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ganizes forced liquidation of certain business concerns in Belgian territory occupied by the enemy.
According to trustworthy information the German Government has further ordered certain establishments to turn into the bank of the German Empire the amount of the accounts of French and English citizens.
The law of Belgium, of which the Hague Convention forms part, does not recognize as valid the powers granted for purposes of liquidation to receivers appointed by the occupant nor the liquidating operation. Therefore when the territory is liberated parties injured by the abuse of de facto power that may have been exercised by receivers or other liquidating agents will have a remedy
at law against the said receivers or agents.
All contracts or other legal instruments going beyond the mere custody or conservation of property will be voidable. This will in particular apply to alienations of real or personal property, conveyances of debt; in a word, all acts of disposal.
The representatives in places out of the occupied Belgian territory of Belgian or foreign firms or corporations that have been sequestered by the German authorities would make themselves liable to the penalties provided by the law decree of Dec. 10, 1916, besides damages through civil action, if they should carry out the instructions given them by the receivers or liquidating agents.
* Liberty Enlightening the World”
By HENRY VAN DYKE
Thou warden of the western gate, above Manhattan Bay,
No more thou dreamest of a peace reserved alone for thee,
O cruel is the conquer-lust in Hohenzollern brains:
(ENERAL VON STEIN,' the Ger
man Minister of War, delivered an address before the Reichstag
on March 3, 1917, in which he announced that, owing to French mistreatment of German prisoners, countermeasures had been adopted under which, beginning on that date, French prisoners would be placed in the zone of fire until the alleged abuses of the enemy were discontinued. In the course of his speech he said:
The situation is worse in France. Un fortunately things do not grow better there, but worse. The enemy endeavors to oppress our unfortunate comrades, body and soul. The liberties which we granted to prisoners in our camps, by allowing them occupation with art and science, as much as they like and were used to, are unknown in France. We therefore abolished these liberties in our prisoner camps. The time of warning which had been fixed at four weeks, after which countermeasures would be taken, only benefited the enemies. During that time we treated our prisoners decently, and our prisoners in the hands of the enemy had to suffer four more weeks of torture. I asked that the time be cut short, and this has been granted today. Countermeasures will be taken immediately and continued until we receive from hostile Governments news that the hostile measures have been abolished.
Thousands of prisoners were discovered working close behind the French front, in
the French front in range of the fire of our own guns. If these unfortunate people seek cover against our fire the French officers prevent this with arms. We have taken countermeasures, and brought French prisoners into the same situation behind our front. This will be continued until the enemy has decided to fulfill our demands and withdraw his prisoners fifty kilometers [about 3242 miles] behind the front. The lowest act which they commit is that, especially during recent times, they have tortured German prisoners immediately after capturing them with all means in order to make them speak about military facts. This ghastly fate is especially reserved for officers and non-commissioned officers. They are locked up for days in receptacles resembling cages. They are made to suffer hunger for days in order to break their spirits. We do not meditate for one moment following the enemy on this road, but the front has been ordered to hold back
prisoners taken there for some time, and to bring them into a similar situation. Low actions will not, however, be committed by us. I saw in France numberless crowds of French prisoners pass by. Our field-gray soldiers curiously crowded around, but I never heard one insulting word, and still less saw any action against them. That was done by us“ barbarians."
The War Minister said he was sure the measures of reprisal would not always be executed with sufficient strictness, as the German people were always good natured and even oversentimental in such cases. He turned next to the case of German prisoners in England, saying:
In England things are different. Although the English usually deny atrocities, it must be admitted that in many cases they redressed grievances, and that generally the treatment in England is better. This, however, does not exclude that also the English employ many prisoners close behind the front, and therefore adequate measures have been taken as reprisals. We further know that captured Germans in the French ports are made to work under unfavorable conditions in excessive fashion by the English. For this reason also English prisoners have been put in the same position on certain places of the front. Immediately after the declaration of the submarine war we brought to the knowledge of the English Government that eventual special treatment of our brave submarine crews would be answered immediately with similar measures.
About the Russians not much is to be said. Many things are obscure. It is not yet certain whether the sad conditions on the Murman Railway have been completely cleared up. Some of our airplane officers are still chained in dungeons. But it ought not to be passed in silence that, in spite of everything else, in Russia conditions in many places have become rather better than worse. For this thanks are due to the devoted activities of the Swedish and Danish Red Cross, Since Sweden took charge of our representation in Russia very energetic work has been done there in order to better the fate of our comrades, Denmark magnanimously followed Switzerland's example and agreed that institutions for exchange of prisoners be established. Also the King of Spain offered help in the same direction. We welcome all these warm-hearted endeavors with sinc gratitude.
I cannot speak about the fate of our captured countrymen without mentioning the people dragged from East Prussia and Alsace-Lorraine. There, perhaps, greater tragedies happened than among our prisoners. In my corps we had a young Alsatian clergyman who had been forced to leave his wife with a new-born child. The woman had to sit for weeks in a cellar, and was then dragged away by the French, and the unfortunate husband up to today has heard nothing of his family.
