During September, 1914, the Belgian army annoyed the Germans by occasional sallies from Malines and Antwerp. On the 27th the Germans attacked and occupied Malines, and the next day opened a bombardment on the forts about Antwerp. Their siege guns proved irresistible, and on October 8th the Belgian and British forces evacuated the city. The Belgian army then took over a sector of the Allied line in Flanders, where a great battle raged in late October and all November, the British and Belgians defeating the effort to break through to Dunkirk and Calais. All Belgium save a small corner lay under German control, and Baron von der Goltz was appointed Governor on August 26th---his place soon being taken by von Bissing.
By the date of the fall of Antwerp, when this chapter begins, the suffering in Belgium was widespread and intense. Numerous towns and villages (Louvain the chief) had been burned, and many of their inhabitants shot, because they were alleged to have resisted the invaders. Much property had been seized. Heavy money requisitions had been laid upon the conquered Belgian cities. Productive industry was paralyzed. Four members of the Belgian Cabinet, including M. Henry Carton de Wiart, M. Hymans, and M. Vandervelde, had visited the United States in September to appeal for aid. On September 5th a Comité Central was organized in Brussels to provide relief work for the unemployed of that city and the neighboring communities, but under stress of demands from all parts of the country quickly became a Comité National. A delegation sent to England found the British Government ready to assist its work. But the British insisted on express assurances from the German Governor-General that provisions imported by the Comité National would be reserved for the civil population alone and not be subject to military requisition. The British Government also stipulated that the importation of food should be under the protection of the American and Spanish Ambassadors; their authority to extend over all cargoes the moment they reached the Belgian frontier. The cargoes were to be shipped via Rotterdam direct to the Comité National storehouses. The Governor-General was to reserve the Belgian wheat and rye harvest of 1915 for the use of the Belgian civil population. All these conditions were accepted by the German authorities, and the required assurances given in writing October 16, 1914. As the authority of the Comité National under MM. Francqui and Solvay did not extend beyond Belgian territory, the purchase of foodstuffs abroad and their shipment to Belgium were wholly controlled by the Commission for Relief in Belgium, directed by Herbert Hoover. Whitlock's journals throw much light on the conditions surrounding the organization of these two bodies, and on their admirable coöperation in averting a great catastrophe in Belgium.
October 9, 1914.---No sound of firing today. Very much uncertainty as to the situation, from what Adrien... told me after he came back from Antwerp. He had seen English soldiers in Antwerp, and we all suppose that this means large reinforcements. On his way back he and Sorela(1) had been turned back twice, for the shrapnel were bursting over them. They were in great danger, but they finally arrived at 3 P.M. Gibson's news, however, was to the effect that the Government had left and that the English and Belgian army had evacuated. Villalobar came to speak about sending the telegram to our governments informing them of Sorela's trip to Antwerp.
Went over to Dr. Fay, the dentist, back to the Legation. "Antwerp has fallen," said de Leval. He was depressed, and reported that the population had revolted against holding out longer and spoke of the old city feeling, that particularism that had always made Antwerp in a way so selfish, the traditional selfishness of financial interests. Towards evening Mme. Wittouck---"I am completely ruined"---her brother-in-law, Paul Wittouck, with her. The factories at Antwerp ruined and the German soldiers were taking away all they could of vegetables, and so on. De Leval arranged to protect that part of property that had been sold to Americans.
While they were here von Schwabach(2) came and sat here in his grey uniform holding his big sword. Antwerp has fallen and the English and Belgian armies have gone. In two or three days we will have a big fight somewhere near there, I suppose, on the way to Ostend. I spoke to him about the banks and about the militia. He was very reasonable and we talked for some time about von Lüttwitz and von der Lancken.(3) Von der Lancken and he are great friends. I shall never forget some of his remarks. He was speaking of something he had said to von der Lancken:
"If we get through this war," he said, and then a shade of solemnity coming over his face, "which is not probable. We have lost many officers and soon we shall have to go to the front."
How it would end he had no notion, and no notion when I told him it would develop into a war between England and Germany, and he nodded---he knows the English!
Villalobar came with a long face; again the same note; Antwerp fallen! Evidently the news has got all over the world, for he had received a telegram from Madrid telling him to send Faura, his first secretary, to join the Government at Ostend. In the evening Rolan Gasquemanys very much excited, to know if it were true that Antwerp had fallen. I told him yes, and he furiously, indignantly denied it; said it couldn't be, was quite beside himself with rage and quite unreasonable as though I must give him good news. Then Denis from the Foreign Office with some women whose laughter came from the hall. He too, wished to know the truth. I could only tell him what Sorela and the others had said.
Gibson has been to see von der Lancken this afternoon and von der Lancken said to him that the Germans were about to push the Belgian Government, now presumably at Ostend, into the sea and then he asked:
"What will be your position here? Distinguished personalities, of course, but not accredited to the German authorities."
Von der Lancken, too, talked about the revictualing of Brussels; said that The Hague convention made no mention of their duty toward the population. Von Lüttwitz has said something in the same manner.
Sunday, October 11, 1914---No news, not a beautiful day, and wonder of wonders, in the morning Nell and Miss Larner and Gibson and I drove to the golf club and Gibson and I played nine holes, a kind of phenomenon in its way, most remarkable of all in the manner in which it brought back the quiet and happy days that seem now so far away. My drive is gone, didn't get one ball off the tee, alas, in anything like my old form. All the time we were playing we could hear the distant booming of cannon. In the afternoon Nell and I drove out to Alsemberg, where there is that beautiful old church, and in the evening Gibson and Fowler here to dinner and then Cavalcanti and Bulle in and we played bridge.
Gibson had seen Heineman, who had seen von Lüttwitz in his efforts to arrange some means of getting food---none from Antwerp yet. Much trouble about the revictualing. It was reported that before the Belgians left Antwerp they had destroyed all the foodstuffs and this, Heineman reported, had angered the Germans.
"If it is true," the brutal von Lüttwitz had said to him, "the whole population may starve."
October 12, 1914.---I drove to Malines. A perfect autumn day with a glittering sun and hazy air. Long before we reached Vilvorde the road crowded with German troops and long trains of lumbering waggons filled with knapsacks and guns, relics evidently gathered economically from the battle field. And refugees, poor refugees with long, sad faces, plodding towards Brussels out of those stricken villages and, smiling on every hand, the fields where there is no more work. At Vilvorde everywhere the sorry traces of the ravage of war, all the trees felled, the beautiful tall trees that line the road, some by axes to clear the way for cannon fire, some by the cannon balls themselves; ruined houses and the débris of their furniture scattered in the dirty streets and a sickening litter of waste; windows broken in, walls peppered and riddled with bullets, with here and there gaping, ragged holes made by cannon balls. Now and then a white château by the wayside blackened and charred by flame and ball and most of the small houses razed to the ground in fury of destruction. Just this side of Eppeghem we stopped to inspect the trenches that the Belgians had made, trenches afterwards occupied by the Germans in those days before the siege began. They stretched across the yellow fields... that had been badly fought over day after day. The trenches were curiously and ably made, profound ditches with earth thrown up in front of them and caves hollowed out below, filled with straw where the men slept, if sleep could ever come to them in such a hell. They had cut little places in the walls of the trenches in some of which we found crusts of mouldy bread, now and then a tin cup, poor little relics of meagre meals. Knapsacks strewn about. Leading back from the main trench a great room was hollowed out, half as big, say, as my office; straw on the floor, a table with matches and a lamp, a few bottles, the remains of the last supper the officers had eaten there, and saddest relic of all there, little garlands of tissue paper flowers with which they had attempted to decorate their apartment. I went in, tried to imagine, to dramatize it all---it was not hard to do, the hope, the effort, the despair and then the flight....
Then on into the little town of Eppeghem, a silent place of ruins; not a roof left, not a house that had not been ravaged by fire; the doors chalked in the German tongue saying I know not what; the pretty grey old church completely ruined and one might say not a soul visible. A dead horse lying in the street, hideous cats prowling about and everywhere black bottles, bottles, bottles, littered, thousands of them, of the wine that the soldiers had been guzzling.
Then on to Malines, by the old gate through which had gone that long train of refugees that wound out away like sad pilgrims back toward Brussels. As we went into the town through the old gate there was an old man sitting on a chair in the sun before the door of his ruined home; the light shone through the broken window. He raised his hand and pathetically saluted as we passed, and I felt a pride in that flag, and for what it stood, justice, liberty, respect, recognized by this peasant across the seas! Here too, bottles on window-sills, doorsteps, everywhere, black evidence of an insatiable thirst. German soldiers in their ugly grey uniforms conspicuous everywhere, but in all not twenty civilians, the whole town deserted. And then the cathedral, ah me! Great holes torn in its side where cannon balls had bored through, and choked up the door with débris. Every single pane of the stained glass, all that remained of a beautiful lost art, shattered into bits.
And then more bottles, bottles everywhere, ranged on windowsills, and doorsteps, and in the streets we saw soldiers coming out of houses hiding bottles behind their backs or in their tunics. In one of the streets, evidently the main road toward Antwerp, there were a few groups of people; some of them saluted the flag by raising their hats as we passed.
Now and then some poor woman, some little girl picking up bits of wood, and most pathetic of all perhaps a few going back to their homes, trying to rescue something of the rubbish that remained to them, and all along the road people with their little all tied up on their backs, or in a little satchel, in one or two instances in carts; one man carrying a large goat in his arms. On the other side of Malines many soldiers were gathered, soup was just being served to them and they were guzzling it with coarse German gusto, unmoved by all the waste and ruin they had made and murder they had committed.
