Headquarters Nights

AUGUST, 1917



WE do not hear much now from the German intellectuals. Some of the professors are writing for the German newspapers, but most of them are keeping silent in public. The famous Ninety-three are not issuing any more proclamations. When your armies are moving swiftly and gloriously forward under the banners of sweetness and light, to carry the proper civilization to an improperly educated and improperly thinking world, it is easier to make declarations of what is going to happen, and why it is, than when your armies are struggling for life with their backs to the wall — of a French village they have shot and burned to ruin for a reason that does not seem so good a reason now.

But some of the intellectuals still speak in the old strain in private. It has been my peculiar privilege to talk through long evening hours with a few of these men at Headquarters. Not exactly the place, one would think, for meeting these men, but let us say this for them: some of them fight as well as talk. And they fight, not simply because they are forced to, but because, curiously enough, they believe much of their talk. That is one of the dangers from the Germans to which the world is exposed: they really believe much of what they say.

A word of explanation about the Headquarters, and how I happened to be there. It was — it is no longer, and that is why I can speak more freely about it — not only Headquarters but the Great Headquarters— Grosses Hauptquartier — of all the German Armies of the West. Here were big Von Schoeler, General-Intendant, and the scholarly-looking Von Freytag, Generul-Quartiermeister, with his unscholarly looking, burly chief of staff, Von Zoellner. Here also were Von Falkenhayn, the Kaiser’s Chief of Staff, and sometimes even the All-Highest himself, who never missed the Sunday morning service in the long low corrugated-iron shed which looked all too little like a royal chapel ever to interest a flitting French bomber.

But not only was this small gray town on the Meuse, just where the water pours out of its beautiful cañon course through the Ardennes, the headquarters of the German General Staff — it was also the station, by arrangement with the staff, of the American Relief Commission’s humble ununiformed chief representative for the North of France (occupied French territory). For several months I held this position, living with the German officer detached from the General Quartermaster’s staff to protect me — and watch me. Later, too, as director of the Commission at Brussels, I had frequent occasion to visit Headquarters for conferences with officers of the General Staff. It was thus that I had opportunity for these Headquarters Nights.

Among the officers and officials of Headquarters there were many strong and keen German militaristic brains, — that goes without saying, — but there were also a few of the professed intellectuals — men who had exchanged, for the moment, the academic robes of the Aula for the field-gray uniforms of the army. The second commandant of the Headquarters town was a professor of jurisprudence at the University of Marburg; and an infantry captain, who lived in the house with my guardian officer and me, is the professor of zoölogy in one of the larger German universities, and one of the most brilliant of present-day biologists. I do not wish to indicate his person more particularly, for I shall say some hard things about him, —or about him as representative of many, — and we are friends. Indeed, he was Privat-docent in charge of the laboratory in which I worked years ago at the University of Leipzig, and we have been correspondents and friends ever since. How he came to be at Headquarters, and at precisely the same time that I was there, is a story which has its interest, but cannot be told at present.

Our house was rather a favored centre, for ‘my officer,’ Graf W., — he always called me ‘my American,’ but he could no more get away from me than I from him, — is a generous entertainer, and our dinners were rarely without guests from other headquarters houses. Officers, from veteran generals down to pink-cheeked lieutenants, came to us and asked us to them. The discussions, begun at dinner, lasted long into the night. They sat late, these German officers, over their abundant wine — French vintages conveniently arranged for. And always we talked and tried to understand one another; to get the other man’s point of view, his Weltanschauung.

Well, I say it dispassionately but with conviction: if I understand theirs, it is a point of view that will never allow any land or people controlled by it to exist peacefully by the side of a people governed by our point of view. For their point of view does not permit of a live-and-let-live kind of carrying on. It is a point of view that justifies itself by a whole-hearted acceptance of the worst of Neo-Darwinism, the Allmacht of natural selection applied rigorously to human life and society and Kultur.

