Peace without Amnesties
By Francis Gribble
[The Living Age, November 16, 1918; from The Nineteenth Century and After]
The Pope's earnest appeal to the Entente belligerents to condone a felony for the sake of a quiet life is now ancient history. In the face of President Wilson's polite intimation that it was precisely because a felony had been committed that America had joined the war, it is unlikely to be renewed; for the visible Head of the Church upon earth cannot afford to insist too often or too emphatically that the massacre of the inferior clergy in Belgium by German swashbucklers was a trivial indiscretion which can easily be atoned for by a simple expression of regret. Nor is there much likelihood that any of the diminishing group of neutral Powers will come forward with a similar suggestion; for Germany has been careful to give no neutral any motive for trying to protect her from chastisement. The probability is, rather, that the proposal will reappear as a part of that' peace offensive' which the Austro-Hungarian Note has inaugurated—will come to us, in short, as a qualification of a German offer to surrender; and it therefore behooves us to consider in time what our response to it shall be.
At present Germany speaks with many voices; but it should not be impossible to disentangle from the confusion of tongues the general trend of German opinion. A long time has passed since Herr Helfferich boasted in the Reichstag that Germany's enemies would be her tributaries, bound to her for generations by a galling chain of debt. There was a period during which all talk of the kind ceased, followed by a period during which it revived; but even the Grand Admirals and the gasbags can hardly feel that it is seemly to indulge in it in the light of the present military situation. Indeed, both the Imperial Chancellor and the Colonial Secretary have lately taken to modifying their pretensions in public; while the general body of the German people would probably be glad to cut their losses on the lines indicated in the famous Reichstag resolution calling for peace without annexations or indemnities.
What the people feel to-day the leaders will have to say to-morrow. Dr. Michaelis, indeed, said something of the sort some time ago, though he subsequently explained that he had not meant what he said but was adapting his oratory to the requirements of his audience and the moment. In due course, Dr. Hertling or another will not only say it, but mean it; and when he has said and meant it in vain, he will become still more accommodating. Eventually, in short, Dr. Hertling or another will hold, as it were, a Dutch auction of German pretensions. He will offer the unconditional evacuation of any territories still in German hands; he will offer to pay an indemnity if it is camouflaged as a 'reconstruction fund;' he will offer, successively, to yield the less valuable parts of Alsace-Lorraine—the more valuable parts of those provinces—the whole of them. Under pressure, he will consent to surrender a goodly portion of the mercantile marine in compensation for German piracy, and cease to stand out for most-favored-nation treatment in future commerce, or for any agreed share of those raw materials which the Entente Powers control. Though he will come to those concessions reluctantly and slowly, he will come to them. But there is one point about which—unless a German revolution changes the whole face of things — he will haggle his hardest in the last ditch of all. He will insist, as long as he is in a position to insist upon anything, that the terms of peace shall, at least, include a full amnesty for all crimes and illegalities alleged to have been committed in the course of the war.
He can, of course, do nothing else. At all events the Kaiser and his Junkers, whose mouthpiece he will be, can do nothing else; for the threats directed at them from the camp of their enemies have been quite loud enough to reach their ears. Mr. Asquith long ago promised England that the persons responsible for the maltreatment of British prisoners should be punished, even if they were found to occupy the most exalted stations. The editor of one of the leading French reviews, surveying the desolation wrought in his country, has written the words: l'execution du chef de bande s'impose; and he has been careful to point out that hanging is the most ignominious kind of capital punishment which the principles of humanity permit. M. Jean Massart, on behalf of Belgium, has besought his countrymen to keep a careful and exact record of all délits de droit commun committed by Germans on Belgian soil, with a view to the eventual punishment of their authors by a Belgian Court of Justice, and has insisted that the treaty of peace must provide specifically for the extradition of the accused. The Italians, on their part, have made it clear that they regard the hanging of Dr. Battista as a judicial murder for which capital punishment is due; and the subsequent shooting of the Czecho-Slovak prisoners taken from their army on the Piave is not likely to turn away their wrath.
