JAMES W. GERARD
MY FOUR YEARS IN GERMANY
NOTHING surprised me more, as the war developed, than the discovery of the great variety and amount of goods exported from Germany to the United States.
Goods sent from the United States to Germany are mainly prime materials: approximately one hundred and sixty million dollars a year of cotton; seventy-five million dollars of copper; fifteen millions of wheat; twenty millions of animal fats; ten millions of mineral oil and a large amount of vegetable oil. Of course, the amount of wheat is especially variable. Some manufactured goods from America also find their way to Germany to the extent of perhaps seventy millions a year, comprising machinery such as typewriters and a miscellaneous line of machinery and manufactures. The principal exports from Germany to America consist of dye stuffs and chemical dyes, toys, underwear, surgical instruments, cutlery, stockings, knit goods, etc., and a raw material called potash, also known as kali. The last is a mineral found nowhere in the world except in Germany and in a few places in Austria. Potash is essential to the manufacture of many fertilizers, fertilizer being composed as a rule of potash, phosphates and nitrates. The nitrates in past years have been exported to all countries from Chile. Phosphate rock is mined in South Carolina and Florida and several other places in the world. Curiously enough, both nitrates and potash are essential ingredients also of explosives used in war. Since the war, the German supply from Chile was cut off; but the Germans, following a system used in Norway for many years before the war, established great electrical plants for the extraction of nitrates from the atmosphere. Since the war, American agriculture has suffered for want of potash and German agriculture has suffered for want of phosphates, possibly of nitrates also; because I doubt whether sufficient nitrogen is extracted from the air in Germany to provide for more than the needs of the explosive industry.
The dyestuff industry had been developed to such a point in Germany that Germany supplied the whole world. In the first months of the war some enterprising Americans, headed by Herman Metz, chartered a boat, called The Matanzas, and sent it to Rotterdam where it was loaded with a cargo of German dyestuffs. The boat sailed under the American flag and was not interfered with by the British. Later on the German Department of the Interior, at whose head was Delbrück, refused to allow dyestuffs to leave Germany except in exchange for cotton, and, finally, the export of dyestuffs from Germany ceased and other countries were compelled to take up the question of manufacture. This state of affairs may lead to the establishment of the industry permanently in the United States, although that industry will require protection for some years, as, undoubtedly, Germany in her desperate effort to regain a monopoly of this trade will be ready to spend enormous sums in order to undersell the American manufacturers and drive them out of business.
The commercial submarines, Deutschland and Bremen, were to a great extent built with money furnished by the dyestuff manufacturers, who hoped that by sending dyestuffs in this way to America they could prevent the development of the industry there. I had many negotiations with the Foreign Office with reference to this question of dyestuffs.
The export of toys from Germany to the United States forms a large item in the bill which we pay annually to Germany. Many of these toys are manufactured by the people in their own homes in the picturesque district known as the Black Forest. Of course, the war cut off, after a time, the export of toys from Germany; and the American child, having in the meantime learned to be satisfied with some other article, his little brother will demand this very article next Christmas, and thus, after the war, Germany will find that much of this trade has been permanently lost.
Just as the textile trade of the United States was dependent upon the German dyestuffs for colours, so the sugar beet growers of America were dependent upon Germany for their seed. I succeeded, with the able assistance of the consul at Magdeburg and Mr. Winslow of my staff, in getting shipments of beet seed out of Germany. I have heard since that these industries too, are being developed in America, and seed obtained from other countries, such as Russia
Another commodity upon which a great industry in the United States and Mexico depends is cyanide. The discovery of the cyanide process of treating gold and silver ores permitted the exploitation of many mines which could not be worked under the older methods. At the beginning of the war there was a small manufactory of cyanide owned by Germans at Perth Amboy and Niagara Falls, but most of the cyanide used was imported from Germany. The American German Company and the companies manufacturing in Germany and in Great Britain all operated under the same patents, the British and German companies having working agreements as to the distribution of business throughout the world.
The German Vice-Chancellor and head of the Department of the Interior, Delbrück, put an export prohibition on cyanide early in the war; and most pigheadedly and obstinately claimed that cyanide was manufactured nowhere but in Germany, and that, therefore, if he allowed cyanide to leave Germany for the United States or Mexico the English would capture it and would use it to work South African mines, thus adding to the stock of gold and power in war of the British Empire. It was a long time before the German manufacturers and I could convince this gentleman that cyanide sufficient to supply all the British mines was manufactured near Glasgow, Scotland. He then reluctantly gave a permit for the export of a thousand tons of cyanide; and its arrival in the United States permitted many mines there and in Mexico to continue operations, and saved many persons from being thrown out of employment. When Delbrück finally gave a permit for the export of four thousand tons more of cyanide, the psychological moment had passed and we could not obtain through our State Department a pass from the British.
I am convinced that Delbrück made a great tactical mistake on behalf of the German Government when he imposed this prohibition against export of goods to America. Many manufacturers of textiles, the users of dyestuffs, medicines, seeds and chemicals in all forms, were clamouring for certain goods and chemicals from Germany. But it was the prohibition against export by the Germans which prevented their receiving these goods. If it had been the British blockade alone a cry might have arisen in the United States against this blockade which might have materially changed the international situation.