We went on to the fortress of Waelhem, and about it were the traces of the late inundation of the fields, barbed-wire entanglement everywhere, and then the great earth-works in the ruined fort with the German flag flying over it and a solitary sentinel standing against it, the sky rosy with the last rays of the sun that was going down behind the trees to the west. Here stood the last remnants of that lost battle, in the sun of this perfect afternoon, with the lovely fields of Brabant and the noble trees making in times of peace a scene that for beauty cannot be exceeded, I suppose, in the world. We tried to enter the fort over the bridge across the moat but were stopped, of course, by an unkempt young German sadly in need of shaving. He went to see the commandant, who was inexorable, who sent back a curt "Nein"---while we watched a subaltern caning a private, who accepted it meekly. Discipline had made of him and his comrades mere dumb, docile brutes.
I turned away in disgust. Just outside the fort was a newly made grave and on the cross a rifle was laid, and also a helmet in which some one had stuck a few flowers. Here and there along the roads were more such crosses and in one place three crosses and three casques and something lettered in German on the cross and flowers around.
Back through Malines, where we stopped again to have another look at the cathedral. While we stood there four officers came up and regarded the ladies with impudent glances. A German approached a civilian, and wanted me to take him into Brussels inside the car, but I refused. As we drove out of the old gate at Malines, there was that old peasant, still sitting before his ruined home, the daylight showing through the windows, raising his hand again to salute the flag.
October 14, 1914.---Rain. A call from Heineman toward noon. He had been discussing with his German friends the revictualing of the city and also the affairs of the banks. I have had calls from citizens of Louvain, Namur and other cities, asking me to patronize committees of revictualing in those towns; it is evident that we shall have to try to do something on a big national scale. Heineman invaluable, clever little Jew, eyes like a rat, very strong with the Germans; he may arrange the way for me, perhaps give some advance on the revictualing. He told me that von der Lancken and a Herr Helfferich would come to see me to ask me to see von Lumm,(4) who is at the head of the bank-robbing bureau. This afternoon just at three von der Lancken and Helfferich duly came. They asked me to see von Lumm and would try to arrange some way by which the difficulties between the bankers and the German authorities may be adjusted. Heineman had already given me some hint as to what might prove effective. I shall try to see von Lumm tomorrow.
Von der Lancken also wanted to know if I could not help in the matter of the revictualing. The point now is to get the food from England, not only for the poor of Brussels but for the whole population of Belgium. He promised that the German authorities would not touch any of this food if it could be brought in, and as we discussed it we evolved the notion of sending Gibson to London to arrange the matter. He said the German Government was well disposed to aid in this but that there was not enough food in Germany to provide both their own people and the Belgians, and he said also that if the hint were given that this work was undertaken because of the German barbarities it would be fatal to the project.
Then he asked me about our situation here after the complete occupation of Belgium, but he said it would be difficult for me to leave because I was charged with so many interests, because there was so much to do, while at Guernsey there would be nothing.
October 15, 1914.---The question of the revictualing is growing more serious, but Heineman is at work on it for me, interviewing Germans. Gibson will surely have to go to London in a few days. There are many difficulties to be brought to a mutual understanding and this by the use of many tongues. It is as though we were at the Tower of Babel, what with German and French and Flemish and English and Spanish.
In the afternoon went to see von Lumm; speaks bad English and bad French, very broken, as he said; he finally decided on English and asked me to speak very slowly. A heavy, blond, serious man with great round yellow-rimmed spectacles, evidently very methodical and charged here with a tremendous task, namely that of robbing all the banks according to the Hague Conventions. I began in English, but he soon slid off into French and we continued in that language. He told me that his instructions from Berlin were very rigid, that he did not see how he could reduce his obligations in this respect, but we talked the matter over, and I asked him to see the committee of the bankers and he said he had already agreed to do so. So that there was little more for me to do there.
I could have done more with Curly Williams than with this administrator.
October 16, 1914.---Von der Lancken came with the Geheimrath Kaufmann(5) to discuss the question of revictualing in Belgium. There was but food enough in the country to last two weeks: it was necessary therefore to extend the work of the committee under the patronage of Viflalobar and me to the whole of the country. Heineman came in with Hulse and we talked a long time ....
Meanwhile we talked of the important question of bread for the multitude; it was necessary of course that Gibson go to London to arrange its passage and that England permit the food to go in. But it seems that the Belgian committee, like all committees, was anxious to do more, to send perhaps a commission of fifteen members. I said, "The best commission in the world is one of three members, two of them dead." Von der Lancken laughed and agreed but some one must go. I suggested Lambert.(6) Then Villalobar arrived and approved the choice of Lambert and sent his motor at once to bring the little baron. We felt that Lambert would be immensely influential through the Rothschilds in England. Lambert came; rather depressed, dapper man with his monocle in his eye, gloves and clothes pressed. He was loath to go, as I knew he would be. While he was here Solvay, Janssen and Francqui(7) came and had to be shown into another room. They came formally to request me to act in the matter wherewith I was already occupied. I brushed the formalities aside and told them that in these times one had to act without ceremony and broached the question of Lambert going. They approved but I felt there was some desire perhaps to have Francqui go and while, as I told him, he presented the appearance of one too well-fed to be exhibited in London as an example of a starving Belgium, as all these folk say when they speak English, I was willing he should go. So we brought Lambert into the room. He sat there with his hands folded and said: "M. Solvay, you are a good husband, you have long been married; I am a good husband, long married," and so on. In short, he had to go and see his wife and ask permission.
The poor man went away and I pitied him, but he returned with the said permission and we at once began occupying ourselves with the preparation of the large number of telegrams necessary, among them letters from Villalobar and me to our respective Ambassadors, telegrams to our governments and then we decided that Villalobar send a telegram to the King of Spain and I to the President. He asked me to write them, saying he would translate them into Spanish and use them as his despatches ....
Filene and Buxton came for luncheon. Both had been in Germany and were impressed by German organization and power. A long discussion after luncheon; Buxton is the editor of the Providence Journal and a colonel of militia.
Prepared the mass of letters and telegrams, a difficult task for they must be well expressed; toiled at my desk until four o'clock; then Villalobar came and we took all the letters to von der Lancken. Discussed them then with him and Geheimrath Kaufmann, had to make certain changes, sent Gibson back to have them recopied, then prepared letter for von der Goltz's signature.(8) Von der Lancken suggested that the field marshal's signature would be more valuable than his own, and after this had been arranged in German and then translated in French they went off to recopy it. Gibson finally returned with our letters satisfactorily done. While we were there Lambert came in, having come from a meeting of the bankers; after a few words he went out and von der Lancken said "Bon voyage." The poor man shrugged his shoulders and went out very much dejected.
Came back then and prepared my telegram to the President in the following words:
In two weeks the civil population of Belgium, already in misery, will face starvation. In view of this fact and at the request of the Relief Committee, I venture to call your attention to my telegram to the Department, dated September 26, 1914, in the conviction that your great heart will find some way by which America may help to provide food for these hungry ones in the dark days of the terrible winter that is coming on.
October 17, 1914.---Lemonnier(9) called, rather excited. He had had trouble with von Lüttwitz over furnishing a list of Belgian youths liable to military service. He said that von Lüttwitz had arrested him yesterday raging like a lion, throwing his kepi and gloves on the floor and so forth. Gave Lemonnier counsel and Villalobar coming in at the same time reinforced what I said, even made it much stronger in his way. Then Lemonnier appealing to me in my long experience as Mayor:
"You know how it is with the aldermen. No matter what I do they could have done better. There is always one who is more pure, one who is more royalist than the King."
I know that old and contemptible trick of human nature perfectly and pitied the poor old man, but it seemed that the affair had turned out well enough. Von Lüttwitz had given assurances that the boys would not be troubled and so the list, it seems, is to be furnished.
Just before luncheon de Leval came in with a telegram from Gerard(10) with good news, saying that the British Government had agreed to let food come into Belgium provided it was sent by the American Embassy in London to me evidently. Gibson will find his work largely done before he gets to London.
October 19, 1914.---Immediately after luncheon, Nell, Mademoiselle(11) and I set off for Antwerp in the rain, a gloomy afternoon.
All along the familiar route beyond Vilvorde, through Eppeghem and Malines, a great crowd of pilgrims streaming by in the rain, spreading out over the fields and in the trenches hunting I know not what. But signs of returning life too: men and women digging potatoes, and so on, and in each of the villages an estaminet or two already going so that men may drink and play cards. The Germans are clearing up, everywhere, and Malines was less doleful. People are returning to their ruined homes, many of them chalked in German script, to indicate the reoccupancy, and one door was lettered:
"Brave people, do not plunder."
Waelhem was terrible in the evidence of destruction, and afterwards we came to the outer defences of Antwerp, thick barbed wire entanglements, and barbed and pointed stakes driven in the ground to prevent the approach of cavalry, and elaborate trenches covered with tramway rails, on which sod had been piled---but all to no avail, the great cannons having made all that useless. Antwerp still with a somewhat deserted look, and yet after all not much more greatly damaged than if there had been a fire. Near the Grand' Place several houses in ruins, and here and there a house with a hole in it, torn by a cannon ball, and one house with its whole façade freckled by shrapnel, but on the whole not much. There were evidences of those thirty-six hours of bombardment in the earth and sod piled at cellar windows, but that was all. We drove to the docks, and they were dead.
It was very dark, and we drove home along that tragic road, slippery with the rain, crowded with pilgrims returning to Brussels, gloomy drab figures by the wayside, some under umbrellas, but most trudging in sodden misery without complaint, looking at us, now and then saluting the flag, and at the German motors screeching by, and at the soldiers.