The Germans know all that; and though, at one time, they noted the threats only to laugh at them, the laughter is as often hollow as defiant. Not long ago, an influential German paper was at pains to warn its readers that the enemies of Germany probably meant what they said: that no superstitious reverence for crowned heads was in the least likely to deter them from treating the Kaiser as they considered that he ought to be treated, and that the vindictive chastisement of obnoxious individuals could only be averted by a German victory. That being their view, and the obnoxious individuals being in control of the military machine, we may be quite sure that they will still fight, like rats in corners, for their amnesty, even after they have realized that it is hopeless for them to fight for anything else. The step, in short, from peace without indemnities to peace without amnesties will be taken only under the stress of irresistible compulsion; and it consequently behooves us to make up our minds in time that, whatever temporary setbacks we suffer, the necessary compulsion shall eventually be applied.
To do so is, of course, to oppose the policy, not only of sentimentalists like Mr. Massingham, who profess themselves ready to fall on the neck of any German who holds out his hand and says that he is sorry, but also of certain publicists whose patriotism is above suspicion, but who do not seem to have fully realized all the logical conclusions of their own premises. The policy of peace without amnesties cannot, for instance, be made to accord with the Spectator's scheme for treating Germany on the lines of the story of Tarquin and the Sibylline books. It rests upon the assumption, overlooked, but hardly, one imagines, disputed, by the Spectator, that we are bound to regard as essential the very last point which the Junkers can be expected to consent to yield, and one might appeal, in passing, to the editor of the Spectator to consider whether that obligation does not put a spoke in the wheel of his argument. Though his words suggest it, one does not readily credit him with the doctrine that a crowned robber and assassin ought to be let off with a fine (which he will take very good care not to pay out of his own pocket) if he returns the stolen goods within a stipulated period.
That, however, is a side issue. The policy of peace without amnesties must stand on its own legs, which seem quite strong enough to support it. The objection that it is impracticable certainly cannot be taken by any statesman who professes to be aiming at the destruction of Prussian militarism. When Prussian militarism has destroyed, Prussian militarists be in no position to bargain for their lives and liberties. They will have to present themselves, if called upon, like the burghers of Calais, with ropes round their necks; and it is a literal fact that the world will not be safe for democracy until we have the power to compel them to do so. A Germany left with an army, a navy, and an air fleet, will, even though weakened, be a constant menace to the security of Europe, capable of treacherous surprises against which we shall have to be continuously on our guard. A Germany deprived of these means of aggressiveness will be unable to refuse to surrender criminals to justice.
Perhaps, in the end, the German people will be willing, and even anxious, to surrender them. Perhaps a broken and humbled Germany will presently come to us, saying 'Here are the guilty. Take them and hang them by the neck. We, the German people, have been led astray, but we repent and desire to atone. Count up the damage that we have done, and we will work our fingers to the bone until we have paid for it.' It is possible that these things will happen, and it is also possible that they will not. Nor does it greatly matter. What matters is not that Germany should be penitent, but that she should be weak. Until she has been weakened to the point of helplessness, the rest of us cannot sleep safely in our beds; so that the question at issue really narrows itself down to this: When we have struck the sword from the hands of the Prussian Junkers, as we are bound to do in self-defense, shall we parley with them as defeated equals, or proceed to punish them as offenders, against the laws of God and man?
The policy of punishment in such a case would certainly commend itself to the Germans if they were victorious. Even as things are, they have, in their hour of arrogance, put a price on the head of Mr. Raemaekers, and threatened Sir Owen-Seaman and Mr. Horatio Bottomley with the penalties attaching to Majestätsbeleidigung; and they refused, in 1871, as may be read in the Memoirs of M. de Gontaut-Biron, to release the francstireurs together with the other prisoners of war, but kept them for a long time in their prisons. Moreover, Bismarck, who insisted on treating these irregulars as criminals, even after the conclusion of peace, toyed with the idea of more elaborate post-bellum processes. This is his Table Talk on the subject, as reported by his literary lackey Busch:
'I have a lovely idea in connection with the conclusion of peace. It is to appoint, an international Court for the trial of all those who have instigated the war, newspaper writers, deputies, senators, and ministers.
'The Emperor also. He is not quite so innocent as he wants to make out. My idea was that each of the Great Powers should appoint an equal number of judges, America, England, Russia, and so forth. But the English and the Russians would, of course, not agree to it, so that the Court might, after all, be composed of the two nations who have suffered most from the war.'
