Prussian Manners

LIFE in the invaded provinces of France, during the years 1914 and 1915, remained under a pall of mystery and silence; one would have said that that strip of our territory had fallen into an abyss, so rigorously did the Germans keep our compatriots in secret durance. It was not until after a year of this seclusion that some repatriated persons began to emerge — at first, at rare intervals, then in frequent batches; but in what a state of pallid exhaustion! Let this one physical fact suffice: all of them without exception, even in 1916, had lost a fifth, a fourth, or a third of their weight . They all looked as if they had escaped from a torture chamber. Morally they are unconquered, all quivering alike with indignation and contempt for the barbarians; or, if there are some who prefer to hold their peace, they do it only from excess of inward horror, and in this way give voice, perhaps, to an even more tragic protest.

Indeed, as we shall see, the German tyranny does not consist simply in an exorbitant application of the dogma of might. It has special mortifications, peculiar to the race, which make it even more painful, if that is possible. It is not inspired solely by the systematic despotism and immorality cynically adopted by Germany; it is not a pure, unadulterated application of any doctrine: it springs from a genuine lack of morality, and from a well-spring of vicious animalism, which psychologists have so often detected in the German blood.

Not that I am so foolish as to hold that all Germans are low, malignant, and brutal; but it can be said without hesitation that such is, generally speaking, their psychical type, more or less emphasized; that such are their racial characteristics, as appears from innumerable facts gathered from the lips of our repatriates of every locality.


One of the most amazing manifestations of the Germanic spirit, in invaded France, is the compulsory salutation which the officers impose upon all males, and, by a refinement of tyranny, upon the women and girls. Even in ancient Latium, at the Caudine Forks, only the men were made to pass under the yoke, and that but once. But the Teuton, in his insensibility to human dignity, is never weary of trampling upon other men’s souls and of treating man like a beast of the field.

This enforced tragi-comic salute to the invaders and intruders naturally wounded to the quick the high sense of their own dignity and of the truth characteristic of Frenchmen. Resistance appeared on all sides. Force was necessary to gratify a caprice that Gessler might have delighted in. At Noyon, at Vergnier, in hundreds of places, those who infringed the regulation were thrown into jail. Sexagenarian priests who had neglected to bare their heads before sub-lieutenants were dragged away to prison beyond the Rhine. Officers did not blush to horsewhip passersby who did not salute them, or who did not bow low enough. At Étreux a blind man was struck by a colonel whom he could not see.

Above all, the salute extorted from women displays to the full an innate vulgarity peculiar to the German. We recall our own Louis XIV, always the first to salute the women in his service, absolute master as he was. Our secular French tradition of courtesy and chivalry rises in revolt. But nothing is more German than to lay the heavy hand of oppression on women. Why, at SaintQuentin, in 1915, an elderly woman, in her terrified haste to salute an officer and make way for him on the sidewalk, fell and broke her leg. Sometimes this female salute is elaborated; women are compelled to smile when bowing. These anxious and grief-stricken women, torn from their husbands and children and brothers, these women who are robbed and whose homes are constantly searched and tossed and turned over like the bedding of cattle, are commanded to smile upon the invaders!


It is not the salute alone which shows us the Germans engaged in actively persecuting women. In September, 1914, the troops constantly pointed their guns at Frenchwomen to force them to wait upon them; the officers as constantly had their revolvers in their hands. In the districts where game is abundant, girls, whatever their station in life, act as beaters when the officers hunt, and those who refuse are imprisoned in a cellar three days for each such refusal.

The period of actual assaults has passed, but there remains the pleasant pastime of frightening young girls by discharging firearms at close range, and firearms held in whose hands — in those of the assassins of Tamines and Dinan!

Since January 1, 1917, the civil mobilization has exhibited this female slavery in all its hideousness. Even before that the women had been forced to wait upon the officers at table, and to wash their linen. The German authorities had already laid upon them all possible tasks — taking no account of social position or of physical strength. Middle-class women of Lille and La Fère were sent to dig potatoes a hundred kilometres from their homes. The widow of a French colonel killed in action was in turn chambermaid and farm laborer in Germany. In the region about Laon one could see women working under the lash. Worse still, they are sent out to work in close proximity to the firing-line, where the Germans themselves find it unsafe to go. Or again, when aircraft are passing over, the women are forbidden to leave their work, while their keepers run to cover. Mrs. Edith Wharton even saw elderly women whose arms or legs Boche officers had broken with their sabres.

