A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 110

The home of the Lonsdale Battalion 1914-1918
Jump to navigation Jump to search


HOW GERMANY WELCOMED THE WAR


caught, often with their wives, in Germany by the outbreak of war, struggled through to England, and brought stories of hardship and maltreatment such as have been unexampled since the days when freebooters rode through Germany, carrying torture, murder, and robbery to every homestead. A British consul, travelling with his son and wife to the Danish frontier, was held up, and whilst his wife was kept in durance in one prison, he and his son were thrown into a cell with a wisp of straw to lie on, without sanitation and almost in darkness. Here he was kept for several days before a crazy officialdom consented to his release. Travellers coming from the German health resorts of Nauheim, Homburg, Wiesbaden, and other centres along the Rhine were arrested again and again, subjected to barbarous indignities, and, in many cases, finally detained as being of military age.

Two explanations of the savagery with which a number of English people were treated in Germany upon the outbreak of war have been given at various times. It is alleged that in many cases persons arrested in the Rhineland were confronted by sergeants or other non-commissioned officers accustomed throughout their military career to scenes of brutality, and quite unable to realize that the stripping of ladies in the open road to seek for bombs or secret documents was in any way unusual. Had the ill-treatment ceased with these insults, the explanation might have been accepted, because the same excuse had been repeatedly offered to account for the brutality of many of the German police, who are for the most part retired army men.

But not even Germans could swallow such childish explanations of the assault with sticks and stones upon the British embassy, as were offered on the following day. It was asserted that members of the embassy staff, or some of the servants, had thrown small coins amongst the crowd, and that this infuriated the mob. The falsity of this statement is shown by the fact that three minutes before the assault the Wilhelmstrasse, which the embassy is situated, was almost clear of people. When the news of the rupture of diplomatic relations circulated along the Linden a crowd of students and other people, including, as a matter of fact, a number of political detectives, gathered instantly, and the assault was committed within three minutes of the receipt of the news. Later, the Berlin papers "assumed" that the coins had been thrown by Englishmen

← 109   ·   110   ·   111 →
(page index)