Lying during war: A sampling from “The Fatherland”

Published by carolyn on Tue, 2018-12-11 01:16

Why is the establishment press always pro-England, anti-Germany?  By Carolyn Yeager

MOST HAVE LEARNED BY NOW that the descriptions of atrocities carried out by German soldiers on Belgian and French civilians in the opening weeks of the Great European War were not true, were in fact British lies happily repeated by the press. But they were believed at the time, and these fictional atrocities were of the most gruesome kind—chopping off the hands of children, raping and bayoneting women, burning down churches and other buildings after locking civilians inside. The American newspapers carried these stories and a great many people believed them. It wasn't until after the war was over that Britain began to admit, under pressure of evidence to the contrary compiled by the German Foreign Office, that they were propaganda lies designed to gain the sympathy, and arouse the indignation, of the public—and most especially the Americans. However, there was never an official apology or correction.

Such lies were obviously designed to create hatred and fear of the German Army and even the entire German nation. The English justify such tactics in the name of saving England and the world from great evil. The major newspapers were owned and managed by people who were pro-Britain and whomever Britain was allied with. The German-American editors of The Fatherland were wise to this and devoted some space in most issues to explaining and exposing it to their readers. Sometimes it was the readers who wrote to instruct the magazine about the “unbelievable” and so very “un-German” behavior attributed to the military of a country and people they admired or were kin to.

As most of you also know, this type of atrocity propaganda warfare was repeated in WWII by the same folk, on an even larger scale and with more staying power since there was no German Foreign Office after the second world war to bring forth evidence to the contrary. We have not seen enough retractions yet, after 75 years, to set our world back to rights; we're still struggling with it.

Below, you'll find a small sampling of what I've come across so far in The Fatherland's coverage of this subject of atrocity allegations and also the dictatorial nature of “John Bull” toward “Uncle Sam”.

vol 1 no 7, Sept. 23, 1914 News item on page 12:


The New York Times chides the British censor for not suppressing the story of the Turco soldier who protested vehemently when from his scanty baggage there was removed the head of a German soldier which he proposed carrying back with him to Africa as a souvenir. Evidently the old hypocrite on Times Square was taken off its guard. For we now know just what news the editor of the [NY] Times regards as “fit to print”. Whatever helps England or hurts Germany is fit to print, whatever unmasks the true nature of the barbarous war waged against Germany by the savages of Africa, the Mongols of Asia and the Cossacks, under the direction of London, is not fit to print. Meanwhile the [NY] Times, more English than the English Censor, continues its criminal campaign for the suppression of truth.

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vol 1 no.10 October 14, 1914 Page 12:


We translate the following editorial from the New York Staats-Zeitung of Sept. 16 as a significant utterance expressive of a strong feeling among millions of American citizens.—ED .

We have it from the lips of proud Americans from the columns of their press from Park Row to Times Square that “Britannia Still rules the Waves.” And now more than ever since the capture of helpless German merchant ships in great number. We hear no word of protest from the lips of these England-serving Americans against the dominating attitude of this same England toward America in dictating—yes, dictating—in what manner it shall deal with the belligerents, as though we were still a British Crown colony.

Not a single protest has been made against England's edict, supported by her European allies, that in future passports of American citizens of German birth will not be respected. American nativists themselves have never dared to divide American citizens into two classes. In silence the obedient servant in America submits to this insult from his master, England.

We have endured a great deal within the past few weeks and have charged much to the account of a terrible world war, much that otherwise would have caused the blush of shame to rise to the cheeks of a loyal American. But this last is the straw that breaks the camel's back.

We have stood by in silence when England dictated to the free and independent United States how and with whom they might communicate by wireless. Without a whimper the United States submitted (and Congress made no sign of protest) when England said: “You shall not purchase German ships with your own money, shall not admit them to registry under the American flag, shall not relieve your own absolute need for raw material, not contraband, obtainable only in Germany.” Britannia, your master, says so!

We remained silent when England rifled American mail on the “Potsdam”; we have silently endured seeing our trade with Germany and Austria reduced from millions to zero. And on top of all this the inhibition against American passports in the hands of American citizens, on the ground that they were not born in England or Russia—the Russia which today is persona grata in those editorial rooms under the influence of England, the same Russia with whom we abrogated our treaties for doing what she had again done under England's dictation.

At that time a wild wave of indignation swayed the hearts of all the Hearsts and the Sulzers. Today we hear not a word of protest.

What is the administration in Washington going to do about it? What of Congress? What of the men who made such tremendous protests then? What of the members who otherwise call themselves German-Americans?

Do you intend to submit to being ruled by Britannia?