The harassing and insulting of women take also another turn. Women and girls of good social position are compelled to undress on the pretext of search or medical examinations. The German has no respect for girls; he has torn them from their families by thousands. Nor does he respect maternity: in 1915, the wife of the mayor of Le Catelet, sentenced to three months confinement for not making known her husband’s presence in her house, was separated from the infant she was nursing and led away between two policemen. In many places mothers were torn from their children in arms, from sobbing and desperate little girls, who threw themselves on their knees without avail.


From what has gone before it will be seen that ‘ the nation that deceives,’ as Nietzsche himself called his compatriots, is at the same time the nation that degrades, the nation that tramples at pleasure upon all the laws of civilization, of justice, and of honor, and drags in the gutter all things of spiritual worth, everything that lifts us above the beasts of the field.

In their souls, no less than in their flesh and blood, do these Germans exert themselves to wound the helpless French. They have cast off all restraint in this respect. Passing over the merely humiliating measures, which are constantly being added to, — such, for example, as transforming the school-boys of Saint-Quentin into street-sweepers, — we may mention the method of requisitioning copper and iron, which was adopted in our northern towns. Each inhabitant was required to deliver his metal personally at the Kommandantur. In vain did the mayors implore them to spare the bleeding patriotism of the French, asking them to strip the houses, themselves, of all their copper and iron, but to relieve Frenchmen from the hateful necessity of carrying to the enemy with their own hands materials with which to sow death in the ranks of their brethren. At Lille, a retired officer of 1870 vainly invoked his past career to those Huns. Pointing to his gray hair, he called his persecutors to witness that in requiring him to surrender his copper to their munition factory, they required him to surrender his honor and to belie his whole life. Taken to jail as a rebel, he fell dead on the threshold, suffocated with indignation.

Thus far we have dealt only with the method of requisition. What shall we say of the requisition itself, and, worse yet, of the enforced labor of our people upon German munitions. In very truth, the enrollment of captive Frenchmen in the enemy munition factories has enlarged the confines of human degradation. French and Belgians who refused to lay aside their moral obligations have been deprived of food, or have been immersed for hours at a time, in winter, in pools of ice-cold water, or bound to trees and flogged, until they were changed into mere beasts of burden.

Let no one believe that such enslavement of captives is an inevitable consequence, a new and rigorous law of war. No, it is a German decree, an outward manifestation of their innate materialism, their faint notion of conscience and human dignity.

The Germans also impose upon the French the dishonoring obligation of informing upon one another. Many mayors were sentenced to years of imprisonment in German fortresses for having neglected to denounce the mobilized men of their communes.

It is as if one were looking on at a general proscription of souls which are being hunted down on all sides. The barbarians carry their outrages so far as to cast obloquy upon our reverence for our dead. Not content with erecting over the charnel-houses of the battlefield carved monuments insulting to our gallant troops, they even profane the cemeteries and mar them with obscenities; they empty graves by the thousands, in order to carry pillage to the limit. At Laon they actually stole the flowers which the people had laid on the coffins of three children killed in a bombardment from the air on December 21, 1916.

The dignity of the priesthood in its turn has been dragged in the mire, with the same craving to outrage sentiments most worthy of respect. In October, 1915, they derisively enveloped in a green gown, and sentenced to hard labor, the curé of Saint-Michel, in whose house they had found the toy rifle of a child! So, too, in 1914, the cure of Le Catelet, having been maltreated and beaten on a false suspicion of assault, had to look on while the soldiers arrayed a dead horse in his priestly robes amid laughter and hooting.

Nor have the churches always been immune to outrage, even at a distance from the firing line. At the outset the Germans pillaged and defiled, among many others, the churches at Chauny, Candor, Sempigny, and Vermand, tearing down the silver crucifixes, and swathing the statues of the saints in tawdry rags. In 1917, the cathedral of Laon was used as a stable for four hundred horses. They did not stop short even of trying to assail elementary Christian morality in the invaded communities, and destroy it. To mention but one example: the curé of La Capelle, a true apostle, passed three months in prison for having enjoined upon his flock compassion for the deported Belgians who were dying of hunger.