Professor von Flussen — that is not his name — is a biologist. So am I. So we talked out the biological argument for war, and especially for this war. The captain-professor has a logically constructed argument why, for the good of the world, there should be this war, and why, for the good of the world, the Germans should win it, win it completely and terribly. Perhaps I can state his argument clearly enough, so that others may see and accept his reasons, too. Unfortunately for the peace of our evenings, I was never convinced. That is, never convinced that for the good of the world the Germans should win this war, completely and terribly. I was convinced, however, that this war once begun must be fought to a finish of decision — a finish that will determine whether or not Germany’s point of view is to rule the world. And this conviction, thus gained, meant the conversion of a pacifist to an ardent supporter, not of War, but of this war; of fighting this war to a definitive end — that end to be Germany’s conversion to be a good Germany, or not much of any Germany at all. My ‘ Headquarters Nights ’ are the confessions of a converted pacifist.

In talking it out biologically, we agreed that the human race is subject to the influence of the fundamental biologic laws of variation, heredity, selection, and so forth, just as are all other animal — and plant — kinds. The factors of organic evolution, generally, are factors in human natural evolution. Man has risen from his primitive bestial stage of glacial time, a hundred or several hundred thousand years ago, when he was animal among animals, to the stage of to-day, always under the influence of these great evolutionary factors, and partly by virtue of them. But he does not owe all of his progress to these factors, or, least of all, to any one of them, as natural selection, a thesis Professor von Flussen seemed ready to maintain.

Natural selection depends for its working on a rigorous and ruthless struggle for existence. Yet this struggle has its ameliorations, even as regards the lower animals, let alone man.

There are three general phases of this struggle: —

1. An inter-specific struggle, or the lethal competition among different animal kinds for food, space, and opportunity to increase;

2. An intra-specific struggle, or lethal competition among the individuals of a single species resultant on the over-production due to natural multiplication by geometric progression; and,

3. The constant struggle of individuals and species against the rigors of climate, the danger of storm, flood, drought, cold, and heat.

Now any animal kind and its individuals may be continually exposed to all of these phases of the struggle for existence, or, on the other hand, any one or more of these phases may be largely ameliorated or even abolished for a given species and its individuals. This amelioration may come about through a happy accident of time or place, or because of the adoption by the species of a habit or mode of life that continually protects it from a certain phase of the struggle.

For example, the voluntary or involuntary migration of representatives of a species hard pressed to exist in its native habitat, may release it from the too severe rigors of a destructive climate, or take it beyond the habitat of its most dangerous enemies, or give it the needed space and food for the support of a numerous progeny. Thus, such a single phenomenon as migration might ameliorate any one or more of the several phases of the struggle for existence.

Again, the adoption by two widely distinct and perhaps antagonistic species of a commensal or symbiotic life, based on the mutual-aid principle,— thousands of such cases are familiar to naturalists, — would ameliorate or abolish the inter-specific struggle between these two species. Even more effective in the modification of the influence due to a bitter struggle for existence, is the adoption by a species of an altruistic or communistic mode of existence so far as its own individuals are concerned. This, of course, would largely ameliorate for that species the intra-specific phase of its struggle for life. Such animal altruism, and the biological success of the species exhibiting it, is familiarly exemplified by the social insects (ants, bees, and wasps).

As a matter of fact, this reliance by animal kinds for success in the world upon a more or less extreme adoption of the mutual-aid principle, as contrasted with the mutual-fight principle, is much more widely spread among the lower animals than familiarly recognized, while in the case of man, it has been the greatest single factor in the achievement of his proud biological position as king of living creatures.

Altruism — or mutual aid, as the biologists prefer to call it, to escape the implication of assuming too much consciousness in it — is just as truly a fundamental biologic factor of evolution as is the cruel, strictly self-regarding, exterminating kind of struggle for existence with which the Neo-Darwinists try to fill our eyes and ears, to the exclusion of the recognition of all other factors.

