For more than forty years Prussia has employed every means but kindness to Germanise the conquered territory. But though she has hushed every syllable of French in the elementary schools and forced the children to learn the German language and history only; though freedom of speech, liberty of the Press, rights of public meeting, have been things unknown; though even the little children playing at sand castles have been arrested and fined if in their enthusiasm they raised a tiny French flag, or in the excitement of their mock contest cried “Vive la France!”; though men and women have been fined and thrown into prison for the most trifling manifestations that they had not become enthusiastic for their rulers across the Rhine; and though most of the men filling Government positions—and they are legion—are Prussians, the Alsatians preserve their individuality and remain uncowed.
Having failed in two score of years to absorb them by force, Prussia during the war has sought by scientific methods carried to any extreme to blot out for ever themselves and their spirit.
To do the German credit, I believe that he is sincere when he believes that his rule would be a benefit to others and that he is genuinely perplexed when he discovers that other people do not like his regulations. The attitude which I have found in Germany towards other nationalities was expressed by Treitschke when he said, “We Germans know better what is good for Alsace than the unhappy people themselves.”
The German idea of how she should govern other people is an anachronism. This idea, which I have heard voiced all over Germany, was aptly set forth before the war by a speaker on “The Decadence of the British Empire,” when he sought to prove such decadence by citing the fact that there was only one British soldier to every 4,000 of the people of India. “Why,” he concluded, “Germany has more soldiers in Alsace-Lorraine alone than Great Britain has in all India.”
That is a bad spirit for the world, and it is a bad spirit for Germany. She herself will receive one great blessing from the war if it is hammered out of her.
THE WOMAN IN THE SHADOW
The handling of the always difficult question of the eternal feminine was firmly tackled by the German Government almost immediately after the outbreak of war.
To understand the differences between, the situation here and in, Germany it is necessary first to have a little understanding of the German woman and her status. With us, woman is treated as something apart, something on a pedestal. In Germany and in Austria the situation is reversed. The German man uses his home as a place to eat and sleep in, and be waited upon. The attitude of the German woman towards the man is nearly always that of the obedient humble servant to command. If a husband and wife are out shopping it is often enough the wife who carries the parcels. In entering any public place the middle-class man walks first and the wife dutifully follows. When leaving, it is the custom for the man to be helped with his coat before the woman. Indeed, she is generally left to shift for herself.