Presumably Bismarck was jesting; for he must have known that such a Tribunal, if truly impartial and fully informed, would not have failed to sentence him to penal servitude for falsifying the Ems dispatch, and to send most of the officers of the German army—including, by the way, the notorious Von Bissing—to prison for stealing clocks and other valuables in France. Still, there the programme is—a German programme, and a good one, excluding respect of persons, and contemplating the arraignment of an Emperor and his advisers; and the case for adopting it is infinitely stronger now than it was at the time when it was sketched. There is no reason, indeed, why the constitution of the proposed Court should be 'international.' The few remaining neutrals have no locus standi, and their fear of the future enmity of a neighbor might obscure the independence of their judgment. It seems much more to the purpose that each of the outraged countries should provide its own judges, and its own ropes, penal settlements, and jails. But we do, in any case, emphatically and for many reasons, need a Court, or Courts, to determine the individual responsibilities, not only for the outbreak of the war, but also, for the crimes committed in the course of it, in defiance of humanity and the Hague Convention. And, in order that we may be able to set up such a Court or Courts, we need to insist upon, peace without amnesties.
Perhaps the Germans, or some of them, have something to say for themselves. If so, the Court will, of course, give them every opportunity of saying it. But the prima facie case against them—the case for requiring them to say whatever they have to say from the dock—is overwhelming; and the charges which they have to answer are so gross that civilization simply cannot afford to leave them unpunished. Crimes left unpunished, when the power to punish them exists, cease to be regarded as crimes, and become admitted precedents. Nominally our choice, lies between admitting the precedents and making an example of those who tried to establish them. Actually, the precedents are so awful that we have no choice, in the matter at all.
This is not one of the ordinary wars which begin with a misunderstanding or a dispute on a point of honor raised and end with a reconciliation and an agreement to condone the excesses committed on both sides in the heat of combat. Instances of such excesses may have occurred in all the armies in the field; but even if these could cancel each other—and the Germans have been guilty of far too many for that to be possible—there would still remain abundant material for an indictment at a Bloody Assize. Let us sketch the outline of such an indictment.
The Germans stand accused, not of having got into a quarrel and fought, but of having treacherously plotted and executed a murderous assault upon their neighbors, for the purpose of subjugating them and stealing their property; of having brought false charges in order to give their assault a color of justification; of having attacked, massacred, and enslaved a people whom they were under a Treaty obligation—proposed by themselves—not merely to leave unmolested, but to protect; of having systematically dishonored their signature to several clauses of the Hague Convention; of having procured and subsidized criminal outrages in neutral territory; of having murdered neutral as well as enemy subjects on the high seas; of having ordered, in cold blood, for the purpose of terrorizing their enemies, those acts of ferocity and lust which, in normal wars, are the work only of the worst men when drunk; of having tortured prisoners and carried the populations of large districts into slavery; of having poisoned wells, and waged war after the fiendish manner of savages of the lowest type. It is, of course, and will be open to them to disprove these charges if they can: but it is preposterous that they should be permitted to evade inquiry, or to escape punishment if the inquiry establishes their guilt.
The instruction, so to say, has already been more or less formally opened, its most picturesque incident being the prosecution of Prince Eitel Friedrich before a French Court for theft. It seems that this chivalrous warrior, having quartered himself in a country house, ordered the entire wardrobe of his hostess, including her underclothing, to be packed up before her eyes, and dispatched to Germany; and we may take it that the purpose of the proceedings was to require him, in due course, to pick oakum on a diet of skilly. Far blacker charges have been investigated by French, Russian, Belgian, and British Commissions; and these have reported that most of the charges are true. In most, if not all, of the Allied countries, a special Department has kept a scrupulously accurate record of all the demonstrated atrocities; and every possible clue to the identification of the offenders has been carefully pigeon-holed. In a vast number of cases, those offenders will, no doubt, by the end of the' war, be dead or undiscoverable; and in those cases justice will have to be left to a Higher Tribunal. But there will be others—many others, and the most highly placed offenders are precisely those who are most likely to survive, and will find it most difficult to disappear. Nor is there the least danger of their escaping the net by taking refuge in neutral countries. Few neutral countries, one imagines, would be willing to receive them; and any that were willing could easily be persuaded to evict them by a pacific blockade and a commercial boycott.
