The strategic retreat of the French Army, the facility with which the German armies were able to advance from Aug. 25 to Sept. 5, gave our adversaries a feeling of absolute and final superiority, which manifested itself at that time by all the statements gleaned and all the documents seized.
At the moment of the battle of the Marne the first impression was one of failure of comprehension and of stupor. A great number of German soldiers, notably those who fell into our hands during the first days of that battle, believed fully, as at the end of August, that the retreat they were ordered to make was only a means of luring us into a trap. German military opinion was suddenly converted when the soldiers saw that this retreat continued, and that it was being carried out in disorder, under conditions which left no doubt as to its cause and its extent.
This time it was really a defeat, and a defeat aggravated by the absence of regular supplies and by the physical and moral depression which was the result. The severity of the losses sustained, the overpowering effects of the French artillery, began from this moment to be noted in the German pocketbooks with veritable terror. Hope revived, however, at the end of some weeks, and there is to be found in the letters of soldiers and officers the announcement of “a great movement” which is being prepared, and which is to lead the German armies anew as far as Paris.
This is the great “battle of Calais,” which, contrary to the anticipations of the enemy, was in reality fought to the east of the Yser. The losses of the Germans, which during those ten days exceeded 150,000 men, and may perhaps have reached 200,000, produced a terrifying impression on the troops. From that moment prisoners no longer declared themselves sure of success. For a certain time they had been consoled by the announcement of the capture of Warsaw. This pretended success having proved to be fictitious, incredulity became general.
During the last two months the most intelligent of the prisoners have all admitted that no one could any longer say on which side victory would rest. If we think of the absolute confidence with which the German people had been sustained, this avowal is of great importance.
Letters seized on a dead officer speak of the imminence of a military and economic hemming-in of Germany. They discuss the possibility of Germany finding herself after the war with “empty hands and pockets turned inside out.” There is no longer any question of imposing the conqueror’s law upon adversaries at his mercy, but of fighting with the energy of despair to secure an honorable peace. An officer of the General Staff who was made prisoner on Jan. 18 said: “Perhaps this struggle of despair has already begun.”
There follows a chapter bearing the title, “The System of Lies,” in which the review describes the methods by which it is alleged the German Government “made a sustained effort to create in the army an artificial state of mind based entirely upon lies and a scientific system of fables."