Copyright
David Jayne Hill.

The rebuilding of Europe : a survey of forces and conditions online

. (page 13 of 15)
Online LibraryDavid Jayne HillThe rebuilding of Europe : a survey of forces and conditions → online text (page 13 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


their belief in the moral soundness of the German
people must now realize how cruelly they them-
selves, as well as their friends in Germany, have
been deceived by the sophistications of the Im-
perial Government's propaganda, which has
everywhere made appeal to race prejudice and
sordid interest, but never to the noble humanism
that was once esteemed characteristic of German
thought.

The evidence that the motives of the Imperial
German Government are unscrupulous, preda-
tory, and ruthless has become overwhelming. Its
conspiracies envelop the world. They have been
directed under the mask of friendship by official
diplomacy on our own soil. They lay under
tribute every quarter of the globe and seek part-
ners in crime in both hemispheres. Such a power
is the enemy of all mankind. At last the Ameri-
can people have come to understand this ; but they
have not, perhaps, even yet fully appreciated how
America will be affected by the fate of Europe,
for the fate of Europe will determine the fate of
the world.



246 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

The President of the United States has said:

"We have no quarrel with the German people. We
have no feeling toward them but one of sympathy and
friendship. It was not upon their impulse that their
Government acted in entering the war. It was not with
their previous knowledge or approval.

There is a commendable spirit of fairness in
these words; yet it should not be overlooked that
the German people are not without responsibility
for the war and for its consequences. It is an
error to suppose that the population of Germany
is the victim of a system of oppression against
which the people are in a state of mental revolt,
that they do not sympathize with their Govern-
ment, or that if they could, they would overthrow
it as the people of Russia have overthrown the
Romanoff autocracy. The German people have
profited greatly in an economic sense from the
creation of the empire; they believe in a strong
government, and they have passively accepted
without protest the Prussian domination. What
may be called the directing class the class that
shapes and controls what passes for "public opin-
ion" in Germany is virtually unanimous in its
support of the Hohenzollern dynasty, and it has



AMERICA'S INTEREST. 247

its own reasons for this devotion, for the emperor
is a generous dispenser of honors, which Ger-
mans especially enjoy, and even has it in his power
to give financial credit as well as public position
to those whom he wishes to favor. The army and
navy have come to be recognized constituents of
the industrial and commercial system of the Ger-
man Empire to a degree that has no parallel in
any other country. They are regarded as the
tentacles of foreign trade, the prehensile forces
of national expansion. Add to this that every
able-bodied male in Germany is trained for war,
and taught that it is a "biological necessity," and
it becomes, perhaps, possible to comprehend why
the Imperial German Government has had and
so long as its plans bring success will probably
continue to have in whatever it does the support
of the German nation. Nothing but evident fail-
ure to realize its projects of annexation and to
satisfy the ambitions of the directing class can
destroy its hold upon the country.

There is in Germany a residue of feudalism
that exists to the same degree nowhere else in
Europe. In matters of public interest the Prus-
sian peasant is mere clay in the hands of his



248 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

Junker master. As much as possible and his
grinding toil renders the task easy he is kept in
ignorance of politics. To his simple mind the
kaiser acts, as he professes to act, under divine
direction, and all the peasant's religious convic-
tions and emotions thus become imperial property.
As a soldier he is a cheerful automaton, ready to
"goose-step" anywhere the command is given him
to go. As a citizen he is nil. When he votes he
takes his cue from "die Herrschaften," as he ob-
sequiously calls his superiors.

In the cities the industrial workers and their
leaders have developed a keen interest in political
matters, but their political ideas are frequently
nebulous and always largely theoretical, though
often accompanied by brave and honest convic-
tions for the most part suppressed. These are the
elements from which are formed the Social Demo-
crats. Occasionally the inner consciousness of
these men overflows in public utterance, some-
times in the Reichstag itself, as when Karl Lieb-
knecht said on December 2, 1914:

I refuse the war credits demanded, at the same time
protesting against the war, those responsible for it and
directing it, against the capitalist policy which has in-



AMERICA'S INTEREST 249

cited it, against the capitalist designs which it pursues,
against the plans of annexation, against the violation of
Belgian and Luxemburg neutrality, against the military
dictatorship, against the forgetfulness of social and politi-
cal duty of which the Government and the directing classes
still at this time render themselves culpable.

