New York Times Current History; The European War, Vol 2, No. 3, June, 1915 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 369 pages of information about New York Times Current History; The European War, Vol 2, No. 3, June, 1915.

In the minds of Prussian officers war seems to have become a sort of sacred mission, one of the highest functions of the omnipotent State, which is itself as much an army as a State.  Ordinary morality and the ordinary sentiment of pity vanish in its presence, superseded by a new standard, which justifies to the soldier every means that can conduce to success, however shocking to a natural sense of justice and humanity, however revolting to his own feelings.  The spirit of war is deified.  Obedience to the State and its war lord leaves no room for any other duty or feeling.  Cruelty becomes legitimate when it promises victory.  Proclaimed by the heads of the army, this doctrine would seem to have permeated the officers and affected even the private soldiers, leading them to justify the killing of noncombatants as an act of war, and so accustoming them to slaughter that even women and children become at last the victims.  It cannot be supposed to be a national doctrine, for it neither springs from nor reflects the mind and feelings of the German people as they have heretofore been known to other nations.  It is a specifically military doctrine, the outcome of a theory held by a ruling caste who have brooded and thought, written and talked, and dreamed about war until they have fallen under its obsession and been hypnotized by its spirit.

The doctrine is plainly set forth in the German Official Monograph on the usages of war on land, issued under the direction of the German Staff.  This book is pervaded throughout by the view that whatever military needs suggest becomes thereby lawful, and upon this principle, as the diaries show, the German officers acted.[A]

[Footnote A:  “Kriegsbrauch im Landkriege,” Berlin, 1902, in Vol.  VI., in the series entitled “Kriegsgeschichtliche Einzelschriften,” published in 1905.  A translation of this monograph, by Professor J.H.  Morgan, has recently been published.]

If this explanation be the true one, the mystery is solved, and that which seemed scarcely credible becomes more intelligible, though not less pernicious.  This is not the only case that history records in which a false theory, disguising itself as loyalty to a State or to a Church, has perverted the conception of duty and become a source of danger to the world.

PART II.

Having thus narrated the offenses committed in Belgium, which it has been proper to consider as a whole, we now turn to another branch of the subject, the breaches of the usages of war which appear in the conduct of the German Army generally.

This branch has been considered under the following heads: 

     First.—­The treatment of noncombatants, whether in Belgium or
     in France, including—­

     (a) The killing of noncombatants in France;

     (b) The treatment of women and children;

     (c) The using of innocent noncombatants as a screen or shield
     in the conduct of military operations;

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New York Times Current History; The European War, Vol 2, No. 3, June, 1915 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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