Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

10. The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the first opportunity of autonomous development.

11. Roumania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated, occupied territories restored, Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea, and the relations of the several Balkan States to one another determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guaranties of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan States should be entered into.

12. The Turkish portions of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life, and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guaranties.

13. An independent Polish State should be erected, which should include the territories inhabited by undisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea.

14. An Association of Nations affording guaranties of political and territorial independence for all States.

Over and above the German maneuvering it was impossible to deny that there was something genuine in the indignant and moaning protests uttered by so many German people. They were acting like men suddenly confronted with something not only startling and charged with despair, but utterly unprecedented, out of the order of nature, incredible, monstrous—something they could not understand as a result of the war because they could not yet believe that they had actually lost the war.

That state of mind was a necessary consequence of the German state of mind that had prevailed five years before. Her people had for two generations been drugged with false teachings and we now saw how the poison had impaired the whole mental and moral make-up of the country.

Taught to consider themselves not only invincible and destined to world-mastery, but also as the flower of civilization, and the chosen of the Almighty, the Germans could not in a few months come to believe it possible that they had been beaten and that in going forth with the sword to conquer the world they had been in danger of niedergang. Now that niedergang had come they refused to accept it. They who had believed themselves at the apex of civilization, were about to fall into an abyss. Hence their tears and wails. A people that four years before had been displaying what the Greeks called hubrismeaning a defiance of the gods destined to lead to condign punishment-was showing itself hysterical and mean-spirited in disaster; the two frames of mind went together with perfect naturalness.

Besides Erzberger's declaration late in 1914, of the peace that

Germany sought to impose on the Entente, another and much later illuminating illustration as to what Germany would have done had the war been won by her had appeared in a statement made on July 1, 1918 (just two weeks before Germany's definite defeat began), by Count von Roon, a leader in the Prussian House of Nobles. Roon rejected all idea of an armistice that was already being whispered about, until Germany had become sure of the annexation by her of Belgium and the Channel coast as far as Calais, of certain annexations on the eastern frontier of France and the restitution of all her colonies. Great Britain was expected to cede to Germany certain naval and coaling stations and her war-fleet, and to restore Egypt and the Suez Canal to Turkey. King Constantine was to be replaced on the throne of Greece, Austria and Bulgaria were to divide Serbia and Montenegro, and Great Britain, France, and the United States were to pay all of Germany's war-costs and an indemnity of not less than $45,000,000,000. France and Belgium meanwhile were to remain occupied by German armies at Entente expense until these conditions were fulfilled. So held Roon in the face of German defeat:

The world had long been forced to confess that it was at a disadvantage in endeavoring to understand or guess the motives of German policy. Principle, precedent, and custom were no guides, for the Germans disregarded them all. Once more was conjecture baffled in an effort to find any basis whatever for a demand now set up by the German peace delegates that, as an offset to the reparation demands of the Allies, Germany should receive, or be credited with, 12,850,000,000 marks, or some $3,200,000,000, for damages inflicted upon her by the Allied blockade. As a blockade is a lawful operation of war, this demand for credit to offset part of her reparation payment of 100,000,000,000 marks was about as thinkable a proposal as would have been another for damages because the United States had entered the war and sent 2,000,000 troops to France. Each would have had about the same basis in law and reason.

The bones of Reims now lay bleaching in the sun. The wreck of the martyred city lay as the war left it. The stark skeleton of its noble cathedral showed its tortured towers making the appeal of one in agony. Its wide avenues had tree-stumps bordered with ruin in various degrees. The wreckage of a million German shells filled the eye on all sides. The streets in some places had been swept clear of débris. Otherwise all was as war had left it. Only fourteen houses out of 14,000 in the city had not been hit. Through that scene of desolation sightseers prowled in spic-and-span automobiles, giving an incongruous touch. Near a fence built around the cathedral old Frenchmen sold souvenirs. Where in Germany was the power

[graphic]

© UNDERWOOD & UNDERWOOD. N. Y. CHANCELLOR SCHEIDEMANN DENOUNCING SEVERELY THE TERMS

OF PEACE OFFERED TO GERMANY He is standing in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin. Scheidemann resigned soon afterward, having in his speech committed himself too deeply

against the terms to change his attitude so soon again

[blocks in formation]

war

a

that could restore Reims Cathedral ? From what part of Germany could come a master to restore the noble avenues of trees, the blasted stumps of which marked the lack of them? What German architect could rebuild dainty mansions that had lined the roadways to the west? Could Ger

many remake the city of homes and

beauty she had destroyed ? Since the

something new however, had come

into the attitude of a German here and

there who was trying to understand

his countrymen. In Zukunft, for ex

ample, Richard Witting raised

question as to what had been the matter

with the German mind, as exhibited

in its war policies. While public men,

diplomats, and military commanders

had been coming in for bitter blame, he

said it was forgotten that they had

been products of German teaching

and training. He asked how had been

formed "this strange German

mentality" which had brought the

empire to ruin? The answer he gave was

that Germany had deliberately put

herself out of touch with modern ideas.

Her spirit had been essentially that of

"a parvenu.” “Completely misconceiv

ing the tasks laid upon her by her

geographical position, she had been

crazed with an ambition to outstrip

England, and thought of herself

as another Roman Empire.” In this

spirit Germans, "like spoiled chil

dren, had thrown themselves into im

possible undertakings,” passing from

one form of selfdefeating violence FREDERICK EBERT to another, and to force had added First President of the Ger- lies. The German

man Republic, who was foroutlook had never

merly a saddler

taken in “the real spirit of human

ity"; hence her fall. Germans, when they appealed to the sympathy and even to the "conscience” of the world, seemed totally unaware that they had forfeited all standing-ground for making such an appeal. After setting the world aghast at their unscrupulousness and brutality,

[graphic]

PRESS ILLUSTRATING SERVICE.

they appeared to expect the world to shed tears of commiseration over their unhappy fate. The truth was that the Germans could not now speak of justice, or pity, or human kindness without provoking a feeling of nausea in those among Entente people who heard them. They even had the obtuseness to refer to Belgium as an example which Germany would follow; as the Belgians had heroically resisted brutal force, so now they said the Germans would. Thus, to remind the Entente of their own crimes while asking that Entente for clemency, was about the last disclosure of the inability of the Germans to see a fact as it was, or to read the minds of others. Germany was beaten and powerless, and had to agree to the treaty, and undertake to carry out its terms, looking for such amelioration as it was possible to secure by good behavior now or later; otherwise she would bring upon herself a still worse fate. Harden in Die Zukunft recalled the behavior of victorious Germany in 1871 and the heavy yoke that Bismarck placed on France:

In 1871, at the time of the peace pourparlers, Jules Favre, annoyed, slightly raised his voice. Bismarck then began to speak in German, altho he was perfectly aware that Favre did not know a word of German. When asked what attitude Germany would adopt in case of a French refusal to sign the treaty, Bismarck replied: "We will continue to occupy the forts. The armistice is not likely to be prolonged, and then we will lock up Paris more tightly than before. Our measures will prove efficient when the French feel the pangs of hunger; in the meantime we will ask for their arms and their guns. Let them cry if they like; they will at last realize how ridiculous it is to make formidable threats, which it is impossible to carry out against a victorious enemy."

The Germans were still laboring under the gravest of all their disadvantages, which was lack of confidence anywhere outside Germany in their public faith and public purposes. The re-establishment of that confidence was the most difficult of all their tasks, far more difficult than the payment of reparation. The greatest German loss was not loss of men, of money, or of political prestige; it was the most considerable of all human losses—the moral loss, and Prussianized Germany promised for some generations to stagger under that load as a ponderous liability. New men in millions to take the place of the dead and maimed would be born and reared in Germany, and an industrious people would, in time, bring prosperous days to the fatherland; but generations could not wipe out the moral stain imprinted upon it by her ruthless devotion to the sword. In another age, perhaps centuries hence, some new Motley, in impassioned pages, would revive for an unremembering world the wrongs of Belgium and northern France, with William II taking the place of Philip II and Ludendorff that of the Duke of Alva.

« PředchozíPokračovat »