The Germans also refused permission for the export of potash from Germany. They hoped thereby to induce the United States to break the British blockade, and offered cargoes of potash in exchange for cargoes of cotton or cargoes of foodstuffs. The Germans claimed that potash was used in the manufacture of munitions and that., therefore, in no event would they permit the export unless the potash was consigned to the American Government, with guarantees against its use except in the manufacture of fertilizer, this to be checked up by Germans appointed as inspectors. All these negotiations, however, fell through and no potash has been exported from Germany to the United States since the commencement of the war. Enough potash, however, is obtained in the United States for munition purposes from the burning of seaweed on the Pacific Coast, from the brines in a lake in Southern California and from a rock called alunite in Utah. Potash is also obtainable from feldspar, but I do not know whether any plant has been established for its production from this rock. I recently heard of the arrival of some potash from a newly discovered field in Brazil, and there have been rumours of its discovery in Spain. I do not know how good this Spanish and Brazilian potash is, and I suppose the German potash syndicate will immediately endeavour to control these fields in order to hold the potash trade of the world in its grip.
It was a long time after the commencement of the war before Great Britain declared cotton a contraband. I think this was because of the fear of irritating the United States; but, in the meantime, Germany secured a great quantity of cotton, which, of course, was used or stored for the manufacture of powder. Since the cotton imports have been cut off the Germans claim that they are manufacturing a powder equally good by using wood pulp. Of course, I have not been able to verify this, absolutely.
Germany had endeavoured before the war in every way to keep American goods out of the German markets, and even the Prussian state railways are used, as I have shown in the article where I speak of the attempt to establish an oil monopoly in Germany, in order to discriminate against American mineral oils. This same method has been applied to other articles such as wood, which otherwise might be imported from America and in some cases regulations as to the inspection of meat, etc., have proved more effective in keeping American goods out of the market than a prohibitive tariff.
The meat regulation is that each individual package of meat must be opened and inspected; and, of course, when a sausage has been individually made to sit up and bark no one desires it as an article of food thereafter. American apples were also discriminated against in the custom regulations of Germany. Nor could I induce the German Government to change their tariff on canned salmon, an article which would prove a welcome addition to the German diet.
The German workingman, undoubtedly the most exploited and fooled workingman in the world, is compelled not only to work for low wages and for long hours, but to purchase his food at rates fixed by the German tariff made for the benefit of the Prussian Junkers and landowners.
Of course, the Prussian Junkers excuse the imposition of the tariff on food and the regulations made to prevent the entry of foodstuffs on the ground that German agriculture must be encouraged, first, in order to enable the population to subsist in time of war and blockade; and, secondly, in order to encourage the peasant class which furnishes the most solid soldiers to the Imperial armies.
The nations and business men of the world will have to face after the war a new condition which we may call socialized buying and socialized selling.
Not long after the commencement of the war the Germans placed a prohibitive tariff upon the import of certain articles of luxury such as perfumes; their object, of course, being to keep the German people from sending money out of the country and wasting their money in useless expenditures. At the same time a great institution was formed called the Central Einkauf Gesellschaft. This body, formed under government auspices of men appointed from civil life, is somewhat similar to one of our national defence boards. Every import of raw material into Germany falls into the hands of this central buying company, and if a German desires to buy any raw material for use in his factory he must buy it through this central board.
I have talked with members of this board and they all unite in the belief that this system will be continued after the war.
For instance, if a man in Germany wishes to buy an automobile or a pearl necklace or a case of perfumery, he will be told, "You can buy this if you can buy it in Germany. But if you have to send to America for the automobile, if you have to send to Paris for the pearls or the perfumery, you cannot buy them." In this way the gold supply of Germany will be husbanded and the people will either be prevented from making comparatively useless expenditures or compelled to spend money to benefit home industry.
On the other hand, when a man desires to buy some raw material, for example, copper, cotton, leather, wheat or something of that kind, he will not be allowed to buy abroad on his own hook. The Central Einkauf Gesellschaft will see that all those desiring to buy cotton or copper put in their orders on or before a certain date. When the orders are all in, the quantities called for will be added up by this central board; and then one man, representing the board, will be in a position to go to America to purchase the four million bales of cotton or two hundred million pounds of copper.
The German idea is that this one board will be able to force the sellers abroad to compete against each other in their eagerness to sell. The one German buyer will know about the lowest price at which the sellers can sell their product. By the buyer's standing out alone with this great order the Germans believe that the sellers, one by one, will fall into his hands and sell their product at a price below that which they could obtain if the individual sellers of America were meeting the individual buyers of Germany in the open market.
When the total amount of the commodity ordered has been purchased, it will be divided up among the German buyers who put in their orders with the central company, each order being charged with its proportionate share of the expenses of the commission and, possibly, an additional sum for the benefit of the treasury of the Empire.
Before the war a German manufacturer took me over his great factory where fifteen thousand men and women were employed, showed me great quantities of articles made from copper, and said: "We buy this copper in America and we get it a cent and a half a pound less than we should pay for it because our government permits us to combine for the purpose of buying, but your government does not allow your people to combine for the purpose of selling. You have got lots of silly people who become envious of the rich and pass laws to prevent combination, which is the logical development of all industry."