October 23, 1914.---A lovely day which made me think, now of the golf links at Inverness, now of the Maumee up by the Country Club, and again as we drove through the Bois and out beyond Uccle, of northern Michigan .... A little while after luncheon I walked in the lower town: a German band playing in front of the Bourse; men shuffling about selling puppies and in the window ledges around the Grande Place roasted chestnuts were exposed. The life of the city is being somewhat resumed. Most of the shops are opened a while each day, and men, women and boys call innocuous publications in the streets.
But gaunt famine stalks nearer. There was a hungry little girl here at the Legation this morning, and the Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation is having a hard time with the Germans, who are still requisitioning. No word from Gibson and the Commission in London. The Germans have taken 50,000 sacks of unmilled corn and 50,000 sacks of unmilled wheat, 100 kilos to the sack. This will pan out 89 or 90 per cent in flour. Two thousand tons a day are needed for Brussels.
In the midst of it all, some Belgians in the city government are playing politics. One of them posted off to Antwerp this morning so that he might have the credit of getting this allowance which the Germans made today.
What a race of human beings we all are!
A lovely sunset and again the spire of the Hôtel de Ville floating as in a golden mist shot through with fire. What a lovely world this would be if human beings would only let each other alone.
Saw some German soldiers trying to play with the babies whose fathers they have killed or are ready to kill.
October 24, 1914.---A great bundle of telegrams this morning apparently by way of The Hague; one of them from Hoover at London proposing to organize a Committee for the revictualing of Belgium composed entirely of Americans, and that the food should be shipped to me. I replied that Villalobar must be included, for I would not hurt his feelings and abandon him after all he has done and the close relations we have sustained. Another telegram from Gibson asked that a thousand labels be sent to Rotterdam, where the food has evidently arrived.
At noon to see von der Lancken, who promised to have the labels made. I asked him what the news was and he showed me on the map the positions of the German troops. It was evident from what he said that their right wing is now well up from Lille toward Ypres, and their soldiers are fighting the remnants of the Belgian army. The English are bombarding the littoral with their ships. It is said that Westend, Ostend, Nieuport and Blankenberghe are all annihilated.
"They are trying to prevent our taking Calais and Dunkirk," but he went on to say that they would do it anyhow, and then indicated the flanking movement in the German line from Paris. He told me some more facts about the long battle which is still in progress.
October 27, 1914.---Went this morning to Ste-Gudule to attend mass for the repose of the soul of young Donney, son of that Donney who was a director at the Foreign Office. The boy was only nineteen and was a brigadier in the first regiment of Guides. He was killed in battle and his mother the other day went to fetch his body from under the bridge where it had lain for a week. There was a crowd at the church and there was the body high on the catafalque under the Belgian flag, its colors softened and made more beautiful and somehow more pathetic by the crape that was over it. The music was wonderfully beautiful and as we passed around bearing the candles to help light the soul of the poor boy, I was smitten by the tear-stained face of the lad's father. And then I had a kind of rage at these devils who deliberately make war and bring about all this useless cruelty. Then, standing there to get some further accent of the sweet singing of the choir, the old church seemed to say: "Peace, little man. I have stood here for all these ages and witnessed occupation after occupation---not only this German but the Dutch long years ago, and then the French under Napoleon. The waves of the French Revolution rolled over me and left me untouched and before that Austrian and Spanish occupation, and before that the dukes of Brabant. I was standing here thus before Columbus went to America. It was then as it is now. Mankind quarreling and suffering, and bowing here at my altars with tear-stained faces. The light fell through these windows then as now: nothing changes, not even man."
All afternoon in the office. Filene here and Otley and their famous scheme for the restoration of industry. How impractical, and visionary. The thing now is bread, just bread, for these hungry, persecuted, maltreated Belgians.
Had a call from Dr. Barnich, who has been in Luxembourg since the war began .... He had seen the Kaiser who had descended at the German Legation at Luxembourg heavily guarded: mitrailleuses all about and a search light sweeping the sky at night over the palace where the royal head reposed. He said the Kaiser looked fifteen years older, grey and haggard with dark circles under his eyes. "He is not lighthearted, he isn't happy."
He had seen him four times, but whether right or not I do not know. Many tales of distress down that way. Drunken officers. Children shot, peasants stood up against walls and shot, women and girls ravished. Said he would never get the cries of the children and peasants out of his ears.
November 2, 1914.---The day broke with something of the old turmoil of Monday in it. First a visit from Lemonnier, Jacquemain, Hallet and Stein, aldermen here, in more trouble with the German authorities. The other day the Belgian flag and even the flag of Brussels were ordered down from the Hôtel de Ville.
Now a new trouble has arisen. A Brussels policeman had a quarrel with a German soldier and struck him in the face with his fist---as doubtless he was justified in doing. A new convention had recently been arranged between the aldermen and the authorities by which the city is to pay, in addition to that 20,000,000 originally agreed upon after the German entry, a sum of 25,000,000 in ten weeks, 2,500,000 francs a week. In the original convention it was stated there would be no further demands, no further quartering of troops and so forth, but as a punishment for this blow in the face of a German soldier von Lüttwitz now demands 5,000,000 more! And that all policemen be disarmed by the German officers.
"What," said one policeman, "salute them after they killed my father and mother!"
The aldermen wanted me to do something, but what could I do? Hard taskmasters these, and where is their vaunted genius for governing?
But the day was made very bright for me by the receipt of a telegram from the Department saying that the Toledo Commerce Club had resolved to undertake the work for raising a relief fund for Belgium, and had adopted resolutions praising me for my "noble work." It brought back vividly the old town; I could see the rooms there in the Club; the gatherings, the smoke, the talk and the familiar faces. I could see the town too, these autumn days, with the leaves falling in the avenues and the sun glinting on the dew and cobwebs of the fields and the golf links. I could see those pale blues, greys, and greens and the great bay of the lake and some late ship coming peacefully northward, and the lovely stretch of the marsh where the Frenchmen live! Ah me!
... Went in to say bonjour to von der Lancken. He in rather a bad humor over Gibson's non-arrival. Lambert sitting at his door waiting to be heard and Villalobar just coming out. All concerned over Gibson's non-arrival, and von der Lancken still harping about Gibson testifying about the Louvain business. That old sore reopened again. I asked von der Lancken how long this miserable war would last: he said they could fight three years.
All afternoon getting ready for Curtis' outgoing to Rotterdam. Then Villalobar came; we prepared a little note supporting Francqui's statements as to the amount of food required weekly in Belgium. While we waited for it to be written and rewritten, Villalobar told me many interesting things, not the least startling of which is that the German Emperor is in Brussels tonight in the old palace of the d'Arenbergs in the Petit Sablon, very angry because things are not going well towards the sea, because Calais and Dunkirk have not been taken. Villalobar told me of having seen the Emperor in Windsor Castle in King Edward's time. A little man, very ill-dressed in a frock coat---no German ever looks well in civilian clothes anyway---and a brown yellow face, not sympathetic at all. Told of King Edward's boyish delight in presents ---birthday presents, and the like, and how he scorned the emperor's present that day---a set of pots. Though he had all his other presents laid out round the table to show his friends, he had put the pots upon the floor. "The dirty things," said King Edward, "I would not have them in the kitchen-garden." Villalobar said the German empress was pleasant but looked like a housekeeper dressed up. Many interesting things about the charming Mrs. Keppel, and much of King Edward's kindness and good fellowship and genuine downright manliness ....
I have not yet recovered from the feeling of irritation I derived from von der Lancken's manner this morning, especially when he spoke of the attitude of the military men. How detestably ignorant and brutal all military men are the phrase "officer and gentleman" is in itself enough to indicate their quality. That is to say, having denominated a man an officer, it is necessary to add an additional qualification, all officers not being gentlemen. Indeed, I fancy the two qualities are entirely incompatible. If a man is a good gentleman he is a poor officer and when he is a good officer he is a bad gentleman.
November 3, 1914.---The Comtesse de Mérode(12) and Doctor Le Boeuf came to arrange a transfer of supplies from the Belgian Red Cross to the Belgian troops. Advised her to see the Germans about it; there was nothing I could do, of course. Villalobar was here at the same time and said with his usual charming way to the Countess: "You could do more than any one, you have a double capacity. You are the president of the Belgian Red Cross and you are," and here he bowed, "the Comtesse de Mérode."
After the Comtesse and her train had gone Villalobar and I chatted a while. He had just come from von der Lancken and he had found it necessary to show his teeth. Von der Lancken had told him of the disposition of the military men; how the privileges of diplomats must be restricted and we to have no more passes! It all made me boil inwardly.
Then a reporter from the New York Times, here through Berlin, Cyril Brown by name. Anxious to know about our relief work and so on.
Still boiling about the passes, I went over to see von der Lancken but he was not there. Well that I did not see him at that time!
Telegram today telling that the food has been shipped from Rotterdam---so that the revictualing is at last actually under way. It seems too good to be true, that really all our efforts have succeeded at last.
November 4, 1914.---At ten o'clock Marshall Langhorne arrived from The Hague with a Jarvis Bell (13) who will have charge of affairs at Rotterdam, and Mr. Wyman, an agent of the American Express Company. We discussed the revictualing with them for a good while. Then Villalobar came and more discussion, and because we were exceedingly busy, everybody in town that had nothing to do, came at that moment to see me; I was half distracted. At noon fled with Mademoiselle for a walk. Back at once.
These three men, young Scranton and Grant-Watson(14) here to luncheon. After luncheon more discussion of the revictualing. Then at three, Villalobar came with Lambert, and Janssen and then more discussion and on and on. Janssen and Lambert occupied half an hour discussing the purchase of a few barges of wheat up at Holland, news of which Bell had brought. No end to the discussion and to the difficulties. Then I sent Bell to find Heineman. He came back in twenty minutes saying Heineman would arrange at once to buy the grain, showing the difference between American customs and some others that I know of. Villalobar and I will have the committee on revictualing here in the morning and I have written von der Lancken asking for an appointment for 4:30 tomorrow to settle the matter.
Van Dyke has had a row with Gerard and Page and both have taken it up with the Department.
Yesterday was election day at home. I hope Jimmy Cox(15) was elected at any rate, and that the President was supported in the Congressional elections.
November 5, 1914.---Before ten o'clock Lemonnier was here in despair, having had more trouble with von Lüttwitz. Villalobar came in while he was here and we advised him not to risk complicating the situation by being too defiant. He thought of going to see von der Goltz. "Is he brutal?" Villalobar leaned over the table and struck it with his fist: "Brutal and crazy," he said.
Exit Lemonnier, enter Lambert, Solvay, Francqui, and Janssen, and with them we talked for two hours about the revictualing, Francqui reading a long project in his excellent voice. It laid out with great particularity the organization of committees in London, station at Rotterdam, committee here, committee in each province and so on, all set forth in heads and sub-heads, titles and sub-titles, primo, secundo, tertio, quarto.
November 6, 1914.---At ten o'clock Francqui, Heineman, and Hulse appeared. They did not feel very well about Lambert representing us on the committee and we discussed for a long time the question involving the exchange of funds, in connection with the question of revictualing, agreed finally, and after an hour sent all away feeling very happy, I think. Hulse remained a while. He had seen Reverend van Dyke at The Hague. Van Dyke has assumed entire charge of the question of the revictualing and will issue his orders to all ministries, ministers, presidents, kings, emperors, fieldmarshals, generals, and civilians. Most wonderful to behold.
We hear the Kaiser was nearly struck by a bomb at Thielt, thrown by a British aviator who arrived fifteen minutes too late.
Received a letter from the director of the National Bank of Belgium saying that all the notables of the town of Roulers had been hanged or shot. It appears that the Germans have had a serious check and that the country has been flooded near Dixmude. Lambert had said that the Kaiser went to Nieuport to see how things were progressing. "So much the better," said Francqui. "In each of his visits he commits new stupidities." So it appears that Francqui's prediction was correct, or at least a reversal was coincident with the arrival of the Emperor. I have been thinking of this man and of the character of his people. A sad absence of humor. No man can talk about God, as he does, if he has any sense of humor.
I thought, too, while walking this afternoon, of how pitiable those German generals had been in the hands of Max when it came to a contest of wits. Of course, they are superior physically and so brutally could crush him, but he came off victor in the duel d'esprit.
November 7, 1914.---Von Lüttwitz is out with a new placard; a stupid thing saying in the first place that the German Government has done all it could to get food for the Belgians; in the second place advising people not to give money to anybody who won't work; in the third place announcing that after tomorrow German time will be the official time. Did I ever say that these people have any genius for Government? If I ever did I was a fool. They have literally none. No imagination, no pity, no realization of what the word humiliation means, not the least conception of the feeling of other people.
In the first place, they have done nothing to get food for the Belgians. The best that can be said is that they have put no obstacle in the way of Americans buying food and shipping it here. In the second place, at what job will any one work now, and why should he work even if he can get a job? In the third place, what stupidity in the change of the time, as though we all had become Germans. They say the trains and the affairs of life will be regulated by German time. But there are no trains, there are no affairs, there is no life indeed except a horrid choking existence under a military heel. German time is fifty-six minutes earlier than the Belgian time, that is, Greenwich time, which prevails all over the west of Europe. it is but another purpose of humiliation; a little more grinding; a little more rubbing it in.
Calls this morning from skippers of the barges who had no bills of lading and had not been able to unload their barges. Flew around to Heineman; he gone. Then had to go to a funeral at St.Boniface: young Wittouck, officer in the Guides. Then with Lambert to the Société Générale to discuss with Francqui those details of the release of the barges. Occupied with this work all the morning.
November 10, 1914.---Busy all morning getting Gibson off for Namur, Liége, and other places. Preparing letters to London on the whole question of secours et alimentation, and so on. Gibson left at one o'clock with Scranton and the dog.
Villalobar came in at five. Had been over to the General Staff. Had seen Conrad and Freys.(16) On going out met von der Lancken and said: "Oh, for my trivial business, I would not incommode a personage as eminent as yourself. I, a poor baker. But on reflection, I find that you have done us a signal honor. I was thinking yesterday evening of the French Revolution. The vulgar republicans called Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the Dauphin---the baker, the baker's wife, and the little scullion." Von der Lancken made all sorts of apologies and excuses, said the whole affair of the passes had been arranged. Villalobar is superb, the best and kindest of men.
We were to see Kaufmann at five o'clock with our letters signed and sealed, ready to exchange, settling the whole affair of the revictualing. At the last moment after we had written and signed the letters and were starting out to deliver them, I discovered... a paragraph we did not like, to wit, one permitting the sale of excess of foodstuffs to German troops. Sent de Leval to say that that paragraph must come out.
At dinner had a note from Walter Van R. Berry and Michael Francis Doyle, announcing their arrival and asking if they could call in the evening. They came at half-past eight, stayed an hour. Berry a tall handsome, fine chap, white haired; was, I think, judge of the International Court at Cairo or Alexandria, now lives in Paris.
November 14, 1914.---Paul Otlet(17) in at noon with his scheme for extending the work of revictualing, which he explained in his clear way, very excellent but precisely for that reason very difficult, this being a world in which logic has little chance. What interested me most, however, was the fact that he has written a book which he calls When the War Ends, a study of all the conditions which may arise. A rather deep work, I think, and he has done me the honor to dedicate it to me.
A number of other callers this afternoon. After luncheon went shopping, buying some Christmas cards, rather an absurd thing to do since "Peace on earth and good will toward men" seem to be at such a terrible discount in this mad Europe of ours.
Went at half past three to the Zivil Verwaltung; conference there with von der Lancken, Kaufmann, Heineman, and Count Harrach,(18) a German officer, about the revictualing question, and passes. Very difficult; adjusted matters or put them in a way to be adjusted. Then von der Lancken talked to me about the treatment of the English. Says they do not like to do as they do, but he said public sentiment in Germany had forced them to do it.
I asked him to save Grant Watson and the two Jeffes.(19)
Tomorrow mass is to be celebrated in Ste-Gudule in honor of the King. This time of year, they celebrate his birthday. Whether it will be the occasion of a demonstration or not, no one knows. Hope not!
November 17, 1914.---This morning a woman stood sobbing in the outer hall, a woman with white hair, well dressed. She came in finally after many cases had been disposed of, and weeping, unfastened a large roll of etchings. Her husband is an artist; she is French, he Italian. They have two sons in the French Army and two sons here, one of whom has incipient tuberculosis. All their savings gone, nothing in the house to eat. I gave her twenty francs. She tried to force me to take one of the etchings but I did not want to accept it, so I told her to send her husband around that he might make a sketch for me of the pretty carriage-space in the rue Belliard that I love so much. He came around in the afternoon. I pointed out to him the view; but as is the manner of artists, he had little interest in it---artists never have any interest in a view they do not discover themselves; not to be wondered at, perhaps.
Villalobar was in at noon; but nothing in particular. He had been over to see von der Lancken and had told him how nicely he was treated at Liége, in contrast to the treatment received here, and had scolded him roundly. He was not so optimistic as to the outcome of the war as he had been.
Drove down into the lower town in the afternoon with Nell and Mlle. Then we went for a walk out of doors in the cold frosty air until seven o'clock. A great relief. During our walk I bought a livre d'or for the King's birthday. We can do our little part, at any rate, if it is not much.
Young Mowrer(20) was in. A very interesting boy, full of poetry and intelligence and the melancholy that accompany both. After dinner Cavalcanti and Bulle came in to play bridge and while we were playing the thin little wife of the English rector,(21) the one remaining, came in to tell us that her husband had been arrested. She was very brave and I told her to cheer up and that I would try to have him released. I have been trying to get people out of prison all my life!
Saturday, November 21, 1914.---I heard of a man who was arrested "for having stared insolently at a German lady in the street." A new crime this!
This day made memorable by the receipt of this letter from the Department:
The Department has received and read with much interest your unnumbered despatch of September 26, 1914, in which you speak feelingly of conditions in Brussels since its occupation by the German troops, and in reply informs you that the efficient and patriotic manner in which you have met the numerous difficulties that have arisen during the past few months in Belgium is appreciated by the Department.
November 24, 1914.---Various calls in the morning, among them one from a Jew who said he crossed with me on the Lusitania once. I remembered his face. He had been in Germany; said the Germans confident and the Austrians in despair, expect the Russians in Vienna before long. Then a Comtesse de Jonghe, wanting me to save a riding horse that belongs to the count. Then to the Germans to see von der Lancken about a lot of things. Little Gahan, the rector, in the hall, to thank the Germans for letting him out of a prison. His wife dutifully with him and I passed them saying: "A night and a day have I spent in the deep!" They both laughed ....
In the afternoon to the Société Générale to attend a meeting of the committee for revictualing. Met in a large, beautiful and imposing room with marble busts of King Albert and Queen Elizabeth. Great portraits in oil of Leopold I and Leopold II, and some other king, one of Holland, I believe, long since dead and forgotten, that seems to have been the founder of the Société Générale. We sat there in a circle around a huge green table. Each of us with a large pad, pencil, cigarettes, and sundries. Villalobar on the right and I on the left of Solvay. Francqui directly across the table with a large cigarette case, Lambert with his monocle up, picking cigarettes out of Francqui's case from time to time. Much discussion, all in French, and we read our letter from von der Goltz, which on being translated out of the morass of rude German proves to be quite all right. Discussed the revictualing of Mons and other places. Finally arranged all satisfactorily and left.