For this attitude Liebknecht, though a member
of the Reichstag, was sent to prison, and the text
of his speech was never printed by the German
newspapers. Those venturing to print it would
have been suppressed.

This violation of parliamentary immunity in
England, in France, or in the United States would
of itself occasion a popular uprising. In Ger-
many it sealed the lips of thousands who believed
as Liebknecht did. "We are not, as you are, in
the habit of reckoning with public opinion," said
one of the most distinguished of the younger men
in official life in Germany. "With us it does not
count for anything. Opinion has never had any
effect on policy. It resembles rather the chorus
of antiquity, which looks on and comments upon
an action unfolding around it. I should compare
it," he concludes, "to a crowd that follows, but is
not admitted to the game."



250 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

There is, of course, a difference between active
aggressors and those who, without discriminating
between their actions, give them loyal support.
But it is the consequences rather than the motives
of a national attitude with which other nations
have to deal. So long, therefore, as the German
people continue to support a war which their own
directing class in moments of frank utterance con-
fesses to be predatory, and still continues to advo-
cate, the rest of the world must treat them as
enemies not less than the Government which de-
rives its strength from their support.

What then is the testimony of the Germans
themselves regarding their aims and ambitions in
this war? In a book of more than four hundred
octavo pages, the Swiss publicist Grumbach has
collected "Documents Published or Secretly Cir-
culated in Germany Since August 4, 1914," bear-
ing upon the annexation of conquered territory.
In his preface he declares, "No competent person
can dispute the fact that the war aims of Germany
are of a nature to cause the greatest anxiety to the
entire world."

Although the Imperial Government avoids as



AMERICA'S INTEREST 251

much as possible committing itself to any definite
declaration of policy, it allows and even encour-
ages a popular demand for annexations and in-
demnities. Men of every party, of every class,
and of every profession possessing influence in
public affairs in Germany, have constantly voiced
the demand for annexations which the Pan-Ger-
manist literature had made before the war and
often in the same terms. The expectations of
spoils which rendered the war popular in Ger-
many in the beginning have during every stage
of its progress taken the form of urgency that
they be realized at its close.

Not knowing just how the war will end, the
Imperial Government dares not promise too much,
but it does not hesitate to keep alive a popular ap-
proval of any conquests which the forces at its
disposal may eventually enable it to make.
"Compare," writes Gmmbach, "the passivity
which the authorities manifested when the Six
Great Industrial and Agrarian Leagues circu-
lated their famous annexationist petition without
encountering the least obstacle, with the confisca-
tion at the moment of its publication of the peti-
tion of the anti-annexationist league Neues Vater-



252 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

land, intended as a reply," followed by the grad-
ual strangling of the anti-annexationist league un-
der police surveillance, and the imprisonment of
its secretary.

It is important also to note that the territory
now claimed for annexation in the West is even
in excess of that marked out for conquest by the
Pan-German writers in 1911. "In the interest
of our own existence," says the petition, "we ought
to enfeeble France politically and economically,
without scruple, and to render our military and
strategic situation more favorable with regard to
it. We are convinced that, to secure that end, a
serious correction of our whole Western frontier,
from Belfort to the coast, is necessary. We ought
to do everything possible to conquer a part of the
French coast, from the North to the Pas-de-Calais,
in order to be assured from a strategic point of
view against England, and to possess a better ap-
proach to the ocean." The German scientific ex-
perts, it is explained by one of the commentators
on this extension of the frontier, were not aware in
1871 of the vast treasures of coal and iron that
they had failed to claim !

The territory now demanded includes: in the



AMERICA'S INTEREST 253

West, the whole of Belgium and the frontier terri-
tories of France, that is to say, the part of the
coast almost to the Somme, with a hinterland as-
suring the complete economic and strategic ex-
ploitation of a port on the Channel, the iron-mine
fields of Briey, the frontier fortresses with the
lines of the Meuse, especially Verdun and Bel-
fort, with the watershed west of the Vosges, be-
tween Verdun and Belfort; on the East, "at least"
parts of the Baltic provinces and the territories to
the South, in such a manner that the new acquisi-
tions would protect first of all the present Prus-
sian provinces the whole length of the frontiers of
Eastern Prussia, and also the length of the fron-
tiers of Western Prussia, of Posnania, and of
Silesia.

