The Land of Deepening Shadow
D. Thomas Curtin
Part 5 out of 5
the journey are removed
to a hospital at the frontier.
6. The furniture vans A transparent untruth
used for transporting on the face of it. If only
wounded to the hospitals one train came into Potsdam
at Potsdam and other why use furniture vans at
cities have proved a great all? The furniture vans
success. These vans, are used for purposes of
moreover, all bear the sign concealment, and because
of the Red Cross, and may the very large ambulance
easily be recognised as supply always on duty at
hospital vehicles. the great military
hospitals at Potsdam was
unequal to the task. I saw
no Red Cross indications.
7. That men who are My statement is that all
seriously wounded should the German wounded at
give one an impression of the present stage of the
weariness goes without war, lightly or otherwise,
saying. Lightly wounded compare badly with the
men who travel from the English and French
Somme to Boulogne may wounded, whom I have
make a better appearance seen. They are utterly
than the seriously wounded war weary and suffering
who have made the long not so much from shell
journey from the West shock as from surprise
front to Potsdam. shock, the revelation of the
creation of a British
Army that had never
occurred to the German
8. As to the great "Hush! I have made inquiries
hush! machinery"--what is of British officials, and
one to call the attempt they tell me that it is
to keep the truth from absolutely untrue that the
neutrals by closing channel is closed to
English harbours near the neutral shipping when the
Channel to neutral shipping English hospital transports
for whole days at a proceed to England.
time--during which the This untruth is on a par
English ship-transports of with the others.
wounded proceed to England?
9. The figures published An interesting revelation
by the Ministry of War as to German casualty lists.
concerning the numbers of It is stated by this head
men dismissed from lazarets medical officer of Potsdam
(hospitals) are based upon that these lists are drawn up
unquestionable statistics. from the men _dismissed_ from
These statistics remain as lazarets (hospitals), that is
given--despite all the to say, this doctor admits
aspersions of our enemies. that the custom is now to
keep back the casualty lists
until the man is _discharged_,
whereas your British lists, I
am informed on authority, are
published as speedily as
possible after the soldier is
_wounded_. The whole of the
German wounded now in hospitals
have not yet, therefore, been
included in casualty lists--the
casualties which are forcing
the Germans to employ every
kind of labour they can
enslave or enroll from
Belgium, Poland, France,
and now from their own
people from sixteen up to
sixty years of age of both
10. It would prove interesting For obvious reasons I
to learn the name of the decline to subject my
"patriotic German Statesman," friend to the certain
who is said to cherish the punishment that would follow
same opinions as this writer disclosure of his name.
in the _Daily Mail_.
I regret to burden readers with a chapter so personal to myself,
but I think that anyone who studies these German denials with the
preceding chapter on the Contalmaison wounded will learn at least
as much about the German mind as he would by studying the famous
British White paper of August, 1914.
GERMANY'S HUMAN RESOURCES
Three factors are of chief importance in estimating German
man-power. First, the number of men of military age; second, the
number of these that are indispensable in civil life; third, the
number of casualties. Concerning the last two there are great
differences of opinion among military critics in Allied and neutral
countries. As regards the first there need be little difference,
although I confess surprise at the number of people I have met who
believe the grotesque myth that Germany has systematically
concealed her increase in population, and that instead of being a
nation of less than seventy millions she has really more than one
It is safe to say that at the outbreak of war Germany was a nation
of 68,000,000, of whom 33,500,000 were males. Of these nearly
14,000,000 were between 18 and 45; 350,000 men over 45 are also
with the Colours. The boys who were then 16 and 17 can now be
added, giving us a grand total of some 15,000,000.
Normally Germany employed men of between 18 and 45 as
follows:--Mines, 600,000; metals, 800,000; transport, 650,000;
agriculture, 3,000,000; clothing, food preparation, 1,000,000,
making a total of 6,050,000.
Up to this point there can be little difference of opinion. From
this point on, however, I must, like others who deal with the
subject, make estimates upon data obtained. During my last visit
to Germany I systematically employed a rough check on the figures
derived through the usual channels. Concentrated effort to obtain
first-hand information in city, village, and countryside, north,
east, south, and west, with eyes and ears open, and vocal organs
constantly used for purposes of interrogation, naturally yielded
considerable data when carried over a period of ten months. The
changes from my last visit and from peace time were also duly
observed as were the differences between Germany and the other
nations I had visited during the war. Walking, of which I did a
colossal amount, was most instructive, because it afforded me an
opportunity to study conditions in the villages. Discreet
questioning gave me accurate statistics in hundreds of these that I
visited, and of many more hundreds that I asked about from people
whom I met on my travels. For example, in Oberammergau, which had
at the beginning of the war 1,900 inhabitants, about 350 had been
called to the Colours when I was there, and of these thirty-nine
had been killed.
My investigations in the Fatherland convinced me that of the
3,000,000 men between 18 and 45 formerly engaged in agriculture,
considerably fewer than 100,000 continue to be thus occupied. This
work is done by prisoners and women. Mine and metal work have kept
from 60 to 70 per cent. of their men of military age; but
transport, already cut somewhat, lost 25 per cent. of the remainder
when Hindenburg assumed supreme command, which would reduce 650,000
to about 300,000. More than 90 per cent. of those engaged in the
preparation of food and the making of clothing have been called up.
Thus of the 6,050,000 engaged in the occupations given above, about
1,750,000 remain, which means that more than 4,000,000 have been
called to the Colours.
From building and allied trades at least 90 per cent. are in
military uniform. Assuming that some 2,000,000 men of military age
are included in indispensable engineers, fishermen, chemists,
physically unfit, and so forth, we conclude on this basis that
Germany can enrol in her Army and Navy more than 11,000,000 men.
We may approach the subject from a somewhat different angle by
considering what percentage of her total population Germany could
call to the Colours under stress--and she is to-day under stress.
Savage tribes have been known to put one-fifth under arms. An
industrial State such as Germany cannot go to this extreme. Yet by
using every means within her power she makes a very close approach
to it. In practically every village of which I secured figures in
Saxony, Bavaria, Posen, East Prussia, West Prussia, Pomerania,
Mecklenburg, and Oldenburg, a fifth or nearly a fifth have been
called up. In some Silesian and Rhenish-Westphalian districts,
however, not more than from a seventh to a tenth. If we allow for
all Germany a little less than one-sixth, we get 11,000,000.
What are the factors which enable Germany to call this number or a
little more than this number to the Colours? First, the
organisation of the women. I have seen them even in the forges of
Rhineland doing the work of strong men. "The finest women in the
world, these Rhinelanders," as one manager put it. "Just look at
that one lift that weight. Few men could do better." And his eyes
sparkled with enthusiasm.
Second, and of tremendous importance, are the huge numbers of
prisoners in Germany, and her sensible determination to make them
work. She has taken about one and two-third millions on the field
of battle. _There also happen to be in Germany nearly a million
other prisoners, buried alive, whose existence has apparently
escaped the notice of the outside world_. These are the Russian
civilians who were caught in the German trap when it snapped
suddenly tight in the summer of 1914. Before the war 2,000,000
Russians used to go to Germany at harvest time. The war began at
harvest time. The number of these men, which from my own
first-hand investigations in the remote country districts I
estimate at nearly a million, would have escaped my notice also,
had I not walked across Germany.
Another important factor in the labour problem in Germany is the
employment of the Poles. Not only are they employed on the land,
but great colonies of them have grown up in Dusseldorf and other
industrial centres. I saw an order instructing the military
commandants throughout Germany to warn the Poles, whose discontent
with the food conditions in Germany made them desire to return
home, that conditions in Poland were much worse. This, then, is an
official German admission that there is starvation in Poland, for
_much worse_ could mean nothing else. Germany is keeping Poland a
sealed book, although I admit that she occasionally takes tourists
to see the German-fostered university at Warsaw. Just before I
left Germany still another order was issued for the regulation of
neutral correspondents. Under no circumstances were they to be
allowed to talk with the natives in Poland. From unimpeachable
authority I learned that the Poles were intensely discouraged at
the thoroughness with which the Prussians stripped the country
after the last harvest, and that in some sections the people are
actually dying of hunger. Even in Warsaw, the death-rate in some
neighbourhoods has increased from 700 to 800 per cent. I was
witness to German rage when Viscount Grey stipulated that food
could be sent there only if the natives were allowed to have the
produce of their own land. Prussia wanted that produce, and she
I mention these supplies here because the Poles who worked to
produce them must be included in German labour estimates just as
much as though they had been working in Germany.