Moreover, it is precisely these conspicuous and highly placed offenders who must be brought to the bar and dealt with, if there is to be any chance of the breach between the peoples being healed within, a measurable time. Of the common men who have committed acts of brutality, it will some day seem reasonable to say ' Ah, well! Though we do not know what has become of them, it is probable that they are dead or crippled, and it is practically certain that they have suffered.' But it will never seem reasonable to say that of the Kaiser, the Princes, the Generals, the Admirals, the military governors, and the statesmen. People on the contrary, will put it to themselves in this way:
'The Kaiser ordered the devastation of my country, and he still is on his throne.' 'Prince Eitel Friedrich plundered my house, and he still receives, the homage paid to princes.' 'My wife was drowned at sea by order of Admiral von Capelle, and Admiral von Capelle. still swaggers in his uniform.' 'Field-Marshal von Hindenburg carried my family into slavery, and Field-Marsha! von Hindenburg is a Field-Marshal still.' 'My brother was one of the wounded whom General Stenger ordered to be bayoneted, and no harm has come to General Stenger.' 'My sister was one of the girls whom General von Graevenitz assigned as "orderlies" to his officers, and General von Graevenitz is still at large.'
That is how they will talk; and as long as they have the right to talk thus, they will be disposed to wreak their vengeance on any German who comes within their reach. In such an event, as a wounded French officer prisoner is said to have predicted when lying in a German hospital, 'any German who shows his face in France will be shot on sight, and no French jury will convict the murderer;' and the same conditions will prevail in other countries—even in England where only the seafaring classes know German methods of warfare from personal experience. On the other hand, if it is known that all the crowned and gold-laced assassins and thieves discoverable have been brought to trial and punished in accordance with their deserts; the temptation to hold every German responsible for the misdeeds of all Germans will be removed, and the common people may, in the end, be reconciled. In short, the inclusion of amnesties in the terms of peace will be the one barrier to the renewal of harmonious relations. A League of Nations to which Germans are to be admitted as equals is not, in any case, an attractive ideal. A League of Nations in which Germany will be allowed to be represented by highly placed German criminals is unthinkable.
We could have no better reason for rejecting any sentimental appeal for amnesties, or, at all events, for refusing to grant any amnesty to important persons. There has been a deliberate plot in Germany to arrest the moral progress of the world; and a Bloody Assize is needed for the solemn reaffirmation of the world's moral standards. And that reaffirmation will be impressive as a moral record on one condition only: that the chief punishment falls on the heads, not of the men who committed the crimes, but of the men who organized and ordered them—among whom the Kaiser himself must be regarded as the principal offender.
The Kaiser is not numbered with those rulers who are able to say, with Charles the Second, that their words are their own but their deeds are their Ministers.' 'He would have resented such a suggestion in the hour of success, and he must not be allowed to take refuge in it in the hour of failure. His words have rarely been anything else than a glorification of his deeds; and he has never shirked his responsibilities except for the purpose of attributing them to the German God or shifting them on to the heads of those who have presumed to cross his path and deserve his vengeance. There is, therefore, no single crime perpetrated in the course of the war—from the Louvain massacre to the judicial murder of Captain Fryatt, and from the sinking of the hospital ships to the revival of the peculiar institutions of slavery—for which he cannot be held personally accountable by the unstrained application of the, maxim Qui facit per alium, facit per se. There may be influences in England, where we have suffered less than our Allies, which stand in the way of the formal acceptance of that principle; but on the Continent—unless it be in some small circles which German gold has corrupted—it has long found full and unhesitating support. There, men have already made up their minds who ought to be hanged, or sent to penal servitude, and why.
Comment finiront Guillaume II et ses Complices? is the title of a very convenient little book on the subject, written by M. Tancrede Martel, and published by Lemerre. It begins with an eloquent but closely reasoned exposition of the general grounds for selecting individual Germans for exemplary punishment; and it proceeds to the compilation of a list, necessarily incomplete, of particular Germans, Austrians, Bulgarians, and Turks, who have respectively merited death, penal servitude for life, and imprisonment for a term of years. Space forbids one to enter into the cases against any of Germany's allies—though they are only less strong than those against the Germans themselves; but the number of Germans alone against whom M. Martel makes out a case for personal punishment is 573. The offenses alleged range from murder to sacrilege, and from arson to the theft, as we have seen, of women's underclothing. The Kaiser comes first on the list of culprits, and the Crown Prince comes second. Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg follows; and then come most of the generals whose crimes have recently made their names household words.
