Puslapio vaizdai

predict German supremacy. Then one heard on the streets the computations of time when the mailed fist would subjugate the world at large: Paris in six weeks; Russia in a couple of months; the hated Island Kingdom in mere days; and then, who could tell? the rest of the world, inspired by fear, would submit willingly.


The spirit of intolerance was still abroad in the third year of the war. An American, a buyer for a large millinery house, came to Berlin. The firm that he represented had a permanent office in the city, which had been closed for a long time. Foreign offices were a source of great revenue to the government, some of them paying as many as six different kinds of taxes. Three months is the time allotted in Prussia for a foreigner to remain in the country without sanction of the state; and in adjoining commercial states the time is even shorter. Our friend evaded the law by taking the train to Denmark or Holland, and absenting himself from the country for forty-eight hours.

As we dined together one evening in a well-known restaurant, we were conversing in English. Seated at the next table was a quartette of officers, home on furlough. Presently a waiter stepped up to us and said that the officers objected to our speaking the English tongue. Knowing that we were well within our rights, we refused to discontinue the conversation. The four officers then rose, stood stiffly at attention, and demanded that we be ejected from the restaurant. It was a very unpleasant and humiliating experience; but, as we look back, we cannot fail to see the humor of it, with the men standing so ridiculously straight in the centre of the place. The American, as host, approached the group and endeavored

to explain; but he was swept aside with haughty gestures. When he returned to the table, the proprietor informed him that he would be unable to serve the rest of the meal, and we were compelled to leave the restaurant.

The incident leaked into print and caused considerable discussion. The verdict, however, was in favor of the officers, and their very rude and uncalled-for action met with universal approbation. Soon after, it was discovered that our host of the evening was married to a Frenchwoman and resided in Paris. An inquiry followed, and the members of every household in which this gentleman visited were closely questioned. Fortunately, we were still in good standing, and our word did much to reassure the authorities. But a day or two later the American visited us, bringing with him the various samples left in his office by the firms that he dealt with. The paper stems of the artificial flowers had been unwound and subjected to acid baths; and even the composite ends of feather-trimming, manufactured to comply with the rigorous importation laws of this country, had been slit, to see if they contained information of value to the enemy. A week later he received official notice to leave the country, and never to return to it. After his departure, the doors. of mutual friends were closed to us, no explanation being vouchsafed for the sudden termination of friendships that we had come to value.

There is no doubt that our good standing was the only thing that saved us from receiving similar notice; for the offense which finally brought us into official disfavor was most trivial. By this time, however, our social circle had narrowed perceptibly, as the head of the house put it, to mere Red Cross acquaintances. Very reluctantly we accepted the few invitations extended to us; for we could not understand the

radical change in some of the gentlest and most hospitable of our friends, and it distressed us to see it. The war seemed to have brought out all evil traits. As shocking deed after shocking deed was perpetrated, we listened in vain for one dissenting voice.

Months before, we had been greatly disturbed by the fierce outburst of joy at the introduction of gas, so much like the 'grand Titanic outburst of laughter,' of which Thomas Carlyle speaks in his history of the French Revolution. The report of the number of men suffocated by this fiendish innovation was greatly exaggerated. But the greater the number reported dead, the higher mounted the hysterical outcry of approval. German science would conquer the world, it was predicted. "The war would be won by chemistry alone.' "The miserable dollar-loving American would be ruined by the amount of ammunition left on his hands.'

Nowhere was heard a word of pity for the poor wretches caught unawares, beating the air in their agony, gasping their lives out beneath the dense clouds of pitiless, poisonous fumes. There was a hideous clamor for the trial of other similar formulas which filled the Berlin newspapers. Cruelty, lust for human life, everywhere, sickening the heart.

In other cities, chastened by sorrow, where the bitter hatred of all humanity had been dulled by the suffering of the people, we heard that there were many protests lodged against such cases as that of Edith Cavell, the ruthless discrimination against the English prisoners, or the drowning of neutrals - but not in Berlin. The women worked fast and furiously at the Red Cross meetings, for but one purpose: to aid in the healing of the wounded so that they might return sooner to the front.

In the pulpit also was heard the clarion voice, profaning the Creator's name by inciting to kill. What had be

come of the sweet, simple faith which breathed the spirit of a beautiful, peaceful garden? What had become of the homely people, abiding in that faith, at peace with their fellow beings and God? One could not believe that the restless, brutal, bitter, merciless, bloodcrazed multitude were the cultured, happy, devoutly religious people, who, a short time before, had lived according to the simple word preached by their beloved pastors. How different now was that word! The simple word had given way to the clarion tones of the halfmad fanatic, who had turned his back on God. 'A torpedo, striking home, bears the message of God,' was the sacrilege uttered by a well-known pastor in Berlin.

