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Title: My Three Years in a German Prison
Author: Beland, Henri Severin
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            MY THREE YEARS
                                _In a_
                             GERMAN PRISON

                     HON. HENRI BELAND, M.D., M.P.

            Illustrated with photographs specially secured
                        in Belgium and Germany

                            WILLIAM BRIGGS

                              PRINTED IN
                     THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

                           TO MY OLD MOTHER


  CHAPTER                                                PAGE

       I IT IS WAR                                          1


     III “THANK YOU”                                       13

      IV DOING HOSPITAL WORK                               14

       V THE CAPTURE OF ANTWERP                            25

      VI THE EXODUS                                        33

     VII A DAY OF ANGUISH                                  39

    VIII THE GERMANS ARE HERE                              46

      IX A GERMAN HOST                                     53

       X THE WORD OF A GERMAN                              59

      XI BRITISH CITIZENS                                  64

     XII MATTERS BECOME COMPLICATED                        69

    XIII A DESOLATE MAJOR                                  77

     XIV IN GERMANY                                        87

      XV THE STADTVOGTEI                                   91

     XVI LIFE IN PRISON                                    98

    XVII MEALS À LA CARTE                                 105

   XVIII ACTING JAIL PHYSICIAN                            116

     XIX INTERESTING PRISONERS                            127

      XX MACLINKS AND KIRKPATRICK                         137

     XXI A SWISS AND A BELGIAN                            144

    XXII SENSATIONAL ESCAPES                              160

   XXIII HOPE DEFERRED                                    170

    XXIV A COLLOQUY                                       176

     XXV INCIDENTS AND OBSERVATIONS                       185

    XXVI TALK OF EXCHANGE                                 195

   XXVII TOWARDS LIBERTY                                  203

  XXVIII SOME RECOLLECTIONS                               213

    XXIX OTHER REMINISCENCES                              224


    XXXI IN HOLLAND AND IN ENGLAND                        252




  The Author                       _Frontispiece_

  The Digue at Middelkerke                     12

  Madame Beland at Starrenhof                  38

  Feeding Poor Boys at Capellen                56

  Group of German Officers                     68

  A Sample of German Perfidy (letter)          80

  Dr. Beland and Fellow-prisoners             144

  Ludendorf and Von Buelow                    256




It was the 26th of July, 1914. My wife and I were walking leisurely
in the park of a village in the Pyrenees, the sun shedding its warm,
quickening rays in the Valley of the Gave when, suddenly, a newsboy
approached us carrying under his arms a bundle of newspapers, and
crying at the top of his voice, “War! War! It is War!”

I stopped him, asking at the same time, “What war?”

“Why, the war between Austria and Serbia. The paper will give you all
the details,” he answered.

As a matter of fact, the paper he was selling, “La Liberte du
Sud-Ouest,” contained the text of the now and forever famous ultimatum
of Austria-Hungary to the little Balkan power.

The following day, at each important railway station we passed through
on our way from Bordeaux to Paris, fresh editions of the French
newspapers were brought to us, each containing strong, passionate
comments on the diplomatic document which threatened the peace of

In the compartment of the train where we sat the conversation was
animated. That Austria was at her perfidious tricks again was the
consensus of opinion generally, although the best informed ones
realized that it was ambitious and treacherous Germany which inspired

We stayed a few days in Paris on our way to Antwerp. Our impression
of the French capital was that, even in that diplomatic torment, the
city maintained a remarkable calmness. Of course, the sole topic of
discussion in the cafés, on the boulevards, in the busses and the
trams was the war, but there appeared to be a complete absence of that
agitation which one who has visited Paris in normal times is well aware

I wished to send a telegram to Belgium, but was told that all lines had
been taken over by the military authorities and that my message would
probably be delayed a full day or more.

On the day of my leaving Paris for Antwerp I paid a visit to the
Honorable Mr. Roy, Canadian High Commissioner, and asked him what he
thought of the diplomatic situation. The eminent representative of
Canada expressed grave anxiety, and said he feared a declaration of war
between Germany and France was imminent.

At noon the same day my wife and I started for Antwerp on the
Paris-Amsterdam fast express, passing through the territory of France
and Belgium which within two months was to be the scene of horrors of
war that have appalled the whole world. Far were we then from thinking
that those cities–actual beehives of industry–and those fine farm
lands, bearing fast-ripening crops and inviting the harvester’s scythe,
would be within a few weeks devastated, pillaged, plundered and burned.

The agitation was great in Antwerp; the city yeomanry had been called
to arms, and on this same evening, July 30, rumors were already in
circulation that Germany had sinister intentions and that she was
actually preparing to violate Belgium’s neutrality.

The mere mention of such an act, which meant trampling upon all
international laws, stirred the Belgian people to a high pitch of
indignation. The same evening we arrived at the village of Capellen,
situated six miles north of Antwerp, on the Antwerp-Rotterdam highway.

On the following day, Saturday, August 1, we started for Brussels, en
route to Ostend, and thence to Middelkerke, a charming seaside resort,
where we were to spend the rest of the summer season. Middelkerke is
situated half way between Ostend and Nieuport, recently evacuated by
the Germans, and which has been the division line between the German
and the Belgian armies for four years.

An incident of which I have a personal knowledge shows that Germany
intended to violate Belgium’s neutrality from the outset of the
imbroglio between Austria and Serbia. We were about to leave Brussels
for Ostend and had already boarded the train when a well-known citizen
of Ghent and his wife entered the already crowded compartment where we
sat. They apologized for their intrusion, but in such pressing times
one had to travel as best one could, and it was with sincerity that we
accepted the apologies of the couple for intruding in such a way in the
compartment allotted to us.

After exchanging cards, the gentleman related that the day before he
and his wife were returning in an automobile from a tour in Germany
when, near the frontier, they were stopped by German military. Their
papers were examined, but notwithstanding their credentials as Belgian
subjects, and proof that they were on their way home from a holiday
trip, their automobile was seized and they were compelled to stay the
night in a hotel. The room assigned to them was on the ground floor
where they were unable to sleep owing to the tramp, tramp, tramp of
German regiments marching to the German border. The troops were singing
“Deutschland über Alles,” and the rumble of the drums never ceased from
early evening until the following morning. This happened in a village
situated within two or three kilometers from the Belgian frontier, on
the night of July 31. Germany’s ultimatum to Belgium was not presented
until two days later.

On the journey from Brussels to Ostend, which was much delayed owing to
the throng which, moved to fear by all kinds of wild rumors, were eager
to reach home, another incident occurred:

In the section of the train where my wife and I were seated were four
other passengers in addition to the couple I have already referred to.
They were three Austrian ladies–a mother and her two daughters–and
a man–a well-known owner of racing horses from Charleroi. The three
ladies apparently belonged to the highest society. They were on their
way to Ostend where they intended taking a steamer for England, where
the mother said her son was a student.

The conversation between the sportsman and the three ladies turned
on the tenseness of the situation then existing between Austria and
Serbia. The man was very outspoken in his denunciation of Austria. The
elder lady, naturally, defended her country.

“The Serbians,” the man replied, “may not be above suspicion, but there
are other things equally suspicious, and this war which you are about
to declare on a small country may be the act of the Austrian Government
directed to extend its territory in the Balkans. It is dictated above
all by the Autocrat at Potsdam, who is holding the stakes and will
direct every move to satisfy his immoderate ambition.”

The lady, I must say, while moderate in her retorts, was nevertheless
obstinate in denying that Germany had anything to do with the Balkan
imbroglio, but the racing man was also obdurate, and with what turned
out to be extraordinary accuracy he predicted that within a few days
France, Russia and Great Britain would take up the cudgels on behalf of
Serbia and enter the fray.

The conversation was still going on when the trainman announced Ostend.



Great agitation reigned on the beach at Middelkerke on August 3, 1914.
The newspapers had just published the text of the Kaiser’s ultimatum
to the Belgian Government. The indignation was at its highest pitch.
The population could not conceive that the German Emperor, who had
been entertained in Brussels a few months previously, who had been the
guest of the King of the Belgians and the Belgian nation, could stoop
so low as to insult both King and people. From the villa where we lived
we could watch the crowds congregate on the beach. From time to time
groups would leave the main body and, forming into a procession, would
march to the front of a tavern, whose owner and keeper was a German.
On the front of this tavern were three large signs advertising the
merits of a certain brew of German beer. The crowd had to give vent
to its indignation in some way, and the German signs were a tempting
target for the irate population. It took but a minute to pull down
the lower sign. The use of a ladder was required to pull down the one
above. While this rather comical performance was going on, the surging
crowd yelled and hollered, and called upon the voluntary wreckers to
pull down the topmost sign which adorned the front of the third story.
The ladder was too short. When this was realized, a delegation was sent
to the tavern-keeper to demand that he himself go up and pull down the
obtrusive sign.

At first the man demurred, but seeing the increasing excitement he
decided to obey the summons. A few seconds afterwards his rubicund face
appeared at a window near the roof of the building and, not without
difficulty, he succeeded in pulling down the sign, while the whole
beach rang with the echoes of the crowd singing and a brass band
playing Belgium’s national anthem, “La Brabançonne.”

The following morning the proud and noble reply which the King of
Belgium made to Germany’s ultimatum was published. A herald read the
royal proclamation at all corners of the streets leading to the beach,
amid the acclamations of the younger folks. Meanwhile sinister rumors
were circulating. Some were to the effect that Vise was burning; others
that Argenteau had been destroyed; that civilians had been executed;
that devastation and terror reigned in the region situated east of the
Meuse river; that the Germans, without even waiting a reply to their
provoking summons to Belgium, had invaded Belgian territory–which fact
the reader now knows to be true–according to the statement made to me
a few days previously on that Ostend train by the couple returning to
Ghent from a trip through Germany.

I particularly recall the anguish of a brave old lady, Mrs. Anciault,
who owned and was staying at a villa at Middelkerke, but who resided
in the suburbs of Liege. She had for several days been without news of
her husband and children who had remained at home at Liege.

We then resolved to leave Middelkerke and return to Antwerp and


The cross denotes the Cogels Villa, now destroyed, where Dr. and Madame
Beland stayed]



We had left Middelkerke, “armes et bagages,” as we say in French.
When I say arms and baggage it is a mere figure of speech, as our
fowling-guns had been confiscated by the municipal authorities at
Middelkerke and had been placed in the town hall. This precaution was
taken in all communes of Belgium, to avoid untimely intervention of
armed civilians, who, prompted by justified but unlawful indignation,
might have committed acts which, under international rights, are
contrary to the laws of war. An edict calling upon all citizens to
surrender to the municipal authorities all kinds of arms in their
possession had been posted and read everywhere, and, with rare
exception, all Belgian citizens had strictly obeyed the decree. It may
not be out of place to state here that when the German authorities
subsequently claimed that the Belgian Government was an accomplice
of the civil population which, the Germans alleged, fired on German
soldiers, they were only trying–but the effort was in vain–to find an
excuse or justification for the inhuman acts they committed in Belgium.

On August 5 we left by train for Ostend on our way to Antwerp. A state
of war then actually existed between Germany and Belgium. There were
five people in the same compartment–three children, my wife and myself;
one seat remained vacant.

The train was pulling out of the station when an excited individual,
quite out of breath, rushed to our compartment, opened the door, but,
before entering, turned and said–repeating the phrase several times
in English–“Thank you,” to a person he left behind, at the same time
waving his hand in farewell.

Entering the compartment, the newcomer took the vacant seat, and as I
had heard him speaking English, I asked him, “Are you English, sir?”

“No,” he replied, “I am an American.”

“Well,” I continued in English, “if you are an American we belong to
the same continent; I am a Canadian.”

He did not appear to relish my overtures, but turned to admire the
landscape from the window.

“May I inquire where you are going?” I ventured to ask after a short
interval of silence.

“To Russia,” he answered.

“But why?” I said. “My dear man, you will never reach Russia; Germany
is at war with Belgium, and I don’t see how you can get through to

“Oh,” he said, “I shall go by way of Holland.”

His abruptness and reserve convinced me that he had no desire to
continue the conversation. I began to entertain suspicions of the
stranger, and my wife, who occupied the seat opposite to us, indicated
by a significant glance that she, too, thought there was something
extraordinary in the demeanor of our travelling companion.

The train was running at express speed and a few minutes later we
reached Bruges. On the station platform an expectant excited crowd had

The passenger I had addressed took up his suitcase and was hurriedly
leaving the train when fifty voices in the crowd cried together: “C’est
lui! C’est lui! C’est lui!” “It is he! It is he! It is he!”

On the platform the man was immediately taken in charge by four or five
gendarmes, who asked him abruptly: “Are you German?”

He made no reply, but nodded his head affirmatively.

He was surrounded by the irate crowd and several individuals attempted
to take him by force from the custody of the gendarmes, who, however,
maintained their guardianship and protected the stranger against the
threatened assault, though with great difficulty and at the risk of
their own lives.

What happened to this man, or where he was placed, I do not know. Was
he the belated traveler he pretended to be, or was he actually a spy?
I cannot say, but if he was a spy in the employ of Germany, and if he
ever goes back to his country, one story he will be able to relate will
describe the narrow escape he had at Bruges from the violence of a
crowd of Belgians whose righteous indignation had been aroused by the
insult to the nation’s honor and dignity by the great Central Empire.



It is unnecessary for me, I think, to insist here upon the patriotism
displayed by the Belgian nation. All classes of the population, rich
and poor, young and old, of all ages and of both sexes, were anxious to
help the national cause of their country, threatened by the Germanic

During the first days of August, 1914, on all sides I was asked the
question: “Mr. Beland, what do you think England will do?” And I had
from the outset a sincere conviction, which I expressed freely, that
if Germany dared to execute her threat to violate the neutrality of
Belgium Great Britain would declare war on the invader.

I recall most distinctly a demonstration which took place on the beach
at Middelkerke, on the day Germany’s ultimatum was published. In the
North Sea in the offing the people could see what, to the naked eye,
looked like a bank of clouds. Through the glasses, however, one could
plainly perceive a squadron of British warships. When the news was
announced the reassuring effect it had on the population was touching,
and when I promptly called for three cheers for the British squadron
the response was fervid and prolonged. From the moment it became known
that Great Britain had signified to Germany that she would enter the
fray to avenge the honor of Belgium and uphold the sanctity of treaties
a tremendous confidence, an atmosphere of serenity, replaced the
anxiety, depression and fear that had occupied the minds of all.

It was then that I went to Antwerp and offered my services as physician
to the Belgian Medical Army Corps. I was given a cordial welcome and I
took up my duty at St. Elizabeth Hospital, directed by Dr. Conrad, one
of the most prominent and celebrated physicians of Antwerp, indeed of

This hospital was in charge of Sisters of Charity, whose name I now
forget. Let it suffice to say that these noble women showed a devotion
beyond human praise and reward. They were indeed martyrs to their cause.

It was toward the middle of August that the first wounded began to
arrive at the hospital, coming from the centre of Belgium. All the
physicians, except myself, were army physicians and had been enlisted
at the outbreak of the hostilities.

It was on August 25, if I remember well, that the first German air raid
was made on the City of Antwerp. It is difficult to convey an idea
of the manner in which this event filled the citizens with terror.
The Zeppelins were then unknown to the ordinary population. Twelve
civilians–men, women and children–were killed by the bombs dropped by
the raiders. On the following morning there appeared in La Metropole,
an Antwerp newspaper, an article advising the burial of the victims at
a certain place in the city, and the erection of a monument bearing the
following inscription: “Assassinated by the German barbarians on the
25th of August, 1914.”

The indignation of the public was great. The presence of German
subjects in Antwerp had become impossible. Most of them, however, had
by that time left the fortified portion of the city.

Every morning I used to bring with me to the hospital a copy of the
London Times, and when we had a few moments of leisure the other
physicians would gather around to hear the translation of the principal
items of news.

Brussels was occupied by the Germans on August 18; Antwerp had now
become the centre of the Belgians’ resistance; the seat of the
Government and the general staff of the army had been transferred here.

In America one had not yet a full conception of the popularity of King
Albert and of Queen Elizabeth among their subjects. Very few sovereigns
enjoy to such a large extent the love and confidence of their people.

One day I had left the hospital and was running toward the wharves on
hearing that a detachment of German prisoners captured by the Belgians
was to pass that way. I shall never forget the spectacle offered on
that occasion by the entire population of the city crowding the main
streets and avenues to get a glimpse of these German soldiers, invaders
of the sacred soil of Belgium. And it was while wending my way through
the streets to get a nearer glimpse of the captives that more than ever
I realized how the Belgians resented the insult inflicted upon them by
the barbarian hordes. The prisoners looked tired and haggard; they were
covered with dust and mud; the sight was pitiable.

When returning to the hospital I encountered, half way down a narrow
street leading to the Cathedral, a group of small boys who were making
an ovation in honor of a young lady, neatly dressed, and accompanied by
a small boy eight or ten years of age. The boys were joined by adults,
who continued to cheer the Queen and the Prince as they passed through
the Place de Meir towards the royal palace. For it was the Queen and
her son walking unostentatiously on the street. From every door and
every window men, women and children continued cheering: “Vive la reine
Elizabeth! Vive le petit Prince!”

In the last weeks of August and during the first three weeks of
September, the Belgian troops concentrated in the fortified positions
of Antwerp, and made several demonstrations against the Germans, who
then occupied Brussels and Malines. At the hospital we were notified in
advance of these sallies by the Belgian army, so that we might prepare
ourselves to receive a fresh contingent of wounded the following day.

The wounded brought into St. Elizabeth Hospital were not, as a rule,
very seriously injured, although at times and at first sight one would
have believed them mortally injured. Happily, up to this date there
had been no artillery attack on Antwerp. It is wounds resulting from
artillery fire that are the most dangerous and the most frightful to
look upon.



It is out of question for me to try to relate in full justice the
military events which attended the attack and capture of Antwerp by the

Divers histories of the war, published in French and English since
1914, have reported the principal phases and details of the memorable
event. I will confine myself then to certain incidents which I
witnessed, and in which I participated.

Antwerp, as is well known, was reported to be impregnable. The city
itself is surrounded by walls and canals. In addition there was a first
chain of forts known as inner forts, and another chain of forts known
as outer forts.

About September 26 or 27, 1914, it became apparent in Antwerp that the
Germans were making a serious strategic demonstration against the city
on the side of Malines, situated half way between Antwerp and Brussels,
and only five or six miles distant from the outer forts of Antwerp.

The military critics have often discussed the reasons which prompted
the German high military command to undertake the conquest of the
famous fortified position. It appears that what decided the Germans,
more than anything else, to undertake the siege of Antwerp was the
necessity to offset, in the minds of the German people, the painful
impression created by the retreat of their army at the famous battle of
the Marne. The Germans, you will remember, were forced to withdraw from
both banks of the Marne between the 4th and the 12th of September, and
a few days afterwards plans were made by the enemy to attack Antwerp.

Malines and a few villages on the south-west were first occupied, after
which the attack was started against Antwerp through the outer forts on
the south and south-east of the city.

The question was asked several times why did the Germans concentrate
their first attack this way, when it would have been easier for them
to capture the city by attacking from the west, whence they might have
cut off any retreat of the Belgian army towards the North Sea. Between
Thermonde and the frontier of Holland there is only a narrow border
of territory which the Germans could have taken easily. It is still

I have been assured that the Germans, after taking possession of a
village named Hyst-Op-Den-Berg, had only to tear down the walls of a
house to find, ready for use, a concrete base for a heavy and powerful
piece of artillery.

Was this one of the numerous pre-war preparations of the Germans? No
one can tell now, but it is a fact from this point the German artillery
was able to bombard the forts of Waehlen, Wavre, Ste. Catherine and
Lierre, which were the first ones destroyed.

At that time a large number of wounded soldiers were being brought
to the hospital every day. Every time a new batch of wounded was
brought in the doctors would, after rendering first aid, gather round
in order to obtain some details of the progress of the battle. The
reports became more and more alarming. The Germans were making their
way steadily toward us. It was next reported that enemy detachments had
crossed the Nete river; that in a short while the artillery would be
able to bombard the city itself.

I remember particularly a lieutenant of artillery who was under my care
at the hospital. He described to me the scenes which took place during
the bombardment of the fort he occupied. He told me that although
accustomed to the tremendous detonation of the guns, he could not find
words to adequately express the effect of an explosion caused by the
firing of a shell from a 28-centimetre howitzer or a 42-centimetre gun.

I think it was on Saturday, October 3, that the news spread like
lightning that Mr. Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty
of Great Britain, had arrived in Antwerp. A few hours later we were
told at the hospital that the English statesman had gone back, after
assuring the Belgian authorities that help would be forthcoming
immediately. As a matter of fact, on the days immediately following,
British Jack Tars arrived in Antwerp. They crossed the city from
l’Escaut to the forts on the south-west amid the indescribable
enthusiasm of the population, and took position in the Belgian trenches.

The confidence of the people in the besieged fortress, which had
become somewhat shaken, was at once restored and rose higher than
ever. And I desire here to express my admiration for the conduct of
the British naval squadrons, which was beyond praise. Their behavior
and courage were alike unequalled, and whatever criticism may have
been advanced in the British press at that time of sending these
naval forces into Belgium, it is my sincere belief that these troops
played an exceedingly important part. While they did not prevent the
fall of Antwerp, they succeeded, at all events, in holding back the
German advance for a time, and covered the Belgian army’s retreat,
first through the city, thence to the other side of the Escaut, in the
country of Vaes, toward St. Nocalos, Ghent, and Ostend. The British
marines were the last to leave Antwerp. During the night of October 8-9
a small number of them fell as prisoners into the hands of the enemy;
others evaded the Germans by crossing into Holland; the remainder
followed in the wake of the Belgian army.

Antwerp itself was bombarded for thirty hours unceasingly. The
bombardment started in the evening of Wednesday, October 7, and
continued until the following Friday morning. During this time it was
estimated that no fewer than 25,000 shells fell into the city, shaking
it to its deepest foundations.

We remained at the hospital until the following day, Thursday. We had
removed the majority of our patients to Ostend. Only a few remained
under the care of the brave nuns. I myself was preparing to leave, when
a shell burst right in the centre of the operating room close upon
the ward where I was occupied. I was slightly wounded, and I left the
hospital a few minutes later.

