Ministers, such
as Colonies, Interior, Education, Justice and Foreign Affairs,
are but underlings of the Chancellor and appointed by him. The
Chancellor is not responsible to the Reichstag, as Bethmann-Hollweg
clearly stated at the time of the Zabern affair, but only to the
It is true that an innovation properly belonging only to a
parliamentary government was introduced some seven years ago,
viz., that the ministers must answer questions (as in Great Britain)
put them by the members of the Reichstag. But there the likeness
to a parliamentary government begins and ends.
The members of the Bundesrat are named by the Princes of the
twenty-five States making up the German Empire. Prussia, which
has seventeen votes, may name seventeen members of the Bundesrat
or one member, who, however, when he votes casts seventeen votes.
The votes of a State must always be cast as a unit. In the usual
procedure bills are prepared and adopted in the Bundesrat and
then sent to the Reichstag whence, if passed, they return to the
Bundesrat where the final approval must take place. Therefore,
in practice, the Bundesrat makes the laws with the assent of
the Reichstag. The members of the Bundesrat have the right to
appear and make speeches in the Reichstag. The fundamental
constitution of the German Empire is not changed, as with us, by
a separate body but is changed in the same way that an ordinary
law is passed; except that if there are fourteen votes against
the proposed change in the Bundesrat the proposition is defeated,
and, further, the constitution cannot be changed with respect
to rights expressly granted by it to anyone of the twenty-five
States without the assent of that State.
In order to pass a law a majority vote in the Bundesrat and Reichstag
is sufficient if there is a quorum present, and a quorum is a
majority of the members elected in the Reichstag: in the Bundesrat
the quorum consists of such members as are present at a regularly
called meeting, providing the Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor
The boundaries of the districts sending members to the Reichstag
have not been changed since 1872, while, in the meantime, a great
shifting of population, as well as great increase of population
has taken place. And because of this, the Reichstag to-day does
not represent the people of Germany in the sense intended by the
framers of the Imperial Constitution.
Much of the legislation that affects the everyday life of a German
emanates from the parliaments of Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony,
etc., as with us in our State Legislatures. The purely legislative
power of the ministers and Bundesrat is, however, large. These
German States have constitutions of some sort. The Grand Duchies
of Mecklenburg have no constitution whatever. It is understood
that the people themselves do not want one, on financial grounds,
fearing that many expenses now borne by the Grand Duke out of
his large private income, would be saddled on the people. The
other States have Constitutions varying in form. In Prussia there
are a House of Lords and a House of Deputies. The members of
the latter are elected by a system of circle votes, by which
the vote of one rich man voting in circle number one counts as
much as thousands voting in circle number three. It is the
recognition by Bethmann-Hollweg that this vicious system must
be changed that brought down on him the wrath of the Prussian
country squires, who for so long have ruled the German Empire,
filling places, civil and military, with their children and
In considering Germany, the immense influence of the military
party must not be left out of account; and, with the developments
of the navy, that branch of the service also claimed a share in
guiding the policy of the Government.
The administrative, executive and judicial officers of Prussia
are not elected. The country is governed and judged by men who
enter this branch of the government service exactly as others
enter the army or navy. These are gradually promoted through
the various grades. This applies to judges, clerks of courts,
district attorneys and the officials who govern the political
divisions of Prussia, for Prussia is divided into circles,
presidencies and provinces. For instance, a young man may enter
the government service as assistant to the clerk of some court.
He may then become district attorney in a small town, then clerk
of a larger court, possibly attached to the police presidency
of a large city; he may then become a minor judge, etc., until
finally he becomes a judge of one of the higher courts or an
over-president of a province. Practically the only elective officers
who have any power are members of the Reichstag and the Prussian
Legislature, and there, as I have shown, the power is very small.
Mayors and City Councillors are elected in Prussia, but have
little power; and are elected by the vicious system of circle
Time and again during the course of the Great War when I made
some complaint or request affecting the interests of one of the
various nations I represented, I was met in the Foreign Office
by the statement, "We can do nothing with the military. Please
read Bismarck's memoirs and you will see what difficulty he had
with the military." Undoubtedly, owing to the fact that the
Chancellor seldom took strong ground, the influence which both
the army and navy claimed in dictating the policy of the Empire
was greatly increased.
Roughly speaking there are three great political divisions or
parties in the German Reichstag. To the right of the presiding
officer sit the Conservatives. Most of these are members from the
Prussian Junker or squire class. They are strong for the rights
of the crown and against any extension of the suffrage in Prussia
or anywhere else. They form probably the most important body of
conservatives now existing in any country in the world. Their
leader, Heydebrand, is known as the uncrowned king of Prussia. On
the left side the Social Democrats sit. As they evidently oppose
the kingship and favour a republic, no Social Democratic member
has ever been called into the government. They represent the great
industrial populations of Germany. Roughly, they constitute about
one-third of the Reichstag, and would sit there in greater numbers
if Germany were again redistricted so that proper representation
were given to the cities, to which there has been a great rush
of population since the time when the Reichstag districts were
In the centre, and holding the balance of power, sit the members
of the Centrum or Catholic body. Among them are many priests. It
is noteworthy that in this war Roman Catholic opinion in neutral
countries, like Spain, inclines to the side of Germany; while
in Germany, to protect their religious liberties, the Catholic
population vote as Catholics to send Catholic members to the
Reichstag, and these sit and vote as Catholics alone.
Germans high in rank in the government often told me that no part
of conquered Poland would ever be incorporated in Prussia or the
Empire, because it was not desirable to add to the Roman Catholic
population; that they had troubles enough with the Catholics now
in Germany and had no desire to add to their numbers. This, and
the desire to lure the Poles into the creation of a national
army which could be utilised by the German machine, were the
reasons for the creation by Germany (with the assent of Austria)
of the new country of Poland.
This Catholic party is the result in Germany of the
_Kulturkampf_ or War for Civilisation, as it was called by
Bismarck, a contest dating from 1870 between the State in Germany
and the Roman Catholic Church.
Prussia has always been the centre of Protestantism in Germany,
although there are many Roman Catholics in the Rhine Provinces
of Prussia, and in that part of Prussia inhabited principally
by Poles, originally part of the Kingdom of Poland.
Baden and Bavaria, the two principal South German States, and
others are Catholic. In 1870, on the withdrawal of the French
garrison from Rome, the Temporal Power of the Pope ended, and
Bismarck, though appealed to by Catholics, took no interest in the
defence of the Papacy. The conflict between the Roman Catholics
and the Government in Germany was precipitated by the promulgation
by the Vatican Council, in 1870, of the Dogma of the Infallibility
of the Pope.