Germany also adds to her man-power by utilising her wounded so far
as possible. Her efforts in this direction are praiseworthy, since
they not only contribute to the welfare of the State, but benefit
the individual. I have seen soldiers with one leg gone, or parts
of both legs gone, doing a full day's work mending uniforms. The
blind are taught typewriting, which enables them to earn an
independent living in Government employ. In short, work is found
for everybody who can do anything at all.
In a previous chapter I have spoken of the organisation of the
children, a factor which should not be left out of consideration.
* * * * *
Having considered the assets, let us turn to the debits.
The German casualty lists to the end of 1916 total 4,010,160, of
which 909,665 have been killed or died of wounds. My
investigations in Germany lead me to put the German killed or died
of wounds at 1,200,000, and the total casualties at close to
5,000,000. If we assume that 50 per cent. of all wounded return to
the front and another 25 per cent. to service in the interior, we
must also consider in computation of man-power that the casualty
lists do not include the vast numbers of invalided, and the sick,
which almost balance those that return to the front. This means,
in short, that the net losses are nearly as great at any one time
as the gross losses. Consequently, according to my estimates there
must be at least 4,500,000 Germans out of action at this moment.
In a war of attrition it is the number of men definitely out of
action which counts, for the German lines can be successfully
broken, and only successfully broken, when there are not enough men
to hold them. The Germans now have in the West probably about 130
Hindenburg's levies in the late summer were so enormous that I am
convinced from what I saw in Germany that she has now called almost
everything possible to the Colours. One of Hindenburg's
stipulations in taking command was that he should always have a
force of half a million to throw wherever he wished. We have seen
the result in Rumania, and the men skimmed from the training units
then have been replaced by this last great levy from civilian life.
Therefore, with something over 11,000,000 men called up, Germany
has now 6,000,000, or a little more all told, many of whom are not
at all suited for service at the front.
Germany on the defensive at the Somme certainly lost at least
600,000 men. Attrition, to be sure, works both ways, but if the
Germans are out-gunned this year in the West to the extent expected
their position must become untenable. The deadly work of reducing
German man-power continues even though the Allied line does not
advance. I know of a section of the German front opposite the
French last winter which for five months did not have an action of
sufficient importance to be mentioned by either side in the
official reports, yet the Germans lost 10 per cent. of their
effectives in killed.
The more munitions the Allies make Germany use, the more fat she
must use for this purpose, and the less she will have for the civil
population, with a consequent diminution of their output of work.
Germany simply cannot burn the candle at both ends.
The poor of Berlin live in the north and east of the city. I have
seen Berlin's East-end change from the hilarious joy of the first
year of the war to an ever-deepening gloom. I have studied
conditions there long and carefully, but I feel that I can do no
better than describe my last Saturday in that interesting quarter
of the German capital.
Late in the morning I left the Stettiner Bahnhof in the north and
walked eastward through the Invalidenstrasse. There was
practically no meat in the butchers' shops, just the customary
lines of empty hooks. A long queue farther on attracted my
attention and I crossed the street to see what the people were
waiting for. A glance at the dark red carcases in the shop told me
that this was horse-meat day for that district.
The number of vacant shops of all descriptions was increasing. The
small shoemaker and tailor were closing up. The centralisation of
food distribution is greater here than in the better-class
districts, with the result that many small shopkeepers have been
driven out of business. In parts of Lothringerstrasse a quarter of
the shops were vacant, in other parts one-half. The bakers' shops
are nearly empty except at morning and evening. In fact, after my
long sojourn in blockaded Germany I still find myself after two
months in England staring in amazement at the well-stocked shop
windows of every description.
Shortly before noon I reached the _Zentral Viehund-Schlachthof (the
slaughter-houses). Through a great gateway poured women and
children, each carrying some sort of a tin or dish full of stew.
Some of the children were scarcely beyond the age of babyhood, and
their faces showed unmistakable traces of toil. The poor little
things drudged hard enough in peace time, and in war they are
merely part of the big machine.
The diminishing supply of cattle and pigs for killing has afforded
an opportunity to convert a section of the slaughter-houses into
one of the great People's Kitchens. Few eat there, however. Just
before noon and at noon the people come in thousands for the stew,
which costs forty pfennigs (about 5 pence) a quart, and a quart is
supposed to be enough for a meal and a half.
I have been in the great Schlachthof kitchen, where I have eaten
the stew, and I have nothing but praise for the work being done.
This kitchen, like the others I have visited, is the last word in
neatness. The labour-saving devices, such as electric
potato-parers, are of the most modern type. In fact, the war is
increasing the demand for labour-saving machinery in Germany to at
least as great an extent as high wages have caused such a demand in
America. Among the women who prepare the food and wait upon the
people there is a noticeable spirit of co-operation and a pride in
the part they are playing to help the Fatherland _durchhalten_
(hold out). Should any of the stew remain unsold it is taken by a
well-known restaurant in the Potsdamer Platz, which has a contract
with the municipal authorities. Little was wasted in Germany
before the war; nothing, absolutely nothing, is wasted to-day.
As at the central slaughter-house, so in other districts the poor
are served in thousands with standard stew. The immense Alexander
Market has been cleared of its booths and tables and serves more
than 30,000 people. One director of this work told me that the
Berlin authorities would supply nearly 400,000 people before the
end of the winter.
The occasional soldier met in the streets looked shabbier in the
shabby surroundings of the East. The German uniform, which once
evoked unstinted praise, is suffering sadly to-day owing to lack of
raw materials. I was in a Social Democratic district, but the men
in uniform who were home on leave were probably "good" Social
Democrats, since it is notorious that the regular variety are
denied this privilege.
The faces of the soldiers were like the rest of the faces I saw
that day. There was not the least trace of the cheerful, confident
expression of the days when all believed that the Kaiser's armies
would hammer their way to an early peace--"in three months," as
people used to say during the first year and a quarter of the war.
Verdun had been promised them as a certain key to early peace, and
Admiral Scheer was deified as the immortal who tore loose the
British clutch from the German throat. But Verdun and Jutland
faded in succeeding months before the terrible first-hand evidence
that the constant diminution of food made life a struggle day after
day and week after week. The news from Rumania, though good, would
bring them no cheer until it was followed by plenty of food.
In the vicinity of the Schlesischer Bahnhof occurred a trifling
incident which gave me an opportunity to see the inside of a poor
German home that day. A soldier in faded field-grey, home on
leave, asked me for a match. During the conversation which
followed I said that I was an American, but to my surprise he did
not make the usual German reply that the war would have been ended
long ago if it had not been for American ammunition. On the
contrary, he showed an interest in my country, as he had a brother
there, and finally asked me if I would step into his home and
explain a few things to him with the aid of a map.
Though I was in a district of poverty the room I entered was
commendably clean. An old picture of William I. hung on one wall;
opposite was Bismarck. Over the low door was an unframed portrait
of "unser Kaiser," while Hindenburg completed the collection.
Wooden hearts, on which were printed the names Liege, Maubeuge, and
Antwerp, recalled the days when German hearts were light and German
tongues were full of brag.
A girl of ten entered the room. She hated the war because she had
to rush every day at noon from school to the People's Kitchen to
fetch the family stew. In the afternoon she had to look after the
younger children while her mother stood in the long lines before
the shops where food was sold. The family were growing tired of
stew day after day. They missed the good German sausage and
unlimited amount of bread and butter.
The mother looked in on her way to the street, basket under arm.
She was tired, and was dulled by the daily routine of trying to get
food. She talked bitterly about the war, but though she blamed the
Agrarians for not doing their part to relieve the food situation,
she expressed no animosity against her own Government. The father
had been through Lodz in Hindenburg's two frontal assaults on
Warsaw, where he had seen the slopes covered with forests of
crosses marking the German dead, and his words were bitter, too,
when he talked of his lost comrades. And then, the depressing
feeling of returning from an army pursuing the mirage of victory to
find his family and every other family struggling in the meshes of
that terrible and relentless blockade!
