Ray Stannard Baker.

Seen in Germany online

. (page 5 of 15)
Online LibraryRay Stannard BakerSeen in Germany → online text (page 5 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

more 's the pity, seems to be regarded as the natural
and proper pastime of the hero. It is therefore the
natural assumption of the English-speaker that a
great army such as that ot Germany necessarily means
much disorder, drunkenness, and immorality, but
never was there anything further from the truth. It
is a rare thing to see a drunken German soldier; and
as for fighting, a single Irish regiment would keep the
whole German army well supplied and have a good
many broken heads left over. The fact is, the Ger-
man soldier is worked up to the limit of his strength,
and when he is through with a day's exercises he is
quite willing to roll into his bunk. Most of the
soldiers are poor, with no monev to spend on dissi-
pation and all of them have their ambitions for a
civil career as soon as they are through with their
service. Moreover, it is not in the nature of the
German to go to wild excesses in anything. As
a consequence, wherever you find him, the German
soldier is well-behaved, and apparently always under


Seen in Germany

discipline. He usually has an hour or two off in
the afternoon or evening, and after chapel service he
is usually free on Sunday, and you see him neat and

The Soldier s Hour Off

clean, though often awkward and clumsy, parading
about the street, frequently holding the hand of a
rosy-cheeked girl or sitting in the park, unabashed,
with his arm around her. He lacks the inimitable

The German Private Soldier 91

jauntiness of the English red-coat with his little cap
cocked over his ear, and he has none of the activity
and sprightliness of the gay-clad French soldier, but
there he stands solidly in his big, coarse boots, a seri-
ous and simple-minded fellow, intent on doing his
duty, slow and clumsy, it is true, but with strength
and determination — a soldier every inch of him.
He is not good in initiative ; his whole training,
indeed, the whole life of the German empire, tends to
crush out individuality, to train him that he is nothing,
and that his company and his regiment and his em-
peror are everything, that he must obey implicitly.
The present Kaiser, in an address to his soldiers, once
said: —

" The soldier should not have a will of his own, but
all of you should have one will, and that is my will.
There exists only one law, and that is my law ; and
now go and do your duty, and be obedient to your

So the German soldier waits patiently for orders ;
and when they come he obeys, no matter what
obstacle lies in the way. And in the next Euro-
pean war he will be absolutely invincible — if he
is well led. There lies the test of this splendid
mihtary machine — in its leaders.

No stone is left unturned by the government to
promote the efficiency of the army. In order to
tempt good men to remain after their regular service

92 Seen in Germany

and to become noncommissioned officers, a series of
civil-service rewards for military service is in opera-
tion. A noncommissioned officer who serves faith-
fully for so many years may become a policeman or
fireman, or may be chosen for important service in
the government offices. He is also given preference
for employment on the railroads, which are govern-
ment property, and on other government works,
and the government service has a degree of honor
attached to it which many men covet. As a result
of this system of encouragement, the military service
has been placed on a high level and the civil service
has been filled with military men, and it breathes
forth everywhere the slow, methodical, exact, etiquette-
demanding spirit of the barracks and the parade

Thus briefly, for the subject is worthy of a large
volume, I have sketched the making of a German
soldier, of a necessity omitting much of interesting
detail, especially regarding the cavalry, artillery, and
engineer branches of the service, but endeavoring to
give some idea of the spirit of what is without
doubt the greatest military system the world ever
saw. I have perforce omitted a consideration of the
German commissioned officer except incidentally, ow-
ing to the scope of the subject and because the train-
ing of the German officer, while almost as severe as
that of the private and, of course, much more com-

The German Private Soldier 93

plete, seems to me to be less peculiarly significant of
German life and institutions. The German officer
belongs to a profession known the world over — like
a lawyer or a doctor ; the German private is a type
peculiar to the German nation.