A certain number of German pastors and bishops refused to subscribe
to the new dogma. In the conflict that ensued these pastors and
bishops were backed by the government. The religious orders were
suppressed, civil marriage made compulsory and the State assumed
new powers not only in the appointment but even in the education
of the Catholic priests. The Jesuits were expelled from Germany
in 1872. These measures, generally known as the May Laws, because
passed in May, 1873, 1874 and 1875, led to the creation and
strengthening of the Centrum or Catholic party. For a long period
many churches were vacant in Prussia. Finally, owing to the growth
of the Centrum, Bismarck gave in. The May Laws were rescinded
in 1886 and the religious orders, the Jesuits excepted, were
permitted to return in 1887. Civil marriage, however, remained
obligatory in Prussia.
Ever since the _Kulturkampf_ the Centrum has held the balance
of power in Germany, acting sometimes with the Conservatives
and sometimes with the Social Democrats.
In addition to these three great parties, there are minor parties
and groups which sometimes act with one party and sometimes with
another, the National Liberals, for example, and the Progressives.
Since the war certain members of the National Liberal party were
most bitter in assailing President Wilson and the United States.
In the demand for ruthless submarine war they acted with the
Conservatives. There are also Polish, Hanoverian, Danish and
Alsatian members of the Reichstag.
There are three great race questions in Germany. First of all,
that of Alsace-Lorraine. It is unnecessary to go at length into
this well-known question. In the chapter on the affair at Zabern,
something will be seen of the attitude of the troops toward the
civil population. At the outbreak of the war several of the deputies,
sitting in the Reichstag as members from Alsace-Lorraine, crossed
the frontier and joined the French army.
If there is one talent which the Germans superlatively lack, it
is that of ruling over other peoples and inducing other people
to become part of their nation.
It is now a long time since portions of the Kingdom of Poland,
by various partitions of that kingdom, were incorporated with
Prussia, but the Polish question is more alive to-day than at
the time of the last partition.
The Poles are of a livelier race than the Germans, are Roman
Catholics and always retain their dream of a reconstituted and
independent Kingdom of Poland.
It is hard to conceive that Poland was at one time perhaps the
most powerful kingdom of Europe, with a population numbering
twenty millions and extending from the Baltic to the Carpathians
and the Black Sea, including in its territory the basins of the
Warta, Vistula, Dwina, Dnieper and Upper Dniester, and that it
had under its dominion besides Poles proper and the Baltic Slavs,
the Lithuanians, the White Russians and the Little Russians or
The Polish aristocracy was absolutely incapable of governing its
own country, which fell an easy prey to the intrigues of Frederick
the Great and the two Empresses, Maria Theresa of Austria and
Catherine of Russia. The last partition of Poland was in the
Posen, at one time one of the capitals of the old kingdom of
Poland, is the intellectual centre of that part of Poland which has
been incorporated into Prussia. For years Prussia has alternately
cajoled and oppressed the Poles, and has made every endeavour to
replace the Polish inhabitants with German colonists. A commission
has been established which buys estates from Poles and sells
them to Germans. This commission has the power of condemning
the lands of Poles, taking these lands from them by force,
compensating them at a rate determined by the commission and
settling Germans on the lands so seized. This commission has
its headquarters in Posen. The result has not been successful.
All the country side surrounding Posen and the city itself are
divided into two factions. By going to one hotel or the other
you announce that you are pro-German or pro-Polish. Poles will
not deal in shops kept by Germans or in shops unless the signs
are in Polish.
The sons of Germans who have settled in Poland under the protection
of the commission often marry Polish women. The invariable result
of these mixed marriages is that the children are Catholics and
Poles. Polish deputies voting as Poles sit in the Prussian
legislature and in the Reichstag, and if a portion of the old
Kingdom of Poland is made a separate country at the end of this
war, it will have the effect of making the Poles in Prussia more
restless and more aggressive than ever.
In order to win the sympathies of the Poles, the Emperor caused
a royal castle to be built within recent years in the city of
Posen, and appointed a popular Polish gentleman who had served
in the Prussian army and was attached to the Emperor, the Count
Hutten-Czapski, as its lord-warden. In this castle was a very
beautiful Byzantine chapel built from designs especially selected
by the Emperor. In January, 1914, we went with Allison Armour
and the Cassatts, Mrs. Wiltsee and Mrs. Whitehouse on a trip
to Posen to see this chapel.
Some of our German friends tried to play a joke on us by telling
us that the best hotel was the hotel patronised by the Poles. To
have gone there would have been to declare ourselves anti-German
and pro-Polish, but we were warned in time. The castle has a
large throne room and ball-room; in the hall is a stuffed aurochs
killed by the Emperor. The aurochs is a species of buffalo greatly
resembling those which used to roam our western prairies. The
breed has been preserved on certain great estates in eastern
Germany and in the hunting forests of the Czar in the neighbourhood
Some of the Poles told me that at the first attempt to give a
court ball in this new castle the Polish population in the streets
threw ink through the carriage windows on the dresses of the
ladies going to the ball and thus made it a failure. The chapel
of the castle is very beautiful and is a great credit to the
Emperor's taste as an architect.
While being shown through the Emperor's private apartments in
this castle, I noticed a saddle on a sort of elevated stool in
front of a desk. I asked the guide what this was for: he told
me that the Emperor, when working, always sits in a saddle.
In Posen, in a book-store, the proprietor brought out for me a
number of books caricaturing the German rule of Alsace-Lorraine.
It is curious that a community of interests should make a market
for these books in Polish Posen.
Although not so well advertised, the Polish question is as acute
as that of Alsace-Lorraine.
After its successful war in 1866 against Austria, Bavaria, Saxony,
Baden, Hanover, etc., Prussia became possessed of the two duchies
of Schleswig-Holstein, which are to the south of Denmark on the
Jutland Peninsula. Here, strangely enough, there is a Danish
question. A number of Danes inhabit these duchies and have been
irritated by the Prussian officials and officers into preserving
their national feeling intact ever since 1866. Galling restrictions
have been made, the very existence of which intensifies the hatred
and prevents the assimilation of these Danes. For instance, Amundsen,
the Arctic explorer, was forbidden to lecture in Danish in these
duchies during the winter of 1913-14, and there were regulations
enforced preventing more than a certain number of these Danish
people from assembling in a hotel, as well as regulations against
the employment of Danish servants.
In 1866, after its successful war, Prussia wiped out the old
kingdom of Hanover and drove its king into exile in Austria.
To-day there is still a party of protest against this aggression.
The Kaiser believes, however, that the ghost of the claim of
the Kings of Hanover was laid when he married his only daughter
to the heir of the House of Hanover and gave the young pair the
vacant Duchy of Brunswick. That this young man will inherit the
great Guelph treasure was no drawback to the match in the eyes
of those in Berlin.
There is a hatred of Prussia in other parts of Germany, but coupled
with so much fear that it will never take practical shape. In
Bavaria, for example, even the comic newspapers have for years
ridiculed the Prussians and the House of Hohenzollern. The smashing
defeat by Prussia of Austria and the allied German States, Bavaria,
Saxony, Hesse, Hanover, etc., in 1866, and the growth of Prussianism
since then in all of these countries, keep the people from any
overt act. It is a question, perhaps, as to how these countries,
especially Bavaria, would act in case of the utter defeat of
Germany. But at present they must be counted on only as faithful
servants, in a military way, of the German Emperor.
Montesquieu, the author of the "Esprit des Lois," says, "All law
comes from the soil," and it has been claimed that residence in
the hot climate of the tropics in some measure changes Anglo-Saxon
character. It is, therefore, always well in judging national
character to know something of the physical characteristics and
climate of the country which a nation inhabits.
The heart of modern Germany is the great north central plain which
comprises practically all of the original kingdom of Prussia,
stretching northward from the Saxon and Hartz mountains to the
North and Baltic seas. It is from this dreary and infertile plain
that for many centuries conquering military races have poured
over Europe. The climate is not so cold in winter as that of
the northern part of the United States. There is much rain and
the winter skies are so dark that the absence of the sun must
have some effect upon the character of the people. The Saxons
inhabit a more mountainous country; Wurttemberg and Baden are
hilly; Bavaria is a land of beauty, diversified with lovely lakes
and mountains. The soft outlines of the vine-covered hills of
the Rhine Valley have long been the admiration of travellers.
The inhabitants of Prussia were originally not Germanic, but
rather Slavish in type; and, indeed, to-day in the forest of
the River Spree, on which Berlin is situated, and only about
fifty miles from that city, there still dwell descendants of
the original Wendish inhabitants of the country who speak the
Wendish language. The wet-nurses, whose picturesque dress is so
noticeable on the streets of Berlin, all come from this Wendish
colony, which has been preserved through the many wars that have
swept over this part of Germany because of the refuge afforded
in the swamps and forests of this district.
The inhabitants of the Rhine Valley drink wine instead of beer.
They are more lively in their disposition than the Prussians,
Saxons and Bavarians, who are of a heavy and phlegmatic nature.
The Bavarians are noted for their prowess as beer drinkers, and
it is not at all unusual for prosperous burghers of Munich to
dispose of thirty large glasses of beer in a day; hence the cures
which exist all over Germany and where the average German business
man spends part, at least, of his annual vacation.
In peace times the Germans are heavy eaters. As some one says,
"It is not true that the Germans eat all the time, but they eat
all the time except during seven periods of the day when they
take their meals." And it is a fact that prosperous merchants of
Berlin, before the war, had seven meals a day; first breakfast
at a comfortably early hour; second breakfast at about eleven, of
perhaps a glass of milk or perhaps a glass of beer and sandwiches;
a very heavy lunch of four or five courses with wine and beer;
coffee and cakes at three; tea and sandwiches or sandwiches and
beer at about five; a strong dinner with several kinds of wines
at about seven or seven-thirty; and a substantial supper before
going to bed.
The Germans are wonderful judges of wines, and, at any formal
dinner, use as many as eight varieties. The best wine is passed
in glasses on trays, and the guests are not expected, of course,
to take this wine unless they actually desire to drink it. I
know one American woman who was stopping at a Prince's castle
in Hungary and who, on the first night, allowed the butler to
fill her glasses with wine which she did not drink. The second
evening the butler passed her sternly by, and she was offered
no more wine during her stay in the castle.
Many of the doctors who were with me thought that the heavy eating
and large consumption of wine and beer had unfavourably affected the
German national character, and had made the people more aggressive
and irritable and consequently readier for war. The influence of diet
on national character should not be under-estimated. Meat-eating
nations have always ruled vegetarians.
DIPLOMATIC WORK OF FIRST WINTER IN BERLIN
During this first winter in Berlin, I spent each morning in the
Embassy office, and, if I had any business at the Foreign Office,
called there about five o'clock in the afternoon. It was the
custom that all Ambassadors should call on Tuesday afternoons
at the Foreign Office, going in to see the Foreign Minister in
the order of their arrival in the waiting-room, and to have a
short talk with him about current diplomatic affairs.
In the previous chapter I have given a detailed account of the
ceremonies of court life, because a knowledge of this life is
essential to a grasp of the spirit which animates those ruling
the destinies of the German Empire.
My first winter, however, was not all cakes and ale. There were
several interesting bits of diplomatic work. First, we were then
engaged in our conflict with Huerta, the Dictator of Mexico,
and it was part of my work to secure from Germany promises that
she would not recognise this Mexican President.
I also spent a great deal of time in endeavouring to get the
German Government to take part officially in the San Francisco
Fair, but, so far as I could make out, Great Britain, probably
at the instance of Germany, seemed to have entered into some
sort of agreement, or at any rate a tacit understanding, that
neither country would participate officially in this Exposition.
After the lamentable failure of the Jamestown Exposition, the
countries of Europe were certainly not to be blamed for not spending
their money in aid of a similar enterprise. But I believe that the
attitude of Germany had a deeper significance, and that certain,
at least, of the German statesmen had contemplated a
_rapprochement_ with Great Britain and a mutual spanking
of America and its Monroe Doctrine by these two great powers.
Later I was informed, by a man high in the German Foreign Office,
that Germany had proposed to Great Britain a joint intervention
in Mexico, an invasion which would have put an end forever to
the Monroe Doctrine, of course to be followed by the forceful
colonisation of Central and South America by European Powers. I
was told that Great Britain refused. But whether this proposition
and refusal in fact were made, can be learned from the archives
of the British Foreign Office.
During this period of trouble with Mexico, the German Press,
almost without exception, and especially that part of it controlled
by the Government and by the Conservatives or Junkers, was most
bitter in its attitude towards America.
The reason for this was the underlying hatred of an autocracy
for a successful democracy, envy of the wealth, liberty and
commercial success of America, and a deep and strong resentment
against the Monroe Doctrine which prevented Germany from using
her powerful fleet and great military force to seize a foothold
in the Western hemisphere.
Germany came late into the field of colonisation in her endeavour
to find "a place in the sun." The colonies secured were not habitable
by white men. Togo, Kameroons, German East Africa, are too tropical
in climate, too subject to tropical diseases, ever to become
successful German colonies. German Southwest Africa has a more
healthy climate but is a barren land. About the only successful
industry there has been that of gathering the small diamonds that
were discovered in the sands of the beaches and of the deserts
running back from the sea.
On the earnest request of Secretary Bryan, I endeavoured to persuade
the German authorities to have Germany become a signatory to the
so-called Bryan Peace Treaties. After many efforts and long
interviews, von Jagow, the Foreign Minister, finally told me
that Germany would not sign these treaties because the greatest
asset of Germany in war was her readiness for a sudden assault,
that they had no objection to signing the treaty with America,
but that they feared they would then be immediately asked to
sign similar treaties with Great Britain, France and Russia,
that if they refused to sign with these countries the refusal
would almost be equivalent to a declaration of war, and, if they
did sign, intending in good faith to stand by the treaty, that
Germany would be deprived of her greatest asset in war, namely,
her readiness for a sudden and overpowering attack.
I also, during this first winter, studied and made reports on
the commercial situation of Germany and especially the German
discriminations against American goods. To these matters I shall
refer in more detail in another chapter.
Opposition and attention to the oil monopoly project also occupied
a great part of my working hours. Petroleum is used very extensively
in Germany for illuminating purposes by the poorer part of the
population, especially in the farming villages and industrial
towns. This oil used in Germany comes from two sources of supply,
from America and from the oil wells of Galicia and Roumania. The
German American Oil Company there, through which the American
oil was distributed, although a German company, was controlled by
American capital, and German capital was largely interested in
the Galician and Roumanian oil fields. The oil from Galicia and
Roumania is not so good a quality as that imported from America.
[Illustration: PROGRAMME OF THE MUSIC AFTER DINNER WITH THE KAISER
AT THE ROYAL PALACE, BERLIN.]
Before my arrival in Germany the government had proposed a law
creating the oil monopoly; that is to say, a company was to be
created, controlled by the government for the purpose of carrying
on the entire oil business of Germany, and no other person or
company, by its provisions, was to be allowed to sell any
illuminating oil or similar products in the Empire. The bill
provided that the business of those engaged in the wholesale
selling of oil, and their plants, etc., should be taken over
by this government company, condemned and paid for. The German
American Company, however, had also a retail business and plant
throughout Germany for which it was proposed that no compensation
should be given. The government bill also contained certain curious
"jokers"; for instance, it provided for the taking over of all
plants "within the customs limit of the German Empire," thus
leaving out of the compensation a refinery which was situated
in the free part of Hamburg, although, of course, by operation
of this monopoly bill the refinery was rendered useless to the
American controlled company which owned it.
In the course of this investigation it came to light that the
Prussian state railways were used as a means of discriminating
against the American oil. American oil came to Germany through
the port of Hamburg, and the Galician and Roumanian oil through
the frontier town of Oderberg. Taking a delivery point equally
distant between Oderberg and Hamburg, the rate charged on oil
from Hamburg to this point was twice as great as that charged
for a similar quantity of oil from Oderberg.
I took up this fight on the line that the company must be compensated
for all of its property, that used in retail as well as in wholesale
business, and, second, that it must be compensated for the good-will
of its business, which it had built up through a number of years
by the expenditure of very large sums of money. Of course where
a company has been in operation for years and is continually
advertising its business, its good-will often is its greatest
asset and has often been built up by the greatest expenditure
of money. For instance, in buying a successful newspaper, the
value does not lie in the real-estate, presses, etc., but in
the good-will of the newspaper, the result of years of work and
I made no objection that the German government did not have a
perfect right to create this monopoly and to put the American
controlled company entirely out of the field, but insisted upon
a fair compensation for all their property and good-will. Even a
fair compensation for the property and good-will would have started
the government monopoly company with a large debt upon which it
would have been required to pay interest, and this interest, of
course, would have been added to the cost of oil to the German
consumers. In my final conversation on the subject with von
Bethmann-Hollweg, he said, "You don't mean to say that President
Wilson and Secretary Bryan will do anything for the Standard
Oil Company?" I answered that everyone in America knew that
the Standard Oil Company had neither influence with nor control
over President Wilson and Secretary Bryan, but that they both
could and would give the Standard Oil Company the same measure
of protection which any American citizen doing business abroad
had a right to expect from his government. I also said that I
thought they had done enough for the Germans interested in the
Galician and Roumanian oil fields when they had used the Prussian
state railways to give these oil producers an unfair advantage
over those importing American oil.
Shortly after this the question of the creation of this oil monopoly
was dropped and naturally has not been revived during the war,
and I very much doubt whether, after the war, the people of
liberalised Germany will consent to pay more for inferior oil in
order to make good the investments of certain German banks and
financiers in Galicia and Roumania. I doubt whether a more liberal
Germany will wish to put the control of a great business in the
hands of the government, thereby greatly increasing the number
of government officials and the weight of government influence
in the country. Heaven knows there are officials enough to-day
in Germany, without turning over a great department of private
industry to the government for the sole purpose of making good
bad investments of certain financiers and adding to the political
influence of the central government.
In May, 1914, Colonel House and his beautiful wife arrived to pay
us a visit in Berlin. He was, of course, anxious to have a talk
with the Emperor, and this was arranged by the Emperor inviting
the Colonel and me to what is called the _Schrippenfest_,
at the new palace at Potsdam.
For many years, in fact since the days of Frederick the Great,
the learning (_Lehr_) battalion, composed of picked soldiers
from all the regiments of Prussia, has been quartered at Potsdam,
and on a certain day in April this battalion has been given a
dinner at which they eat white rolls (_Schrippen_) instead
of the usual black bread. This feast has been carried on from
these older days and has become quite a ceremony.
The Colonel and I motored to Potsdam, arrayed in dress-suits, and
waited in one of the salons of the ground floor of the new palace.
Finally the Emperor and the Empress and several of the Princes and
their wives and the usual dignitaries of the Emperor's household
arrived. The Colonel was presented to the royalties and then a
Divine Service was held in the open air at one end of the palace.
The Empress and Princesses occupied large chairs and the Emperor
stood with his sons behind him and then the various dignitaries
of the court. The Lehr Battalion was drawn up behind. There were
a large band and the choir boys from the Berlin cathedral. The
service was very impressive and not less so because of a great
Zeppelin which hovered over our heads during the whole of the
After Divine Service, the Lehr Battalion marched in review and
then was given food and beer in long arbours constructed in front
of the palace. While the men were eating, the Emperor and Empress
and Princes passed among the tables, speaking to the soldiers.
We then went to the new palace where in the extraordinary hall
studded with curious specimens of minerals from all countries,
a long table forming three sides of a square was set for about
sixty people. Colonel House and I sat directly across the table
from the Emperor, with General Falkenhayn between us. The Emperor
was in a very good mood and at one time, talking across the table,
said to me that the Colonel and I, in our black dress-suits,
looked like a couple of crows, that we were like two undertakers
at a feast and spoiled the picture. After luncheon the Emperor
had a long talk with Colonel House, and then called me into the
On May twenty-sixth, I arranged that the Colonel should meet
von Tirpitz at dinner in our house. We did not guess then what
a central figure in this war the great admiral was going to be.
At that time and until his fall, he was Minister of Marine, which
corresponds to our Secretary of the Navy Department, and what
is called in German _Reichsmarineamt_. The Colonel also
met the Chancellor, von Jagow, Zimmermann and many others.
There are two other heads of departments, connected with the
navy, of equal rank with the Secretary of the Naval Department
and not reporting to him. These are the heads of the naval staff
and the head of what is known as the Marine Cabinet. The head
of the naval staff is supposed to direct the actual operations
of warfare in the navy, and the head of the Marine Cabinet is
charged with the personnel of the navy, with determining what
officers are to be promoted and what officers are to take over
ships or commands.
While von Tirpitz was Secretary of the Navy, by the force of
his personality, he dominated the two other departments, but
since his fall the heads of these two other departments have
held positions as important, if not more important, than that
of Secretary of the Navy.
On May thirty-first, we took Colonel and Mrs. House to the aviation
field of Joachimsthal. Here the Dutch aviator Fokker was flying and
after being introduced to us he did some stunts for our benefit.
Fokker was employed by the German army and later became a naturalised
German. The machines designed by him, and named after him, for
a long time held the mastery of the air on the West front.
The advice of Colonel House, a most wise and prudent counsellor,
was at all times of the greatest value to me during my stay in
Berlin. We exchanged letters weekly, I sending him a weekly bulletin
of the situation in Berlin and much news and gossip too personal
or too indefinite to be placed in official reports.
War with Germany seemed a thing not even to be considered when
in this month of May, 1914, I called on the Foreign Office, by
direction, to thank the Imperial Government for the aid given
the Americans at Tampico by German ships of war.
Early in February, Mr. S. Bergmann, a German who had made a fortune
in America and who had returned to Germany to take up again his
German citizenship, invited me to go over the great electrical
works which he had established. Prince Henry of Prussia, the
brother of the Emperor, was the only other guest and together
we inspected the vast works, afterwards having lunch in Mr.
Bergmann's office. Prince Henry has always been interested in
America since his visit here. On that visit he spent most of
his time with German societies, etc. Of course, now we know he
came as a propagandist with the object of welding together the
Germans in America and keeping up their interest in the Fatherland.
He made a similar trip to the Argentine just before the Great
War, with a similar purpose, but I understand his excursion was
not considered a great success, from any standpoint. A man of
affable manners, no one is better qualified to go abroad as a
German propagandist than he. If all Germans had been like him
there would have been no World War in 1914.
On March eighteenth, we were invited to a fancy-dress ball at
the palace of the Crown Prince. The guests were mostly young
people and officers. The Crown Princess wore a beautiful Russian
dress with its characteristic high front piece on the head. The
Crown Prince and all the officers present were in the picturesque
uniforms of their respective regiments of a period of one hundred
years ago. Prince Oscar, the fifth son of the Kaiser, looked
The hours for balls in Berlin, where officers attended, were a
good example for hostesses in this country. The invitations read
for eight o'clock and that meant eight o'clock. A cold dinner
of perhaps four courses is immediately served on the arrival of
the guests, who, with the exception of a very few distinguished
ones, are not given any particular places. At a quarter to nine
the dancing begins, supper is at about eleven and the guests go
home at twelve, at an hour which enables the officers to get
to bed early. During the season there were balls at the British
and French Embassy and performances by the Russian Ballet, then
in Berlin, at the Russian Embassy.
The wonderful new Royal Library, designed by Ihne, was opened
on March twenty-second. The Emperor attended, coming in with
the beautiful Queen of Roumania walking by his side. She is an
exceedingly handsome woman, half English and half Russian. Some
days later I was presented to her at a reception held at the
Roumanian Minister's and found her as pleasant to talk to as good
to look upon.
At the end of March there was a Horse Show. The horses did not
get prizes for mere looks and manners in trotting and cantering,
as here. They must all do something, for the horse is considered
primarily as a war horse; such, for instance, as stopping suddenly
and turning at a word of command. The jumping was excellent,
officers riding in all the events. It was not a function of
"society," but all "society" was there and most keenly interested;
for in a warlike country, just as in the Middle Ages, the master's
life may depend upon the qualities of his horse.
I have always been fond of horses and horse-racing, and the
race-tracks about Berlin were always an attraction for me.
Many of the drivers and jockeys were Americans. Taral was a
successful jockey for my father-in-law, Marcus Daly. He is the
trainer of one of the best racing stables in Germany, that of
the brothers Weinberg, who made a fortune in dye-stuffs. "Pop"
Campbell, who trained Mr. Daly's Ogden, a Futurity winner, is
also a Berlin trainer. The top notch jockey was Archibald of
California. McCreery, who once trained for one of my brothers,
had the stable which rivalled the Weinbergs', that of Baron
Oppenheim, a rich banker of Cologne.
The German officers are splendid riders and take part in many
races. The Crown Prince himself is a successful jockey and racing
On June fifth, at the annual hunt race, the big steeplechase of
the year, the Emperor himself appeared at the Grunewald track,
occupying his private box, a sort of little house beyond the
Bookmakers are not allowed in Germany. The betting is in mutual
pools. About seventeen per cent of the money paid is taken by the
Jockey Club, the State and charities, so that the bettor, with
this percentage running always against him, has little chance
of ultimate success.
Many of the races are confined to horses bred in Denmark and the
All of us in the Embassy joined the Red White Tennis Club situated
in the Grunewald about five miles from the centre of Berlin.
The Crown Prince was a member and often played there. He is an
excellent player, not quite up to championship form, but he can
give a good account of himself in any company short of the top
class. He has the advantage of always finding that the best players
are only too glad to have an opportunity to play with him. At
this Tennis Club during all the period of the feeling of hatred
against America we were treated with, extreme courtesy by all
our German fellow members.
We saw a great deal of the two exchange professors in the winter
of 1913-14, Professor Paul Shorey of the University of Chicago
and Professor Archibald Coolidge of Harvard. These exchange
professors give courses and lectures in the universities and
their first appearance is quite an event. On this first day in
1913, they each delivered a lecture in the University of Berlin,
and on this lecture day Prince August Wilhelm, representing the
Kaiser, attended. The Kaiser used invariably to attend, but of
late years I am afraid has rather lost interest in this enterprise
at first so much favoured by him.
The _Cologne_Gazette_ at one time after the commencement
of the war, in an article, expressed great surprise that America
should permit the export of munitions of war to the Allies and
said, quite seriously, that Germany had done everything possible
to win the favour of America, that Roosevelt had been offered a
review of German troops, that the Emperor had invited Americans
who came to Kiel on their yachts to dine with him, and that he
had even sat through the lectures given by American exchange
Before the war there was but one cable direct from Germany to
America. This cable was owned by a German company and reached
America via the Azore Islands. I endeavoured to obtain permission
for the Western Union Company to land a cable in Germany, but
the opposition of the German company, which did not desire to
have its monopoly interfered with, caused the applications of
the Western Union to be definitely pigeon-holed. In August, 1914,
after the outbreak of the war, when I told this to Ballin of
the Hamburg American Line and von Gwinner, head of the Deutsche
Bank, and when they thought of how much they could have saved
for themselves and Germany and their companies if there had been
an American owned cable landing in Germany, their anger at the
delay on the part of official Germany knew no bounds. Within a
very short time I received an answer from the Foreign Office
granting the application of the Western Union Company, providing
the cable went direct to America. This concession, however, came
too late and, naturally, the Western Union did not take up the
matter during the war.
MILITARISM IN GERMANY AND THE ZABERN AFFAIR
In 1913-1914 occurred a series of events known as the "Zabern
Affair," which to my mind decided the "system"--the military
autocracy--for a speedy war. In this affair the German people
appeared at last to be opening their eyes, to recover in some
degree from the panic fear of their neighbours which had made them
submit to the arrogance and exactions of the military caste and to
be almost ready to demilitarise themselves, a thing abhorrent to
the upholders of caste, the system, the army and the Hohenzollerns.
This writing on the wall--these letters forming the word
"Zabern"--the actions of the Social Democrats and their growing
boldness, all were warnings to the autocracy of its waning power,
and impelled that autocracy towards war as a bloodletting cure
for popular discontent.
Prussia, which has imposed its will, as well as its methods of
thought and life on all the rest of Germany, is undoubtedly a
More than one hundred and twenty-five years ago Mirabeau, the great
French orator at the commencement of the Revolution, said, "War is
the national industry of Prussia." Later, Napoleon remarked that
Prussia "was hatched from a cannon ball," and shortly before the
Franco-Prussian war of 1870 the French military _attache_, in
reporting to his government, wrote that "other countries possessed
an army, but in Prussia the army possessed the country."
In practice the class of nobles in Prussia owns the army. Officers
may enter the army in two ways, either by enlisting in the regiment,
first as private and then being rapidly promoted to the position
of non-commissioned officer, and then probationary ensign, or
_avantageur_; or the young aspirant may come directly from
a two years' course in one of the cadet schools and enter the
regiment as probationary ensign. In both cases the young officer
is observed by the officers during a period of probation and
can become an officer of that regiment only by the consent of
the regimental officers. In other words, each regiment is like
a club, the officers having the right of black-ball.
This system has practically confined the professional officers to
a class of nobles. It is not at all unusual to find in a regiment
officers whose ancestors were officers of the same regiment two
hundred years or more ago.
In addition to these officers who make the army their career,
a certain number of Germans, after undergoing an enlistment in
the army of one year and two periods of training thereafter,
are made reserve officers. These reserve officers are called to
the colours for manoeuvres and also, of course, when the whole
nation is arrayed in war. These reserve officers seldom attain
a rank higher than that of captain. They may, however, while
exercising civil functions, be promoted, and in this manner the
Chancellor, while occupying civil positions, has gradually been
promoted to the rank of General and von Jagow, during the war, to
the rank of Major. As a rule reserve officers are the one-yearers,
or _Einjahriger_, who, because they have attained a certain
standard of education, serve only one year with the army instead
of the two required from others. The Bavarian army is in a sense
independent of Prussia, but is modelled on the same system.
For years officers of the army, both in the discharge of their
duties and outside, have behaved in a very arrogant way toward
the civil population. Time and again, while I was in Germany
waiting in line at some ticket office, an officer has shoved
himself ahead of all others without even a protest from those
waiting. On one occasion, I went to the races in Berlin with my
brother-in-law and bought a box. While we were out looking at
the horses between the races, a Prussian officer and his wife
seated themselves in our box. I called the attention of one of
the ushers to this, but the usher said that he did not dare ask
a Prussian officer to leave, and it was only after sending for
the head usher and showing him my Jockey Club badge and my pass
as Ambassador, that I was able to secure possession of my own
There have been many instances in Germany where officers having
a slight dispute with civilians have instantly cut the civilian
down. Instances of this kind and the harsh treatment of the Germans
by officers and under-officers, while serving in the army,
undoubtedly created in Germany a spirit of antagonism not only
to the army itself but to the whole military system of Prussia.
Affairs were brought to a head by the so-called Zabern Affair. In
this affair the internal antagonism between the civil population
and professional soldiers, which had assumed great proportions
in a period of long peace, seemed to reach its climax. Of course
this antagonism had increased with the increase in 1913-14 of
the effective strength of the standing army, bringing a material
increase in the numbers of officers and non-commissioned officers
who represent military professionalism.
The Imperial Provinces or Reichsland, as Alsace and Lorraine are
called, had been in a peculiar position within the body politic
of Germany since their annexation in 1870. The Reichsland, as
indicated by its name, was to be considered as common property
of the German Empire and was not annexed to any one German State.
Its government is by an Imperial Viceroy, with a kind of cabinet
consisting of one Secretary of State, Civil and Under Secretaries
and Department heads, assisted by a legislative body of two chambers,
one elected by popular vote and the other consisting of members
partly elected by municipal bodies, universities, churches and so
forth, and partly appointed by the Imperial Government. The Viceroy
and his cabinet are appointed by the Emperor in his capacity of
the sovereign of the Reichsland. Until the thirty-first of May,
1911, the Reichsland had no constitution of its own, the form
of its government being regulated by the Reichstag and Federal
Council (Bundesrat) in about the same way as the territories
of the United States are ruled by Congress and the President.
In 1911, Alsace-Lorraine received a constitution which gave it
representation in the Federal Council, representation in the
Reichstag having already been granted as early as 1871. The sympathy
of Alsace-Lorraine for France had been increased by the policy of
several of the German viceroys,--von Manteuffel, Prince Hohenlohe,
Prince Munster and Count Wedel, who had, in their administrations,
alternated severe measures with great leniency and had not improved
conditions, so that the population, essentially South German,
was undoubtedly irritated by the tone and manner of the North
Great industries had been developed by the Imperial Government,
especially textile and coal mining, and the industrial population
centering in Mulhausen was hotly and thoroughly Social Democratic.
The upper or well-to-do classes were tied to France by family
connections and by religion. The bourgeois remained mildly
anti-German, more properly speaking, anti-government, for similar
reasons, and the working men were opposed to the government on
social and economic grounds. The farming population, not troubling
much about the politics, but being affected by the campaign of
the nationalistic press, were in sympathy with France; so the
atmosphere was well prepared for the coming storm.
Zabern, or in French, Saverne, is a little town of between eight
and nine thousand inhabitants, beautifully situated at the foot
of the Vosges Mountains on the banks of the Rhine-Marne Canal.
Its garrison comprised the staff and two battalions of Infantry
Regiment, Number Ninety-nine, commanded by von Reuter, and among
its officers was a Lieutenant von Forstner, a young man only
twenty years old, whose boyish appearance had excited the school
children and boys working in nearby iron factories to ridicule
him. It became known that this young officer, while instructing
his men, had insulted the French flag and had called the Alsatian
recruits _Wackes_, a nick-name meaning "square-head," and
frequently used by the people of Alsace-Lorraine in a jocular
way, but hotly resented by them if used towards them by others.
It was further reported that he had promised his men a reward
of ten marks if one of them, in case of trouble, should bring
down a Social Democrat. Forstner had told his men to beware,
and warned them against listening to French foreign agents, whom
the Germans claimed were inducing French soldiers to desert in
order to join the French legion. It is probable that Forstner,
in talking to his men of the French Foreign Legion, used language
offensive to French ears. He admitted that he had used the word
_Wackes_ in defiance of an order of the commanding general,
and for this he had been punished with several days' confinement
in a military prison. Lieutenant von Forstner, who was ordered
to instruct his squad about the regulations in case of trouble
with the civil population, claimed that he had only added to the
usual instructions a statement that every true soldier should
do his best to suppress any disturbances and that he, Forstner,
would give a special reward to any of his men who would arrest
one of "those damned Social Democrats."
Reports of the acts of Forstner and other officers were rapidly
spread among the population. The two newspapers of Zabern published
articles. The excitement grew, and there were demonstrations
against the officials and especially against Forstner. Finally,
conditions became so bad that Colonel von Reuter requested the
head of the local civil administration, Director Mahler, to restore
order, stating that he would take the matter into his own hands
if order was not restored. The director, a native of a small
village near Zabern, replied coolly that he saw no necessity
for interfering with peace loving and law abiding people. On
November twenty-ninth, 1913, a large crowd assembled in front
of the barracks. Colonel von Reuter ordered Lieutenant Schad,
commanding the Guard as officer of the day, to disperse the crowd.
Accordingly Lieutenant Schad called the Guard to arms and three
times summoned the crowd to disperse and go home. The soldiers
charged and drove the multitude across the Square and into a
side street and arrested about fifteen persons, among them the
President, two Judges and the State Attorney of the Zabern Supreme
Court, who had just come out from the court building and who were
caught in the crowd. They were subsequently released. The rest
of the persons arrested were kept in the cellar of the barracks
The report of these occurrences caused immense excitement throughout
Germany. A great outcry went up against militarism, even in quarters
where no socialistic tendencies existed. This feeling was not
helped by the fact that the General commanding the fifteenth
army to which the Zabern regiment belonged was an exponent of
extreme militaristic ideas; a man, who several years before, as
Colonel of the Colonial troops, representing the war ministry
before the Reichstag and debating there the question of the number
of troops to be kept in German South West Africa, had most clearly
shown his contempt for the Reichstag.
Colonel von Reuter and Lieutenant Schad, when court-martialled
for their acts in ordering the troops to move against the civil
population, claimed the benefit of a Prussian law of 1820, which
provided that in any city, town or village, the highest military
officer in command must assume the authority, usually vested
in the civil government, whenever for any reason the civil
administration neglects to keep order. The Colonel and Lieutenant
were subsequently acquitted on the ground that they had acted
under the provisions of this law.
The excitement throughout Germany was further increased by other
circumstances. The Emperor remained during these critical days at
Donaueschingen, the princely estate of his friend and favourite,
Prince Furstenberg, enjoying himself with fox-hunting, torch-light
processions and cabaret performances. Of course, all this had been
arranged long before anyone dreamed of any trouble in Zabern, and
the Emperor could scarcely be expected to realise the gravity of
the situation which suddenly arose. But this very fact created a
bad impression. It was even rumoured that the Empress, alarmed by
the situation, had ordered a train to be made ready in order to
go to him and try to convince him of the necessity of returning
[Illustration: THE GLORY WHICH IS POTSDAM. SUMMER RESIDENCE OF
THE KAISER IN THE PARK OF SANS SOUCI.]
[Illustration: DEMONSTRATION OF SYMPATHY FOR THE AMERICANS, AT
THE TOWN HALL, AUGUST, 1914.]
The newly appointed minister of war, Falkenhayn, went to
Donaueschingen, where he was joined by von Deimling. This action
aggravated the situation, because the public concluded that the
Emperor would hear the advice and report of military officers
only. The sudden death, by heart failure, of the Emperor's closest
friend, von Hulsen, chief of the Emperor's Military Cabinet,
during a banquet at Donaueschingen, gave the rapidly developing
events a tragic and mysterious colouring, and these conferences
in Donaueschingen resulted in the tendering of their resignations
by the Viceroy, von Wedel, and Secretary of State Zorn von Bulach,
Viceroy and Secretary of State of Alsace-Lorraine, who felt that
the military party had gained an upper hand in the conflict with the
civil authorities. The Chancellor then hurried to Donaueschingen,
arriving a few hours before the departure of the Emperor; and a
subsequent order of the Emperor to General von Deimling to see
to it that the military officers did not overstep their authority
and directing him to investigate the occurrences and take measures
to punish all guilty parties, somewhat quieted the nation and
caused the two highest civil officials of Alsace-Lorraine to
withdraw their resignations.