This was on Thursday, October 8, and as I rode on my bicycle through
the now deserted streets I could hear above my head the whizzing of
the shells fired by the enemy in the direction of the Belgian army

The Belgian army headquarters were then at the Hotel St. Antoine, on
the Marche aux Souliers (shoe market), a small thoroughfare which leads
from Place de Meir to Place Verte. On the day following the fall of the
city, I rode back to Antwerp on my bicycle, and to my great surprise I
saw that while every vestige of buildings on the opposite side of the
street had disappeared–blown into atoms by the German shells–the Hotel
St. Antoine had not been touched. The shells had merely grazed the roof
of the building before crashing down the opposite side of the street.

The night of October 8-9 was terrible and sinister. From the roof of
the house we lived in, at Capellen, we observed the city being devoured
by the flames. From the spot where we witnessed this awful scene,
it looked as though the whole city were on fire. The oil reservoirs
were burning at the same time that other parts of the city were being
consumed by the devastating element. In the midst of this horrible
carnage, we could see the tower of the great, magnificent cathedral
pointing, like the finger of God, toward heaven. It was visible for
a minute, then invisible–swallowed up in enormous tongues of fire.
In the distance toward the south, where total darkness prevailed, we
could observe from time to time flashes of the explosions caused by the
German artillery vomiting its volleys of shells on the burning city.

It was an appalling spectacle which lasted through the night. The
formidable vibrations caused by explosions repeated on an average
of 300 per minute was an experience which is still painful for the
imagination to dwell upon. Then on the morning of Friday, October 9, a
dismal silence followed the carnage on the fortified city. Antwerp as a
Belgian fortress was no more!



What a touching spectacle–that of a whole people fleeing to another
country! This sight we witnessed in all its tragic pathos. While the
Germans approached from the east and south-east towards Antwerp, the
population of Malines and the neighboring villages, the people of the
villages situated between the outer and the inner lines of the forts,
the inhabitants of Duffel, Lierre, Contich, Viedieux and fifty other
villages had poured into Antwerp, and when it became evident, on
Tuesday and Wednesday, the city would be subjected to the bombardment
of the German artillery, all these brave people, probably 300,000 in
number–men, women, and children–who had sought refuge in Antwerp, where
they hoped they would be safe from the onslaught of the Huns, scattered
in all directions to escape the threatening fire. Some 200,000 people,
perhaps, crossed the Escaut river and fled, some in the direction of
Holland, others toward Ostend. Between 250,000 and 300,000 traversed
the highway which leads from Antwerp to Holland.

During the last days of the agony of Antwerp, I was the witness of the
constant departure of this desolate people towards Holland.

I had to journey each morning on my bicycle from Capellen to Antwerp
and return in the evening. In the morning I had to ride against the
surge of escaping refugees; in the evening I rode with the tide, as it
were. How can I describe the pathetic sights I witnessed during these
days of horror? I saw men and women–many far advanced in years; some
of them carried young children on their backs, some in their arms;
others pushed carts and wheelbarrows and small vehicles of all kinds,
which contained these people’s whole belongings, remnants of the wreck
of their homes; beds and bedding, furniture and clothing, religious
books and articles of piety. In this great moving caravan were cows
and goats, horses and sheep, and the ever-faithful dog–all being led
away by the refugees–truly a shattered cohort wending its way with
bowed heads, drawn faces, weary eyes, haggard and livid. I say it was
a terrible, heartrending sight to witness, one that I hope God will
prevent me from ever seeing again.

I shall never forget one case, more pitiful, perhaps, than all the
others. It was that of an old man who was pushing a wheelbarrow in
which sat his old wife, crippled and paralyzed. It was night, about 9
o’clock. We invited the old couple to spend the night in our home.

During the last week of Antwerp’s resistance, hundreds of refugees
would enter the enclosure of our home at Capellen and there improvise
for themselves a refuge for the night in the bushes or under the trees.
Others, the older men, the women folk and the children, were lodged
in the building. Rooms, corridors, garrets, and even the cellars were
filled to capacity.

On the following morning these poor refugees would start again on their
distressing journey towards Holland–the long, sad walk of a whole
people leaving behind them their beloved country, their souls tortured
by grief and anguish.

On Friday, the day Antwerp fell, the German troops entered the city
at about 9 o’clock in the morning, and what I relate now was conveyed
to me personally by a German officer, who took part in the attack on
Antwerp and was billeted in our house for more than three months after
the capture of the city.

When the Belgian military resistance ended–that is, during the night of
the 8th to the 9th of October–the Germans, as I have already stated,
continued to bombard the city, but in the morning at 7 o’clock the
artillery’s action ceased. Two hours later the order was given to a
regiment to pass inside the walls of the city. The Germans thought they
would have to fight foot by foot within the walls. For some reason,
the opinion prevailed that the whole Belgian army–between 90,000 and
150,000 in number–had concentrated for a last stand within the walls
of the city itself.

The Germans, who, according to the information given to me by the
officer I have mentioned, had only 55,000 men, actually feared to meet
the Belgian army in close battle. But the order was given to enter, and
regiment after regiment, with fixed bayonet, marched into the city,
alert but quietly, as though in constant dread of being surrounded.

The city was virtually empty. No civilians or military were to be
found. The German troops were ordered to halt in front of the Athenée,
and a group of officers were directed towards the Belgian army
headquarters, in order to obtain information. They were met by one lone
janitor, who heroically refused to state where the Belgian army had

The deputation of officers next crossed to the City Hall, where the
principal municipal officials awaited them. Here also information as to
the direction the Belgian army had taken was refused.

A demand was then made by the German officers for the surrender of
the city, but the municipal authorities replied: “As the city is under
the command of the military authorities, we have not the necessary
authority to surrender it.”

And that is why on the following day a German officer staying at
Capellen told us that the situation at Antwerp was rather precarious.
While the Germans occupied the ground, the city had not surrendered!

Antwerp had only fallen. The Belgian army had withdrawn towards Ostend.
It had traversed the coast road to Nieuport, where the troops took up
their position. We all know now what an important and heroic part they
played behind the locks of Nieuport. But the whole Province of Antwerp
had fallen under heel of the Hun!

[Illustration: MADAME BELAND

In the rear of Starrenhof, her residence in Capellen]



Friday, October 9, 1914, was a day of anxiety and fear for the city
of Antwerp and the villages situated inside the fortified position.
The Germans were within our midst, and from 9 o’clock in the morning
the soldiers of the Kaiser began to extend their positions around the
fortress, along the routes from the east and south-east. What was to
become of Capellen? was a question asked by all of us.

All along the paths of the park of Starrenhof (residence of Mrs.
Beland-Cogels), on the Antwerp-Holland highway in front of the Town
Hall, groups of people who were left gathered to discuss the situation.
Each asked the other: “When will the Germans reach here?” And fear was
deeply lined on all faces, for the reports had reached us from the
villages in the centre and in the east of Belgium which were far from
reassuring as to the probable conduct of the German soldiery.

Refugees from the village of Aerschot, who were lodging at the farm
of the chateau, drew a startling word picture of the tragic events
which occurred at that place. Murder and arson had held sway for
several days. In brief, the whole population of Capellen, including the
refugees, were in a state of great nervousness.

Night fell on the city and the surrounding country without the Germans
having put in an appearance. At about 9 o’clock, while our family
with their friends were talking together, a fearful explosion was
heard. What had happened? Each of us had different ideas, but the most
plausible explanation was that a Zeppelin, flying over the village, had
dropped a bomb into the yard of the chateau. Then the true explanation
burst upon us suddenly. The fort nearest to the chateau was that of
Erbrand, distant about one kilometre from us. The commanding officer of
the garrison had ordered the fort blown up previous to its evacuation.
The shock was so tremendous that an oil lamp burning in the hall where
we sat was extinguished, and several windows were shattered. The
bombardment of the city had broken electric light wires and the gas
conduits were wrecked, so that oil lamps and candles were our only
means of obtaining light.

Naturally, the explosion did not tend to soothe our nerves, and the
entire family remained together in a large hall for the rest of the
night. Beds were improvised and each of us obtained what rest was
possible in the exciting condition of the time, which was very little.

About 1 o’clock in the morning a servant girl knocked at the door
and told me that a man wished to see me. It was a Belgian, who urged
me to at once leave with the family for Holland. He informed me that
the Germans had left Antwerp a few hours previously, and were fast
approaching Capellen; that they had already reached the village of
Eccheren. They were pillaging and burning everything on the way. The
man added that he himself was on his way to Holland with his aged

“Where do you come from?” I asked him.

“From Contich,” he replied.

“Where is your mother?”

“I left her in a farmer’s house nearby,” he said. “I will go back to
get her presently and take her to safety.”

“It is well,” I told him, “and I thank you for the warning you have
given me.”

When leaving the house he urged again: “You have not a moment to lose.
The lives of your wife and children are in danger,” he persisted.

After his departure I ordered a servant to awake everybody in the
building–our immediate family and relatives from several places who had
been lodging with us since the bombardment started. We held a family
council–a real war council, if ever there was one. All were inclined to
follow the man’s advice and start off for Holland. The dear old parish
priest of Schouten, a distant relative of the family, wished us to
leave at once.

I suggested that my wife and the children should go, taking with them
all the baggage they could carry, while I would remain with Nys, an
old and faithful servant who had been with the family for over thirty
years. The old servant was quite willing to stay, but, as one might
suppose, my wife objected to this arrangement. “We shall all remain
together, or we shall all leave together,” she said.

Thereupon I proposed that we should take counsel of an old resident
of Capellen, Mr. Spaet, a man of wisdom and experience, of German
origin, but who had lived long in the country and could claim Belgian
citizenship for upwards of forty years. He had two sons in the Belgian
army. This proposal was accepted unanimously.

I accordingly left to see Mr. Spaet, wending my way through the line of
fugitives who were still crowding the highway at this early hour of the

Mr. Spaet was at home. In reply to my questions, he said he had
no advice to give me, but insofar as he himself was concerned he
intended to go back to bed as soon as I left him. I returned to the
chateau somewhat reassured, and, addressing the members of the family
and our friends, who had in the meantime made preparations to leave
for Holland, I said: “Every one goes back to bed.” I related my
conversation with Mr. Spaet, and then we all returned to bed, but, I am
sure, none of us to sleep.

Subsequently another fearful explosion shook the house. It was the
second fort–that of Capellen–which had been blown up. The large
building in which we lived shook to its foundations.

A few minutes afterwards the same servant who previously knocked at the
door of the hall came up again. She stated that our previous visitor
had returned and demanded to see me. I went to him a second time. He
repeated his monition, told me not to postpone the carrying out of his
previous advice, but to act upon it immediately.

My suspicions were aroused by his manner and persistence, so I said to
him: “What about the other residents of Capellen?”

“They have all gone,” he replied.

“And Mr. Spaet?” I asked him.

“Mr. Spaet is now in Holland with the others,” he said, without a

I knew that the man was lying, and if he was capable of lying he
would be capable of stealing. He was one of those human jackals whose
sinister plan it was to precede and follow the armies and plunder the
houses as soon as the occupants had left them. I turned to the man and
said: “Now, you, sir, take counsel of your own advice to me, and leave
at once.” He went. But what a night was that one …!

At daybreak a radiant sun gilded the autumn foliage. As I opened a
window I saw that the women and children who had sought refuge in
the park of the chateau were still sleeping. The Germans had not yet
arrived. They were not very far away, however.



On the morning of October 10, at about 9 o’clock, a messenger called
at our house and, on behalf of a group of citizens, invited me to the
City Hall. I was at a loss to know why my presence was wanted there,
and decided to go at once. The City Hall was no more than one kilometre
distant, and on my way I had to cross the unending procession of
refugees slowly wending their toilsome way in the direction of Holland.

At the City Hall, I was met by a number of representative citizens of
Capellen. They asked me to join them in receiving the German officers,
who were then due to arrive at any moment. I could realize how hatred
was accumulating in the German heart against Great Britain, for was
Britain not the prime cause of their present check–the actual obstacle
of the military promenade which the Germans had for forty years dreamed
of making from the German frontier to Paris? The initial plan of the
German high command had been frustrated, and for this disastrous
failure they would hold that the English were naturally and justly
responsible. I, therefore, suggested to my fellow-citizens that in
my quality as a British subject I was more likely to be a hindrance
than a help to them. They insisted, however–and with some plausibility
perhaps–that the German officers would not know to which nationality
I belonged, and that it was of immediate importance to make as good a
showing as possible in numbers–there were not more than five of us all
told, the others having crossed the frontier into Holland. Under the
circumstances, I accepted their proposal and agreed to stay with them
and meet the incoming Germans.

At 10 o’clock an individual burst into the room in which we were
assembled and made the simple announcement: “Gentlemen, a German
officer is here.”

Before the fall of Antwerp I had a close inspection of a number of
German prisoners of war as they marched in file and under Belgian
escort along the streets of the city, but I had never yet seen either
near, or at a distance, a real Prussian officer, and I must confess
that my curiosity was greatly aroused by the announcement of the
imminent arrival. Ere we had time to advance to meet him, there he
stood in the doorway, dressed in the uniform of a captain of German
artillery and wearing the pointed helmet. He gave us the military
salute, turned to Mr. Spaet and, speaking in German, said that in
civilian life he was a lawyer and practised his profession at Dortmund.
He looked at each and every one of us several times as though searching
our souls to discover what were our inmost feelings and sentiments. He
was manifestly surprised by the fact that Mr. Spaet, a Belgian, could
speak such perfect German, and inquired of him how he had acquired his
knowledge of his own language. Mr. Spaet replied frankly and honestly
and then asked:

“What must we do?”

“Nothing,” replied the German officer. “However, you will not have to
deal with me; I am only a scout. It is with Major X—, who will be here
shortly, that you will have to make arrangements.”

With these words he took his leave, and a few minutes afterwards an
automobile, containing the real negotiator, a Prussian major, who was
accompanied by a very elegant officer, stopped in front of the Town
Hall. This major typified the Prussian officer my imagination had
pictured. Resplendent in uniform and glittering helmet, with blonde
moustache trained a la Kaiser, he stood erect as a letter I, and stiff
as an iron rod.

At the time there was, as in preceding days, a large crowd in the
public square fronting the Town Hall. It was the direct route from
Antwerp to Holland, and there were now accumulated here refugees from
the four corners of the fortified position. Seemingly annoyed by such a
gathering, the Prussian major demanded an explanation, which Mr. Spaet
gave without hesitation.

“Whither are these people going?” he inquired.

“To Holland,” Mr. Spaet told him.


“Because they seek refuge from German fire,” answered Mr. Spaet.

“But since Antwerp has fallen, there is no further danger,” stated the
major. “Tell these people to return to their homes. They will not be

Naturally we feared many requisitions would be made upon us.

The major informed us that only horses would be taken. “We must have
horses,” he added.

But it was explained the only horses in Capellen belonged to the
farmers, and these animals were absolutely needed if the crops were to
be garnered.

“Well,” said the major finally, after further explanations, “only one
infantry company will be sent to Capellen, and you must see that the
officers are well treated. As to the soldiers, well, you may billet
them anywhere you like–in the schoolhouse, for example.”

The German officer demanded to know in what condition were the forts
around Capellen. We told him our present impression was that they
had all been destroyed by the garrisons immediately before their
evacuation. He took two of our party with him in his automobile and
made a tour of the forts of Capellen, Erbrand, and Stabrock. He brought
us back to the Town Hall and then departed. I never saw him again.

In the afternoon of Saturday, October 10, a company of infantrymen
arrived in front of the Town Hall. At the word of command, two soldiers
left the ranks and entered the building. A few minutes afterwards the
crowd witnessed the humiliating and supremely painful ceremony of the
lowering of the Belgian flag, which had flown from that flag-staff
for nearly one hundred years, and in its place was hoisted the German
standard. Capellen then was definitely subjected to enemy occupation.
As Capellen is situated at the extreme north of the fortified position
of Antwerp, consequently the German flag floated as the breeze blew
from the frontier of France to the frontier of Holland.

And mourning entered every home.



“Do please hurry, and return to the house, my dear sir and madame, for
the Germans are there.”

It was a young lady who thus addressed us on the sidewalk midway
between the church and the chateau. My wife and I were returning from
church when we were thus apprised that the Hun was more than at the
gate–that in fact he was beyond it, and actually in the house awaiting
our return. We hastened our footsteps homeward. The first thing we
observed was an automobile standing opposite the main entrance.

In the house we found ourselves in the presence of a German officer
of medium build. He bowed very low to my wife and myself, and then
explained that the automobile standing at the door in charge of three
soldiers belonged to him. He spoke the French language and demanded

Such an unexpected request was perplexing, to say the least. We could
hardly refuse it, although, candidly, we did not relish the proposition
in the least. I explained that the house was full of refugees, who were
our relatives; that they had been with us for over a week, and that
under the circumstances it would be difficult, if not quite impossible,
to find fitting accommodation for him. He insisted, however, saying
the three soldiers who accompanied him–a chauffeur, an orderly and a
valet–could sleep in the garage, and he alone would require a room in
our house. I thought that in stating my nationality he might change his
mind; so I said to him: “I am very anxious to return with my wife to
Canada, for I am a Canadian, consequently a British subject.”

“I know that,” he replied. “I know that.”

I have to confess that I was astonished to learn that he knew my
nationality. What a marvelous service of espionage these Germans had!

“Yes,” he added. “I can say definitely that you must not leave Belgium.
There is nothing to prevent you remaining here, even if you are a
British subject. I have also learned that you are a physician, and that
as such you served in hospital at Antwerp. You need have no fear, then,
in remaining here; you are protected under laws of military authority.”

I exchanged a glance with my wife and together we reached the
same conclusion. We would receive this officer in the house, find
accommodation for his servants, and, for ourselves, we would remain in
Capellen. As a matter of fact, we were very happy to be able to reach
this decision, as Capellen, at that time, had no other medical doctor.
Several of the local physicians had joined the army, and others had
gone to Holland. I might, therefore, be able to render some service
by remaining. My wife was at the head of a charity organization long
established at Capellen, and which, in consequence of the war, had
become of exceptional utility and importance. This was how we came to
remain, and the children with us.

The German officer came from Brunswick. Goering was his name. For two
years he had been attached to the German Embassy in Spain, and later
he was for eight years at the German legation in Brazil. He had, it
must be acknowledged, acquired a great deal of polish through his
international experience. He spoke English and French fairly well.
He had none of the haughtiness and self-conceited characteristics of
the ordinary Prussian officers. But he entertained no doubt about the
ultimate success of the German arms, above all at that moment when
the world-famed fortress of Antwerp had just fallen into their hands.
He professed to believe that German troops would land in England
within a few weeks, and this opinion was shared by his three military
servants. The Germans were already in Ostend, and from that place an
expeditionary force was to be directed against England. That project
was on every one’s lips.


The arrow and the cross designate Madame and Miss Beland]

This officer remained with us for about three months, leaving at the
end of December. I must acknowledge again that I never found in him the
typical Prussian officer. This is easy to conceive when one recalls
that for ten years immediately preceding he had lived in foreign
countries, and associated with diplomats and attachés of embassies and
legations of many countries. Naturally, he believed in the superiority
of the German race. He boasted of German culture. He was convinced
German industry was destined to monopolize the world’s markets. He
insisted that France was degenerate, that Britain had not, and would
never have, a powerful army, and said Dunkirk and Calais would surely
be captured within a few weeks, etc., etc., etc.

During October and November of that year it was possible, although the
frontier was guarded by German sentries, to cross into Holland on any
pretext whatsoever. One might go there to buy provisions so long as
the sentries were satisfied the party intended to return. It was only
at Christmas, 1914, that the frontier between Antwerp and Holland
was “hermetically closed”–if I may use this term. At the distance of
about one kilometre from the frontier, a post of inspection and control
was established. Here on Christmas Day the most absolute control of
passports was ordered. No one could cross unless provided with a permit
issued by the German administration in Antwerp. We were, therefore, at
that time cut off from all communication with the outside world.

Winter had come; distress was great in Belgium, and but for the
foodstuffs and clothing forwarded from the United States and Canada–but
for the charitably disposed rich families, who can tell what horrors
the population of the occupied territory would have gone through.



Towards the end of October, 1914, two or three weeks after the
evacuation of the fortress of Antwerp, His Eminence Cardinal Mercier
issued a pastoral letter to his clergy and people entreating the
Belgians who took refuge in Holland during the terrible weeks of the
bombardment of the northern region of Belgium to return to their homes.

This letter contained a special provision which is remembered to this
day. The Cardinal stated that, after a conference with the German
authorities, he was convinced the inhabitants of the Province of
Antwerp would be exempt from all annoyances and would not be molested
for any personal delinquency.

“The German authorities,” the Cardinal added, “affirm that in the
event of any offence being committed against the occupying authority
this authority will seek out the guilty party, but if the culprits be
not found, the civil population need have no fears, as they would be

This was quite clear. The episcopal document was, of course, published
in Holland and, consequently, many thousands of refugees returned to
their homes in Belgium.

About the 15th of December of the same year–that is to say, about two
months after the Cardinal’s letter appeared–two Capellen lads, 14 or 15
years of age, boarded a locomotive standing at the station, where it
had been left by the engineer and fireman while they went to dinner.
The boys amused themselves with the lever and soon had the engine
running backwards and forwards alongside the station platform. Here
they were caught by German soldiers who carried them off to Antwerp,
where they were summarily tried, and sentenced to serve three weeks in

The incident was considered closed; but not so, as we shall see. On the
following day, Major Schulze, if I am not mistaken, the commanding
officer at Capellen, requested the burgomaster to supply him with a
list of twenty-four citizens, including the parish priest, the Rev.
Father Vandenhout, and a former burgomaster, Mr. Geelhand. These
twenty-four citizens, it was ordered, would be divided into groups
of eight men each, and each group would, in turn, keep guard on the
railroad every night from 6 o’clock until 7 o’clock the following
morning, and this until further orders. This raised a hue and cry in
the village. The citizens asserted, with reason, that the boys guilty
of interfering with a locomotive had been caught; that the offence was
not serious–was, in fact, nothing at all but the pranks of two boys.
Everybody now recalled Cardinal Mercier’s letter, and the assurance
upon which it was based, as given by the German authorities, namely,
that no personal delinquency would be followed by reprisals against the
civil population. What was to be done? Counsel was taken on all sides.
The principal citizens met secretly and decided to submit the case to
the Governor of Antwerp, General Von Huene.