Professor von Flussen is Neo-Darwinian, as are most German biologists and natural philosophers. The creed of the Allmacht of a natural selection based on violent and fatal competitive struggle is the gospel of the German intellectuals; all else is illusion and anathema. The mutual-aid principle is recognized only as restricted to its application within limited groups. For instance, it may and does exist, and to positive biological benefit, within single ant communities, but the different ant kinds fight desperately with each other, the stronger destroying or enslaving the weaker. Similarly, it may exist to advantage within the limits of organized human groups — as those which are ethnographically, nationally, or otherwise variously delimited. But as with the different ant species, struggle — bitter, ruthless struggle — is the rule among the different human groups.

This struggle not only must go on, for that is the natural law, but it should go on, so that this natural law may work out in its cruel, inevitable way the salvation of the human species. By its salvation is meant its desirable natural evolution. That human group which is in the most advanced evolutionary stage as regards internal organization and form of social relationship is best, and should, for the sake of the species, be preserved at the expense of the less advanced, the less effective. It should win in the struggle for existence, and this struggle should occur precisely that the various types may be tested, and the best not only preserved, but put in position to impose its kind of social organization—its Kultur — on the others, or, alternatively to destroy and replace them.

This is the disheartening kind of argument that I faced at Headquarters; argument logically constructed on premises chosen by the other fellow. Add to these assumed premises of the Allmacht of struggle and selection based on it, and the contemplation of mankind as a congeries of different, mutually irreconcilable kinds, like the different ant species, the additional assumption that the Germans are the chosen race, and German social and political organization the chosen type of human community life, and you have a wall of logic and conviction that you can break your head against but can never shatter—by head work. You long for the muscles of Samson.


The danger from Germany is, I have said, that the Germans believe what they say. And they act on this belief. Professor von Flussen says that this war is necessary as a test of the German position and claim. If Germany is beaten, it will prove that she has moved along the wrong evolutionary line, and should be beaten. If she wins, it will prove that she is on the right way, and that the rest of the world, at least that part which we and the Allies represent, is on the wrong way and should, for the sake of the right evolution of the human race, be stopped, and put on the right way— or else be destroyed, as unfit.

Professor von Flussen is sure that Germany’s way is the right way, and that the biologic evolutionary factors are so all-controlling in determining human destiny, that this being biologically right is certain to insure German victory. If the wrong and unnatural alternative of an Allied victory should obtain, then he would prefer to die in the catastrophe and not have to live in a world perversely resistant to natural law. He means it all. He will act on this belief. He does act on it, indeed. He opposes all mercy, all compromise with human soft-heartedness. Apart from his horrible academic casuistry and his conviction that the individual is nothing, the State all, he is a reasoning and a warm-hearted man. So are some other Germans. But for him and them the test of right in this struggle is success in it. So let every means to victory be used. The only intelligence Germans should follow in these days is the intelligence of the General Staff; the only things to believe and to repeat are the statements of the official bureau of publicity.

There is no reasoning with this sort of thing, no finding of any heart or soul in it. There is only one kind of answer: resistance by brutal force; war to a decision. It is the only argument in rebuttal understandable of these men at Headquarters into whose hands the German people have put their destiny.

One evening we had a larger and more distinguished dinner group than usual. The Duke of——, a veteran of 1870 and very close to the Kaiser, altogether a personage, had come by motor with a small staff from his headquarters near the Champagne front. My officer was all of a flutter with the importance and excitement of the event. He coached all of us — orderlies, myself, and resident guests — as to our proper behavior during the visit. This was to consist chiefly of much stiff standing up, repeated formal bows, and respectful silence. No one was to start anything on his own initiative. We were to take the conversational cue from His Highness. The Commandantprofessor of jurisprudence was there, and a casual baron or two, and various headquarters officers.

