JAMES W. GERARD
FACE TO FACE WITH KAISERISM
PERSONALITY OF THE KAISER AND SOMETHING OF THE KING BUSINESS
TO the American mind the Kaiser is the personification of Germany. He is the arch enemy upon whom the world places the responsibility for this most terrible of all wars. I have sat face to face with him in the palace at Berlin where, as the personal representative and envoy of the President of the United States, I had the honor of expressing the viewpoint of a great nation. I have seen him in the field as the commanding general of mighty forces, but I also have seen him in the neutral countries through which I passed on my return home and in my own beloved land---in the evidence of intrigue and plotting which this militaristic monarch has begotten and which is to-day "the Thing," as President Wilson calls it, which has brought the American people face to face with kaiserism in the greatest conflict of all history.
What manner of man is he? What is his character? How much was he responsible for what has happened---how much his General Staff ? What of the Crown Prince and what of the neutral peoples and their rulers whom Germany has intimidated and would fain subjugate if it suited her purpose? These are the questions I shall attempt to answer out of my experiences in Germany and my contacts with the rulers of other countries in my journeys to and from Berlin and Washington.
To illustrate the craft of the Kaiser, I believe I can perform no better service to Americans than to reveal an incident which has not hitherto been published. It occurred at the New Year's reception of 1914 when the Ambassadors of all the foreign countries represented at the German court, were ranged in a large room at the Palace. They stood about six feet apart in the order of their residence in Berlin. The Kaiser and his aides entered the room, and the Emperor spoke a few minutes to each envoy. He tarried longest with the Turkish Ambassador and myself, thereby arousing the curiosity of the other diplomats who suspected that the Kaiser did more than merely exchange the greetings of the season. He did.
What the German Emperor said to me interests every American because it shows his subtlety of purpose. The Kaiser talked at length to me about what he called Japan's designs on the United States. He warned me that Mexico was full of Japanese spies and an army of Japanese colonels. He also spoke about France, saying that he had made every effort to make up with France, that he had extended his hand to that country but that the French had refused to meet his overtures, that he was through and would not try again to heal the breach between France and Germany!
All this was in 1914, six months before the outbreak of the European War. Little did I know then what the purpose was back of that conversation, but it is clear now that the Emperor wished to have the government of the United States persuaded through me that he was really trying to keep Europe at peace and that the responsibility for what was going to happen would be on France. The German is so skilful at intrigue that he seeks even in advance of an expected offensive to lay the foundation for self-justification.
But the reference to Japan and alleged hostility against us on the part of fanciful hordes of Japanese in Mexico made me wonder at the time. There were many evidences subsequent to that New Year's Day reception of an attempt to alienate us from Japan. As a climax to it all, as a clarification of what the Emperor had in mind, came the famous Zimmermann note, the instructions to the German Minister in Mexico to align both Japan and Mexico against us when we entered the war against Germany!
Plotting and intriguing for power and mastery! Such is the business of absolute rulers.
I believe that had the old Austrian Kaiser lived a little while longer, the prolongation of his life would have been most disastrous both for Austria and Hungary. I believe after the death of Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo and after a year of war the German Emperor and autocracy were brooding over a plan according to which, on the death of Francis Joseph, the successor should be allowed to rule only as King or Grand-Duke of Austria, the title of Emperor of Austria to disappear and German Princes to be placed upon the thrones of Hungary and of a new kingdom of Bohemia. These and the king or grand-duke of Austria were to be subject-monarchs under the German Kaiser, who was thus to revive an empire, if not greater, at least more powerful, than the empires of Charlemagne and of Charles the Fifth. Many public utterances of the German Kaiser show that trend of mind.
Emperor William deliberately wrote and published, for instance, such a statement as this: "From childhood I have been influenced by five men, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Theodoric II, Frederick the Great and Napoleon. Each of these men dreamed a dream of world empire. They failed. I have dreamed a dream of German world empire and my mailed fist shall succeed."
Could any declaration of a life's ambition be more explicit? It seems impossible for human ambition to stand still. Either a man loses all stimulus of self and becomes as spiritless as a fagged animal or ambition drives him always on---he is never content with any success achieved. The millionaire to whom the first million, when he was a boy, seemed the extreme limit of human wealth and desire, presses on insatiably with the first million in his pocket, more restless, more dissatisfied, than the hungry farmer's boy who first carries his ambitions to the great city.
When these zealous, scheming men gain the power of kingship, they usually bring disaster to their country. Their subjects find no compensation in the personal ambitions which hurry a nation into the miseries of war. Better Charles II, dallying with his ringletted mistresses, than an Alexander the Great; better Henry the Fourth of France, the "ever-green gallant," than Frederick the Great, bathing his people in blood. "Happy nations have no history."
William the Second, the present German Emperor, might well be called the Restless Emperor. He is never satisfied to remain more than a few days in any place or in any occupation. He commands his armies in person. He has won distinction as a writer and a public speaker. He is an excellent shot. He has composed music, written verses, superintended the production of a ballet, painted a picture; the beautiful Byzantine chapel in the Castle of Posen shows his genius for architecture; and, clothed in a clergyman's surplice, he has preached a sermon in Jerusalem. What ruler in all history has exhibited such extraordinary versatility ?