But it was of no avail; the twenty-four citizens whose names appeared
on the list were compelled to keep guard in front of the station during
the cold, wet nights of December and January. On Christmas eve, the
group to which the old priest, Father Vandenhout, belonged was on
guard. This priest, about 70 years of age, and seven companions paced
to and fro in front of the station, throughout a cold and stormy night.
It was not until the 15th of January that an order from Antwerp ended
this arbitrary ruling of the local military authorities.

It was at about that time that a new officer appeared at the chateau
with a request that we should receive him in the house. This man was
much less pleasant in manner than his predecessor. He had not lived in
Spain or in Brazil. He had come straight from Eastern Prussia. He was
violent and arrogant. He treated his orderly with extreme severity.
The house trembled each time he started to scold the man, and this
happened frequently enough. The officer left after a stay of three
weeks, and God knows we never regretted his departure.

Once again we were free from the Germans’ presence. True, we could hear
their heels tramping on the road outside, but under the domestic roof
the family lived quietly in peace.

One of the Capellen physicians having returned from Holland, my wife
and I decided, after consulting the children, to take steps to leave
the occupied country, with the intention of crossing later to Canada.



Early in February, 1915, my wife and I went to Antwerp, and called at
the Central Office for the issuing of safe-conducts (passports). We
submitted to the two officers in charge our request to be authorized to
leave Belgium.

“Where do you wish to go?” inquired one of the officers.

“To Holland,” I replied.

“For what purpose?”

“In order to embark for America.”

“Why go to America?”

“Because I wish to return home to Canada, where I reside.”

“Then you are British subjects?”


The officer appeared surprised. He turned to his comrade, and then
looked at us, my wife and I, from head to foot.

“You are British subjects?” he repeated.

“You are right.”

“How long have you been in Belgium?”

“I came to Belgium before your arrival–that is to say, in July,” I

“What are you doing here?” he inquired.

A colloquy between the two officers and ourselves followed for a few
minutes, during which it was easily explained that my presence in
Belgium had nothing mysterious about it, even from a German viewpoint.

Apparently convinced that he was not in the presence of a spy employed
by the British Government, the first officer confessed that he could
see no serious objection to the issue of a permit for our leaving
Belgium, but he said that insofar as British subjects were concerned
explicit instructions had been given, and he could not then give us the
passport we requested without being first authorized to do so by the
chief of the military police, Major Von Wilm. He advised us to see the
major, and we proceeded to carry out the advice. On our way to the
major’s office I remarked to my wife that it was quite possible I might
never come out of this office, once inside. We went on, however. Major
Von Wilm received us courteously, and listened attentively to our story.

He, too, was convinced, apparently, at least, that I was not a spy.
He did not anticipate any obstacle to the issuing of a passport, but
he said he would have to talk the matter over first with the governor
of the fortress. He advised us to return to Capellen and await

A few days afterwards we received a letter from the major. It read as

                                             Antwerp, Feb. 8, 1915.

    Mr. and Mrs. Beland,

    Sir and Madam:–

    Regarding our conversation of a few days ago, I have the
    honor to inform you that a safe-conduct will be granted to
    you on two conditions. The first is that Mr. Beland will
    formally undertake never to bear arms against Germany during
    the continuance of the war, and second, that all properties
    belonging to you in the occupied territory of Belgium shall be
    subjected, after your departure, to a tenfold taxation.

                                                 (Signed) Von Wilm.

It then remained for us to decide what to do. I deemed it advisable to
return to Antwerp and discuss at greater length with Major Von Wilm,
particularly the question of the tenfold taxation. After a prolonged
conversation with him, and after receiving renewed assurances that
I might remain in the occupied territory without fear of annoyance,
molestation, or imprisonment on account of my profession and medical
services I was rendering the population, we decided to remain without
further protest until the month of April. By this time the taxes would
be paid. In the meantime this high German official, who conducted
important functions in the Province of Antwerp, pledged himself to
discuss with the German financial authorities at Brussels the question
whether the onerous conditions of a tenfold taxation upon all the
properties we owned in Belgium might not be removed. The ordinary taxes
were duly paid in April, and I again visited the major at Antwerp,
urging him to enter into negotiations with the German financial
authorities on the question already alluded to.

Once more he promised to take the matter into consideration as soon
as his occupations would allow him; once more he assured me of proper
protection, and told me I might continue in perfect security. There
could be no question at all of my being interned, he said, and as to
the question of taxes, he had no doubt whatever that the matter would
be settled to my entire satisfaction.


Cross indicates Von Wilm who was instrumental in the arrest and
internment of Dr. Beland]



Military police inspection at this period became much more stringent.
If one were walking along the street, or visiting a neighbor, or making
a sick call, he was liable to be kept under the closest surveillance.
It was not an uncommon experience in the course of a walk in the garden
to suddenly perceive the ferret-like eye of an official watching you
from a cluster of foliage nearby. As a matter of fact, we felt our
every movement was spied upon. The least infraction of the regulations
imposed by the occupying authority–and God knows the number of these
regulations; they were posted everywhere–I say the least infraction was
punished by a money fine or with a jail sentence.

It was a few days after the sinking of the Lusitania. All British
hearts felt a new bitterness. At the same time a greater feeling of
arrogance was reflected from the German mind. The Boches had unbridled
their terrorism on the seas, and they now would attempt to make their
conduct more appalling in occupied territory.

All of this stimulated our desire to leave Belgium to return to Canada.

On May 15, at 8 o’clock in the morning, I was apprised by a messenger
that my presence was wanted at the Town Hall. It was not without a
feeling of some apprehension that I made my way towards that building.
In the office of the Mayor where I was introduced, I saw the Mayor and
a non-commissioned officer. The Mayor, who was one of my friends, said,
with a significant glance towards me: “This gentleman wishes to speak
to you.”

“What is the matter?” I asked.

“You must go to Antwerp,” replied the non-commissioned officer.

“Very well,” I said, “I will go immediately on my bicycle.”

“No,” said the non-commissioned officer, “you had better leave your
bicycle here at the Town Hall. I wish you to accompany me.”

A few minutes later we arrived at the station which was transformed,
like all the other stations in the occupied country, into a military
post. The non-commissioned officer directed me to a waiting room where
there were a group of several soldiers chatting and smoking.

One of these soldiers at a word of command came forward, put on his
pointed helmet, slung his rifle over his shoulder, and simply said:
“Commen sie mit.” I was right in interpreting his remark to mean “Come
with me.” For the first time in my life I had the honor (?) of parading
along the street in the company of a disciple of Bismarck!

The people of Capellen, who knew me very well by this time, hurried
to the doors to see me pass. A few minutes afterwards we arrived in
Antwerp. I was conducted to the Bourse, a large building, which had
been struck and damaged by a bomb during the air raid of August 25.

The Germans had established in the Bourse an office for the “control
of foreigners.” I did not know of this as yet, but it was not long
before I was made aware of it. I was taken into a large room on the
door of which I had noticed the name of the officer in charge. He was
Lieut. Arnins. I ask the reader to remember this name. I shall never
forget it, nor the personage himself.

In the office was a long table with a soldier at each end; an officer,
small of stature, and with a puny face, and a non-commissioned officer,
bigger in build than his companion. The officer addressed me, speaking
with undue violence: “Sir,” said he, “you would have avoided the
annoyance of being brought here, under military escort, if you had
reported yourself, as it was your duty to do.”

“I was not aware that I had to report,” I replied.

“That’s false,” asserted the officer in a voice louder than before.
“That’s false. I have had posted in all the municipalities of the
Province of Antwerp a notice enjoining the subjects of countries at war
with Germany to report themselves before a given date. You could not
ignore this.”

“Most assuredly I was not aware of it,” I said. “Will you please tell
me where, in Capellen, you had this notice posted?”

“At the Town Hall,” the officer answered.

“Well,” I continued, “I reside at about one kilometre distant from the
Town Hall, and I have no occasion to go there.”

“It is useless for you to attempt to explain,” he declared. “You have
knowingly and wilfully avoided military supervision, and take notice
that this is a very serious offence.”

“Sir,” I replied, “when you affirm that I have avoided military
supervision, you are placing yourself in contradiction with the facts.
What you say does not conform with the truth.”

The officer jumped to his feet as if moved by a spring.

“What is that you say?” he demanded.

“Simply that I never had any intention to disobey the regulations you
have posted up,” I answered calmly.

“You take it in a rather haughty manner,” he said. “Do you think we are
not aware that you are a British subject?”

“I never thought so,” I replied.

“You are a British subject, are you not–you are a British subject?”

“You are quite right–I am a British subject.”

“It is well for you that you do not deny it.”

“Reverting to the accusation you have made against me,” I said, “let me
ask you a simple question: If it is established that the chief of the
German military police here, in Antwerp, knows me personally; if he and
I have talked together at length; if he knows my nationality and under
what circumstances I am in Belgium; why I came here; what I am doing,
and what I hope to do, will you be of the opinion still that I have
infringed the regulations knowingly and wilfully in not reporting to
this office?”

The German officer was visibly abashed. He went to the telephone
and spoke with the chief of police. He became convinced that what
I had said was true, and while not so violent as hitherto, he said,
in a haughty manner: “Well, you ought to know that in the quality
of stranger you are not allowed to go around without a card of
identification. We will give you your card and you must report yourself
here every two weeks.”

The officer had to give full vent to his wrath on somebody, so, turning
to the soldier who had remained near me, he said, brutally, “Los!” (Go!)

The soldier, poor slave, turned on his heels, struck his thighs with
his hands, looked fixedly at his superior officer, and walked hurriedly
from the room.

An hour later, and feeling really not too much annoyed by my trip, I
returned to Capellen, where I was surrounded by my family and a group
of friends all anxious to know in every detail what happened to me on
my visit to Antwerp.

Apparently I was safe. With my card I might go freely among my
patients. At the end of two weeks’ time I reported myself in Antwerp,
where my passport was examined and found to be correct.

I still was allowed to breathe, with all my lungs, the air of freedom!



One can readily realize that a journey to Antwerp under the escort of a
German soldier had rather humiliated me. I wrote a letter of protest to
Major Von Wilm, relating all the incidents of the day.

A few days afterwards I received a reply from this officer, who
explained that my arrest was owing to a denunciation; that he had
supplied the German military police with all necessary information;
that everything was now properly arranged, and that I need have no
inquietude as to the future.

I succeeded in taking with me to the prison later this letter written
by Major Von Wilm, and I also was able to smuggle it out of Germany
on my release. The reader will find the letter reproduced elsewhere
in this story. It is a document which I consider of the greatest
importance. In it the chief of the German military police in Antwerp is
on record as declaring over his signature that I need not be uneasy as
to the future, as I should be allowed to enjoy immunity.

This immunity, however, was to be of short duration. On June 2, when I
believed I had been freed from all annoyance, two soldiers presented
themselves at the house and requested me to accompany them to Antwerp.
I felt convinced that surely this time it was to be a simple visit to
an office of some kind, but unaccompanied by inconvenience or vexation.

I left the house without hesitation, taking with me only my walking
cane. One of the soldiers spoke French. He appeared to think my call to
Antwerp was a mere formality, and that I might be allowed to return to
Capellen the same evening.

Arriving in Antwerp, the soldiers conducted me to a hall situated near
the kommandantur on des Recollets street. In this hall I saw a large
number of people whose appearance was not very reassuring. There were
men and women who, judging by appearance, were all more or less bad

Left alone by the two soldiers I made a close observation of this
doubtful-looking crowd, and the non-commissioned officer who was in
charge of them. I tried in vain to recall the place where I was, and so
decided to secure the information from the non-commissioned officer.
“Well,” said I to him. “What place is this? What am I brought here for?
What do they wish to get from me? Do you know?” The non-commissioned
officer did not answer. He just shrugged his shoulders as though he did
not understand what I said. I thereupon gave him my card, together with
a message for the major. A few minutes later an officer appeared and
requested me to follow him. It turned out to be Major Von Wilm’s office
into which I was now introduced.

“Mr. Beland,” he said, “I am desolate. New instructions have just
arrived from Berlin and I must intern you.”

I had not time to express surprise or utter a word of protest before
he added: “But you will be a prisoner of honor. You will lodge here in
Antwerp at the Grand Hotel, and you will be well treated.”

“But this,” I said, “does not suit me. First of all, my wife and family
are not aware of what is happening to me. In any event I must go back
and inform them of my predicament and obtain the clothing I shall need
at this hotel.”

Visibly embarrassed through being unable to grant my request even for
one hour the major was unable to reply at once. He pondered, walked
a few paces in front of his desk, then what was Prussian in the man
asserted itself and he said: “No, sir, I cannot permit you to return to
Capellen. You may write to madame; tell her what has happened, and I
will forward the letter by messenger.” This was done.

The major made every effort to convince me that my detention would
be of short duration; that all that was required was evidently to
establish my quality as a practising physician; that as soon as
documentary proof of this could be placed in the hands of the German
authorities I should be liberated and restored to my family.


                                              Antwerpen, 21./5. 15.

    Werten Herr Beland!

    In diesem Moment erhalte ich Ihren freundlichen Brief
    vom 19. Ich hoffe, daß Ihre Vorladung beim Meldeamt ein
    befriedigendes Resultat gehabt hat; ich habe nochmals mit dem
    Vorstand des Meldeamtes gesprochen und höre, daß Sie diese
    Unannehmlichkeiten einer Denunziation zu verdanken haben.

    Die Sache ist jetzt in Ordnung und wird sich nicht wiederholen.–


        Von J. Wilm


                                           Antwerp, May 21st, 1915.

    Dear M. Beland!

    I receive at this moment your kind letter of the 19th.

    I hope that your appearance before the Police Bureau has had
    a satisfactory outcome; I have spoken once more with the head
    of the Police Control office and I learn that you owe this
    inconvenience to a denunciation and it will never occur again.


    (signed) Von J. Wilm

One can easily come to believe what one fervently desires. I deluded
myself with the hope that my sojourn in this hotel was only temporary.

A young officer was ordered to accompany me to the Grand Hotel. On the
way he allowed me to stop at a stationer’s store long enough to buy a
few books. Shortly afterwards we arrived at the hotel.

Every public hall had been converted into military offices. The officer
who accompanied me, having exchanged a few words with some of the
soldiers, the latter glanced at me as though I were a curious animal.

“He must be an Englishman–yes, he’s English, all right,” several of
those repeated in turn, all the time staring at me unsympathetically.

Finally I was conducted to the topmost floor of the hotel and there
shown into a room. I was locked in and a sentry kept guard outside.
My jailers had the extreme kindness to inform me that I must take my
meals in my room; that I must pay for them and also pay the rent of the
room. His German Majesty refused to feed his prisoner of honor!

On the following day, Friday, June 4, my wife arrived at the hotel,
more dead than alive. She was, as one may easily imagine, in a state of
great nervousness. Before coming she had asked and obtained permission
to occupy the room with me and share my imprisonment. Well, as one
should bear all things philosophically, and as we were in war times,
as many millions of people were much worse off than we might be at
this hotel, we accepted the inevitable and settled down to our present
little annoyance with perfect resignation.

On the following Saturday the children came to visit us. We saw them
enter the courtyard on their way to apply for a permit to see us. As
they waited we hailed them from the window. Two soldiers immediately
rushed from the office and addressed us with bitter invective because
we had dared to speak to our own children and because the children had
been “audacious” enough to speak to us! What a terrible provocation
that children should exchange greetings with their parents!

The children were cavalierly ejected from the courtyard and we saw them
no more that day. But on the following morning, by special permission,
they were allowed to speak for a few minutes with us. The same day, at
noon, the major visited us in our room, transformed into a jail cell.

His face was gloomy. His whole bearing betrayed much anxiety and
uneasiness. He brought us bad news.

“I am desolate,” he said again. “I am heart-broken, but Mr. Beland must
leave to-day without fail for Germany.”

Imagine the dismay of my wife and of myself at this abrupt announcement!

I ventured to protest. I reminded the major of the assurances he
had previously given me. I repeated to him that in my quality as a
physician I ought not to be deprived of my liberty. I asked him why was
it that the competent authorities at Berlin had not been informed of
the medical services I had been rendering at the hospital and to the
civil population since the beginning of the war? Altogether I made a
very strong plea in protest against the execution of the latest order.

Perturbed and embarrassed the major mumbled some sort of an
explanation. The instructions had “come from someone higher in
authority than himself”; he had “tried to explain my case to them,”
but they “would not hear him”; “all the British subjects in Germany
and occupied territory were to be interned without delay.” The major
assumed an air of haughtiness I had not noticed hitherto.

“At two o’clock this afternoon you will have to depart,” he said. “A
non-commissioned officer will accompany you to Berlin and thence to

Ruhleben is the internment camp for civilians of British nationality.
The shadow of a very real sorrow pervaded that room. I did not know
what to say. Two hours only remained in which my wife and I might
be together. She persisted in her entreaties that she might bear me
company to Germany, only to meet with an absolute refusal every time.

The Major had the delicacy (?) to inform her that her company, even to
the station merely, was not desirable!

Punctually at two o’clock on June 6 a non-commissioned officer stood in
the room to which during the past three days we had become reconciled,
as to a new little home where the children, living only a few miles
away, might visit us once or twice a week.

All was declared ready for my departure. It was a solemn moment, and
profoundly sad. My wife and I were separated. I did not know then–and
it was perhaps better–that I should never see her again in this world.

At three o’clock the train arrived at Brussels, where we had to wait
for an hour to connect with the express which ran from Lille to Libau
in Russia.

By four o’clock we were steaming at a good speed in the direction of
Berlin, passing through the country sights of Belgium. We crossed
through Louvain, which had been burned, and through a large number of
towns and villages which showed the effects of bombardment and other
horrors of war; thence through Liege, Aix-la-Chapelle, and Cologne,
where we arrived at about nine o’clock.



Overcome by the tidings of what was to be my fate I had no inclination
for lunch before I left Antwerp. In the evening I was seized by the
pangs of hunger, and as there was a dining-car on the train I suggested
to my guardian that we should take dinner.

My companion, however, did not understand one word either of English
or French. I was unable to speak German at that time so our only mode
of communication was by gesture and signs. The spectacle must have
been quite comical to an onlooker. Finally I made the man understand
that I wanted something to eat. In the dining-car we met with little
encouragement. I understood the conductor to explain that the tables
were reserved exclusively for officers and persons accompanying them.
As my escort was but a non-commissioned officer we were politely but
firmly refused refreshment.

At Cologne our every attempt to reach the station restaurant failed.
The place was overcrowded, and my guardian naturally was very
apprehensive that I might escape amid the throng. In this event he
would have been severely punished. There was nothing to be done, so we
returned to the train.

What a night was spent in that compartment among German travelers,
taciturn or snoring!

Happily the nights in June are short. Soon dawn appeared radiant. I
marveled at this wonderful reawakening of nature. As early as four
o’clock I was able to resume my reading.

At nine o’clock we reached Berlin and I saw for the first time the
capital of the German Empire. On the station platform a man whose
name I was never able to ascertain glided beside us. He was dressed
in civilian clothes, and after exchanging a few words with the
non-commissioned officer it became manifest that he had assumed charge
of the party. Outside the station this civilian, in all probability
an officer of high rank, motioned me to get into an automobile. Then,
addressing me in excellent French, he said: “Is this your first visit
to Berlin?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Berlin is a very beautiful city,” he asserted.

I made no reply. We proceeded to drive through the streets–where
to, I did not know. I had been under the impression that I was to
be conducted to Ruhleben, the internment camp for civilians. I
wondered whether I was being conveyed to a hotel or a boarding house,
where prisoners en route to the camp were temporarily lodged. My
chief hope was that I might obtain some food. It was now more than
twenty-four hours since I had anything to eat. On our way to Berlin the
non-commissioned officer had nibbled some bread he had in his knapsack,
but I had no opportunity to break my fast.

The automobile was passing along a beautiful avenue. “This is Unter
Den Linden, the finest avenue in Berlin,” said my new companion.
One can be anti-German, and at the same time acknowledge that this
thoroughfare is a charming one to behold. It stretches from the
Brandenburg Gate to the Imperial Palace on the river Spree.

We passed the Imperial Palace and immediately afterwards turned into
narrower streets. After a drive of about fifteen minutes we arrived in
front of a huge building whose walls were a dirty grey. It was, as the
reader will have guessed, the jail. I had arrived at my destination.



We were in front of the Stadtvogtei. It is a prison well-known in
Germany. In times of peace it lodges persons who are awaiting trial
before the Court of Assizes, and to it political prisoners are
consigned. It is situated on Dirksen street, about two hundred yards
distant from the Alexandre Square, and adjoins the police headquarters.
It is of immense construction, divided into triangular sections.

We halted at the front entrance and a few moments later we were
admitted into an office where we found two soldiers, one a
sergeant-major, and the other a non-commissioned officer. Up to this
time I was not aware of the character of the place to which I had been
brought. In fact, I was under the impression that it might, after all,
be an hotel reserved for prisoners passing through Berlin. I had
always in mind the information which had been given to me in Antwerp,
namely, that I was to be interned at Ruhleben. I imagined this was
a mere halting place where I should be given something to eat and
afterwards taken to my ultimate destination.

I looked around, first examined the office and then observed the
two soldiers. My first companion, the non-commissioned officer, and
the civilian entered into conversation with the two soldiers. The
non-commissioned officer took a document from his pocket, transferred
it to the sergeant-major, who examined and signed it, and then gave it
back to the non-commissioned officer.

The man in mufti, whose rank or profession I never knew, shook hands
with me, while the two soldiers in the office stood to attention, their
attitude being one of mingled respect and fear which is familiar to all
who have visited Germany. The man then left me.

The next instant the non-commissioned officer invited me to accompany
him along a dark corridor, thence up two flights of stairs to a cell
which was already occupied by three prisoners.

I was at a loss to know what was to become of me. A confusion of ideas
crossed my mind, but I could not now define any one in particular. I
addressed my new companions in French, but they did not understand me.
I next spoke in English and this time I had the pleasure of knowing
that I was understood.

“Are you English?” I enquired.

“Yes,” they said.

“But what are you doing here?”

“Here,” they answered with a sad smile, “we are in jail!”

“In jail!” I repeated. “And I?”

“And you,” they said with the same sad smile, “you also are in jail!”