When a short while ago, in Belgium, workmen and inhabitants were sent to Germany for work a storm of indignation arose abroad and also at home. We did not remain silent. The Belgians are our enemies, and many of them, probably from a safe hiding place, fired against our troops. My East Prussian and Alsatian countrymen are much nearer to my heart. I'nfortunately we could not obtain the least justice for these unhappy ones. France hides behind all sorts of pretexts, and pretends that these people do not want to return. In fact, very few, some thirty, have come back. During these days a sister was said to return with fifty children, but she came with empty hands. Whether a second sister, who comes in the next few days, will be more successful is not yet known. The Russian Goyernment alleges national auxiliary service, and therefore refuses to release these people. I am always ready to defend the principle that we can do without the co-operation of these unfortunate ones if they are given back to us.
Official Reply of France The French Government took immediate cognizance of the foregoing charges and issued the following official denial:
In his recent speech to the Reichstag, the German War Minister gives an official character to the allegations already published by the German “ Wireless," and tries to persuade public opinion all over the world that German prisoners in France are subject to ill-treatment. He states that the period granted for the negotiations regarding the treatment of prisoners is now over, and that reprisals will be adopted. As a fact, the German Government has made a complaint to the French Government through the American Ambassador on the following points:
According to the German statements, at the time of their capture and interrogation, German prisoners have been ill-treated; they have been robbed and insulted; have been badly housed in the camps, and have been used as laborers in the area swept by shell fire. The Note, therefore, required:
(a) That the German prisoners should be taken away from the dangerous areas and put into camps at a distance of at least thirty kilometers [about twenty miles] from the front line;
(b) that they should not work within that distance from the front line;
(c) that they should be permitted to use the postal service with Germany:
(d) that delegates of the United States Embassy should be authorized to visit the camps in the zone of operations.
A reply had to be given before Jan. 15. On the precise date the French Government presented to the United States Embassy a reply:
(a) Formally refuting the accusations of ill-treatment;
(b) showing that no check had been placed upon postal correspondence;
(c) agreeing, in return for reciprocal treatment, to allow delegates from the United States Embassy to visit the prisoner camps;
(d) The French Government further declared itself formally ready to employ-on a reciprocal basis-no prisoner of war in the zone of fire, nor within twenty kilometers [122 miles) of the front.
Up to the present the French Government has received no answer to this note.
The German Government talks of reprisals, and thereby pretends to ignore the fact that there is documentary evidence to show that many months before German prisoners were employed on the French front in the zone of operations the Germans themselves were employing French prisoners under the fire of French guns; and it can truly be said that if they are attacking now it is to defend themselves.
This is clearly proved by irrefutable documents which are also corroborated by the confessions of their own prisoners showing that a prisoner camp was established at a point particularly beaten by the French artillery, where our miserable countrymen were kept without shelter or cover of any sort until evacuation was necessary for sanitary reasons.
On the other hand, it is sufficient to read the correspondence of German prisoners addressed to their families to be convinced of the feeling of humanity which has been displayed toward them. No better conclusion could be given than the following words said on Nov. 3, 1916, in a camp near Verdun by a German officer: “I am greatly pleased to be a prisoner in the hands of the French, but I must tell you that these people are too kind and too foolish. It is quite natural that prisoners should work, and they are not overworked, as I can tell you from all I have seen."
A Swiss newspaper, the Journal de Genève, stated on March 4 that Germany was already executing her threats against French prisoners of war; that they were being placed in barracks without food or water and without heating arrangements, notwithstanding the extreme cold. It declared also that French prisoners were being compelled to work
in German trenches within reach of the both sides be completely cleared of war pris
oners. This offer in itself proved that the French artillery.
German Government does not make French Another German Statement
prisoners of war work in the districts of Under date of March 9 the Overseas
operations because of " lack of hands."
Since that time the French Government has News Agency of Berlin sent out a semi
not replied and prefers to expose Frenchofficial statement saying in part:
men to the fire of their own countrymen in The measures taken by the Germans were order to be able to continue to torture Geradopted because about 30,000 German pris- man prisoners of war and to use them for oners of war have for months been living labor contrary to international law. under miserable conditions and forced to do The French Government complains that the hardest kind of work close behind the even in the middle of December French prisFrench lines, in a majority of cases within oners of war were singled out to be sent to the range of German artillery fire.