[ocr errors]

"The German God - the God of the Old Testament; a God that dealt in realities, stern, severe, uncompromising; the God of the warrior, favoring Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, Joshua, and Judas Maccabæus,' was the impious statement of a preacher famous for his eloquence and the profundity of his sermons.

'Would that the just God in his righteousness might bestow on the bullet speeding from the German gun the magic power of the jawbone of the ass, and slay ten thousand of the enemy with each bullet,' was the fervent prayer of another well-known minister of the gospel.

In no city or country would such denunciations, such violations of the tenets of religion, be tolerated. But when it is realized that churches are liberally endowed by the state, this singular freedom of speech is understood. In the episcopal oath of fidelity to the Crown, which all must take who seek to preach the divine word, the solemn oath is administered.

'I will be submissive, faithful, and obedient to his Royal Majesty, — and his lawful successors in the government,

as my most gracious King and sov

ereign; promote his welfare according to my ability; prevent injury and detriment to him; and particularly endeavor carefully to cultivate in the minds of the people under my care a sense of reverence and fidelity toward the King, love for the Fatherland, obedience to the laws, and all those virtues which in a Christian denote a good citizen; and I will not suffer any man to teach or act in a contrary spirit. In particular, I vow that I will not support any society or association, either at home or abroad, which might endanger the public security, and will inform His Majesty of any proposals made, either in diocese or elsewhere, which might prove injurious to the state. I will preach the word as His Gracious Majesty dictates,' and so forth.

The sympathy which once knitted pastor and flock together has entirely disappeared. The congregation, misled, fast becomes rebellious. Germany is reaping the whirlwind. Militarism was her god. As a profession, the clergy has always been looked down upon

fit for the sons of tradesmen, artisans, small dealers, and minor professionals. All others with any pretense to ambition turn to the military, as a means to the greater end. The profession of religion demands equality; and the Germans are fundamentally opposed to equality.

In consequence of the strange words uttered in the pulpit, the people, half aroused, distrust the church. They fear that it has been subordinated to the political system. Even on religious days, for which Germany is noted, religious fervor was strangely lacking, and the spirit of good-will had wholly disappeared. Now, in the hour of her travail, Germany looks in vain for the consolation of religion, which would assist her to bear the great affliction that oppresses her.

people led by the perverters of the divine word? We have met women entering the church for solace, who have come forth with a sullen hatred for all mankind in their hearts. Unhappy creatures, they have been deprived of the one staff on which they could lean in the hour of utter desolation.

In contrast to the Emperor's smug and almost sacrilegious claim of intimacy with the Deity, one is almost horrified by the wave of agnosticism that has swept over Berlin. There is a greater increase of the other and worse extremists, who, with mocking and contumelious language, neither assert nor deny the existence of the Deity because of the limits of human intelligence or of insufficient psychical evidence, but who absolutely deny and scoff at the existence of God. This scourge of the disconsolate must not be confounded with the infidel, who denies Christianity and the truth of the Scriptures. And Heaven knows that there are hosts of them in Berlin; blasphemous hordes who attack the very tenets of Christianity in public places, without molestation by the authorities.

What can stem the tide of blasphemy which is sweeping over Germany? For the unbeliever there is hope for the blasphemer, none. In the past year the Berlin newspapers gave a great deal of space to several undoubtedly brilliant writers. While our own papers were discussing the more vital questions of the moment, the problems of peace before and after the war, - these writers consumed space in a debate on the predilection of the Divine Presence for either combatant. The discussion called forth a lively reply in the Morgenpost, from the noted free-thinker Schlunsen.

'Of what use is a debate on the existence of the Deity,' he wrote. "The invisible can assume no earthly obligaWhat can possibly become of this tion, can bear no mortal burdens. One

might as reasonably say that the ether bore a message; that there was Divine ordination in the soughing of the nightwind over the battlefield; that God was a mere road to some desired end; that peace could be found only at the termination of that road. There is only one God fear. There is another God annihilation. Expediency is the intercessor and completes the Trinity. Germany's one hope lies in that Trinity.

'All hope in invisible intercession must be put away. Fear of the doom that awaits them must be inspired in the breast of all who oppose Germany. In that lies her salvation. She must trust in no other. The struggle for unity would be its own compensation. When that is accomplished, Germany can dispense her favors and can defy her enemies and the invisible God.'