The names of the three English citizens I learned soon afterwards.
The first was a Mr. Robinson, a jockey, who had lived in Germany for
many years. He spoke German perfectly. The second was a Mr. Aaron, a
naturalized British subject, a broker by profession, born in Austria,
but who lived in Berlin. The third was a Mr. Stuhr, of Antwerp, who
spoke German well, but French and English imperfectly. He was, I think,
a machinist by trade.

I asked my companions if it were possible to obtain something to eat,
explaining at the same time that for the past twenty-four hours I had
been without a particle of food.

“Well,” said Robinson, “bread was distributed this morning at eight
o’clock. There will not be any further distribution until to-morrow
morning at the same hour.” It was less than encouraging.

“But,” I said, “there must be means of getting nourishment. Surely they
will not deny my request when they know that I have been without food
for so long. There must be a means to get food of some kind, somehow?”

That same sad smile and their demeanor told me as convincingly as any
words could that my hopes were useless. They knew from their experience
that I would get nothing to eat until the next morning.

“However,” said one of them, “I have some bread left over from this
morning. I will give it to you, and Robinson will make some coffee.”

Robinson, a short, good fellow, his sleeves rolled up to the elbow,
brought from under the table an alcohol lamp and proceeded to the
making of coffee. What a contrast to the comfort of the large hotels!

At about half-past nine o’clock that day I took my first meal in jail.
It consisted of a crust of black bread and a cup of coffee, without
milk or sugar. But to one as famished as I was, even this seemed a
feast, and I expressed the gratitude I felt to my new companions for
their kindness.

As I sat at the table, eating my frugal repast, my companions paced
around the room. It was really a cell. An iron-barred window about six
feet above the floor ran up the rest of the wall to the ceiling. From
where I sat, the sky was visible above the walls of the prison yard.
In the cell were four beds, made up as bunks. Placed at the table from
which I was eating were four small wooden seats, without backs or
arms. The walls were whitewashed, and in the centre of the massive iron
door was a grating which would permit the guards to observe everything
that took place in the chamber. There was a daily inspection, at about
ten o’clock in the morning. The sergeant-major appeared and going from
floor to floor he ordered the door of every cell opened in turn. He
would scrutinize every occupant haughtily and then make his departure.

Seated at the table, my back towards the door, I was absorbed with
my own thoughts–and my black bread–when Robinson, gliding towards
me, lightly pulled my sleeve to invite me to get up. Realizing
that something was going on behind me I half turned and I saw the
sergeant-major, more Prussian-like than ever, standing in the doorway.

After we all had risen, he cried out in a stentorian voice: “Guten
morgen!” It sounded to my ears more like an insult than a morning
salutation. “What did he say?” I asked Mr. Aaron.

“Merely good morning,” he replied and at once added: “But every time
this man bids you good morning, it sounds as though he were saying: ‘Go
to the devil!’” He was Sergeant-Major Gotte.



That section of the Stadtvogtei wherein I was confined could give
shelter to two hundred and fifty prisoners in about one hundred and
fifty cells. Some of the cells contained as many as eight prisoners and
a large number of them did not measure more than 12, 13, or 15 cubic
metres. The scantiness of these cavities forced the occupants to keep
the window constantly open if they would have sufficient air to breathe.

The sections, as I say, were triangular in shape, the open space inside
the triangle forming a yard, where prisoners were allowed to take a
few hours’ exercise in the afternoon. Each and every cell had a window
which opened on to the yard. Inside, a corridor followed the three
sides of the triangle, and the windows in these corridors, which
opened outwardly, were opaque, so that one’s view was blocked entirely.
The windows were all iron barred. The building was one of five storeys
counting the ground floor. On this floor were situated the dark cells
or dungeons of which there were fourteen. The windows were darkened
with outside shutters. Here were confined English prisoners who escaped
from the internment camp of Ruhleben, and were recaptured on their way
to Holland or Switzerland. According to an arrangement between Great
Britain and Germany on the subject of punishment to be inflicted on
civil prisoners who tried to escape from their respective internment
camps no prisoner was to be kept in close confinement for longer than
two weeks after recapture.

The Kommandantur of Berlin, and particularly Capt. Wolff, who appeared
to be the “big gun” on the aforesaid Kommandantur, decided to place
their own interpretation on this clause of the agreement. It was at
about this time that we saw carpenters at work in the yard making more
window shutters of the kind I have already mentioned, and afterwards
whenever one or more British prisoners were overtaken after an attempt
to escape from the camp they were each thrown into a dungeon where
for four days they were kept in absolute darkness, and on a diet of
bread and water. On the fifth day the window-shutter would be lowered
sufficient to admit a little light, and soup such as other prisoners
had took the place of water and was served with the bread. The
prisoners were then subjected to four more days of close confinement
in total darkness, at the end of which time they were again given a
little light and the extra soup. The ordeal with four more days in the
dungeon, making fourteen days altogether. Then these poor fellows were
set free, that is to say they were free as we were–allowed to move
around the cells from eight o’clock in the morning until seven o’clock
in the evening, the monotony being broken by a few hours’ exercise
during the afternoon.

Prison life was supremely monotonous. The nearest approach to
recreation was the “privilege” of watching other prisoners passing in
and out. About ten prisoners were discharged every day, and about the
same number were admitted.

The section of the jail in which we were confined was under the
primary management of the Kommandantur of Berlin. The Kommandantur was
represented at the jail by an officer who remained there during the
whole period of my incarceration. His name was Lober Lieutenant Block.
Under that officer was a sergeant-major, and under the sergeant-major
were seven non-commissioned officers and a doorkeeper, ranking as a
non-commissioned officer. Two of the non-commissioned officers occupied
an office on the ground floor. The others were assigned to duty on
the several floors where they acted as inspectors or watchmen. The
sergeant-major was responsible for the general superintendence of the
jail and he made an inspection every day. As to the head officer his
dignity was such that he would not condescend to pass through the
corridors more than two or three times a week.

A mania which appears to be general among German officers and
non-commissioned officers alike is to be both loud and violent every
time they speak to subordinates or prisoners. Not a single day would
pass without the walls ringing with the echoes of the cries and threats
these men uttered to certain prisoners.

The poor Poles! What invective and abuse they had to endure!

I mention the Poles specially because from Poland there passed during
my three years of captivity to the prison of the Stadtvogtei a greater
number of prisoners than from any other place. Of two hundred and fifty
prisoners quite two-thirds were of Polish origin. The other prisoners
included English, French, Italians, Russians, Portuguese; in fact, all
the nations at war with Germany were represented. At times there were
Arabs, Hindoos, African negroes, Japanese, and Chinese.

What may surprise the reader is the fact that the four central powers
themselves–Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Turkey–held constantly some
of their own subjects in this prison. Germany never had less than from
five to ten of her subjects in the jail. They were mostly political
prisoners who were reputed to be a menace to the security of the German
empire. I shall have occasion later on to speak about two prisoners, in
particular, Socialist members of the Reichstag. But more than Germany
and her allies and the countries with whom they were at war were
represented in this prison. At different times, prisoners belonging
to the neutral nations of Europe–Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland,
Switzerland, and Spain–were guests at the Stadtvogtei.

How was this? the reader may ask. It is as easy to explain the
imprisonment of these people as to explain the incarceration of German
subjects. A Dane or a Hollander would visit Berlin on business or for
other purposes. He would naturally frequent the cafés, and there enter
into conversation with some Germans. If he imprudently ventured to
criticize Germany’s foreign policy or her conduct of military or naval
operations his fate was sealed. He would be allowed to return to his
hotel; he would sleep peacefully the rest of the night, quite ignorant
of the ugly fact that a sword was suspended over his head; but at
seven o’clock the next morning, he would inevitably be called upon to
follow a constable to the nearest station, whence he would be delivered
over to the Stadtvogtei, the veritable clearing house of Germany. He
would be ignorant of the cause of his imprisonment, and only after
days, perhaps weeks, of protest and correspondence with the legation
or embassy of his country, would he be submitted to an examination by
the gentlemen (?) of the Kommandantur. If, eventually, he succeeded
in regaining his liberty, he would be taken from jail direct to the
frontier, without having the opportunity even to call back at the hotel
for his personal baggage.



The manner in which war prisoners and interned civilians were fed and
treated in Germany gave rise, as we all know, to bitter complaints
and more bitter controversies in the newspaper press of the allied
countries. The repeated complaints of the prisoners themselves, in
their letters to friends in Great Britain, and through the United
States Embassy is a matter of record. Let me relate an incident which
is not lacking in interest: Among the Englishmen who were interned
at the Stadtvogtei was a Mr. F. T. Moore, civil engineer, who was in
Luxemburg when war was declared. He was captured when that principality
was overrun by the German troops, and subsequently sent to Treve. After
several months’ solitary confinement he was court-martialed on a charge
of espionage. He was condemned to the prison at Berlin, and here we
met and became friends. At the outset Mr. Moore wrote a post-card
to his wife in England telling her the condition of his health and
incidentally referring to the kind of food that was supplied to us. His
description was something of a masterpiece. “The food we are getting
here,” he wrote, “is unspeakable. It is enough to keep a man from
dying, but it is not sufficient to keep a man alive.”

It required, one may readily imagine, a certain courage to send such
a statement through the mail. On the following day the censor himself
called at the jail, and carried the card in question direct to Mr.
Moore’s cell. It was represented that Mr. Moore had committed a grave
imprudence in writing to England in this manner, and when Mr. Moore
submitted that there was no exaggeration, that it was the truth and
nothing but the truth, the censor retorted that if Germany did not
provide more substantial and better food for her prisoners it was due
solely to the British blockade.

The jail’s menu as I knew it during the three years I was interned
varied very little. It consisted of one piece of black bread weighing
eight ounces, distributed each morning at eight o’clock. At eleven a.m.
we were served with what was ridiculously termed the “mittag essen,”
that is to say, “the mid-day meal.” It consisted of what they were
pleased to call porridge or soup. At five o’clock in the afternoon the
acting-officer would return, this time accompanied by two Poles, who
would distribute another variety of soup. There is soup “and” soup. The
liquid which they served to us did not belong to the category of real
soup. The ingredients were varied, generally they consisted of turnips,
cabbage, and sometimes a few beans. It was never good, but sometimes it
was worse than others. Generally it was bad in the morning and always
worse at the afternoon serving. Apparently, the Poles suffered more
than we did. On many an occasion one of these unfortunate men has come
and begged a biscuit or a piece of bread from me.

“The soup we get,” he would say, “is nothing but colored water.”

I myself never ventured to taste the afternoon soup. The color and
odor were alike too repulsive. I believe it was rejected by all the
Englishmen interned here.

In 1915 the economic conditions of Germany continued relatively
favorable. There was, apparently, nothing alarming in the situation.
Prisoners were permitted to give orders once each day for provisions of
all kinds, and the orders would be filled to the extent the prisoner
had money to pay for the same. But early in 1916 a significant change
took place. The citizens were then placed upon strict rations, and in
March notices were posted in the corridors of the jail to the effect
that efforts to obtain victuals from outside were forbidden. The menu I
have described thenceforward became inevitable for each and every one
of us.

I at once communicated with the authorities in England–more
particularly with Sir George Perley, Canadian High Commissioner in
London, telling them of the situation to which we were reduced as
regarded food. But we were restricted to such abbreviated formula that
it was impossible to represent the situation as it actually existed–the
situation, that is to say, of relative famine. Exceeding care had to
be taken, or our letters would never have passed the censor. We each
adopted what seemed to be the best measures in the circumstances to
obtain relief from the painfully meagre prison fare. The postal service
was, not unnaturally, very uncertain and irregular between the two
countries. We entertained the hope, however, that at the end of three
weeks, at the latest, foodstuffs would reach us from England. But it
was three months ere the welcome parcels containing the much needed
provisions were delivered at the jail. During that period of waiting we
were able to realize something of the hunger the poor Poles suffered at
all times, for with very few exceptions they were deprived of outside
relief. It would require many volumes to faithfully relate the tortures
of hunger these interned Poles went through. Many times I saw one of
their number delve into a garbage can and extract therefrom potato
peelings that had been cast there. The Poles would put salt upon the
peelings and devour them with avidity.

Then, at about this time, a notice was posted on the wall in the little
triangular yard notifying all whom it might concern that henceforth
potato peelings must be deposited in a receptacle placed at the end
of the corridor. The peelings, we were informed, now had a special
value, and they were to be guarded as feed for the cattle, more
particularly the cows. On the day this notice appeared, five or six of
us–all British prisoners–were engaged in the kitchen cell preparing
a stew. Suddenly the sergeant-major appeared in our midst. He was a
quick-moving, nervous man; he invariably talked in a loud voice and
gesticulated vehemently.

“Have you read the notice that has just been posted up?” he demanded.
“From now on you will not be allowed to throw away the potato peelings,
as you have been in the habit of doing. Fodder for the cattle has
become very scarce and you must guard the potato peelings, all of
you, and deposit them in the receptacle you will find placed for that
purpose at the end of the corridor.”

The sergeant-major waited for a reply to, or a comment upon, the new
order, but we kept our interest concentrated on the dishes in front
of us and remained mute. He glared at the group and said: “Understand
me, gentlemen; understand me well, for I hope you will not force me to
inflict punishment upon you through disobedience of the new rule.”

Another period of silence followed and then one of the company stepped
forward. He certainly had a keen sense of humor, and was not devoid of
courage. “Mr. Sergeant-Major,” he said, “I beg your pardon, but I eat
the peelings from all the potatoes I receive.”

We choked back the laughter the incident provoked, and the
sergeant-major, at a loss to interpret the man’s observation, looked
first at one and then another. But we maintained our gravity, and,
apparently undecided whether to laugh himself at the joke or to give
vent to wrath the sergeant-major turned on his heel and walked from the
cell. I wonder–did he understand?

From June, 1916, to the date of my liberation, I received, in
quantities just sufficient, provisions which were regularly forwarded
to me from England, and sometimes from Canada. I have frequently been
asked if the parcels which were directed to me from time to time
arrived at their destination? To this I am able to reply, “Yes, in a
general way.” It has been proved that the postal employés of Germany
committed fewer thefts than were committed on the railways. I would
sometimes receive a parcel which had been opened, and from which some
of the contents had been extracted. Some parcels that I know were sent
never reached me. It was easy for us to check the delivery of parcels
as each contained a number.

Individual prisoners sometimes received parcels that had been sent
express by railway. As a rule they were larger than could be sent
through the postal service, and only very rarely did these parcels
reach their destination whole. Almost every time they had been broken
open and four, five or six pounds of the contents were missing.
Invariably it was a case of theft. It may not be inopportune to state
here that in 1917 some of the German newspapers reported that claims
against the German express companies for loss aggregated thirty-five
million marks, whilst in the preceding year these claims amounted to
only four or five million marks. This is evidence that there was an
enormous increase in the number and extent of the robberies in 1917.

In 1916, we obtained permission from the inspector of prisons to place
a gas stove in one of the cells, and here between eleven o’clock and
noon one might see the prisoners of British nationality gather for the
purpose of cooking their mid-day meal. The management of this kitchen
was confided to one man of our choice and each prisoner making use of
the stove contributed a small sum of money towards the cost of the
gas. There was an overseer named to guard against the waste of gas.
He kept a quantity of hot water constantly on hand for the use of the
prisoners. The water was sold at the rate of one pfennig per quart. The
Polish prisoners, in the winter months especially, would frequently
come to buy hot water. The poor fellows had to resort to drinking
hot water to stimulate circulation in their empty stomachs. Every
British prisoner was besieged in his cell every day by beggars. The
Poles in turn besought bread to eat. I was a witness every day of the
never-failing generosity of British captives and there must be to-day
thousands of Poles who, after passing through this jail, retain an
imperishable memory of the charity and compassion of men who, fortunate
in receiving victuals from outside, cheerfully shared them with fellow
prisoners less fortunate. These Poles, especially, now that they are
free to return to their own devastated country, must have nothing but
words of praise for those who did all they possibly could in very dire
circumstances to alleviate their sufferings and hardships.

Naturally, it was impossible to attend to more than the most urgent
needs of anyone. There were, on an average, from ten to fifteen
British subjects confined at one time in this cell, while at no time
were there ever fewer than one hundred and fifty Poles. The British
authorities at Ruhleben camp deserve a special word of praise for the
never-failing interest they showed towards not only the prisoners of
British nationality in Stadtvogtei jail but also towards the Poles, and
the deported Belgians particularly. During the time I was at the head
of the relief committee of the jail I received on many an occasion very
large cases of biscuits and other provisions for distribution amongst
the most needy of all subjects under confinement. I had as an assistant
in this work, Mr. Hinterman, a Swiss, to whom I shall have occasion to
refer subsequently.



During the three years of my captivity in the jail at Berlin I
frequently had occasion to exercise my profession as a medical
doctor. Medical care was supposed to be given to the prisoners by an
old practitioner of Berlin, a Dr. Becker. He visited the jail every
day between the hours of nine and ten o’clock in the morning. Sick
prisoners, accompanied by a non-commissioned officer, went to him in
his office, which was situate in a section of the building adjoining
the jail proper. Exactly at ten o’clock the aged doctor would leave
his office, not to return until the following morning. For twenty-four
hours every day I was the only physician in the section of the jail I
occupied. The adjoining sections, which were likewise of triangular
shape, were occupied by German soldiers who had been accused of breach
of discipline. On several occasions I was called upon to give medical
attention to some of these soldiers while they were awaiting trial
before a court-martial. During the daytime I was free to visit these
patients, going from cell to cell. At night, however, I was locked in
my own cell like the other prisoners, and if something happened in
the neighboring section a non-commissioned officer would arouse and
conduct me to the place where my professional services were required.
This happened very often. I was in this way not infrequently called to
attend to a prisoner who had attempted suicide. In no fewer than ten
instances it was a case of actual suicide, committed in some cases with
a revolver; in other cases with a razor and sometimes by strangulation.
No experience was more appalling than to hear in the dead of night
the report of a gun. The walls would vibrate, the prisoners would be
aroused from sleep, and one would ask the other who now had preferred a
sudden end to a continuance of misery. A few minutes after the report
my cell door would be opened by a non-commissioned officer. He would
request me to follow him in order to ascertain the cause of death or
render medical aid to an injured prisoner, as the case might be.

Services which I rendered to prisoners of all nationalities, and
oftentimes to non-commissioned officers, placed me in a favorable
position with the guards. There was no attempt to restrict the freedom
of my movements inside the prison, and in this way I was able to aid
less fortunate prisoners, either with medical attention or by providing
food where the need was most urgent. I received cordial co-operation
from my fellow captives, more especially from the English-speaking. One
had only to make an appeal on behalf of a prisoner to at once receive
from others tea, biscuits, margarine or any little delicacy that was
available. No sacrifice was too great if these men could only relieve,
if only in a small measure, the distress of their fellows.

One of the most pathetic cases which came within my personal
observation was that of Dan Williamson. Twice he had escaped from
Ruhleben camp. After his first recapture he was interned at the
Stadtvogtei, where he remained for about a year. Then he was sent
back to Ruhleben camp. A few months later he escaped again. In
company with a companion named Collins he succeeded in passing the
German sentries and was on his way towards Holland when he and his
companion were arrested. They were brought to the jail in Berlin.
At that time recaptured prisoners were being punished by solitary
confinement in dark dungeons for two weeks at a time. Williamson and
Collins were placed in separate dark cells–two of the fourteen with
the dark shutters which I have previously referred to. One day, at
about five o’clock in the afternoon, a terrible noise was heard.
This was succeeded by what appeared to be the pounding of the walls.
Threats were overheard. A non-commissioned officer appeared at the
door of my cell and informed me that Williamson had just attempted to
commit suicide; that he had been found covered with blood, and that a
blood-stained razor with which he had attempted the deed had been taken
from him. Meanwhile the noise of the blows against the wall of the
neighboring cell continued. My informant said: “Williamson is making
all this noise.” I reflected that a man of so much apparent vigor was
not in immediate danger.

At the request of the non-commissioned officer I proceeded to the door
of Williamson’s cell. I was attempting to speak to him through the
small aperture in the middle of the door when my words were interrupted
by a heavy blow on the door from the inside. Instinctively I withdrew
and decided that it would not be wise to open the door at the moment.
Williamson evidently had a weapon of some kind in his possession,
and it was supposed he had succeeded in tearing off one of the legs
from the iron bedstead in the cell. I advised the non-commissioned
officer to telephone to the police station for two constables, and a
few minutes afterwards these men appeared accompanied by two other
non-commissioned officers of the jail. I suggested that we should first
open the door of Collins’ cell, which was immediately adjoining the one
occupied by Williamson. This done, I advised Collins to stand on the
threshold of Williamson’s cell and try to appease his friend. Then the
door was opened. Williamson leaped from his cell like an enraged tiger
let loose from a cage. He struck his friend Collins, knocking him to
the ground, and he would have beaten the fellow unmercifully had not
the whole party of us seized Williamson and overpowered him. He was
like a man who had lost his reason. I was about to speak to him when
he cried out: “Give me my razor so that I may end it all.” His clothes
were covered with blood. On his right arm was a deep wound, though not
a long one. It had manifestly been inflicted with some sharp instrument.

While the others held him I obtained the necessary dressing and at once
gave the wound the surgical treatment it required and dressed it. Then
the constables handcuffed him, carried him into a distant padded-cell,
locked the door and left him for the rest of the night. Before I left
him, however, I asked if there was anything I might possibly do for
him. Williamson, poor fellow, looked at me with a blank stare and said
nothing. I urged my request, but it was in vain. He would not say one

My mind was preoccupied with the man until the next morning, when I
asked one of the non-commissioned officers to accompany me to the cell
where Williamson had been placed. Arriving there we found the prisoner
standing in the middle of the cell. He fixed his haggard eyes upon us,
but he remained mute to my “Good morning.”

“Well, how are you feeling now?” I asked him.

No answer.

“Did you sleep?”

Again there was no answer.

“Come, come, my dear, good fellow,” I said, “cheer up; I have brought
you some warm tea and some biscuits. Do you wish for anything else? If
so I may be allowed to bring it to you.”