The government handling of exchange during the war was another example of the use of the centralised power of the Government for the benefit of the whole nation.
In the first year of the war, when I desired money to spend in Germany, I drew a check on my bank in New York in triplicate and sent a clerk with it to the different banks in Berlin, to obtain bids in marks, selling it then, naturally, to the highest bidder. But soon the Government stepped in. The Imperial Bank was to fix a daily rate of exchange, and banks and individuals were forbidden to buy or sell at a different rate. That this fixed rate was a false one, fixed to the advantage of Germany, I proved at the time when the German official rate was 5.52 marks for a dollar, by sending my American checks to Holland, buying Holland money with them and German money with the Holland money, in this manner obtaining 5.74 marks for each dollar. And just before leaving Germany I sold a lot of American gold to a German bank at the rate of 6.42 marks per dollar, although on that day the official rate was 5.52 and although the buyer of the gold, because the export of gold was forbidden, would have to lose interest on the money paid me or on the gold purchased, until the end of the war.
What the Germans thought of the value of the mark is shown by this transaction.
The only thing that can maintain a fair price after the war for the products of American firms, miners and manufacturers is permission to combine for selling abroad. There is before Congress a bill called the Webb Bill permitting those engaged in export trade to combine, and this bill, which is manifestly for the benefit of the American producer of raw materials and foods and manufactured articles, should be passed.
It was also part of our commercial work to .secure permits for the exportation from Belgium of American owned goods seized by Germany. We succeeded in a number of cases in getting these goods released. In other cases, the American owned property was taken over by the government, but the American owners were compensated for the loss.
Germany took over belligerent property and put it in the hands of receivers. In all cases where the majority of the stock of a German corporation was owned by another corporation or individuals of belligerent nationality, the German corporation was placed in the hands of a receiver. The German Government, however, would not allow the inquiry into the stock ownership to go further than the first holding corporation. There were many cases where the majority of the stock of a German corporation was owned by a British corporation and the majority of the stock of the British corporation, in turn, owned by an American corporation or by Americans. In this case the German Government refused to consider the American ownership of the British stock, and put the German company under government control.
With the low wages paid to very efficient workingmen who worked for long hours and with no laws against combination, it was always a matter of surprise to me that the Germans who were in the process of getting all the money in the world should have allowed their military autocracy to drive them into war.
I am afraid that, after this war, if we expect to keep a place for our trade in the world, we may have to revise some of our ideas as to so-called trusts and the Sherman Law. Trusts or combinations are not only permitted, but even encouraged in Germany. They are known there as "cartels" and the difference between the American trust and the German cartel is that the American trust has, as it were, a centralised government permanently taking over and combining the competing elements in any given business, while in Germany the competing elements form a combination by contract for a limited number of years. This combination is called a cartel and during these years each member of the cartel is assigned a given amount of the total production and given a definite share of the profits of the combination. The German cartel, therefore, as Consul General Skinner aptly said, may be likened to a confederation existing by contract for a limited period of time and subject to renewal only at the will of its members.
It may be that competition is a relic of barbarism and that one of the first signs of a higher civilisation is an effort to modify the stress of competition. The debates of Congress tend to show that, in enacting the Sherman Law, Congress did not intend to forbid the restraint of competition among those in the same business but only intended to prohibit the forming of a combination by those who, combined, would have a monopoly of a particular business or product. It is easy to see why all the coal mines in the country should be prohibited from combining; but it is not easy to see why certain people engaged in the tobacco business should be prohibited from taking their competitors into their combination, because tobacco is a product which could be raised upon millions of acres of our land and cannot be made the subject of a monopoly.
The German courts have expressly said that if prices are so low that the manufacturers of a particular article see financial ruin ahead, a formation of a cartel by them must be looked upon as a justified means of self-preservation. The German laws are directed to the end to which it seems to be such laws should logically be directed; namely, to the prevention of unfair competition.
So long as the question of monopoly is not involved, competition can always be looked for when a combination is making too great profits; and the new and competing corporation and individuals should be protected by law against the danger of price cutting for the express purpose of driving the new competitor out of business. However, it must be remembered that a combination acting unfairly in competition may be more oppressive than a monopoly. I myself am not convinced by the arguments of either side. It is a matter for the most serious study.
The object of the American trust has been to destroy its competitors. The object of the German cartel to force its competitors to join the cartel.
In fact the government in Germany becomes part of these cartels and takes an active hand in them, as witness the participation of the German Government in the potash syndicate, when contracts made by certain American buyers with German mines were cancelled and all the potash producing mines of Germany and Austria forced into one confederation; and witness the attempt by the government, which I have described in another chapter, to take over and make a monopoly of the wholesale and retail oil business of the country.
