TO the outsider, the Germans seem a fierce and martial nation. But, in reality, the mass of the Germans, in consenting to the great sacrifice entailed by their enormous preparations for war, have been actuated by fear.
This fear dates from the Thirty Years’ War, the war which commenced in 1618 and was terminated in 1648. In 1648, when the Treaty of Westphalia was concluded, Germany was almost a desert. Its population had fallen from twenty millions to four millions. The few remaining people were so starved that cannibalism was openly practised, In the German States polygamy was legalised, and was a recognised institution for many years there-after.
Of thirty-five thousand Bohemian villages, only six thousand were left standing. In the lower Palatinate only one tenth of the population survived; in Wurttemberg, only one-sixth. Hundreds of square miles of once fertile country were overgrown with forests inhabited only by wolves.
A picture of this horrible period is found in the curious novel, “The Adventurous Simplicissimus,” written by Grimmelshausen, and published in 1669, which describes the adventures of a wise peasant who finally leaves his native Germany and betakes himself to a desert island which he refuses to leave when offered an opportunity to go back to the Fatherland. He answers those who wish to persuade him to go back with words which seem quite appropriate today: “My God, where do you want to carry me? Here is peace. There is war. Here I know nothing of the arts of the court, ambitions, anger, envy, deceit, nor have I cares concerning my clothing and nourishment. . . . While I still lived in Europe everything was (O, woe that I must appear witness to such acts of Christians!) filled with war, burning, murder, robbery, plundering and the shame of women and virgins.” The Munich weekly, “Simplicissimus,” whose powerful political cartoons have often startled Europe, takes its name from this character.
After the conclusion of the Thirty Years’ War, Germany was again and again ravaged by smaller wars, culminating in the Seven Years’ War of Frederick the Great and the humbling of Germany under the heel of Napoleon. In the wars of Frederick the Great, one tenth of the population was killed. Even the great Battle of the Nations at Leipsic in 1813 did not free Germany from wars, and in 1866 Prussia and the smaller North German States, with Italy, defeated Austria, assisted by Bavaria, Hesse-Cassel, Hesse-Darmstadt, Nassau, Saxony, Baden, Wurttemberg and Hanover.
I am convinced that the fear of war induced by a hereditary instinct, caused the mass of the Germans to become the tools and dupes of those who played upon this very fear in order to create a military autocracy. On the other hand, and, especially, in the noble class, we have in Germany a great number of people who believe in war for its own sake. In part, these nobles are the descend ants of to Teutonic Knights who conquered the Slav population of Prussia, and have ever since bound that population to their will.
The Prussian army was created by the father of Frederick the Great, who went to the most ridiculous extremes in obtaining tall men at all costs for his force.
The father of Frederick the Great gave the following written instructions to the two tutors of his son. “Above all let both tutors exert themselves to the utmost to in-spire him with a love of soldiery and carefully impress upon his mind that, as nothing can confer honour and fame upon a prince except the sword, the monarch who seeks not his sole satisfaction in it must ever appear a contemptible character in the eyes of the world.”
Frederick the Great left, by the death of that father who had once threatened to execute him, at the head of a marvellous army with a full treasury, finally decided upon war, as he admits in his own letters, “in order to be talked about,” and his desire to be talked about led to the Seven Years’ War.
The short war against Denmark in 1864, against Austria, Bavaria, etc., in 1866 and against France in 1870, enormously increased both the pride and prestige of the Prussian army. It must not be forgotten that at all periods of history it seems as if some blind instinct had driven the inhabitants of the inhospitable plains of North Germany to war and to conquest. The Cimbri and Teutones the tribes defeated by Marius; Ariovistus, who was defeated by Julius Caesar; the Goths and the Visi-Goths; the Franks and the Saxons; all have poured forth from this infertile country, for the conquest of other lands. The Germans of to-day express this longing of the North Germans for pleasanter climes in the phrase in which they demand “a place in the sun.”