Nothing was left for the invader to debase except inanimate things; and this they are doing. In their hatred of the soul, they cut through to the stone upon which its impress is stamped. Just as, in the loftier regions of art and history, they have disfigured the Cathedral of Notre Dame at Rheims and the Château of Coucy, so, on a lower plane, in order to put a bitterer affront upon French homes, it has been their delight to put their ban on parlors and dining-rooms and turn them into stables. Their flood of insults goes even further: it becomes simply revolting. Once the houses are utterly looted, they proceed to make them filthy, exulting savagely, like man-apes, who have broken their chains, and who dance for very joy on finding themselves where bestiality is under no restraint. Parlors, bedrooms, no less than churches and cemeteries, they take delight in using as latrines, with the approval and concurrence of their officers. It is a manifestation of the superabundance of the animal element in them — that element of which it has been said that it is ‘ their vital, deep-rooted characteristic.’


It would have been natural — or so it seems — that in the officers at least a more fully developed intellectuality would counterbalance these degrading tendencies. But no, nothing of the sort. Their intellectuality has no other effect than to lead them to acknowledge with pride, and to display more fully, their racial deformities.

Still imbued with the feudal spirit, they assume their station openly, without shame or reserve, on an Olympus of good living, of material indulgence and rapine, above the mass of common soldiers and the suffering people. Everywhere, in the zone of cantonment, private casinos afford them abundance and comfort. Notably at Laon, their requisitions of plate and glass bear witness to their tempestuous revels, wherein one can detect the survival of their primitive mental state when they were rushing toward Paris, like gigantic Saturnalian worms; for numerous officers carried away in their trunks the smoking paraphernalia of the theatres and private supper-parties, and others lay dead drunk under the tables at their halting-places.

They arrange casinos and private apartments at their pleasure, tearing down such walls or houses as happen to be in their way, seizing furniture on all sides, drawing upon each town as upon an immense free warehouse. Factories supply them with electric light at the cost of the inhabitants. Cattle and fowl, left behind on the farms, are hardly numerous enough to satisfy them. They requisition these fowl at the expense of the people, who are left to starve. They leave for the children only an infinitesimal quantity of milk. The butter of the dairies is also reserved for them, and even the private soldiers are allowed to buy only the skim milk that remains.

At the beginning of the occupation, certain officers maintained some reserve and some appearance of decency in the French households in which they had their billets. But as time passed they all sank deeper into iniquity, and stood less and less upon ceremony. If they passed through the dining-room while the family were at table, they would lean over and remove the covers of the dishes. Even in districts where they pretend to restrain the looting of their men, it not infrequently happens that they themselves, after defiling their bedrooms, carry away anything that takes their fancy. Even the chaplains steal valuable chalices or sacerdotal ornaments, which they have used in saying mass, thus substituting the Kaiser’s formula for the divine law.

The large towns are a field for special experiences. As respect for human sensibilities weighs more heavily there upon the invaders, they sometimes exercise more self-restraint, and try to ingratiate themselves. At Lille and Saint-Quentin certain officers have tried to reestablish social courtesy: they have offered their arms to their hostesses, given flowers to the ladies and sweets to the children. A painful embarrassment for Frenchwomen! If their persecutors smiled, they laid bare the wolf’s teeth which rent the human flocks of Belgium and Armenia. To be offered a box of candy would raise a suspicion of incendiary pastilles. Mothers would keep the sweets from their children, but sometimes they would accept the flowers, for fear of enraging these polite gentlemen who had come red-handed, one from a burglary, another from murdering a child, and who tagged with madrigals the cynical theories of Bernhardi.

In other places, — at Roubaix for instance, — out upon even the outward show of courtesy! No more flowers, no more sentimentality, according to the advice of Herr von BethmannHollweg. Their lack of respect for womankind reappears in all its brutality. The Kommandantur orders all the young and good-looking women to report at the officers’ quarters, and punishes recalcitrants with three months in a German fortress. Failing to find sufficiently effective panders in destitution and terror, Germany does not shrink from subjecting virtue to the ordinary penalties of vice, and thus allows her latent criminal frenzy to appear in a new aspect.