The recent closer combination of dyestuff industries of Germany, with the express purpose of meeting and destroying American competition after the war, is interesting as showing German methods. For a number of years the dyestuff industry of Germany was practically controlled by six great companies, some of these companies employing as high as five hundred chemists in research work. In 1916 these six companies made an agreement looking to a still closer alliance not only for the distribution of the product but also for the distribution of ideas and trade secrets. For years, these great commercial companies supplied all the countries of the world not only with dyestuffs and other chemical products but also with medicines discovered by their chemists and made from coal tar; which, although really nothing more than patent medicines, were put upon the market as new and great and beneficial discoveries in medicine. The Badische Anilin and Soda Fabrik, with a capital of fifty-four million marks has paid dividends in the ten years from 1903 to 1913, averaging over twenty-six per cent.
The Farbwerke Meister Lucius und Bruning at Hoeckst, near Frankfort, during the same period, with a capital of fifty million marks, has paid dividends averaging over twenty-seven per cent; and the chemical works of Bayer and Company, near Cologne, during the same period with a capital of fifty-four millions of marks has paid dividends averaging over thirty per cent.
Much of the commercial success of the Germans during the last forty years is due to the fact that each manufacturer, each discoverer in Germany, each exporter knew that the whole weight and power of the Government was behind him in his efforts to increase his business. On the other hand, in America, business men have been terrorized, almost into inaction, by constant prosecutions. What was a crime in one part of the United States, under one Circuit Court of Appeals, was a perfectly legitimate act in another.
If we have to meet the intense competition of Germany after the war, we have got to view all these problems from new angles. For instance, there is the question of free ports. Representative Murray Hulbert has introduced, in the House of Representatives, a resolution directing the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of War and the Secretary of Commerce to report to Congress as to the advisability of the establishment of free ports within the limits of the established customs of the United States. Free ports exist in Germany and have existed for a long time, although Germany is a country with a protective tariff. In a free port raw goods are manufactured and then exported, of course to the advantage of the country permitting the establishment of free ports, because by this manufacture of raw materials and their re-export, without being subject to duty, money is earned by the manufacturers to the benefit of their own country and employment is given to many workingmen. This, of course, improves the condition of these workingmen and of all others in the country; as it is self-evident that the employment of each workingman in an industry, which would not exist except for the existence of the free port, withdraws that workingman from the general labour market and, therefore, benefits the position of his remaining fellow labourers.
Although free ports do not exist in the United States, an attempt has been made to give certain industries, by means of what are known as "drawbacks," the same benefit that they would enjoy were free ports existant in our country.
Thus the refiners of raw sugar from Cuba pay a duty on this sugar when it enters the United States, but receive this duty back when a corresponding amount of refined sugar is exported to other countries.
There has lately been an attack made upon this system in the case, however, of the sugar refiners only, and the question has been treated in some newspapers as if these refiners were obtaining some unfair advantage from the government, whereas, as a matter of fact, the allowance of these "drawbacks" enables the sugar refiners to carry on the refining of the sugar for export much as they would if their refineries existed in free ports modelled on the German system.
The repeal of the provision of allowing "drawbacks" in this and other industries will probably send the industries to Canada or some other territory where this system, equivalent to the free port, is permitted to exist.
A few days before I left Germany I had a conversation with a manufacturer of munitions who employs about eighteen thousand people in his factories, which, before the war, manufactured articles other than munitions. I asked him how the government treated the manufacturers of munitions, and he said that they were allowed to make good profits, although they had to pay out a great proportion of these profits in the form of taxes on their excess or war profits; that the government desired to encourage manufacturers to turn their factories into factories for the manufacture of all articles in the war and required by the nation in sustaining war; and that the manufacturers would do this provided that it were only a question as to how much of their profits they would be allowed to keep, but that if the Government had attempted to fix prices so low that there would have been a doubt as to whether the manufacturer could make a profit or not, the production of articles required for war would never have reached the high mark that it had in Germany.
As a matter of fact, about the only tax imposed in Germany since the outbreak of the war has been the tax upon cost or war profits. It has been the policy of Germany to pay for the war by great loans raised by popular subscription, after authorisation by the Reichstag. I calculate that the amounts thus raised, together with the floating indebtedness, amount to date to about eighty billions of marks.
For a long time the Germans expected that the expenses of the war would be, paid from the indemnities to be recovered by Germany from the nations at war with it.
HeIfferich shadowed this forth in his speech in the Reichstag, on August 20, 1915, when he said: "If we wish to have the power to settle the terms of peace according to our interests and our requirements, then we must not forget the question of cost. We must have in view that the whole future activity of our people, so far as this is at all possible, shall be free from burdens. The leaden weight of billions has been earned by the instigators of this war, and in the future they, rather than we, will drag it about after them."
Of course, by "instigators of the war" Helfferich meant the opponents of Germany, but I think that unconsciously he was a true prophet and that the "leaden weight of the billions" which this war has cost Germany will be dragged about after the war by Germany, the real instigator of this world calamity.
In December, 1915, Helfferich voiced the comfortable plea that, because the Germans were spending their money raised by the war loans in Germany, the weight of these loans was not a real weight upon the German people. He said: "We are paying the money almost exclusively to ourselves; while the enemy is paying its loans abroad ---a guarantee that in the future we shall maintain the advantage."