The nobles of Prussia are always for war. The business men and manufacturers and ship-owners desire an increasing field for their activities. The German colonies were uninhabitable by Europeans. All his life the glitttering Emperor and his generals had planned and thought of war; and the Crown Prince, surrounded by his remarkable collection of relics and reminders of Napoleon, dreamed only of taking the lead in a successful war of conquest. Early in the winter of 1913-14 the Crown Prince showed his collection of Napoleana to a beautiful American woman of my acquaintance, and said that he hoped war would occur while his father was alive, but, if not, he would start a war the moment he came to the throne.
Since writing the above, the American woman who had this conversation with the Crown Prince wrote out for me the exact conversation in her own. words, as follows : “I had given him Norman Angell’s book, ‘The Great Illusion,’ which seeks to prove that war is unprofitable. He (the Crown Prince) said that whether war was profitable or not, when he came to the throne there would be war, if not before, just for the fun of it. On a previous occasion he had said that the plan was to attack and conquer France, then England, and after that my country (the United States of America) Russia was also to be conquered, and Germany would be master of the world.”
The extraordinary collection of relics, statues, busts, souvenirs, etc., of the first Napoleon, collected by the Crown Prince, which he was showing at the time of the first of these conversations to this American lady, shows the trend of his mind and that all his admiration is centred upon Napoleon, the man who sought the mastery of the world, and who is thought by admirers like the Crown Prince to have faded only because of slight mistakes which they feel, in his place, they would not have made.
If the Germans’ long preparations for war were to bear any fruit, countless facts pointed to the summer of 1914 as the time when the army should strike that great and sudden blow at the liberties of the world.
It was in June, 1914, that the improved Kiel Canal was reopened, enabling the greatest warships to pass from the Baltic to the North Sea.
In the Zeppelins the Germans had arms not possessed by any other country and with which they undoubtedly believed that they could do much more damage to Great Britain than was the case after the actual outbreak of hostilities. They had paid great attention to the development of the submarine. Their aeroplanes were superior to those of other nations. They believed that in the use of poison gas, which was prepared before the outbreak of the war, they had a prize that would absolutely demoralise their enemy. They had their flame throwers and the heavy artillery and howitzers which reduced the redoubtable forts of Liège and Namur to fragments within a few hours, and which made the holding of any fortresses impossible.
On their side, by the imposition of a heavy tax called the Wehrbeitrag or supplementary defence tax, they had, in 1913, increased their army by a number of army corps. On the other hand, the law for three years’ military service voted in France had not yet gone into effect, nor had the law for universal military service voted by the Belgian Chambers. Undoubtedly the Germans based great hopes upon the Bagdad railway which was to carry their influence to the East, and even threatened the rule of Great Britain in Egypt and India. Undoubtedly there was talk, too, of a Slav railroad to run from the Danube to the Adriatic which would cut off Germany from access to the Southern Sea. Francis Deloisi, the Frenchman, in his book published before the great war, called “De la Guerre des Balkans à la Guerre Européenne,” says, “In a word, the present war (Balkan) is the work of Russia, and the Danube Asiatic railway is a Russian project. If it succeeds, a continuous barrier of Slav peoples will bar the way to the Mediterranean of the path of Austro-German expansion from the Black Sea to the Adriatic. But here again the Romanoffs confront the Hapsburgs, the Austro-Serb conflict becomes the Austro-Russian conflict, two great groups are formed, and the Balkan conflict becomes the European conflict.”
Another reason for an immediate war was the loan by France to Russia made on condition that additional strategic railways were to be constructed by the Russians in Poland. Although this money had been received, the railways had not been constructed at the time of the opening of the Great War. Speaking of this situation, the Russian General Kuropatkin, in his report for the year 1900, said, “We must cherish no illusions as to the possibility of an easy victory over the Austrian army,” and he then went on to say, “Austria had eight railways to transport troops to the Russian frontier while Russia had only four; and, while Germany had seventeen such railways running to the German-Russian frontier, the Russians had only five.” Kuropatkin further said, “The differences are too enormous and leave our neighbors a superiority which cannot be overcome by the numbers of our troops, or their courage”
Comparing the two armies, he said, “The invasion of Russia by German troops is more probable than the invasion of Germany by Russian troops”; and, “Our Western frontier, in the event of a European war, would be in such danger as it never has known in all the history of Russia.”
