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White, Cha. (ed.) / The continental times: special war edition
No. 1076. Vol. XXI. No. 9 (January 22, 1915)

[Supplement]: An open letter. A practical American newspaper correspondent James O'Donnell Bennett, refutes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's charges

A  practibal American newspaper correspondent James
An      Open          Letter.           O'Donnell Bennett, refutes Sir Arthur Conan Dogle's charges.
Facts versus Fiction.
The one man saw what happened, the other mereliy
heard   vague reports and    was   imposed   upon.    "I     have           seen         .
by  ourselves  through  many    Belgian
\illages and towns. We heard stories of
"uprovoked atrocities when we visited
\with the inhabitants but always it was "in
the next village, messieurs." Arriving at
ihe next village we received the same
issurance, and so on all day. Finally a
Belgian burgornaster told us that he had
heen investigasting the, reports for two
Ji iad    e    to believe that they were
Metz, Germany, December 1914.
Iwice I have read with strict attention,
J with growing amazement an article
some 2,000 words contributed by you
the London Chronicle and entitled
Policy of Murder. How Prussia has
degraded the Standard of modern War-
e." To me that article seems a very
tIrible and a very terrifying document-
tcrrible in its wrath, in its passionate
incerity and in its massing of statements;
rifying in its effect upon the minds of
utral peoples if its statements  are
, epted.
11making some reply to your accusations
hall not so much try to say things that
I call in question the things you have
I as try to say things that will to some
cut give another point of view than
Irs on one of the greatest and most
plexing  questions of   the time-the
oncstion of how Germany makes war.
I venture to cast my statements into
the form of a personal, but not a private,
cluter to you because I wish to be tem-
perate and mannerly, and constantly to
make myself realize that I am, in a sense,
spcaking face to face with one whom 1
rcgard as a good and gifted man, a man
w\io is not only a proved patriot but
wJihose work is one of the adornments of
the literature of his country.
I would not come into your library and
storm at you. Nor will I do that merely
because leagues of land and sea separate
uts and because I am unknown to you. It
is for these reasons of propriety, and not
because I wish to connect a little name
with a notable one, that thus personally
I address you. I owe you too much
gratitude for many an hour of relaxation
to wish in these troubled, feverish times
to be either rude or patronizing.
On the wings of your high fame your
words will travel far, and they will con-
vince many. I have no fame but I have
some facts. The opportunities I have had
for gathering them may be estimated from
this brief chronology:
On August 12th I arrived in Brussels
from London, where I had just taken up
my work as London correspondent for the
Chicago Tribune.  During the next five
or six days I made brief trips to the east
and south of Brussels-as far east as
Landen and as far south as Namur. On
these journeys by train and on foot I heard
no reports that I was able to confirm of
wanton atrocities perpetrated by German
troops against the Belgian civil population
which had observed the laws of war, but
I did hear of some instances of duastic
punishment meted out to franctireurs. On
August 20th I was in Brussels and watched
for three days and a half the passing of
thousands of German troops through the
city.  I was in many parts of Brussels
for many hours of that strained and excit-
ing time and I neither heard of nor saw
an act of outrage or pillage.  I did not
,ee even an act of rudeness on the part
of either the population or the invading
Koldiery.  What I did see was friendly
visiting between groups of civilians and
soldiers at 7 o'clock in the evening.
That was four hours after the entry
On the following Saturday, August 23rd,
I started on a trip that took me in the
wake of German columns as far south as
JBeauumont. On Saturday I was far in the
rear of the troops and in towns which the
Germans had not yet garrisoned. At Ni-
velles the party of which I was a member
visited for two hours with the townspeople
and some peasants who had come in from
the country-side.  No outrages were re-
oorted. Half the next day we went on
foot throught a dozen Belgian villages and
learned of no atrocities. The rest of the
day our party marched alongside a Ger-
muan baggage train and saw Belgian
wvomen, apparently unterrified, giving cups
of water to German soldiers. It is only
fair to suppose, however, that they had
been ordered to do that. In confectioners'
shops we saw   German   soldiers  civilly
asking  for 'chocolate  and  scrupulously
paying, in marks and ofennigs, the price
On Tuesday we were compelled to rest
all day at an itn iin the Belgian town of
Binche  becan:se  our feet were   badly
blistered frort unaccustomed marching.