The author's argument would, perhaps, be stronger if he had exercised more self-restraint, and had eliminated from his indictment all deeds which an ingenious special pleader might try to class with legitimate acts of war. It is easy enough, however, for the reader to eliminate them on his behalf. He has not to eliminate very much: and enough remains to bring many heads, including those of most of the commanders of German armies, to the block. The cases against a few of these criminals may be set forth from M. Martel's concise and pointed summaries:
Von Hindenburg: As commander-in-chief in East Prussia, ordered that bread which had been found soaked in paraffin should be given as food to the Russian prisoners. Being at Roisel (Somme) on the 10th of March, 1917, gave the order that everything should be destroyed, burned, and pillaged in the regions which the barbarians were about to evacuate. Was responsible for the violation of tombs at Carlepont, Candor, and Roiglise in March, 1917.
Von Mackensen: Responsible for thefts, incendiarism, and the execution of notables and peasants in Rumania. Ordered about 1000 Rumanian children, from 10 to 17 years of age, to be shot on the ground that they had conspired against him. Stole 10,000,000L in the occupied parts of Rumania.
Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria: Massacred and hanged civilians in Russian Poland in 1915. Is responsible for the deportations of Lille, Roubaix, and Tourcoing, accomplished with the help of Von Graevenitz, military governor of Lille. Connived at the theft of money from the deportees.
Von Fleck: Stole the provisions supplied to the inhabitants of Ham by the Spanish-American Relief Committee. Stole the furniture of the house in which he had lived at Ham.
Von Schubert: Shelled a number of old men, women, and children whom he had collected in the hospital at Brouage, on the ground that they were 'useless mouths.' Caused 31 girls to be carried off and placed at the disposal of his officers.
Von Bülow: Posted the following notice at Andennes on the 22d of August, 1914: 'It is with my consent that the whole place has been burned and about 100 people have been shot.' Posted the following notice at Namur on the 25th of August, 1914: 'Ten hostages will be taken in each street. If there is any disturbance in the street all the hostages will be shot.
Klauss: Responsible for massacres at Gerbéviller and Fraimbois. At Gerbéviller alone 60 civilians were assassinated. One of them, engaged in Red Cross work, was soaked in petroleum and burned alive.
Stenger: Author of the following order of the day: 'All prisoners, even if taken in large numbers, are to be put to death. No living man is to be left behind us.'
Von Graevenitz: Military governor of Lille. Carried 30,000 civilians, including many women and children, into slavery, and told the Bishop, who protested, to hold his tongue.
Von Dreicht: At Arlon, being drunk, ordered the execution of 117 hostages. Laughed when he was told, on recovering sobriety, that the order had been carried out.
Blegen: Responsible for the destruction of Dinant, and the massacre of more than 600 persons, including 34 old men, 71 women, and 17 children under nine years of age.
Von Manteuffel: Ordered the burning of Louvain and the expulsion of 10,000 civilians from the town.
Von Rodeiski: Gave a formal order that all Cossacks who surrendered should be shot or hanged.
Major von Bülow: Author of the destruction of Aerschot. Ordered 150 civilians to be shot. Compelled the women of the town to stand by, with their arms in the air, for six hours, witnessing the conflagration.
Eberlein: Boasted, in an article printed in the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten, that he had compelled civilians to march in front of his men as a screen against the enemy's fire.
Prince Eitel Friedrich: Stole a lady's wardrobe from a chateau near Liège. Stole the furniture of the Chateau of Balny d'Avricourt. Stole more furniture at Noyon. Stole the La Tour pastels at St. Quentin. Stole several clocks in the same neighborhood.
Duke of Mecklenburg: Stole the contents of several safes at St. Quentin. Stole furniture from the house in which he boarded at Noyon.
Dr. Vulpius: Stole money from the wounded and from the French army surgeons at Raon-sur-Plaine in August, 1914.
Von Tirpitz: Responsible for the earlier submarine outrages.
Von Capelle: Responsible for the later submarine outrages. Gave stringent orders that hospital ships were not to be spared.
