A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 108

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HOW GERMANY WELCOMED THE WAR


alike utterly misled public opinion regarding the actual unpreparedness of England for any war; and the bitter word "Betrayed," which was on thousands of lips in Berlin on the night of August 4, was directed as much against German diplomacy as against supposed English treachery.

On the heels of every armed host since the world began there has followed a horde of ruffians, fishing in troubled waters. Every leader of a popular cause, resorting to armed force, may and must reckon that in his wake will follow not only fighting men, but also a large crowd of half-savage harpies – not ready to fight, but only too delighted to bully. Of the crowds that attacked the embassies, legations and consulates throughout Germany on the outbreak of war, no small proportion were excited youths, students drank with alcoholic enthusiasm, the riff-raff of the poorer quarters of the cities, eager to seize this opportunity of unbridled licence.

For several days after the outbreak of war the police stations not only of Berlin but in other cities, particularly in the industrial districts, were packed with strange crowds of gentlemen arrested as spies, huddled together with the lowest classes of the population. From one under-aged ruffian stripped while under detention in the little police station in the Mittelstrasse the police took a pistol, an eight-inch dagger, and a life-preserver. Pick-pockets naturally felt this was indeed their harvest, and for once the ruthless police of Berlin were in no position to control the situation, for the authorities had of their own act permitted the mob to get out of hand. It will, perhaps, never be known how many people in Berlin were injured for life not by the sabres of the police nor by rifle and revolver of sentry or guard, but by the knife, which at all times has played an extraordinary part in the criminal history of Berlin.

If it be remembered that in times of peace scarcely any motor-cyclist in Germany had ridden at night without a revolver in his pocket; if it be remembered that the great forests, which stretch from Berlin north and south and east and west, had harboured for years desperate gangs of ruffians, it will easily be seen that the suspension, even for a few hours only, of the strong hand of the civil government may easily have been the cause of the unfortunate amount of lawlessness, for a good deal of which homely and harmless civilians may often have been held responsible.

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