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A View of the German Workingman 1 1 3

sausage, dried fish, beer. Soup and coffee require a
modicum of skill in cookery, the vegetables merely
requiring boiling. Give a German woman of the
lower class a new article of food requiring cooking,
and she would not know what to do with it. All this
is the result, in part at least, of untold years of prac-
tical serfdom on the part of the German peasantry
from whom these workmen have sprung — a peas-
antry which was, and still is to a large extent, fed
from the kitchen of the landlord, like house-servants,
so that both men and women might work without
loss of time in the fields. The simplicity of a diet
largely cold or bought ready to eat, and the haste
with which all culinary matters are swept aside, may
be set down as one of the influences which has main-
tained cheap labor in Germany, but it has left the
Germans as a nation the worst cooks in the civilized
world, and it has not tended to raise the estate of the
German woman, nor to develop an attractive family

Rents vary greatly with conditions, of course. In
Stettin, Mr. Kehl informed me, apartments of two
or three rooms in tenement houses could be had for
$ 2.25 to $2.50 a month. The municipality in-
sists upon clean streets and sewers in tenement dis-
tricts in all parts of Germany ; and in certain towns,
notably in Krupp's city of Essen, an effort has
been made to give especially good homes to the

114 Seen in Germany

workingmen, although the rents are not lower than

Clothing, such as workmen wear, is cheap in
Germany, almost the only necessary of life that is
cheap. Leather shoes, being very expensive, are
comparatively little worn, except on Sunday. In
their place the workman has his pantoffels made
of a thick wooden sole, the toe being covered over
with leather. In winter these are worn with thick,
home-knit socks, and in summer they are frequently
slipped on the bare feet. One imagines that they
slide off easily, but I have often seen boys who wore
them run at the top of their speed, there being an
art in turning down the toes when the foot is lifted
and clamping the pantoffels so that they cannot slip
off. The clacking of wooden soles on the floors of
a German workshop is a sound quite foreign to
American ears. The old-fashioned blouse falling
from a yoke at the shoulders is still worn by German
workmen, though it is disappearing.

Coal costs at Stettin $4.52 a ton — that is, soft
coal ; kerosene is much more expensive than it is
in America.

It will be seen, therefore, that while food and other
necessaries of life with the possible exception of
clothing are as high or higher in Germany than in
the United States, wages generally will average hardly
more than one third as much. Yet the German

A View of the German Workingman i i 5

workman is able to exist because he is willing to do
without all sorts of comforts familiar to every Ameri-
can workman.

I have described the conditions as I learned about
them in Pomerania because it seemed necessary in
such an account as this to be specific; but I have
kept always in mind my own observations as well as
the published reports and statistics concerning other
parts of the empire. Professor von Halle of the
University of Berlin, who has made a very close
study of industrial conditions in and around Stettin,
informs me that the extraordinary growth there has
served to increase rentals and prices of commodi
ties very rapidly. He also found that Stettin was
one of the first stopping-places for the great tide of
workingmen which is constantly flowing from east
to west. The Rhine districts of Germany, the cen-
tre of the coal, iron, chemical, and other industries
of the empire, are the great loadstones of labor.
Raw peasants from the Russian border stop at
Stettin and other Baltic towns, and at Breslau, remain
for a time and then go on westward looking for better
wages, and finding conditions equally hard. Indeed,
this silent march of empire westward has so drained
some of the eastern districts of Germany that num-
bers of Russians and Austrian Poles and Bohemians
must be brought into the country yearly to help with
the agricultural operations. The same conditions exist

I 1 6 Seen in Germany

in southern Germany, where the Italian is making
his appearance, as in America, to do the hard manual
labor. Few of these foreigners, however, are allowed
to remain, even though they may wish to do so.

One of the strangest influences upon the develop-
ment of the German workingman has been his
compulsory military service, and it is very far from
being an unmixed evil, though it demands two of
the best years of his life.