Francqui told me that the Cardinal Mercier at Malines is itching to have his fingers in the pie, evidently an echo of... Doyle.(22) Heard also that the Germans are making an inventory of all the wine in Belgium; with a view to drinking it, no doubt.
Came back then to the Legation to meet some representatives of some subsidiary company of the Standard Oil Co. for securing oil for Belgium, and so the day wore away. Its interstices filled with the gossip about X, whose case grows clear now, "a little affair of the heart." The gossip is all over town; even von der Lancken knows it; "a little woman, his sweetheart," he said, and tender inquiries are made at the Legation. And yet some ladies claim that had I done my duty he would not have been arrested! Had he done his he would have been far out of the clutches of the Germans long ago!
November 26, 1914.---Thanksgiving Day---that is---at home, and thoughts of the vast dinners of turkeys and pumpkin pies, and the football game in the afternoon in the cold raw air with a few flakes of snow sifting down and the cheers and the pennants and the college yells, but over here a gridiron far more vast, and the Allies down on their two-yard line, holding, holding! Ah me! thoughts of home! Emily would be coming over with rosy cheeks and shining eyes and her little cold hands---but no time for those things now, or these thoughts.
Last night dined at Francqui's, in his great house on the avenue Louise, filled with the spoils of his sojourn in China. A most intelligent, interesting man, doing wonders for his country.
This morning old Diederich in from Antwerp. Poor old soul much distressed; 6,300,000 tons of wheat belonging to the city of Antwerp, left there, and he fears that the Germans will requisition it. Villalobar came in, and then a Monsieur Franck, acting-burgomaster at Antwerp, about some subject. He told how he had signed a convention with the Germans to the effect that no indemnity should be demanded from Antwerp, but straightway after the paper was signed they demanded fifty million francs. Likewise sent word that the civil guard might come back and remain unarrested, but they were immediately arrested!---though later released on parole.
Sunday, November 29, 1914.---Took a walk this morning, and I have seldom worked so hard as I did in the afternoon, preparing the courier who goes out early in the morning with letters to London, and so on. Then at four arrived Shaler with Hoover, Dr. Rose, and Bicknell.(23) Dr. Rose and Bicknell represent the Rockefeller Foundation, and are here to investigate conditions in Belgium. Dr. Rose is the great hookworm specialist and Bicknell is the Red Cross expert. Rose a little man who looks something like a preacher; Bicknell tall, fine looking with white hair and a sense of humor. Hoover just as Francqui described him, the type of American business man, a face somewhat fruste, very direct, positive, able, speaks little but everything he says counts. I talked to him for a while and explained the situation to him here and learned what has been going on outside. The usual amount of quarreling in America between rival committees, Catholics and Protestants, and so forth. Nothing so sweet and charming and altogether lovely as to see rival religions in each other's hair over some question of sweet charity! The poor man has had many troubles, but seems to surmount them all bravely.
The Rockefeller representatives, with the right by money to ask questions, cross-examined me for two hours; and for two hours I answered questions explaining the situation here and when I was through felt that I had made out my case. Hoover thought so too, and so did Shaler and so did the Rockefeller men, but I was as tired as though I had been making an argument before the Supreme Court. We had them here to dinner and still more talk. Then at ten Madame Carton de Wiart came in. Francqui had been here at noon to see me. He had known Hoover in China and admired him immensely, and wished to have an hour with Hoover before Hoover saw any of the others. We discussed Heineman somewhat, but agreed that we had great need of him since he has influence with the Germans. Hoover speaks no French and Francqui pigeon-English, so it is amusing to hear them.
November 30, 1914.---This morning Villalobar and I went to see Kaufmann to talk about the linseed oil, and introduction of milk and eggs from Holland, and to speak of the Comité's complaint of the disregard by German soldiers of the orders of von der Goltz. Speaking of the linseed oil, Kaufmann said they would give assurances that it would not be confiscated, but when we asked him if the same assurances would be given for such of the cattle nourished by the said linseed oil, he shrugged his shoulders and said: "We do not know what the military command will do if we are defeated and forced to retreat." He finished his sentence with a shrug of the shoulders. When we got out Villalobar and I discussed the significance of this remark, the first admission of weakness we have heard. Taken in connection with reports of Russian victories, it may have some significance. Villalobar thinks that the going away of von der Goltz is significant, too. He left yesterday unwept by all. Some say he was too severe, and some say not severe enough. At any rate we have a new satrap whose name I do not know. Von Lüttwitz has gone and according to the placard is succeeded by von Kraewel,(24) who signs himself a Major-General...
I showed to Kaufmann the figures that Hoover had given me, namely £2,700,000 which translated into German means fifty-four million marks, the amount of the value of foodstuffs already imported into Belgium from America! "Sapristi!" said Kaufmann.
This afternoon a long session with Hoover, Francqui, Heineman, Rose, Bicknell, and Shaler about the problem of financing the scheme. £600,000 furnished by the English and French Governments to the Belgian Government are to be turned over by the Belgian Government to our committee, credited to the Comité National here, and by them distributed among the communes. The two Rockefeller men are much impressed by our organization and by conditions in Belgium. They start in a day or two on a tour to be accompanied by Gibson and probably Francqui. Tomorrow we go to see the soup kitchens; in the afternoon a session of the Comité National. The Consul-General was in and I asked him to go with us.
Then I went out in the dusk and walked along the boulevards under the trees in a fine mist, and there walking and musing was overtaken by Nasmith, who hesitatingly confided to me his approaching marriage.
"Do people still have courage to get married?" Strange impression, this bit of romance in the dusk and mist and the war around!
I have been thinking about these fine armaments and wondering whether or not they may not possibly themselves defeat their own ends, that is, whether it is not possible that they have become so large and unwieldy that decisive results are impossible, that neither can gain. As though one should attempt to drive a stake into the ground with a sledge one could not lift.
December 1, 1914.---This morning Hoover, Bell, Dr. Rose, Bicknell, Francqui, Shaler, Gibson, de Leval, Watts and I drove about in the rain to see the soup-kitchens, a doleful morning's business, though not without its reassurance of the goodness that still is in human nature. We went first to the boulevard Anspach, and there in a great circular dome that was once used by an express company, was a wire ring of cauldrons with cooks bending over them brewing the savory soup that is sent out to the various kitchens and there served to the poor. We then drove to some of these stations, notably one in the rue Blaes near the boulevard du Midi, in the very heart of the quartier des Marolles. Long lines of poor women and men crowding the sidewalks and inside the hall, once a kind of theatre and café, its garish decorations full of mockery. Each poor soul entered with a ticket and there was given a bit of coffee, a bit of chicory, a loaf of bread. Each person receives enough for the day's nourishment, a noble answer to the prayer,
"Give us this day our daily bread."
Each person has a card from his commune with a number. The numbers are checked off. The lines are inspected in groups by persons connected with the neighborhoods whence they come. If one is missing, the absence is instantly detected: "Where is Jeanne today? Is she sick? Or what?"
The admirable organization deeply impressed Hoover and Rose. We stayed some time there watching this line of poor march by. Each one as he or she received his or her ration, said "thank you," and I had to turn away to hide my tears.
I came back to the Legation, wrote letters for Hoover to take to Page, very tired and worn out by the day, and then Madame Carton de Wiart came, wishing to see the Rockefeller men, and then Hoover to bid me good-bye. He was very much moved by the sight of suffering he saw today, and very cordial and very fine. A remarkable man indeed. His last thought was to place enough money on deposit here to pay all expenses. The Belgians, he said, must not be put to a pennyworth of expense. His meeting with Francqui in this work is quite interesting. Years ago Hoover was in China managing a profitable business, a veritable king of a little province. One morning Francqui arrived and said Belgian capital had bought the control. So Hoover was displaced, though he stayed and worked with Francqui for some time. Now after all these years they meet and are friends again, working in a great cause. I was proud today to think that my country was doing this noble work amidst all this rage, this brutal and ignorant destruction, but one's thoughts are almost drowned these days and it is difficult to express them.
Dined at Lambert's this evening; nothing much there but a pleasant conversation over a good dinner and the cigarettes and coffee. The Kaiser, it seems, passed four nights in Brussels: one night in the Palais d'Arenberg, another in the rue de la Loi, another in the place Royale, and the fourth, if I understand correctly, in the Palace of the Countess of Flanders, and then out Tervueren way in the Château d'Orleans, with cannons and soldiers to guard his slumber . ...After that Hoover, Rose, Bell, and I went to call on Kaufmann and on von der Lancken, and talked with them quite a while. I showed von der Lancken a document displaying the amount that had been sent from America, £2,700,000 worth of foodstuffs thus far, and more coming. But of course, it could not pass off altogether pleasantly for von der Lancken called me aside and said that Solvay's factory, Syracuse, was manufacturing munitions of war, shells or something of that sort, said to be used by the French Government, and would I speak to him about it?
December 3, 1914.---Again these everlasting difficulties that pessimism, doubt and stupidity place in the way of our great work of revictualing. A telegram this morning saying that the British Government is informed that the food sent into Belgium is being used by soldiers that are billeted in houses! Of course, there is no truth in this and I sent a telegram to Lucey(25) 1 assuring him that there was no ground for the report that soldiers billeted in houses were fed with food provided by our Commission. The German authorities are respecting our work and keeping all their engagements, and the organization of the Commission with its almost scientific method of distribution is such that it is practically impossible for our food to go to any but the suffering portion of the population. Hoover has all the details of the organization and I am sure can convince any person that no better method can be devised to meet this great emergency. He and I feel satisfied that the humanitarian end is being subserved by the system that every morning provides each hungry person with food sufficient for that day's need and no more. I sent Heineman, however, over to see the Germans to show them the telegram so that they would be more careful.
