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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, June 1915

Editorial

Editorial.

"Necessity knows no law."—von Bethmann-Hollweg.

"The people (of Poland, Schleswig-Holstein, Alsace and Lorraine) should be allowed only three privileges—to pay taxes, serve in the army, and shut their jaws."—Professor Lezius.

"Weltmacht oder Niedergang."—von Bernhardt.

"Let all who fall into your hands be at your mercy."

Kaiser Wilhelm.

Devil hammering nail through mortarboard

So much has been written about the present war that we feel it almost an impertinence to touch on any phase of it; but during the past six months a section of the public has talked a great amount of sentimental rubbish, the gist of which is, "Don't humiliate Germany." At first the advocates of this policy claimed high ethical reasons for urging it; hut of late more has been heard of economic than of moral grounds. At the risk of being cursed for tediousness, we wish to outline briefly page 10 some of the chief charges against the Germans—offences for which we believe whole-heartedly she deserves humiliation utter and complete.

The story of the murder of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria at Serajevo is now an historical landmark, as it gave to Germany the opportunity for which she had long been waiting. As to the crime itself, no one defended it; it was denounced by all nations. But the Austrian Government, prompted by Germany, utilised it to attack Servia. The ultimatum issued to the Servian Government was one which no self-respecting nation could sign—indeed, on July 27th Sir Edward Grey wrote: "The German Secretary of State has himself said that there were some things in the Austrian Note that Servia could be hardly expected to accept." It meant, in fact, loss of independence. We cannot go into a very long discussion of the diplomatic correspondence, but wish to use it to some extent to point that is Germany—and she alone—who is responsible for the war.

On July 24th, after the contents of the Austrian Note had been learned by the other European Powers, the French Government communicated with the Servian, advising it to accept, as far as possible, Austria's demands; and to propose to submit the question to the arbitration of Europe. On the same day Sir Edward Grey communicated his plan of mediation by four Powers—Germany, Italy, France, and Britain. The German Government refused to intervene between Vienna and Belgrade;1 and the Russian Prime Minister, M. Sazonoff, then requested Austria to extend the time limit. His request was strongly supported by the English and French Prime Ministers; but Herr von Jagow, the German Secretary of State, when questioned by Britain, temporised and gave evasive answers to the English Chargé d'ffaires at Berlin.2 Being further pressed by the Russian Ambassador at Berlin, Herr von Jagow stated that he considered the Austro-Servian dif page 11 ference as a purely local affair, which should be confined to Austria and Servia, and which, in any case, was unlikely to lead to international difficulties.3 But the German Government not only refused to intervene between Vienna and Belgrade; it also refused to accept the English plan of a conference of the four Powers, and yet at the same time proclaimed its desire for a peaceful settlement! Finally Austria's declaration of war against Servia on July 28th brought matters to a crisis. Sir Edward Grey feared that the Austro-Servian conflagration would spread over all Europe. To prevent this, and to avoid any dilatory reply, he proposed intervention on any terms Germany might wish to choose. In a despatch dated July 29th, he wrote: "I urged that the German Government should suggest any method by which the influence of the four Powers could be used together to prevent war between Russia and Austria. France agreed. Italy agreed. The whole idea of mediation or mediating influence was ready to be put in operation by any method that Germany could suggest, if mine was not acceptable. In fact, mediation was ready to come into operation by any method Germany thought possible if only Germany would 'press the button' in the interests of peace." To this Germany made no reply, gave no suggestion. The conclusion to draw is obvious.

Owing to Austria's action Russia now found herself compelled to order a partial mobilisation of her troops; but at the same time the Czar pledged his word to the German Emperor that no action would be taken as long as negotiations continued.4 Austria, impressed by the action of her northern neighbour, reconsidered her refusal to allow diplomatic conversation to continue at Petrograd; and Count Berchtold received the Russian Ambassador at Vienna in a friendly manner, and informed him that negotiations with M. Sazonoff would be resumed.5 The Austrian Ambassador at Petrograd as page 12 sured the Russian Prime Minister that Austria would submit to mediation the demands which appeared to aim at the destruction of Servia's independence. The European nations began to breathe more freely; but just at that very moment, when negotiations were being resumed, Germany arrogantly flung her ultimatum to Russia, ordering her to demobilise in twelve hours—a sufficient indication as to which nation desired war.

Now let us consider the case of Belgium. Just two years ago, both the Minister for War and the Secretary of State for Germany, in answer to a Social Democrat in the Reichstag, declared that in the event of war Germany was bound to respect the neutrality of Belgium.6 On August 1st of last year, "Great Britain asked France and Germany separately if they intended to respect Belgian neutrality in the event of its not being violated by their adversary."7 France immediately replied in the affirmative. The German Government "could give no assurance" before consulting the Emperor and the Chancellor. On August 2nd, after France had publicly guaranteed to England and Belgium not to violate Belgian neutrality, the German Ambassador at Brussels presented a note, which contained the following passage:—

"Reliable information has been received by the German Government to the effect that French forces intend to march on the line of the Meuse by Givet and Namur. This information leaves no doubt as to the intention of France to march through Belgian territory against Germany."8

To this M. Davignon, the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, replied:—

"The intentions attributed to France by Germany are in contradiction to the formal declarations made to us on August 1st in the name of the French Government.

"Moreover, if, contrary to our expectation, Belgium neutrality should be violated by France, Belgium intends to uphold her national obligations, and the Belgian page 13 army would offer the most vigorous resistance to the invader."

But this was not what Germany wanted. She was determined from the beginning to go through Belgium, and her lying excuse was prepared beforehand. A flood of light is thrown on the question of Belgian neutrality by the following quotation from von Bernhardil:—

"When Belgium was proclaimed neutral, no one contemplated that she would lay claim to a large and valuable region of Africa. It may be well asked whether the acquisition of such territory is not ipso facto a breach of neutrality."

This speaks for itself.

Then we come to that phase of the war from dealing with which we rather shrink. Geramny's treatment of the unhappy civil population of the country she had so grossly wronged. When the stories of German atrocities in Belgium began to come through, the British people as a whole refused to believe them. It was incredible that a civilised nation—a nation which claimed the most cultured in the world—could possibly be guilty of acts which were worthy of beasts rather than of man. But the evidence accumulated, unshakeable evidence, the testimony of victims, and the testimony of subjects of neutral countries. The statement furnished by Viscount Bryce a month or two ago confirmed that which had previously been issued by the Belgian Commission.

The first phase of the crimes against Belgium consists mainly of flagrant breaches of the Hague Convention, which had been signed on October 18th, 1907, by all the civilised nations, including Germany. The Convention contains the following rules:—

Article 46.—"The honour and rights of the family, the life of individuals, and private property, as well as religious convictions and exercise of worship, must be respected. Private property cannot be confiscated."

Article 47.—"Pillaging is formally prohibited."

Article 53.—"When occupying a territory, the army can only seize cash as well as funds and securities belonging to the State. . . ."

page 14

Article 56."Property of municipalities, property of establishments consecrated to worship, to charity and instruction, to art and science, even though belonging to the State, will be treated as private property."

In defiance of the rules laid down by the Convention, the Germans confiscated the funds of the Belgian National Bank (which, in spite of its name, is a private institution) and of numerous Post Offices in which the savings of the poorer classes were placed. Article 47 need not have existed so far as the Germans were concerned. German and robber are now almost synonymous terms.

Another rule of the Convention is that which prohibits the bombardment, "by any means whatsoever," of undefended towns, villages, or buildings. "The commander of the attacking troops, before undertaking to bombard—except in cases of assault—must use every effort in his power to warn the authorities." Yet on the 24th and 25th of August, when Antwerp was not invested, and no attack on it had begun, "our houses were bombarded in the dead of night."9 Malines and the village of Heyst-op-den-Berg, in which there was not one Belgian soldier, were also violently shelled.10 Cathedrals were favourite German targets. These instances will suffice. Reference to the Reports of the Commissions will furnish you with more.

The most sickening part of all is the account of the atrocities perpetrated on the people of the towns through which the German soldiery passed—especially on the inhabitants of Linsmeau, Orsmael, Aerschot, Louvain, and the surrounding villages. It is with some hesitation that we quote two examples of fiendish bestiality—stories which make the blood boil with fierce and bitter anger.

In the village of Corbeek-Loo, near Louvain, "on Thursday, August 20th, German soldiers were searching a house where a young girl of 16 years lived with her parents. They carried her off into an abandoned house, page 15 and, while some of them kept the mother and father off, others went into the house, the cellar of which was open, and forced the young woman to drink. Afterwards they carried her out on the lawn and violated her successively. She continued to resist, and they pierced her breast with their bayonets. Having been abandoned by the soldiers after these abominable attacks, the girl was carried off by her parents, and the following day, owing to the gravity of her condition, she was administered the last rites of the Church by the priest of the parish, and carried to the hospital at Louvain. At that time her life was despaired of."11

This story is further attested by the unfortunate victim's uncle, Julien van Soidsenhoven.12 The other, an even more atrocious case, is that of the rape, by five German soldiers, of a young wife in an advanced state of pregnancy.13

It would be useless to pile horror on horror, but the charges have been proved absolutely to the hilt. Indeed, with reference to these, one swinish German general, in an interview with an American journalist, called them "the soldiers' rewards."

Since that time we have had proof after proof of the Germans' disregard for any law, either man-made or God-made. The use of explosive bullets (a charge made by the doctors of the Belgian A.M.C., and sustained this very month by British investigation), the shelling and torpedoing, without warning, of unarmed merchant ships, the indiscriminate killing of passengers, the use of asphyxiating gases in the field—all these are examples of the German policy of "frightfulness." They have, indeed, followed to the full the advice of one of their teachers—to leave the inhabitants of the country through which they passed "only eyes to weep with."

With these facts before us, can we deny the justice of the cry for the complete humiliation of the German Empire? A nation which has shown an utter disregard page 16 for all treaties and all laws, which teaches that the end justifies the means, should be made to pay to the uttermost farthing for all the misery she has caused. We are glad to see that the advocates of the "Don't-Humiliate" policy have come down from the high moral pedestal on which they had placed themselves, and have descended to mere economic grounds to justify their attitude. It is quite true that the imposition of huge war indemnities does, to a great extent, penalise the victors as well as the defeated peoples on whom they are imposed. But it seems to us a matter for consideration whether it would not be better for us to suffer a little longer in order the more completely to crush the great robber nation of Europe. At the very least she should be compelled to restore Belgium—as far as is humanly possible—to its former state. Every Belgian dwelling, every farmhouse, every byre, should be rebuilt with German capital. The money brutally wrung from the conquered Belgian towns should be repaid. She cannot with money pay for the licentious savagery of her soldiers, for the killing, maiming, and ravishing that have taken place. We believe that these carry their own punishment. The name of Germany will go down through the ages as infamous in history it will take centuries to outlive the unenviable reputation she has earned for herself during the past year—a punishment which Will fall not only on the guilty, but on the innocent of her people.

Similar restoration should be forced from [unclear: with] her regard to the invaded territory and ruined towns of that part of France through which her armies marched. The restoration of Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark, of Alsace-Lorraine to France, and the liberation of German Poland from the Prussian yoke—these, too, should be exacted. And she should and must be placed in such a position that, though she may wish to revert to her treaty-breaking policy, she will never again be able to do so.