This belief of the Germans and Helfferich is one of the notable fallacies of the war. The German war loans have been subscribed mainly by the great companies of Germany; by the Savings Banks, the Banks, the Life and Fire Insurance and Accident Insurance Companies, etc.
Furthermore, these loans have been pyramided; that is to say, a man who subscribed and paid for one hundred thousand marks of loan number one could, when loan number two was called for, take the bonds he had bought of loan number one to his bank and on his agreement to spend the proceeds in subscribing to loan number two, borrow from the bank eighty thousand marks on the security of his first loan bonds, and so on.
There is an annual increment, not easily ascertainable with exactness, but approximately ascertainable to the wealth of every country in the world. just as when a man is working a farm there is in normal years an increment or accretion of wealth or income to him above the cost of the production of the products of the soil which he sells, there is such an annual increment to the wealth of each country taken as a whole. Some experts have told me they calculated that, at the outside, in prosperous peace times the annual increment of German wealth is ten billion marks.
Now when we have the annual interest to be paid by Germany exceeding the annual increment of the country, the social and even moral bankruptcy of the country must ensue. If repudiation of the loan or any part of it is then forced, the loss naturally falls upon those who have taken the loan. The working-man or small capitalist, who put all his savings in the war loan, is without support for his old age, and so with the man who took insurance in the Insurance Companies or put his savings in a bank. If that bank becomes bankrupt through repudiation of the war loan, you then have the country in a position where the able-bodied are all working to pay what they can towards the interest of the government loan, after earning enough to keep themselves and their families alive; and the old and the young, without support and deprived of their savings, become mere poor-house burdens on the community.
Already the mere interest of the war loan of Germany amounts to four billions of marks a year; to this must be added, of course, the interest of the previous indebtedness of the country and of each political subdivision thereof, including cities, all of which have added to their before-the-war debt, by incurring great debts to help the destitute in this war; and, of course, to all this must be added the expenses of the administration of the government and the maintenance of the army and navy.
It is the contemplation of this state of affairs, when he is convinced that indemnities are not to be exacted from other countries, that will do most to persuade the average intelligent German business man that peace must be had at any cost.
WORK FOR THE GERMANS
THE interests of Germany in France, Great Britain and Russia were placed with our American Ambassadors in these countries. This, of course, entailed much work upon our Embassy, because we were the medium of communication between the German Government and these Ambassadors. I found it necessary to establish a special department to look after these matters. At its head was Barclay Rives who had been for many years in our diplomatic service and who joined my Embassy at the beginning of the war. First Secretary of our Embassy in Vienna for ten or twelve years, he spoke German perfectly and was acquainted with many Germans and Austrians. Inquiries about Germans who were prisoners, negotiations relative to the treatment of German prisoners, and so on, came under this department.
One example will show the nature of this work. When the Germans invaded France, a German cavalry patrol with two officers, von Schlerstaedt and Count Schwerin, and several men penetrated as far as the forest of Fontainebleau, south of Paris. There they got out of touch with the German forces and wandered about for days in the forest. In the course of their wanderings they requisitioned some food from the inhabitants, and took, I believe, an old coat for one of the officers who had lost his, and requisitioned a wagon to carry a wounded man. After their surrender to the French, the two officers were tried by a French court martial, charged with pillaging and sentenced to be degraded from their rank and transported to Cayenne (the Devil's Island of the Dreyfus case). The Germans made strong representations, and our very skilled Ambassador in Paris, the Honourable William C. Sharp, took up the matter with the Foreign Office and succeeded in preventing the transportation of the officers. The sending of the officers and men, however, into a military prison where they were treated as convicts caused great indignation throughout Germany. The officers had many and powerful connections in their own country who took up their cause. There were bitter articles in the German press and caricatures and cartoons were published.
I sent Mr. Rives to Paris and told him not to leave until he had seen these officers. He remained in Paris some weeks and finally through Mr. Sharp obtained permission to visit the officers in the military prison. Later the French showed a tendency to be lenient in this case, but it was hard to find a way for the French Government to back down gracefully. Schierstaedt having become insane in the meantime, a very clever way out of the difficulty was suggested, I believe by Mr. Sharp. Schierstaedt having been found to be insane was presumably insane at the time of the patrol's wandering in the forest of Fontainebleau. As he was the senior officer, the other officer and the men under him were not responsible for obeying his commands. The result was that Schwerin and the men of the patrol were put in a regular prison camp and Schierstaedt was very kindly sent by the French back to Germany, where he recovered his reason sufficiently to be able to come and thank me for the efforts made on his behalf.
I made every endeavour so far as it lay in my power to oblige the Germans. We helped them in the exchange of prisoners and the care of German property in enemy countries.
There were rumours in Berlin that Germans taken as prisoners in German African Colonies were forced to work in the sun, watched and beaten by coloured guards. This was taken up by one of the Grand Dukes of Mecklenburg who had been Governor of Togoland and who also took great interest in sending clothes, etc., to, these prisoners. Germany demanded that the prisoners in Africa be sent to a more temperate climate.
