GEORGE HAVEN PUTNAM.
New York, Nov. 4, 1914.
NEW YORK, Oct. 28, 1914.
Mr. George Haven Putnam.
DEAR SIR: Now that you have shown your “true” spirit of neutrality toward Germany, would you not be kind enough to give us a similar piece of your wisdom and describe in detail the way the Russians acted in East Prussia during their short stay there, and how they murdered, tortured, and assaulted women and girls, and cut children and infants to pieces without even the provocation of “sniping”?
This, your new article in THE TIMES, I anticipate with the greatest interest.
RUDOLF F. THIENES.
Rudolf F. Thienes, Esq.
MY DEAR SIR: Your letter of the 28th inst., intended as a rejoinder to a letter recently printed by me in THE TIMES, is written under a misapprehension in regard to one important matter.
The Americans, who are in a position to judge impartially in regard to the issues of the war, have criticised the official acts which have attended the devastation of Belgium, not because these acts were committed by Germans, but because they were in themselves abominable and contrary to precedents and to civilized standards.
If the Russians had, under official order, burned Lemburg, including the university and the library, and executed the Burgomaster, they would have come under the same condemnation from Americans that has been given to Germans for the burning of Louvain and Aerschot and the shooting of the Aerschot Burgomaster. I am myself familiar with Germany. I am an old-time German student, and I have German friends on both sides of the Atlantic, and I am in a position to sympathize with legitimate aspirations and ideals of these German friends.
I am convinced, however, that no nation can secure in this twentieth century its rightful development unless its national conduct is regulated with a “decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” The references made in my TIMES letters were restricted to official actions; things done under the direction of the military commanders acting in accord with the instructions or the general policy of the Imperial Government.
The misdeeds of individual soldiers are difficult to verify. While these are always exaggerated, it remains the sad truth that every big army contains a certain percentage of ruffians, and that when these ruffians are let loose in a community, with weapons and with military power behind them, bad things are done. It is my own belief that the material in the German Army (which is the best fighting machine that the world has ever seen) will compare favorably with that of any army in the world, and that the percentage of wrongful acts on the part of the German soldiers has been small. Such misdeeds, sometimes to be characterized as atrocities, are the inevitable result of war, and they bring a grave responsibility upon a Government which (to accept as well founded the frank utterances of the leaders of opinion in Germany) has initiated this war for the purpose of “crushing France and of breaking up the British Empire.”