It has certainly had a profound influence in train-
ing the German to obedience, methods of order, hard
work, plain living, and frugality. It has also braced
him physically. On the other hand, it has tended to
weaken individuality, deaden the initiative faculties,
and to produce a state of helpless dependency upon
authority. Moreover, it has encouraged the tendency
of the young man to leave the farm, so that to-day
farm-work in Germany is almost exclusively in the
hands of women, and agriculture is in an alarmingly
demoralized condition. Take the young peasant
from the fields, dress him up in a uniform, show him
cities, teach him to handle himself well, give him a
glimpse of the opportunities and earnings of indus-
trial pursuit, and it is hard enough, when his army
service is finished, to drive him back to the plodding
underpaid life on the land. As a result of this, and
of the vast demand for workers in the factories, there
has been a steady flow of men from the farms to the

A View of the German Workingman 1 17

cities. In 1882, 42^ per cent of the population was
engaged in agriculture; in 1896, 14 years later, the
number had been reduced to ^6 per cent. Farm
work has fallen almost wholly into the hands of
women, and a decreased production of food stuffs in
proportion to the population, with the necessity of
importing food from abroad, has been responsible in
large part for the increased prices of commodities.
Indeed, the Agrarians, the land-owning lords, predict
the ruin of agriculture, and are clamoring for protec-
tion (which means the exclusion of foreign food stuffs),
a demand which the government has not dared to ad-
mit except in a very limited degree (like the practical
exclusion of American meat) for fear that prices of
foods will go so high as to cause serious disturbances
among the industrial classes.

Military service has also had its powerful in-
fluence in continuing and confirming the low estate
of womanhood in the empire. Half a million men
constantly under arms, removed from wage-earning
industries and receiving nothing from the govern-
ment which employs them, make it necessary for
just so many more women to work in the fields and
at other labor of the most menial kinds. One sees
them not only on the farms, but everywhere in the
cities, passing brick, stirring mortar, sawing wood,
digging ditches, loading lumber, and doing all man-
ner of heavy labor. And yet the woman must bear

I I 8 Seen in German^

children and take care of her home : the result is
that many workingmen have little or no home life ;
it is smothered out by toiling wives. Children are
often lelt in charge of neighbors or in nurse homes
and get little home training, — a condition which has
certainly coarsened the moral fibre of the German.
Infant mortality is very high in Germany ; in places
it seems to a stranger as if every fourth child was
bow-legged or at least weak in its legs. The Germans
call this malady englische Krankheit (English sick-
ness) ; why, one does n't quite see, for the disease is
rare in England. It is due, as I have been informed,
to lack of proper nourishment and to beer. The
workingwomen of Germany number something over
2,000,000. The empire could not do without their
services, and yet the competition of so many cheap
workers in the labor market tends to keep down
wages, — a condition which has received much con-
sideration by German thinkers.

To an American observer nothing is more strik-
ing than the attitude of the German government
toward the working population of the empire. Its
leaders, from the emperor down, are unequalled for
the lively intelligence with which they recognize con-
ditions and for the promptitude with which they act.
It is perfectly plain to them that the hope of Germany
lies with the manufactories ; therefore the industrial
classes must be trained, protected, and encouraged.

A View of the German Workingman i 1 9

One who follows public discussion of the subject
— for instance, in the Reichstag — is curiously
impressed with the attitude of insensibility toward
the individual desires or hopes of the workman. As
a man he is not to be considered for an instant ; but
as an implement to carve a way for Germany to
industrial and commercial greatness, to colonies and
a vast navy, he is very precious indeed. Every-
thing is done, therefore, that can be done to make
this implement keener, brighter, and more efficient.
The individual is nothing, the workman everything.
Hence the military service teaches the young man
implicit obedience to authority, makes him a perfect
servant in the hands of the great governing power,
and teaches him to rely implicitly upon it. And
during every moment of his subsequent life the
workman treads a pathway plainly marked out for
him by the infinitely numerous rules and regulations
of the government. When a workman is born he
must be baptized in a government church and obtain
a government certificate, he must be confirmed to
religion in a government church ; if he marries the
same power issues the permission and stands sponsor
for the ceremony, and when he dies he is buried
under government supervision. He must not say
what he thinks freely, as the Englishman relieves
his mind in Hyde Park or the American assails
the administration from the political stump, for if he