In my conversations with the Emperor I have been struck by his knowledge of other countries, lands which he had never visited. He was familiar not only with their manners, customs, industries and public men, but with their commercial problems. Through his conversation one can see the keen eye of the Hanseatic trader looking with eager envy on the trade of a rival merchant. The Emperor, incidentally, while instinctively commercial, has an inborn contempt, if not for the law, at least for lawyers. In October, 1915, for instance, he remarked to me, "This is a lawyers' war, Asquith and Lloyd George in England, Poincaré and Briand in France."
In appearance and conversation Emperor William is very manly. His voice is strong, with a ring in it. He is a good rider. Following the German custom, he puts on his nightshirt every afternoon after lunch and sleeps for two hours---for the German is more devoted to the siesta than the Spaniard or Mexican. The hours of the Berlin Foreign Office, for example, were from eleven to one and from four to eight. After a heavy lunch at one o'clock all the officials took a nap for an hour or two. Also, the hours of the bank where I did business were from ten to one and from four till six. This meant that after six o'clock the clerks had to sit until perhaps eight making up the books for the day.
In 1916, the Olympic games were to have taken place at Berlin, and in September, 1913, before sailing for Germany, I attended a luncheon at the New York Athletic Club, given by President Page, with the members of the German Commission who had come to America to study athletics and to see what could be done in Germany so that the Germans could make a good showing at the games in their own city.
After my arrival in Germany one of the members of this commission told me that it was impossible, he believed, to organise the Germans as athletes until German meal and business hours had been changed. He said that with us in America young men leaving business at four-thirty, five or five-thirty, had time in which to exercise before their evening meal, but that in Germany the young men ate so much at the midday meal that they required their siesta after it, and that they did not leave their offices until so late in the evening that exercise and practice were impossible.
On the Emperor's table his wine glasses or rather cups are of silver. Possibly this is because he has been forbidden by his physician to drink wine. The Germans maintain the old-fashioned custom of drinking healths at meals. Some one far down the table will lift his glass, look at you and smile. You are then expected to lift your glass and drink with him and then both bow and smile over the glasses. As the Emperor must reciprocate with every one present, his champagne and wine are put in silver cups in order that those drinking wine with him do not see that he consumes no appreciable quantity of alcoholic liquor on the occasion of each health drinking. Some people in America may have often wished for a similar device.
The Emperor is out of uniform only on rare occasions. Occasionally, when in a foreign country, he has appeared in civilian dress, as shown in the accompanying photograph, taken in 1910 at the small town of Odde in Norway, where he had landed from his yacht. He appears to much better advantage in uniform than in civilian attire. Although uniformed while at sea as an Admiral, his favourite uniform is really that of the Hussars. In this picture he is accompanied by Baron von Treutler, Prussian Minister to Bavaria and Foreign Office representative with the Kaiser. Von Treutler is a German of the world. I met him at the Great General Headquarters, at the end of April, 1916, when the submarine question was being discussed. He came to dinner several times at the Chancellor's house, undoubtedly reporting back what was said to the Emperor, and I believe that his voice was against the resumption of ruthless submarine warfare and in favour of peace with America. Shortly after this period he fell into disfavour and went back to occupy his post of Minister in Munich.
In conversation, the Emperor reminds one very much of Roosevelt, talking with the same energy, the same violence of gesture and of voice so characteristic of our great ex-President. When the Emperor talks all his attention is given to you and all his mental energy is concentrated on the conversation. In this violence of manner and voice he seems not at all German. The average German is neither exuberant nor soft-spoken.
His favourite among his ancestors is William of Orange. Once he attended a fancy-dress ball in costume and make-up copied from the well-known picture of that Prince. The Emperor is strongly built and is about five feet nine inches tall. He sits well on his horse and walks, too, with head erect and shoulders thrown back---a picture of military precision.
A friend of mine who was present at Kiel with his yacht, in 1910, tells me that when all the yachts and warships had been assembled along the long narrow waterway which constitutes that harbour, with the crews lined up on deck or manning the yards, with bands crashing and banners floating, the Hohenzollern slowly steamed into the harbour and passed lazily and majestically through the waiting ships. Alone on the upper bridge stood the Monarch, attired in full military uniform, with white coat and tight breeches, high top boots, shining silver breastplate and silver helmet, surmounted by an eagle, the dress of the Prussian Guard Regiment so dear to those who portray romantic and kingly rôles upon the stage, a figure on whom all eyes were fixed, as splendid as that of Lohengrin, drawn by his fairy swan, coming to rescue the unjustly accused Princess. And, alas, the Germans like all this pomp and splendour. It appeals to something in the German heart and seems to create a feeling of affection and humility in the German breast.
When I talked at length one day with President Wilson on my visit to America in October, 1916, he remarked, half to himself, in surprise at my tale of war, "Why does all this horror come on the world? What causes it?" "Mr. President," I answered, "it is the king business."