It never had occurred to him that his Government might be in the
least responsible for the misery of his country. Like the great
bulk of the German people he is firmly convinced that the
Fatherland has been fighting a war of defence from the very
beginning. "To think that one nation, England, is responsible for
all this suffering!" was the way that he put it. He is a "good"
When I once more resumed my walk I saw the lines of people waiting
for food in every street. Each time I turned a corner great black
masses dominated the scene. I paused at a line of more than three
hundred waiting for potatoes. Ten yards away not a sound could be
heard. The very silence added to the depression. With faces
anxious and drawn they stood four abreast, and moved with the
orderliness of soldiers. Not a sign of disturbance, and not a
policeman in sight. Some women were mending socks; a few, standing
on the edge of the closely packed column, pushed baby carriages as
they crawled hour after hour toward the narrow entrance of the shop.
Every line was like the rest. The absence of policemen is
particularly noteworthy, since they had to be present in the early
days--a year ago--when the butter lines came into being. Drastic
measures were taken when the impatient women rioted. Those days
are over. The Government has taught the people a lesson. They
will wait hour after hour, docile and obedient henceforth, if
necessary until they drop--make no mistake of that.
But the authorities also learned a lesson. "People think most of
revolution when they are hungry," was what one leader said to me.
On this Saturday of which I write not a potato was to be bought in
the West-end of Berlin, where the better classes live. Berlin had
been without potatoes for nearly a week. To-day they had arrived,
and the first to come were sent to the East-end. In the West-end
the people are filled with more unquestioning praise of everything
the Government does; they applaud when their Kaiser confers an
Order upon their Crown Prince for something, not quite clear, which
he is supposed to have accomplished at Verdun. Therefore they can
wait for potatoes until the more critical East-end is supplied.
I went farther eastward through the Kottbuser district to the
Kottbuser Ufer on the canal, along which, a couple of hundred
people waited in an orderly column without any guardian--another
evidence of the success of the drastic measures of July and early
August, when the demonstrations against the war were nipped in the
bud. These people were waiting for the free advertisement sheets
from the gaudily painted yellow Ullstein newspaper building across
the square. They had to stand by the side of the canal because a
_queue_ of several hundred people waiting for potatoes wound slowly
before Ullstein's to the underground potato-shop next door.
I had not heard a laugh or seen anybody smile all day, and when
darkness fell on the weary city I went to a cheap little beer-room
where several "bad," but really harmless Social Democrats used to
gather. Among them was the inevitable one who had been to America,
and I had become acquainted with them through him. They talked in
the new strain of their type, that they might as well be under the
British or French, as under their own Government.
Their voices were low--a rare event where Germans gather at table.
They did not plot, they merely grumbled incessantly. The end of
the war had definitely sunk below their horizon, and peace, not
merely steps to peace, was what they longed for. There was the
customary cursing of the Agrarians and the expressions of resolve
to have a new order of freedom after the war, expressions which I
believe will not be realised unless Germany is compelled to accept
peace by superior forces from without.
I left the dreary room for the dreary streets, and turned towards
the centre and West-end of Berlin, where the _cafe_ lights were
bright and tinkling music made restricted menu-cards easier to bear.
Suddenly the oppressive feeling of the East-end was dispelled by
the strains of military music drawing closer in a street near by.
I hurried towards it, and saw a band marching at the head of two
companies of wounded soldiers, their bandages showing white under
the bright street lights of Berlin.
The men were returning to their hospital off the Prenzlauer Allee
from a day's outing on the River Spree. Scores of followers
swelled to hundreds. The troubles of the day were forgotten. Eyes
brightened as the throng kept step with the martial music. A roll
of drum, a flare of brass, and the crowd, scattered voices at
first, and then swelling in a grand crescendo, sang _Deutschland
uber Alles_. To-morrow they would complain again of food shortage
and sigh for peace, but tonight they would dream of victory.
IN THE DEEPENING SHADOW
A little, bent old woman, neat, shrivelled, with clear, healthy eye
and keen intelligence, was collecting acorns in the park outside
the great Schloss, the residence of von Oppen, a relative of the
Police President of Berlin.
I had walked long and was about to eat my picnic lunch, and stopped
and spoke with her. We soon came to the one topic in Germany--the
war. She was eighty-four years of age, she told me, and she worked
for twelve hours a day. Her mother had seen Napoleon pass through
the red-roofed village hard by. She well remembered what she
called "the Bismarck wars." She was of the old generation, for she
spoke of the Kaiser as "the King."
"No," she said, "this war is not going like the Bismarck wars--not
like the three that happened in 1864, 1866, 1870, within seven
years when I was a young woman." She was referring, of course, to
Denmark, Austria, and France. "We have lost many in our
village--food is hard to get." Here she pointed to the two thin
slices of black bread which were to form her mid-day meal. She did
not grumble at her twelve hours' day in the fields, which were in
addition to the work of her little house, but she wished that she
could have half an hour in which to read history.
Her belief was that the war would be terminated by the Zeppelins.
"When our humane King really gives the word, the English ships and
towns will all be destroyed by our Zeppelins. He is holding back
his great secret of destruction out of kindness."
The remark of that simple, but intelligent old woman as to the
restraint imposed by the Kaiser upon the Zeppelins constituted the
universal belief of all Germany until the British doggedly built up
an air service under the stress of necessity, which has brilliantly
checked the aerial carnival of frightfulness. People in Great
Britain seem to have no conception of the great part the Zeppelins
were to play in the war, according to German imagination. That
simple old peasant lady expressed the views that had been uttered
to me by intelligent members of the Reichstag--bankers, merchants,
men and women of all degrees. The first destruction of
Zeppelins--that by Lieutenant Warneford, and the bringing down of
LZ77 at Revigny, did not produce much disappointment. The war was
going well in other directions. But the further destruction of
Zeppelins has had almost as much to do with the desire for peace,
in the popular mind, as the discomfort and illness caused by food
shortage and the perpetual hammerings by the French and British
Armies in the West.
It should be realised that the Zeppelin has been a fetish of the
Germans for the last ten years. The Kaiser started the worship by
publicly kissing Count Zeppelin, and fervently exclaiming that he
was the greatest man of the century. Thousands of pictures have
been imagined of Zeppelins dropping bombs on Buckingham Palace, the
Bank of England, and the Grand Fleet. For a long time, owing to
the hiding of the facts in England of the Zeppelin raids, even high
German officials believed that immense damage had been done. The
French acted more wisely. They allowed full descriptions of the
aeroplane and Zeppelin raids in France to be published, and the
result was discouraging to the Germans. I remember studying the
British Zeppelin communiques with Germans. At that time the London
Authorities were constantly referring to these raids taking place
in the "Eastern counties," when the returned Germans knew exactly
where they had been. The result was great encouragement. Nothing
did more to depress the Germans than the humorous and true accounts
of the Zeppelin raids which were eventually allowed to appear in
the English newspapers.
The Germans have now facts as to the actual damage done in England.
They know that the British public receive the Zeppelins with
excellent aircraft and gun-fire. They know that anti-aircraft
preparations are likely to increase rather than decrease, and
while, for the sake of saving the nation's "face," it will be
necessary that Zeppelins be further used, the people who are
directing the war know that, so far as land warfare is concerned,
they are not a factor.
There have been more mishaps than have been published; more wounded
and damaged Zeppelins than the Germans have ever announced. I was
informed that the overhauling and repair of many Zeppelins after a
successful or unsuccessful raid was a matter, not of days, but of
weeks. There was great difficulty in obtaining crews. Most of
them are sailors, as are the officers. There have been suppressed
mutinies in connection with the manning of the Zeppelins.
Count Zeppelin, who, up to a year ago, was a national hero, is
already regarded by a large section of the population as a failure.
The very house servants who subscribed their pfennigs and marks in
the early days to help conduct his experiments now no longer speak
of him with respect. They have transferred their admiration to
Hindenburg and the submarines.
The majority of Germans of all classes believe what they are
officially instructed to believe, no more, no less. The
overmastering self-hypnotism which leads the present-day German to
believe that black is white, if it adds to his self-satisfaction,
is one of the most startling phenomena of history. But what of
Ballin, Heineken, von Gwinner, Gutmann, Thyssen, Rathenau, and
other captains of industry and finance? Some of them have
expressed opinions in interviews, but what do they _really_ think?
I am not going to indulge in any guesswork on this matter. I am
simply going to disclose some important statements made at a secret
meeting attended by many of the business directors of the German
Empire. The meeting was for the purpose of discussing actual
conditions in a straightforward manner, therefore no member of the
Press, German or foreign, was present.