Seen in Germany

talks too much about how he is being governed he
is likely to be clapped in jail as a disturber of the
peace. He may not even spend his money wholly
as he pleases. Instead of allowing a man to have

A Typical German Workman

his wages and to do what he pleases with them,
giving him the self-discipline of learning to save and
plan against the rainy day, the German government
says to its workman : " You must be frugal, whether
you want to or not." Consequently tens of thou-

A View of the German Workingman 121

sands of workmen must buy little cards, paste stamps
on them for every week, and turn them over to the
police at the end of every year. These cards insure
the workman against sickness and accident and re-
lieve the wants of his old age, so that if anything
befalls a workman, he does not become a charge on
the state or on the employer (who, indeed, pays part
of the premium for the insurance). This has made
poverty almost unknown, and, considered from the
point of view of a financial and governmental enter-
prise, it has been vast and successful beyond praise.
Indeed, one in every 20 persons in the empire has
been supported at some time by these insurance
funds. In 1897 there was a reserve fund of over
$202,500,000, and the amount of insurance paid to
the sick was over $26,000,000, to those who had
suffered accidents over $15,000,000, and to the aged
and feeble over $14,000,000. Moreover, there are
many other aid and pension systems, both state and
private, many workmen even being compelled to in-
sure in a death fund so that their funeral expenses
may be paid and they may be laid away in the little
green cemetery with cast iron crosses perhaps con-
taining their tintypes at the head of their graves.

And so, year after year, the workman goes on
sticking stamps, — and the police sees that he never
fails in this respect, — having little responsibility for
the future, or for the welfare of his family, knowing

122 Seen in Germany

that whatever happens the funds will support him.
He depends absolutely upon the great, powerful, dim
government above him to take care of him and shield
him from harm. He is not especially interested in
organizing trade unions, though sometimes he does
indulge in the fury of a strike. He buys lottery
tickets regularly from the lottery, which is also a
government enterprise, and nearly all that is left
goes for beer and cheap shows. Thus supported
and relieved of all responsibility, is it any wonder
that the German workman goes smooth-browed and
simple-minded to his Sunday enjoyments? These
enjoyments are all of the present, and of the senses,
material, for he takes no thought of the morrow.

If he does begin to consider his condition, he does
one of two things, — he either becomes a socialist or
he commits suicide. So socialism, though held down
by bands of steel, is rampant everywhere in Germany.
Even the emperor once, with characteristic frankness,
said to his troops at Potsdam :

" For you there is one foe, and that is my foe.
Considering the existing socialistic difficulties, it may
be necessary for me to command you to shoot down
your own relatives, brothers, and parents, in the
streets, which God forbid, but you must obey my
orders without murmuring."

And the extent of socialism, which has few means
of public expression, every attempt at real free speech

A View of the German Workingman 123

in this regard being squelched without mercy, is
probably not realized even in Germany, though the
socialists now cast annually some million and a half
of votes in the empire.

As to the matter of suicides, Germany has long
been known for its terrible records. Saxony has the
highest rate of suicide of any country in the world.
Barker gives its annual rate as 31.1 per 100,000
inhabitants, and that of the entire empire as 14.3,
compared with a rate in United States of only ^-S
per 100,000, while England shows 6.9. About
11,000 persons kill themselves every year in the
German empire, and these belong chiefly to the
working classes.