the district of operations. This assertion The French wireless service stated that is untrue. The prisoners of war in question Gustave Ador of Geneva, President of the I were marked only a short while prior to the International Committee of the Red Cross, final day announced in the German offer. It had visited the German prisoners of war in they had to be sent there the guilt was the district of operations and had gained a solely with the French Government. most favorable impression regarding their
Denial by an American treatment. There is no doubt the French authorities carefully selected a special dis Philip 0. Mills, an American ambutrict in which the conditions were favorable
lance driver, denied General von Stein's in order to deceive M. Ador and neutral countries. The French report regarding the
charges against France in a communicaGerman and French negotiations relating to tion to The New York Times, dated prisoners of war in the district of military March 6, declaring that the German War operations is not correct. Here are the
Minister's speech was due to Germany's facts: The French Government in a note dated
determination to make French prisoners Dec. 21, 1916, was requested to assemble perform the dangerous work behind the German prisoners of war in good camps sit lines, and that the charges were an exuated at least eighteen miles behind the
cuse to justify that measure. He wrote: front, and to refrain from putting them to work at places nearer the firing lines. In
“I can and do brand as a falsehood case of refusal, or if no answer was given, any statement that German prisoners are it was announced that on Jan. 15 French tortured or compelled to work behind the prisoners of war would be sent into the
French lies under fire. German district of operations under similar conditions. The note as is known with cer
“Over six months' service on the French tainty was immediately sent by telegraph fronts as an ambulance driver of the to the French Government at Paris and it
American Red Cross, attached to a French arrived there prior to Jan. 5, 1917. The French answer, dated Jan. 15, reached
division in the sector through which the Berlin only after the announced counter largest number of German prisoners have measures had been put into effect. Besides, been passed, (about 15,000,) thousands the contents of the answer in a great part
of whom I have seen and hundreds of were unsatisfactory. The French Government had not fulfilled the German request.
whom I have talked to, gives me auIt had merely declared it was ready to place thority for what I say. The French use the German prisoners of war twelve miles
only their older men for work close bebehind the front, where they were not suf
hind the lines, and I have never seen a ficiently secure against the fire of longrange cannon, and where they were especial
German prisoner in the fire zone doing ly exposed to airplane attacks.
anything but traveling toward the rear. This declaration, of course, did not suffice
Night and day I have been on the roads for the abolishment of our countermeasures, especially since the experiences we had had
in the fire zone, and there isn't a prison with promises of the French Government re camp or citadel that cannot be and has lating to questions of war prisoners were
not been visited by our ambulance drivvery discouraging. On the contrary, the French Government
ers. We have had eighty men in service had to be asked to fulfill completely the Ger with forty cars at Verdun during Decemman request. A communication to this ef ber, and never a tale from any man of fect was sent to the French Government in
any such atrocity as is quoted in this the beginning of February. On this occasion it was suggested to the French authorities
speech. that the whole district of operations on
“ The first assembling camp for prison.
ers of war is well out of gun range, well An official report published in Berlin kept, and comfortable, and I have been on Dec. 1, 1916, stated that there were through it often. The prisoners are im- 1,663,794 military prisoners in Germany mediately fed on arrival, with the regular on Aug. 1, 1916. In the two years of French army ration and all the bread war to that date 29,297 prisoners had they can eat. I never saw or heard of a died. Of these, 6,032 died from tubercuFrenchman abusing or ill-treating a Ger- losis, 4,201 from spotted fever, 6,270 man prisoner, but, on the contrary, have from wounds, and the rest from other seen hundreds of little acts of kindness illnesses. shown them. Everything is open to us Russia has more than 1,000,000 miliforeign ambulance drivers, and we are tary prisoners, of whom 428,000 were treated as part of the French Army. It captured in 1916, mainly by General is absolutely false that German officers Brusiloff's armies. Besides these there are locked in cages, &c., for I have seen are 200,000 Germans and Austrians inthem confined in comfortable houses and terned as civil prisoners. At the end allowed exercise and good food.
of 1915 the prisoners employed in State “ The whole speech is merely to try to and agricultural work in Russia numjustify an improper use of prisoners of bered 1,138,000, according to a Reuter war and to prevent the ever-increasing
dispatch from Petrograd. Of these 575,number of voluntary German surrenders. 000 were under the jurisdiction of the
“ The French do not need to stoop to Minister of Agriculture, 294,000 under deny such lies, for there are now hun the Department of Mines and Factories, dreds of good American citizens who
and 169,000 under that of Ways and have been to France and have seen how Communications. In the year 1916 the everything is conducted behind the
French captured 78,500 Germans and the French lines, and so can disprove for
British 40,800 on the western front, them all such slanders."
while in the Balkans the Entente armies
took 11,173 Bulgarians and Turks. DurEmployment of Prisoners
ing the same period the Italians made Germany holds approximately 2,000,- prisoners of 52,250 Austrians. This 000 prisoners, most of whom are Rus- gives the Entente Allies a total of more sians. General Groener, Chief of the than 610,000 prisoners for the year 1916. War Emergency Office, reported in Great Britain has thus far made very February, 1917, that 750,000 of these little agricultural or industrial use of prisoners were employed as farm labor- war prisoners, partly owing to the obers, and that more were soon to be putjections of labor unions and partly to to work in the agricultural districts. fear of hostile acts.