Who were the lawbreakers? Who were the liars?

Published by carolyn on Thu, 2018-12-13 13:49

During WWI, the British press never stopped lampooning German Kaiser Wilhelm II, portraying him as a deluded, power-hungry narcissist who started a war he could not win. In this Punch cartoon, he is penning lie after lie when in reality it was the English who were doing the lying about ground won or lost. The "Made in Germany" title was an attempt to mock the German goods that were competing (successfully) with the English manufacturing trade.

IN THE NOVEMBER 18, 1914 ISSUE OF THE FATHERLAND, two articles struck me as especially powerful proofs that the popular feelings about this at-that-time-3-month-old war were being driven by British propaganda and the cooperation of the Press in most countries save Germany and Austria-Hungary. These two articles, copied below, speak against the narrative already being set in stone via the newspapers that it was the German “barbarians” who were out to take over and dominate Europe through undemocratic force. In truth, we know it was England that elected long before to utilise war as the means to weaken any European nation that successfully competed with it. It is Great Britain that was not above using illegal means to assure its dominance, including ignoring and abusing the rights of American citizens. -Carolyn

v. 1 no. 15  Page 3


By Benjamin Ide Wheeler, President of the University of California  Dr. Wheeler is one of the foremost educators of the day, and a scientist of international repute. He has a complete and comprehensive knowledge of conditions in Germany. His statement as it appears below is one of the most important contributions yet made by an American on the Great Conflict.

WE WHO LOVE the old German Fatherland recognize the unextinguishable debt which we as individuals, and with us the entire world of civilization, owe to it for the enrichment and liberation of our single lives and of the whole community life of man upon the globe. In the face of tidings of distress and death, we join together at the call of the land's Chief Magistrate to lift our hearts in prayer, unspoken or expressed, that swift honorable issue may be found out of that strife, which sweeping across the pleasant places of man's abode, stirs hatred in the hearts of those who should be brothers, and threatens, if prolonged, to annihilate the accumulated stores of Christendom, both as to ideals and as to goods, and leave the European world a desert.

Each of us has his own experience and ties which make Germany for him what it is; I must as an individual speak and fast and pray out of the store of my own experiences. These began with the new Germany just issuing forth out of the readjustments of 1870-71, and undertaken to give shelter and provide security and dignity to the life of those who inherited German traditions and German speech; and to hold the map of central Europe in fixity and order by the erection of a German Empire guaranteed by unity of power. [Doesn't that sound wonderful to our ears now? Who screwed it up? Not Germans. -cy]

I came to know it first as a Germany of ideas and intellectual aspirations, a spiritual Germany, the Germany which taught the world philosophy and music, philology and theology, law and government, the history of art, the natural sciences and their application to the industrial arts, and withal the use of the methods of science in every field of human endeavor.

The Germany I knew first was the Germany of the universities. I sat on the benches of Leipzig, Jena, Heidelberg and Berlin and listened to the patient unfolding of ordered knowledge from the lips of Curtius, Zarncke, Lange and Brugmann at Leipzig; Osthoff, Wachsmuth, and the inimitable Kuno Fischer at Heidelberg; Delbrück, Haeckel and Kluge at Jena; Scherer, Kirchoff and Freitschke and Schmidt at Berlin; but better, wandered over the hills of Jena and Heidelberg, up to the Forst and down the valley of Kunitz, up the Neckar, and over the Königstuhl in company with one or another of these men, communing by the way over things of the spirit, and learning to know from Germany and her men what it means to stand on the frontiers of the known, to study at first hand, to think independently, and above all, having done this, to teach “with authority”—not the authority of a stamped and well-engrossed diploma, but with the authority of independent knowledge—to “teach with authority and not as the scribes.” This—which is the real Germany—I saw first, then later the Germany of government, law, order, which made the inner life possible. Every noon as I left the University of Berlin I saw the “old Emperor” [Wilhelm I] standing at his window in the Palace as the guard marched by. Now and again I saw the towering figure of Bismarck. At the autumn manoeuvres in Hannover I saw the forty or fifty thousand men pass in faultless review before a group of three on horseback, the old Emperor, the Crown Prince Frederick, and von Moltke.