I did not mean nominal kings as harmless as those of Spain and England. I was thinking of the powerful monarchs. A German republic would never have embarked on this war; a German Congress would have thought twice before sending their own sons to death in a deliberate effort to enslave other peoples. In a free Germany teachers, ministers and professors would not have taught the necessity of war. What German merchant in a free Germany would have thought that all the trade of the East, all the riches of Bagdad and Cairo and Mosul could compensate him for the death of his first-born or restore the blind eyes to the youngest son who now crouches, cowering, over the fire, awaiting death? For there was no trade necessity for this war. I know of no place in the world where German merchants were not free to trade. The disclosures of war have shown how German commerce had penetrated every land, to an extent unknown to the best informed. If the German merchants wanted this war in order to gain a German monopoly of the world's trade, then they are rightly suffering from the results of overweening covetousness.
Experts in insanity say that the Roman Emperors as soon as they attained the rule of the world were made mad by the possession of that stupendous power. The sceptre of Emperor William is mighty. No more autocratic influence proceeds from any other monarch or ruler. But you will say how about our President. in time of war? Great power can safely be given to a president. Our presidents have all risen from the ranks. Usually they have gone through the school of hard knocks. And there are ways of keeping them abreast of the people.
It is told that hidden from public view, crouched down in the chariot in which the successful Roman pro-consul or general drove triumphantly through the crowded streets of Rome, was a slave celebrated for his impertinence, whose duty it was to make the one honoured feel that, after all, he was nothing more than an ordinary mortal blessed with a certain amount of good luck. Probably as the chariot passed by the forum the slave would say, after a thunderous burst of applause from the populace: "Do not take that applause too seriously. That is the T. Quintus Cassius Association whose chief received a hundred sesterces from your brother-in-law yesterday, on account, with a promise of a hundred more in case the Association's cheers seemed loud and sincere."
So in America the press, serious and comic, takes the place of the humble slave and throws enough cold water on the head of any temporarily successful American to reduce it to normal proportions. Besides, the President knows that some day he must return to the ranks, live again with his neighbours, seek out the threads of a lost law practice or eke out a livelihood on the Chautauqua circuit in the discomfort of tiny hotels, travelling in upper berths instead of private cars and eating on lunch stools in small stations instead of in the sumptuous surroundings of presidential luxury. These are sobering prospects.
Kings, on the other hand, come to look on their subjects as toys. A post-card popular in Austria and Germany showed the old Emperor, Francis Joseph, seated at a table with a little great-grandnephew on his knee, teaching the child to move toy soldiers about on the boards; and it is unfortunately true that the same youngster---should the system of the Central Empires be perpetuated---will be able to move his subjects across the map of Europe just as he did the toy soldiers on his great-grand-uncle's table. He will be able to tear men from their work and their homes, to seize great scientists, great chemists, great inventors---men who may be on the eve of discoveries or remedies destined to rid the human race of the scourge of cancer or the white plague---and send them to death in the marshes of Macedonia or the fastnesses of the Carpathians because some fellow-king or emperor has deceived or outwitted him.
In a monarchy all subjects seem the personal property of the monarch and all expressions of power become personal. This extends throughout all countries ruled by royalty.
When, for example, a member of the royal family dies, even in another country, it must be lamented by the court circle of other lands. Here is the official notice sent to all diplomats and members of the Imperial German Court on the occasion of the death of the Queen of Sweden.
"The Court goes into mourning today for Her Majesty the Queen-Mother of Sweden for three weeks up to and including the 19th of January, 1914.
"Ladies wear black silk dresses, for the first fourteen days, including January 12th with black hair ornaments, black gloves, black fans and black jewelry; the last eight days with white hair ornaments, grey gloves, white fans and pearls.
"Gentlemen wear the whole time a black band on the left sleeve. Civilians wear with the embroidered coat, during the first fourteen days, including January 12th, on occasions of Grand Gala, black buckles and swords with black sheathes. During the last eight days bright buckles; on occasions of 'Half Gala' gold or silver embroidered trousers of the color of the uniform and in the one as in the other case gold or silver embroidered hat with white plume; with the 'small' uniform, however, black trousers (or knee-breeches, black silk stockings, shoes with black bows and the 'three-cornered' hat with black plume). During the first fourteen days gentlemen wear black woolen vests and black gloves, in the last eight days black silk vests and grey gloves.
"Berlin, December 30, 1913.
"GRAF A. EULENBURG.
"By command of His Majesty the Emperor, mourning will be suspended for New Year's Day and the 17th,and 18th of January."
So, it is apparent what a close corporation all the royal families make and the peoples are simply viewed as the personal property of the ruling princes. In his telegram which the German Kaiser wrote to President Wilson on August tenth, observe that all is personal. The Kaiser says, "I telegraphed to His Majesty the King, personally, but that if, etc., I would employ my troops elsewhere . . . . His Majesty answered that he thought my offer . . . ...
He speaks of the King of the Belgians "having refused my petition for a free passage." He refers to "my Ambassador in London."
This telegram shows, on the other hand, another thing,---the great ability of the Kaiser. Undoubtedly he knew why I was coming to see him---to present the offer of mediation of President Wilson---but from our conversation I do not think that he had even in his mind prepared the answer, which sets forth his position in entering the war.