Here we have a few extracts from a sort of Who's Who of the leading personalities in the German army and navy—incomplete, but sufficient to serve as a sample of the complete volume which it would be easy to compile. Its contents do not materially differ from those of the Newgate Calendar. The men mentioned in it are not worthy to be thought of, or treated, as soldiers or sailors; they are simply assassins of the type of Nana Sahib. Many of their crimes have been quite as villainous as the Cawnpore massacre; a few of them—the sinking of the Lusitania, for instance, and the murder of the crew of the Belgian Prince—have been even more monstrous; and we all know what would have happened to the author of the Cawnpore massacre if he had been caught. Either he would have been hanged by the neck, with his feet at a suitable distance from the ground; or else he would have been blown from the mouth of a gun. The incidents of the Indian Mutiny, indeed, rather than anything that has ever happened in any European war, furnish the proper precedent for our guidance; and the most ingenious, casuist might be hard put to it to find a reason why men who have done worse things than the Sepoy rebels ever did, should get off more lightly. They have been fragrant and insolent rebels against rules of civilization which they had solemnly pledged themselves to obey; and the treatment of rebels must be meted out to them.
But not merely to those whose names figure in the list given above, nor on the principle that those whose crimes do not merit the extreme penalty should go scot-free; for there is no reason whatever, either in law or in equity, why the man who is excused capital punishment should get no punishment at all. The list is very far from exhaustive; there are many crimes—naval outrages, among them—whose authors, at present unknown will, be discoverable when the war is over; and there are many crimes, and many groups of crimes, which will have to form the subject of prolonged and searching investigation. The responsibility for the judicial murder of Edith Cavell will have to be fixed, and suitable action will have to be taken. No appeal to the technicalities of German military law must be allowed to screen Von der Lancken or Von Sauberzweig. The high line must be taken that German military law is neither valid in Belgium nor applicable to British subjects; and those who applied it to them must be executed as murderers. And the same, line must be taken in regard to the judicial murder of Captain Fryatt, and the innumerable other judicial murders which have been committed. To refrain from taking it would be to admit a plea that one murder ought to be forgiven because many murders have been planned.
Apart from these matters, there are several classes of outrage which ought to form the subject of special inquiry with a view to the exemplary punishment of the culprits. The men who have exhorted to crime and condoned it are only less guilty than those who have actually ordered or perpetrated it; and so are those who have furnished the implements which the criminals have used. And the recognition of that principle implies and entails the suitable punishment of:
(1) The men who wrote, edited, published, inspired, and sanctioned the German War Book, in which it is deliberately laid down, as a precept for the guidance of German officers, that prisoners may properly be murdered in cold blood, and that various other articles of the Hague Convention need not be regarded when they stand in the way of German military advantage.
(2) Pamphleteers like General Bernhardi, who, before the war, openly urged their Government to pick quarrels with unoffending neighbors, violate the treaties which it had signed, and disregard the rights and seize the property of neutrals.
(3) Publicists like Count von Reventlow, who have clamored for the waging of war in ways which international law forbade, and from which Germany had given her solemn undertaking to forbear.
(4) Ecclesiastics like the Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne, who have degraded their spiritual offices by palliating crime, and preached sermons in support of submarine murder and the bombing of babies in open towns.
(5) Men of science who have devoted their knowledge and skill to the invention, fabrication, and perfection of instruments of warfare forbidden by international agreements to which Germany was a party.
Representatives of each of these criminal categories figure in M. Martel's list—his Who's Who, as it were, of the journalistic, theological, and scientific world in Germany. He is not, of course, a first-hand witness, and no equitable Court would condemn any man on his ipse dixit. The fact that he attributes the falsehoods of the Wolff Bureau to Herr Theodore Wolff of the Berliner Tageblatt would give any Court a sufficient reason for not doing so. But his notes, none the less, suggest many starting-points for the requisite investigations, and give us the names of many preachers, from Cardinal Hartmann and Dr. Dryander downwards, who have borne false witness from the pulpit, and many chemists of world-wide reputation—Ostwald, the Nobel prizeman, Adolf von Bayer, Karl Engler, Emil Fischer, Fritz Haber, Reichart Willstaetter, and others—believed to have been active in the manufacture of poisonous gases, liquid fire, and other abominations which Germany has introduced into warfare in contravention of her pledged word and the common law of nations. All these charges will have to be looked into; and the men accused must either disprove them or go to prison.
And then there will still remain two other subjects which should engage the attention of several judicial commissions:
(1) The treatment of prisoners of war in German camps.
(2) The proceedings of German spies and other agents in neutral countries.