His Daily Life, his Earnings, his Wife, his Food, his
Clothing, his Problems, and his Relations with
his Government

SINCE early morning German workingmen with
their wives and children have been coming up
from the crowded, red-tiled houses of the town,
loitering across patchwork fields and reach-
ing at last the paths along the hillsides. They are
clad in Sunday best, poor but neat and clean, with
bright patches of color and a certain engaging quaint-
ness of style. The man of the family goes first, his
hard black hands clasped behind him, and his wife
follows with the children. She is talking in the
mellow German intonation with a neighbor further
down the hill, who also has a flock of children.
Occasionally thev stop to rest for a time on one
of the green seats provided by some verein^ and look
out over the familiar valley where the town lies asleep
in the June sunshine with the lazv breath of banked
fires rising from a hundred tall chimneys. It is an
orderly gathering, even to the good-humored, prank-


98 Seen in Germany

less children, as orderly as the well-kept paths, the
pine trees set in prim, clean rows, the white signs
which indicate the direction and provide other advice
and warning, all the work of a motherly, if severe,
government. Thus they stroll upward along the
paths, which, though devious, have a wav of coming
out invariably at a pleasant little inn with tables set
outside among the trees. And they never end until
the workman is just thirsty enough, and not too

Here white-aproned waiters rush about with tall
wooden mugs of pale beer and sandwiches of Wiener-
wurst. In a corner a funny little orchestra, three
fat men each with a mug of beer before him, is play-
ing two violins and a 'cello. Among these familiar
surroundings the workman gathers his family at a
table and orders a mug of beer ; one does well for all
of them, and they drink out of it in turn. When it
is empty they have it filled again ; three or four in
an afternoon, costing ten or fifteen cents (for it is a
cheap beer containing little alcohol), are quite enough
to give them a glow of friendliness, so that toward
evening, when the singing begins, they may all lend
their voices with vigor and enjoyment. Here, too,
come young lovers hand in hand or with arms
around each other, as if it were the most common-
place thing in the world, and they are so evidently
and beamingly happy that one cannot but envy them;

A View of the German Workingman 99

they, too, drink out of one mug and divide a sand-
wich, and say much to each other without caring
particularly whether their neighbors overhear or not.
The host, a jolly red-cheeked man in a worn black
dress-coat, conies often about with his good-humored
Guten Abend and his pleasant inquiries as to whether
the beer is good ; and he bows only a bit more
solicitously to the well-to-do householder, who
sits with democratic simplicity among the men whom
he, perhaps, employs, than he does to the workman
whose purse allows him only a single mug at a time.
Looking upon this jovial gathering, one is almost
convinced that here at last is contentment. Ap-
parently these men and their wives are without a
worry or a care in the world ; here is a taste of the
free country after the grimy city, the beer is good,
the weather is bright, the music is sweet among the
trees, and sweeter still to these born lovers of music,
and here are friends and neighbors overflowing with
a whole week's gossip. What more could a man
want ? And when evening approaches, and while the
young people's voices are filling the woods with song,
the workman goes downward again toward the twink-
ling city. He is rested and refreshed after the day's
enjoyment, having gone to no violent excesses of
drink, or food, or exercise, or expenditure. His
family has enjoyed it with him, and his children are
learning the same simple means of pleasure.

loo Seen in Germany

And this is the workman's Sunday as it is spent
ahnost everywhere in the Fatherland. Even in the
big, black cities, which are yearly growing bigger
and blacker, where there is no escape from streets and
houses, the workman still finds, on Sunday, some
imitation ot the country, perhaps in a high-fenced
inn yard where the trees grow in green tubs, and
where there is always sociability, music, and beer —
that trinity of Teutonic happiness. Somehow, some-
where, not always as happily or as moderately as
among the hills of the picture, the German workman
finds opportunity for getting a little enjoyment out
of life. It may not be of the high order approved
by those who have set up Anglo-Saxon standards, and
yet one has only to compare the simple, care-free,
temperate Sunday of the average German workman
with what is too often the spendthrift, viciously idle,
and drunken Sunday of many American and more
English workmen, to appreciate its worth.

