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It is however an open question whether any buffer state could maintain itself against the will of Imperial Germany and against its own people's love for France. For France as a nation is distinctly lovable, which Prussia is not and can never be. Surely a freed Alsace will drift towards France, and this without a regard to pledges or “guarantees.”
While writing this article, I have heard from an Alsatian thoroughly acquainted with the present conditions in that country. He says:
No doubt the feeling among the people is now thoroughly and strongly in favor of France and everybody hopes the country will return to French citizenship. It is the only way of definitely putting an end to the German misgovernment which, especially since the war, has become more and more odious to everybody.
The country is too small to remain independent, the possibilities of developing industry, trade and agriculture would be too small. Besides the Germans would always try to regain their influence, their people would remain in the country, the intrigues would be perpetual as now in Flanders, and no hope left for internal and external peace.
In 1913, the people of Alsace and Lorraine were strongly opposed to war even for their own release, because they realized what war would mean, through most bitter experience. Even more than Belgium had their fields been the cockpit of Europe.” Their hope was to become an equal self-governing state within the German Empire, and through their double linguistics to form a bridge of friendship and understanding between two great nations. Let us be level headed (“têtes carrées”) and patient, they urged, for some day Alsace would yet turn the scales in behalf of German liberty. This feeling prevalent before the war was thus expressed by a prominent Alastian:
It is for the people of these provinces to say loudly and clearly that the demand be made for the friendly bridge between two civilizations-not the glacis of a fort, nor yet the field of battle, we ask “No war; Franco-German reconciliation; self-government for Alsace-Lorraine."
All prospects of “bearable life" under German rule vanished with the attack on Belgium and France.
All this before August of 1914.
Since then Alsace-Lorraine has suffered acutely in all her interests. Prominent Alsatian leaders have been condemned to death, though fortunately each of them had already taken refuge in France or Switzerland. Even the most conservative of the well-to-do classes have found it necessary to banish themselves, while German officers have engaged in miscellaneous looting, the loot being sold at auction in Stockholm and Amsterdam.
Early in the war, an Alsatian wrote me as follows:
Many persons were imprisoned and exiled to interior Germany without any judgment. Nearly every denunciation, even anonymous ones, are taken as true, and people sent to prison for some weeks. Speaking French in the streets or shops is strictly prohibited. Some villages were burnt down by the army, others were shelled and destroyed. Jewels, furniture and so on were taken away by German officers in automobiles in the villages evacuated by their troops and especially in the castles, in their own land! I never had thought that war could be so cruel and lawless and lose every notion of morals and law.
Daniel Blumenthal, late mayor of Colmar, in a little book entitled Alsace-Lorraine tells the story of the reign of terror experienced in the last four years.
In the first place, persons inscribed on the black-list, that is to say, those most suspected, have been arrested and imprisoned. Those who have escaped the talons of the Germans, have been objects of persecution for so-called high treason, liable to capital punishment. They have had their property seized and (supreme misfortune) they have been declared to have forfeited their German nationality.
The Council of War was in permanent operation.
Blumenthal estimates that 30,000 Alsatian soldiers, mobilized in the German army, have gone over into the French. Many of these “have begged to be sent to the front, to fight the Germans, thus risking their lives twice in the service of France."
The mayor adds:
Alsace-Lorraine has suffered under the Prussian rule of Germany. This rule has weakened the strength of the country, but could not kill the spirit of the people. There is but one way in
TAL JOURNAL OF RACE DEVELOPMENT, VOL. 9, NO. 1, 1918
which the two provinces can 'regain their health. They must again be united to France, their mother country, their rightful home.
It appears that Alsace-Lorraine has been officially treated as an “enemy country," the true meaning of which term to the Prussian has already been indicated in Belgium, France, Serbia and Armenia-examples which place the German military directorate outside the range of moral comprehension.
A special interest attaches therefore to a little book en
Alsace, by an Alsatian) which sets forth the conditions in that region for the first two years of the war. The volume is made up of unsigned articles from the Journal de Genève (1916). I am assured on unquestionable authority that it is truthful as to facts. Many of the incidents are described from German official sources or quoted from the Pangermanist newspaper the Strassbürger Post, an exotic in Alsace.
The outbreak of war was presaged by the notorious preliminary skirmish at Saverne (Zabern) in which German civil authority was laid supine under the feet of the German General Staff. The events which succeeded this failure of civil justice were progressively alarming to the people of the provinces. Von Wedel, the “Statthalter,” or viceroy of Alsace-Lorraine, and Mandel the Secretary, both of them men of character and ability, as generous as their superiors would permit, resigned their offices, the former being replaced by the reactionary von Dallwitz, a man of iron who would stand no nonsense.
The Alsatians tried to be law-abiding, though new “laws of exception” or “laws of protection" as the Prussians termed them were enacted day by day; statutes they had no part in making nor in enforcing. “Germany had become one vast barrack ruled by Prussian subalterns” and barrack law became the law of Alsace.
All French journals were promptly suppressed, all editors? who had not made their escape being sent to jail.
• A letter from the writer to Léon Boll, editor of the influential Journal d'Alsace-Lorraine was returned from Strassburg by the military authorities marked flüchtig (fugitive), and “fugitive" also were the members of the nationalist group whose names I have already mentioned.
Black lists of Französlinge (Frenchlings) arose to meet the demand and the reign of persecution gave place to a reign of terror.
At first, I am informed, Alsace accepted the characteristic fiction that "war had been forced on Germany' and that she had no choice save to fight. Returning soldiers from the Belgian campaigns dispelled this illusion and the feeling against Prussia grew stronger and stronger as the opportunities for expression grew less.
At a banquet of German sympathizers at Gebweiler in Upper Alsace (April, 1915) the orator, Professor van der Pforten spoke in the following vein:
Germany is now completely united and providence has chosen the German people to subject all Europe to a radical cure which shall be to her a blessing of Heaven.
This cure was then rigorously applied in Alsace as well as in Belgium. “After the war,” said the wife of another professor from the now Prussianized university of Strassburg “the Alsatians ought to lick our feet.”
It was made clear that the “laws of exception,” with their excessive limitations of personal freedom, would not end with the present conflict, but were “rather to be continued until the whole population had made a complete submission, that is, for an unlimited time.”
The new Pangermanist governor, von Dallwitz, spoke of the liberal hopes of the Alsatians as “the extravagant and altogether grotesque fancies of a double culture” with "that other chimera of the role of mediator of the national frontier" .. . “The Alsatians are called by the geographic situation and their past history to form an impassible rampart of culture and mentality purely German.” This was a warning that all their ambitions of culture and liberalism must be given up and that they must henceforth become like the mass of Prussians, intellectual and spiritual slaves, “bricks in the wall of an edifice they could not see and need not understand.” “A broom o iron," said the Pangermanist Lienhardt, “will clean up Alsace, if the young Alsatians do not take up this duty themselves.”'
• Called by the Alsatians "francillous."
Early in the war, the German authorities took possession of all properties belonging to French owners in Alsace-Lorraine, all employees suspected of French leanings being dismissed. Further it was intended to buy up all these properties at the end of the war, and to replace their owners and their personnel by Germans. Such a move, it was said, “would be a benefit to the provinces, as they had not realized the system of intense agriculture practiced in Germany." By this means also, old soldiers were to be colonized in Alsace “thus assuring the veterans a comfortable existence in the country with profit to the national cause.”
In the same connection and at about the same time citizens of the German empire then abroad were ordered to return home at once on penalty of expatriation with loss of all rights as citizens.
This plan acutely affected Alsace-Lorraine, for on its rolls were undoubtedly thousands who were, as charged, “Germans only in name” many of whom had left for other countries as the war began. Thus were expatriated most of the intellectual leaders, including not only the avowed “nation
frenzied movements of Pan-Germanism.
The author of L'Epreuve cites many individual cases of punishment administered under the law of exception.
At the outset of the war, the French made a most illadvised invasion of Alsace unfortunate because the ground could not be held. All who gave the French army any sort of welcome were severely dealt with by the returning Germans. Here was a harvest for the informer.
At Gebweisler, a prominent manufacturer (M. de Bary), was sent to prison for pointing out to a French officer a bookstore where maps could be obtained. At Mühlhausen another manufacturer (Auguste Wagner) was imprisoned for three years on a wholly unproved charge of laying a map on the saddle of a French officer. A justice of the peace, Acker at Cernay, was similarly punished for opposing a German family from making up a black list for proscription.
A merchant of Mühlhausen (Meyer) was condemned to imprisonment for life for “high treason.” The military