The hypnotic effect of the German newspapers on the German is not apprehended either in Great Britain or in the United States. Those papers, all directed from the Foreign Office in the Wilhelmstrasse, can manipulate the thoughts of these docile people, and turn their attention to any particular part of the war with the same celerity as the operator of a searchlight can direct his beam at any part of the sky he chooses. For the moment the whole German nation looks at that beam and at nothing else.
* * * * *
In the late afternoon of an autumnal day I stopped at a little wayside inn near Hildesheim. The place had an empty look, and the woman who came in at the sound of my footsteps bore unmistakable lines of trouble and anxiety.
No meat that day, no cheese either, except for the household. She could, not even give me bread without a bread-ticket—nothing but diluted beer.
Before the war business had been good. Then came one misfortune after another. Her husband was a prisoner in Russia, and her eldest son had died with von Kluck’s Army almost in sight of the Eiffel Tower.
“You must find it hard to get along,” I said.
“I do,” she sighed. “But, then, when fodder got scarce we killed all the pigs, so bother with them is over now.”
“You are not downhearted about the war?” I asked.
“I know that Germany cannot be defeated,” she replied. “But we do so long for peace.”
“You do not think your Government responsible at all for the war?” I ventured.
“I don’t, and the rest of us do not,” was her unhesitating reply. “We all know that our Kaiser wanted only peace. Everybody knows that England caused all this misery.” Then she looked squarely and honestly into my eyes and said in a tone I shall never forget: “Do you think that if our Government were responsible for the war that we should be willing to bear all these terrible sacrifices?”
I thought of that banquet table more than two years before, and the remark about creating public opinion. I realised that the road is long which winds from it to the little wayside inn near Hildesheim, but that it is a road on which live both the diplomat and the lonely, war-weary woman. They live on different ends, that is all.
CORRESPONDENTS IN SHACKLES
Towards the end of 1915 the neutral newspaper correspondents in Berlin were summoned to the Kriegs-Presse-Bureau (War Press Bureau) of the Great General Staff. The official in charge, Major Nicolai, notified them that the German Government desired their signature to an agreement respecting their future activities in the war. It had been decided, Major Nicolai stated, to allow the American journalists to visit the German fronts at more or less regular intervals, but before this was done it would be necessary for them to enter into certain pledges. These were, mainly:—