It is fair to say that several of the principal American correspondents in Berlin are making a serious effort to practise independent journalism, but it is a difficult and hopeless struggle. They are shackled and controlled from one end of the week to the other. They could not if they wished send the unadorned truth to the United States. All they are permitted to report is that portion of the truth which reflects Germany in the light in which it is useful for Germany to appear from time to time.
Germany has organised news for neutrals in the most intricate fashion. A certain kind of news is doled out for the United States, a totally different kind for Spain, and still a different brand, when emergency demands, for Switzerland, Brazil, or China. There is a Chinese correspondent among the other “neutrals” in Germany. The “news” prepared for him by Major Nicolai’s department would be very amusing reading in the columns of Mr. von Wiegand’s or Dr. Hale’s papers.
There is a celebrated and pro-Ally newspaper in New York whose motto is “All the news that’s fit to print.” The motto of the German War Press Bureau is “All the news that’s safe to print.”
ANTON LANG OF OBERAMMERGAU
While I was at home on a few weeks’ visit in October, 1915, I read in the newspapers a simple announcement cabled from Europe that Anton Lang of Oberammergau had been killed in the great French offensive in Champagne. This came as a shock to many Americans, for the name of this wonderful character who had inspired people of all shades of opinion and religious belief in his masterful impersonation of Christ in the decennial Passion Play was almost as well known in the United States and in England as in his native Bavaria, and better, I found than in Prussia.
British and American tourist agencies had put Oberammergau on the map of the world. The interest in America after the Passion Play of 1910 was so great, in fact, that some newspapers ran extensive series of illustrated articles describing it. The man who played the part of Christ was idealised, everybody who had seen him liked him, respected him and admired him. Thousands had said that somehow a person felt better after he had seen Anton Lang. As a supreme test of his popularity, American vaudeville managers asked him to name his own terms for a theatrical tour.
And now the man who had imbued his life with that of the Prince of Peace had thrown the past aside, and with the spiked helmet in place of the Crown of Thorns had gone to his death trying not to save but to slaughter his fellow-men.