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Teachings of Gen. von Bernhardi
By Viscount (James) Bryce.
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London, Oct. 3.
The present war has had some unexpected consequences. It has called the attention of the world outside of Germany to some amazing doctrines proclaimed there, which strike at the root of all international morality as well as of all international law, and which threaten a return to primitive savagery, when every tribe was wont to plunder and massacre its neighbors.
These doctrines may be found set forth in the widely circulated book of Gen. von Bernhardi, entitled “Germany and the Next War,” published in 1911, and professing to be mainly based on the teachings of the famous professor of history, Heinrich von Treitschke. To readers in other countries, and I trust to most readers in Germany also, they will appear to be an outburst of militarism run mad, a product of a brain intoxicated by love of war and by superheated national self-consciousness.
They would have deserved little notice, much less refutation, but for one deplorable fact, viz., that action has recently been taken by the Government of a great nation (though, as we hope and trust, without the approval of that nation) which is consonant with them and seems to imply belief in their soundness.
Acting on Bernhardi’s Doctrines.
This fact is the conduct of the German Imperial Government in the violation of the neutrality of Belgium, which Prussia, as well as Great Britain and France, had solemnly guaranteed by treaty (made in 1839 and renewed in 1870); in invading Belgium when she refused to allow her armies to pass, although France, the other belligerent, had explicitly promised not to enter Belgium; and in treating Belgian cities and people against whom she had no cause of quarrel with a harshness unprecedented in the history of modern European warfare.
What are these doctrines? I do not for a moment attribute them to the learned class in Germany, for whom I have profound respect, recognizing their immense services to science and learning; nor to the bulk of the civil administration, a body whose capacity and uprightness are known to all the world, and least of all to the German people generally. That the latter hold no such views appears from Bernhardi’s own words, for he repeatedly complains of and deplores the pacific tendencies of his fellow countrymen.