Finally, let me say a word concerning the German "atrocities" and give two instances thereof! After our advance into northern France, I immediately ordered that art treasures be protected. Art historians and professors were assigned to each army, who traveled about inspecting, photographing, and describing churches, chateaux, and castles. Among them, Professor Clemen, Curator of the Rhine Province, especially distinguished himself and reported to me, when I was at the front, on the protection of art treasures. See more
All the collections in towns, museums, and castles were cataloged and numbered; whenever they seemed to be imperiled by the fighting they were taken away and assembled, at Valenciennes and Maubeuge, in two splendid museums. There they were carefully preserved and the name of the owner marked on each article.
The old windows of the cathedral of St Quentin were removed by German soldiers, at the risk of their lives, under English shell-fire. The story of the destruction of the church by the English was told by a German Catholic priest, who published it with photographs, and it was sent, by my orders, to the Pope.
At the chateau of Pinon, which belongs to the Princess of Poix, who had been a guest of mine and the Empress, the headquarters of the general commanding the Third Army Corps was located. I visited the chateau and lived there. Previously the English had been quartered there and had ravaged the place terribly. The commanding general, von Lochow, and his staff had a great deal of trouble getting it into some sort of shape again after the devastation wrought by the English.
Accompanied by the general, I visited the private apartments of the Princess, which, up to then, our soldiers had been forbidden to enter. I found that her entire wardrobe had been thrown out of the clothes presses by the English soldiers and, together with her hats, was lying about on the floor. I had every garment carefully cleaned, hung in the presses, and locked up. The writing desk had also been broken into and the Princess's correspondence was scattered about At my command, all the letters were gathered together, sealed in a package, placed in the writing desk, and locked up.
Afterward, all the silverware was found buried in the garden. According to the villagers this had been ordered as early as the beginning of July, so the Princess had known about the war long before its outbreak! I at once ordered that the silver be inventoried, deposited in the bank at Aix-la-Chapelle, and returned to the Princess after the war. Through neutral channels I caused news to be transmitted to the Princess in Switzerland, by my Court Marshal, Freiherr von Reischach, concerning Pinon, her silverware, and my care for her property. No answer was received. Instead, the Princess had published in the French press a letter to the effect that General von Kluck had stolen all her silver.
On account of my care and the self-sacrificing work of German art experts and soldiers partly at the risk of their lives art treasures worth billions were preserved for their French owners and for French towns. This was done by the Huns, the boches!
I know England and the English better than my own subjects do, certainly better than my officials and the Foreign Office! If only Your Excellency’s predecessors had listened to my suggestions and implorations instead of pursuing their continental political theories and failing to heed my words, our treatment of these brutes would have been a different one!
In the summer of 1917 I received at Krueznach a visit from the Papal Nuncio, Pacelli, who was accompanied by a chaplain.
Very soon the conversation turned on the possibility of peace mediation and the bringing about of peace, in which connection all sorts of projects and possibilities were touched upon, discussed, and dismissed.
Finally, I suggested that the Pope should make an effort, seeing that my peace offer of December 12, 1916, had been rejected in such an unprecedented manner. The Nuncio remarked that he thought such a step would be attended with great difficulties; that the Pope had already been rebuffed when he had made certain advances in this direction; that, aside from this, the Pope was absolutely in despair on account of the slaughter and wondered ceaselessly how he might help toward freeing the world and European culture from the scourge of war. Any suggestion as to this, he added, would be most valuable to the Vatican.
I stated that the Pope, as the highest in rank among all the priests of the Roman Catholic Chris tians and Church, should, first of all, seek to issue instructions to his priests in all countries to banish hate, once for all, from their minds, since hate was the greatest obstacle in the path of the peace idea; that it was, unfortunately, true that the clergy in the Entente countries were, to a positively frightful extent, the standard-bearers and instigators of hate and fighting.
I called attention to the numerous reports from soldiers at the beginning of the war concerning abbees and parish priests captured with arms in their hands; to the machinations of Cardinal Mercier and the Belgian clergy, members of which often worked as spies; to the sermon of the Protestant Bishop of London, who, from the pulpit, glorified the "Baralong" murderers; and to other similar cases. I added that it would be, therefore, a great achievement if the Pope should succeed in having the Roman Catholic clergy in all the countries at war condemn hatred and recommend peace, as was already being done by the German clergy, be it from the pulpit or by means of pastoral letters.
Pacelli found this idea excellent and worthy of attention, but he remarked that it would be difficult to enlist the efforts of the various prelates in its support. I replied that, in view of the severe discipline of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, I could not imagine that, if the Pope should solemnly call upon the prelates of the Church to preach reconciliation and consideration for the foe, those of any country whatsoever should refuse obedience; that the prelates, on account of their eminent rank, were above all parties, and, since reconciliation and love of our neighbor were fundamental principles of the Christian religion, they were absolutely in duty bound to work toward making people observe these principles.
Pacelli agreed to this and promised to give the idea his earnest attention and report upon it to the Vatican. In the further course of the conversation, the Nuncio asked what form beyond the purely ecclesiastical step suggested by me the bringing about of peace possibilities through the intervention of the Pope might take. I pointed out that Italy and Austria were two Roman Catholic states, upon which the Pope could bring influence to bear easily and effectively; that one of these lands was his native country and place of residence, in which he was greatly revered by the people and exerted direct influence upon his fellow countrymen; that Austria was ruled by a sovereign who actually bore the title "apostolic"; who, with all his family, had direct relations with the Vatican and was among the most faithful adherents of the Catholic Church; that I was, therefore, of the opinion that it would not be difficult for the Pope to try at least to make a beginning with these two countries and cause them to talk peace.
I added that the diplomatic skill and wide vision of the Vatican were known the world over; that, if once a beginning were made in this way and it had a good chance of success the other Powers could scarcely refuse an invitation from the Vatican later on to an exchange of views.
The Nuncio remarked that it would be difficult for the Vatican to make the Italian Government agree to such a thing, since it had no direct relation with the said Government and no influence upon its members; that the Italian Government would never look with favor upon an invitation, even to mere conferences.
Here the chaplain interposed that such a step by the Pope was absolutely out of the question, since it would entail consequences which might be actually dangerous to the Vatican; the Government would at once mobilize the "piazza" ("man in the street") against the Vatican, and the Vatican certainly could not expose itself to that. When I refused to attach importance to this objection, the chaplain grew more and more excited. He said that I did not know the Romans; that, when they were incited they were simply terrible; that just as soon as the "piazza" got into action things would get disagreeable; that, if it did, there was even a possibility of an attack on the Vatican, which might actually imperil the life of the Pope himself.
I replied that I, too, was well acquainted with the Vatican; that no rabble or "piazza" could storm it; that, in addition, the Pope had a strong party of adherents in society circles and among the people, which would at once be ready to defend him. The Nuncio agreed with me, but the chaplain continued unabashed to expatiate upon the terrors of the "piazza" and paint the risks run by the Pope in the blackest of colors.
I then remarked that anyone wishing to capture the Vatican must first get a battery of heavy mortars and howitzers, as well as pioneers and storm troops, and institute a regular siege; that all this was scarcely possible for the "piazza"; that, therefore, it was highly improbable that the latter would undertake anything. Moreover, I mentioned having heard that measures had already been taken in the Vatican to guard against such an emergency. At this the priest was silent.
The Nuncio then remarked that it was difficult for the Pope to do anything really practical toward peace without giving offense and arousing opposition in lay Italy, which would place him in danger; that it must be borne in mind that he was, unfortunately, not free; that had the Pope a country, or at least a district of his own where he could govern autonomously and do as he pleased, the situation would be quite different; that, as matters stood, he was too dependent upon lay Rome and not able to act according to his own free will.
I remarked that the aim of bringing peace to the world was so holy and great that it was impossible for the Pope to be frightened away, by purely worldly considerations, from accomplishing such a task, which seemed created especially for him; that, should he succeed in it, the grateful world would assuredly bring influence to bear upon the Italian Government in support of his wishes and of his independence.
This made an impression on the Nuncio; he remarked that I was right, after all; that the Pope must do something in the matter.
Then I called the attention of the Nuncio to the following point: He must have noticed, I said, how the Socialists of all countries were zealously working in favor of peace efforts, I told him that we had always allowed the German Socialists to travel to foreign parts in order to discuss the question of making peace at conferences, because I believed them to be acquainted with the desires and views of the lower classes; that we placed no obstacles in the path of anybody desiring to work honestly and without veiled purpose in the interests of peace; that the same desires for peace also existed among the Entente nations and among their Socialists, but that the latter were prevented by refusal of passports from attending congresses in neutral lands; that the desire for peace was gaining strength in the world, nations were acquiring it more and more, and if nobody in any Government should be found willing to work for peace I, unfortunately, had failed in my attempt the peoples would finally take the matter into their own hands. I added that this would not occur without serious shocks and revolutions, as history proved, through which the Roman Church and the Pope would not come unscathed.
What must a Catholic soldier think, I asked, when he reads always of efforts by Socialists only, never of an effort by the Pope, to free him from the horrors of war? If the Pope did nothing, I continued, there was danger of peace being forced upon the world by the Socialists, which would mean the end of the power of the Pope and the Roman Church, even among Catholics!
This argument struck home to the Nuncio. He stated that he would at once report it to the Vatican and give it his support; that the Pope would have to act.
Greatly worried, the chaplain again interposed, remarking that the Pope would endanger himself by such a course ; that the "piazza" would attack him.
To this I replied that I was a Protestant, and, hence, a heretic in the chaplain's eyes, notwithstanding which I was obliged to point out that the Pope was designated the "Viceroy of Christ upon earth" by the Catholic Church and world; that I had, in studying the Holy Scriptures, occupied myself earnestly and carefully with the person of the Saviour and sought to immerse myself profoundly therein; that the Lord had never feared the "piazza," although no fortresslike building, with guards and weapons, was at His disposal; that the Lord had always walked into the midst of the "piazza," spoken to it, and finally gone to His death on the Cross for the sake of this hostile "piazza."
Was I now to believe, I asked, that His "Vice roy upon earth" was afraid of the possibility of becoming a martyr, like his Lord, in order to bring peace to the bleeding world, all on account of the ragged Roman "piazza"? I, the Protes tant, thought far too highly of a Roman priest, particularly of the Pope, to believe such a thing. Nothing could be more glorious for him, I went on, than to devote himself unreservedly, body and soul, to the great cause of peace, even despite the remote danger of thus becoming a martyr!
With shining eyes, the Nuncio grasped my hand and said, deeply moved : "Vous avez parfaitement raison! C'est le devoir du Pape; il faut qu'il agisse; c'est par lui que le monde doit etre regagne a la paix. Je transmettrai vos paroles a Sa Saintete" ("You are absolutely right! It is the duty of the Pope; he must act; it is through him that the world must be won back to peace. I shall transmit your words to His Holiness").
The chaplain turned away, shaking his head, and murmured to himself: "Ah, la piazza, la piazza!"
Never before has the German people proved so unshakable as in this war. The realization that the Fatherland faced a grave emergency exerted a wonderfully conciliatory force, and despite all the sacrifices of blood that we made on foreign fields, and despite all the difficult privations that we bore at home, the will has remained unshakable to risk the utmost for the last, victorious struggle. The national and social spirits were unified in mutual understanding and gave us lasting strength. Everyone felt: what had been built up during long years of peace, amid many internal difficulties, was worth defending.
The achievements of the whole nation in war and need shine before my soul. The experiences of this struggle for our national existence are inaugurating a new epoch in magnificent solemnity. As the responsible Chancellor of the German Reich and First Minister of my Prussian Government, you face the obligation to help fulfill the demands of this time with the proper means and at the proper time. On various occasions you have spoken of the spirit in which the forms of our state’s life are to be rebuilt in order to foster the free, enthusiastic cooperation of all members of our nation. The principles that you worked out on these occasions have, as you know, my approval. I am aware that in giving it, I am following the course of my grandfather, the founder of the Reich, who fulfilled his monarchical responsibilities in exemplary fashion, both when, as king of Prussia, he presided over the organization of the military, and when, as German Kaiser, he oversaw social reform. In so doing, he created the foundations on which the German people will survive this bloody time in unanimous and wrathful perseverance.
To preserve the armed forces as a true army of the people, to promote the social improvement of all classes of the people, has been my aim from the beginning of my reign. Determined as I am to serve the commonwealth, in hard-tested unity between the people and the monarchy, I have decided to begin the reconstruction of our domestic political, economic, and social life to the extent that the conditions of war permit.
Millions of our fellow countrymen are still on the battlefield. Behind the front, the settlement of differences of opinion, which are unavoidable in connection with a far-reaching alteration of the Constitution, must be postponed in the highest patriotic interest, until our warriors have returned home and can themselves by word and deed aid in the progress of the new age. However, in order to allow the necessary and practical steps in this connection to take place immediately upon the successful end of the war, which I confidently hope is not far off, I wish that the preparations be concluded without delay.
I am especially anxious to see the reorganization of the Prussian parliament and the liberation of all our domestic politics from this problem. On my orders, preparations for altering the suffrage for the House of Delegates were made at the beginning of the war. I now charge you to submit to me concrete proposals from the State Ministry, so this work, which is basic to the structure of domestic politics in Prussia, will quickly be carried out by legislation, once our warriors have returned. Given the colossal achievements of the whole people in this terrible war, I am convinced that there is no room any longer for the three-class franchise system in Prussia. Furthermore, the proposed bill is to provide for the direct and secret election of deputies.
No King of Prussia will fail to appreciate the merits and enduring significance of the House of Lords for the state. But the House of Lords will better be able to meet the colossal demands of the coming age if, to a broader and more equitable extent than before, it unifies in its midst leading men from the diverse sectors and vocations of the people, men who are distinguished by the respect of their fellow citizens.
In renewing important dimensions of our firmly established and hard-tested state apparatus, I am acting in the traditions of my great forebears as I demonstrate my confidence in a loyal, brave, disciplined, and highly developed people.
“The English scoundrels must be made to come before us on their knees. Until then we must continue to hit them where it hurts – to sink them with our submarines. We will force them to agree to our terms!”