The German method of dealing with the working
classes is exactly opposite from the American way.
In Germany it may be said that the tendency is to
make better workmen ; in America and England the
tendency is to make better men. The Anglo-Saxon
policy is to " cast the bantling on the rock" and let
him work out his own salvation through temptation.
In Germany the policy is quite the reverse : the work-
man is protected from disciplining temptation, and
ruled in a thousand ways by the government, instead
of being allowed to rule himself. American discipline
is from within ; German from without. The German
workman is without hope even in religion, for it is rare
that a German male workman is ever seen in church

I 24 Seen in Germany

after confirmation ; there is little or no chance for him
to rise; he has before him no possible career in poli-
tics, nor any hope of becoming a Carnegie, a Schwab,
or a Huntington. Consequently he is without ambi-
tion to do his work faster or by better methods ; he is
content to do what his father did without thinking,
though the all-seeing government is making hercu-
lean efforts through its scores of technical and indus-
trial schools, the best in the world, to stir him from
his stolid and precedent-bound lethargy. The German
workman is slow, therefore his wages are small. It
is less expensive in Germany to hire muscle than
it is to install expensive machinery. In all sorts
ot German manufacturing establishments one sees
clouds of workmen bending their backs to burdens
that in America are borne swiftly, noiselessly, and
more cheaply by electricity or steam.

Not only is the government doing its best to stir
the workman to greater activity, but in several in-
stances individuals are attacking the problem with
energy and success. At Jena, I visited the famous
Zeiss lens works, where an experiment of an eight-
hour day Is being tried, it being understood that the
men shall study their tasks and increase the speed
of work until they are able to do as much in eight
hours as formerly in ten or eleven. The experiment
is being conducted with great intelligence both by
workers and proprietors. It must be said, however.

A View of the German Workingman 125

that they have much in their favor. The workmen
are nearly all young and of the very highest class of
intelligence, and the work done is exceedingly fatigu-
ing to eyes and hands, so that weariness caused by a
longer day's work tended to reduce the quantity and
injure the quality of the product. 1 was informed by
Director Fischer that so far as it had gone the experi-
ment was a success. It is certain, however, that in
a great majority of manufactories such an innovation
as this would fail utterly, for the workmen are hope-
lessly unambitious, conservative, and helpless ; they
prefer to live the old, simple life, get what enjoy-
ment they can and strive as little as they can.

And yet, though the tendency is to do only those
things for the workman which will make him a better
implement for the service of the nation, there are
a few philanthropists who are doing their best to
make the workman's life more enjoyable and profit-
able for his own sake. At Jena I visited a fine free
reading room, which will ultimately be expanded into
a library. It is the result of private enterprise and is
said to be the best if not the only one of its kind in
the empire. Heretofore workmen in Jena and nearly
everywhere else have had to go to a beer garden or
cafe to see the newspapers and other publications,
and there are few opportunities for them to get books
anywhere, even if they had time to read them. Cu-
riously enough, workmen who read nearly always

I 26 Seen in Germany

choose science and philosophy, rarely fiction. The
parks of Germany are everywhere fine and extensive,
and though kept with little reference to the workmen,
the workmen are at liberty to use them, which they
do to a great extent. Free swimming baths have
been established in the rivers near many cities, some-
times by private means, oftener by the municipality.
These are popular with the younger element of all
classes. At Chemnitz, a large grim manufacturing
city in Saxony, where there are immense factories tor
hosiery, and machinery works, I visited a new free
municipal bath. At Chemnitz one may see some of
the bitterest phases of the life of the German worker,
a hot bed of socialism, a place where lotteries, cheap
circuses, and shooting festivals absorb every bit of
the workman's surplus money and encourage dissipa-
tion. Here, as in many other factory towns, one
hears of mysterious and often desperate crimes, com-
mitted in the face of a police surveillance unmatched
in the world. The bath in question is most thor-
oughly built, — everything in Germany is thoroughly
done, — and is admirably adapted to its purpose.
The bath house is a square, one-story brick building,
situated in a city square within easy reach of all the
factories. I visited it on a chilly Saturday afternoon,
and I found the waiting lobbies packed with work-
men. Most of them had come directly from the
shops, black with grime and grease. Nearly all had

A View of the German Workingman i 27

brought a newspaper roll containing clean shirts or
other Sunday wear, although many were without any
change of clothing. A few girls and women were
waiting their turn in a separate room.

In Germany nothing is ever given away, and I
was quite prepared to hear that it cost ten pfennigs
(about two and one half cents) to use the free bath.
The fee, however, was intended, not so much as a
charge as a sort of governor for the machinery. I
presented my ten-pfennig piece and received a
large, clean towel and a bit of yellow soap, together
with a slip of paper bearing a number. Then I
entered the waiting corridor and took my place on
a long bench with the workmen. The walls were
of marble, the doors of the baths were yellow var-
nished wood, and everything about the place was
as neat and clean as a New England kitchen.

There were fourteen separate bath rooms, as I
remember, on the men's side, and two on the women's
side. A boy with a slate kept an account of each
bath room. Every man was allowed to stay twenty
minutes inside. My companions in waiting were
all workingmen of the stolid German type, not
unfamiliar in this country. Their work clothing
was much poorer than that of the American work-
man. They sat looking before them and saying
almost nothing, not even evincing much interest
when their numbers were called. I thouo-ht of a


Seen in German^

crowd of American workmen I had once seen under
similar circumstances, and how they had joked one
another and laughed and discussed all sorts of

Public Bath House in Chemnitz

questions. Some of these German workmen waited
an hour or more for their turns, but not one of
them had anything to read, and no attempt had
been made to supply the waiting room with papers or
reading matter of any description. But they seemed

A View of the German Workingman i 29

to enjoy the baths, and the change when they came
out was most marked. They looked like new men,
and they evidently felt as they looked.

At last my number was called. I entered a very
small square room, having a bench at one side and
hooks for clothing at the other. Opening from this
was a still smaller alcove built solidly of marble
with a grated floor. It was invitingly clean. There
were hot and cold water faucets which regulated the
fall of water from the shower above, and one was
able to get a pleasant and satisfactory bath.

I learned afterward that the towel and soap fee,
small as it was, nearly paid the operating expenses
of the bath, which was becoming weekly more popu-
lar. Certainly there never was a more civilizing
influence in such a town than a bath of this

One who realizes the mighty industrial progress
of Germany is struck with the vital question as to
whether the workman will be able to keep pace.
Surely the limit of his wages has nearly been reached ;
he cannot at present earn more ; and the manufac-
turers, who are crowded to narrow margins, between
the fierce competition of the Americans and the
British, cannot afix)rd to pay more. But the popu-
lation continues to expand, there being 12,000,000
more people in Germany in 1898 than in 1870, and
that almost without immigration ; foods and rents are


130 Seen in Germany

going up continually ; the government is demanding
always more and more for its army, its navy, and
its colonies. When will the danger line be reached ?
Will the German toiler plod always onward, working
always for continually diminishing profits, drinking
his Sunday beer, forever the model of patience
and simple enjovment of life?





Professor Ernst Haeckel of Jena

THE German professor occupies a large share
in the activities of German life ; indeed, a
peculiar distinction attaches to him the
world over. Were it not for him Germany
would never have reached her present high place
among the nations, either intellectually, industrially,
or commercially. Delve into the history of many of the
greatest business enterprises of the empire — for in-
stance, the sugar beet or the coal tar industries — and
you will find a quiet, plodding, painstaking, preoc-
cupied German professor ; and if you seek for the
causes for the astonishing perfection and economy
with which many German factories are to-day oper-
ated, you will find a German professor with a staff
of scientists working side by side with the men who
operate the machinery, keep the books, and sell the
completed products. The German professor is a man
simple in his habits and tastes, a hard worker, a
cheerful enthusiast, often impractical, sometimes
visionary, with an infinite capacity for taking pains.

T34 Seen in Germany

and in the long run of getting results. Nowhere
in the world is scholarship, especially scientific scholar-
ship, honored as it is in Germany ; with the great-
est solicitude the government nurtures its promising
young doctors, giving them chairs in the universi-
ties, in the technical schools, or in other State
institutions, where, relieved from all financial care
and insured of a place for life, the young man may
devote every energy to the work of his heart. And
if he rises, if he makes some great discovery, he
is honored in a manner unknown outside of the

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Online LibraryRay Stannard BakerSeen in Germany → online text (page 6 of 15)