THE EAGLE AND THE VULTURE
AS enthusiastic, war-mad crowd had gathered about an impromptu speaker in the Ringstrasse, not far from the Hotel Bristol, in Vienna, one pleasant August evening in 1914. His theme was the military prowess of Austria-Hungary and Germany.
“And now,” he concluded, “Japan has treacherously joined our enemies. Yet we should not be disturbed, for her entrance will but serve to bring us another ally too. You all know of the ill-feeling between the United States and Japan. At any moment we may hear that the great Republic has declared war.” He called for cheers, and the Ringstrasse echoed with Hoch! Hoch! Hoch! for the United States of America.
That was my introduction to European opinion of my country during the war. During my four weeks in the Austro-Serbian zone of hostilities, I had heard no mention of anything but the purely military business at hand.
The following evening from the window of an “American-Tourist-Special Train” I looked down on the happy Austrians who jammed the platform, determined to give the Americans a grand send-off, which they did with flag-waving and cheers. A stranger on the platform thrust a lengthy typewritten document into my hands, with the urgent request that I should give it to the Press in New York. It was a stirring appeal to Americans to “witness the righteousness of the cause of the Central Powers in this war which had been forced upon them.” Three prominent citizens of Vienna had signed it, one of whom was the famous Doctor Lorenz.
Berlin, in an ecstasy of joyful anticipation of the rapid and triumphal entrance into Paris, was a repetition of Vienna. True, in the beginning, Americans, mistaken for Englishmen by some of the undiscerning, had been roughly treated, but a hint from those in high authority changed that. In like manner, well-meaning patriots who persisted in indiscriminately mobbing all members of the yellow race were urged to differentiate between Chinese and Japanese.
So I found festive Berlin patting Americans on the back, cheering Americans in German-American meetings, and prettily intertwining the Stars and Stripes and the German flag.
“Now is your opportunity to take Canada,” said the man in the street. In fact, it was utterly incomprehensible to the average German that we should not indulge in some neighbouring land-grabbing while Britain was so busy with affairs in Europe.
The German Foreign Office was, of course, under no such delusion, although it had cherished the equally absurd belief that England’s colonies would rebel at the first opportunity. The Wilhelmstrasse was, however, hard at work taking the propaganda which it had so successfully crammed down the throats of the German citizen and translating it into English to be crammed down the throats of the people in America. This was simply one of the Wilhelmstrasse’s numerous mistakes in the psychological analysis of other people. But the Wilhelmstrasse possesses the two estimable qualities of perseverance and willingness to learn, with the result that its recent propaganda in the United States has been much more subtle and very much more effective.