Another royalty who was busied with prisoners' affairs was Prince Max of Baden. He is heir to the throne of Baden, although not a son of the reigning Duke. He is very popular and, for my part, I admire him greatly. He travels with Emerson's essays in his pocket and keeps up with the thought and progress of all countries. Baden will be indeed happy in having such a ruler. Prince Max was a man so reasonable, so human, that I understand that von Jagow was in favour of putting him at the head of a central department for prisoners of war. I agreed with von Jagow that in such case all would go smoothly and humanely. Naturally, von Jagow could only mildly hint at the desirability of this appointment. A prince, heir to one of the thrones of Germany, with the rank of General in the army, he seemed ideally fitted for such a position, but unfortunately the opposition of the army and, particularly, of the representative corps commanders was so great that von Jagow told me the plan was impossible of realisation. I am sure if Prince Max had been at the head of such a department, Germany would not now be suffering from the odium of mistreating its prisoners, and that the two million prisoners of war in Germany would not return to their homes imbued with an undying hate.
Prince Max was very helpful in connection with the American mission to Russia for German prisoners which I had organised and which I have described in the chapter on war charities.
All complaints made by the Imperial Government with reference to the treatment of German prisoners, and so forth, in enemy countries were first given to me and transmitted by our Embassy to the American Ambassadors having charge of German interests in enemy countries. All this, with the correspondence ensuing, made a great amount of clerical work.
I think that every day I received one or more Germans, who were anxious about prisoner friends, making inquiries, and wishing to consult me on business matters in the United States, etc. All of these people showed gratitude for what we were able to do for them, but their gratitude was only a drop in the ocean of officially inspired hatred of America.
AS soon as the war was declared and millions of men marched forward intent upon killing, hundreds of men and women immediately took up the problem of helping the soldiers, the wounded and the prisoners and of caring for those left behind by the men who had gone to the front.
The first war charity to come under my observation was the American Red Cross. Two units containing three doctors and about twelve nurses, each, were sent to Germany by the American National Red Cross. Before their arrival I took up with the German authorities the questions as to whether these would be accepted and where they would be placed. The German authorities accepted the units and at first decided to send. one to each front. The young man assigned to the West front was Goldschmidt Rothschild, one of the last descendants of the great Frankfort family of Rothschild. He had been attached to the German Embassy in London before the war.
The one assigned to the unit for the East front was Count Hélie de Talleyrand. Both of these young men spoke English perfectly and were chosen for that reason, and both have many friends in England and America.
Talleyrand was of a branch of the celebrated Talleyrand family and possessed German citizenship. During the Napoleonic era the great Talleyrand married one of his nephews to a Princess of Courland who, with her sister, was joint heiress of the principality of Sagan in Germany. The share of the other sister was bought by the sister who married young Talleyrand, and the descendants of that union became princes of Sagan and held the Italian title of Duke de Dino and the French title of Duke de Valençay.
Some of the descendants of this nephew of the great Talleyrand remained in Germany, and this young Talleyrand, assigned to the Red Cross unit, belonged to that branch. Others settled in France, and among these was the last holder of the title and the Duke de Dino, who married, successively, two Americans, Miss Curtis and Mrs. Sampson. It was a custom in this family that the holder of the principal title, that of the Prince of Sagan, allowed the next two members in succession to bear the titles of Duke de Dino and Duke de Valançay. Before the last Prince of Sagan died in France, his son Hélie married the American, Anna Gould, who had divorced the Count Castellane. On the death of his father and in accordance with the statutes of the House of Sagan the members of the family who were German citizens held a family council and, with the approval of the Emperor of Germany, passed over the succession from Anna Gould's husband to her son, so that her son has now the right to the title and not his father, but the son must become a German citizen at his majority.
The younger brother of the husband of Anna Gould bears the title of Duke de Valençay and is the divorced husband of the daughter of Levi P. Morton, formerly Vice-President of the United States. This young Talleyrand to whom I have referred and who was assigned to the American Red Cross unit, although he was a German by nationality, did not wish to fight in this war against France in which country he had so many friends and relations and, therefore, this assignment to the American Red Cross was most welcome to him.
On the arrival of the American doctors and nurses in Berlin, it was decided to send both units to the East front and to put one in the small Silesian town of Gleiwitz and the other in the neighbouring town of Kosel. Count Talleyrand went with these two units, Goldschmidt Rothschild being attached to the Prussian Legation in Munich.
We had a reception in the Embassy for these doctors and nurses which was attended by Prince Hatzfeld, Duke of Trachenberg, who was head of the German Red Cross, and other Germans interested in this line of work. The Gleiwitz and Kosel units remained in these towns for about a year until the American Red Cross withdrew its units from Europe.