The duke entered, to find us a fixed row of effigies, hands on trouser-seams, eyes front, chins up, in the receivingroom. His Highness was a small bewhiskered gentleman, very abrupt and disconcerting in manner, but not at all stupid, and very ready to express his opinions on all subjects of war and church history, his hobby.

As he surveyed the row of effigies his keen eye spotted the ununiformed American, and he directed a questioning look toward Graf W., the host. My officer made a concise explanation of the situation, which the duke acknowledged with a grunt of understanding and the sharp question, —

‘ But does he speak German?'

Graf W. hastened to declare, 'Wie ein Eingeborener’— like a native,— which is far from true. Another grunt of satisfaction, a critical stare of examination, and finally a direct phrase of formal recognition. I reserved any exhibition of my fluent German, and merely bowed. My officer gave me an expressive look of approval and found a later chance to congratulate me on my ‘ success.’ I suppose not being ordered out of the room may be called success, under the circumstances.

After giving the whole row a final looking-over, His Highness mumbled something, whereupon an aide-decamp stepped briskly up, clicked heels, and held out to him a small box containing several medals on yellow ribbons. They were the insignia of some minor order in his duchy. He presented one to one of the barons, one to the commandant-professor of jurisprudence, and one to — my officer’s chief orderly, who acted as house barber and head waiter! The baron and professor had done their bestand deepest bowing, but when Müller’s turn came, it was like morning gymnastics in the bedroom. ‘Touch toes ten times with finger-tips, legs remaining unbent.’ I fancied that the baron and professor became less satisfied with their honor, the more Müller waxed enthusiastic. In fact, they did not put on their orders immediately; Müller did. Finally, my officer got our barber to stop bowing,— the duke was n’t even seeing him,—and we went into the diningroom.

At dinner the personally conducted conversation leaped suddenly from church history to Zeppelining. It was just after one of those earlier London raids, when the great city was practically defenseless, and the German newspapers had been full for several days of accounts of the enormous damage and losses of life achieved by the raid. As a matter of fact there were some horrors — not extensive but intensive horrors: women and babies in several houses, and an omnibusful of passengers in a by-street, sickeningly mangled and murdered.

The duke declared that Zeppelining was stupid and the men who ordered it fools. The table was struck silent. A duke close to the Kaiser might say such a thing, but no less a personage. Zeppelining had been declared wise and good by the General Staff and the Berlin official publicity bureau. It was therefore wise and good. So one of the barons ventured to remonstrate. It was the one who had received his order along with Müller, and in whom the champagne had perhaps let some obscure natural feeling of resentment get the better of the well-learned feeling of proper gratitude for his dubious distinction.

‘But His Highness will recall,’ said the baron, ‘the military advantage of Zeppelining: the value of holding guns and gunners in England which might otherwise be sent to the battle-line, and the blowing up of munition factories, and the— ah — the terror and the — well, the military advantage generally. One must not consider the — ah — other side of the matter. A few — ah — non-combatants, perhaps, but the military advantage, that is the sole criterion.’

His Highness snorted audibly and visibly.

‘That is, of course, all that one does take into consideration. It is precisely and only because there is no military advantage in Zeppelining that it is stupid and the men who order it are stupid pigs. We don’t blow up any munition factories, and for every miserable woman killed, hundreds, aye, thousands of Englishmen rush into the army to come over to the front and fight us. We are doing their recruiting for them.’ He fixed the squirming recipient of his yellow ribbon with a cold gray eye. ‘We are all only thinking of the military advantage. What are a few — oh, pouf, why talk of it? My dear baron, I am perhaps as much a military man as you ’ (this was withering scorn: the baron was the Headquarters reader of foreign newspapers!), ‘and I repeat: Zeppelining is bad, and it is bad simply and entirely because it has no military advantage.’

That ended Zeppelining for the moment, until unlucky I — Well, the very next subject introduced was the attitude of the neutral world, America in particular, toward Germany. The newspaper-reading baron suddenly turned to me.

