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قراءة كتاب Golden Lads

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Golden Lads

Golden Lads

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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bribery differed at different villages. In one burned town of 1500 houses we found approximately 100 houses standing intact, with German script in chalk on their doors; the order of the officer not to burn. This meant the dwellers had been friendly to the enemy in certain instances, and in other instances that they were spies for the Germans. We have the photographs of those chalked houses in safe-keeping, against such time as there is a direct challenge on the facts of German methods. But there has come no challenge of facts—we that have seen have given names, dates and places—only a blanket denial and counter charges of franc-tireur warfare, as carried on by babies in arms, white-haired grandmothers and sick women.

In October, 1914, two miles outside Ostend, I was arrested as a spy by the Belgians and marched through the streets in front of a gun in the hands of a very young and very nervous soldier. The Etat Major told me that German officers had been using American passports to enter the Allied lines and learn the numbers and disposition of troops. They had to arrest Americans on sight and find out if they were masqueraders. A little later one of our American ambassadors verified this by saying to me that American passports had been flagrantly abused for German purposes.

All this devious inside work, misusing the hospitality of friendly, trustful nations, this buying up of weak individuals, this laying the traps on neutral ground—all this treachery in peace times—deserves a second Bryce report. The atrocities are the product of the treachery. This patient, insidious spy system, eating away at the vitality of the Allied powers, results in such horrors as I have witnessed.


THE ATROCITY

When the very terrible accounts of frightfulness visited on peasants by the invading German army crossed the Channel to London, I believed that we had one more "formula" story. I was fortified against unproved allegations by thirteen years of newspaper and magazine investigation and by professional experience in social work. A few months previously I had investigated the "poison needle" stories of how a girl, rendered insensible by a drug, was borne away in a taxicab to a house of ill fame. The cases proved to be victims of hysteria. At another time, I had looked up certain incidents of "white slavery," where young and innocent victims were suddenly and dramatically ruined. I had found the cases to be more complex than the picturesque statements of fiction writers implied. Again, by the courtesy of the United States Government, Department of Justice, I had studied investigations into the relation of a low wage to the life of immorality. These had shown me that many factors in the home, in the training, in the mental condition, often contributed to the result. I had grown sceptical of the "plain" statement of a complex matter, and peculiarly hesitant in accepting accounts of outrage and cruelty. It was in this spirit that I crossed to Belgium. To this extent, I had a pro-German leaning.

On September 7, 1914, with two companions, I was present at the skirmish between Germans and Belgians at Melle, a couple of miles east of Ghent. We walked to the German line, where a blue-eyed young Hussar officer, Rhinebeck, of Stramm, Holstein, led us into a trap by permitting us to walk along after him and his men as they rode back to camp beyond Melle. We walked for a quarter mile. At our right a barn was burning brightly. On our left the homes of the peasants of Melle were burning, twenty-six little yellow brick houses, each with a separate fire. It was not a conflagration, by one house burning and gradually lighting the next. The fires were well started and at equal intensity in each house. The walls between the houses were still intact. The twenty-six fires burned slowly and thoroughly through the night.

These three thousand German soldiers and their officers were neither drunk nor riotous. The discipline was excellent. The burning was a clean-cut, cold-blooded piece of work. It was a piece of punishment. Belgian soldiers had resisted the German army. If Belgian soldiers resist, peasant non-combatants must be killed. That inspires terror. That teaches the lesson: "Do not oppose Germany. It is death to oppose her—death to your wife and child."

We were surrounded by soldiers and four sentries put over us. Peasants who walked too close to the camp were brought in and added to our group of prisoners, till, all told, we numbered thirty. A peasant lying next to me watched his own house burn to pieces.

Another of the peasants was an old man, of weak mind. He kept babbling to himself. It would have been obvious to a child that he was foolish. The German sentry ordered silence. The old fellow muttered on in unconsciousness of his surroundings. The sentry drew back his bayonet to run him through. A couple of the peasants pulled the old man flat to the ground and stifled his talking.

At five o'clock in the morning German stretcher bearers marched behind the burned houses. Out of the house of the peasant lying next to me three bodies were carried. He broke into a long, slow sobbing.

At six o'clock a monoplane sailed overhead, bringing orders to our detachment. The troops intended for Ghent were turned toward Brussels. The field artillery, which had been rolled toward the west, was swung about to the east. An officer headed us toward Ghent and let us go. If the Germans had marched into Ghent we would have been of value as a cover for the troops. But for the return to Brussels we were only a nuisance. We hurried away toward Ghent. As we walked through a farmyard we saw a farmer lying at full length dead in his dooryard. We passed the convent school of Melle, where Catholic sisters live. The front yard was strewed with furniture, with bedding, with the contents of the rooms. The yard was about four hundred feet long and two hundred feet deep. It was dotted with this intimate household stuff for the full area. I made inquiry and found that no sister had been violated or bayoneted. The soldiers had merely ransacked the place.

One of my companions in this Melle experience was A. Radclyffe Dugmore, formerly of the Players Club, New York, a well-known naturalist, author of books on big game in Africa, the beaver, and the caribou. For many years he was connected with Doubleday, Page & Co. His present address is Crete Hill, South Nutfield, Surrey.

At other times and places, German troops have not rested content with the mere terrorization and humiliation of religious sisters. On February 12, 1916, the German Wireless from Berlin states that Cardinal Mercier was urged to investigate the allegation of German soldiers attacking Belgian nuns, and that he declined. As long as the German Government has seen fit to revive the record of their own brutality, I present what follows.

A New York physician whom I know sends me this statement:

"I was dining in London in the middle of last April with a friend, a medical man, and I expressed doubt as to the truth of the stories of atrocity. I said I had combatted such stories often in America. In reply, he asked me to visit a house which had been made over into an obstetrical hospital for Belgian nuns. I went with him to the hospital. Here over a hundred nuns had been and were being cared for."

On a later Sunday in September I visited the Municipal Hospital of Ghent. In Salle (Hall) 17, I met and talked with Martha Tas, a peasant girl of St. Gilles (near Termonde). As she was escaping by train from the district, and when she was between Alost and Audeghem, she told me that

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