In striking contrast with custom when the war is discussed, nothing
was said of _Kultur_, of German innocence or enemy guilt, of an
early and victorious peace, of British warships hiding always in
safety, or of the omniscience and infallibility of the Supreme
The little circle of Germans who have displayed such brilliant
organising ability in commerce and industry are practical men, who
look at the war and the days to follow the war in the cold light of
debit and credit. This being the case, the honest opinions
expressed by Arthur von Gwinner, President of the Deutsche Bank,
are worthy of serious consideration. His chief points were:--
1. The belief cherished by the mass of the nation that a Central
Europe Economic Alliance will amply compensate us for any
shortcomings elsewhere, and enable us to sit back and snap our
fingers at the rest of the world is too absurd to be entertained by
serious men. Our trade, import and export, with Austria-Hungary
was as great as it could be for many years to come, and it was only
a small part of our total trade. After the war, as before, the
bulk of our trade must be with countries now neutral or enemy, and
we must seriously consider how to hold and add to this trade in the
2. The solution of the labour problem will be vital in the work of
reconstruction. We must make every provision in order to forge
rapidly ahead immediately after the close of the war.
_No German, except for necessary reasons of State, should be
allowed to leave the country for a number of years after the war_.
3. Before the war 3,000,000 Russians came to us every year at
harvest time. These must continue to come.
4. We have done wonderful work in scientific agriculture, but the
limit of productivity of the soil has undoubtedly been reached.
5. Do not place too much hope in an early war between the United
States and Japan.
6. There is great rejoicing over the sinking of enemy ships. It
should also be remembered, however, that we are not paying any
dividends at present.
In the discussion which followed the statements of Herr von Gwinner
and from various channels of reliable information which I made use
of in Germany, I found a serious view taken of these and other
topics, of which the great body of Germans are quite unaware.
Take the labour problem, for example. For years Germany has
recognised the necessity of a rapid increase of population, if a
nation is to smash rivals in industry and war. Not for a moment
during this struggle has Germany lost sight of this fact. Many
times have I heard in the Fatherland that the assurance of milk to
children is not entirely for sentimental but also for practical
reasons. Official attempts are being made at present to increase
the population in ways which cannot be discussed in this book.
"You get yourself born and the State does all the rest" was an
accurate analysis of Germany before the war; but the State looks
after everything now.
When men go home on leave from the army, married or single, they
are instructed in their duty of doing their part to increase the
population so that Germany will have plenty of colonists for the
Balkans, Turkey and Asia in the great economic development of those
regions. To impress this they argue that Germany and France had
nearly the same number of inhabitants in 1870. "See the difference
to-day," says the German. "This difference is one of the chief
causes of our greatly superior strength."
Working girls in Dresden have not only been encouraged but quietly
advised to serve the State "by enabling Deutschland to achieve the
high place in the world which God marked out for it, which can only
be done if there are a sufficient number of Germans to make their
influence felt in the world." They have been told not to worry,
that the State will provide for the offspring. In fact, societies
of godfathers and godmothers are growing all over Germany. They do
not necessarily have to bring up the child in their own home; they
can pay for its maintenance. Thus the rich woman who does not care
to have many children herself is made to feel in ultra-scientific
Germany that she should help her poorer sister.
The Germans treat the matter very lightly. In Bremen, for example,
where the quartering of Landsturmers (the oldest Germans called to
military service) among the people resulted in a large batch of
illegitimate children, I found it the custom, even in mixed society
of the higher circles, to refer to them jokingly as "young
A serious consideration of what Germany, or any other belligerent,
will do _after_ the war is usually of little value, as conditions
after the war depend upon what is done _during_ the war. The
amount of freedom which the German people attain in the next few
years is in direct proportion to the amount of thrashing
administered to their country by the Allies. Perhaps they will
have something to say about the frontier regulations of Germany;
but assuming that the training of centuries will prevent their
hastily casting aside their docility, it is extremely probable that
few, if any, Germans will be allowed to leave Germany during the
first years of reconstruction.
This will disappoint several million Germans. Despite the snarling
rage displayed everywhere in the fatherland, except in diplomatic
circles, against the United States, I heard an ever-increasing
number of malcontents declare that, immediately after the close of
war, they would go to the States to escape the burden of taxation.
One hears two words--_Friede_ (peace) and _Essen_
(food)--constantly. The third word I should add is _Steuern_
(taxes). It is all very well to sit by some neutral fireside
reading Goethe or Schopenhauer, while listening to the
_Meistersinger von Nurnberg_, or the "Melody in F," and lull
yourself into the belief that the Germans are a race of idealists.
This touch is used to a considerable extent in German propaganda.
Any one familiar, however, with conditions in modern Germany knows
that Germans are ultra-materialistic.
I have heard them talk of the cost of the war from the very
beginning. They gloated over the sweeping indemnities they would
exact. After they realised the possibilities of State-organised
scientific burglary in Belgium they were beside themselves in
joyful anticipation of what Paris, London, and a score of other
cities would yield. When the war became a temporary stalemate, I
heard it said, particularly by army officers, that Germany was
taking no chances with the future, but was exacting indemnities now
from the occupied districts. When taxes rose and food shortage
increased, the possibility that the Germans themselves would have
to pay some of their own costs of the war in various forms of
taxation determined a rapidly growing number to seek a way out by
emigrating at the first opportunity.
As Herr Ballin said, "The world will find us as strongly organised
for peace as we were organised for war." The labour problem,
however, not only now, but for the days of reconstruction, is
viewed very seriously, how seriously may be gathered from the fact
that there is so much apprehension that Russia may refuse to allow
her workers to go to Germany for some years after the war, that
nearly everyone at the secret conference mentioned above was in
favour of making concessions at the peace conference, should Russia
insist. Indeed one Rhinelander was of the opinion that it would be
worth while giving up Courland to get an unlimited supply of labour.
In the meantime the Germans have not been idle in other directions.
Until Hindenburg called up his immense levies in the late summer,
Germany exported steel building materials and coal to contiguous
neutral countries, but she can no longer do this. Nevertheless,
she did make elaborate preparations to "dump" into Russia on a
colossal scale immediately after the resumption of intercourse.
Immense supplies of farming implements and other articles of steel
have been stored in the Rhineland, Westphalia, and Silesia, ready
for immediate shipment to Russia, thus enabling Germany to get
ahead of all rivals in this field.
Germans also derive comfort from the fact that their ships will be
ready at once to carry cargoes and passengers, while so many of
those of the Allies will be used for the transport of troops after
the close of the war, and must then rent.
With such plans for "getting the jump" on competitors it is only
natural that I saw more and more irritability on the part of the
financial men with each month of the war after last April.
Von Gwinner's remark about the improbability of war between Japan
and the United States in the near future would, if known to the
German people, cause still another keen disappointment, since one
of their solaces has been the thought that they would soon have an
opportunity of reaping a munition harvest themselves.
When Germany tried to make a separate peace with Russia, Japan was
also approached--how far, I do not know. The Wilhelmstrasse still
maintains a Japanese department, and any possible thread, however
light, which may be twisted from a Tokyo newspaper to show that
perhaps Japan may be won over, is pounced upon most eagerly.
Germany, Japan, and Russia was the combination whispered in Berlin
at the time of the unsuccessful attempt to separate the Allies.
Absolute governments have certain advantages in war. They have
also disadvantages. When things are not running smoothly in
Germany the Germans worry more than do the English when things are
not going well in England. When the German leaders began to
disagree as to the best methods to conduct the war, the effect upon
the people was demoralising. Only their gullibility saved them
from complete dismay, Month after month the great struggle raged,
under the surface for the most part, but occasionally boiling over.
Would it be to the best interests of Germany to go the limit with
the submarines or not? Not once did I hear the subject discussed
on ethical grounds. Some remarks made to me by Doctor Stresemann,
one of the powerful rational Liberals behind the mammoth industrial
trust in Germany, and the most violent apostle of frightfulness in
the Reichstag, aptly express the sentiment in favour of
unrestricted submarine warfare. He and the rest of the men behind
Tirpitz had fought and lost in the three Committee assemblies
called to discuss U-boat policy in 1916.