Zabern, where a brigadier-general had been sent by von Deimling
to restore civil government, had begun to quiet down. But the
Chancellor had hardly returned to Berlin when another incident
stirred Germany. While practising field service in the neighbourhood
of Zabern and marching through a village, Lieutenant von Forstner
had an altercation with a lame shoemaker and cut him down. This
brutal act of militarism caused a new outburst throughout Germany.
Forstner was tried by a court-martial for hitting and wounding
an unarmed civilian, and sentenced by the lower court to one
year's imprisonment, but acquitted by the higher court as having
acted in "supposed self-defence."
No less than three parties, the Centrum, the Progressives and
the Social Democrats, addressed interpellations to the Chancellor
about this occurrence at Zabern. I was present at the debate in
the Reichstag, which took place on the fourth, fifth and sixth
of December, 1913. Three South Germans, a member of the Centrum,
Hauss, a Progressive named Roser, and the Socialist deputy from
Mulhausen in Alsace, Peirotes, commenced by moving and seconding
the interpellation and related in vehement language the occurrences
at Zabern. The Chancellor replied in defence of the government.
Unfortunately he had that morning received family news of a most
unpleasant character, which added to his nervousness. He spoke
with a low voice and looked like a downhearted and sick man. It
was whispered afterwards in the lobbies that he had forgotten
the most important part of his speech. The unfavourable impression
which he made was increased by von Falkenhayn, appearing for the
first time before the Reichstag. If the Reichstag members had
been disappointed by the Chancellor, they were stirred to the
highest pitch of bitterness by the speech of the War Minister. In
a sharp, commanding voice he told them that the military officers
had only done their duty, that they would not be swerved from their
path by press agents or hysterical individuals, that Forstner
was a very young officer who had been severely punished, but
that this kind of courageous young officer was the kind that
the country needed, etc. Immediately after this speech the
Progressive party moved that the attitude of the Chancellor did
not meet the approval of the representatives of the people, and
it became evident that, for the first time in the history of the
German Empire, a vote of censure directed against the government
would be debated. The debate was continued all the next day, the
Chancellor making another speech and saying what he probably had
intended to say the day before. He related what he had achieved
at Donaueschingen; that the Emperor had issued a cabinet order
saying that the military authorities should be kept within legal
bounds, that all the guilty persons would be punished, that the
Regiment, Number Ninety-nine, had been removed from Zabern, that
the absolute law of 1820 had been abolished for Alsace-Lorraine,
and that no Chancellor should for one moment tolerate disregard
of law by any government officials, civil or military, and remain
in his position.
This second speech of the Chancellor made a better impression
and somewhat affected the more extreme members of the Reichstag,
but it came too late to prevent the passage of the vote of censure
by the remarkable majority of two hundred and ninety-three to
fifty-four. Only the Conservatives voted against it. A few days
later, when the Social Democrats demanded that the Chancellor
take the consequence of the vote of distrust and resign, the
attitude of the members of all the other parties, who had been
favourably impressed by the second speech of the Chancellor,
showed that they were not yet prepared to go the length of holding
that a vote of distrust in the Reichstag must necessarily mean
the resignation of the Chancellor.
Public excitement gradually calmed down, and a complete change of
the officials at Zabern helped to bring about a normal condition
of affairs. The Viceroy, Count Wedel, and Secretary of State
Zorn von Bulach, resigned and were replaced by von Dallwitz and
However, the everlasting question came up again a little later
during the regular budget debate of the Reichstag. The Chancellor
made his speech, giving a review of the political international
situation. He was followed by Herr Scheidemann, leader of the
Social Democrats, who mercilessly attacked the. Chancellor and
stated that if the Chancellor still thought that he was the right
man at the helm, he, Scheidemann, would show that the contrary was
the case. He then enumerated what he called the many political
failures of the Chancellor, the failure of the bill to amend
the Prussian franchise law, and stated that the few bills which
had been passed, such as the bill giving Alsace-Lorraine a real
constitution, had been carried only with the help of the Social
Democratic party. The speaker then once more rehashed the incidents
of the Zabern matter, referred to the attitude of the Emperor,
who, he said, had evidently been too busy with hunting and
festivities to devote time to such trivial matters as the Zabern
Affair, and also said that, if the Chancellor had refused to
withdraw, the only possible conclusion from the vote of the two
hundred and ninety-three Reichstag members, who were certainly
not influenced by personal feelings against the Chancellor, was
that the Chancellor must be sticking to his post only because
of the mistaken idea of the Emperor's authority and because he
must believe in the fetish of personal government. Scheidemann
begged that the same majority which had passed the vote of censure
should now follow it up by voting down the Chancellor's salary
and thus force him out of office.
The Chancellor immediately replied, saying that he needed no
advice from Herr Scheidemann, and that when the government had
consented to change the rules of the Reichstag he had expressly
reserved the authority either to regard or disregard any resolution
passed after an interpellation, and that formerly, after discussing
an interpellation and the answer of the government, no vote could
be taken to approve or reject a resolution expressing its opinion
of such course of action. Such resolutions might be considered as
valuable material, but it had been agreed that they could have
no binding effect either upon the government or any member of it,
and that nobody had ever dreamed that by a mere change of business
rules the whole constitution of the Empire was being changed and
authority given to the Reichstag to dismiss ministers at will;
that in France and Great Britain conditions were different, but
that parliamentary government did not exist in Germany; that it
was the constitutional privilege of the Emperor to appoint the
Chancellor without any assistance or advice from the Reichstag;
that he, the Chancellor, would resist with all his might every
attempt to change this system; and that he, therefore, refused
to resign because the resolution had no other effect than to
make it evident that a difference of opinion existed between the
Reichstag and the government.
This debate took place on December ninth, 1913, and, with the
exception of the Social Democrats and the Polish deputies, the
leaders of all parties supported the view of the Chancellor.
The motion to strike out the Chancellor's salary was voted down,
only the Social Democrats and Poles voting in favour of it.
It is unquestioned, however, that this Zabern Affair and the
consequent attitude of the whole nation, as well as the extraordinary
vote in the Reichstag, greatly alarmed the military party.
Back to Full Books