Williamson still stood silent, with his cold stare fixed upon me,
unmindful of all I said to him. I placed the cup of tea and the
biscuits on the mattress, which was the only commodity in the cell, and
once more I tried to make him understand me, but it was of no avail.
His lips were as though sealed. And so we left him–the officer and
I. A report was at once made to the prison doctor, Dr. Becker, who,
when he arrived at nine o’clock that morning ordered Williamson into
hospital. Three weeks afterwards he came back to the jail, looking
much better. But the same night I was again called to his cell by a
non-commissioned officer. Williamson lay stretched on the floor near
his bed suffering from an acute fit of epilepsy. After we had him
calmed down we placed him on the bed and I talked with him for an
hour. He was calm and self-contained. He gave me news of some British
prisoners of war–some of whom were wounded–whom he had met at the
Alexandrine Street Hospital where he had been a patient himself during
the three preceding weeks. It was then that I resolved to apply to the
German authorities for permission to serve at this hospital as surgeon
to the British prisoners. I communicated my intention to Williamson.

“You may make your application, doctor,” he said, “but it will be

“Why do you say that?” I inquired.

“Because these people will know that, in the position you seek, you
will see too many things and get to know too much.”

Williamson’s prediction was right. My request, made a few days later,
was refused. In the meantime Williamson had another fit of epilepsy.
He was at that time in the cell of a Mr. Hall, another Englishman. It
was between five and six o’clock in the afternoon. Non-commissioned
officers hastened to the cell, and, frightened by the serious turn
Williamson’s illness had taken, they made a joint report to the officer
in charge, who at once interviewed Dr. Becker on the subject. The
outcome was that Williamson was released from the jail. I never was
able to ascertain where he was taken. I believe he was sent to an
asylum for the insane, and from there he would be exchanged.

One night we were awakened by a series of detonations coming from
outside the jail. What could it be, we wondered. There we were right in
the heart of Berlin, and there was unmistakably a serious disturbance
of some kind. Was it a riot? Was it the noise of an encounter between
the gendarmes and a band of workmen on strike? We could obtain no
answer to these questions at the time, but soon afterwards I was
informed of what had taken place. Shortly after hearing the noise of
the first shots I was called from my cell to ascertain the cause of the
death of a soldier who had been brought from the battle-front to Berlin
to be locked up at Stadtvogtei pending trial before a court-martial.
This refractory soldier, the guards reported, had behaved himself well
all the way from Flanders to Berlin, but directly he reached the front
of the jail he became unruly, broke from his guards, and escaped. The
guards went in pursuit. There was an exciting chase around the walls of
the jail, which are seventy-five feet high. The fugitive soldier was
gaining on his pursuers when one of the latter fired on him. Thus it
was a dead soldier, and not a live prisoner, that the guards brought
into the jail. He had been struck by five bullets, and the only duty I
was called to perform was to declare the man dead. I did this in the
presence of the doorkeeper, the night watchman, and the two guards.
Early the next morning, aroused by some commotion, we all stood on
our chairs and stretched our necks in order to get a glimpse from the
windows of what was going on below. The men had come to remove to the
morgue the body of the soldier who had been killed by one of his former



Among the interesting prisoners I knew in the Stadtvogtei during my
long captivity there are several who deserve special mention. Early
in 1916 there were frequently heard proceeding from a section of the
jail near the division where I was confined the tones of soft music.
For a time we did not know whether the music came from the outside
or the inside of the building. Conjectures were in order. Some of my
companions believed the music was played by a talented violinist who
was held prisoner as we were. Others ventured the opinion that the
sweet strains emanated from a house in the immediate neighborhood of
the prison. One day the Sergeant-Major informed me during his tour
of inspection that I was to be permitted to visit a French prisoner
confined in an adjoining division of the jail. He said the prisoner
was known as Professor Henri Marteau. The name, I at once recalled, was
that of a celebrated French musician whom I heard during his visit to
Canada some twenty years ago.

“Whenever you feel inclined to call on the Professor,” the
Sergeant-Major said, “I will accompany you to his cell; but I have to
inform you that while you are making your call the door of the cell
will be locked upon you, as the Professor is condemned to solitary
confinement. It is to be permitted him to return your call, and if
he chooses to do so, your door will likewise be locked while you are

Not unnaturally, I was very anxious to meet this distinguished
Frenchman and on the following day I asked the Sergeant-Major if he
would be kind enough to conduct me to his cell. I found the Professor
one of the most charming and interesting men one could wish to meet. He
was then about forty-five years of age, and manifestly an artist to his
finger-tips. This is the story he told to me:

At the outbreak of the war he was practising as a professor of the
violin at the Berlin Conservatory of Music, and as a French subject, he
was ordered interned at Holzminden, in the internment camp designated
for civilians of French nationality. A few months later, by the express
order of the Emperor, he was granted his liberty in Berlin. Mr. Marteau
had married an Alsatian lady, whose sympathies, like those of so many
of the people of her Province, were known to be entirely with France.
The professor and his wife were admitted to the best society of Berlin,
and shortly after Bulgaria had entered the war, Madame Marteau, at a
society gathering, expressed the sense of her displeasure at Bulgaria’s
stand. Her words were reported to the military authorities, and a few
days afterwards two detectives called at the professor’s residence with
an order that he and his wife were to be interned. Madame Marteau was
taken to an internment camp reserved for women, and the professor was
removed to the Stadtvogtei.

“But, my dear sir, why were you interned–you, a professor of the Berlin
Conservatory of Music?” I asked him.

“Merely because of my wife’s remarks,” he answered with a delicate
smile in which it was impossible to detect the slightest shadow of

The day following our interview the professor returned my call. He was,
of course, accompanied to my cell by a non-commissioned officer, who,
according to instructions, locked us in the room together. Mr. Marteau
brought with him his marvelous instrument upon which he had been
granted the privilege to play during his imprisonment. It was his music
which had charmed our ears on previous days.

On this occasion he was kind enough to entertain me with several
selections from Bach and Gounod. The Poles, as is well known, have a
passion for music, as, indeed, have the Russians, and they flocked to
the windows and were charmed by the enchanting music. Every selection
was heartily applauded. The entertainment caused a pleasant sensation
in the prison, and when the professor visited me again the next day,
there was the same enthusiastic audience to enjoy his masterly

Suddenly it was interrupted by the appearance of the Sergeant-Major at
the door of my cell. Ignoring the professor’s courteous bow, he cried
in a harsh voice: “This cannot be allowed; you have no permission to
play here.” The officer left as abruptly as he came, and the door was
closed with a bang.

I must be excused if I do not report the remarks that were made at the
ill-mannered behavior towards Professor Marteau, who was as refined as
he was distinguished.

This worthy man was the father of two charming daughters, aged four and
five years respectively, but in spite of his requests–repeated over and
over again during his three months’ confinement in the Stadtvogtei–for
the privilege of receiving visits from his children and for
permission that they might call to see their mother, the Kommandantur
categorically refused to grant the petition.

A few months afterwards Professor Marteau was granted provisional
liberty. He was permitted to leave the jail and go and reside in the
village of Mecklembourg, where he had to report himself daily at the
municipal hall; but his movements were confined to the radius of the
village boundaries.

During our intercourse, I frequently expressed the hope that, after the
termination of the war, we might have the pleasure of welcoming him
on a return visit to Canada and the United States. I told him that he
might be assured of the greatest triumph an artist of his outstanding
talent could hope for.

Two other prisoners, both equally interesting, I had for companions–one
for three months, and the other for five months. They were Messrs.
Kluss and Borchard, socialistic members of the Reichstag. I did not get
so well acquainted with Mr. Borchard as with Mr. Kluss; in the first
place, because we were not together for so long, and secondly, because
he was in solitary confinement for part of the time. However, I retain
very pleasant memories of Mr. Borchard, and I have been able to keep
the copy he gave to me of a famous letter he addressed to the German
Emperor. It was a masterpiece. In it he resumed all that a man of his
talent and political faith could urge against the autocratic system of
Germany. I do not know, of course, whether or not it was that letter
which resulted in his liberation from prison.

With regard to Mr. Kluss, he remained in jail for what seemed a
very long time. He was invariably friendly with every prisoner. He
visited one cell after another and talked with every occupant. And his
conversation was most interesting. He was a man of wide learning–a
scholar, in fact. Often we discussed together the different political
institutions of Germany. One incident in which he played an important
part during his captivity is worthy of mention. Once a year the general
commanding officer of Berlin made a visit of inspection at the jail.
General Von Boehm, about seventy years of age, and deaf as a post,
was the commanding officer at this time. Well, one fine morning this
high officer, surrounded by his myrmidons–one colonel, two majors, two
captains, and a number of lieutenants–arrived at the jail. The clanking
of their swords and spurs preceded them as they climbed the stairs and
walked along the corridors. At each cell door the General would halt
and ask each prisoner:

“Have you any complaint to make?”

When the question was addressed to me, I replied: “I submit I have just
reason to complain, as a physician, of being interned, and as such I
shall not cease from claiming my liberation.”

“Very well,” replied the General, and he continued his tour of
inspection, repeating the one question at each cell. The majority of
the prisoners made no reply, but when several of them answered: “Yes, I
have a complaint to make,” the General said, “Very well then; go down
into the yard.”

By the time he had concluded the inspection some twelve prisoners had
answered the stereotyped question in the affirmative, and they were
assembled in the yard.

Amongst them was the Socialist Deputy Kluss. The General and his
camarilla appeared in due course and the prisoners were invited to give
voice to their complaints. Seemingly frightened, they all remained
silent with the exception of Mr. Kluss. He stepped into the centre of
the yard and there commenced to make a formidable arraignment of the
German military authorities and the arbitrary regulations of which
he said he was one of the victims. Kluss knew very well that General
Von Boehm was deaf, and this gave him just reason to raise his voice.
Thus we were all able to hear a veritable platform oration pronounced
in a voice vibrant and penetrating. One may imagine how amused we
prisoners were by this incident. The General went through the motions
of listening to the whole discourse; he pretended to hear it, and would
occasionally nod his head as though he quite approved of what was being

At one stage of his speech, Mr. Kluss likened the methods of the German
military authorities as they were directed against him to the worst
barbarities of the Middle Ages. One of the officers accompanying the
General endeavored to silence the speaker but it was of no avail.
Nothing could stem the flow of the man’s eloquence!

When the address was ended, General von Boehm, who evidently had not
heard a single word, merely remarked, “Yes, very well,” and was about
to move away when Mr. Kluss obstructed his path and cried out: “What is
the answer, General–give me an answer, please.”

The General, realizing that he was being addressed again, moved to one
side and repeated, “Yes, quite so; very well; very well,” and this time
passed on. We did not see him again.

Kluss received the congratulations of the German subjects who were with
us and who believed they were the victims of a vicious system and a
gross injustice on the part of their Government.

Incidentally, I may say that Kluss was a fervent admirer of Liebknecht.



The names of two prisoners, Maclinks and Kirkpatrick, recall to my mind
one of the most tragic events of my prison life. Maclinks was already
in the Berlin jail when I arrived in June, 1915. The door of his cell
bore an indication that he was a British subject. He spoke English
fluently, and if one may believe what he said of himself he was for
several years the correspondent of the London Times at Vienna, where
he lived. According to all initial appearances, Maclinks was a loyal
British subject. He associated with the British prisoners, who in turn
would visit him in his cell. He had great talent and intelligence.

Some months later there arrived at the prison a young Englishman named
Russell. He had been arrested at his place of residence in Brussels. A
friendship immediately sprung up between Russell and Maclinks and they
spent much of their time together. One fine day, or rather one bad day,
Russell was peremptorily ordered to leave the prison for a destination
which was not known to him. He was not allowed to take with him any of
his books or papers.

“Put on your overcoat and hat, and follow me,” was the abrupt order
given him by the officer at the door of his cell. A minute later and
Russell had departed.

The incident aroused an intense feeling among us. What had happened?
Why had Russell been ordered away without a minute’s notice? What added
to our apprehension was the fact that at the bottom of the stairs
on the ground floor we saw two armed sentries, and they accompanied
Russell from the prison.

On this same day one of the Kommandantur’s officers, Captain Wolfe,
had visited the jail, and it was known that while here he had an
interview with Maclinks. We were getting very suspicious of Maclinks.
Why? Well, for an infinity of reasons, which I have not space here to
enumerate. The British prisoners would have no more relations with him.
Only one man continued to speak to him from time to time. He was a Mr.

Confident, perhaps, that Kirkpatrick would continue to be his friend
in any event, Maclinks several days afterwards made a confession. He
showed Kirkpatrick the copy of a letter purporting to be the one he had
sent to the military authorities, and in this letter Kirkpatrick read
that Russell had been denounced by Maclinks as having been a spy in the
employ of the British Government in Belgium. Kirkpatrick was more than
amazed, but before he could make any observation, Maclinks explained
that he was an officer in the reserve of the Austrian army, and that
his conscience had prompted him to do what he considered to be his duty
and denounce Russell. Kirkpatrick could no longer contain himself.
He stood up and threatened that if Maclinks did not leave his cell
immediately he would throw him out.

The news quickly circulated through the prison, creating an atmosphere
which is difficult to describe. The evening was very dismal. We all
felt uneasy and depressed as though our every action was being spied
upon. Who knew what might happen to anyone of us? It might be the fate
of oblivion or it might be condemnation to execution. Life had become
intolerable in the presence of this emissary of the enemy–Maclinks.
On his side, existence was made so miserable for him that he finally
requested to be removed, and a few weeks later he left the jail, never
to return.

One noteworthy feature of this spying business in Germany is that
the authorities can never trust, but are constantly suspicious of
the spies they employ. Maclinks, it is true, was allowed to leave
the Stadtvogtei, but he was not allowed his full liberty. Authentic
information we were able to obtain subsequently was to the effect that
he was moved from one prison to another.

Kirkpatrick, who was the oldest prisoner amongst us, was much liked
and highly respected–he was in fact, as we often told him, our “guide,
philosopher and friend.” And his Scottish humor was of the best quality.

For example, he would see two or three of us sitting together at table
partaking of canned beef and bread, and very seriously he would say:
“Really, boys, I cannot understand how you can be so unfeeling as to
enjoy such luxuries when the poor German people are on the verge of
starvation. Don’t you know, gentlemen, that you are here to purge a
sentence a thousand times merited?”

It was the same Kirkpatrick who, on December 31st, when we asked
him how he hoped to cross the threshold of the New Year, answered,
“You will hear of me before to-morrow morning.” We all wondered what
he meant. None of us had the slightest idea, but the answer came
punctually, as he had predicted. At midnight, while the bells of the
churches in the neighborhood marked the passing of the old year, a
window was heard to open in the darkness near us, and, as the last note
of the bells died away, the first silence of the new year was broken by
a stentorian voice singing “Rule Britannia!”

The patriotic hymn had scarcely ended when another window opened. It
was that of the non-commissioned officer in charge of the prisoners,
and he thundered forth an order for silence. I afterwards made
inquiries amongst my prison companions to ascertain who it was that
entertained and cheered us on the first of the New Year with the
singing of this grand song, but I could not then obtain the information
I sought. Then, at about nine o’clock, Kirkpatrick came into my cell,
looking cheerful as usual. We wished each other a Happy New Year and
I asked him, “Were you the brave man who broke the stillness of the
morning with the echoes of ‘Rule Britannia’?”

He shook his head, but his significant smile was eloquent of the truth.

We had changed the subject when a non-commissioned officer appeared
and demanded to know the name of the nocturnal singer. We were each
of us asked in turn, with the exception of Kirkpatrick. He had never
been heard before even to attempt to sing a note, so the question was
not put direct to him. Hence everybody who was asked, truthfully denied
being the singer the jail authorities were seeking. The joke was a good
one in the circumstances, and we enjoyed it immensely.



One of the interned cases which is likely to be heard of is that of
Mr. Hintermann, a subject of Switzerland. In referring to the case in
the course of a narrative of this kind it is obviously necessary to
maintain a certain amount of reserve and not to make public details
which might inopportunely throw too much light on the actions of
certain officials who were then in the employ of the Department of
Foreign Affairs for Switzerland. Mr. Hintermann was a Swiss by birth,
and although he had been much abroad he maintained his nationality;
that is to say, he never became a naturalized subject of any other
country. He resided in London with his family and was connected with
a very important firm in England’s metropolis. He went to Switzerland
during the summer of 1915, and while in that country projected a trip
to Berlin. Before he could go there he had to obtain a passport signed
by the German Minister at Berne. This was done without the least
difficulty, though his departure was delayed for a few days by someone
in the German Minister’s office.


Dr. Beland (cross) and fellow-prisoners during internment]

Mr. Hintermann finally left Switzerland, but he was arrested by two
soldiers at the first station he reached after crossing the frontier
on his way to Berlin. On being taken into the stationmaster’s office
Mr. Hintermann saw on the agent’s desk a despatch from Switzerland
containing a direct reference to himself. He was then taken under
escort to Berlin and lodged in the jail where I was a prisoner. On the
door of his cell was written these words: “H. Hintermann, Englander.”
It did not take long for Mr. Hintermann to delete the word “Englander”
and substitute for it the word “Swiss.” Someone immediately changed
the word back again. This went on for some time. A few hours after
Mr. Hintermann would write “Swiss” on the card, the word would be
mysteriously erased, and “Englander” written again in its place.

I knew Mr. Hintermann intimately. I knew that he had never been
naturalized while in England, but I think the Swiss Government and
the German Government were too easily persuaded that he had become a
naturalized British subject. I am not at liberty to say at this moment
by what process the two Governments were placed under this false
impression, but I can affirm that during the three years I knew Mr.
Hintermann he never once ceased to urge his right to liberty as the
subject of a neutral country. Over and over again the two Governments
were called upon by him to prove that he was a British subject, but
the only reply he received was a categorical statement from the Swiss
Legation in Berlin that the Department of Foreign Affairs at Berlin
was well informed on this subject and had documentary proof that Mr.
Hintermann had been naturalized in England. Mr. Hintermann, on his
side, insisted with vehemence that these documents, if they existed,
were forgeries.

I am not allowed to tell more, but it is certain that the unwarranted
internment of one of the best and most honorable men I ever met ended
only with the armistice. It caused him incalculable damages in his
affairs and great injury to his health. I am convinced that the victim
of this denial to justice will seek redress somehow, and that the
trials and tribulations he had to undergo will reverberate now that the
war is practically ended.

Mr. Hintermann was a man of very high character. He was greatly
esteemed by all the prisoners. Towards the more needy he showed great
charity and alleviated numberless cases of suffering. Speaking German,
French, and English with equal fluency, he was able to communicate
with the prisoners of these nationalities, and in this way he came to
realize their distress and sufferings and was thus the better able to
apply what remedies were within his reach. All who knew him during his
imprisonment will ever have a pleasant remembrance of the man, and a
deep appreciation of his invariable generosity and kindness of heart.

The subject of the deportation of Belgians was the main topic of
discussion in the newspapers for some time and I cannot add anything
new on the subject. It was with manifest reluctance that the German
press finally admitted that Belgians had been deported, and were then
in Germany. The accomplishment, however, was so palpable that denial
was at last rendered impossible.

We received at one time and another a great number of these unfortunate
people into our jail. They were, for the most part, Belgian subjects
who had refused to work for the Germans. There were some who, after
accepting the burden of hard labor forced upon them in the hope that
in this way they might find some relief from the terrible situation
that otherwise threatened them at Guben camp, at last rebelled against
their task and the insufficiency of food. It was then that they were
brought to the Stadtvogtei. On one occasion there were no fewer than
twenty-four of these prisoners amongst us, and towards them the British
prisoners always showed a practical sympathy.

I cannot leave this subject without mentioning one notable case. It
was that of a Belgian named Edouard Werner. He was a man twenty-five
or twenty-six years of age, and of remarkable physique–tall, well
proportioned, and very strong. He lived in Antwerp before war was
declared, and was engaged in that city in the offices of the Canadian
Pacific Railway Company. His parents were Germans, but himself born in
Antwerp, he decided, when he attained the age of eighteen years, to
become a naturalized Belgian subject. He submitted to the requirements
of the military laws of the country, but was exempted from service in
the army and had in his possession papers to this effect.

Antwerp, it will be recalled, was occupied by the enemy on October 10,
1914, and a few months afterwards Werner received notice to report
to the German authorities in the military district of Westphalia.
He refused to obey this order in spite of the insistence of his aged
mother, who, a German herself, wished to see her son join the ranks
of the German army. Two months afterwards a second notice was served
on the young man reiterating the command to report for duty. Werner
persisted in his refusal to obey, again in spite of his mother’s
entreaties. Then a final notification was received that unless he
complied vigorous measures would be taken against him. More in
obedience to the wishes of his mother than in fear of the execution
of the German threats Werner duly reported himself as commanded. He
took with him his papers of identification and other documents showing
that he was a Belgian subject, and that he had complied with the
requirements of the military laws of Belgium. He was subjected to a
severe examination in Westphalia.

“Why did you not report sooner?” he was asked.

“Because I am a Belgian subject,” he answered.

“It is false; it is false. You are a German–your parents both are
Germans,” he was told.

“I do not deny that my father and mother are Germans,” Werner said,
“but for myself I have chosen to become naturalized as a Belgian and I
have in my possession documentary proof of this assertion.”

The examining officer asked to be allowed to see the documents. When
they were produced the officer rejected the proof and refused to
consider the young man a Belgian subject. Werner was told that from
that moment he must consider himself enrolled in the German army and
hold himself in readiness to leave immediately for Berlin. Accordingly
he was sent to the German capital, where he was lodged in the barracks
of the famous Alexander Regiment, in which no soldier is accepted
unless he is at least six feet tall. Werner’s height was six feet two
inches. He was put in uniform and started to undergo training. As he
spoke French, German and Flemish fluently, he was a little later given
employment in the office of the sergeant-major, who assigned him to
the work of correspondence and translating. He became more or less
popular among the officers and non-commissioned officers who believed
that he had become quite converted to German ideas. One day Werner
applied for leave of absence in order that he might visit his mother at
Antwerp; the major replied that it would be quite impossible to grant
him leave of absence to go into Belgium, but if he had relatives in
Germany he would readily be granted leave to visit them. Werner said he
had an aunt residing at Hamburg, and he was granted three days’ leave
to go and visit her.

It was a fête-day and Werner was to leave Berlin in the evening. In
the afternoon, attired in gala uniform and wearing the plume-helmet,
he accompanied one of his comrades on a tour through the city. He
exhibited his holiday permit to his companion, at the same time
expressing regret that it was not valid for Antwerp. His comrade took
the permit from his hands, walked away with it from the table at which
they were drinking beer, and returned a few minutes later with the
permit now reading that it was to allow the bearer to go to Antwerp
instead of to Hamburg.