As the day set for the September meeting of the Reichstag
approached I noticed that Herr Stresemann was growing more and more
excited. "This war is lasting too long," he declared to me in
great agitation. "The Kaiser's most glaring fault is that of
trying to fight Great Britain with one foot in the grave of
chivalry. If the Chancellor continues to sway him, we will wreck
the Chancellor at all costs. The only way to win this war is to
publish again, and this time enforce, the decree of February 4th,
1915, warning all neutrals to keep out of the submarine zone."
"But, according to the '_Sussex_ Ultimatum,' that will cause a
break with the United States," I said.
"We cannot let that deter us," he declared. "Britain is the
keystone of our enemies. If she falls they all fall. We must
attack her where she is vulnerable. _We must starve her out_. As
for America, we have little to fear from her. In the first place,
although she may break off diplomatic relations, she will not enter
the war if we are careful not to sink _her_ ships. As American
ships play a small part in the carrying trade to England, we can
thus refrain from sinking them--although we naturally should not
"In the second place, if America does declare war upon Germany, it
would have little effect. The war will be over before she can
organise after the manner of Great Britain. Herr Helfferich
(former Minister of Finance and now Vive-Chancellor) feels that we
should do everything possible to keep America out, inasmuch as
thereby we shall be in a better position to conclude commercial
treaties after the war. Herr Helfferich exerted powerful influence
in the meeting at Great Headquarters at the time of the Sussex
Crisis. But our duty to ourselves is to win the war. If we starve
out England we win, no matter how many enemies we have. If we
fail, another enemy, even the United States, would not make our
defeat more thorough. We are justified, for our existence is at
stake. The only way we can escape defeat is by a successful U-boat
war against England. That would change defeat into overwhelming
victory. I am absolutely confident; that is why the slow methods
of the Chancellor make me so angry. It will take at least half a
year to bring England to her knees, and with our increased
privations he may wait too long. But we shall compel him; we shall
Herr Stresemann later requested me not to publish these
statements--at least, not until a decision had been reached. I
did, however, lay the matter before the American Embassy in London
as soon as I arrived in England, since my investigations in Germany
left no doubt in my mind that she would play two great cards--one,
to work for peace through negotiation; the other, the last
desperate recourse to the submarine.
As I write (January 21st, 1917) I am convinced that it is only a
question of time until Germany is reduced to this last desperate
resort. The men, who will decide that time will be Hindenburg and
Batocki. The successful siege of Germany is a stupendous though
not impossible task.
On the other hand, the human system is a very elastic piece of
mechanism, and modern man, far from being the degenerate which some
admirers of cave-man hardihood have pictured him, is able to
undergo a tremendous amount of privation. Besieged cities have
nearly always held out longer than the besiegers expected. In the
besieged city the civilian population is for the most part a drag
on the military, but in besieged Germany the civilian population,
reinforced by slave labour from Belgium, France and Poland,
continues working at high pressure in order to enable the military
to keep the field. Fat is the vital factor. The more munitions
Germany heaps up the more fat she must use for this purpose, and
the less she will have for the civil population, with a consequent
diminution of their output of work. Germany simply cannot burn the
candle at both ends. It is my personal opinion that Verdun marks
the supreme culmination of German military offensive in the West,
and the West is the decisive theatre of war. If that is
Hindenburg's opinion, then he realises that another colossal German
offensive in the West would not bring a victorious peace. There
remains only the alternative of building up a defensive against the
coming Allied attacks--an alternative depending for its success
upon sufficient food for the mass of the people. Thus the U-boat
decision clearly rests upon the Chief of Staff and the Food
Dictator, since their advice to the Imperial Chancellor and the All
Highest War Lord must be determinative. When the day comes for
Germany to proclaim to the world that she will sink at sight all
ships going to and from the ports of her enemies, that day will be
one of the great moments of history. Germany's last card will be
on the table. It will be war to the knife. Either she will starve
Great Britain or Great Britain, will starve her.
These are problems for the leaders, who have the further task of
keeping the population hopeful on an alarmingly decreasing diet.
Superficially, or until you want something to eat, or a ride in a
taxicab, Berlin at night is gay. But you somehow feel that the
gaiety is forced. London at first sight is appallingly gloomy is
the evening, and foreigners hardly care to leave their hotels. But
I find that behind the gloom and the darkness there is plenty of
spontaneous merriment at the theatres and other places of
entertainment. There is plenty of food, little peace talk, and
Across the North Sea, however, great efforts are made by the German
Government to keep up the spirits of the people. No public
entertainer need go to the war at all, and the opera is carried on
exactly as in peace time, though I confess that my material soul
found it difficult to enjoy Tristan on a long and monotonous diet
of sardines, potatoes, cheese and fresh-water fish--chiefly pike
and carp. A humorous American friend used to laugh at the
situation--the brilliantly dressed house, officers in their
extremely handsome grey uniforms, ladies, some of them with too
many diamonds, and--very little to eat.
At the slightest military gain the bells of victory peal wildly,
and gay flags colour mile after mile of city streets, flags under
which weary, silent women crawl in long lines to the shops where
food is sold. A bewildering spectacle is this crawling through
victory after victory ever nearer to defeat.
Early in the war a Norwegian packer, who had not had much demand
for his sardines in Germany, put the picture of Hindenhurg on the
tins and christened them the "Hindenburg Sardines." When he
changed the trade-mark the Germans bought them as fast as he could
supply them--not because they were short of food at that time, but
through the magic of a name. To-day all that is changed.
Norwegians no longer have to flatter the Germans, who are anxious
to buy anything in the way of food. They flood Germany now with
impunity with sardines whose merits are extolled in the hated
English language, sardines which had originally been intended for
Britain or America, but which are now eagerly snapped up at four
and five times the peace price by people who invariably bid one
another good-bye with "Gott strafe England." I saw the gem of the
collection in a Friedrichstrasse window. It was entitled: "Our
Allies Brand," on a bright label which displayed the flags of Great
Britain, Prance, Russia, Italy, Belgium and Japan.
In Germany you feel that the drama of the battlefield has changed
to the drama of the larder. Hope and despair succeed one another
in the determination to hold out economically while soldier and
sailor convince the world that Germany cannot be beaten. People
laugh at the blockade, sneer at the blockade and curse the blockade
in the same breath. A headline of victory, a mention of the army,
the army they love, and they boast again. Then a place in the food
line, or a seat at table, and they whine at the long war and rage
against "British treachery." Like a cork tossing on the
waves--such is the spirit of Germany.
The majority struggle on in the distorted belief that Germany was
forced to defend herself from attack planned by Great Britain,
while the minority are kept in check by armed patrols and
The spirit of "all for the Fatherland" is yielding to the spirit of
self-preservation of the individual. Everywhere one sees evidence
of this. The cry of a little girl running out of a meat shop in
Friedenau, an excellent quarter of Berlin, brought me in to find a
woman, worn out with grief over the loss of her son and the long
waiting in the _queue_ for food, lying on the floor in a
semi-conscious condition. It is the custom to admit five or six
people at a time. I was at first surprised that nobody in the line
outside had stirred at the appeal of the child, but I need not have
expected individual initiative even under the most extenuating
circumstances from people so slavishly disciplined that they would
stolidly wait their turn. But the four women inside--why did they
not help the woman? The spirit of self-preservation must be the
answer. For them the main event of the day was to secure the
half-pound of meat which would last them for a week. They simply
would not be turned from that one objective until it was reached.
And the soldiers passing through Berlin! I saw some my last
afternoon in Berlin, loaded with their kit, marching silently down
Unter den Linden to the troop trains, where a few relatives would
tearfully bid them good-bye. There was not a sound in their
ranks--only the dull thud of their heavy marching boots. They
didn't sing nor even speak. The passers-by buttoned their coats
more tightly against the chill wind and hurried on their several
ways, with never a thought or a look for the men in field-grey,
moving, many of them for the last time, through the streets of the
capital. The old man who angered the war-mad throng before the
_Schloss_ on August 1st, 1914, with his discordant croak of "War is
a serious business, young man," lives in the spirit of to-day. And
he did not have to go to the mountain!
ACROSS THE NORTH SEA
After my last exit from Germany into Holland I was confronted by a
new problem. I had found going to England very simple on my
previous war-time crossings. Now, however, there were two
obstacles in my path--first, to secure permission to Board a vessel
bound for England; secondly, to make the actual passage safely.