Then Johnson in from Ghent with two pouches and a lot of mail. A beautiful letter from Mr. Howells, one from Philips, Rutger Jewett and others making me proud of their compliments, but humble too.
Whenever a fête is proposed I feel as though it were a time rather for fasting and prayer, for this great work is not yet done and every day has its tremendous difficulties. We can do little more than pray that we be given each day our daily bread and the ability to help those others to have daily bread; the old prayer has a new significance now!
Sunday, December, 6, 1914.---The sun again and then a long string of callers. No rest for the wicked and Jordan a hard road to travel. Mrs. Butcher came reporting that the English prisoners were to be sent off to Germany. Then poor old Jeffes with his daughter-in-law, Félix Jeffes' wife, a beautiful Belgian girl, who sobbed as she talked to me. Good God, I could wash my hands in women's tears, as I seem to have done for years. There is nothing I can do for these poor creatures, much as I do long to help them.
Went for a walk out to the Cinquantenaire, and in the afternoon over to Bernard's to take tea with the English nurses, a pleasant half hour there, and then back to the Legation, and Bell arrived with a long tale of the disorganization in Heineman's office. In November we imported over £304,000 worth of food, and there has already been arranged for £1,273,298 worth, all shipped to me, a pretty big business this, and I responsible. He talked to me for an hour; he wishes to be placed in supreme control and have Heineman ousted. It is evident that Heineman has much influence with the Germans: how I am to reconcile these jealousies, and have the work go on I do not know.
After dinner another Englishwoman whose husband is to be sent to Germany. Utterly worn out tonight. Heineman and Kaufmann and Villalobar are to be here at ten o'clock in the morning to discuss the revictualing.
I have a way of keeping little Bulle(26) with us---put him to work on revictualing. Must speak to Bell, who knows no languages, and Bulle knows four.
December 7, 1914.---At ten o'clock Bell arrived, Heineman and Kaufmann and Villalobar, then Francqui and Janssen, and for an hour we discussed revictualing. It transpires that no such despatch was sent by Lucey as Bell claimed, he having evidently been misinformed. So it was all arranged satisfactorily. We are to write a letter to the German authorities and have additional reassurances. I talked with Heineman about making a new organization with the distribution, having it as an annex for the Legation, for I had worried so much about this subject in the night that I could not sleep; and he promised to do so. And then I talked to Bell and tried to have them work in harmony.
At eleven o'clock the three men of the Rockefeller Foundation, Rose, Bicknell, and James came in, and questioned and cross-questioned me for an hour till I was quite worn out.
At noon the English nurses came to take lunch. De Leval has secured passports for them to leave tomorrow. Miss Manners a charming girl. I was just starting to pay a call with Villalobar and Van Vollenhoven on General von Bissing, the new Governor,(27) when Lemonnier arrived, but this time he came not as a herald of bad news, but merely to express his thanks to me on behalf of the city for what is being done. I am proud indeed of the noble work of my countrymen.
At half past three I drove to the rue de la Loi and there we went up the grand staircase and were received by von der Lancken, the three of us, all that is left of our little diplomatic corps. General von Bissing, a man of seventy years, I should say, old and thin, with his hair brushed back from his forehead and growing down below his lips, and bristling up fiercely by his ears. He had on a rather shabby uniform, and a blue star hanging out from somewhere, and a cross of iron, of course. He spoke German, which von der Lancken translated into French. He shook hands with me first and thanked me for what I had done on behalf of German interests, and spoke of American consuls in Germany, with whom he had recently had relations. He spoke in turn to each of us, expressing his regret to Villalobar for the incident that had occurred at Namur the other day when Villalobar was insulted by a Kommandantur. He seemed to seek something special to say to each of us. The call was brief and formal, and we drove back in the black afternoon and lowering clouds and winds. Hard, narrow, unsympathetic man, a true soldier.
At six o'clock Heineman, Hulse, and Bell arrived, and as carefully as I could I explained to them my desire to have the details of the distribution of the revictualing, now grown suddenly to such large proportions, organized according to business principles and set forth so simply and clearly that any one could see at a glance what was being done, just how much food had arrived and what was being done with it. I explained to them the necessity of the fullest ventilation, so that there could be no possibility of any abuses or derelictions in any quarter. I explained it very carefully and tried to spare the feelings of Heineman as much as possible, and the balky Bell sat by with a rather dour expression, he preferring, I think, a much more direct and brutal statement, and perhaps the entire elimination of Heineman from the scheme. Hulse... sat by nodding acquiescence to all that the keen little Jew with the sparkling ratlike eyes said.
December 8, 1914.---This afternoon Dorsch came, and I went with him for a long walk out Tervueren way to Woluwe .. . . At Woluwe in the twilight a German automobile hailed us: I went to the kerb and there in the back seats was a bearded officer, rather fine-looking with a great shaggy fur coat, and on his left a brutal-faced young Prussian, his cheeks scarred from duelling. They saluted stiffly. The fur-coated officer had a map and asked me, speaking very good French, where Woluwe was, Woluwe-St.-Pierre. I told him, "You are at Woluwe-St.-Pierre now," and after calling a Belgian to give him a little more definite information as to his route he drove away, never turning his face to look at me or to thank me---the true Prussian manner.
Back to the Legation and had a long talk with Gibson trying to devise some scheme to organize the work of revictualing. Gibson will undertake it in the morning, first with Heineman whose feelings we should like to spare, but it must be put on an unquestioned foundation and be done right. I wish I were rid of the dreadful responsibility. Of course I can end it at once but then the poor Belgians would starve and that must not be.
Bell in again about six, staying till dinner-time and again his views of Heineman, growing now into a positive hatred, an exceedingly difficult situation developing. Bell is dreadful: talks all the time, and his sentences never have verbs, no end, no aim, no result; ... and yet Hoover sent him here to take charge. I think he is an ignorant man, and a poseur.
What a life for a peaceful man to have to lead!
December 10, 1914.---Bell in again early this morning with his jaw still set. At eleven o'clock he brought half a dozen young Rhodes scholars at Oxford who have come to help in the work of revictualing; clean-cut young chaps whom one could admire, very serious and very interested and anxious to serve in the work. I talked to them a long time, impressing upon them the importance of their mission, the necessity of being serious, and of comporting themselves with dignity and tact.
Then Fletcher was in, but I could not see him because Nell and I had to go to Madame Poullet's to luncheon. She occupies the Carton de Wiart residence. Madame Carton de Wiart was there for luncheon as well as Monseigneur de Becker from Louvain. In addition to these, Monsieur Poullet's aged mother, and a long entourage of sisters, old maids for the most part. The luncheon was to be simple and informal, but it proved to be like all simple Brussels luncheons, a dozen heavy courses with fine wine of Burgundy. After luncheon we were shown into a beautiful picture gallery and admired the paintings there, many fine ones.
Back to the Legation not to escape again until Joseph announced dinner. Heineman here for two hours and a half while I discussed the whole situation with him. He was rather fine about it all. Said he would do anything I asked him to do, and holds himself absolutely at my disposal. I was greatly reassured and felt that it would be unjust to displace him, since it really was he who first thought out this scheme of revictualing, and he is entitled to a great deal of the credit---which evidently he does not propose to lose---but never mind, a good man in many ways. Surely he should not be ousted by Bell.
Hoover appeared at ten o'clock and I spent more than two hours with this splendid type of American. He told me all of the difficulties he had had in London, among others a most interesting interview with Asquith, under the influence of the military party now in supreme control there of course. They had taken the view that the revictualing in Belgium was an unneutral act, that it was indirectly an aid to the Germans. Kitchener had made the cynical and brutal statement that if the Belgians were to be let to starve it would then require more German troops to subdue the revolutions that would break out as a result of hunger... and thereby so much weaken the German forces. With this startling news Hoover had gone to see several members of the Cabinet, Lloyd George and others. Before he went he wrote a long letter to Will Irwin in New York setting forth the entire situation and concluding with the words:
Hold this until I send a cablegram releasing it, then blow the gaff, and let the work of revictualing go up in a loud report that shall resound over the world to England's detriment.
He talked to Asquith a long time. He told him that England wished America's sympathy and had it, but he said:
"You have America's sympathy only because America feels pity for the suffering Belgians."
Then he showed him the letter he had written to Irwin and said:
"I will send a telegram at once, and tomorrow morning the last vestige of pity for England in America will disappear. Do you want me to do it?"
Asquith said he was not used to being talked to in that way, but finally he said:
"You told me you were no diplomat, but I think you are an excellent one, only your methods are not diplomatic."
As a result Hoover got what he wanted, but is still required to pay a heavy insurance on the ships. We discussed the organization here in Belgium for a long time. I asked him first of all to send me a certified accountant who would examine the work and make weekly reports on the transactions of the two offices, that of the Comité National and that of the rue de Naples. He said:
"Will Francqui stand for that?"
I said "Of course," whereupon he was relieved.
He had thought of the same thing but had feared that Francqui would think it a reflection.
We then thought of some kind of manager who could take charge of the details: the question is where to find him.(28)
At half past eleven Villalobar came in a towering rage and for more than half an hour sat here beating my table and talking to me in a manner I would support from no one in circumstances other than this. But I knew that. if I did not bear with him the poor Belgians might starve as a result. And so I swallowed it all. He had had another letter from Heineman and was angry about the letter-heads. His name was not in the right place, the Commission for Relief was taking too much upon itself:
"I am the one who started all this," he cried. What a scene this mad, touchy Spaniard made. A great troublemaker over trifles. He demanded a meeting with Hoover, Francqui, and Lambert which I appointed for tomorrow.
Thus I was not out of my room all the morning and thus it goes on for days, I, who used to play my eight to sixteen holes of golf every day, and I feel horribly nervous and worn down by all this entirely unnecessary annoyance, all these clashings and petty spirits, all these human stupidities.
