Germany Must Pay the Price

By James W. Gerard
(American Ambassador to Germany, 1913-1917)

[The Independent, November 23, 1918]

Spurs and high boots at sea! Rather ridiculous: but at the opening of the Kiel week the Kaiser used to enter the harbor drest like a stage Rupert of Hentzau, standing alone on the upper bridge of his yacht. His silver breastplate and helmet shining in the sun, his hand on the hilt of his enormous sword, he condescendingly received the cheers of the sailors of yachts and warships and the plaudits of the humble multitudes of the shore. And no one laughed. No one dared. There were prisons for those guilty of lèse majesté.

Now his mighty armies, broken in flight, the red flag of revolution flapping from his palace tower and from the balcony from which he told the crowds that "before the leaves have fallen from the trees you will be back in your homes," his country ruined, William Hohenzollern, in the civilian's clothes that became him so ill, is a fugitive in Holland. His German Gott has deserted, weary, perhaps, of condoning so many crimes.

For these crimes must no one answer? We want to make war impossible. The best way to make war impossible is to punish personally those who wage it.

It is not necessary to number the acts which have turned the world against Germany. The list is long. Direct crimes comprize the murders by U-boats and Zeppelins against the laws of war, the judicial murder of Captain Fryatt, the slow murders of the prison camps, and the torturing murder of poison gas. Among the indirect murders are the carrying off into slavery of the workingmen of Belgium and the women and girls of northern France, many of whom died from overwork, starvation and exposure. Then come the accusing ghosts of the literally millions of Poles, and Rumanians, Serbians and Armenians, starved, beaten, shot and hanged by the faithful allies of Germany or by their troops under German officers.

What a miserable finish! Ten muddy motors cross the Dutch frontier carrying the huddled hope of autocracy. But why did he not know how to die? A last charge, perhaps at the head of the Hussars of Death! But now his coward flight only adds one more problem to those who will gather at the table of peace.

Before the representatives of the Allies meet at that table the Allies must beware of the German revolution.

At a prize fight when the crowd loses faith in the genuineness of a contest, loud cries of "Fake!" "Fake!" are heard. Is it a fake revolution, a sort of national bankruptcy designed to make the just creditors of Germany lose the right to collect their rightful demands?

The Social Democrats acquiesced in the plunder of broken Belgium, and the taking of great indemnities from that poor land and from occupied France. They must now help to pay the bill of Justice. The leopard cannot change his spots; the bloody flag of anarchy cannot wipe the slate clean; neither can the priests of Socialism purify the German people from blood-guilt.

Change of German administration must not balk reparation.

I sat in the gallery of the Reichstag and heard Helferich when, on taking office, he made, his opening address. "Other nations," he said in his droning voice, "must drag the leaden weight of billions." And the deputies of the Right and Left and Center by their silence approved.

German victory was thus proclaimed to mean the placing of crushing indemnities on all the nations who dared to oppose the German dream of world conquest.

At the least, Germany, tinder whatever flag, must pay the price of reparation. The fate of the world and its people will be decided by men such as the ex-college professor Woodrow Wilson, the editor Clemenceau and Lloyd George, the little attorney from Wales. What a contrast to those proud nobles who, a little over a hundred years ago, filled feudal Vienna with their gold coaches and their lackeys and dealt with peoples as the personal property of the divinely anointed emperors and kings.

We have played a great part in the war; our democratic armies, raised as if by a miracle, turned the tide in France; but we must not forget that the conceit of the Germans, self-christened supermen, did much to turn the world against them, that our brave allies bore for four years war at their doors and that against their line the onrushing might of militarism broke and turned at the first battle of the fateful Marne.

There is a God—and in humility, in thankfulness, we pray that never again may the Beasts of War be loosed upon the earth.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013

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A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald

The Headlong Fury