‘Why is this universal hate of Germany? Why do you Americans hate us?’

It was too soon after what I had just heard. I blurted out,—

‘For things like the military advantage of Zeppelining.’

My officer gave a scrape and a lurch; something tipped over. Then he stared — all of us stared — at the duke. His Highness did not order me to the firing squad or even to the cells. He did nothing, said nothing, to show any displeasure. He looked steadily and thoughtfully at me, and then gruffly indicated his pleasure that the company should rise from the table. My officer recovered his color and his equanimity.

I believe that His Highness knew that answer all the time. But the rest did not, and they do not understand it now. ‘Military advantage,’ ‘military expediency’ — how often have these phrases blocked us of the Relief Commission in our efforts in Belgium and North France! No mercy, no ‘womenand-children’ appeals; no hesitation to use the torch and the firing squad, deportation, and enslavement. And it is all a part of Professor von Flussen’s philosophy; the pale ascetic intellectual and the burly, red-faced butcher meet on common ground here. And then they wonder why the world comes together to resist this philosophy — and this butchery — to the death!


Late one afternoon we left Headquarters to dine with General von R. down near the Champagne front. Mr. Hoover, Chairman of the Commission, and Mr. White, of its London office, had come over to Brussels and on to Headquarters for a conference in connection with our work in Northern France; and so we were all to go with my officer and two or three other men of the General Staff to receive this special attention from a commanding general at the front.

We made an imposing procession in three big gray military cars running swiftly to the south. As the general’s chief of staff, who had come to Headquarters to escort us personally, spoke no English and did not like to hear English spoken, he took me alone with him in his car. He was a taciturn crusty major, with a thin, stern face and tight lips.

His first remarks were certain direct questions about conditions in London and England. I could reply only that, if such questions were asked me in England about Germany or Germanoccupied territory, I would not answer them. He did not like it, but after a little bullying settled into moody silence, occasionally broken by curt remarks to me, and brutally put instructions to his soldier chauffeur. It was evident that he did not like the idea of his general’s showing this high courtesy to the intruding Yankees. It was not a pleasant excursion for any of us, and yet it was a beautiful two hours’ ride over smooth tree-lined roads, — the trees are mostly gone now, — through picturesque country of wide outlooks.

Just at dusk we climbed slowly up a gentle hill-slope. As we reached the flat summit and sped along over it, one could see the road stretching far ahead, a gently irregular white line dipping out of sight into a valley in front, but reappearing on the farther up-slope and running there straight away into invisibility. Just at the horizon, where the hilltop met the heavens and the road disappeared, the tower of a little church silhouetted itself against the darkening blue of the evening sky.

‘That is the road to Rheims,’ muttered my companion. ‘You can see it from that church.’

I thrilled. The road to Rheims! Rheims just there in front, and a shell bursting over it —over the Cathedral, say — could be seen from that little church. I wanted to go right on along that white line to that hilltop.

Later I really did go there, and beyond it even to the very verge of the sad city itself. There is an extraordinary little village of cellars — the houses above are mere stone-heaps — just behind the German trenches in front of Rheims. These cellars are occupied by two hundred and thirty-three women and girls, sixty-seven children, and four tottering old men, the total remaining population of a once picturesque and crowded village. We wanted them to come away, and be housed farther back from the line. But they prefer to live ‘at home.’ And so we have fed these women and children there two years. They live in their cellars, with the shells moaning back and forth over them whenever there is ‘ desultory artillery firing before Rheims.’

As we were running swiftly over the flat hill-summit with the long view in front of us, our driver, without being instructed — and cursed — by the major, suddenly slowed the car, and I noted the major staring hard at a soldier’s grave by the roadside. There had been hard fighting all about here and the graves were numerous along the way. My companion turned abruptly to me, with a thumb-jerk toward the grave.