Very different men in outward guise were these trim soldiers from the bent and towsled professors who first interpreted to me Germany, but I came to find out that each group respected the other, and that both went ot make up Germany as the whole. Without the professors it were a hollow thing; without soldier and Emperor, without order and defense, it were feeble and poor, crushed between the two jaws of the vise, Russia and France, the Slav and the Roman.

Now within the last four years by the chance of three visits I have renewed, after an interval of a quarter century, my acquaintance with the land and its people. Forty years of peace guaranteed by soldier and government had given full rein to patient industry and scientific orderliness, and brought to high fruitage the alliance of shop and laboratory.

For twenty-five years and more the present Emperor [Wilhelm II] has actively sustained and administered the prosperous peace begotten of the union between science and competent power. He understands both and the mechanisms by which both exist.

A few days before the twenty-fifth anniversary of his accession, early in June, 1913, I spent a memorable evening with him at Potsdam. After supper in the garden for two hours we walked up and down in the dark on the roadway behind the palace. He talked about many things, but most about the experiences and fruits of the twenty-five years, and some about problems and apprehensions for the future. Of all the achievements of his reign he valued highest the maintenance of peace. Next came the development of Germany's industries and the provision of a market for their products; then came the fine arts, and particularly architecture, as shown in the great number of new and splendid structures which had arisen in recent years, not only public buildings, but private houses, mercantile buildings, and all connected with the creation of new and distinctively German styles. Then he mentioned Germany's leadership in world-wide scientific exploration, such as archaeological excavations, etc., and her influence spread abroad throughout the world in such idealistic fields as music and education. Germany, he said, did not need colonies founded on the possession of sovereignty; it was too late for that. What Germany needed was assurance of permanency for her trade relations so that her manufactured wares might find markets. This was to be made secure by a navy. Force must be available for crimes, but the real empire which Germany was to assert in the world must inhere in the prestige, respect and influence which were won for her in the eyes of the world by her achievements in art, education, music, medicine and the like. Germany's well-being was peculiarly dependent on peace, because war would immediately close to her all her markets, widely distributed over the world. Under no conditions must she think of increasing her territory in Europe. She wanted no more “sore frontiers.” She had three already. Nothing but trouble could come of such conditions. Germany must have loyal frontiers. It must be a homogeneous body standing firm in the middle of Europe persistent to keep the peace. [The “peace” treaties forced on Germany and Austria-Hungary after the loss of this war—due to the entry of the USA—were designed to prevent peace, to assure more war. -cy]

The war which all have dreaded for years has come. No man knows what will be the issue of it. At the best it is fraught with disaster and distress for Europe and for that matter all the world. Whoever is responsible for bringing it about or letting it come about bears before the high court of humanity a heavy indictment. History will unerringly assign its verdict. Some day all men will know who it was and what it was. But whoever it was and whatever it was, and however the blame may be apportioned among various men and organizations of men, this much can now be asserted beyond the shadow of a doubt: the war came about against the interests, against the desires, and against the efforts of the German Kaiser.

v.1 no.15  Page 5


Taken Off Neutral Vessels by English Authorities, Jailed and Threatened With Death

Three Pertinent Questions

New York, N.Y., October 23, 1914

To Secretary of State, Washington, D.C.

Sir—Although born in Germany, I am an American citizen by virtue of my father's citizenship at the time of my birth, and have exercised my rights of citizenship for 40 years. (During three campaigns I was acting and assistant secretary of the Republican Congressional Committee in Washington, and compiled and edited the Republican campaign handbook.)

I am about to take passage for Rotterdam on a peaceable mission to the continent of Europe.