The passport difficulty was the first to overcome. The passport
with which I had come to Europe before the war, and which had been
covered with frontier _visees_, secret service permissions and
military permissions, from the Alps to the White Sea and from the
Thames to the Black Sea, had been cancelled in Washington at my
request during my brief visit home in the autumn of 1915. On my
last passport I had limited the countries which I intended to visit
to Germany and Austria-Hungary. I purposed adding to this list as
I had done on my old passport, but subsequent American regulations,
aimed at restricting travellers to one set of belligerents,
I was not only anxious to return to London to continue my work with
Lord Northcliffe on _The Times_ and the _Daily Mail_, but I was
encouraged by two American officials in Germany and Austria-Hungary
to write the truth about Germany--a feat quite impossible, as one
of them said to me, for a correspondent remaining in the zone of
the Central Powers. The official in Austria-Hungary had become
righteously indignant at the sneering German remarks about how they
could "play with Washington in the U-boat question." He asked me
to learn all possible news of submarines. The official in Germany
had been impressed by my investigations among the men behind
Tirpitz, men who never for a moment ceased in their efforts to turn
on frightfulness in full force. When I mentioned the new American
passport regulations which would delay me getting to England, he
said: "In Holland fix it with the British. I hope you will do some
good with all this information, for you have the big scoop of the
day. Now is the time."
I tried to "fix it" with the British authorities in Rotterdam, but
as they did not know me my progress was slow for a few days. Then
I went to Amsterdam to my old newspaper friend, Charles Tower,
correspondent for the _Daily Mail_, a man of broad experience, and
in close touch with affairs in Holland, a country which war
journalists have grown to look upon as an important link in the
news chain between Germany and England. I realised that this move
might confirm the suspicions of von Kuhlmann's spies who were on my
trail. However, the free air of Holland was making me a little
incautious, a little over-confident.
"There is the man who is following you," said Tower, as we stepped
in the evening from his home on to the brightly lighted street and
made our way along the edge of the canals. The tall,
round-shouldered German shadowed us through the crowded streets to
the Amstel Hotel. Then we shadowed him, while he telephoned for
help which came in the form of a persistent Hollander, who insisted
in sitting at the table next to us, although it had just been
vacated by diners and needed re-arranging, whereas many other
tables were entirely free.
That is a sample of the manner in which we were systematically
spied upon. In order to make arrangements it was necessary for us
to travel together so that we could talk, as our time was limited.
It was absolutely impossible for us to go into a restaurant or get
into a railway compartment without having a satellite at our elbow.
They were very persistent and very thorough; but the system in
Holland has the same glaring flaw that is common to the German
system everywhere--too much system and not sufficient cleverness in
Von Kuhlmann, the German Minister, certainly does not lack men. We
encountered them everywhere. Travelling first class gives one more
or less privacy in Holland, so that it was decidedly irritating to
have a listener make for our compartment, while adjoining
first-class compartments were entirely empty. If the intrusion
resulted in our going to another compartment, an ever-ready
_Kamerad_ would quickly join us.
In all countries Germany considers certain telephone connections to
be of great strategic importance. It is practically impossible to
be connected with the British Consulate at Rotterdam, until the
"interpreter" is put on. Mr. Tower experiences the same annoyance.
Indeed, the Germans are extremely attentive to him, Although he
needs only a small flat, since he lives alone, he has to protect
himself by hiring the floor above and the floor below, as the
Germans are continually trying to get rooms as close to him as
possible. The German Government has for years been pouring out
money like water to conquer the world. If I were a German taxpayer
I should feel much like the man who discovers that the Florida land
which some smooth-talking combination travelling book-agent and
real estate agent persuaded him to buy is several feet under water.
Tower and the British authorities finally obtained permission for
me to land in England, but they insisted that it would be worse
than useless for me to attempt to go on a Dutch steamer, as I
should be taken off. Within a week two of these steamers had been
conducted by the Germans to Zeebrugge.
After I had left word that I wished to go at the first possible
opportunity, and had received some further instructions, Tower and
I left for Rotterdam on our last train ride together in Holland.
The little man with the book who sat beside us in the tram to the
Central station turned us over to a big man with whitish eyebrows
and reddish hair and moustache, who followed us into a second-class
compartment, which we had entered purposely, although we had bought
first-class tickets. We then pretended to discover our mistake and
changed to a vacant first-class compartment. Through some rare
oversight there was no _Kamerad_ on hand, whereupon the man with
the reddish hair followed us with the pathetically
feeble-explanation that he, too, had made the same mistake.
When Tower and I had talked _ad nauseam_ on such fiercely neutral
subjects as Dutch cheese and Swiss scenery, I felt an impelling
desire to "get even" with the intruder, and began to complain to
Tower of the injustice of the British not allowing me to return to
America via England, which I wished to see for a few days. He took
the cue readily, and accused me of being "fed-up like all neutral
correspondents in Berlin." He frankly expressed his disgust at the
enthusiasm which he declared that I had been showing for everything
German since I met him in Holland. As the train pulled into the
Hague, where I prepared to leave him, he concluded by saying,
"After all, you ought not to blame the British authorities for
refusing you permission to go to England. I have done my best and
have failed; there is nothing more that I can do. I did get one
concession for you, however. You will not be roughly handled or
otherwise maltreated when your vessel touches at Falmouth."
I had to make a serious effort to keep a straight face while
leaving the train with this last realistic touch of "British
brutality" ringing in my ears. Tower, I might add, had voiced the
extraordinary myth one hears in the Fatherland about the terrible
manner in which the British treat passengers on neutral steamers
touching at their ports.
The man with the reddish hair followed me to the office of the
Holland-America Line, where I made application for a reservation on
the boat which would sail in a week or ten days. From there I went
to a small restaurant. He seemed satisfied and left me, whereupon
I followed him. He hurried to the large Cafe Central, stepped
straight to a table in the front room, which is level with the
street, and seated himself beside a thin, dark German of the
intellectual type who appeared to be awaiting him. From my seat in
the shadows of the higher room I watched with amusement the
increasingly puzzled expression on the face of the intellectual
German while the man with the reddish hair unfolded his tale. When
they parted my curiosity caused me to trail after the thin, dark
man. He went straight to the German Legation.
For two days I nervously paced up and down the sands at
Scheveningen looking out upon the North Sea and waiting for the
call. It came one short drizzly afternoon. The Germans, of
course, knew the whereabouts of the vessel on which I should embark
for England, though it is highly improbable that they knew the
sailing time, and they did not know when I should go on it.
I did everything possible to throw any possible spies off the trail
as I made my way in the dark to a lonely wharf on the Maas River
where I gave the password to a watchman who stepped out of a black
corner near the massive gates which opened to the pier.
I went aboard a little five hundred ton vessel with steam up, and
stood near two other men on the narrow deck, where I watched in
considerable awe the silent preparations to cast away.
A man stepped out of the cabin. "I presume, sir, that you are the
American journalist," he said. He explained that he was the
steward. From the bridge came the voice of the captain, "We can
give them only a few minutes more," he said.
Two minutes of silence, broken only by the gentle throbbing of the
engines. Then from the blackness near the street gate came the
sound of hurrying feet. I could make out three stumbling figures,
apparently urged along by a fourth. "Who are they?" I asked the
"They must be the three Tommies who escaped from Germany. Brave
lads they are. A couple more days and we'll have them hack in
"A couple of days?" I exclaimed. "Why, it's only eight hours to
the Thames estuary, isn't it?"
"Eight hours in peace time; and eight hours for Dutch boats
now--when the Germany don't kidnap them away to Zeebrugge. But the
course to the Thames is not our course. The old fourteen-hour trip
to Hull often takes us forty now. Every passage is different, too.
It isn't only on the sea that the Germans try to bother us; they
also keep after us when we are in port here. Only yesterday the
Dutch inspectors did us a good turn by arresting five spies
monkeying around the boat--three Germans and two Dutchmen."
The little vessel was headed into the stream now, the three Tommies
had gone inside, followed a little later by the two men who were on
the deck when I arrived, men who talked French. When the steward
left I was alone on the deck.
I watched the receding lights of Rotterdam till they flickered out
in the distance. The night was misty and too dark to make out
anything on shore. My thoughts went back to the last time, nearly
a year before, when I had been on that river. I saw it then, in
flood of moonlight as I stepped on the boat deck of the giant liner
_Rotterdam_. The soft strains of a waltz floated up from the music
room, adding enchantment to the windmills and low Dutch farmhouses
strung out below the level of the water.