Delighted by his good fortune, Werner resolved to leave by the
first train for Antwerp. At Cologne, and more particularly at
Aix-la-Chapelle, the soldiers had to have their travelling permits
checked. Now, it was against the military rules of the day to travel in
gala uniform, such as young Werner was wearing, except under special
circumstances. At Cologne and again at Aix-la-Chapelle astonishment was
expressed by the officials when they saw Werner in full dress. He was
asked for an explanation.

“Well,” he replied, “I am going to visit my mother and I wish to give
her a pleasurable surprise, as she has never seen me in military
uniform.” He was allowed to continue his journey, and at Antwerp his
mother told him with pride that he looked more handsome than she had
ever seen him look before.

Werner then conceived the project–perhaps he had carried the idea in
his mind from the outset–to change his uniform for a suit of mufti
and escape into Holland. In order to do this he had to obtain the
co-operation of one of his cousins. The plan was completed; civilian
clothing was obtained; he made a parcel of his grenadier’s uniform and
directed it to the barracks of the Alexander Regiment in Berlin. Then
in the evening he and his cousin walked in the direction of Capellen,
from which point they hoped to be able to cross the frontier during the

Here, however, they fell into a trap. A man, who afterwards turned
out to be a spy in the service of the Germans, directed them to a
certain coffee-house, where he said they would find a reliable man who
would guide them safely across the border. At the coffee-house the
two cousins were advised to spend the night at the mayor’s residence
and hold themselves in readiness to cross the frontier early the next
morning. This was the trap which caught them. The mayor’s house was
occupied by German officers–a fact of which Werner and his companion
were equally ignorant. Escape now was hopeless. They were held as
prisoners until next day, when they were searched and questioned. When
it was ascertained that they wished to cross into Holland they were
taken back to Antwerp and arraigned before the Kommandantur. Werner’s
cousin passed through the ordeal easily enough and he was liberated.
Werner hoped that his fate would be equally happy. His hopes, however,
were speedily dashed to the ground. When he gave his name the officer
pondered a minute, then he spoke to someone over the telephone and,
turning to Werner, asked abruptly:

“Are you not Edouard Werner?”


“Are you not a deserter?”


“But did you not belong to a regiment in Berlin?”


“Then how do you explain your presence here, and in civilian clothes?”

Without waiting for a reply, the officer, fuming with rage, and in
a voice which made the attendants tremble, ordered Werner to prison.
Thence he was arraigned before the German Police Commissioner, who,
threatening the most dire punishment, said to the prisoner in an aside:
“You will now know what it is to be dealt with by the Prussian military
authority. I would not give much for your skin, young man.”

Werner was taken back to prison and a few days later transferred
to Berlin. Here he was thrown into a dungeon, and the next morning
appeared before the regiment major–the officer who had in the first
instance given him a permit to go to Hamburg. This man nearly choked
with rage when he saw the prisoner.

“Take him from my sight; take him from my sight,” he repeated.

Werner was taken away, was put back into uniform, and only then would
the major consent to see him again. On this occasion he once more gave
way to a fit of passion. He banged the table with his fist and menaced
Werner with all kinds of torture, going so far as to threaten to have
him executed. Once he paused in his wrath to ask what had become of the
uniform Werner wore when he went away.

“I sent it back to barracks here,” replied Werner.

“It’s a lie–a lie,” roared the major.

“Well,” insisted the prisoner, “it is easy to prove if my statement
is a lie. Will you be kind enough to inquire if a parcel in which I
wrapped the uniform at Antwerp and directed here has been received?”

Inquiry promptly revealed the fact that the package in question was
received at barracks a few weeks previously. The prisoner was kept
in jail pending trial by court martial. He refused the offer which
was made of counsel to defend him, and when duly brought before his
military judges he was asked what he had to say before sentence was
passed upon him. He replied, in effect, as follows:

“I am a Belgian, and it was impossible for me conscientiously to take
up arms against my country. When the first opportunity presented
itself I returned to my country. I did not desert the German army, but
merely went back to my country from which I had been taken by force
and contrary to international law. In my opinion, to carry arms and
fight for Germany against my own countrymen would be an act of treason.
I have done nothing but act in accordance with the promptings of my
conscience. That is my plea. Do with me as you wish.”

In a consultation between the officers one of them was overheard to
say, “We ought not to give him more than fifteen years’ imprisonment.”
Werner was taken back to his dungeon where he awaited sentence, but
no sentence was announced to him–whatever judgment was passed he was
never told what it was. But after a few weeks waiting he was taken
from the dungeon and lodged in the Stadtvogtei without an explanation
being given to him in any way. It was here that we became acquainted.
It was here that he related to me his story, which appears to me to be
sufficiently interesting to be related.

Werner remained in this jail for five or six months. At the end of that
time he was urged to enter the German army. He peremptorily refused,
and finally received an official document from the highest military
tribunal exonerating him from the charge of being a deserter. We
deliberated together on the chances of the recovery of his liberty, and
a few days afterwards he was transferred to Holzminden. A Frenchman who
was subsequently brought from this place to our prison informed us, in
answer to our inquiries, that Werner had evaded the vigilance of the
sentries and escaped into Holland, whence he had crossed to England,
and a postal card recently received announced that he had joined the
Belgian army and was looking forward to “settling some of his accounts
with the Hun!”



In prison life one question looms up every day before many of the
prisoners. It is that of possible escape. During the three years I
spent in the Stadtvogtei several escapes took place. It would take
too long to relate here a story in detail of all the escapes which
occurred. I would like, however, to mention the case of two prisoners
who evaded the guards on three occasions; twice getting through the
lines of the camp of Ruhleben, and once escaping from the prison where
I was confined. The two men were: Wallace Ellison and Eric Keith.
They were Englishmen, and at the outbreak of hostilities they lived
in Germany. Mr. Ellison was employed with the United Shoe Machinery
Company, at Frankfort, and Mr. Keith was engaged with a firm the name
of which I do not remember. He was born in Germany of English parents.

The first escape of both prisoners took place from Ruhleben camp at
about the same time, but each in his turn had the misfortune to fall
into the hands of Prussian Guards near the frontier of Holland. They
were taken back to the jail at Berlin, where they were kept for several
months in close confinement. Mr. Ellison was guarded solitary and alone
for four months and a half. He was allowed no other food than the one
daily serving of black bread and the two servings of the traditional

Notwithstanding repeated applications to the German authorities for
transfer to Ruhleben, they were forcibly detained in prison, because
they refused to promise not to attempt further evasion. Numberless
complaints were addressed by these prisoners to the Kommandantur and to
the American Embassy in Berlin. All their efforts were unavailing. This
happened in 1915 and 1916.

In December, 1916, what may be termed a wholesale escape took place.
It was cleverly prepared a long time ahead. The prisoners somehow
obtained the services of an expert locksmith, himself a prisoner. He
made a key with which they were to open the prison gate facing on
Dirksen street. Arrangements had been made with minute care. Provisions
were obtained and forwarded outside to places known only to the
prisoners concerned. All was ready and the day named for escape. Eleven
prisoners of British nationality were walking in groups of two and
three in the jail yard between five and six o’clock in the afternoon,
in accordance with the daily custom. The doorkeeper occupied a room
near the outer gate. He was at this time talking to a non-commissioned
officer. The conversation was of a nature to absorb his whole
attention. Thanks to this fortuitous circumstance, the rescuing key was
introduced, unseen by the guards, into the lock by one of the eleven
prisoners. A moment after the gate opened and eleven British prisoners
disappeared from the jail and dispersed in the streets of Berlin.
Ellison and Keith were amongst them.

There was a real sensation in the jail when the yard gate was found
opened, fifteen minutes later. All the remaining prisoners were at once
locked in their cells. It was the only means by which the authorities
could ascertain exactly how many had succeeded in regaining their

The officer who had gone off duty at about four o’clock in the
afternoon was apprised by telephone of what had taken place. Shortly
afterwards he arrived in a state of great excitement. His first act
was to throw the doorkeeper into a dungeon. By this time it had been
learned that eleven British prisoners had disappeared. The detective
office was notified, and telegrams were despatched to all the border
towns in Germany, notifying the authorities to be on the look-out for
the missing men. The whole force of detectives and the frontier guards
were put on their mettle.

Of the eleven escaped prisoners, ten–to our great regret–were
recaptured. Only one, a Mr. Gibson, got clean away. As to Ellison and
Keith, they were caught after ten days and ten nights of exciting,
exhausting experiences. The weather was very cold at that time,
and one may imagine what sufferings these two prisoners underwent
while attempting to wend their way to the frontier. The ten captured
prisoners were brought back to the jail one after the other. The
regulations henceforward became much more stringent and it was out of
all question for them to make any further application for transfer to

However, towards August, 1917, under an agreement made between Germany
and Great Britain, their hardships were somewhat lessened. One of
the clauses of this agreement stipulated that all prisoners who had
attempted to escape, and as a consequence were actually confined in
prison, should be immediately returned to the respective internment
camps. The German newspapers were received at the jail every day, and
no sooner had the report giving the clauses of this agreement been read
than most of the prisoners concerned professed that they could foresee
the dawn of their liberty. Ellison and Keith were particularly hopeful
and they informed me that once at Ruhleben no long time would elapse
before they would attempt to effect an escape into Holland.

Indeed, as early as September, they escaped from the Ruhleben camp,
both on the same day, but acting separately. They rejoined in Berlin,
and this time their attempt was successful. Together they succeeded
in reaching Holland. A postal card addressed to me from that country
by Mr. Ellison informed me of what had happened, without, of course,
giving any details.

Amongst the prisoners who had sojourned for several months with these
prisoners there was general rejoicing at their success. Last July I
had the great pleasure of meeting Ellison and Keith in London. In the
course of a never-to-be-forgotten evening we spent together, they
related the events following their third escape. They told of their
flight from Berlin to Bremen, from Bremen to the River Ems, then
through the marshes a few miles from the German-Holland frontier,
and, finally, their calling, at three o’clock in the morning, upon a
Dutch farmer, where they learned that they were well out of Germany.
It was a delight to hear these two men describe the rejoicing that
was manifested in the home of that farmer, at their good fortune. The
farmer’s wife, a worthy Dutch woman about sixty years of age, got up
from her bed to welcome these two Englishmen. She prepared a hearty
meal, after which the farmer, his wife, and my two friends danced
together round the room in a delirium of joy. Mr. Ellison has since
joined the English army and Mr. Keith the American army.

Another sensational escape was that of a Frenchman named B—. This man,
a soldier in the French army, formed part of a platoon which, at the
beginning of the war, was surrounded in a small wood in Belgium, in the
neighborhood of the French frontier. In order to avoid falling into
the hands of the Germans, he and some of his friends took refuge with
a Belgian peasant. They discarded their uniforms and donned civilian

B— tried to flee to Holland by the north. He was caught and taken to
the concentration camp for the French in Germany. After a few months’
time he again succeeded in getting away. He was dressed in a German
uniform and even wore on his breast the ribbon of the Iron Cross. He
was caught and thrown into a cell, at the Berlin jail. Here he was
kept in solitary confinement, but finally was allowed to walk in the
corridors just as we were allowed. Then he conceived the daring project
of escaping through the roof, from his cell on the fifth floor of the

The windows of these cells, on the fifth floor, were underneath the
roof which slightly overhangs, but which leaves no hold for the hand.
The plan of this Frenchman was to saw through and remove an iron bar,
get through the opening and climb on to the roof. This operation, which
I was to witness, was duly executed. It necessitated, I must admit, a
real acrobatic feat.

At eleven o’clock at night–so the prisoner informed me in advance–he
would begin his attempt to escape. About that hour I stood on a chair
so that my head was on a level with my window. In this way I could
observe the Frenchman’s movements. We were on the same floor.

He managed to saw off the iron bar at its socket, and thus with a
widened aperture he succeeded in passing through. He had protected
himself with a towel tied to other bars in order to guard against a
fall, which would inevitably have been fatal, since his window was
sixty feet above the level of the paved yard.

My friend found a fulcrum on a small plank which he succeeded in
placing at the top of his window, between the brick wall and the
horizontal bars which hold the vertical bars. This plank projected
about one foot beyond the outer wall. The working out of this scheme
was exceedingly daring and dangerous, and almost incredible, and it was
not long before the man, supporting himself with one hand on the little
plank, reached, with the other, the water spout fixed on the roof,
a short distance from the edge. The next instant he disappeared in
the darkness. But having reached the roof, he was not yet “out of the
wood,” for the outside of the prison formed a wall seventy-five feet
high. My friend, however, had made a rope about sixty feet in length.
He adjusted one end to the lightning-conductor and let the other end
fall down the side of the wall. He slid down this rope to within about
fifteen feet of the ground, and from that distance dropped on his feet.

We never saw him again, nor heard what became of him. But everyone of
us, the officials included, were agreed that this escape was one of the
most daring and extraordinary that had ever taken place.



It was in the month of May, 1916. I had then been a prisoner at the
Stadtvogtei for one year. Repeated requests made by myself, through the
American Embassy, and made on my behalf by the Canadian and British
Governments to secure my freedom, had been of no avail. Sometimes my
requests were not even acknowledged. I began to fear I might remain a
prisoner until the end of the war.

One evening, about seven o’clock, after all prisoners had been locked
up for the night, a non-commissioned officer employed in the office of
the jail opened my cell and stated that he had good news for me.

“What news?” I asked.

“You are to be liberated,” he answered.


“The day after to-morrow–Saturday. This news was telephoned a moment
ago from the Kommandantur, and I have been instructed to inform you of
the fact.”

I could not resist shaking the non-commissioned officer’s hand to
thank him for the good news he brought to me. My door was hardly
closed before I was standing on my chair at the window calling to my
companions in captivity–that is to say, the men with whom I was in
daily contact. I shouted to them the good news. They called back their
congratulations and were sincerely happy at my good fortune.

The following day we appointed a real feast day when all the British
prisoners should take part in celebrating the promise of my liberation.
We decided to hold a reunion in my cell. We even resolved to organize
a dinner! Remember, this was in 1916, when everybody in Berlin was
subjected to food rationing. Our only diet was the prison menu. This
meant that we had a real problem on our hands if we were to prepare an
acceptable meal.

Invitations had been sent to all the British prisoners requesting the
pleasure of their company to lunch that same day, “in Parlor No. 669,
in the International Hotel of the Stadtvogtei, to meet Mr. Beland and
celebrate his approaching departure for England.”

The invitation cards bore the following instructions: “Each guest is
requested to bring his plate, knife, fork, tea-cup, glass, and his own
bread. Salt will be supplied on the premises.”

My table was placed in the centre of the cell. We had covered it with
paper napkins, and had succeeded in obtaining some canned meat. At that
time this was a marvelous accomplishment, believe me.

The dinner was a very joyful one. Toasts were proposed and
congratulatory speeches were made. The following afternoon I was
granted leave to go to the city. For the first time, after twelve
months’ incarceration, I was allowed to walk the streets! It was late
in May. The vegetation was luxuriant and for the first time in a
year I enjoyed the liberty of walking among the verdant foliage and
flowerbeds of the square adjoining the prison. Never before had nature
appeared so wonderfully beautiful. I was tempted to smile even at the
Germans who walked about the streets.

Two hours later I returned to the jail, and learned that my departure,
which had been fixed for the next day, would be delayed owing to the
fact–so I was told–that a certain document had not yet been signed by
the high command. It was represented to me that the signing of this
document was a mere formality, and my release was a thing decided and
assured. I was to be allowed to leave on the following Wednesday.

On the Tuesday, I was ready to start. My baggage was packed. Then I was
advised once more that the missing document had not yet arrived; that I
must wait a few days longer. Of course, I was very much distressed at
this repeated delay, but I tried to be patient through the ensuing two
weeks, which appeared centuries to me.

One day I was called into the office of the jail. Major Schachian had
come to explain that the Kommandantur in Berlin had really decided to
give me my liberty, to allow me to go back to my family in Belgium, and
particularly to be near my wife, who had been ailing for six months–but
a superior authority had now over-ridden this decision.

One can conceive my disappointment. I remarked to that officer that
being a physician I was being detained contrary to international laws;
that, moreover, I had on several previous occasions received assurances
from the military authorities in Antwerp that I should not be molested;
that I had practised my profession, not only in a hospital, before the
fall of Antwerp, but since that date among the civil population of
Capellen. The officer did not attempt to deny all this, but he said:
“You practised medicine for charity; you did not practise it regularly.”

Was it conceivable that a man of his position and intelligence could
make such a remark? I was astounded, and dared to reply: “I always
understood the liberty of physicians in time of war was guaranteed by
international conferences, because physicians are in a position to
relieve the physical sufferings of humanity, and not because they may
be allowed to make money.”

The officer saw he had made a bad break, as the popular expression has
it. He attempted to effect a retreat in the best order he could. He was
really embarrassed, and left me, while I returned to my cell, my heart
bowed down by deception and disappointment.

A full year elapsed before any substantial change was made in my life
of captivity.



I had been in prison then for two years, seeing nothing outside but
the sky and a wall pierced by some fifty iron-barred windows. For two
short hours, one year before, as stated in the previous chapter, I had
been granted the privilege to walk on the streets, to breathe the free
atmosphere of the city. My general health was bad. I could neither read
nor sleep. Mentally I was seriously depressed. I had abandoned all hope
of regaining my liberty before the end of hostilities.

But one day the old jail physician, a very kind man, Dr. Becker,
visited me in my cell. We had previously talked together on medical
matters. He knew, of course, that I was habitually called to attend the
sick during the twenty-three hours he was absent every day from the
prison. He had placed at my disposal his little dispensary. Indeed,
from the medical point of view, one can truthfully say that between the
prison doctor and myself diplomatic relations were never severed.

The object of his visit to me now was to inquire about my health. He
had noticed that my general appearance left much to be desired.

“Well, how are you?” he asked on entering my cell.

“Bad,” I replied.

“I am truly sorry,” the doctor remarked. “I have observed lately that
you appeared to be far from well.”

“The fact is,” I told him, “I cannot sleep nor eat. I am very nervous,
and I feel weak and depressed.”

The old German practitioner eyed me critically through his spectacles,
and it seemed to me that through his glasses I could see reflected a
feeling of genuine sympathy.

“But,” he urged, “you are a physician. You know, perhaps, just what it
is that is particularly ailing you.”

“Nothing more than the effects of continuous, close confinement,” I
answered. “You know, I have been deprived of fresh air and exercise for
the past two years.”

“But, surely,” he exclaimed, “you go out when you feel so disposed!”

“What do you mean?” I asked him. “Do you profess to believe that I have
the privilege of going out of the prison for exercise, according to my
free will?”

“I do,” the doctor replied.

“Well,” I rejoined, “all I have to say is that I cannot understand
how you, the doctor of this prison, have never learned that during
the two years I have been here I–like every other prisoner–never am
permitted to go on the street. I may say that during this period the
only occasion on which I was allowed to go outside was just one year
ago. I was then granted special leave to visit the stores to buy a
few things necessary to my departure for Belgium. I had been promised
liberty, and the promise was not fulfilled. With the exception of this
outing of two hours, I have been confined within the walls of this
prison continuously for the past two years. You know how vitiated the
atmosphere of these corridors becomes, since hundreds of prisoners must
traverse them every morning as they are engaged in the work of cleaning
their cells after thirteen hours’ seclusion therein. You know the yard
in which we are permitted to spend a few hours each afternoon. You know
as well as I do that when one has walked seventy paces he has traversed
the whole limit of the three sides of the triangle. This yard is
bounded by walls seventy-five feet high; thirty-five toilet cabinets,
as well as the cell windows and the kitchens, open on to it, and I
believe its atmosphere is even worse than that I breathe in my cell.”

“Well,” said the doctor after listening to me with an air of pained
attention, “I am surprised. Why don’t you make application to the
authorities asking to be allowed to go into the city, for a daily walk?
I will support your demand.”

I thought the opportunity favorable to tell the doctor what I thought
of the arbitrary conduct the authorities had shown towards me.

“Well, you will excuse me,” I said, “if I say that I cannot act upon
your kind suggestion. It has become impossible for me to ask any favor
from the German Government.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Because each and every fair, reasonable and just request which I have
hitherto made has been either ignored or refused. God only knows how
many requests and petitions I have addressed to the German authorities
during the last two years.”

“What did you ask for in particular?” he inquired.

“First,” I said, “I protested against my internment, pointing out that
in my quality of physician it was contrary to international laws to
keep me in captivity. In reply, I was told there was no documentary
proof that I was a doctor. This was at the beginning of my captivity.
Through the American Embassy I obtained from the Canadian College of
Physicians and Surgeons, and from the university from which I was
graduated, the documents which established that I was a licensed and
practising physician. I was informed in the month of October, 1914,
that these documents had been remitted to the competent authorities
here, in Berlin. I then renewed my demand for liberty. I repeated over
and over again my requests, but without any other results than that of
seeing, after two or three months’ anxiety and trouble, an officer of
the Kommandantur who came and took my deposition to prove why I came to
Belgium in the first place and what I had done in that country since my
arrival. All these things the authorities had known for a long time.
I had to sign an insignificant transcript of the proceedings made by
the officer, who left me with an ill-concealed air of mockery at my

“My wife,” I went on, “was taken ill. For many months her illness
advanced. The news received each week from my children and the doctor
indicated clearly that recovery was hopeless. I begged to be allowed
to visit my wife. I received no answer to my request. During the last
two weeks of her illness I was notified by telegram that the case was
urgent and I was urged to hasten to my wife’s bedside. I besieged the
Kommandantur with daily petitions for leave of absence, but no answer
was vouchsafed. I offered to pay the expenses of two soldiers to
accompany me from Berlin to Antwerp, and to return the next day. This
request was curtly refused. My correspondence was held up for about
twelve days and during that critical time I was without news of my
family, and after these twelve days of unspeakable anguish an officer
informed me that my wife was dead. I implored him to go immediately
to the Kommandantur and ask permission to accompany me to Antwerp and
Capellen that I might be present at the funeral. His reply was ‘Madam
was buried two days ago!’

“You will understand, doctor, that after being treated in such
an inhuman manner, it is quite impossible, while I maintain my
self-respect, to ask for any favor from the German Government. I was
refused justice when I entreated for what was just. I have nothing to
demand now.”