But we need not go on forever detailing the particular acts of the invaders: we have only to regard their official administration and their police regulations, to obtain a conclusive picture of their barbarous and hideous mentality —a picture which they paint themselves. The same obtuse moral sensibility and the same heaviness of hand reveal themselves there, aggravated, on the one hand, by their meticulous habit of looking after the veriest trifles; on the other hand, by their tendency to exaggeration and excess.

The whole territory is divided into Kommandanturen, which are so many little satrapies of varying size: one for each village in the zone of actual fighting; one for each group of villages in the zone outside the lines. The Kommandant, who stays in one place several months, sometimes a year, may be a simple lieutenant; he is always a genuine potentate, a petty savage king, legislating and carrying on the government almost at his whim.

The first thought of these Kommanclants in the way of police regulation was to forbid the inhabitants to have weapons of any sort, and to confiscate them all most painstakingly. In carrying out this order, they displayed the same frenzy of fear which has often led them to extreme measures. The most harmless steel instrument in the drawer of a solitary old woman made them wince. There is no town, no district, in which one or more civilians have not paid with their lives for the imprudence of keeping in their house some musket from an old stand of arms dating back to the seventeenth century, or a paltry shot-gun which they thought of no consequence. The Boche has so rudimentary a sense of equity that these civil murders were often attended with the most revolting cruelty. At Saint-Quentin, one of the victims, a woman, did not. even know that the weapon was in the house, of which she was only temporarily in charge. Another was a gunsmith, in whose shop some shot-gun powder was found, and who was shot for the offense. A miller of Vendhuille, who had used his revolver, it is true, upon two brutal thieving soldiers, was smeared with kerosene and burned alive. Other engines of war, — or what were so designated,— pigeons, and telephone wires, afforded an excuse for much slaughter of the innocent. A schoolboy of Saint-Quentin was on the point of being shot simply for having waved his handkerchief when an aeroplane passed over almost too high to be visible.

Police persecution of every sort was carried to the border-line of endurance. The roads were constantly patrolled, say the repatriated. A deadly subjection to regulations was enforced: no traveling from village to village; no assembling in groups of more than three; no going out after six o’clock at night, and lights out at nine. The annoyances were endless: repeated summonses to assemble, sometimes at midnight in midwinter; house-to-house requisitioning visits; frequent searches, carried out with an arbitrariness and brutality which were denounced by the Archbishop of Cambrai in his protest of October 20, 1916.

Suppose a search-warrant to be issued against an old lady suspected of having more than ten kilogrammes of potatoes on hand. The Boches rush to the house in force, drive the lady and her children out-of-doors, regardless of the weather, upset the house from attic to cellar and pillage it in their search for the corpus delicti. And there have been even more barbarous refinements of police inquisition. Some Kommandants have not blushed to seek and confiscate in every house the churn and even the coffee-grinder, to make it more certain that the people would not grind secretly the little grain that they were able to glean, or to pick up by chance here and there.

If a barn was burned, as at Crèvecœur, the Kommandants ordered all the male inhabitants of the village to be driven inf o the church and shut up like cattle. Although the culprit, who in this case happened to be a German soldier, was discovered, the prisoners were not immediately released.

The instruments of this tyranny, the police, in bottle-green uniform and decorated with a metal badge under the chin, which points them out from afar to public suspicion, have been dubbed by the people ‘ green devils,’ because of their zeal as persecutors.

And signs of approbation from the authorities fall in showers: fines on every pretext, imprisonment, deportation, sentence of death. These penalties are often imposed on persons simply under suspicion, especially on many priests, imprisoned for no cause. ‘ No one can be sure of to-morrow,’ says one of the repatriated. A word too outspokenly French in sympathy may send you to a prison cell. At Bohain the prisons are overflowing with civilians condemned for trifles; a convictgang has been formed of inhabitants alleged to be refractory. In certain communes regular prisons have been built, as the cellars were too small. For, in most cases, the cellars, long ago emptied of their contents, are used as jails in the villages, and jails where the inmates are kept on a bread-and-water diet. And all this aside from blows and insults.

Space forbids me to write of all the disproportionate and inhuman acts of repression. A shopkeeper at Hirson, the mother of three children, was shot because she went into Belgium to buy goods. Young deportees, who are employed in digging and who drop their shovels from weariness, are shot at point-blank range by the sentries. At Vauresis, on September 18, 1914, ten people were shot for going out at night with lanterns, as their custom was.