He said, "Wait a moment, I shall write something for the President." Then taking the telegraph blanks lying on the table, he wrote rapidly and fluently. It was a message in a foreign language, and, whatever we may think of its content, at any rate it is clear, concise, consecutive and forceful.
The personal touch runs through that extraordinary series of telegrams in the famous `Willy-Nicky" correspondence between Kaiser Wilhelm and the last of the Romanoffs, discovered in Petrograd by Herman Bernstein. These reveal, moreover, the surpassing craft of the German Kaiser. He was the master schemer. Touting for German trade, always for his advantage, he twists the poor half-wit of the Winter Palace like a piece of straw.
Emperor William was not satisfied with a quiet life as patron of trade. As he studied the portraits of his ancestors, he felt that they gazed at him with reproachful eyes, demanded that he add, as did they, to the domains of the Hohenzollerns, that he return from war in triumph at the head of a victorious army with the keys of fallen cities borne before him in conquering march.
One-tenth of Frederick the Great's people fell, but to the poverty-stricken peasant woman of Prussia, lamenting her husband and dead sons, did it matter that the rich province of Silesia had been added to the Prussian Crown? What was it to that broken mother whether the Silesian peasants acknowledged the Prussian King or the Austrian Empress? Despots both. And what countless serfs fell in the wars between the King and the Empress! I once asked von Jagow when this war would end. He answered, "An old history of the Seven Years' War concludes, 'The King and the Empress were tired of war, so they made peace.' That is how this war will end." Will it? Will it end in a draw, to be resumed when some king feels the war fever on him? No, this war must end despots, and with them all wars!
It is all such a matter of personal whim. For instance before Bulgaria entered the war on the side of Germany, even the best informed Germans predicted that King Ferdinand would never join Germany because of an incident which occurred in the Royal Palace of Berlin. This is how it happened:
It is the custom for one monarch to make his pals in the King business officers of his army or navy. Thus the German Emperor was General Field Marshal and Proprietor of the 34th "William the first, German Emperor and King of Prussia" Infantry, and of the 7th "William the Second, German Emperor and King of Prussia" Hussars, in the Austro-Hungarian Army; Chief of the "King Frederick William III St. Petersburg Life Guards," the 85th "Viburg" Infantry and the 13th "Narva" Hussars, and the "Grodno" Hussars of the Guard, in the Russian Army; Field Marshal in British Army; Hon. Admiral of the British Fleet and Colonel-in-Chief 1st Dragoons; General in the Swedish Army and Flag Admiral of the Fleet; Hon. Admiral of the Norwegian and Danish Fleets; Admiral of the Russian Fleet; Hon. Captain-General in the Spanish Army and Hon. Colonel of the 11th "Naumancia" Spanish Dragoons; and Hon. Admiral of the Greek Fleet.
The King of Bulgaria was Chief of the 4th Thuringia Infantry Regiment No. 72, in the Prussian Army. As per custom, on a visit to Berlin he donned his uniform of the Thuringian Infantry. He had put on a little weight, and military unmentionables, be it known, are notoriously tight. So as he leaned far out of the Palace window to admire the passing troops, he presented a mark so tempting that the Emperor, in jovial mood, was impelled to administer a resounding spank on the sacred seat of the Czar of all the Balkans. Instead of taking the slap in the same jovial spirit in which it was given the Czar Ferdinand, a little jealous of the self-assumed title of Czar, became furiously angry---so angry that even the old diplomats of the Metternich school believed for a time that he never would forgive the whack and even might refuse to join Germany. But Czar Ferdinand, believing in the military power of Germany, cast his already war-worn people in the war against the Allies, much to the regret of many Bulgarian statesmen who, having been educated at Robert College, near Constantinople, a college founded and maintained by Americans, and having imbibed somewhat of the American spirit there, were not over-pleased to think of themselves arrayed against the United States of America.
But there is no monarch in all Europe who is more wily than Czar Ferdinand. At a great feast in Bulgaria at which Emperor William was present, Czar Ferdinand toasted the Emperor in Latin and alluded to him as "Miles Gloriosus"---which all present took to mean "glorious soldier"; but the exact Latin meaning of "gloriosus" is "glorious" in its first meaning and "boastful" in its second, a meaning well known in Berlin where, at the "Little Theatre," in a series of plays of all ages, the "Miles Gloriosus" of Plautus had just been presented--a boastful, conceited soldier, the "Miles Gloriosus," the chief character of the comedy.
Nothing illustrates more vividly the belief of the royal families of the Central Empires in their God-given right to rule the plain people than those few words of Maximilian written before his ill-fated expedition to Mexico. Speaking of the Palace at Caserta, near Naples, he wrote, "The monumental stairway is worthy of Majesty. What can be finer than to imagine the sovereign placed at its head, resplendent in the midst of these marble pillars, to fancy this monarch, like a God, graciously permitting the approach of human beings. The crowd surges upward. The King vouchsafes a gracious glance, but from a very lofty elevation. All powerful, imperial, he makes one step towards them with a smile of infinite condescension. Could Charles V, could Maria Theresa appear thus at the head of this ascending stair, who would not bow their heads before that majestic, God-given power?"
What was the condition of the people under Maria Theresa, whom Maximilian spoke of as possessing a power that, according to him, was so God-given no one could fail to bow the head before her majestic presence? The peasants, under her rule, were practically slaves, as they could not leave the lord's lands nor even marry without his permission, nor could they bring their children up to any profession other than that of labourer. In other words, the children of the slave must remain slaves.
Poor Maximilian! He was a brother of the late Emperor Francis Joseph and a member of that Kaiserbund and royal system which, while America was busy with domestic difficulties between the North and South, sought to wrest from Mexico her liberty. I wonder if the Mexicans have forgotten the incident and its implications.
But one-man power always fails in the end. No man, king or president, whatever he may himself think, has a brain all powerful and all knowing. There is wisdom in counsel. Too much of some favourite dish may lead to indigestion and that to bad judgment at a critical time and disaster. Napoleon III, just before 1870, was suffering from a wasting disease and so allowed himself to be ruled by the beautiful, narrow, fascinating, foolish Spanish Empress whom he gave to the French in a moment of passion because, as she said to him, "The way to her room lay through the church door." Colonel Stoffel, the French Military Attaché to the Berlin Embassy, wrote confidentially report after report to the Emperor telling him of the immense military strength of Prussia and of her readiness for immediate war. But most of these reports were afterwards found unopened in the desk of the doting, sick and fallen Emperor.
For, after all, however divine the King, Emperor or Kaiser may consider himself, he is but a vulnerable human being-and no accident of birth should give even a small number of people on this earth into the hands of a single mortal.
WHO DOES THE KAISER'S THINKING AND WHO DECIDED ON THE BREAK WITH AMERICA?
BECAUSE the German Emperor possesses talents of no mean order, because of his fiery energy, because of the charm of his conversation and personality, his ambitions for world conquest are most dangerous to the peace of the world.
Certainly of all the ruling houses of the world, the Hohenzollerns have shown themselves the most able, and of the six sons of the Kaiser there is not one who is unable or unworthy from the autocratic standpoint to carry on the traditions of the house. They are all young men who in any field of human endeavour are more than a match for men of their age, and by reason of these qualities, so rare in kings and princes, it has been easy to arouse a great feeling of devotion for the royal house of Prussia among all classes in Germany, with the possible exception of the Social Democrats. The other kings and princes of Germany have been overshadowed, mere puppets in the king business, by the surpassing talents of the Hohenzollerns, and so the task of those who, in Germany and out, hope for that evolution towards liberalism or even democracy which alone can make the nations of the world feel safe in making peace with Germany, is beset with numerous difficulties.
Before the war the Emperor turned much of his enterprising talent into peaceful channels, into the development of commercial and industrial Germany. No one has a greater respect for wealth and commercial success than the Emperor. He would have made a wonderful success as a man of business. He ought to be the richest person in the Empire, but the militaristic system which he fostered gave that distinction to another. For the richest person in Germany before the war was Frau Krupp-Bohlen, daughter of the late manufacturer of cannon. She inherited control of the factories and the greater part of the fortune of her father and was rated at about $75,000,000. It was a contest between Prince Henckel-Donnersmarck and the Emperor for second place, each being reputed to possess about sixty to sixty-five million dollars. Most of the Emperor's wealth is in landed estates, and of these he has, I believe, about sixty scattered through the Empire. The Emperor is credited with being a large stockholder in both the Krupp works and the Hamburg-American Line. What a sensation it would make in this country were the President to become a large stockholder in Bethlehem Steel or the Winchester Arms Company!
The earnings of the Krupp's factory since the war have been immense and doubtless the fortune of the Krupp heiress since then has more than doubled. The subscriptions to war loans and war charities, thrown by Frau Krupp-Bohlen and the Krupp directors as sops to public opinion, are mere nothings to the fat earnings made by that renowned factory in this war.
And what a sensation, too, would be caused in America if the Bethlehem Steel Company or the United States Steel Corporation were to purchase newspapers or take over The Associated Press in order to control public opinion! Yet the German nation stands by, apathetic, propagandised to a standstill, stuffed and fed by news handed them by the Krupps and the alliance of six great industrial iron and steel companies of western Germany.
A question which interests every inhabitant of the world to-day is, where does the ultimate power reside in Germany?
Where is the force which controls the country? The Reichstag, of course, has no real power; the twenty-five ruling princes of Germany, voting in the Bundesrat through their representatives, control the Reichstag, and the Chancellor is not responsible to either but only to the Emperor.
Consider, for a moment, the personality of von Bethmann-Hollweg, Chancellor of the Empire for eight or nine years. He lacked both determination and decision. Lovable, good, kind, respected, the Chancellor, to a surprising degree, was minus that quality which we call "punch." He never led, but followed. He sought always to find out first which side of the question seemed likely to win,---where the majority would stand. Usually he poised himself on middle ground. He could not have been the ultimate power in the State.
I have a feeling that the Kaiser himself always felt in some vague way that his luck lay with America, and I imagine that he himself was against anything that might lead to a break with this country. What, then, was the mysterious power which changed, for instance, the policy of the German Empire towards America and ordered unrestricted submarine war at the risk of bringing against the Empire a rich and powerful nation of over a hundred million population?
The Foreign Office did not have this decision. Its members, made up of men who had travelled in other countries, who knew the latent power of America, did not advise this step---with the exception, however, of Zimmermann, who, carried away by his sudden elevation, and by the glamour of personal contact with the Emperor, the Princes and the military chiefs, yielded to the arguments of military expediency.
The one force in Germany which ultimately decides every great question, except the fate of its own head, is the Great General Staff.
On one side of the Königs-Platz, in Berlin, stands the great building of the Reichstag, floridly decorated, glittering with gold, surrounded by statues and filled, during the sessions of the Reichstag, with a crowd of representatives who do not represent and who, like monkeys in a cage, jibber and debate questions which they have no power to decide. Across the square and covering the entire block in a building that resembles in external appearance a jail, built of dark red brick without ornament or display, is the home of the Great General Staff. This institution has its own spies, its own secret service, its own newspaper censors. Here the picked officers of the German army, the inheritors of the power of von Moltke, work industriously. Apart from the people of Germany, they wield the supreme power of the State and when the Staff decides a matter of foreign policy or even an internal measure, that decision is final.
The peculiar relations of the Emperor to the Great General Staff make it possible for him to dismiss in disgrace a head of the Staff who has failed. But at all times the Kaiser is more or less controlled in his action by the Staff as a whole and at a time when the chief of the Great General Staff is successful, the latter, even on questions of foreign policy, claims the right then to make a decision which the Emperor may find it difficult to disregard. This is because in an autocratic government, as in any other, personality counts for much. Von Tirpitz controlled all departments of the navy, although only at the head of one. The Ludendorff-Hindenburg combination, especially if backed by Mackensen , can bend the will of the Emperor.
Yet while the head of the Great General Staff may fall, the system always remains. An unknown, mysterious power it is, unchanging, and relentless, a power that watches over the German army with unseen eyes. It seeks always additions to its own ranks from those young officers who have distinguished themselves by their talents in the profession of arms. What does it mean to them?
Fig. 2. THE IRON CROSS. IN THE EXPECTATION OF A SHORT WAR THOUSANDS OF THESE CROSSES WERE DISTRIBUTED IN FIRST MONTHS OF THE WAR AND THE PRECEDENT THUS ESTABLISHED HAS LED TO THE GIVING OF PERHAPS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF THESE DECORATIONS
It is January twenty-seventh, the birthday of the Kaiser in a German garrison town. The officers of the regiment are assembled in the mess-hall, the regimental band plays the national air of Prussia, "Heil Dir im Sieger Kranz" (Hail, thou, in the conqueror's wreath). (The music is familiar to us because we sing it to the words of "America." The, British sing the air to the words of "God Save the King." This music was originally written for Louis XIV.) The health of the Emperor is proposed and drunk with "Hurrahs" and again "Hurrahs," and then comes a telegram from Berlin announcing the promotions and decorations granted to some of the officers of the regiment: the most envied of all is, that younger officer, perhaps the student among them, who receives the laconic despatch telling him that he is detailed to the Great General Staff!
Then commences for the young officer a life of almost monastic devotion. No amusements, no social obligations or. entertainments must interfere in the slightest with his earnest work in that plain building of mystery which so calmly, and with such mock modesty, faces the garish home of the Reichstag on the Königs-Platz, in Berlin.
Who decided on the break with America? It was not the Chancellor, notoriously opposed; it was not the Foreign Office, nor the Reichstag, nor the Princes of Germany who decided to brave the consequences of a rupture with the United States on the submarine question. It was not the Emperor; but a personality of great power of persuasion. It was Ludendorff, Quartermaster General, chief aid and brains to Hindenburg, Chief of the Great General Staff, who decided upon this step.
Unquestionably a party in the navy, undoubtedly von Tirpitz himself, backed by the navy' and by many naval officers and the Naval League, advocated the policy and promised all Germany peace within three months after it was adopted; unquestionably public opinion made by the Krupps and the League of Six (the great iron and steel companies), desiring annexation of the coal and iron lands of France, demanded this as a quick road to peace. But it was the deciding vote of the Great General Staff that finally embarked the German nation on this dangerous course.
I do not think the Emperor himself, unless backed by the whole public opinion of Germany, would dare to withstand the Great General Staff which he himself creates. They are so much his devotees that they would overrule him in what they consider his interest.
Whatever thinking the Emperor does nowadays is more or less on his own account. There is to-day no shining favourite who has his car to the exclusion of others. The last known favourite was Prince Max Egon von Fürstenberg, a man now about fifty-four years old, tall, handsome, possessed at one time of great wealth and a commanding position in Austria as well as Germany, with the privilege of citizenship in both countries. The Prince in his capacity as Grand Marshal accompanied the Emperor, walking in his train as the latter entered the White Hall at a great ball early in the winter of 1914. The Emperor was stopping at the Prince's palace in southern Germany at Donnaueschingen when the affair at Zabern and the cutting down of the lame shoemaker there shook the political and military foundations of the German Empire. Prince Max together with Prince Hohenlohe, Duke of Ugest, embarked, however, on a career of vast speculation in an association known as the Princes' Trust. They built, for instance, the great Hotel Esplanade in Berlin, and a hotel of the same name in Hamburg, and an enormous combined beer restaurant, theatre and moving picture hall on the Nollendorff Platz in Berlin. They organised banks, and the name of the princely house of Fürstenberg appeared as an advertisement for light beer. They even, through their interest in a department store on the east end of the Leipziger Strasse, sold pins and stockings and ribbons to the working classes of Berlin. As this top-heavy structure of foolish business enterprise tumbled, the favour of Prince Max at the Imperial Court fell with it. For the Emperor never brooks failure.
During the present war Von Gontard, related by marriage, I believe, to brewer Busch in St. Louis; von Treutler, who represented the Foreign Office; von Falkenhayn, for a while head of the Great General Staff and Minister of War, and the Prince of Pless, and von Plessen with several minor adjutants, have constituted the principal figures in the surroundings of the Emperor. Falkenhayn fell because of his failure in the attack of Verdun, ordered by him or for which he was the responsible commander. Von Treutler probably told the truth; he was against the breaking of the submarine pledges to America; and Prince Pless, who remains still in favour, never took a decided stand on any of these questions. Prince Pless, as Prince Max was, is rich. His fortune before the war, represented mostly by great landed estates in Silesia, mines, etc., amounted approximately to thirty million dollars. His wife is an Englishwoman, once celebrated as one of the great beauties of London, daughter of Colonel and Mrs. Cornwallis-West, and sister of the Duchess of Westminster and Cornwallis-West. formerly married to Lady Randolph Churchill, and now the husband of Mrs. Patrick Campbell, the well-known actress. And therefore the position of Princess Pless has not been enviable during this war.
Emperor William does not, like many kings and dictators, confine himself in his search for general information regarding men and conditions to the reports of a few persons. He always has been accessible, seeking even to meet strangers, not merely his own people but foreigners, thus escaping the penalty of those rulers who shut themselves up and who have all their information and thoughts coloured for them by the preferences and desires of prejudiced counsellors.
The chiefs of the army are always in close touch with the Kaiser, but he is consulted on army commands and promotions much less than on civil and even naval promotions.
Always with him is the head of the Civil Cabinet, who advises with the Emperor on all appointments and promotions on the civil side of the Government, helping even to make and unmake Ambassadors and Chancellors. Admiral von Mueller, head of the Marine Cabinet, is constantly in the Emperor's company. He is a shrewd, capable, reasonable man; for a long time Admiral von Mueller was against taking the chance of war with America and perhaps, even to the end, persisted in this course. After the fall of von Tirpitz, von Mueller acquired more real power. But in a sense it is incorrect to speak of the forced retirement of von Tirpitz as a "fall," because from his retirement he was able to carry on such a campaign in favour of "ruthless" submarine war that the mass of the people, Reichstag deputies, the General Staff, and all came over to his point of view and von Bethmann-Hollweg, who had brought about his dismissal, was forced officially to adopt the policy first sponsored by this skilful old sea-dog and politician.
WHO SANK THE "LUSITANIA" ?
WHO is responsible for the sinking of the Lusitania, for the deliberate murder which has always remained deep in the consciousness of every American, and which at the outset turned this great nation against Germany?
In the first place there was no mistake---no question of orders exceeded or disobeyed. Count von Bernstorff frankly, boldly, defiantly, and impudently advertised to the world, with the authority of the German Government, that the attempt to sink the Lusitania would be made. The Foreign Office, no doubt, acquainted him with the new policy. Von Tirpitz, then actual head of the Navy Department and virtual head of the whole navy, openly showed his approval of the act, and threw all his influence in favor of a continuation of ruthless tactics. But a question which involved a breach of international law, a possible break with a friendly power, could not be decided by even the Foreign Office and Navy together.
The Great General Staff claims a hand in the decision of all questions of foreign policy which even remotely affect the conduct of the war. Similarly it was the duty of the Foreign Office to point out the possible consequences under the rules of international law; but when the question of submarine warfare was to be determined, the consultation was usually at the Great General Headquarters. At these meetings von Tirpitz or the navy presented their views and the Great General Staff sat with the Emperor in council, although it was reported in Charleville at the time of the settlement of May, 1916, that Falkenhayn, speaking in favour of submarine war, had been rebuked by the Emperor, and told to stick to military affairs.
All the evidence points to the Emperor himself as the responsible head who at this time ordered or permitted this form of murder. The orders were given at a time when the Emperor dominated the General Staff, not in one of those periods, as outlined in a previous chapter when the General Staff, as at present, dominated the Emperor. When I saw the Kaiser in October, 1915, he said that he would not have sunk the Lusitania, that no gentleman would have killed so many women and children. Yet he never disapproved the order. Other boats were sunk thereafter in the same manner and only by chance was the loss of life smaller when the Arabic was torpedoed. It is argued that, had the Emperor considered beforehand how many noncombatants would be killed, he would not have given the order to sink that particular boat. But what a lame excuse! A man is responsible for the natural and logical results of his own acts. It may be too that Charles IX, when he ordered, perhaps reluctantly, the massacre of St. Bartholomew, did not know that so many would be killed, but there can be no Pilate-washing-of-the-hands,---Emperor William was responsible. He must bear the blame before the world.
Blood-shed in honorable war is soon forgotten; but the cowardly stroke by which the Kaiser sought to terrorise America, by which he sent to a struggling death of agony in the sea, the peaceful men and women and children passengers of the Lusitania, may ever remain a cold boundary line between Germany and America unless the German people utter a condemnation of the tragedy that rings true and repentant.
We want to live at peace with the world when this war is over, to be able to grasp once more the hands of those now our enemies, but how can any American clasp in friendship the hand of Germans who approve this and the many other outrages that have turned the conscience of the world against Germany?
To Americans in Berlin, the sinking of the Lusitania came like a lightning stroke. No Bernstorff warnings had prepared us. I believed I would be recalled immediately. In making preparations to leave, I sent a secretary to see the head of one of the largest banks in Germany, a personal friend, to ask him, in case we should leave, to take for safe-keeping into his bank our silver, pictures, etc. He said to my secretary, "Tell Judge Gerard that I will take care of his valuables for him, but tell him also, that if the Mauretania comes out to-morrow we shall sink her, too."
That was the attitude of a majority of the business men of Germany. German casualties at that time had been great so that the mere loss of human life did not appal as would have been the case in a country unused to the daily posting of long lists of dead and wounded. Consequently the one feeling of Germany was of rejoicing, believing indeed that victory was near, that the "damned Yankees" would be so scared that they would not dare travel on British ships, that the submarine war would be a great success, that France and England deprived of food, steel and supplies from America soon would be compelled to sue for peace, especially since the strategically clever, if unlawful, invasion of France by way of Belgium had driven the French from the best coal and iron districts of their country.
I do recall that one Imperial Minister, a reasonable individual whose name I think it best not to mention, expressed in private his sorrow, not only for the deed itself, but for the mistaken policy which he saw, even then, would completely turn in the end the sympathies of America to the Entente Allies. And there were others, ---among the intellectuals, and, especially, among the merchants of Hamburg and Frankfort who had travelled in the outer world both on pleasure and business, who realised what a profound effect the drowning of innocent men, women and children would have on our peace-loving people.
Many of these men said to me, "The sinking of the Lusitania is the greatest German defeat of all the war. Its consequences will be far-reaching; its impression, deep and lasting."
The Teutonic Knights, from whom the ruling class of Prussia is descended, kept the Slavic population in subjection by a reign of physical terror. This class believes that to rule one must terrorise. The Kaiser himself referring to the widespread indignation caused by German outrages of the present war, has said: "The German sword will command respect."
Terrorism --- "Schrecklichkeit" --- has always formed a part, not only of German military inclination, but of German military policy. I often said to Germans of the Government, "Are you yourselves subject to being terrorised? If another nation murdered or outraged your women, your children, would it cause you to cringe in submission or would you fight to the last? If you would fight yourselves, what is there in the history of America which makes you think that Americans will submit to mere frightfulness; in what particular do you think Americans are so different from Germans?" But they shrugged their shoulders.
I have heard that in parts of Germany school children were given a holiday to celebrate the sinking of the Lusitania. I was busy with preparations, too anxious about the future to devote much time to the study of the psychology of the Germans in other parts of Germany at this moment, but with the exception of the one Cabinet Minister aforementioned, and expressions of regret from certain merchants and intellectuals, it cannot be denied that a great wave of exultation swept over Germany. It was felt that this was a master stroke, that victory was appreciably nearer and that no power on earth could withstand the brute force of the Empire.
Mingled with this was a deep hate of all things American inculcated by the Berlin Government. And we must understand, therefore, that no trick and no evasion, no brutality will be untried by Germany in this war. It was against the rules of war to use poison gas, but first the newspapers of Germany were carefully filled with official statements saying the British and French had used this unfair means. Coincidentally with these reports the German army was trying by this dastardly innovation to break the British lines. It was not a new procedure. Months before the Lusitania crime, the newspapers and people had been poisoned with official statements inflaming the people against America, particularly for our commerce with the Entente in war supplies.
It was the right, guaranteed by a treaty to which Germany was a signatory, of our private individuals to sell munitions and supplies, but as Prince von Buelow once remarked on December 13th, 1900, in the Reichstag, "I feel no embarrassment in saying here, publicly, that for Germany, right can never be a determining consideration."
Indeed the tame professors were let loose and many of them rushed into government-paid print to prove that, according to law, the murders of the Lusitania were justified. A German chemist friend of mine told me that the chemists of Germany were called on, after poison gas had been met by British and French, to devise some new and deadly chemical. Flame throwers soon appeared together with more insidious gases. And it is only because of the vigilance of other nations that German spies have not succeeded in sowing the microbes of pestilence in countries arrayed against lawless Germany.
Remember there is nothing that Kaiserism is not capable of trying in the hope of victory.
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