My statement perceptibly saddened and embarrassed the old doctor.
Apparently I had opened his eyes to a phase of German mentality which
he had not hitherto realized. He hesitated for a few seconds and then
promised that he would at once take steps to alleviate my suffering and
relieve some of the pressure of the hard prison regime.

He fulfilled his promise. Two days afterward instructions were received
which bore this out. At the same time it should be remembered that the
German authorities were mindful of the possibility of reprisals from
Great Britain after the fact had become known in London that my health
was seriously threatened by my internment. The new instructions now
issued to the jail authorities stipulated that I was to be permitted to
go out of the jail on two afternoons of each week, under the escort of
a non-commissioned officer. I was to be allowed to walk in a certain
park, but must not communicate with anybody during my promenades.
Moreover, the officer and his prisoner were to make the short journey
to the park and return by railway. I, of course, at once availed myself
of this privilege to go out and breathe the fresh air twice a week,
and this contributed to a very appreciable extent to re-establish my
health, physically and mentally.



A few weeks after entering prison I was called into the office on the
ground floor, where I found myself face to face with a person entirely
unknown to me.

“I am Mr. Wassermann, manager of the German Bank,” said this visitor,
in introducing himself. “Are you Mr. Beland?”

“Yes, sir; I am,” I replied.

“Then be seated,” he continued. “The day before yesterday I received
a letter from one of my fellow-countrymen who is resident in Toronto.
He informs me that he has learned from the Canadian newspapers that you
are interned here, and he asks me to interest myself on your behalf. My
friend adds that he, himself, has not received the slightest annoyance
from the Canadian Government. Will you tell me if there is anything I
can do for you?”

“You could, no doubt, obtain for me my freedom,” I told him.

“I would like to do it,” he answered, “and I will do all that I can in
order to be useful to you, but I really do not know to what extent I
may succeed. Is there anything else I can do?”

“Nothing that I know of.”

“Is your cell comfortable?”

“I occupy a cell in company with three others.”

“Would it be more agreeable to you if you were assigned to a cell
exclusively your own?”

“It would, indeed,” I said, “for then I could work with more comfort.”

Mr. Wassermann then left me, and a few days after our interview I was
removed into a cell reserved for myself alone on the fifth or top floor
of the prison. Here the atmosphere was purer than in the other cell,
as there was better ventilation. It was brighter, and I had a wider
outlook of the sky. I occupied this cell for three years.

       *       *       *       *       *

The prison was heated by a hot-water system, which was shut off each
day at about two o’clock in the afternoon, so that in the evening the
atmosphere generally was very cold, so cold in fact, that frequently I
would have to go to bed as early as seven o’clock, directly the cells
were locked, in order to keep myself warm.

       *       *       *       *       *

We were allowed to write two letters and four postal cards each month.
This was a rule which applied to all prisoners in Germany, without
distinction. A letter addressed to a foreign country was detained for
a period of ten days, and all correspondence sent by us or directed
to us was minutely censored, detention of the letters and censure
of the letters being practised as a “military measure.” During the
whole period of my imprisonment I never received one single copy of a
Canadian newspaper, although I know now that quite a number were from
time to time addressed to me.

       *       *       *       *       *

Courses of instruction in French, English, and German were given daily
at the jail, but only on very rare occasions were there any religious
services, either Protestant or Catholic. I recall only two or three
occasions during the whole of my captivity on which I had the privilege
of attending chapel, which was situated in another section of the

       *       *       *       *       *

German newspapers of all shades of political thought were received in
the jail, whether pan-German, Liberal, Conservative or Socialistic in
their tendencies. But we were not allowed to read either English or
French newspapers, though we knew the big dailies of Paris and London
were available at the principal news stands in Berlin. This does not
mean, however, that I did not get a glimpse at both English and French
newspapers during my captivity. It sometimes happened that one or
other of the incoming prisoners had either a London or Paris newspaper
concealed in his pockets. There were other means also through which
we were able from time to time to obtain newspapers from the allied

Christmas is always celebrated with great pomp in Berlin. On Christmas
Eve the prisoners enjoyed a small celebration amongst themselves. There
was a Christmas tree, and two or three officers of the Kommandantur,
accompanied by a few ladies, came and distributed gifts, which were,
for the most part, of the nature of provisions for the most needy of
the prisoners.

On Christmas Eve, 1915, enough food was distributed to give each
prisoner a good meal. In 1916, when food had become scarce, there was
no distribution of provisions, but each prisoner received as a gift
an article of underwear or a new pair of socks. In 1917, there was a
Christmas tree, but no gifts of any kind. The economic situation in the
interior of Germany had become such that neither food nor clothing were
available for the prisoners.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the course of one of my walks in the park during the last year of
my imprisonment, I saw the then idol of the German people–the great
General Hindenburg. Accompanied by an officer, he was driving in an
automobile along the street which borders the Tiergarten. My escort and
I were on the sidewalk when the famous general passed. I had a distinct
view of his features. When we got back to the jail my companion
announced with great gusto to his fellow-officers that he had seen
General Hindenburg. As they received his announcement with incredulity,
I was called upon to corroborate the statement of my escort, and
then they looked upon me with actual envy. According to their way of
thinking, I was one of the luckiest men on earth! The mere sight of
so great a general, they thought, should be regarded as a red-letter
day in a man’s life history! Such was their veneration, respect, and
admiration for the chief of staff. Bismarck in all his glory was never
arrayed in such a halo of glory as Hindenburg wore in the mind’s-eye of
the Germans of that day.

The German people are not demonstrative. They are taciturn and dreamy.
One day I was on the station platform waiting for the train to take
me and my guard to the park. The noon editions of the newspapers
were on sale and were being bought with avidity. They contained some
sensational story or another. It was, according to the best of my
memory, the report of the Austro-German offensive directed against the
Italians in November, 1917. The advance on the enemy and the capture of
forty thousand prisoners were announced in scare headings.

After glancing over the news myself, I turned to observe the attitude
of the readers around me. I continued my observations as the train
moved out of the station, and I did not notice one smile among the
whole crowd of Germans; nor was there any apparent desire on the
part of any man to discuss the events with his neighbor. To them the
news appeared to be one of the most natural events in the world. I
asked myself: Have these people commenced to realize that all these
victories do not bring the war any nearer to the end they desire?
Or, has their feeling of enthusiasm become deadened by three years of
unrelenting fight? I leave it to the reader to appreciate now, in the
light of subsequent events.

The first American citizen interned in the Stadtvogtei was an
unhealthy-looking man whose name I now forget. It was during the
absence of Mr. Gerard, the United States Ambassador, in the month of
October, 1916, I believe. This man claimed that he never would have
been interned if Mr. Gerard had been in Berlin. He often expressed to
us fears as to the security of Mr. Gerard. He was under the impression
that Germany desired his disappearance, and that on his return to
Germany the United States Ambassador ran a great danger of being
sent to the bottom of the sea. He was convinced that Mr. Gerard was
extremely hated in Berlin and was considered the enemy of Germany’s

       *       *       *       *       *

It may not be out of place to mention here that at one time there was
quite a controversy in the German newspapers concerning Mrs. Gerard.
Certain sheets had accused Mrs. Gerard of lack of good manners, and
this to the extent of having on one occasion pinned the Iron Cross to
the collar of her pet dog and to have promenaded the streets of Berlin
with the animal thus “dressed up.” The alleged incident created such
a stir that the semi-official newspaper “Le Gazette de l’Allemagne du
Nord” published an editorial on the subject. It was therein stated that
the allegations against Mrs. Gerard were false and that Mr. and Mrs.
Gerard had conducted themselves always in a manner absolutely above

       *       *       *       *       *

Very seldom a day passed without one of the non-commissioned officers
submitting this question to the British prisoners, “When shall we
have peace?” The answer was invariably the same: “We did not know.”
How could we? However, the question gave the Prussians an excuse for
prolonging a conversation, during which we would be told that Germany
wished for peace, but that the obstacle was England. On more than one
occasion several among us–notably a Belgian named Dumont, who never
minced his words–retorted: “But why did you start the war?” On one
occasion a non-commissioned officer, to whom this question was directly
put, insisted that Germany never wished nor planned the war, neither
did she start it.

“You are quite right; you are a thousand times right as to starting
it,” cried Dumont, giving expression to his anti-German sentiments, “it
was not Germany that started the war. We, the Belgians, started it!!!”

The remark was greeted with general laughter, and the non-commissioned
officer, in confusion, turned on his heels and left us.



April 19, 1918, will ever remain a memorable date for me. I had just
received a request to present myself at the Kommandantur, and a
non-commissioned officer was waiting on the ground floor to conduct
me to the office. What was the matter now? It had not infrequently
happened that a prisoner, after being summoned to the Kommandantur,
was never seen by us again. He had been summarily transferred to
another prison. My present request, therefore, was not very reassuring.
However, I could not hesitate to obey the order. As we were leaving the
jail, my escort commenced a conversation in a perfectly casual manner.

“Can you guess why you have been summoned to the Kommandantur?” he
asked me.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Well, why are you called there?” he insisted.

“Because I am to be granted my liberty,” I hazarded.

“You are quite right,” he said. “But please, do not state that I told
you this, for if it were known I had spoken I should be severely
reprimanded, perhaps actually punished, for having communicated this
news to you.”

At the Kommandantur, which I now visited for the first time, I was at
once ushered into a hall and into the presence of Captain Wolfe, the
officer who had been in the habit of visiting the jail from time to
time in order to take depositions of prisoners. He appeared, as far as
the jail was concerned, to be the “big boss” of the institution. That
man left a very unenviable impression on the minds of all the British
prisoners who passed through the jail. As for myself, I shall find
it very hard to forgive him for having ignored the multiplication of
requests I addressed to him during my three years of captivity.

As I approached his table he looked up, but he made no sign nor uttered
a word until I politely bade him good morning. Then he condescended to

“Good morning,” he replied. “I have asked that you be brought here in
order that you may be informed that you are soon to be liberated.”

“When?” I asked.

“Next week.”

“What day?”


“Is this certain?” I ventured.

“What do you mean?” he demanded, quickly.

“I am asking you if this time I am really to be liberated?” I said.

“I have told you that your liberation is to be granted; for what reason
do you ask now whether it is certain? Do you doubt my word?” he asked.

“Well,” I replied, “I recall the fact that two years ago you
communicated to me at the jail news identical with the announcement you
now make to me. Nevertheless, I am still your boarder.”

His eyes sought the ceiling vaguely, as one searching his conscience
in order to ascertain if there were any reason for self-reproach. Then
with a feeble smile he admitted that what I said was true. “Well, on
this occasion,” he said, “you may rely upon what I tell you.”

The fact was, I was to be exchanged for a German prisoner in England.
The terms of the exchange had been fixed and it was to take place
immediately. I had nothing to add, except to express my satisfaction at
being, at last, free to leave Germany.

In reply to a question I put to him, he told me that my status of a
member of Parliament and a former Minister in the Canadian Government
had been responsible for my long detention. He further said that all
the documents, papers, catalogues, books, correspondence–everything,
in fact, which would be likely to be of any service to me after my
liberation, and which I might wish to take with me, would first have to
be submitted to the censors in Berlin.

Consequently on returning to the jail, I started to make a selection
among the papers and books I had collected and the letters I had
received in the course of my captivity. I made up a fairly large-sized
parcel of them and sent the package at once to the censor. Everything
was duly censored, placed in envelopes, carefully sealed and initialed,
and returned to me at the jail.

This all took place on Saturday. On the following Monday,
First-Lieutenant Block, commanding officer at the jail, hurriedly came
to my cell, saying: “I have good news for you. The German Government,
through me, offers to allow you to pass through Belgium, on your way
to Holland, in order that you may have the opportunity and pleasure of
visiting your children near Antwerp. They are now awaiting an answer
from you. Do you accept?”

“My answer will be short,” I said. “I accept with thanks.”

Three years had elapsed since I left Capellen. During that long time
I had not been allowed to receive one visit from my daughter or the
children of my wife, who had remained at Capellen.

“This will take a few days,” said the officer, “because the several
military posts which you will pass, in Belgium, will have to be

“I have no objection to wait one, two or three weeks if I may have
the precious privilege of seeing my children again before going to
England,” I said.

“I will communicate your answer at once to the department of Foreign
Affairs,” the officer then remarked.

Three days later, the same officer informed me that he had been chosen
to accompany me to Brussels and thence to the frontier of Holland. He
appeared particularly happy in anticipation of fulfilling this duty.
As to myself, I had no objection to make, as this officer had been in
contact with me for more than two years, and it would be preferable to
travel with some one with whom I was familiar. Moreover, First-Lieut.
Block had united his efforts with my own when I solicited permission
to go to Belgium during the long illness of my deceased wife.

I had waited through one week, and then another, when the
officer–always the same–arrived one day with a gloomy countenance which
reflected bad news for me.

“Bad news?” I inquired.

“Yes,” he said; “bad news, surely.”

“I know what it is,” I said. “They refuse to let me pass through

“You have said it.”

I could not repress a movement of impatience and annoyance.

“How is it possible that such a thing can happen?” I asked. “Didn’t you
inform me two weeks ago that the German Government had already decided
to let me pass through the occupied territory so that I might go and
see my children?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Then what authority is it that is so highly situated that it can
override a decision taken by the Government?”

“It is the military authority!”

“Well,” I said, rather dryly, “when shall we start for Holland?”

“As soon as you are ready.”

“Then, we will leave this evening or to-morrow. The sooner the better,
now,” I told him.

Our departure was accordingly arranged to take place on Friday night,
May 9.



One cannot but look forward with feelings of deep emotion to the
moment when he will leave a prison where he has been detained for
three years and where he has made sincere and devoted friends. A large
number of those who had been my companions in captivity had already
left the jail, but there remained some ten prisoners of British
nationality–particularly three or four–who were very dear to me.

On the Friday, some hours previous to the time of my departure, I
obtained from the sergeant-major permission to receive in my cell,
between 7 and 8 o’clock in the evening, all the British prisoners. The
reader will remember that the cells were usually locked for the night
at 7 o’clock. These men then assembled in my cell and there for this
last hour we talked over the events of the war and the probable length
of their detention. Notwithstanding the joy I felt at the prospect of
getting out of this hell, I regretted leaving behind me those with
whom I had shared the lonesomeness of captivity, shared the hardships
received at the hands of our jailers, and deprived of liberty and the
beneficence of their mother country.

The train was to start at 9 o’clock, and my escort and I were to leave
the jail at 8 o’clock. It was at this hour that I said farewell to
these worthy fellows. I was a free man. They were to remain prisoners.
We were all under the influence of a powerful emotion.

The train was due to depart from Silesia Station. I was accompanied
thereto by three military men: an orderly, a non-commissioned
officer, and an officer. The officer was to accompany me as far as
the frontier, and when we reached the station, he said he proposed to
ask the authorities to allow us to occupy a compartment exclusively
to ourselves, as we would have to spend the whole of one night on the
train. With this end in view, he interviewed the station master, and
when the train arrived at the station this official considerately
placed a compartment at our disposal.

The officer had to give what was accepted as a valid reason of state in
order to obtain this privilege. It was the transportation of a prisoner
of British nationality through German territory. This was sufficient.
The conversations “this British prisoner” might have overheard had
he been allowed to mingle with others on the train, might have been
indiscreet and of a nature calculated to harm the German interests
should they be repeated in England!

Whether that was the correct view of the matter or not, or whether
other reasons prompted my companion to make the demand, certain it is
that a whole compartment was placed at our disposal, and in order that
it should not be “besieged” by other passengers a notice was affixed to
the glass pane of the door opening into the corridor of the train to
the effect that in the compartment there was a British prisoner. To
this intimation was added the one word: “Gefahrlich,” which in German

When I afterward read this notice, which had been posted against
myself, I could not repress a smile.

All trains which leave the Silesia Station en route for Holland must
cross the city of Berlin and pass in front of the famous Stadtvogtei
prison. I was aware of this fact, and when we reached this point–the
train was then traveling at full speed–I stood at the window to get a
last look at those dark grey walls which during three long years had
separated me from the outer world. To my great surprise, I saw that
the sergeant-major had allowed my former companions in captivity to
open one of the windows on the fifth story of the jail and there they
stood waving their handkerchiefs as a sign of farewell. “Poor, unhappy
fellows!” I said to myself.

The next morning at 8 o’clock, we arrived at Essen, the town where the
famous Krupp works are situated. Here we had to change trains. The
incoming train was late, and the officer and I had to pace up and down
the platform of the station of that great city for fifteen or twenty
minutes before the train, which was to convey us near the frontier,
arrived. Then we took our seats and reached our destination at about
noon. But my troubles were not yet over. I had to wait a little longer
to obtain absolute freedom.

Through a mistake by the orderly my baggage had been checked through
to a more northerly station. Inquiries were made by telegraph and we
received a reply from the officer in command of the military post
addressed advising patience and the baggage would be returned the
following day. Thus we were compelled to remain for the night in
this German frontier village of Goch, where it was a serious problem
to obtain mid-day and evening meals as we were without food cards.
However, when one, after prolonged confinement, is breathing the air of
comparative liberty, and knows that the morrow will give him absolute
freedom, he can, without much difficulty, overcome the pangs of a
hungry stomach!

At noon the next day the trunks which had strayed returned to me
safely, and I was ready and anxious to continue the journey over the
remaining two or three miles which separated us from the frontier where
final inspection was to take place and adieux said.

I was on that day–Sunday, May 11, 1918–the only passenger bound for
Holland. The train consisted of a locomotive and one coach. We halted
at a small temporary station and my personal belongings were duly
deposited in line. The arrival of “a prisoner of British nationality,”
had been anticipated, and German inspectors of both sexes surrounded me
and my baggage. The duty of the women was to examine female passengers,
and as they had nothing to do in the present instance they remained as
spectators, passive, but interested!

The inspection was very minute, and, I must add, was not intelligently
executed. The non-commissioned officer charged especially to inspect
my baggage proved himself to be an extremely stupid fellow. In one
of my trunks he observed a small leather note-book bearing the
gold-lettered inscription: “Tagebuch,” which means a diary. He put it
on one side with the apparent purpose of confiscating it. I protested,
and I asked why he wished to retain what was really a new note-book, as
there was no writing in it? He replied that the little book “contained
printing,” that his instructions were to confiscate everything written
or printed.

What stupidity! I thought to myself. I again pointed out that the
note-book contained not one word of writing, and that the only “printed
matter” was the small engraved label on the cover. But this did not
convince the stupid fellow. He failed to grasp the fact that the
passing of this innocent, unspotted little note-book could not possibly
menace the German Empire with dire calamity!

Lieutenant Block, who accompanied me and knew me well, was manifestly
annoyed. I ventured to remark: “I exceedingly regret such procedure as
this in the examination of my personal property, because under such a
process you must necessarily confiscate all my shirts, all my collars,
and all my cuffs.”

The man looked bewildered.

“I don’t understand you,” he said. “Why must I confiscate those

“Because, like the note-book, they each and every one have something
printed thereon,” I said. “And what is more serious, instead of the
printing being German, which you understand, the names printed on the
shirts, collars, and cuffs, are those of English or American firms,
which you may not understand.”

The inspector was embarrassed, even vexed. The color rushed to his face
and he handed the note-book to Lieut. Block with a gesture as who would
say: “Here, take it, and the responsibility that attaches to it. If
you like to run the risk of leaving this Britisher in possession of the
note-book, do so. I wash my hands of the possible danger!”

Lieut. Block returned the book to me without a moment’s hesitation.

A large number of photographs addressed to me either from Canada or
from Belgium were confiscated, although they had previously passed the
censorship in Berlin. A certain number of photographs, however, escaped
the eagle-eye of the inspector. They included those which the reader
will find illustrating this story. As to the other printed or written
documents which I brought out of Germany, they were subjected in Berlin
to a severe censorship. They were those documents which had been placed
in sealed envelopes and checked by the chief censor. These were passed
at the frontier without further examination.

The moment had now arrived for me to go my way. The frontier was but
a few yards distant. My baggage was put back into my compartment, the
officer accompanied me to the door of the coach, we exchanged a few
words, shook hands, and separated.

I will use a sentence here to testify on behalf of this officer,
First-Lieutenant Block, that in the course of my sufferings he did all
that lay in his power to obtain from the authorities the privileges I
repeatedly applied for. Our efforts, as I have shown, were unavailing,
but this was not Lieutenant Block’s fault.

Mr. Wallace Ellison, who published his “Recollections” in Blackwood’s
Magazine, has given similar testimony regarding Officer Block. His two
years’ contact with the prisoners of British nationality gave him an
opinion of us far different to the misguided views he held previously.

The train started and an hour and seven minutes later we were at the
frontier station, in Holland. From the window of my compartment, I
could see inside the station the little customs inspectors of Queen

I was free! What a grand feeling is that of liberty after three years’
captivity! Every tree, every leaf, house, seems to smile on you!

At five o’clock the same afternoon, I was in Rotterdam.



During seven weeks’ sojourn in this charming little country of Holland,
in the course of the many walks I took along the countryside, in the
woods and parks, my thoughts reverted to that prison where I had lived
for three years. My mind recalled certain conversations and certain

I spoke a little while ago of Lieutenant Block and his courteous
manner towards me. It should not be inferred, however, from what I
stated, that Prussianism was obliterated from him. He had the Prussian
officer’s demeanor. He did not attempt to hide that he belonged to the
autocratic and irrepressible military caste.

It will be remembered that in 1916 the Kaiser issued a proclamation
pronouncing the reform of Parliamentary institutions in Prussia, and
particularly the uniformity of electoral franchise for all citizens.
Fear of the people is the beginning of political wisdom.

In Prussia, the representatives of the people are elected by three
classes of electors, and although the Social-Democrats registered a
sufficient number of votes to give them a third of the representation
in the Prussian Diet, they were only a few deputies.

The Prussian Government, in conformity with the Imperial proclamation,
had introduced a bill providing for the reform of the electoral
franchise. The majority of the Prussian Parliament refused to adopt the
projected law. At that time there was a violent controversy carried on
in the German press on this subject.