In view of the enclosed clippings, one from a dispatch of James T. J. Archibald, declaring that “Americans are being imprisoned (in English ports), although carrying passports,” and another from an Associated Press cablegram dated London, October 14, saying that “Great Britain has assumed the right … to arrest American passengers whose names or physical appearances impress the examining officers as of a Teutonic caste. … American passports avail nothing”—in view of these statements from reputable sources, I respectfully solicit a reply to the following questions:

    1. Am I entitled to the full protection of the United States?

    2. Will the United States Government protect me in my rights as an American citizen traveling abroad?

    3. Will the American Government protect me in my immunity from arrest and vexatious annoyance at the hands of the English authorities and my rights as an American citizen acting in conformity with the usual requirements exacted of aliens in foreign countries?

I ask for a definite ruling on these questions, as it is one of vital concern to millions of American citizens and voters as well as to myself; and I am frank to say that I shall give your reply, whatever it may be, to the press for the widest possible circulation.




Department of State

Washington, October 26, 1914

To Mr. Frederick F. Schrader, New York, N.Y.

Sir—The Department has received your letter of October 23, in which you say that you are a naturalized citizen of the United States of German origin and are about to go to Rotterdam, Holland, and in which you enquire whether it is true as reported in the papers that the British Government does not recognise the validity of American passports issued to naturalized citizens of this country of German origin, and whether you are entitled to full protection as a citizen of the United States.

The protection of this Government is extended to naturalized as well as native citizens of the United States and the Department is not informed that British authorities refuse to recognise the validity of American passports held by naturalized American citizens of German origin, or that they molest such persons merely because of their original nationality. If you should be molested while abroad you should, of course, immediately inform a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States.

For your information as to your status in Germany, I enclose herewith a copy of the Department's circular entitled “Notice to American Citizens Formerly Subjects of Germany Who Contemplate Returning to that Country.”

I am, sir, your obedient servant.


Acting Secretary of State


It will be observed that this letter differs little from the conventional, ready-at-hand letters of instructions covering an ordinary case, and manifests a lofty indifference as to the cardinal points at issue, dismissing the matter with the excuse that our State Department has no information that American passports are treated as mere scraps of valueless paper by the English authorities. The letter of inquiry contained clippings of cable dispatches sent from abroad by American correspondents, including Mr. Archibald's message to the New York World of October 15, in which he says: “America will be astounded when the real truth regarding British affairs becomes known. Americans are being imprisoned, although carrying passports, and American ships are being captured avowedly to break up American trade with Holland,” etc. Possibly they were not even read. In the eyes of the State Department, American citizens of German descent apparently have no standing under the Consitution which need rouse the State Department out of its entrenched position of favoritism to England and her allies. In reply to Mr. Lansing, Mr. Schrader wrote:

Americans Threatened With Death

New York, N.Y., October 29, 1914

The Assistant Secretary of State, Washington, D.C.

Sir—I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 26th inst., in which you say “you are not informed that British authorities refuse to acknowledge the validity of American passports,” etc. If you are not informed of this circumstance, I hope you will pardon me for saying that your means of ascertaining facts are lamentably inefficient, since the press has been teeming with accounts of American citizens forcibly taken off neutral vessels by English authorities, as well as with complaints of the arrest and unlawful detention of American citizens. (See printed dispatch of James T. J. Archibald, American correspondent, and Associated Press cable message of Oct. 14, which were enclosed in my letter.)

I enclose a printed account of October 28 of the case of George Washington Steneck, of Hoboken, a native-born American, who was forcibly taken off a neutral vessel and unlawfully detained for twenty days by the English authorities. No doubt Mr. Steneck “immediately informed a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States,” as you advise me to do in case of need, but I should like to be informed upon what pretense the State Department justifies the arrest of American citizens under these circumstances, and what the American Ambassador in London was doing all this time, and of what avail is a passport if it does not protect an American citizen from this kind of treatment at English ports or on the high seas?