I got out for a short time in the afternoon and then late in the afternoon sent for Francqui and Lambert to prepare them for the interview with Villalobar. Francqui, that admirable man, saw the point at once: "He has Heineman on the brain, as the Brussels people say."
December 24, 1914.---A year ago today I was coming back from Cleveland, home from father's death-bed. This Christmas Eve is the strangest Christmas Eve of the saddest Christmas in many ways I have ever known. And as another expression of the German influence there is an enormous Christmas tree in the Parc Royal tonight illuminated with electric lights, placed there by the soldiers, who are having a fête. There are also little Christmas trees in all the windows of the Ministry. Hoover says they should sling bayonets on them.
Renner from Liége told me the other day that he had to procure 700 Christmas trees for his soldiers. Poor brutal dears. Subject for gargantuan laughter. All this murder, and now the celebration of the Child that was born in a manger to bring peace to the world. Most of the high officials have gone home to Germany for their fête. They are having celebrations for the soldiers everywhere tonight, and at the King's palace at Laeken a great dinner for the officers. I was thinking today of another German Christmas celebration made by Hessians more than a century ago, a celebration of which Washington took advantage, and I have wondered.
Lemonnier in this morning to tell me of his troubles and he has many. The question is now being broached of the release of Max. I explained to him that Max is better off where he is, that the moment he came back his popularity would begin to fade, that as long as he stayed in his prison in Germany, provided he had physical comforts, he could be a hero and a martyr without responsibility, and see his fame grow. Lemonnier, poor man, who is doing the work for which he will never have any reward or any credit, saw the point. Max cannot come back, except he come as burgomaster, and the Germans will not permit him to return in that capacity. They say that he is ill but---who knows? Some one has the story that he asked to be allowed to go to church, thinking in that way he could take the air and get out of doors. This permission was accorded, and he found that the church was next door to his prison. And thus this free-thinker missed his walk and had to sit in church for two hours. Well, it may have been some change ....
The Germans have forbidden the sale of the little buttons of the pictures of the King and Queen on the streets...
This afternoon I took a little walk with de Leval, the first time I had been out today. We went down the Montagne de la Cour and there we stayed looking out over the lower city, its spires beautiful in the soft rosy mellow glow of the setting sun. The spire of the Hôtel de Ville, floating over in the mist like a bit of old lace, was beautiful as ever, and yet over the city there brooded a sadness. Ah me, what a Christmas Eve!
Then back to the Legation, and Villalobar and Hoover and Lambert and Francqui. Villalobar, who had toned down, made his complaint to Hoover, who dealt with him with firmness and very beautiful diplomacy, and finally we changed the letter-head to meet his idea. When we had agreed, Francqui leaped up, crying "V'la, v'la, v'la, v'la," and bending his stout frame over the table, wrote it down to Villalobar's satisfaction. And then when all was done, Hoover told Villalobar that Spain had given nothing and hence was not entitled to any representation---and I feared we were in for another row. But Villalobar was dignified and silent. What great labors for great men in such times!
Mr. and Mrs. Hoover, Frederick Palmer, Rose, James and Bicknell dine with us tonight.
December 25, 1914.---Christmas Day. A busy day, and after all a happy one, so far as one may be happy in such times, for from everywhere came pouring in such beautiful expressions of good will and gratitude. I was quite overwhelmed by the flowers and notes and little remembrances, quite enough to touch one's heart to the bottom. Last evening, Christmas Eve, there came a beautiful centrepiece in lace with our initials and the coat-of-arms of the United States and of Brabant, sent anonymously by "A grateful Belgian workingwoman." I fancy the letter was not written by a workingwoman, but the work was done by one, done expressly, as was the letter ....
We have no idea from whom it came, possibly some lady connected with the lace-making which the Queen patronizes, for there was a large wax seal on the envelope.
We had a pleasant time at our Christmas Eve dinner. Hoover and his wife and the three Rockefeller men and Frederick Palmer here, all very gay and all neutral, in the sense that Mr. Dooley was neutral, and Palmer saying he would be back the first of May with Sir John.(29) At the close of the evening Rose took me into the little salon with many expressions of appreciation and kindness, saying that the Rockefeller Foundation was prepared to aid the revictualing to the full extent of its resources, that they had been everywhere in Belgium, had seen everything, had taken no man's word for anything, had been in the homes of the poorest, and he spoke with tears in his eyes of their sufferings, their patience, their forbearance and charity. Not a whimper anywhere, no unkindness. I was moved and surprised. He seemed to think that the revictualing was assured until the 1st of September. The Rockefeller fellows left at seven o'clock this morning.
This morning I went for a little walk in the Boulevard with de Leval, stinging cold and sharp, and then at one o'clock, after Nell had gone to the Victoria Institute to see the preparations for the Christmas dinner there, we went to the Vicomte de Beughem for luncheon, and an excellent luncheon it proved to be.
December 26, 1914.---Clear and cold, with a brilliant sun most of the day.
All morning with Hoover, who is rapidly arranging the revictualing. He has a man coming from America, Connett,(30) who will take charge. I admire this man Hoover, who has a genius for organization and for getting things done, and beneath all, with his great intelligence, he has a wonderful human heart.
Villalobar in as usual. He seems, from gossip picked up at the Lambert's, very much ashamed of himself for his foolishness of the last few days.
Then for a little drive and then a walk in the early darkness in these dear old streets that I love more and more, old and mysterious, with the lamps hanging from the walls over the sidewalks, and in one's ears the sound of French and now and then of Flemish.
Some say the Kaiser is again in Belgium. It is said also that there is heavy fighting, that Christmas Eve at ten o'clock the Germans were interrupted in their fêtes and the soldiers were sent to the front. I do not know whether it is true or not.
December 30, 1914.---This morning I had a long talk with von der Lancken, who has just come back from Berlin; an interesting talk it proved to be. He told me that von Bissing wished to reiterate his assurances that no food would be requisitioned and that he invited me to establish over the whole business any sort of control I desired. I might go everywhere and do anything I saw fit to assure myself that all engagements were being carried out, and in addition to this he assured me that there would be no more requisitions, not even of beasts, this last a remarkable concession. I was pleased indeed at this news, and then von der Lancken offered to have it put down in writing, but I told him to assure the Governor-General, with expressions of my appreciation, that his word sufficed for me, and that I did not care to establish any control, for I knew he would carry out all his engagements. This pleased von der Lancken and he said he would inform the Governor-General. Then we talked about the Jeffes case. Von der Lancken thinks he may arrange to exchange for Jeffes and let him stay here. If the English will give two Germans, they will let Jeffes go free.
Colonel Listoe,(31) Consul at Rotterdam, a grey Dane with wax moustaches and goatee, wearing the coat of a colonel in the national guard, broad soft slouch hat, and so forth. He was very cautious in expression, and preëminently neutral; indeed uttered a classic of neutrality. I was sitting there in my room by the fire talking with him when he said: "If this war ends as some hope it will, the other side will have to pay a large indemnity."
... Then Hoover came with Captain Lucey, a fine upstanding bald-faced Irishman. Hoover was in great distress. He had arranged all with Heineman to the last detail. Heineman had conceded every point, and had even asked Lucey to take charge, and Hoover felt, as he said, that this was the greatest psychological battle he had ever fought and won. But at the end of this Lucey had refused and he was at his wit's end and left Lucey for me to manage. I have never found any task easier. I discovered that I knew all of the oil men in America that Lucey knew, Sam Jones and Percy Jones and John Good and a host of others, and we talked about them and we talked about Ireland and we talked about everything---except revictualing. And then after an hour Hoover came back and asked me what progress I was making, I said: "Why, Lucey is a great friend of mine, and he is going to stay and help me out."
And Lucey said he would.
January 1, 1915.---New Year's Day!
Today all Brussels seems to unite spontaneously in thanking us for what has been done. From early morning a constant stream of men, women and children poured into the Legation leaving their cards or signing their names in the book which Lambert, without my knowledge, had provided for that purpose. It rested on the table in the corridor with Vincent standing guard, and all day long the people crowded to sign. Cards, letters and flowers came pouring in---1,749 cards to be exact, for de Leval counted them; how many signed the book I do not know; they are still signing in it tonight. Lambert sent a beautiful large basket of flowers, the acting-burgomaster sent one too, and Jacquemain and many others, so that the house was like a bower. I was touched beyond expression.
Then in the afternoon the reception. All the Americans in town came, many English and many Belgians besides, with, of course, Villalobar, all the secretaries of Legations, and the other ministers in town leaving cards. Among the callers was the Mexican Minister to Berlin, one of Madero's appointees.
In the midst of the reception Gustave brought the card of a German officer who was with his wife downstairs. I wondered if it were possible that they came to call at such a time! Of course, it would be so eminently German to do that! But I came downstairs and there was a pale little officer in full uniform, sword, helmet---Rippenhausen by name, in diplomacy somehow---and an American wife. He came to tell me that his wife wished to help to reestablish the lace in Belgium; that she would open a shop or depôt, buy the lace from the Belgians and send it to America. He had seen von Bissing and wanted me to have the tariff taken off the lace! I got rid of them.
January 7, 1915.---The papers from home contain references to Roosevelt's cheap politics trying to curry favor with the Catholics on the one hand by criticizing the Administration, policy doubtless to redress the balance for what he did to the Pope years ago, and then clamoring for war. Roosevelt is an incorrigible and inveterate romanticist. He has worn many uniforms, carried many swords, and ridden about on horses, no doubt pretending at the time, or playing like a child, that he was at the head of a vast army, continually dramatizing himself, imagining himself to be like the heroes in the boys' story-books. As a matter of fact, he does not know what war is, for the little affair with Spain in which he served was a mere skirmish. And that is the trouble with most people, they do not know what war is; they imagine it can be carried on in some clean pretty fashion, as it is carried on in books and pictures. They cannot realize the horrors, the degradations, the unspeakable and ferocious cruelty of it all.