The readiness of the Germans to shoot inoffensive persons has manifested itself a thousand times. How many — how many women have been victims of drunken or brutal soldiers! How many others have fallen under the fire of sentries because they had ventured into the street after six o’clock at night, to fetch a doctor for a sick person, or to look for a child who had not come home!

And there is no real protection against the excesses either of the private soldier or of the Kommandant. The former, if any one dares to complain of him, avenges himself by pillage or by some foul blow. The Kommandant, from whose decree an appeal is taken to the commanding general, wreaks his vengeance at once by requisitions, expulsions, or burnings.


Their police administration is not merely inhuman and vexatious: it is, in addition, like everything that issues from the pagan wilderness beyond the Rhine, a revolting medley of falsehood, double-dealing, and sophistry.

The bare definition of the proscribed offenses shows us upon what a vicious and disgraceful plan the arbitrary power of the Kommandanturs is exercised. Their agents themselves, with sober faces, call the householder who tries to conceal his property from them a ‘ notorious thief.’ In their eyes the father of a family is a criminal who hides his silverware in his cellar — a crime, it would seem, which confers upon the invaders the absolute right to seize the property. A criminal, too, is the faithful wife who gives shelter to her husband who has eluded their pursuit; so, too, the girl who refuses to be dishonored. And it is a crime to give a bit of bread to an unfortunate prisoner.

The same lack of moral rectitude is responsible for all the penalties imposed in the invaded districts. The Boches have set up there on a great scale the system of penal confiscations. The hateful practice of taking hostages, ancient though it is, had never before taken on such gigantic dimensions, or attained such a degree of cynicism. This unjust notion of confiscation is so congenial to the Prussian character that they have extended its application in all directions. Since the outbreak of the war, whenever they have come in contact with Anglo-French troops, they have persistently taken revenge for their losses on the innocent inhabitants. Notably at Laon, whenever a French airplane bombarded their military trains, the city, though already devastated and blood-stained by air-raiders, was compelled to pay an enormous fine. If an urchin scrawls some taunting words on a wall, the town is mulcted. If a spy is caught passing through Saint-Quentin, the repatriation of Saint-Quentinites is instantly suspended.

In every regard the German administration of the invaded districts maintains a treacherous attitude. Questions and conversations of apparently trivial importance are often traps laid to evoke criticism, which is punished on the instant. Often during the first year the officers solemnly promised to restore the piano, the furniture, the tools of which they took possession; but almost never have they kept their word; and the generals were the first of all to break their written promises. The Kommandantur at Chauny gave a manufacturer of the town permission to go away, on his pledging a valuable collection of stamps, which it bound itself to return; but it kept the collection, with a cynical jibe at the owner. The Kommandantur at Saint-Quentin in 1916 readily authorized the inhabitants to clothe four hundred ragged Russian prisoners, and congratulated them on their humanity; but the garments were no sooner supplied than the Kommandantur laid hands on them, and the Russians were left in their rags. Here is another common example: The repatriates are authorized to take home with them three hundred francs in cash as well as their registered securities, and on the road they are robbed of them. Sometimes, adding a cowardly insult to their rascality, the Germans substitute for the cash a subscription to their war-loan.

The climax of achievement in the way of falsehood is perhaps the having publicly organized it — as the Germans have done in the French provinces — by printing and selling false French newspapers. For instance, they compelled the publication of the Gazette des Ardennes (at least twenty copies for each three hundred people) — a base and insane effort to reach and pervert the hearts and minds of a whole nation that is brutally gagged; an effort in which we detect anew the unfailing materialism of the German, who thinks that he need only mutilate texts and distort facts in order to manufacture convictions as by machinery. Logical in their madness, they hunt down all the genuine newspapers of France. Let a balloon with a package of such papers be spied in the air, and on the instant, cavalry, motorcyclists, and automobiles rush in pursuit. Whoever is detected in possession of a Temps or a Figaro is imprisoned or fined.


Pillage, although an essential part of the German method of waging war, demands a chapter by itself, as the culminating point of the system. From the days of Tacitus, pillage has always been the supreme German achievement. We do not propose to recount their innumerable and violent depredations during the irruption of August, 1914 — especially how the wine in all the cellars was stolen or drunk in a few days. Even under the status of territorial occupation they employed themselves, in many places, in burglaries with violence, as carefully prepared as notarial documents.