I call your attention to the case of Louis Schneider, of Hastings-on-Hudson, reported in the papers today. According to the press, Mr. Schneider, who is a native of Hastings-on-Hudson and fifteen years ago married an English woman and moved to England, where he has been until the present war began superintendent of the Rothschild estates at Aylesbury, cabled as follows to City Clerk Robert Dashwood of Hastings-on-Hudson from a prison in Westcorr, England: “Unless you can send me the certificate of my birth, I shall be shot as a spy by the English.” The proof of Mr. Schneider's American nativity was readily established and forwarded.

I would further refer you for evidence of the abuse of American citizens in England to the private correspondence of Mr. James O'Donnell Bennett, American correspondent, to the managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, as printed in the Tribune early this month, in which it is distinctly asserted that American newspaper men have been arrested in London and threatened with summary execution merely for performing their legitimate duties, that their office mail was ransacked by Scotland Yard detectives, and Mr. Bennett is warned by his wife not to enter England for fear of arrest and imprisonment, if not worse. Why? Because he had sent messages favorable to Germany and refuted charges of German atrocities.

If the State Department has not been informed of any of these outrages, the only inference is that its representatives in England are purposely ignoring them and seeking to shield the English authorities from the truth becoming known in this country. This surmise is given color by the reports of October 28 that the American Ambassador was directed by the English Government to identify the passengers aboard the “Mauretania.” Is not an American passport sufficient identification? Is it necessary for the American Ambassador's deputy to guarantee the pro-British sentiment of each passenger? Four German seamen were taken off an American ship at anchor in the port of St. John. One of them had an American passport, but he was “interned” with the others. A paper asks: “Are German-Americans safe in New York harbor?”

I take it as an act of supererogation on your part that you presume to instruct me in a printed enclosure, “Notice to American Citizens Formerly Subjects of Germany,” as to my status in Germany. As I clearly pointed out in my letter, I have no status in Germany that requires explanation. I am not concerned how I may be treated in Germany—I have the evidence of thousands of returning Americans who testify to the splendid treatment accorded them in that country; but I am concerned how I am going to be treated in England if seized aboard a neutral vessel, and what guaranty my American passport affords me under such circumstances. Apparently none, judging by the cases reported in the press.

The entire tone of your letter is one of evasion and studied indifference not only as to myself, but as to questions which vitally concern 25,000,000 American citizens of German descent. According to credible authority, Americans with German names and appearance are subject to seizure, arrest and personal violence by English authorities, and according to your assertion the State Department has no information on the subject.

If that is the case you will be grateful to me for having indicated so plainly where this information is to be had.




The State Department not only blinds itself to conditions publicly complained of by American citizens abroad, but it has now abandoned the American attitude of 1812, which led to war with that country. It has conceded to England the right of search of American ships.

Case of Max Berman

Another case illustrating the treatment accorded Americans of German names is that of Max Berman, 41 years of age, born in this country, the son of German parents. Berman arrived last week on the “Cedric” after languishing thirteen days in an English jail. Since 1889 he has passed the greater part of his life in London, where he was surprised by the war. As an American citizen he was able to go to Germany to study the conditions there, and returned to England with a mass of rich material. He was promptly arrested on suspicion and lodged in Brixton prison despite his forcible protests and proof of his American citizenship, registered for fourteen years at the American embassy.

Locked up with criminals and fed on the poorest kind of rations, Mr. Berman made a daily demand on the prison keeper for means to communicate with the American embassy. No attention was paid to his request until the director's place at the prison was temporarily taken by his deputy, and Mr. Berman was allowed to address Ambassador Page.

After a long series of negotiations Mr. Berman was finally released. He was then taken before the police, and with many German and Austrian fugitives was compelled to submit to having imprints of his finger tips taken, after which he was told to get out of England as quickly as possible. His request for permission to go to Cardiff to collect his belongings was denied, and he was forced aboard a steamer with nothing but the clothes on his person, all the time under the surveillance of detectives.