‘ He was my best friend,’ he said gruffly; and with another jerk to the front, he added, ‘ And my brother lies under the shadows of that churchtower there on the hill.’

I forgave him his gruffness.

Arrived at the general’s headquarters in a French industrial town now half in ruins, we walked by a stiff row of orderlies into a spacious house, and were shown by other orderlies and a young lieutenant to an upstairs room to brush off the white chalk-dust of the Champagne road. My officer had remained below. Suddenly he came into our room, excited and with a face of much concern. He told us swiftly that a translation of President Wilson’s latest note, a short and sharp one, had just been telephoned to the general from Berlin. And the general and everybody downstairs were violently incensed. He wondered whether one of us had not better get suddenly ill, so that we should have to go back at once without staying for dinner.

This seemed absurd. We said that the general could get ill and call off the dinner if he wanted to, but we should not. Poor Graf W.! He had been trained to abuse his subordinates and cringe before his superiors, and it was really a horrible position for him; he felt, in a way, responsible for his Yankees, and he wanted the occasion to go off pleasantly. However, we had not written the note, or done anything except come, with no anticipations of pleasure, to eat dinner with the general! And so we insisted on going down.

It was a strenuous meal, not because of an overabundance of things to eat, — it is a long time now since there has been too much to eat in Germany, even among generals, — but because of the situation. The general and his staff were always polite, but never more than that. They were perfectly correct and perfectly reserved. We talked much and said little. The general declared an interest in ‘ caring for the people.’ He was trying to reëstablish the industries of the region, he said. I had noted the stacks of two factories smoking as we entered the town. Such sights in Belgium and North France have been unusual for two years, and attract attention. I said we were very glad to learn of his interest, and asked what the factories were. He turned to the gentleman on his other side. But a less discerning young officer across the table said they were making corrugated iron. This is an article much used in and behind the trenches.

There is also much cutting of trees — French trees — and sawing of lumber going on in occupied France. Wood is also much used in the trenches. And large herds of cattle are being pastured in French pastures. They are German cattle for the soldiers. The French cattle have long ago been eaten by them.

I suppose all this is just war. But when such things are given the color before the world of ‘restoring the industries of the people,’ the specific object of this restoration should be told. The bald truth is that Governor von Bissing’s repeated declarations of rehabilitating industries in Belgium, and the similar statements of the General Staff for Northern France, are equivocations. What has been strongly attempted has been a forced exploitation of the people for German military advantage. It has been resisted by the simple but brave and patriotic workingmen of the occupied territories with a success that seems incredible in the face of the guns and deporting trains all too familiar to them. It is true, as has been said in criticism of them, that the Belgians do not work. They have little work of their own they can do, and they will not work for the Germans. That is one of the reasons for the deportations, which have been, by the way, one of the greatest of German blunders — and brutalities — in this war. But I must not write of Belgium now; Headquarters was in Northern France.

It was not all sticking at Headquarters. I traveled — always with my officer, of course — up and down and across and back over all of occupied France; from Lille to Longwy, from Coucy-le-Château to Charleville. For the purposes of our ravitaillement the occupied French territory is divided into six districts. These corresponded with no political subdivisions of the country, as départements and arrondissements, but were determined chiefly by the original disposition of the German armies, each of which, having a certain degree of autonomy as regards the region occupied by it, objected to any movement of French feeding committees and our own American Commission representatives across the borders of its own region. We had therefore six district ravitaillement centres, or headquarters, at each of which were stationed one or two of our representatives, who moved about more or less freely in his district, each with a specially detailed German officer of his own — ‘nurses,’ we called them. It was my privilege and duty as chief representative, and my officer’s as chief of the officer group, to visit occasionally each of the districts.