At that time my thoughts were full of my coming attempt to get into
Germany, a Germany which was smashing through Serbia, and already
planning the colossal onslaught against Verdun, the onslaught which
she hoped would put France out of the war. I had got into Germany,
but for a long time I had almost despaired of getting out; twice I
had been turned back courteously but firmly from the frontiers,
once when I tried to cross to Switzerland and again when I started
for Denmark. A reliable friend had told me that the Wilhelmstrasse
had suspected me but could prove nothing against me. The day
before I felt Germany I was called to the Wilhelmstrasse, where I
received the interesting and somewhat surprising information that
the greatest good that a correspondent could do in the world be to
use his influence to bring the United States and Germany to a
better understanding. I made neither comment nor promise. I was
well aware that the same Wilhelmstrasse, while laying the wires for
an attempt to have my country play Germany's game, was sedulously
continuing its propaganda of _Gott strafe Amerika_ among the German
people. As in the hatred sown against Great Britain hate against
America was sown so that the Government would have a united Germany
behind them in case of war.
I was at last out of Germany, but the lights of the Hook of Holland
reminded me that a field of German activity lay ahead--floating
mines, torpedoes, submarines, and swift destroyers operating from
Ostend and Zeebrugge. They are challenging British supremacy in
the southern part of the North Sea, through the waters of which we
must now feel our way.
We were off the Hook running straight to the open sea. The nervous
feeling of planning and delay of the last few days gave way now to
the exhilaration which comes of activity in danger. If the Germans
should get us, the least that would happen to me would be
internment until the end of the war. I was risking everything on
the skill and pluck of the man who paced the bridge above my head,
and on the efficiency of the British patrol of the seas.
The little steamer suddenly began to plunge and roll with the waves
washing her decks when I groped my way, hanging to the rail, to the
snug cabin where six men sat about the table. The pallor of their
faces made them appear wax-like in the yellow light of the smoking
oil lamp which swung suspended overhead. Three of them were
British, two were Belgian, and one was French, but there was a
common bond which drew them together in a comradeship which
transcends all harriers of nationality, for they had escaped from a
They welcomed me to the table. It is surprising what a degree of
intimacy can spring up between seven men, all with histories
behind, and all with the same hope of getting to England. They
were only beginning to find themselves, they were indeed still
groping to pick up the threads of reality of a world from which
they had been snatched two years before.
The Englishman at my right, a corporal, had been taken prisoner
with a bullet in his foot at the retreat from Mons. In the summer
of 1916 he had been sent to a punishment work camp near Windau in
Courland. I had already heard unsavoury rumours of this camp while
I was in Germany, of men forced to toil until they dropped in their
tracks, of an Englishman shot simply because his guard was in bad
temper. But the most damning arraignment of Windau came from a
young Saxon medical student, who told me that after he had
qualified, for a commission as second lieutenant he declined to
accept it. This was such an unusual occurrence in a country where
the army officer is a semi-deity that I was naturally curious to
"I am loyal to the Fatherland," the young Saxon said to me, "and I
am not afraid to die. I was filled with enthusiasm to receive a
commission, but all that enthusiasm died when I saw the way Russian
prisoners were treated in East Prussia and at Windau. I saw them
stripped to the waist under orders from the camp officers, tied to
trees and lashed until the blood flowed. When I saw one prisoner,
weak from underfeeding, cut with switches until he died in the
presence of a Berlin captain, my mind was made up. My country has
gone too far in making the army officer supreme. I now could see
the full significance of Zabern, a significance which I could not
realise at the time. During the first part of the war I became
angry when outsiders called us barbarians; now I feel sad. I do
not blame them. But it is our system that is at fault, and we must
correct it. Therefore, although I am an insignificant individual
and do not count, I shall, as I love my country, obey the dictates
of my conscience. I will not be an officer in the German system."
I thought of that sincere young student while the boat staggered
under the onslaughts of heavy seas, and the corporal told of how
twelve hours' daily toil on the railway in Courland with rations
entirely inadequate for such work, finally put him on the sick
list, and he was sent back to Munster in western Germany.
He was then sent into the fields with two companions--the two who
were in the group about the table--and with them he seized a
favourable opportunity to escape. His companions had tried on
previous occasions, each separately, but had been caught, sent back
and put into dark cells and given only one meal a day for a long
and weakening period. That did not daunt them. The Germans
thought that men who had gone through that kind of punishment would
not try to escape again. Yet as soon as their strength was
restored through their food parcels from home they were off, but in
an entirely different direction.
I asked one of them, a little Welshman, where be got the waterproof
rubber bag on the floor at his feet, in which were all his earthly
belongings. "That used to be the old German farmer's tablecloth,"
To-day in Europe there are millions of civilians dressed in
military uniform, which fails to hide the fact that their main work
of life is not that of the soldier. But the three British soldiers
sitting under the smoky brass lamp were of a different sort.
Twelve years of service had so indelibly stamped them as soldiers
of the King that the make-shift clothing given them in Holland,
could not conceal their calling. Their faces were an unnatural
white from the terrible experiences which they had undergone, but,
like the rest of the Old Army, they were always soldiers, every
inch of them.
The two men whom, I had heard talking French on the deck were
Belgians. The one had been a soldier at Liege, and had managed to
scramble across a ditch after his three days' tramp to Holland,
although the sentry's bullet whistled uncomfortably close. He said
that his strongest wish was to rejoin the Belgian army so that he
might do his part to avenge the death of seven civilian hostages
who had been shot before his eyes.
The other Belgian was just over military age, but he wanted to
reach England to volunteer. His nerve and resource are certainly
all right. He knew of the electrified wire along the Belgian-Dutch
frontier, so he brought two pieces of glass with him, and thus held
the current of death away from his body while he wriggled through
We talked until after midnight. The French captain, formerly an
instructor of artillery at Saint Cyr--the West Point and the
Sandhurst of France--taken prisoner in the first autumn of the war,
was the last to tell his story.
At Torgau, Saxony, in the heart of Germany, be plunged into the
Elbe in the darkness of night, stemmed the swift waters, and on
landing, half-drowned, rose speedily and walked fast to avoid a
For twenty-nine days he struggled on towards liberty. Nothing but
the tremendous impulse of the desire for freedom could have carried
him on his own two feet across Germany, without money, through
countless closely-policed villages and great cities, in a country
where everyone carries an identity book (with which, of course, he
was unprovided), without a friend or accomplice at any point of the
journey, with only a map torn from a railway time-table, and no
other guides than the sun, moon, and stars and direction posts. I
will give the rest of the man's story in his own words.
"I came to the conclusion that my brain would not stand the
captivity. I knew some of the difficulties before me, but I doubt
whether I would have started if I had known them all. I lived on
unthreshed wheat and rye, apples, blackberries, bilberries,
carrots, turnips and even raw potatoes. I did not taste one morsel
of cooked food or anything stronger than water till I arrived in
Holland. I did not speak one word to any human being. On two
occasions I marched more than thirty miles in the twenty-four
hours. I slept always away from the roadside, and very often by
day, and as far as possible from any inhabited house. I am, as you
see, weak and thin, practically only muscle and bone, and during
the last three days, while waiting in Holland for the boat, I have
had to eat carefully to avoid the illness that would almost
certainly follow repletion."
After I had lain down for a few hours' sleep, I thought, as I had
often thought during the past thirty months, that although this is
a war of machinery there is plenty of the human element in it, too.
People who tell only of the grim-drab aspect of the great struggle
sometimes forget that romances just as fine as were ever spun by
Victor Hugo happen around, them every day.
At dawn I hung to the rail of the wildly tossing ship, looking at
the horizon from which the mists were clearing. Two specks began
to grow into the long low black lines of destroyers. Our most
anxious moment of the voyage had come. We waited for the shot that
would show them to be German.
"They're all right. They're the escort!" came a voice on the winds
that swept over the bridge.
They grew rapidly large, lashed the sea white as they tore along
one on each side of us, diving through the waves when they could
not ride them. When abreast of us they seemed almost to stop in
their own length, wheel and disappear in the distance. Somehow the
way they wheeled reminded me of the way the Cossacks used to pull
their horses sharply at right angles when I saw them covering the
rearguard in the retreat through the Bukovina.