To secure these advantages the six leagues
stated in their manifesto that they did not desire
a "premature peace"; for, "from such a peace,"
the petition runs, "one could not expect a suffi-
cient fruit of victory" !

But, in addition to the defined areas of con-
quest, there are certain indefinite aspirations here
set forth, "if it be possible to realize them"!
These include "a colonial empire which would



254 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

fully satisfy the manifold economic interests of
Germany, besides guarantees for our commercial
future and the securing of a sufficient war indem-
nity, paid in an appropriate form."

This definition of what the war is really for,
prepared in May, 1915, is signed by representa-
tives of the League of Agriculturists, the League
of German Peasants, the Directing Group of the
Christian Associations of German Peasants, the
Central Group of German Industrials, the League
of Industrials, and the Union of the Middle
Classes of the Empire, these being the six largest
and most powerful economic groups in Germany.
It is not pretended in this petition that the results
demanded have already been brought within the
power of the Imperial Government. It is a pro-
gram of aims to be achieved before the war closes,
and a confessed enlargement of the purposes with
which it was begun. "These exigencies," it ex-
pressly states, "it is needless to say, depend upon
the possibility that the army may realize them."

The reasons for these additional conquests are
not that Belgium and France have forfeited these
territories by making an attack upon Germany.
The iron- and coal-fields specified are said to be



AMERICA'S INTEREST 255

"indispensable not only for the existence of our
industrial power, but they constitute military ne-
cessities"; that is, they are desired as new bases
for future military activity. It is pointed out
that "neutral industrial States are constrained to
make themselves the tools of that one of the bel-
ligerents that can assure them a supply of coal."
By possessing all the coal in Western Europe,
Germany can better exercise that restraint. Ger-
many, it is urged, has already been "obliged to
have recourse to the Belgian production, in order
to prevent our neutral neighbors from becoming
dependent on England." Besides, in Belgium,
it is explained, are found also "the fundamental
elements of our principal explosives"; and "ben-
zol, the only substitute for benzine, which we lack,
and this is indispensable for submarines."

For these reasons Belgium and Northwestern
France must belong to Germany. The native
populations of these districts, it is insisted, "shall
not be put in a position to obtain a political influ-
ence upon the destinies of the German Empire."
It is also urged that "the existing means of eco-
nomic power in these territories, including the
medium and the great properties, shall be placed



256 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

in the hands of Germans, in a manner that shall
require France to indemnify and recall the pro-
prietors"!

Were these encouragements to depredation and
conquest merely the spontaneous expression of the
desires of these signatories, or were they indirectly
inspired by the Imperial Government itself, with
a view to making its conduct seem like the exe-
cution of a popular mandate? It is impossible
conclusively to answer this question ; but the atti-
tude of the Imperial Government is certainly not
one of hostility to the most extreme of these de-
mands. The emperor, whose stake in this game
is the greatest of all, is the least definite in state-
ment ; but his words might be interpreted as ultra-
annexationist if circumstances should make that
course seem expedient. He has expressed his de-
sire for "a peace which would offer us the military,
political, and economic guarantees of which we
have need for the future, and which would fulfil
all the conditions necessary to a free employment
of our creative forces, at home as well as upon the
sea." The King of Bavaria expressly wishes "a
gate of exit direct from the Rhine to the sea,"
with "an enlargement of the Empire beyond its



AMERICA'S INTEREST 257

present frontiers." The Duke of Mecklenburg
demands "a powerful colonial empire in Africa,
and a sufficient number of solid points d'appui
on the terrestrial globe for our marine and our
commerce, coaling stations and stations for wire-
less telegraphy." The former imperial chan-
cellor, Bethmann-Hollweg, shrewdly limits his
expectations to "all the powers and all the real
guarantees possible" ; but these, he insists, "must
secure for Germany a position unshakably
strong." The secretary for colonies, Dr. Solf,
wishes the empire "to possess colonies in all the
climatic zones, but without prejudice to possible
territorial gains in Europe." The Prussian min-
ister of the interior, Loebell, thinks, "The Ger-
man empire ought to open a road by fire and blood
to the point where it may fulfil its mission of
world politics."