We traveled by military motor, my officer and I in the tonneau, and a soldier chauffeur and an orderly in the driver’s seat, each of them with a loaded Mauser held erect in clamps by his side. In each side-flap pocket of the tonneau was a loaded Browning. We were never shot at, nor did we ever shoot at anybody, but the armament gave the proper military tone to our equipage. We ran frightfully fast, and I always had the uneasy feeling that I should find my finish in North France, not in a dramatic erasure by a stray shell or casual bomb from overhead, but in a commonplace motor smashup. As it came out, the only casualties attending our 5000 or more kilometres of mad running were among the few remaining half-fed chickens of the French villagers. We did once rather narrowly miss being run over by the Crown Prince, who sat on the front seat with an orderly, and drove his own car like a hurricane. As he swerved slightly to miss us, he intrusted his life — and ours — to one of his hands, while with the other he gave us a débonnaire salute.

This extraordinary touring of North France came finally to get strongly on my nerves. It is such a sad land; such a wreck of half-destroyed villages and crumbled farm-houses; of stripped woodland and neglected fields. And the people: all women and children and old and infirm men! And the meagreness of the food-supply, despite the best we could do! We meant much to these people, we eight or ten Americans moving about among them; at least, they gave us unmistakably to understand that we did. We represented the sympathy and endeavor of a great nation far away. Cut off as these imprisoned French are from all communication with their fighting men across the terrible trench-lines; cut off even from communication with each other, if only a few miles apart, we exemplified the freedom that still existed somewhere, and the hope of the freedom to come to them again. And we meant, too, for them, the holding back of the spectre of actual starvation.

The sights and the incidents of those trips are too harrowing to exploit. They are untellable intimate memories for us, but they went far in making us convinced and bitter believers that the only comprehensible answer to the German philosophy of ‘ raison d’État,’ and ‘military exigency,’ to these ravages of non-combatant countryside and village, is an answer of force. Not that we wish to do to them what they have done to others, but to prevent them by force from ever doing that again.

I could understand why the villages along the Meuse were shot to pieces; there was real fighting there — at least in some of them. And there were some more whose names I recalled as associated with the desperate retreating struggles of the overwhelmed French and British. But there are many, many others in which there was no fighting, but just destroying. They have not been enumerated as have the Belgian towns; they have no sad fame in the ears of the world: they are just nameless scores of illustrations and results of the German conception of the struggle for existence as a contributory factor in the evolution of human kind.

There is, I suppose, a slight military advantage in so maltreating and terrifying a conquered land that only a few elderly Landsturmers, scattered here and there over it, are sufficient as an army of occupation. The rest of the Landsturmers can be used in the trenches. But it is a terrible price — of something — to pay for this alleged military advantage.

I used to ask my officer about these wrecked villages as we ran through them, or stopped to inspect a local distributing centre, or watch a soup-line, or get a report, and always a piteous request, from a feeding committee. He had a stereotyped reply: ‘Punishment.’

‘Punishment for what?’

‘For a civilian’s shooting at a soldier; or the village’s harboring a spy; or a failure to meet a requisition; or something or other.’

He never knew exactly: nobody ever knew exactly; and I do not know exactly. Not even with all the explanation from the captain-professor, who explained it on a basis of biological philosophy. Nor with the explanation of the non-philosophizing fighters, who simply said that it was necessary as a military advantage. Nor with the explanation of my officer, who, when I continued to press him, would make an ugly screwing gesture with closed fist, which seemed to mean, ‘Just do it to them! ’

I went into Northern France and Belgium to act as a neutral, and I did act as a neutral all the time I was there. If I learned there anything of military value which could be used against the Germans I shall not reveal it. But I came out no neutral. Also I went in an ardent hater of war and I came out a more ardent one. I have seen that side of the horror and waste and outrage of war which is worse than the side revealed on the battlefield. How I hope for the end of all war!

But I have come out believing that that cannot come until any people which has dedicated itself to the philosophy and practice of war as a means of human advancement is put into a position of impotence to indulge its belief at will. My conviction is that Germany is such a people, and that it can be put into this position only by the result of war itself. It knows no other argument and it will accept no other decision.