Agitation by workmen in Russia was believed in Germany to be the beginning of a revolution.
Illuminating figures may be seen in the gold purchase of the German Imperial Bank: in 1911, 174,000,000 marks; in 1912, 173,000,000 marks; but in .1913, 317,t000,000 marks.
There was a belief in Germany that the French nation was degenerate and corrupt and unprepared for war. This belief became conviction when, in the debates of the French Senate, Senator Humbert, early in 1914 pub licly exposed what he claimed to be the weakness and unpreparedness of France.
Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador in London, certainly reported to his government that England did not wish to enter the war. He claims now that he did not mean that Great Britain would not fight at all events, but undoubtedly the German Foreign Office believed that Great Britain would remain out of the war. The raising of the Ulster army by Sir Edward Carson, one of the most gigantic political bluffs in all history, which had no more revolutionary or military significance than a torchlight parade during one of our presidential campaigns, was reported by the German spies as a real and serious revolutionary movement; and, of course, it was believed by the Germans that Ireland would rise in general rebellion the moment that war was declared. In the summer of ’914 Russia was believed to be on the edge of revolution.
As I have said in a previous chapter, the movement against militarism, culminating in the extraordinary vote in, the Reichstag against the government at the time of the Zabern Affair, warned the government and military people that the mass of Germans were coming to their senses and were preparing to shake off the bogy of militarism and fear, which had roosted so long on their shoulders like a Prussian old-man-of-the-sea. The Pan Germans and the Annexationists were hot for war. The people alive could recall only three wars, the war against Denmark in 1864, which was settled in a few days and added the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein to the Prussian crown, and the war of 1866 in which Bavaria, Baden, Wurttemberg, Hesse-Darmstadt, and Saxony were defeated, when the Austrian kingdom of Hanover disappeared and the territories of Hesse-Cassel and Nassau, and the free city of Frankfort were added to Prussia. This wars from its declaration to the battle of Konigcompletely defeated, France was defeated opening of hostilities; believed when, on the gratz in which the Austrians were lasted only two weeks. In 1870, within a month and a half after the so that the Kaiser was implicitly on the first day of the war, he appeared on the balcony of the palace and told the crowds who we “before the leaves have fallen from back in your homes.” The army believed him and believed, too, that would see the destruction of Franc seizure of her rich colonies; that struck a good quick blow before she army and resources; that Great B neutral; and that Germany would it not the actual owner, at least the Some one has since said that the meant pine trees.
Working ever in the dark, either newspapers, the great munition and Krupp’s insidiously poisoned the min the microbe of war.
Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador to London, called upon me often after the outbreak of the war, and insisted that he had correctly re of Great Britain in saying that G want war. After his return to G quite unfairly treated him as a ma seemed to blame him because Great only possible course open to her a the side of France and Russia.
The dedication at Leipzig, in theyear 1913, of the great monument to celebrate what is called the “War of Liberation,” and the victory of Leip Nations, 1813, had undoubtedly kindled a material in Germany. To my mind, the coursewhich really determined the Emperor and the ruling class for war was the attitude of the whole people in the Zabern Affair and their evident and growing dislike of militarism. The fact that the Socialists, at the close of the session of the Reichstag, boldly remained in the Chamber and refused to rise or to cheer the name of the Emperor indicated a new spirit of resistance to autocracy; and autocracy saw that if it was to keep its hold upon Germany it must lead the nation into a short and successful war.
This is no new trick of a ruling and aristocratic class. From the days when the patricians of Rome forced the people into war whenever the people showed a disposition to demand their rights, autocracies have always turned to war as the best antidote against the spirit of democracy.