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v.1 no.11  Oct. 21, 1914  Page 9:


It now becomes apparent why England, through the manipulation of the American press and by cutting the German cable, inaugurated with the aid of the Belgian Walloons its notorious press campaign on the subject of German barbarities, and still continues to flood this country with harrowing stories of cathedrals being shot to pieces, churches destroyed and German aviators throwing bombs on old men and children.

The scheme was evolved for the sole purpose of forestalling American protests against the proven cruelties, outrages and barbarities of English troops and their allies, the African negroes, the Cossacks and the hordes of Asiatic savages.

Germany was prevented from disproving the stories in time to offset their effect on the American public, and it must be admitted that inestimable damage has been done the German cause.

By every mail newspapers are arriving at this time from Germany and neutral countries, describing the nameless barbarities of the Cossacks in East Prussia. To publish these now will be—as England intended—construed as a mere countermove of Germany. But the truth will prevail, and while men like Vice Rector Coenrad of the Louvain University, the Bishop of Superior, Father Molloy, the New Zealand priest who served under General French, and many other witnesses of the highest character, are denying the stories of German barbarities, and Premier [Prime Minister] Asquith publicly declares he has no official knowledge of German atrocities, evidence is multiplying that English troops have been arrested by the French for outraging French women, that the black Turcos are publicly wearing strings around their necks strung with human ears and noses, and that the Cossacks were guilty of every bestiality known to the lowest vermin among mankind.

British troops have been murdering German soldiers after raising the white flag, and have been caught torturing wounded German prisoners to death.

Of all the allies they (the English) have disgraced themselves the most. Time and again they have shown the white feather; they have placed themselves on a level with their savage allies on the battlefield, and the London papers now threaten to outdo the Sicilian Vespers in cruelty toward all German citizens in London if the Zeppelins visit that sacred citadel of English hypocrisy.

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v. 1 no. 11 Oct. 21, 1914 Page 8:


From Mr. H. Joseph V. Jansen, Washington D.C.:

Why this pro-English and anti-German sentiment in the United States particularly when the last census shows that in this country there are 876,455 English and fully 2,501,181 million Germans?

The Germans settle mostly on farms, pursue the trades, or go into business. The English take to the press, bar and to politics. They are always predominant in the ruling class. German-American representation in Congress, the Legislature, at the bar and on the bench is practically nil. Germans, assert yourselves as other races and nations do; don't be so anxious to please; stand up for your rights and you will be respected. Stop being the underdog. According to your numerical and economical strength in the United States, you ought to be on the top.

From Miss Pauline Lueben, Buffalo, NY:

If three-quarters of our press is filled with material that favors a small part of the people, and incites enmity and hatred toward another part of the people, then it is the duty of that offended part to speak not for Germanism or for any other ism, but for American-ism, American principles, American square dealing, American freedom, American equality, and for all those reasons given in the Declaration of Independence. The German people of this country do not want the press to be harmful to any of our French, English or Russian people, neither to the Servian, the Belgian or the Japanese. They are all our brothers here. The Germans do not want to hear 'tales of horror' about them. But the Germans do want a square deal and the same fair play that they give to all men.

From Mr. A. Pilger, Rispon, Wis.:

Germany knows that America is by trade, tradition and language tied to England; but Germany knows also that by trade, tradition and culture America is tied to Germany. Germany cannot demand of this cosmopolitan nation its entire sympathy, although in my opinion every manly heart must be thrilled at the spectacle of a single nation fighting the whole world. But this much at least Germany can demand, that she be treated decently. If during the Boer war the American press could maintain a fairly decent attitude towards Great Britain, although its sympathies were in favor of the Boers, why cannot it do so now? And towards so important a part of the American people.

Mrs. L.C. Evans:

How is it possible that anyone could believe that the Germans willingly shelled Rheims Cathedral? Has the world not read of the orders sent under flag of truce to the French at Strassburg to remove their observation staff from the tower of the cathedral or it would be shelled. The French obeyed and descended from the steeples of the cathedral and the edifice remains intact and practically untouched. The record of the Germans in Paris throughout their stay in the French capital in 1870 is remarkable. Not a single art object damaged or stolen, and in the art galleries used as hospitals the pictures were taken down, carefully packed up and preserved.

Mr. J. D. Murray, Elkridge, Md.:

The state of mind of many of these pro-British people is almost unconceivable to Germans. These people probably prefer the Republic of Portugal to the best governed monarchy in the world [Germany]. We must show the American people that England's supremacy means our ruin, that the goods we buy from her are dearer and inferior to the goods we purchase from Germany. We need Germany to buy our raw materials and do not need England to act as middleman and carrier.

Rev. D. Murphy, O.S.B., Creston, Iowa:

I am an American, but I do love fair play, at least to a country which never yet burnt our capitol, nor played us false in any instance where we had dealings with her. Keep up your paper as it is—sane, polite, truthful and fair, and it will be as Germany is today—a standing proof that 'honesty and justice is and always will be the best and finally the winning policy.'