We moved freely among the population,
making small purchases of equipn-ient and
larger ones of horse, dogcart, and bicycles.
A German baggage train or two passed
through the town but no German soldier
hindered ottr movements. In fact we
Tppeared to be identified by the Germans
with the Belgian population, and they let
:s atone.x
The next day we rode and marched
It seemed to me a beautiful thing to see
French soldiers kissing the hands of Ger-
man doctors who ministered to them in
the hospital at Laon, and I have seen few
finer, sweeter deeds in my life than the
action of a German doctor who placed an
arm under the back of a suffering and
distraught Frenchman, and, drawing him
to his breast, said, "I give you my word
frantic inventions. Of the cruel signs of
war we saw much and of the summary
execution of franctireurs we heard some-
thing and we heard it from Belgians. That
evening we caught up with a German
column at Beaumont and we were placed
under surveillance by German officers.
The   next  day  surveillance  became
arrest, and on that day (Thursday) and on
Friday and Saturday we had, of course.
no opportunity to learn from Belgians how
the had been treated or mistreated. But
we did have ample opportunity to ob-
serve how the German soldiers behaved
themselves. We found their conduct ad-
mirable.  Even to five men whom    they
had gathered in as suspected spies they
were considerate.  They did  not bully
us but shared with us their food and drink.
On Friday night they put uns on a train
with scores of French prisoners of war
bound   for Cologne,  depositing  us  at
Aachen and seeming right glad to be rid
of-s. In Aachen we vt     i'er  sur-
veillance for three or four days by the
civil police and then ceased to be objects
of either suspicion or interest. The town
being convenient to the Holland border
where we could mail our letters to Ame-
rica, we made it our headquarters for
nearly two months. During that period
I made two trips to scenes of German
military operations in France, each time
under escort of German officers. On those
trips I had scores of opportunities to ob-
serve the iron discipline of the German
troops, their sobriety, their scrupulous-
ness in paying for meals at the French
inns and their good understanding with
the civil population in France, and it is
of these matters that I would make some
statement in detail.
In the opening paragraph of your con-
tribution to the Chronicle you say that
"a time has now come when in cold blood,
with every possible restraint, one is justi-
fied in saying that since the most barbar-
ous campaigns of Alva in the Lowlands,
or the excesses of the Thirty Years' War,
there has been no such deliberate policy
of murder as has been adopted in this
struggle by the German forces. This is
the more terrible since these forces are
not like those of Alva, Parmia, or Tilly,
bands of turbulent and mercenary soldiers,
but they are the nation itself, and their
deeds are condoned and even applauded
by the entire national press."
Haltingly, owing to a meager know-
ledge of the German language, but pretty
faithfully for more than three months, I
have followed the reputable Cologne and
Aachen papers on the war, and I have
neither read, nor heard read, any such
condonement or applause. Naturally what
they do not concede that German troops
have  outraged  the  laws  of civilised
You say in your next paragraph that
war may have a beautiful as well as a
terrible side, and be full of touches of
human   sympathy  and  restraint  which
mitigate its unavoidable horrors," and you
cite instances from the mediaeval wars
between England and France, and front
the campaign in the Peninsula, in proof of
that assertion.
And then you ask:
"Could one imagine Germans making
war in such a spirit as this?"
I cannot ortly imagine it but I have
seen it.
I thought it a beautiful thing to see my
friend Captain Franz von Kempis of the
Konigin-Augusta-Garde-Grenadier - Regi-
nit No. 4, standing uncovered on a chill
October afternoon before the grave of the
French  officer  who  today  is known
throughout the German armies in northern
France as "the brave    Alvares."  That
soldier was commander of the Fort des
Ayvelles near Charleville and when the
garic-.-ised to rkc 4tWd i-ans*
the Germans which he felt its hloor de-
manded lie killed himslf. T'he victors
buried him with military honors in a lovely
evergreen grove behind the fort, and over
his grave they erected a beautiful cross
fashioned with patient skill from wood.
And that cross bears this inscription in
German text:
Here rests the brave commandant.
He was not able to live longer than
the Fortress entrusted to him.
By this simple cross of wood
the German soldier honors in thee
the hero of duty.
Second Landwelir Pioneers Company
of the eighth Army Corps.
Sept. 1914.
Some day in happier times I hope to
show you the photograph of this shrine-
place under the evergreens. In late Oc-
tober the German Wachtmeister in charge
of the little force guarding Ayvelles was
keeping the grave green with fresh
the honor to meet and, since she speaks
as good English as you or I can write, I
was able to talk understandingly with her.
During our talk she uttered not one
rancorous word concerning the English or
the French. Indeed, Sir, it is only within
recent weeks of the war that I have heard
opprobrious words fall from the lips of
Germans when they spoke of the allies.
Let me also give- you the name of Miss
Bessie Sommerville, and English gover-
that you are not going to die, but you
must help me to make you well by keep-
ing yourself calm."  I
Two big tears rolled down the French-
man's checks and there was a look of in-
finite gratitude in his eyes when the
doctor gently lowered him to the pillow.
I thought it beautiful and touching to see
two big German soldiers sitting in the
front room of a house in the town of Be-
theneville, not many leagues from Reims,
while a little French girl, perhaps 12 years
old, gave them a lesson in French. It
was they who seemed the children and
she the adult, so awkward and simple and
attentive were they and so monitor-like
and strict with them was she.
The French children who were begging
pfennigs with pathetic, pretty histrionism
from the princes, generals, majors, cap-
tains and private soldiers who came and
went through the railway square' in the
French town where great headquarters
of the Ge~rnar frriTE i ocatcd seeed -
to me to afford decisive cnough proof that
these little ones were not much afraid of
Mr. Kipling's "Huns."  I  noticed  with
pleasure that almost never did they meet
with refusal.
And again, I could not convince myself
that much personal raicor was existing
between German inva ers    and Belgian
noncombattants when     German officer,
whose automobile was already well filled,
stopped the car on a country road to ask
a Belgian doctor whether he could not
give him a lift to his destination.
And in desolated Dinaut I both wondered
and smiled when I sah.' Ober-Lieutenant
Dr. Lehmann of Dresden busily helping
the Belgian mistress of the inn to set the
dinner table when a party of shivering
officers and correspondents arrived un-
expectedly one chill night in September.
The eager officer was perhaps more of a
bother than a help to the hostess but she
took his activity in good part and there
was much laughter and chaffing between
them. He had made his quarters at the
inn for many days, and every Belgian
about the place seemed fond of him. A
month later I was there again for a night
and the first thing I did was to ask for
the Ober-Lieutenant. "Ol! lie is departed!
He is gone these ma y days!" cried all
the women folk in horuts and seemed
genuinely sorry.
It was at Dinat. ) 0   riat I twice
studied the method b1 1X  1i the German
army is daily provid a 400 destitute fa-
milies of the town wi i bread, teat aid
coffee, charging them absolutely nothing,
while families which Ain pay obtain food
at cost. Meat is delivcred to the local
Butchers, and Germ s ergeants stand by
in the shops to see tat the people are
not overcharged. In Jiustsels I heard an
assistant to the Belgian nurgomaster ask
the German commandant of the city, Major
Bayer, for 10,000 sacks (that is 2,220,000
pounds) of flour for th poor. I heard the
official stamp come crshing down on the
typewritten request which the official also
submitted, and I saw the paper returned
to the Belgian functionary with a smile
of acquiescence.
To go back to Dinant, I saw     little
human tokens like the vords ctalked in
German on the door of a poor Belgian
house, "Here lives a grandmother 98 years
old. Keep out!", and on the door of an-
other Belgian house the words, also in
German. "Here is a new baby. Be quiet."
Within a stone's throw  of the first of
the forts which the Germans took in the
fighting around Liege I saw  in October
the grave of a Belgian soldier. It was
strewn with green boughs and above it
was a wooden cross on which had been
lettered in black paint, "Here lies a Belgian
soldier."  The htmble, but as the times
go, sufficient memorial was the work of
Grman  soldicts--w -* ardig the 'rTn
of a fort around which was some of the
hardest fighting of the war.
Such things, Sir, I have seen.
In your article in the Chronicle you cite
many instances of atrocities but in not
one statement do you  ive the name of
either the accuser or the accused.
In the citation of humane deeds I can
be more explicit than that.  I can give
you the name of Mrs. Mannesmann who.
struck to the heart by  the agonies of
French soldiers writhing and jerking with
tetanus in German-superintended hospitals
at Hirson and Laon, undertook a perilous
and exhatsting journey to Germany in
order to purchase the serum for tetanus
and convey it to France. She is the wife
of one of the Brothers Mannesmann of
the great German firm of Mannesmann-
Mulag.  That noble woman I have had
With the following letter I cannot give
you names but I have no reason to believe
that it is a forgery. It was first printed
in newspapers published at Kiel and is
said to have been given to the press of
that town by relatives of the  German
captain mentioned in the letter. It was
then copied by several other German
papers, among   them    the  extremely
cautious Cologne Gazette, from the No-
vember 9th issue of which I translate it.
A French baroness living in Lille writes
ness in the family of Baron Mumm von
Schwarzenstein ofAachen. That ladywrote
a letter which was forwarded with letters
written by English prisoners of war to
their families in England and in it she
"I wish you would let the English papers
know of the kindness and consideration
we English receive at all times from  the
Germans. It makes me furious and at the
same time sad to read the things that are
being said of Germans in English papers.
I mean how they treat their prisoners and
so forth. They are   vile lies. I have
plenty of opportunity of knowing how
Belgian, French and English prisoners are
treated.  I have heard only of kindness
and courtesy, and all prisoners that have
passed through Aix-la-Chapelle must say
the same. I only hope the Germans will
have the same to say when they return
from England. I could write much more
but space doesn't allow."
- I hoped trvilley letter
would be printed in the London papers
because it seemed to me that it would
bring comfort to many an anxious, ach-
ing heart. But I have been unable to find
it in any of the numerous English journals
which have come under my eye. I sent
it to the paper which I serve and my
editor gave it a conspicuous position.
Another little incident from Aix:
Baron Mumm asked Captain Lyster, an
English officer who was prisoner in Aix,
what could be done to make him com-
fortable.  "Better  than  anything else,"
the Captain replied, "I would like a briar
pipe and some tobacco,"-and he named
his favorite mixture. Baron Mumm spent
some time in seeking that brand and when
he returned, the Captain asked, "How
much do I owe you for this?"
"Nothing at all, my dear fellow," said
the baron. "In happier times you and I
will have a good dinner together at the
Carlton and this will be pleasant to re-
member then."
May I give you another specific incident
with names and places?  An English wo-
man of prominence who is a cousin of
Sir Edward Grey and is a large land-
owner and president of the Red Cross in
a northern country, was enabled through
the good offices of Robert J. Thompson,
American Consul at Aix, to fulfill a mission
which took her to a military prison in
Germany. She confessed that she came
through Belgium  with fear and loathing
of the Germans in her heart. She re-
turned over the Dutch frontier with tears
of gratitude for what she described as
"the unfailing courtesy and kindness of
German officers," who she said, had not
only allowed her to visit a captive English
officer who  was   under  suspicion  of
espionage, but also had given her oppor-
tunities to accomplish her mission in the
fullest possible way. She  viewed  the
prison and observed  the  treatment  its
occupants received  and  she  remarked
several times, "Why, it is just like a boys'
school in England!" And she later told
the consul how her countrymen had their
playgrounds, their  sports, their money,
their servants and their newspapers. She
was full of admiration for the perfection
of the system and for the human, brotherly
feeling which characterized the working
of it.
The consul told me, he could never
forget the tears and the deep, womanly
feeling of this lady as she expressed her-
self in parting on the dark, stormy night
when lie took her over the German border
into Holland. Her last words to him were
renewed assurances of her gratitude to
"the courtly German soldiers".
Here is another bit of testimony from
an English subject whom slander of the
German has sickened.   He is Captain J.
B. Gerze of A  Rnv  -        P   andI
he wrote from Mons in September:
"I had bad luck. I was knocked out in
the first half hour. I was two days in a
German hospital.  They could not have
treated me better had I been the crown
prince, from  the lowest orderly to the
senior medical officer.  I hope you will
tell this to anyone who is running down
the Germans."
And here is testimony from a French
officer-Surgeon-Major Dr. Sauve, Rue
Luxembourg, Paris: .
'I have seen in the German hospitals at
Somepy and Aure the French wounded
receiving exactly the same treatment as
the German. I may add that not only the
French wounded but also the French pri-
soniers whom I saw were very well looked
as murderers whpn they fall into the hands
of the allies."
I am glad, Sir, that you are not a British
general, for it is my conviction that, if you
gave orders as you write articles, you
would add fresh horrors to war. And also
it seems strange to me that a publicist who
so passionately extenuates the Belgian
franctireurs' mad defiance of the laws of
war should be so keen for reprisals
to a German    captain  who  had   enii
billeted at her house:
"Lille, October 20th.-My dear Sir. I
must tell you that I pray God may guard
you until you again see your mother, wh'
surely has given you a tender and care-
ful upbringing. I will care for your
officers as if they were our own. 13-
lieve me, dear Sir, with deepest feelig.
Baronne de B.-"
Toward the close of the second para-
graph of your article you state that in the
Peninsula campaign, to prevent the de-
struction of an ancient bridge, the British
promised not to use it on condition thait
the French would forego its destructioti
"an agreement," you add. "faithfully kepi
upon either side."
And then you ask:
"Could  one  imagine Gernuus makiing
war in such a spirit as this?  Think of
that old French bridge and then think of
the University of Louvain and the Cathc-
dral of Reims. What a gap between them,
-the gap that separates civilization from
the savage."
Now may I ask a question or two?
Why not think of the exquisite Hotel
de Ville at Louvain which was saved from
destruction by fire solely through the
heroism, energy and ingenuity of Ger-
man   officers,  who  though  comrades
of theirs  had been shot in the back
by civilians firing from attics and from
cellar-windows, worked to save one of
the most precious memorials of ancient
times, and worked to such good purpose
that today the  superb structure stands
unharmed? I have seen it.
Why not think of the choir-stalls, the
paintings and the silver ornaments which
German officers removed from the cathue-
dral of St. Peter at Louvain and entrusted
to the present burgomaster of Louvain,
who, in turn, deposited them in the Notel
de Ville across the way?
Why not think of the great buildings
of the University of Louvain which are
not destroyed? You say they were, but
on a Sunday in October    I saw   themt
standing. It was the library of the Uni-
versity which was destroyed.
"Think of that old French bridge," you
say, "and then think of the Cathedral of
Why not think, in this cotnectionu. of
the three parlementaires which the Ger-
mans sent to the French, reqnesting thm
not to use the tower of the Cathedral as
a point for signalling to the French
batteries the effect of their fire? One of
these parlementaires never came back!
As a final warning the Germans blei
down a smokestack near the Cathedral,
and when they finally opened on the
towers, so as to drive away the men who
were signalling, they  used  very  thin
shrapnel. Days later I saw the towers
still standing, and the statement as to the
parlementaires I had from German officers
of high rank, in whose speech I found
nothing to warrant me in calling theni
liars off hand.
Why not think of the art commission
headed by a German privy councilor and
head of an imperial museum in Berlin,
which  Germany sent through    Belgium
from Liege to Mons to tabulate works of
art in churches and convents within the
zone of danger and to remove them to
places of safety,-not places of safety in
Germany but places of safety in the Rue
Royale in Brussels? And these treasures
when delivered there were placed under
the control not of German but of Belgian
Why not think of the fact that, almost
without exception, burgomasters, curators
of museums, bishops and priests worked
loyally and frankly in the cause of art
with the German commission?
Why not think of the fact that one of
the treasures they removed from possible
peril was van Dyck's "St. Martin Dividinuu
His Cloak," a masterpiece which, mere
on the basest grounds, is calculated t:
make an appeal to the cupidity of an iii
vader, for its money value, so  experu-
say, is not less than Lst.50,000!
At the opening of the fourth parag
of your article you ask this question:
"Can any possible term save anp
of murder be applied to the use of aircrui
by the Germans?"
You are speaking more especially now
of the dropping of bombs on unfortifie
cities by German airmen, and you so<
that "occasionally these men have bee'
obliging enough to drop their  cards
well as their bombs,"
And you add:
"I see no reason why   these  (cardsi
should not be used in evidence against
them, or why they should not be hanged

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