Under the administrative régime properly so-called their fury has been little less unbridled. They have levied exorbitant war-taxes in all the communes, large or small. Factories of all sorts very soon began to be dismantled. Machines, ovens, vats, taps and cocks, weaving frames, raw materials emigrated to Germany in procession. Of all the textile, metal-working, and other establishments, there soon remained in the North of France only a few munition factories, a few saw-mills producing posts and timbers for the trenches, a few electric power-houses, and some sauerkraut factories set up in remodeled sugar refineries.

Agriculture suffered no less. Not only crops and cattle, but all the good horses and the best farming implements were taken to Germany; to such an extent that the Germans, becoming conscious of the mistake they had made, eventually brought them back in a hurry. In 1916 there were villages of 1600 people which had no more than twenty cows and a few superannuated horses. Other villages had none at all.

In 1915 the special requisitions of leather, rubber, metals, wool, and cotton began. Even the worn-out leather on carriage-shafts was carefully detached. In 1916 the German Cyclops shook the church bells everywhere to bring down the bronze. Table linen and body linen were swept away in the same torrent of spoliation. Mattresses were opened and emptied of their wool. In one village of a thousand people, five hundred mattresses were thus disinflated in a few days. No mercy was shown even to the mattresses on which sick persons lay. The sole manifestation of German delicacy consisted in replacing the wool by chips. In 1917 the kitchen utensils and the silver plate fell into the abyss in ever-increasing quantities. Everything was requisitioned by the Boches, says one of the repatriates, even the night vessels.

The general spoliation is accompanied by destruction pure and simple. Houses in the peaceful occupation of their owners, a long way from the trenches, are demolished to obtain wood for burning or construction. Doors, windows, floors, even school furniture, are used for fires.

To sum up— pillage, requisition, destruction go side by side, look alike, and run in harness together, like a fraternal team of apocalyptic monsters.

But, concurrently with these direct methods, the occupying forces seek also to increase their prizes by oblique devices. They assume the mask of commerce, the mask of industry, to say nothing of the judicial mask, which enables them to glut themselves with fines without number. In the dairy country, in 1915, they requisitioned all the butter, paid for it at the rate of fifteen cents a pound, and sold it at double the price to the inhabitants. This exploitation of the farm was transformed into a comedy of unending spoliation. The Kommandantur issued its orders to the laborers, but did not pay them; it laid that burden on the commune. It exacted from the farmer himself a huge indemnity, said to be for the expenses of cultivation. And, as a climax, it rushed the harvest into Germany by motor, without in all cases taking the trouble to hand the farmer the notes of requisition, which were in any event a mere mockery of payment.

Thus, it was not enough to confiscate the crop, but the invaders devised this buffoonery of compelling payment to themselves by those whom they despoiled, including the workmen, whose daily wage did not exceed thirty cents.

The rule is the same for the woodcutting and for the few industries which remain, such as saw-mills. The mayor is the inexhaustible paymaster, and the Kommandantur takes unto itself the product. The French municipality, with a rope about its neck, pays even the very workers in the munition factories.

The Germans’ quarrelsome and extravagant attention to trivialities is equally open to criticism, alongside their brutality, their falsity, and their greed. Their organization of conquest and rapine is carried on in accordance with a meticulous, oppressive, and enfeebling system of rules. Let us cite this one fact: they have extended their census-taking to include hens, rabbits, pigeons, and even the most microscopic beasts, and have given to each one of them a certificate of civil status, recording their birth and their demise. They keep an exact account of vegetables and eggs; and certain villages — for instance, the gallant little village of Bony in the Department of the Aisne — have been the theatre of preposterous scenes in this connection, the Kommandant going so far as to enclose the farmers’ hens under his own windows, that he might follow and verify their laying qualities at close quarters.


All these details show clearly enough what an intolerable state of serfdom our compatriots have fallen into; and how they are being rushed en masse down the incline of destitution and starvation, Kept closely confined within the bounds of their towns or villages, they go thence only to perform enforced labor in the fields, or to be deported to distant parts. They are literally fettered to the soil, and can, at most, go to the next commune on payment of a fee. The Germans, as the inevitable result of their retrograde imperialism, have revived feudal customs, and brought forth from the depths of past ages the most archaic abuses and usages — the servitude of mortmain, peonage, the whim of the lord of the manor, and compulsory labor.