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vol 1 no. 13  Nov 4, 1914  Page 5:

Recent Fiction by Arnold Bennett and Others

When England desired to present her case to the United States in the Saturday Evening Post, she appealed not to one of her statesmen but to one of her writers of fiction. Arnold Bennett's plea for his country makes up in sentimental appeals to the spirit of liberty what it lacks in content. Evidently the German Army, after having conquered England, will march straight across the ocean to threaten republican institutions in the United States. If Mr. Bennett chooses to make this fanciful point, that is his privilege as an imaginative writer. We do not blame him for omitting to state that English Navalism is a far more immediate danger to the United States than German Militarism.


Mr. Bennett makes much of the strategic plans of “General” von Edelsheim, a “member of the German General Staff,” against the United States, in case of a war with Germany, and vividly insinuates that the Metropolitan Building and other historic landmarks of New York have already been singled out by the Germans to share the fate of Louvain [in Belgium]. If Mr. Bennett, stating the case for Great Britain, had taken the trouble to borrow in the British War Office or in the library of the British Museum a copy of the German Army Lists, he would have found that no “General” by that name exists in the Germany Army. If he had inquired further before making his monstrous assertion he would have discovered that no officer by that name was ever a member of the German General Staff. We were convinced of this when we first heard of von Edelsheim, but we hesitated to bury that gallant “General” forever until we had received incontrovertible information from sources of unquestionable authenticity. We quote a letter from the Imperial German Military Attache, Colonel von Papen, dated Washington, D.C., Oct. 21, 1914:

“In reply to your inquiry about Mr. A Bennett's article in the Saturday Evening Post I beg to state: no 'General von Edelsheim has ever existed in the German Army, nor has an officer of that name at any time been a member of the German General Staff. This can be easily proved by studying the German Army lists. The author mentioned by Mr. Bennett, as far as I know, only held the position of captain in the Prussian Army years ago.

“It seems to me an absurdity to charge the German General Staff with the responsibility for a publication which has already so often been repudiated not only by the authorities but by the whole of German public opinion.”

The much-quoted plan of invasion may actually have been published by a retired officer. The fact that this plan was published proves that it is not authentic. The fact that he is “retired” proves that the author was, to say the least, not indispensable to the Germany Army. Mr. Bennett's article has been published in pamphlet form. If Mr. Bennett is a man of honor he will withdraw the pamphlet from circulation. If he does not, we shall draw our own conclusion. At any rate, we have revealed in what flimsy fabrics England bolsters up her case, and with what criminal carelessness for facts she attempts to poison public opinion in the United States.

In the current number of Munsey's Magazine there is another case of calculated mendacity with the sole object of misleading public opinion. The responsibility for the article in question rests not on the editors, but on an unscrupulous contributor. The author in question states that “the attitude of Schleswig Holstein itself toward Germany in her present struggle is perhaps best indicated by the fact that Prince Albert of Schleswig-Holstein, a lieutenant-general in the German Army, has resigned his commission and has joined the British forces in their operations against his former chief and suzerain.” An inquiry on the subject brought forth the following reply from the German Military Attache: “I want to state that Prince Albert of Schleswig-Holstein is with the German Army in France and holds a high position in the second army.” We have no difficulty in eliciting this information. The same source of information was open to the editor of Munsey's. It is open to any editor who prefers truth to fiction.

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There is much more to be had in the pages of The Fatherland, all about the ongoing Great War in real time. An amazing resource.


On reflection, I may not be putting enough emphasis on the role of the 'Press' in manufacturing these lies - not just passing them on. The center of English conspiratorial defamation as a weapon of war was in the British Foreign Office, and it had adherents scattered throughout the government and among the newspaper owners and correspondents.

I've read several times in The Fatherland that Prime Minister Asquith put out a statement that he had no knowledge of any German atrocities. Apparently, this was not repeated in the papers the way the reports of atrocities were.

Not just the large newspapers in Britain, but those in France, Canada, Australia, the United States and elsewhere, were pro-England and Allies. Those people were not above making things up and/or passing on claims or rumors from uncorroborated sources. The more shocking the better! They were rewarded by the reading public, much of which preferred that type of coverage.

The "common people", such as the Belgian citizens, told many an untruth about their 'enemy' without blinking an eye or losing any sleep over it, even convincing themselves it was true - just as the Jews did about being "Holocausted" in the next war.

It's the media, and writers of books, who do the most damage as they are the closer connection to the people. Since they want to sell their product - certainly the publishers do - it is often edited with that in mind. The 'common man'-readers are guilty for not being more discriminating, but actually rewarding the sensationalists by preferring their product over the more judicious. So there is plenty of blame to go around.