[ocr errors]

Hitherto we had found the Berliner so lustig, so gemütlich, that it distressed us to see the change. Whatever charge you might lay against the Berliner, you could not say that he nursed a grudge for any great length of time. They were an attractive, genial, forgiving lot, with an inextinguishable sense of humor, not always in good taste; taking their pleasures rather seriously; extorting much joy from life in ways not always conducive to the comfort of their neighbors; optimistic to the point of inconsideration. But they were a chivalrous set, hospitable to strangers, making a fetish of social forms, correct to a fault, somewhat stilted in manner, with a hearty welcome for the stranger upon whom they centred their somewhat demonstrative affection.

Now they had grown like creatures of the wild, beasts of ravenous instincts.

And what has been the result of this The doctrines they advocated were apreligious relapse?

The terrible record of suicides which appeared daily in the newspapers, especially of women. According to statistics, secretly passed about in medical circles for fear of repression by the government, suicides have increased to 40.2 per 100,000 inhabitants in Saxony alone; and throughout the Empire to 24.5 per 100,000,- an increase of from 15 to 18 per cent.

Deprived of their faith, and in despair, these nervous, highly strung people relaxed their hold on life, when perhaps a word uttered in the right spirit would have saved them. People forbidden to mourn in public for their dead crowd the cemeteries, which do not contain the remains of those they mourn, but which are the only places where they may seek relief from their grief. The portals of the Church are open to them; but the spirit they seek is not there.

In great sadness, day by day, we had watched this bitterness of spirit grow.

palling. From a fairly liberal interpretation of the Golden Rule, they suddenly narrowed to 'Do what I say and in such way as I please.' The whole world. must bend to their will; and in the effort to enforce that will they would wreck the whole world. Treitschke's motto, 'German every fibre,' became the watchword. They had coarsened, brutalized. It was no longer a pleasure to meet them.

'No hatred is so bitter as enmity against the man who has been unjustly treated,' wrote Treitschke in 1870; 'men hate in him what they have done to him. That is true of nations as well as individuals. All our neighbors, some time or other, grew at Germany's expense; and to-day, we have smashed the last remnants of foreign domination and demand reward for righteous victories. Especially do those small countries, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, complain loudly that an arrogant pro-Germanism has destroyed our people's sense of fairness. It is hatred that

vents itself in the charge. Therefore, we shall pick up the gauntlet, and visit upon them the hatred that such expressions incur.'

The Berliner of the day has gone Treitschke one better.

The indefatigable labors of a relative and our own modest efforts among the poor of the city spared us many unpleasant and humiliating experiences. Any one who labored gratis must have the interest of the Germans at heart. But there were Americans, long residents in Berlin, who came to us appalled by the change in the people whom they had learned to love; and in many cases some were very much frightened. They were being strafed in every sense of the word.

As they had been kindly received for years, they had felt safe in visiting those whose hospitality they had enjoyed. They were unable to understand the psychology of a people who told with shudders horrible tales of the throatslitting of the Senegalese soldiers, calling down curses on the head of the nation that utilized its fighting strength, and in the next breath hysterically lauded the efforts of their own sons of Kultur, who herded helpless, shrinking, despairing Belgians in the squares of hostage-burdened towns, and shot them down by the hundreds.

Sickened with the horror of it all, in the thick of it and yet not of it, in those first years of the war many of our Amer

ican friends were driven from houses for some mild protest against outrageous violations of the laws of civilization, by people who had reduced the killing of their fellow beings to a science. These Americans were being continually reported as anti-German by their most intimate friends. They were compelled to pay large fines, and in some cases were given jail sentences. Afterwards their lives were made miserable by the continuous procession of inspectors who descended upon them unawares and fined them for the least violation of the law.

We have been repulsed in households, and our services rejected by people who were in sore need of them, because we spoke the language of the common enemy. We knew physicians who refused to attend patients in houses where English was spoken. There were times when the restrictions grew so rigorous as to become irksome, and the temper of the populace made us so uneasy that we asked what had come over these people, hitherto so kindly and appreciative?

Secretly we were revolted by the pettiness, the grasping at straws, the impugning of the noblest of motives, the peevish narrowness. Daily it grew more repugnant to us, this debasement of a people heretofore devoted to God and the spiritual life, now rendered iniquitous, vicious, venomous, radically depraved, by an ignoble ambition.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »