First uncensored story of life in the captured territory under their occupation
How the Germans rule in Poland
The death rate in Vilna has increased to more than four times the normal figure since the Germans occupied the city in September, 1915, according to a prominent Jewish resident of that city who has arrived in New York after remaining for months under the German occupation. This man, whose identify for obvious reasons cannot be disclosed, left Vilna in November through efforts of the American Jewish Relief Committee.
The first requisition was for sleeping outfits for the soldiers. Every householder was compelled to furnish a bed, with pillows and bed clothing, for every window in his house. Then every family was ordered to furnish a statement of the amount of food and flour which it had on hand. The strictest assurances were given that this was for information only and the food would not be confiscated: but it was confiscated without pay only five days later, and from that time on the civil population has been compelled to buy back the food from the German owners. The narrator knew of a man who secretly bought a goose last fall and was compelled to pay 45 rubles for it.
The ethnic situation in Vilna is complicated: nearly half population is Jewish and there is a strong Lithuanian element. From the beginning the Germans tried to make the most of this by playing off the Poles and Lithuanians against each other. They rather supported the Pole and held up the promise of a Polish kingdom to rally the nationalist forces to their side; but the Lithuanian aspirations for autonomy were also encouraged.
It is the Jews who have suffered most from the German occupation, according to the Jewish narrator of the story. “ There is no comparison between the Russian treatment of the Jews and that which we have received at the hands of the Germans,” he said.
“The German authorities subject us to constant inquisitions: the German soldiers strike and beat our people on the streets. When Brusiloff broke through the Austrian lines in the south in June, and there was for a long time apparent readiness on the part of the Germans to evacuate the city at a moment’s notice all the rabbis directed their congregations to pray for the speedy return of the Russians.”
There was in Vilna the Jewish cemetery 200 years old.The Germans turned a number of broken-down horses into it to pastur among the graves. The Russians had always respected it.
Have you heard that I have a dog. Its former owners gave it the silly nickname Baby. It’s a Japanese breed, and he’s small and black with yellow. He’s two years old. I’m write sitting on a very uncomfortable couch, just to write and read my diary. Everything is so-so with us. We watched the sequel to Exploits of Elaine in the cinema.
We held our usual chess tournament at home today, but I introduced a new idea: all the players should play all their games at the same time. Consequently, six players needed 15 boards, but as we were playing three rounds, we needed 45. Securing such a quantity under our present wartime conditions was not easy, and we ended up buying all the chess boards we could find in Petrograd. On the day of the tournament the boards were laid out in a row, which required 24 arshins worth of tables. When we ran out of tables we took to joining them together with ironing boards into a line which snaked through both the sitting room and the dining room. The tournament began at ten and finished at six in the morning with my victory. No one spoke a word during play, nor took a break to sit, and the only interruptions took the form of occasional murmurs of protest where illegal moves were suspected and I was called upon to referee.
At 2 we set off with all the children for Pulkova on snowmobiles; on the way we passed ravines, rode down hills and straight over fields and swamps on a route which ran alongside the Gatchinsky Highway and returned through Babolovo. Despite the deep snow not once did we get stuck, and we returned home by 4, much pleased with the unusual excursion. I also walked a little in the garden.
I live just as before: two weeks fighting in the trenches, two weeks counting time with the cavalry officers. Incidentally, there has been plenty of fine snow, and if I could just get hold of skis and new books, I swear before my Maker that I’ll be born a new man.
Bernstein, the publisher of my monograph, brought round an acquaintance of his today – the Swiss Arthur Hessen, who once purchased one of my watercolours. The poor foreigner was horrified by local mores, and in particular by the attitude of the Russian authorities to the allies, and especially to the French. Concessions are denied; despite pre-existing arrangements, bread isn’t given out in the stipulated quantities; in a real blow to a number of French companies, a ridiculous law banning the import of luxury goods has been enacted; and so on and so forth.
The Orthodox cemetery has been revealed as the site of a large, clandestine distillery equipped with the latest technology.
A police squad arrived at the cemetery police to find the distillery in full operation. The distillery’s owner – the cemetery watchman – attempted to resist detainment, but was disarmed and arrested. One grave was found to contain 160 bottles of pure alcohol and a bundle of money.
The distillery has been operating for 4 months, with the alcohol sold wholesale and retail to shops and kebab houses.
ProtopopovHead of Russian Home office (December 1916 - March 1917). was such a case. Putting everything above his personal career, he ultimately did everything to please Their Majesties. In Tsarskoye SeloLiterally "The Tsars' village", a summer residence of Russian tsars near St. Petersburg., he pretended to be energetic, resolute, and a man ready for any fight. He confidently and boldly lied that he knows everything, foresees everything, and, most importantly, warns everyone beforehand. To decisively secure its position among the women, he didn’t hesitate to pretend to be an admirer in the memory of the murdered holy manRasputin.. He pretended to believe in his prayers from beyond the grave that mysteriously assured him that the Holy Man was guiding him "from beyond."
America is a closed chapter. Leaving was hard. I’d started to get used to American life, to glean details and particulars hidden from the eyes of the superficial traveller. I’ve grown to love her literature, her incomparable libraries, and her women. We still have no such women to speak of; they’re creators and doers, women who leave a wave of vitality and activity in their wake. Over the last two months, the uniqueness of the American intelligentsia has become increasingly palpable to me – as a social stratum, I find it very much to my liking. Especially the women, as I say. The men are flatter, earthier and courser.
I wouldn’t stay in America forever, but I know I shall return. Really and truly, heading Stateside is such a trifle! It might have previously seemed that a “voyage” to America was a real step. In actual fact, though, it’s nothing more than a jaunt – at least while the ocean is placid!
One prayer must now be said over and over: people will sooner come to their senses that way – because right now everything is falling apart.
I was told that the Petrograd police are training to use machine guns. A whole slew of machine guns due to be sent to the front from Petrograd and other cites have instead been transferred into the hands of the police.