The former subject has already been elaborately treated in the pages of this review;* [* "The Treatment of Prisoners in Germany," by Francis Gribble, Nineteenth Century and After, July 1916] and one could easily frame a fresh indictment without needing to repeat any of the stories of outrage contained in the previous article. There is evidence from returned and escaped prisoners that a few commandants of prison camps have behaved quite decently. There is overwhelming evidence from the same source that others have behaved outrageously. The story of the abominations at Wittenberg, where non-commissioned officers were encouraged to set their dogs at helpless prisoners, and the commandant and the doctor fled from the typhus epidemic, leaving the camp without medical help or medicines, is likely never to be forgotten. It is a hanging case, if ever there was one; and the list of similar cases, only a shade less atrocious, is a long one. Prisoners have been tortured in order that they might be compelled to engage in munition work. Russian prisoners were punished for trivial offenses with flogging until the Russian Government threatened reprisals in kind; and the punishments imposed for insignificant breaches of discipline—the tying of men to posts with barbed wire, for instance—have always been barbarous, even when, flogging has not been included among them. The savagery of Major Bach of Sennelager, who invited women from an adjacent town to enter the camp and mock at the agony of men whom he had strung up to posts, is notorious even in Germany; and no man who has ever known what it is to be helpless in the hands of a tyrant will feel that this war has been satisfactorily ended until that Major, and men of his stamp, have received the condign punishment which they have merited.
The problem of the crimes committed on neutral territory is complicated, in theory, by the fact that some of the neutral Powers concerned have since become belligerents, while others are likely to do so when they see their way more clearly. There is little fear, however, that this complication, though it must increase the number of judges, will obstruct the course of justice. Even if Greece conceivably wish to stand between King Constantine and the wages of his sins, she will hardly plead for Baron Schenck, Herr Eisslin, and Colonel von Falkenhausen when they stand accused of organizing a treacherous assault on the soldiers of the Allies in the streets of Athens. Rumania will certainly not desire to shield Von Bussche, the German Minister at Bucharest, who stored explosives and the germs of infectious diseases at the Legation in time of peace, with a view to their use in time of war. The attitude of Norway towards assassins whose conception of the art of war includes the hiding of bombs in the holds of merchant ships sailing from Norwegian ports has been made clear; and the adequate punishment of Count Luxburg for proposing that specific Argentine vessels should be sunk with all hands will hardly be resisted by the Argentine Republic. The American jails are already fairly full of Germans who have attempted to blow up American factories in the interest of their country; and the American police hold warrants for the arrest of a good many other Germans who are 'wanted' on the same charge. There only remain the cases of such men as Count Bernstorff and Captains von Papen and Boy-Ed—the ringleaders of the gang—who owe their present immunity to their past diplomatic status; but they must be sanguine if they expect that immunity to be accepted, now that they have been found out and America is at war with Germany, as an unalterable law of nature.
Naturally one did not expect any detailed scheme for dealing with individuals to be included in any statement of our war aims elicited by the recent pacifist resolution in the House of Commons; nor has any been put forward. What we have had is a stout affirmation that our war aims had never been modified since the day on which Mr. Asquith defined them, and that is sufficient. The objective was then summed up as the full and final destruction of Prussian militarism; and it does not need to be pressed that, when Prussian militarism has been fully and finally destroyed, there will be nothing to hinder the full and final punishment of those Prussian militarists who have deserved punishment. Moreover Mr. Asquith has explicitly stated that the infliction of such punishment is a part of the programme. His declaration has already been referred to in this article; but it is as well to quote it textually:
When the time arrives [Mr. Asquith said, on the occasion of the murder of Captain Fryatt] His Majesty's Government is determined to bring to justice the criminals, whoever they may be, and whatever station they may occupy. In such cases as these, the authors of the system under which, such crimes are committed may well be the most guilty of all.
That clearly means peace without amnesties. Above all, it means peace without amnesties for the Kaiser, his War Ministers, his Naval Ministers, his Army Commanders, and his Military Governors; a peace reached by the road of an armistice accorded only on such terms as will enable us to dictate, without further argument, the final conditions of peace. With that exposition of policy before us, it is impossible to give any credence to any idle rumor that, if the Entente is not speedily victorious, Mr. Asquith will return to office for the purpose of concluding peace by negotiation. For him as for everyone except a few pacifists, peace by negotiation is as unacceptable as peace without annexations and indemnities; and the policy of peace without amnesties still holds the field. No other sort of peace will break the determination, still menacingly expressed by Von Freytag-Loringhoven and other Junker publicists, to try again.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
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THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald