The Tages Zeitung and other newspapers state that the responsibility rests with the British Government, which, attempting to starve the peaceful civilian population of a big country, forced Germany in self-defense to declare British waters a war zone; with shipowners, who allowed passengers to embark on an armed steamer carrying war material, and neglected German warnings against entering the war zone, and, finally, with the English press.
Heartfelt sympathy is expressed by the German press and public for the victims of the catastrophe and their relatives.
From The Hague, via London, on May 19 a special cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES reported that, acting apparently under official instructions, several leading German newspapers had on that day joined in a fierce attack on the United States, making a concerted demand that Germany refuse to yield to the American protest.
Practically all these newspapers repeat the same arguments, declaring that neutrals entering the war zone do so at their own risk, and that the Americans aboard the Lusitania “were shielding contraband goods with their persons.” The Berliner Tageblatt said:
The demand of the Washington Government must be rejected. Indeed, the whole note hardly merits serious consideration. Its “firm tone” is only a cloak to hide America’s consciousness of her own culpability. If American citizens, in spite of the warnings of the German Admiralty, intrusted themselves on the Lusitania, the blame for the consequences falls on themselves and their Government.
Can the United States affirm that there were no munitions aboard? If not, it has not the shadow of a right to protest.
Under the heading “The President’s Note,” Herman Ridder, editor of the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung, one of the leading German-American newspapers, said in that publication on May 15:
The attitude assumed by the President, in the note delivered yesterday to the German Government, toward the infringement of our rights on the seas is diplomatically correct and must compel the support of the entire American people.
We have suffered grievously at the hands of more than one of the belligerent nations, but for the moment we are dealing only with Germany. The note recites a series of events which the Government of the United States could not silently pass by, and demands reparation for American lives lost and American property already destroyed and a guarantee that the rights of the United States and its citizens shall be observed in the future. All this the German Government may well grant, frankly and unreservedly and without loss of honor or prestige. It would be incomprehensible if it did not do so.