In agriculture, too, they have reestablished the régime of the primitive community; for the fields of each village are cultivated as a whole, without distinction of ownership, under the direction of a Boche inspector who is very often a blockhead.

Another truly gothic backward step is the almost universal closing of the schools, which are transformed into barracks or hospitals. There are no longer boarding-schools, as the children of the country districts are not allowed to go to the town. Tens of thousands of children have broken off their studies. It is a return to the darkness of the year 1000.

In a word, on all sides our defenseless compatriots are confronted by a barbarian despotism which tramples on them, and deprives them of their most legitimate rights and their means of livelihood. Materially they lack everything. In many communes there has been a coal famine for three years: nothing to burn but green wood. The people sometimes lack clothing, and often leather shoes: they wear clogs or sabots or shoes of old cloth. They no longer have either gas or kerosene. Barring an occasional lighting plant of acetylene or electricity, they are reduced to grease-pots, which recall the crasset of the serfs in the Middle Ages. They make them of jars, blacking-boxes, or bottles, filled with lard taken from their rations, and in this they dip a wick made of a skein of yarn or cotton.

Since 1914 this unfortunate people, accustomed all their lives to the light wines of the country, have had absolutely nothing but water to drink. No wine— the Germans having drunk the cellars dry in less than no time. No beer — the breweries having been stripped of their machinery. No cider — the apples having been taken to Germany. The population eats meat once in two months or once in six months. There is little milk, and the children die in large numbers, from being poorly nourished. In 1917 many villages no longer possessed a single hen or a single rabbit.

And with all the rest there are the troops passing through and in occupation, who fill the houses to overflowing and compel even the women to lie on the floor. They search the cupboards and seize the provisions which the family has succeeded in putting by as a reserve. Moreover, as a result of the withdrawal of the German lines in 1917, or of the digging of new trenches, whole villages have been evacuated, and their people quartered in the more distant ones, which are already overcrowded; so that a twofold destitution results. It sometimes happens that even the most well-to-do have nothing to eat except a compote of beets and boiled grass which they pick themselves at the side of the road, by virtue of a special permit.

To cap the climax, doctors and medicines are almost impossible to find in many districts.

In very truth our 3,600,000 compatriots (1915) have descended to the last stage of want and are hovering on the brink of famine. Only the Spanish-American, and, later, the SpanishDutch supplies are keeping them alive, far from abundant as they are. They are sustained only by clinging, with a feeble grasp, to that source of succor, which the Germans have not always held inviolate.

And all about them, before their eyes, for three years past Germany, deaf to the appeal of humanity, pursues more and more deliberately her plan of underfeeding the deported French and Belgians, whom she regales, after her fashion, with nettle soup, a little black bread, and a little weak coffee. For three years she has been starving the prisoners. In 1916, to mention a few instances among a thousand, the Russian prisoners who were working in the trenches actually picked up oat-grains in the muddy roads, and pulled up beetroots, which they gnawed greedily. At Hirson, out of five hundred Roumanian prisoners, seventeen were carried away, dead from lack of nourishment, in a single day. At Vendhuille two hundred and twelve out of four hundred British prisoners died of cold and privation during the winter of 1917.


All the brutality, perfidy, and savagery manifested by Germany from day to day is not to be explained by any philosophic theory, or as a systematic policy. Temperament is an essential part of it. Moreover, there must be a special lack of the moral sense, an inherent deficiency of the sentiments of justice, honor, and charity. There must be an hereditary perversity. Intellectual perversion by the sophisms of a Fichte or a Haeckel would not have sufficed to make Huns, or to change men to wolves. Grafted upon a sound trunk, the Pangermanist heresy would never have sprouted. Never would Germany — leaders and flocks — have been able to sink so deep into her violent self-worship, her terrorism, and her unmitigated brigandage in war, if she had not glided into it by degrees through weakness of conscience and latent criminality. In reality, behind a false cloak of philosophy and policy, one can detect in her nothing more than revolting organs of the carnivora, retarded in their human development.