A picture such as I have painted of the workman's
Sunday may well seem too brightly colored. It is,
indeed, the result of first impressions which were
vivid and perhaps over-enthusiastic. But it is true,
every line of it — as true as ever a one-sided picture
can be — and I have here given it first prominence
with intention, because it shows the really fine side of
German work-life, the ideal side, the Sunday which
makes the other six days of the week at all endurable.

lO'l Seen in Germany

It is indeed a most vital element of German life
which one is too likely to forget in considering the
crowding evidences of toil, poverty, and restriction ;
the more one learns of the grim and forbidding reverse
presentation of the toiler's existence the more keenly
he appreciates these rare qualities of temperament,
strengthened by centuries of bitter training, which
enables the German workman to go on year after
year with a smooth brow gathering figs ot thistles.

With all its simple enjoyment, it is probable that
no civilized workman in the world would change places
with the German. For few, indeed, work longer hours
for smaller pay, eat coarser and cheaper food, live in
more crowded homes, and none gives more in time
and substance to a government which in return hems
him in and restricts him with an infinite multiplicity
of rules and regulations, and curtails his right of free
speech, none has less control over that which is his
own, for even the spending of a part of his meagre
wages is ordered by law, and few there are who pos-
sess less influence in making the laws which regulate
their conduct. And yet — and here one rises to
wonder and admiration — these men have learned
how to extract enjovment out of a life the conditions
of which, judged by our standards, are so close to
poverty and servitude as to be almost within the
bounds of misery.

Consider the workmen in the manufacturing and

A View of the German Workingman 103

ship-building towns of northern Germany, where in-
dustrial development and prosperity have caused a
demand for every sort of labor which equals or ex-
ceeds the supply. Practically there are no workmen
out of employment, neither men nor women, and
wages are generally higher than they ever were before
in Germany. Here one sees the workingman under
what would seem to be the most favorable conditions.
Yet in many respects, as I shall point out, his cir-
cumstances are by no means as satisfactory as they
were several years ago, and there are signs that,
though his patience has seemed unlimited, even he
is beginning to feel and chafe under the stress of the
strenuous conditions of German industry.

The German workingman, even he who is a mas-
ter of a trade, is supposed to work eleven hours
a day or sixty-six hours a week, rarely less, often
longer. At Stettin in Pomerania, where there is a
great ship-building establishment, iron works, and
many other manufactories, a carpenter in the ship
yards, as I was informed by Mr. John E. Kehl,
United States Consul, will receive about 90 cents a
day for 1 1 hours' work. In America a carpenter com-
monly expects $ 2.50 to $3.00 a day for 8 hours' work,
and sometimes more. A blacksmith in the German
city earns less than the carpenter, a molder more, or
about $1 a day, a painter receives about 75 cents,
while a laborer is doing well to get ^^ to 60 cents

1 04 Seen in Germany

a day. Carpenters and other workers not employed
regularly commonly earn more per day, or they may
do piecework which brings them larger returns. In
some parts of Germany, notably in the Rhine dis-
tricts, wages range higher than those here given,
while in other districts which I visited they are

These returns for long hours of work, small as
they are, show large increases over the wages of a few
years ago. For instance, in 1885 carpenters who
now receive 90 cents a day were paid only 73 cents,
while painters' wages have risen in the same time
from 51 to 75 cents. But if wages have increased,
the prices of all sorts of commodities, also, have
largely risen, and rent, owing to the rapid growth
of cities and the influx of workmen, has gone upward
by leaps and bounds. In 15 years the working
population of Germany has increased from 7,340,789
to 10,900,000. It was only a few years ago that
Germany was famous for its cheap living. A work-
man could live in comfort for a sum almost un-
believably small. Now, however, the staples of food
actually cost the German more than they do the
American — a statement which may seem startling
enough, considering the reputation of the United
States for high prices. In Stettin, beef, which in
1893 cost 14 cents a pound, had risen in 1899 to 23
cents. Mutton was 20 cents (compared with 12 cents

A View of the German Workingman 1 05



I in 1893) veal 30 cents, pork 20 cents,

I ham 2S cents, butter 28 cents, coffee

23 cents, sugar 7 cents, flour 5 cents,

' and tea — a very ordinary quaHty at

^ V^J£^^.K'U."^'

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryRay Stannard BakerSeen in Germany → online text (page 5 of 15)