In the same spirit, but often much more defi-
nitely, speak innumerable privy counsellors, mem-
bers of the Reichstag, university professors, mili-
tary officers, diplomatists, and pastors, whose
views are repeated and generally applauded by
the press, with the exception of the Social Demo-
cratic organs, from the daily newspapers to the



258 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

serious reviews. The evidence is absolutely over-
whelming that from the first months of the war
the directing classes of Germany have been eager
for territorial conquests.

In order to give some appearance of justice to
these plans for imperial expansion at the expense
of 'Belgium and France, the legend of a "con-
spiracy" to attack Germany and destroy her, of
which England is charged with being the insti-
gator, and France, Belgium, and Russia the eager
instruments, has been persistently propagated in
Germany and in the United States. As a penalty,
runs the legend, for bringing this dreadful scourge
of war upon peace-loving Germany, these guilty
nations must repay her for the terrible sacrifices
made by her brave sons and loyal subjects, who
have given their lives and their treasures for the
defense of the Fatherland. Not only territories,
but money indemnities, are expected; and these
last the imperial chancellor, as late as February
27, 1917, asserted are "necessary." This Gov-
ernment, which declared war on Russia and
France; which ordered the invasion of Belgium;
which authorized Austria-Hungary to subjugate



AMERICA'S INTEREST 259

Serbia; which in July, 1914, rejected the pro-
posals of Serbia and the Czar to submit the Aus-
tro-Serbian question to the Hague Tribunal;
which has ruined and depopulated Belgium, an-
nihilated Serbia, and devastated Poland, this
Government expects " indemnities for the wrongs
inflicted upon Germany"; and, to give this ex-
tortion a color of justice, holds these countries up
as the guilty culprits !

Note, for example, the attempt to heap calum-
nies upon Belgium for acting in self-defense.
"Deputy Hirsch [Social Democrat]," cries the
National-Liberal deputy, Dr. Friedberg, in the
Prussian Landtag, in January, 1916, "Deputy
Hirsch desires that the political and economic in-
dependence of Belgium be restored. But we have
no right to forget that Belgium was in no respect
the neutral country it appeared to be on August
2, 1914" ! And so a man who has been assas-
sinated in his bed is to have his house plundered
because it was discovered during the murder that
he had tried to make previous arrangements with
his neighbors for his protection against this very
crime !

Germany, it is said, did not desire war. But



260 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

listen to Major-General Von Gebsattel, an emi-
nent soldier-diplomat, who is not afraid to confess
the truth to his fellow-officers. In October, 1915,
he said:

We have not wished the war to try seriously this time the
efficiency of our quick-firing cannons and our machine-
guns of that we had a very exact idea, particularly we
old soldiers; we wished it because we understood our
people were on the wrong road in their development, be-
cause we considered the war a necessity, and because we
were besides aware that a war is easier as much in its
military course as for its minimum of sacrifices when
a people, in every fashion constrained to struggle for its
existence, is more resolute and more prompt to choose the
moment favorable for aggression.

Here is no attempt to conceal the fact that the
present war was not only desired by the German
officers, but that the time for it was opportunely
chosen, yet not without serious miscalculations,
and the whole progress of the war has shown how
groundless and how ignoble the accusation of an
international conspiracy is.

Realizing the futility of the conspiracy legend,
the theologian Mumm, a Christian-Socialist
deputy to the Reichstag, in the Berliner Neueste
Nachrichten, recommends that the conquest be



AMERICA'S INTEREST 261

justified to the Germans and to the world by show-
ing that historically, at some time in the past,
Belgium which he describes as "a mere poli-
tical concept due to chance and the pis-aller of
embarrassed diplomats" and the other coveted
lands were once parts of the German Empire.
"Dip into the past," he urges, "in order to write
that which should be known at present : the read-
ers will understand well what inferences to draw,
when it is not possible to expose them openly."
A truly ingenious method of concealing a cold-
blooded national crime!

In some quarters it is considered almost trea-
sonable to the empire to question the rectitude of
forcible annexation. Calling to account the
former secretary for the colonies, Dr. Bernhard
Dernburg, for assuring the people of the United
States, where he was on mission in May, 1915,
that the promise of the imperial chancellor to re-
store the independence of Belgium after the war
would be kept, the Tdgliche Rundschau declared
for home consumption: "If Herr Dernburg has
really offered to our enemies or the same as
enemies the voluntary evacuation of Belgium,
that would be an unheard-of audacity, against



262 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

which it would be necessary to direct the most
vehement protest. If he has, in fact, said that
Germany cannot think of increasing its territory
in Europe, that would be on his part an extraordi-
nary presumption! " And the Leipziger Neueste
Nachrichten, ridiculing the statement attributed
to Dr. Dernburg that Germany would not forcibly
subjugate neighboring peoples, doubts that he
really made such a statement; for, it declares,
"such a criterion would put an end to all political
development and to all colonization."

The orthodox German doctrine on that sub-
ject, it seems, was stated by the chief of the Na-
tional-Liberal party, Herr Bassermann, as early
as December, 1914, when he said in the Reich-
stag: "We shall hold till the most remote future
the countries fertilized by German blood. . . .
We shall be able to keep what we have acquired,
and to acquire in addition that of which we have
need."

But we do not reach the final formula of Ger-
man tribal ambition until we have received it
from the chief of the Free Conservative party in
the Prussian Landtag, Herr Zedlitz-Neukirch.
He said:



AMERICA'S INTEREST 263

If the peace we aim at is to be durable, all the ter-
ritorial acquisitions which the General Staff deems neces-
sary to shield us from the danger of a future war must
be secured by that peace; and no regard for our adver-
saries, their country, or their people, should prevent our im-
posing these conditions, least of all the so-called right of
the inhabitants of the territories that are to be conquered
to dispose of themselves.

The purposes for which the war was begun
having failed of accomplishment through an un-
expected obstinacy of resistance on the part of the
Entente Allies, the problem of negotiating a peace
has become a serious one for the Imperial Ger-
man Government. Not to make any annexations
or collect any indemnities beyond the levies ex-
torted from Belgium and Poland during military
occupation, would signify a defeat of the Ger-
man plans. To this kind of a settlement all
those responsible for the war quite naturally ob-
ject, and desire no relinquishment of territory
occupied and no abatement of frightfulness, in
the hope that the Allies may soon be disunited or
exhausted, thus leaving Germany the victor.
The Hohenzollern dynasty, having taken the re-
sponsibility of this vast predatory enterprise,
cannot, however, save its face without showing



264 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

some justification for the "sacrifices" imposed
upon the people of Germany. So long as the
Allies continue their opposition, this embarrass-
ment will endure; and in the meantime two
changes are occurring in the minds of the German
people: a growing weariness of the war as a re-
sult of exhaustion, and a gradual enlightenment
regarding the responsibility for a war which the
mass of the German people believed at its begin-
ning was forced upon the empire by a combina-
tion of hostile powers. As a result, the desire
for peace even without annexations and indem-
nities at first insisted upon by a group of Social
Democrats is rapidly becoming the sentiment of
the country, with the exception of the Junker
class and the military and industrial imperialists,
whose very existence as a dominating caste in
the empire depends upon the continued alliance
of private business with dynastic and military
power. Between these instigators of predatory
war and the peace-loving people of Germany the
former imperial chancellor, Bethmann-Hollweg,
anxious to save the dynasty, hesitated to formulate
the Imperial Government's terms of peace, and
to the end of his administration he adhered to



AMERICA'S INTEREST 265

his ambiguous formula, "All the pawns and all
the real guarantees possible."

The embarrassment is not, and is not likely
to be, greatly relieved by changes in the persons
holding office under the house of Hohenzollern.
The aims and interests always remain the same,
and the naming by the emperor of new ministers
serves only to postpone the real issues of reform
and the definition of policy. It means little that*


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15

Online LibraryDavid Jayne HillThe rebuilding of Europe : a survey of forces and conditions → online text (page 13 of 15)