“The war must be fought to a finish. Either Germany or England must win and the interests here on the Rhine are ready to fight until Germany wins.”
“Do you think Germany wants war with America?” I asked Thyssen.
“Never!” was his emphatic response. “First, because we have enemies enough, and, secondly, because in peace times, our relations with America are always most friendly. We want them to continue so after the war.”
Thyssen’s remarks could be taken on their face value were it not for the fact that the week before we arrived in these cities General Ludendorf, von Hindenhurg’s chief assistant and co-worker, was there to get the industrial leaders to manufacture more ammunition. Von Falkenhayn had made many enemies in this section because he cut down the ammunition manufacturing until these men were losing money. So the first thing von Hindenburg did was to double all orders for ammunition and war supplies and to send Ludendorf to the industrial centres to make peace with the men who were opposed to the Government.
Thus from May to November German politics went through a period of transformation. No one knew exactly what would happen,—there were so many conflicting opinions. Political parties, industrial leaders and the press were so divided it was evident that something would have to be done or the German political organisation would strike a rock and go to pieces. The Socialists were still demanding election reforms during the war. The National Liberals were intriguing for a Reichstag Committee to have equal authority with the Foreign Office in dealing with all matters of international affairs. The landowners, who were losing money because the Government was confiscating so much food, were not only criticising von Bethmann-Hollweg but holding back as much food as they could for higher prices. The industrial leaders, who had been losing money because von Falkenhayn had decreased ammunition orders, were only partially satisfied by von Hindenburg’s step because they realised that unless the war was intensified the Government would not need such supplies indefinitely. They saw, too, that the attitude of President Wilson had so injured what little standing they still had in the neutral world that unless Germany won the war in a decisive way, their world connections would disappear forever and they would be forced to begin all over after the war. Faced by this predicament, they demanded a ruthless submarine warfare against all shipping in order that not only England but every other power should suffer, because the more ships and property of the enemies destroyed the more their chances with the rest of the world would be equalised when the war was over. Food conditions were becoming worse, the people were becoming more dissatisfied; losses on the battlefields were touching nearly every family. Depression was growing. Every one felt that something had to be done and done immediately.