A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 107

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SOME CHILDISH STORIES


waited was come at last; every lieutenant felt himself relieved of necessity any longer to regard the ordinary rules of civil life, Officers threw off any pretence of consideration for the claims of friendship, and even of common courtesy.

It is probable that to some extent the extraordinary state of affairs in German towns and cities which would follow the outbreak of war had been foreseen by the authorities. The pinch of unemployment would come not in the first week, but after a fortnight, or longer, and if the civilian population were to sit down, as the German system required, to wait doggedly with tightened belts and in silence, save for such scraps of news as the German general staff might feel disposed to publish, it was necessary that disorder, thinly veiled as patriotic enthusiasm, should not be too sternly repressed at the outset. Hence there was no attempt to punish the ring leaders of the wild mob which tried to sack the British embassy. For over a fortnight there was even no attempt to check the extraordinary mania over South Germany for hunting phantom gold, supposed to be in transport from France to Russia. Actually, the sudden arrest of Englishmen and even Englishwomen throughout Germany on a charge of espionage began, and perhaps reached its climax, before the English ultimatum to Germany had expired.

It must be remembered that the population of German cities had been fed for weeks on the craziest lies. Ulster, they had been told, was in a state of rebellion; English troops had refused to obey orders (and it must not be forgotten that to the German military mind there is no distinction between unwillingness to shoot unarmed citizens and refusal to march against an armed enemy). Suddenly at seven o'clock on Tuesday evening, August 4, this fabric of lies was shattered when the Berliner Tageblatt scattered through the city flaring placards, "Great Britain breaks off diplomatic relations." The shock was admittedly, for one moment, paralyzing. That which the greater part of the population had believed impossible from reasons of British domestic policy, and improbable because of their sublime faith in British selfishness, had happened. The childish chatter about the unity of the Germanic race, which no sane observer of Prussian manners could ever have seriously believed, was probably less responsible for the outrageous treatment of English-speaking people throughout Germany than the sudden angry realization of the fact that the press and the foreign office had

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