At about the time of the withdrawal of these units, I had heard much of the sufferings of German prisoners in Russia. I had many conversations with Zimmermann of the German Foreign Office and Prince Hatzfeld on this question, as well as with Prince Max of Baden, the heir presumptive to the throne of that country; and I finally arranged that such of these American doctors and nurses as volunteered should be sent to Russia to do what they could for the German prisoners of war there. Nine doctors and thirty-eight nurses volunteered. They were given a great reception in Berlin, the German authorities placed a large credit in the hands of this mission, and, after I had obtained through our State Department the consent of the Russian Government for the admission of the mission, it started from Berlin for Petrograd. The German authorities and the Germans, as a whole, were very much pleased with this arrangement. Officers of the Prussian army were present at the departure of the trains and gave flowers to all the nurses. It is very unfortunate that after their arrival in Russia this mission was hampered in every way, and had the greatest difficulty in obtaining permission to do any work at all. Many of them, however, managed to get in positions where they assisted the German prisoners. For instance, in one town where there were about five thousand Germans who had been sent there to live one of our doctors managed to get appointed as city physician and, aided by several of the American nurses, was able to do a great work for the German population. Others of our nurses managed to get as far as Tomsk in Siberia and others were scattered through the Russian Empire.
Had this mission under Dr. Snoddy been able to carry out its work as originally planned, it would not only have done much good to the German prisoners of war, but would have helped a great deal to do away with the bitter feeling entertained by Germans towards Americans. Even with the limited opportunity given this mission, it undoubtedly materially helped the prisoners.
On arriving in Berlin on their way home to America from Gleiwitz and Kosel, the doctors and nurses of these American units were all awarded the German Red Cross Order of the second class and those who had been in Austria were similarly decorated by the Austro-Hungarian Government.
Among those who devoted themselves to works of charity during this war no one stands higher than Herbert C. Hoover.
I cannot find words to express my admiration for this man whose great talents for organisation were placed at the service of humanity. Every one knows of what he accomplished in feeding the inhabitants of Belgium and Northern France. Mr. Hoover asked me to become one of the chairmen of the International Commission for the Relief of Belgium and I was happy to have the opportunity in Berlin to second his efforts. There was considerable business in connection with the work of the commission. I had many interviews with those in authority with reference to getting their ships through, etc. Mr. Hoover and I called on the Chancellor and endeavoured to get him, to remit the fine of forty million francs a month which the Germans had imposed upon Belgium. This, however, the Chancellor refused to do. Later on in April, 1915, I was able as an eye-witness to see how efficiently Mr. Hoover's organisation fed, in addition to the people of Belgium, the French population in that part of Northern France in the occupation of the Germans.
Mr. Hoover surrounded himself with an able staff, Mr. Vernon Kellogg and others, and in America men like Mr. A. J. Hemphill were his devoted supporters.
Early in 1915, Mr. Ernest P. Bicknell, who had first come to Germany representing the American Red Cross, returned representing not only that organisation but also the Rockefeller Foundation. With him was Mr. Wickliffe Rose, also of the Rockefeller Foundation; and with these two gentlemen I took up the question of the relief of Poland. Mr. Rose and Mr. Bicknell together visited Poland and saw with their own eyes the necessity for relief. A meeting was held in the Reichstag attended by Prince Hatzfeld of the German Red Cross, Director Guttmann, of the Dresdener Bank , Geheimrat Lewald, of the Imperial Ministry of the Interior, representing the German Government, and many others connected with the government, military and financial interests of Germany.
The Commission for the Relief in Poland, of which I was to be chairman, was organised and included the Spanish Ambassador, His Excellency the Bishop of Posen, the Prince Bishop of Cracow, Jacob H. Schiff of New York, and others. Messrs. Warwick, Greene and Wadsworth were to take up the actual executive work. In conjunction with Messrs. Rose and Bicknell, I drew up a sort of treaty, having particularly in mind certain difficulties encountered by the American Relief Commission in Belgium. The main point in this treaty was that the German Government agreed not to requisition either food or money within the limits of the territory to be relieved, which territory comprised that part of Poland within German occupation up to within, as I recall it, fifty kilometres of the firing line. The one exception was that a fine might be levied on a community where all the inhabitants had made themselves jointly and severally liable according to the provisions of the Hague Convention. The Rockefeller Foundation on its part agreed to pay all the expenses of the executive work of the commission. This treaty, after being submitted to General Hindenburg and approved by him, was signed by Dr. Lewald, representing the German Government, by Mr. Bicknell, representing the Rockefeller Foundation, and by me, representing the new commission for the relief of Poland.
Work was immediately commenced under this arrangement and, so far as possible, food was purchased in Holland and Denmark, but there was little to be had in these countries. The Allies, however, refused to allow food to enter Germany for the purpose of this commission, and so the matter fell through. Later, when the Allies were willing to permit the food to enter, it was the German Government that refused to reaffirm this treaty and refused to agree that the German army of occupation should not requisition food in occupied Poland. Of course, under these circumstances, no one could expect the Allies to consent to the entry of food; because the obvious result would be that the Germans would immediately, following the precedent established by them in Northern France, take all the food produced in the country for their army and the civil population of Germany, and allow the Poles to be fed with food sent in from outside, while perhaps their labour was utilised in the very fields the products of which were destined for German consumption.
There is no question that the sufferings of the people of Poland have been very great, and when the history of Poland during the war comes to be written the world will stand aghast at the story of her sufferings. It is a great pity that these various schemes for relief did not succeed. The Rockefeller Commission, however, up to the time I left Germany did continue to carry on some measure of relief and succeeded in getting in condensed milk, to some extent, for the children of that unfortunate country. These negotiations brought me in contact with a number of Poles resident in Berlin, whom I found most eager to do what they could to relieve the situation. I wish here to express my admiration for the work of the Rockefeller Commission in Europe. Not only were the ideas of the Commission excellent and businesslike but the men selected to carry them into effect were without exception men of high character and possessed of rare executive ability.
As I have said in a previous chapter, I was ridiculed in the American newspapers because I had suggested, in answer to a cable of the League of Mercy, that some work should be done for the prisoners of war. I do not know whether the great work undertaken by Dr. John R. Mott and his associates was suggested by my answer or not; that does not matter. But this work undertaken by the American Y. M. C. A. certainly mattered a great deal to the prisoners of war in Europe. Dr. Mott after serving on the Mexican Commission, has gone to Russia as a member of the Commission to that country.
The Y. M. C. A. organisation headed by Dr. Mott, who was most ably assisted by the Reverend Archibald C. Harte, took up this work, which was financed, I have been told, by the McCormick family of Chicago, Cleveland H. Dodge, John D. Rockefeller and others. Mr. Harte obtained permission from the German authorities for the erection of meeting halls and for work in German camps. When he had obtained this authorisation from Germany he went to Russia, where he was able to get a similar authorisation.
At first in Russia, I have heard, the prisoners of war were allowed great liberty and lived unguarded in Siberian villages where they obtained milk, bread, butter, eggs and honey at very reasonable rates. As the war went on they were more and more confined to barracks and there their situation was sad indeed. In the winter season, it is dark at three in the afternoon and remains dark until ten the following morning. Of course, I did not see the Russian prison camps. The work carried on there was similar to that carried on in the German camps by Mr. Harte and his band of devoted assistants.
I was particularly interested in this work because I hoped that the aid given to the German prisoners of war in Russia would help to do away with the great hate and prejudice against Americans in Germany. So I did all I could, not only to forward Mr. Harte's work, but to suggest and organise the sending of the expedition of nurses and doctors, which I have already described, to the Russian camps.
Of course, Mr. Harte in this work did not attempt to cover all the prison camps in Germany. He did much to help the mental and physical conditions of the prisoners in Ruhleben, the English civilian camp near Berlin. The American Y. M. C. A. built a great hall where religious exercises were held, plays and lectures given, and where prisoners had a good place to read and write in during the day. A library was established in this building.
The work carried on by the Y. M. C. A. may be briefly described as coming under the following heads: religious activities; educational activities; work shops, and gardens; physical exercises and out-door sports; diet kitchens for convalescents; libraries and music, including orchestra, choruses, and so on.
When I left Germany on the breaking of diplomatic relations, a number of these Y. M. C. A. workers left with me.
The German women exhibited notable qualities in war. They engaged in the Red Cross work, including the preparation of supplies and bandages for the hospitals, and the first day of mobilisation saw a number of young girls at every railway station in the country with food and drink for the passing soldiers. At railway junctions and terminals in the large cities, stations were established where these Red Cross workers gave a warm meal to the soldiers passing through. In these terminal stations there were also women workers possessed of sufficient skill to change the dressings of the lightly wounded.
On the Bellevuestrasse, Frau von Ihne, wife of the great architect, founded a home for blinded soldiers. In this home soldiers were taught to make brooms, brushes, baskets, etc.
German women who had country places turned these into homes for the convalescent wounded. But perhaps the most noteworthy was the National Frauendienst or Service for Women, organised the first day of the war. The relief given by the State to the wives and children of soldiers was distributed from stations in Berlin, and in the neighbourhood of each of these stations the Frauendienst established an office where women were always in attendance, ready to give help and advice to the soldiers' wives. There there were card-indexes of all the people within the district and of their needs. At the time I left Germany I believe that there were upwards of seven thousand women engaged in Berlin in social service, in instructing the women in the new art of cooking without milk, eggs or fat and seeing to it that the children had their fair share of milk. It is due to the efforts of these social workers that the rate of infant mortality in Berlin decreased during the war.
A war always causes a great unsettling in business and trade; people no longer buy as many articles of luxury and the workers engaged in the production of these articles are thrown out of employment. In Germany, the National Women's Service, acting with the labour exchanges, did its best to find new positions for those thrown out of work. Women were helped over a period of poverty until they could find new places and were instructed in new trades.
Many women engaged in the work of sending packages containing food and comforts to the soldiers at the front and to the German prisoners of war in other countries.
Through the efforts of the American Association of Commerce and Trade, and the Embassy, a free restaurant was established in Berlin in one of the poorer districts. About two hundred people were fed here daily in a hall decorated with flags and plants. This was continued even after we left Germany.
At Christmas, 1916, Mrs. Gerard and I visited this kitchen with Mr. and Mrs. Wolf and General von Kessel, Commander of the Mark of Brandenburg and one of his daughters. Presents were distributed to the children and the mothers received an order for goods in one of the department stores. The German Christmas songs were sung and when a little German child offered a prayer for peace, I do not think there was anyone present who could refrain from weeping.
Many of the German women of title, princesses, etc., established base hospitals of their own and seemed to manage these hospitals with success.
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