I was thinking this morning. People speak of the atrocities, of outraged women, slaughtered children, peasants stood up against walls to be shot, ruined villages, and all the horrible and revolting details, all the mad destruction. Bad as all this is, it is not the worst by any means. That lies much deeper, it goes to the very core of the human heart; death in itself is soon accomplished. But it is not what the soldiers do to the dead; it is not the murders that count so much, it is what they do to the living that is so bad. It is the violation of all personal right, the contempt of all personal dignity, the multitude of humiliations that are inflicted, that go deepest. To see this people here, for instance, humiliated, trodden upon, every right wrested from them, is to realize what war is. It all comes from a false sense of value. Officers trot about with crosses and the dirty white ribbons that adorn them, dirty brutal soldiers in ill-fitting uniforms, ugly boots, and heavy guns on their backs swarm everywhere. It is no longer the voice of reason that speaks, it is the coarse, harsh voices of those officers. Then, those guns! Yesterday in the Place Royale a company of soldiers was marching by and two officers came along. "Attention," said the subaltern who was with them, and then they made their ridiculous goosestep. This is their idea of rendering honor, saluting with the foot. It is considered graceful---and pretty. To any one with the least sense of humor it is the most awkward gaucherie, the most ridiculous tomfoolery in the world. Somehow, I do not know exactly how, the very air is poisoned with militarism, one has a constant sense of personal discomfort, one is everywhere ill at ease, one cannot voice one's own thoughts. There is a menace everywhere, and in this poisoned atmosphere one suffocates. Oh! for a breath of free air again!
The Comte Felix Goblet d'Alviella was in to see me to try to stop requisitioning at a village near Wavre. I thought the requisitions were stopped; at least that was the promise, but one never can tell. Soldiers who talk most of honor have it least.
Today there is a placard advertising the opening of a German school. I suppose that if that language does not soon pour from the throats of the population, bayonets will be rammed down them; that is militarism's idea. There is another placard that orders all subjects, both sexes, of belligerent countries to report to the École Militaire in person, this to establish a control. The Belgians are excepted because there are too many of them, I suppose; there would not be books enough.
Gibson says the Kaiser has given God the prefix of von!
January 8, 1915.---If it keeps on the phrase "German faith" will supersede the old phrase "Punic faith."
The other day on his return from Berlin, von der Lancken told me with many flourishes that the Governor-General was willing to give all sorts of reassurances and so on, and that he had ordered that no further requisitions be made whatever in Belgium; was willing to put this in writing, sign it, seal it, swear to it or do anything else I suggested. I bowed and told him that the word of honor of a gentleman would suffice. Now today I have a letter from the. Comité National de Secours et d'Alimentation giving explicit instances of requisitions in the communes of Sedelchem, Lopen Sipseele, Varssenaere, Moerbeke, Saint-Andre-Lez-Bruges, Assebrouck...
It makes one furious and it makes one sick. The fact is that one cannot believe a word they say. There is a certain naïveté in their cunning; they are like peasants or like some of our Indians. Indeed there are many analogies between them and the Sioux. They are fierce, warlike, brutal, savage and very treacherous. How one is to deal with them, how one is to deal with this present situation, I don't know. We have all the assurances in the world, but they are seemingly valueless and the requisitions go on. Of course I know very well that the Germans are chuckling in their sleeves and think us Americans a precious lot of soft fools for sending over the food to this poor people!
Sunday, January 10, 1915.---Today, at noon, I witnessed a beautiful and touching sight. We had been driving in the Bois, came back to the Place Royale a little after noon, went to St-Jacques sur Caudenberg. The church was crowded, even the portico filled with a great mass of men, women and children, standing there, leaning forward, straining their ears as if to catch some significant sound. We stood there in the cold, shivering-and the beggars coming up and down the Place Royale and the irritating sound made by some one as with a shovel scraping pebbles in the Place Royale; and far over the heads of the worshippers I could see the priest at the altar, could see him elevating the host and hear the sound of the sacred bell; but this is not why the people were there; for still they leant forward. Presently the mass was over and the great organ of the church rolled out its deep tones, and all those faces lightened. The first tune it played I did not know but I heard a voice behind me say, "L'Avenir"; but presently the organ rolled very softly into the strains of the "Brabançonne" and an expression of delight came over all those faces as they listened. The organ played it once very softly, played it again in loud and triumphant tones and then the crowd turned and went away, comforted, satisfied. It was to me immensely impressive. I was told that the first tune that they played, "Vers l'Avenir," is another patriotic song of the country, not so well known and not so pretty as the "Brabançonne."
The pastoral of the Cardinal was read again this morning in the churches and the Cardinal is now the hero of Belgium. Of course the letter was planned for its political effect. It had been whispered about that the Catholics were not doing their part, and this call of the old Cardinal, this invitation even to martyrdom, was the answer to that. It is a fine document, very striking and very brave. The old man evidently expected to be arrested; indeed officers went to see him, told him to report to the Kommandantur.
"But I am too busy today."
"But tomorrow I shall still be busy, I regret to say." So this prince of the Church would not go to the Germans. Finally they had to back down or take him by force or arrest him.
Von der Lancken says that the military men were for arresting him at once, as of course would be expected of these ignorant brutes who know no law but fear and force. But von der Lancken was too clever; the Nuncio assisted, Villalobar likewise, and nothing was done.
January 11, 1915.---Dr. Hedger and Miss Hall in for an hour talking about the letters and so forth. Then Ernest Poole and John Reed. They are here as correspondents, properly attired in khaki, puttees and so on, traveling about with a German officer. They did not like the surveillance very well. Ernest Poole much impressed by the German organization, as your genuine, scientific Socialist would be; for to them organization is an end in itself. John Reed a conceited romanticist. Neither one with much conception of what is going on in the world. They were anxious to see some of the Socialists here. I could not help them, because most of the leading Socialists have gone away to England.
After luncheon Captain Lucey and Hulse in for a long conference. For hours we discussed revictualing. The captain is doing wonders, but has his troubles. Heineman and Hulse also do not lend him all the help they might, perhaps. The captain wishes to establish a control over the distribution and over the pastrymakers here at Brussels and the bakers. I told him to adopt any measures he might see fit to devise and I would approve them. This is a strong forceful man, and his organization in this work is admirable. Then Reed and Poole back again, so that I never got out all day except to walk around the block. Very tired and nervous, like those old Mondays in the Mayor's office at home.
The proprietress of the "Green Dog," a little restaurant out avenue Tervueren that we used to pass on the way to the golf links and the villa, is in trouble. Some German officers dining there the other night. In payment they gave a five-mark piece. "That is the effigy of our Emperor himself," said one of the officers.
"Well, emperor or no emperor," she replied, "it is worth six and a half francs, and that's all."
January 20, 1915.---This morning Lucey called to introduce Connett, who is to take Lucey's place in the revictualing. Connett, a big, strong, heavy-moustached man who made a favorable impression on me, although I do not think he has Lucey's force, but then few men have that.
Went out at noon for a walk down town and this afternoon for another at Ixelles and the statue of Thyl Ulenspiegel which never loses its charm for me.
A pouch in this afternoon with a lot of mail and glad to have it.
I had a visit this afternoon from a handsome young German officer, a baron who was here early in the autumn. He has been stationed since at Ostend and wanted me to send a letter in my pouch for him to the daughter of a former Secretary of the Navy, Meyer, in America. Despite my promise to carry no private mail, when a handsome young chap asks one to send a letter to his girl it is more than I, at least, can refuse to do and so I accepted. The young baron said that all is going on well at Ostend, plenty to eat, and so forth, a total contradiction of the tale we had the other day of the poor old ragabones of horses which were being eaten there. He said that the bombardment was continuous, that the British ships in the Channel have annihilated Nieuport and West. end and done vast damage to Ostend. He said he was sick of the war, that the constant cannonading was terrible for the nerves.
Heineman complained to Bissing the other night about the disregard that is shown to all of our passes. Bissing pooh-poohed the idea, said it could not be possible, said they must be respected and were. "Very well," said Heineman, "I am going to Bergen-op-Zoom tomorrow, have one of your men come with me."
And so the learned Dr. Poigntner was detailed to go with Heineman in civilian clothes. They were furnished with the latest thing in passports and up on the frontier were promptly halted by soldiers who made them descend from the car, searched the car, and when the learned doctor protested the officer told him: "Shut your mouth!"
Then the doctor protested more strongly, told him who he was, and so forth, and the officer fell upon him and hit him in the face with his fist. Then the learned doctor was arrested, and trying to explain at the Kommandantur, was told to get out! Then was sent into Antwerp, where there were more insults, and finally back to Brussels. And now the authorities here are furious and threaten all kinds of court martials for these officers. But I do not think anything will be done. The German military have no respect for civil authority and pay no attention to it. Why should they? Is not the end and aim and purpose of militarism to embrute men?
I went at three o'clock to see von der Lancken about the seizure of hides belonging to Americans at Antwerp, but he had gone and I shall have to see him again. I talked to a young clerk, Dr. Lorenz, there at the desk.
He proved to be a young philosopher from the university at Leipzig. One finds professors, philosophers and learned doctors in all subordinate positions; German culture now guarding oil tanks, railway stations and as a special mark of distinction, copying out official documents. I asked the young chap how he liked the war and he raised to me a sad pathetic face and said that he detested it, that he would like a little quiet house with his books about him where he could study. I felt sorry for the poor fellow.