American Jailed and Ruined

Following is the affadavit of Sigismund von Bruhn before a notary, Hans Weniger, in Philadelphia September 23, 1914—

“I, Sigismund von Bruhn, an American citizen of native birth (Danish descent), was arrested in Kingston, Jamaica [a British colony -cy], and confined in a military prison. For fifteen days I was detained, half-fed, and without due process of law, and at the end of my imprisonment was discharged without satisfaction of any kind, although offering to answer all questions and to give all desired information, though not compelled to do so under British requirements. The manner of my arrest resembled Russian conditions rather than those of a civilized country like Great Britain.

“While seated in my office, five armed men entered, pointed their revolvers at me and ordered me to go with them. Captain Peel, of the Intelligence Department, told me that he would blow out my brains if I attempted to escape, and though I was guarded by four men on my way from the office to the police station, he kept his revolver pointed at me all the time. At the police station I declared that I was an American citizen and demanded to communicate with the American Consul, but my request was refused. I was then put in a cell for common criminals, which was infested with vermin, was relieved of my shirt collar, necktie and suspenders, and after two hours' confinement was stood up in this hole before three soldiers who were told to load their guns in my presence as if preparing to shoot me. I was then taken in a wagon to the military headquarters, where I again insisted on seeing the American Consul, without avail. I was thereupon locked up in the military prison, and had to pass the first night without a mattress or blanket. For four days I was fed on half rations, after that I received the regular prison fare. On the third day of my confinement I again asked a Major who was inspecting the prison to allow me to communicate with the American Consul, also without success. He told me that it was impossible to grant my request. On the fifth day of my imprisonment I demanded either to be tried by court martial or released. I wrote to the General in Command offering to do all in my power to facilitate an investigation of my case, but received no reply. A few days later I repeated my request, and on the eleventh day was finally taken before the General. This man told me frankly that he did not want anything to do with my case, as he was convinced there was not the slightest proof against me. But the matter had been referred to Governor-General W. Manning of Jamaica and nothing could be done until his answer was received.

“When I was taken before the Governor he said he was not aware that I was an American, which I was easily able to prove when he allowed me, under escort, to go to my office and bring my passport. After that I was again locked up. Several days later I was told that I would soon be set at liberty. The next day I was handed a letter from the Governor which directed me not to remain on the Island of Jamaica while the war between Great Britain and Germany continued, and advised me to leave as soon as possible after my release. The next day I was set free, but was placed under the surveillance of a negro detective, who did not take his eyes off me until I boarded the steamer.

“I immediately applied to the American Consul, and through him I was allowed to wind up my business affairs. In reality, several of my creditors were responsible for this, as they had been told at least a dozen times that I had been shot and naturally were alarmed about the money due them.

“No charge was ever made against me, and when I asked the General about it he refused to explain who was responsible for my arrest.

“I was grossly misrepresented by the Kingston papers, which accused me of high treason, of being the Kaiser's chief spy, and every day it was reported that I was being tried by court martial and ordered to be shot. Others declared I had stolen the cipher code of the Cruiser Hermone and sent it to the Chancellor von Bulow (sic) in a stuffed alligator.

“My prosperous business has been ruined, the firm of S. Bruhn & Company has been seriously damaged, my home was destroyed, and all I had accumulated in many years of hard work is gone. Today I am a fugitive with my wife and two children, and almost penniless, all because I was doing well before the war supplying German and other war ships with supplies, which excited the commercial jealousy of my British competitors, and because my name is German.”


The book *War Echoes* tells very similare stories - https://archive.org/details/warechoesorgerma01haug

Yes, you're right. I took a look at it, and it is, like The Fatherland, a fair-minded yet German-American view of the war. Lots of pictures and maps too. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I'm glad someone put it up on Archive.org.

Unfortunately, only an academic or a term-paper writer with a "need to know" will read something like this. We're in the You Tube generation and most people under 50 find reading more than a few lines a great burden. I prefer to read, myself, as that's the only way to assure accuracy and being fully informed.