The rough soldier at my side looked after them, with a mist in his
eyes that did not come from the sea. "I'll be able to see my wife
again," he said, more to the waves than to me. "I didn't write,
because I didn't want to raise any false hopes. But this settles
it, we're certain to get home safe now. I suppose I'll walk in and
find her packing my food parcel for Germany--the parcel that kept
me alive, while some of them poor Russian chaps with nobody to send
them parcels are going under every day."
We ran close to two masts sticking up out of the water near the
mouth of the Humber, the mast of our sister ship, which had gone
down with all on board when she struck a mine.
That is the sort of sight which makes some critics say, "What is
the matter with the British Navy?" Those critics forget to praise
the mine-sweepers that we saw all about, whose bravery, endurance
and noble spirit of self-sacrifice lead them to persevere in their
perilous work and enable a thousand ships to reach port to one that
On that rough voyage across the North Sea, through the destroyer
and armed motor launch patrol, maintained by men who work
unflinchingly in the shadow of death, I felt once again the power
of the British Navy. I cast my lot with that Navy when I left
Holland. I know what its protection means, for I could not have
crossed on a neutral Dutch vessel.
It is all very well to complain about a few raiders that manage in
thirty months to pierce the British patrols, or the hurried dash of
swift destroyers into the Channel, but when you look from the white
chalk cliffs of the Kentish coast at hundreds of vessels passing
safely off the Downs, when you sail the Atlantic and the
Mediterranean and see only neutral and Allied ships carrying on
commerce, when you cross the Rhine and stand in food lines hour
after hour and day after day, where men and women who gloried in
war now whine at the hardships it brings, when you see a mighty
nation disintegrating in the shadow of starvation, and then pass to
another nation, which, though far less self-sustaining in food, has
plenty to eat, you simply have to realise that there are silent
victories which are often farther reaching than victories of
THE LITTLE SHIPS
I have been particularly impressed with two misconceptions which
have existed, and to some extent still exist, not only in Germany
but in neutral countries. The first is that England lacks
virility, is degenerate, has had her day of greatness; the second,
that in the present war she is continuing what is alleged to have
been her policy in the past, namely, pulling the strings and
reaping the benefit while other nations do the fighting. Through
personal investigation I find these contentions so thoroughly
refuted that to develop the point would be to commence another book
instead of finishing this one.
As I write I can look from my desk in the Alexandra Hotel,
Bridlington, on to the North Sea where it washes the "Frightfulness
Coast," for Bridlington lies between Hull and Scarborough.
I see trawlers fishing and mine-sweeping whenever I raise my eyes
from my writing. Their crews know that they work in the shadow of
death in what they describe in the dock-side taverns as the
greatest sport in the world. Praise of the big ships often causes
us to forget the little ships. I admire the one and reverence the
other. For if the men on the humbler craft could be intimidated,
the doctrine of Frightfulness would be justified by victory.
Intimidation is a favourite weapon of the people across the Rhine.
I was among them when their airmen dropped bombs on Paris early in
the war. "It is really humane," they said, "for it will frighten
the civilian population into imploring the military to yield to us
to save them." They thought the same of Zeppelin raids over
England. Intimidation was their guiding star in Belgium. The
first I heard of the massacre of Louvain was from one of its
Intimidation was again their weapon in the case of Captain Fryatt.
"We planned it well," snarled a member of the Reichstag, incensed
over my expression of disapproval, "Before we sent our ships to
intercept the _Brussels_ we determined to capture him, try him
quickly and execute him. Since our submarines will win the war we
must protect them by all passible means. You see, when the next
British captain thinks of ramming one of our submarines he will
remember the fate of Captain Fryatt and think twice!"
Once more Germany is attempting intimidation, and seeking to make
neutrals her ally in an attempt to starve Britain into defeat. The
American Ambassador is leaving Berlin, hundreds of neutral vessels
hug havens of safety all over the world, but the women in Grimsby
and Hull still wave farewell to the little trawlers that slip down
the Humber to grapple with death. Freighters, mine-sweepers,
trawlers, and the rest of the unsung tollers of the sea continue
their silent, all-important task. They know that for them Germany
has declared the law off, that they will be slaughtered at sight.
They know also that despite the Grand Fleet and the armies in
France, the Allies and their cause will go down in complete defeat
if Germany succeeds in blocking the routes of commerce. The
insurmountable obstacle in her path is the simple, old-fashioned
dogged courage of the average British seaman.
The Germans have developed to an astounding degree the quality of
incorrectly diagnosing other peoples, due partly to the unbounded
conceit engendered by their three wars of unification and their
rapid increase of prosperity. Their mental food in recent years
has been war, conquest, disparagement of others and glorification
of self. They entered the struggle thinking only in army corps and
siege artillery. Certain undefinable moral qualities, such as the
last-ditch spirit of the old British Army on the Yser, did not come
within their scope of reckoning.
British illusions of the early part of the war are gone. The
average Briton fully appreciates Germany's gigantic strength, and
he coldly realises that as conditions are at present, his country
must supply most of the driving force--men, guns, and shells--to
break it. He thinks of the awful cost in life, and the thought
makes him serious, but he is ready for any sacrifice. He welcomes
help from Allies and neutrals, but whether the help be great or
small, he is willing and resolved to stand on his own feet, and
carry on to the end. It is this spirit which makes Britain
When losses are brought home to the Germans they generally give
vent to their feelings by hurling maledictions upon their enemies.
The Briton, under similar circumstances, is usually remarkably
quiet, but, unlike the German, he is _individually_ more
determined, in consequence of the loss, to see the thing through.
Somehow the German always made me feel that his war determination
had been organised for him.
Organisation is the glory and the curse of Germany. The Germans
are by nature and training easily influenced, and as a mass they
can be led as readily in the right path as in the wrong.
Common-sense administration and co-operation have made their cities
places of beauty, health, comfort and pleasure. But when you stop
for a moment in your admiration of the streets, buildings, statues,
bridges, in such a city as Munich and enter a crowded hall to sit
among people who listen with attention, obedience and delight to a
professor venomously instructing them in their duty of "hating with
the whole heart and the whole mind," and convincing them that "only
through hate can the greatest obstacles be overcome," you begin to
suspect that something is wrong.
It is part of the Prussian nature to push everything to extremes, a
trait which has advantages and disadvantages. It has resulted in
brilliant achievements in chemical and physical laboratories, and
in gout, dyspepsia and flabbiness in eating establishments. A
virtue carried too far becomes a vice. In Germany patriotism
becomes jingoistic hatred and contempt for others, organisation
becomes the utilisation of servility, obedience becomes willingness
to do wrong at command.
Americans and British are inclined to ascribe to the Germans their
own qualities. In nothing is this more obvious than in the English
idea that the fair treatment of Germans in England, will beget fair
treatment of the English in Germany. The Prussians, who have many
Oriental characteristics--and some of them, a good deal of Oriental
appearance--think orientally and attribute fair, or what we call
sportsmanlike, treatment to fright and a desire to curry favour.
When Maubeuge fell I heard Germans of all classes boast of how
their soldiers struck the British who offered to shake hands after
they surrendered to the Germans. Nearly two years later, during
the Battle of the Somme, some Berlin papers copied from London
papers a report of how British soldiers presented arms to the group
of prisoners who had stubbornly defended Ovillers. I called the
attention of several German acquaintances to this as an evidence of
Anglo-Saxon sporting spirit, but I got practically the same
response in every case. "Yes, they are beginning at last to see
what we can do!" was the angry remark.
The Germans have become more and more "Prussianised" in recent
years. State worship had advanced so far that the German people
entered the conflict in the perverted belief that the German
Government had used every means to avert war. It is a mistake,
however, to suppose that the German people entered the war
reluctantly. They did not. There was perfect unity in the joyful
thought of German invincibility, easy and complete victory, plenty
of plunder, and such huge indemnities that the growing burden of
taxation would be thrown off their shoulders.
A country where the innocent children are scientifically inoculated
with the virus of hate, where force, and only force, is held to be
the determinant internationally of mine and thine, where the morals
of the farmyard, are preached from the professorial chair in order
to manufacture human cogs for the machine of militarism, is an
undesirable and a dangerous neighbour and will continue so until it
accepts other standards. A victorious Germany would not accept
That is why I look on the little ships with so much admiration this
morning. They sail between Germany and victory, for if they could
be intimidated Britain would be starved out. Then the gospel that
"only through hate can the greatest obstacles be overcome," would
be the corner-stone of the most powerful Empire of history.
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