There were in Germany then several newspapers with large circulations
which could be designated as Liberal–that is to say, they were in favor
of the principle of responsible government, not in Germany alone, but
also in Prussia. They fought continually and stubbornly against the
pan-German doctrine. I may cite the Frankfurter Zeitung, the Berliner
Tageblatt, the Vossische Zeitung besides Socialist newspapers like
the Volkszeitung and the Vorwaerts. At the jail we received all the
German newspapers. I was a subscriber to the Berliner Tageblatt, and
this newspaper was the only one on my table. I had much admiration for
the publicist, whose name is well known in France–Theodore Wolfe. This
journalist repeatedly condemned German autocracy in his articles–he did
it so often that his writings became popular with all of us. He was
frequently so outspoken that we really expected to see him arrive one
fine day in our midst.

The officer during his daily visits observed the Tageblatt lying on my
table, a fact which more than once gave rise to an exchange of views
between us on the political institutions of Germany, and particularly
on the Parliamentary situation as it existed in Prussia at that time.
The Prussian Diet had just refused to adopt the draft of the bill above
referred to. That same day the visiting officer entered my cell, his
face beaming with smiles. He rejoiced–words were not strong enough, he
said, to express the satisfaction he felt at what had happened. Prussia
was to maintain her old system, the autocratic system under which this
man was convinced she had achieved prosperity and greatness; and this
it was that pleased him so much.

It is very difficult for us, accustomed, as we have become, to a
democratic system, to conceive the voluntary abdication, on the part
of a man of the standing and importance of Lieutenant Block, of all
participation in the administration of public affairs. Here was a
professor, a man between 35 and 40 years of age, who confessed and
glorified in the fact that he had never voted! And when I expressed
great surprise, and endeavored to ascertain from him what were the real
motives of his abstention, he replied, with apparent sincerity: “Have
we not got our Kaiser, who is at the same time King of Prussia, to
efficiently govern the country?”…

Another instance which reveals something of the real heart of a
Prussian officer is the following: We were at the epoch of the
catastrophe which fell upon Britain when Lord Kitchener was drowned
off the Scottish coast. This news was reported to me, like all other
news of a disquieting character, with great eagerness by the visiting
officer. Others may be amazed at the lack of tact, to say the least,
here shown, as we in the prison were each of us amazed in turn.

“Kitchener has been drowned,” announced the officer with glee.

The news drew from me a pained expression of sorrow.

“How regrettable,” I cried.

The officer drew himself up to his full height, and his eyes flashed as
he retorted, “Nicht fur uns. Nicht fur uns.” (“Not for us. Not for us.”)

“Listen,” I retorted. “The intention of my remark was to convey to you
how regrettable it is that a soldier of the worth of Lord Kitchener,
instead of finding a glorious death on the battlefield, should have
perished in the manner reported.”

“Nicht fur uns. Nicht fur uns,” the Prussian insisted.

Many months passed. The man had evidently forgotten the incident of
Kitchener’s death. One morning he came to my cell with face long,
and expression sad. “Have you heard the awful news?” he asked me.
“Richthofen has fallen.”

Richthofen, Germany’s most famous aviator, was dead after seventy-five
great aerial victories.

“Yes, Richthofen has fallen,” the officer repeated. “Is it not

“Nicht fur uns. Nicht fur uns,” I answered without hesitation.

“How can you say that?” he said. “Is it not a matter of regret that a
great hero like Richthofen should disappear?”

“Nicht fur uns,” I said again, not knowing what might be the outcome of
my boldness.

“Why do you talk like this?” the officer asked.

“I am merely following your example,” I told him. “When I ventured to
express my regret at Lord Kitchener’s death, regret that a soldier of
his valor had been drowned, and not killed in the manner of the valiant
soldier he was, you made use of this expression. To-day Richthofen
has fallen, but he fell in the arena where his skill and genius and
valor earned for him an immortal name. Acknowledge that his loss is
regrettable for Germany, but you cannot expect the countries at war
with Germany will experience regret in the same sense that you feel
it, although I am sure they will pay just tribute to his valor as an

The officer left me a few minutes afterwards. I do not know if he
appreciated the appropriateness of my remarks.

One day I had a sharp discussion with Captain Wolfe, of the
Kommandantur at Berlin. This officer occupied the position of a
judicial war counsellor and held a high and responsible office at the
Kommandantur. He was naturally vested with considerable authority.
Nobody realized this fact more than those who were detained against
their will, and in spite of just protests, in the jail on Dirksen
street. Well, on the day to which I am referring Captain Wolfe visited
the jail and condescended to hear me. That was his manner of answering
the numerous petitions I had addressed to the military authorities
during the previous months. Periodically I would undertake against the
authorities what may be called an “offensive” for liberty. On this
occasion I submitted to Captain Wolfe the fact that I had been arrested
in a neutral country–that is to say, Belgium. I said that no foreign
subject could lawfully be made a prisoner there, at least not until the
military authorities had given all foreign subjects a fair opportunity
to leave the territory.

“But Belgium is not, and was not, a neutral country,” Captain Wolfe

“I do not understand you,” I said.

“Belgium,” he answered, “had become the ally of Britain and the enemy
of Germany.”

“I still fail to understand you,” I said.

“Have you not read the documents which were taken from the archives at
Brussels?” he asked. “These official documents constitute a solemn
confirmation of my pretension that Belgium was allied with Britain.”

As a matter of fact, the Gazette de l’Allemagne du Nord (Die Nord
Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung), a semi-official newspaper, did publish
during the course of the winter of 1914-1915 a series of documents
alleged to have been found in the archives of Brussels. No doubt these
documents were likewise published in all the allied countries. They
purported to contain the draft of a convention between a military or
naval officer of Britain and the Belgian authorities concerning an
eventual landing of British troops at Ostend. I had previously taken
cognizance of these documents and incidentally of a commentary by
a Belgian military expert to the following effect: “The landing of
British troops in Belgium was only to take place _after the violation
of Belgian neutrality by Germany_.” This correction removed from the
documents all vestige of hostility against Germany.

After the publication of these documents comments from official
sources were published in the press, and it was said, amongst other
things, that _the contents were known to the competent authorities in
Germany before the declaration of war_. I accordingly asked Captain
Wolfe if this were true?

“It is,” he answered.

“Then how is it,” I further asked, “that the Imperial Chancellor, Von
Bethmann-Hollweg, on August 4, made the following declaration before
the Reichstag: ‘At the moment I am addressing you German troops have
perhaps crossed the frontier and invaded Belgium’s territory. It must
be acknowledged that this is a violation of the rights of the people
and of international treaties. But Germany proposes and binds herself
to repair all the damages caused to Belgium so soon as she shall have
attained her military designs’?”

It is impossible to describe the officer’s embarrassment.

“Well,” he mumbled, in an effort to submit more or less of an
explanation, “it was because Belgium also peremptorily refused to let
us pass.”

The tone and manner of his “explanation” indicated plainly enough that
Captain Wolfe was capitulating.

In the pan-German newspapers more particularly, this attitude of Von
Bethmann-Hollweg before the Reichstag was much criticized. It was
declared that such a statement constituted a sufficient reason for his
immediate release from Chancellorship.



During the years 1916 and 1917, and for the first part of 1918, Germany
possessed one god and one idol. The god was Emperor William and the
idol was Hindenburg. It will be remembered that at the outbreak of
the war Hindenburg was a retired general leading a peaceful life at
Hanover. Thence the Emperor recalled him from retirement and relative
obscurity and gave him the command of the German forces operating in
Eastern Prussia. At that time the Russians occupied part of the Baltic
Provinces. The Emperor, in examining the theses made by the different
German generals, discovered that Hindenburg, a quarter of a century
previously, had treated in his thesis the subject of an invasion of
Eastern Prussia. He then sent for Hindenburg and committed to him the
task of liberating the eastern territory from the occupation of the

We all know that Hindenburg accomplished this task victoriously and
acquired for himself, particularly as the result of the famous battle
of Tannenberg, a fame which surpassed that of any other Prussian
general. Pressure was then brought to bear on the Emperor by his
entourage with the object of placing Hindenburg at the head of the
general staff; and, as a matter of fact, by a movement of the hand,
Emperor William dismissed Von Falkenhayn, who was at that time chief of
the general staff, and replaced him by Hindenburg.

The victory of Tannenberg was followed by several others, including
that of Rumania, and then it was that the population of Berlin, no
longer able to restrain their enthusiasm for Hindenburg, decided to
erect in his honor a colossal monument on one of the public squares.
The testimony of popular admiration took the shape of a wooden statue,
forty-one feet in height, built at the end of Victory avenue, at the
foot of the immense column known as the Victory Column, erected after
the war of 1871 to commemorate the victory of the Germans over the

Opportunity was given to me on several occasions in the course of the
outings I was allowed to make during the last year of my captivity,
to observe with what veneration the people surrounded this misshapen,
inartistic monument standing in the centre of the Tiergarten. Twice
every week, as I have previously explained, I was privileged to take
a walk around the garden, under the escort of a non-commissioned
officer, and on no occasion did I neglect to walk towards this statue.
A large number of people, particularly old men and women, accompanied
by young children, crowded at the foot of the column near this immense
wooden image. They would look at it, examine it with the air of people
admiring its proportions and artistic qualities. But what was more
curious and interesting was the means adopted to collect charity
funds through this new Trojan horse. A scaffolding surrounding the
statue furnished means for all to climb to the level of the head and
contemplate from this close view the severe features of the great

At the foot of the scaffolding there was installed a species of
ticket-office where one could purchase nails at a cost of one mark
each (twenty-five cents). The purchaser of a nail was handed a hammer
and accorded the privilege of driving a nail into the statue. The
children particularly showed a great love for this sport. They could
be seen crowding noisily round the ticket-office awaiting their turn,
grasping in their little hands the silver coin with which to buy the
nail. The ceremony of driving in the nail assumed a special character
of patriotism. Hence it was quite a sight to see with what pride a
child would return from performing the operation amidst the plaudits
of the old men and the mothers. In this way large sums of money were
levied and it is pertinent to say that Hindenburg was literally
riddled with nails. One could choose the particular spot wherein to
drive the nail–the feet, legs, body, arms, or head. I remember that
copper-headed nails were driven into the head, copper not being so
scarce at that period as it became afterwards.

The art reviews of Berlin never dwelt at any length on the artistic
qualities of the monument. As a matter of fact, it was an ugly object.
One day, however, a violent controversy was started in the newspapers
between two sculptors as to which of the two was the originator of this
genial idea. What an ambition!

It is no exaggeration to state that the popularity which Hindenburg
enjoyed in Germany at this epoch was greater even than the
veneration with which the Emperor himself was surrounded. Indeed,
several non-commissioned officers often told me confidentially that
Hindenburg’s popularity was very much greater than that enjoyed by the
Emperor. The ascendency Hindenburg acquired over the imagination of the
people never, in fact, ceased to disturb the mind of the Emperor. For
this reason, at each new victory achieved under Hindenburg, Wilhelm
would hasten eagerly to the battlefield and from the point where the
victory was won he would flash a telegram to the Empress with the
studied object of impressing on the minds of his subjects that his was
really the strategic genius responsible for the success achieved. So
much was this true that whenever a military operation developed itself
in favor of Germany, either in Galicia or in Rumania, we knew how to
predict, a day or two ahead, that a sensational despatch from the
Kaiser to the Empress would be published in the newspapers. Rarely were
we mistaken.

Among the prisoners of British nationality at the Stadtvogtei was one
who, on several occasions, was suspected of exaggerated sympathies for
the cause of Germany. He had become very unpopular, and many British
prisoners refused to speak to him or have anything to do with him
whatever. One day Mr. Williamson, to whom I have referred in a previous
chapter, was called into the office to receive a package of provisions
which had just arrived from England. After his package had been
examined, another parcel was offered to him with the request that he
carry it to the Englishman–the one I have referred to as being under
suspicion–whose cell was situated on the same floor as that occupied by
Williamson. The latter, who spoke a little German, formally refused to
take charge of the package, saying to the non-commissioned officer, and
in the presence of others: “I will not take the package, for I do not
wish to have anything to do with this bloody German.” Williamson then
left the office, taking with him only his own package.

The incident caused some commotion, as the non-commissioned officers
reported the unsympathetic remark made by one prisoner towards
another. On the following day all the prisoners of British nationality
were requested to go down to a cell on the ground floor, and there
the officer in charge of the prison addressed to us a very severe
remonstrance regarding the incident. I recall one remark in particular.
It was to the effect that “he did not venture to hope that we would
openly renounce our sympathies towards Great Britain, but he would not
tolerate for one instant any unkindly, disrespectful remark against
Germany.” He cited the case in particular of Mr. Williamson and also
that of Mr. Keith who, he said, was born in Germany, who had profited
from Germany’s hospitality, who had received his education in the
Public schools of the empire and who, nevertheless, every time an
occasion offered itself, manifested his antipathy towards the country
of his adoption. The officer finally menaced us with the remark that
whoever was guilty in the future of disrespectful remarks would be
severely punished.

This attitude of Officer Block created further prejudice amongst the
British prisoners, and two of them, whose names I will not mention,
organized a huge joke at his expense. Through a very clever stratagem,
one of the pass-keys was juggled from one of the non-commissioned
officers. This key would open every one of the doors inside the prison,
but it would not open the outer door. With the aid of this key the two
prisoners in question conceived the idea of unmercifully teasing the

With much difficulty we managed to smuggle into the jail a copy of
the London Daily Telegraph twice a week, in spite of an interdiction
of all English and French newspapers. Needless to say, the Telegraph
was circulated amongst all the British prisoners, and after each and
every one of us had read it, the operation was crowned as a great joke
against Officer Block himself.

By the aid of the aforesaid key, then, the door of the office would
be opened during the breakfast hour while the officer was away, or
during the closing hours of the day after he had left the jail, and the
forbidden Daily Telegraph placed on his desk.

The second time this was done the officer became very angry and placed
a non-commissioned officer at his door during his absence. This created
a little difficulty, but our friends were not to be rebuffed by such a
small matter.

As I tried to explain in a previous chapter, the section of the jail
we occupied was triangular in shape. At seven o’clock in the evening
a non-commissioned officer started to close the doors. He would first
close the doors on one side of the triangle, and after doubling the
angle he would start the operation on the second side. It was at this
moment that one of the prisoners, occupying a cell on the third side,
still open, would come surreptitiously with the famous key, open the
door of one of the locked cells, and at the same time give the key to
the occupant of the cell. He would then return hastily to his own cell.
This was done, of course, very quickly and without being seen by the
non-commissioned officer, who continued closing and locking the cells
on the third side of the triangle, and then, under the impression that
every prisoner was locked up, he would leave the jail.

In the course of the evening, or a little later, the British prisoner
having a copy of the Daily Telegraph would, with the aid of the key,
enter the office at the end of the corridor and succeed in putting the
newspaper on the desk of the officer. He would return to his cell and
his door would remain unlocked all night. On the following morning the
non-commissioned officer would start to unlock the doors, invariably
retracing the steps he had taken the previous evening. The same
prisoner, coming out from his cell in the morning, would hurry across
the side of the triangle still closed and would be handed the key from
the one who had performed the overnight operation; would turn the key
in the lock, and return to his own cell. When the non-commissioned
officer reached the last side of the triangle he would find all the
doors locked.

This stratagem was repeated for about ten days and amused all the
prisoners in the Stadtvogtei more than I can describe. The officer took
every means imaginable to catch the culprit, but, happily, he never
succeeded. Finally, when he decided to place a sentry at the door of
his office throughout the night, the owner of the key was forced to
abandon his practical joking.

Turkey was handsomely represented at the Stadtvogtei during a couple of
years; the Turk prisoners were one Raschid and the other Tager.

Raschid was a young man, about thirty-five years of age. He was
lodged in a cell on the floor above ours and there kept in solitary
confinement. He was arrested while passing through Germany, because
he, too, openly manifested his sympathies for France. Like Tager, his
compatriot, he had received a French education, and had lived in Paris
for several years. This poor Raschid, who was locked up all day long,
was not allowed to read or smoke, but several among us when apprised
of his hard lot succeeded from time to time in providing him with some
French books, cigarets and also with a little food. Professor Henri
Marteau, the celebrated French violinist, was particularly moved by the
misfortunes of Raschid. He was allowed to play the instrument in his
cell, which during the latter part of his captivity was situated on the
side of the triangle facing the cell in which Raschid was confined.
And there he would draw from his violin marvelous strains that would
send a ray of comfort to the poor Turk’s soul.

One night I was called to Raschid’s cell. He was very ill. And while
we talked together I obtained a great deal of information from him.
The conversation, being in French, was not understood by the attendant
non-commissioned officer.

Raschid believed at that time that he had been entirely forgotten
by the military authorities. He was confined for over five months
before hearing one single reason why he was so barbarously treated.
Then upwards of five months after his arrest, he was taken to the
office of Gen. Von Kessel, high commanding officer in the Steps of
Brandenburg. Raschid, with whom I talked on the day following this
interview, related the incidents of his conversation with the great
general. Von Kessel informed him that he would soon be liberated; that
he would travel by express train through the Balkans on his way to
Constantinople. The general asked him the following questions amongst

“How long have you been in jail?”

“One hundred and sixty-two days,” answered Raschid.

“How long have you been in solitary confinement?”

“One hundred and sixty-two days.”

Here the general burst out laughing.

“One hundred and sixty-two days!” he exclaimed; “how is that?”

“I do not know,” replied Raschid.

“This is strange! This is strange! This is strange!” repeated the high
Prussian commander.

Without asking further information, the general sent Raschid back to
his cell. A few days later Raschid left us for better surroundings.

Tager was a man about fifty years of age, who came to Berlin provided
with a passport from the German Minister in Switzerland. He was to
return to Paris, where he resided, but one day was arrested and brought
to the Stadtvogtei. He was never told during his captivity–which lasted
four months–why he was interned. For my part, I never knew any other
reason than that he had expressed pro-French sentiments.

One day he was informed that he was to leave the jail for a French
officers’ internment camp. His departure was fixed for December 7,
1915. During his short (?) sojourn among us Tager won the esteem of the
prisoners of British nationality. I was the only one, however, to whom
he confided anything about himself. He informed me one day, in great
confidence, that he was a Great Rabbi of Turkestan. Judging by the way
he pronounced his title, one would believe that his rank in Mohammedan
countries corresponded to that of a lord in England. He entreated me
not to reveal this to anyone.

Well, the British prisoners met together in a cell and decided to
offer him a luncheon at the jail on the day of his departure. It was a
formidable enterprise.

On the day fixed, a table of fifteen plates was laid in my cell. The
plates, I need hardly remark, had to be set very close one to the
other! At one o’clock, three of us went as a delegation to bring Tager,
who did not understand what the whole thing meant.

Before luncheon, I told my British comrades that it was my intention to
“reveal” to them, when the toasts were proposed, that our guest, Tager,
was a Grand Rabbi of Turkestan, and although this title meant nothing
to me or to them, I urged that they should display great enthusiasm at
my disclosure and give Tager an ovation.

Luncheon was about to end, when I got up to propose the health of
Tager. In concluding my speech, I duly informed my friends that I was
about to create a sensation amongst them. Then, amid profound silence,
I solemnly said that I deemed it my duty, notwithstanding the natural
modesty of Mr. Tager, to reveal one of his titles to universal respect
and admiration.

“Mr. Tager,” I said, “is a Grand Rabbi of Turkestan, a fact which he
always hid from us.”

On this statement, everyone stood up and united in a loud chorus of
“bravos.” Then, according to time-honored custom, one of the party
led the popular refrain, “For he’s a jolly good-fellow.” We had
scarcely got through the first part of the song when Hufmeyer, a
non-commissioned officer, burst into my cell and called on us to stop.
He was too late, however. We had then given full vent to our enthusiasm
for Mr. Tager.

       *       *       *       *       *

Liebknecht was not the only one to draw upon himself the wrath of the
military authorities in 1915, 1916, and 1917.

I shall never forget the pathetic sight presented by a worthy old
fellow who was interned with us for many months. He was Professor Franz
Mehring, a gentleman seventy-one years of age. In April, 1915, Mehring
issued a proclamation in favor of an immediate peace. The proclamation
contained not only his signature, but also those of Rosa Luxemburg and
de Ledebour. This was sufficient to merit a taste of the Stadtvogtei.
Mehring, like Borchardt, belonged to the Spartacus group. A very
learned man and a fine talker, he enabled us to spend with him many
interesting and never-to-be-forgotten hours. These names of Mehring
and Borchardt, of which I had guarded but a slight remembrance, have
become of great importance since the revolution broke out in Germany.
Mehring remained for some time in the jail. After his liberation he
became a candidate for the seat left vacant by Liebknecht at Potsdam.
He was defeated, but his subsequent candidature had a happier sequel in
his election, for another constituency, to the Prussian Diet. He was
returned by a large majority and at the time of writing is a member of
the Prussian Parliament.



In a preceding chapter, I referred to an officer at the Kommandantur
by the name of Wolff. He was a German Jew who could “give points”
to Prussians! He displayed a large number of decorations, among
which one noticed the emblem of a Turkish Order worn in the centre
of the abdomen! Amongst ourselves we frequently made fun of this
barrel-bellied officer, carrying a kind of crescent on his front! I
wish to relate here an incident in which I was a participant:

Every Tuesday and Friday, during the last year of my captivity, I
was allowed, as the reader knows, to take a walk in the Tiergarten
accompanied by a non-commissioned officer of the jail. Orders had been
given, however, that my escort was never to be a non-commissioned
officer named Hoch, an Alsatian. In the course of my conversation with
Hoch, I had frequently expressed a desire to have him some day for my
walking companion. He was quite willing, but the sergeant-major, in
this instance, had the whole say and Hoch was not called upon for a
long time to be my guardian. In the month of August, 1917, however,
Hoch was requested to accompany me on my promenade in the park.

The instructions which had been given to the jail officials concerning
me were very strict. I was not supposed to know that, but I knew it
perfectly well. The non-commissioned officer, it had been ordered,
was to leave the jail with me at two o’clock, proceed to the nearest
urban railway station–that is to say about 300 feet from the jail–then
board a train and go direct to the park. The promenade was to be made
“inside” the park. I was not to be allowed to walk “outside,” neither
to talk to anyone nor enter any other place.

On the afternoon I now speak of we had just left the jail, when I
proposed to Hoch that we walk through the streets in order that I
might buy a few cigars. Hoch willingly acceded to my request and we
entered Koenig street. We bought some cigars, and from this street we
crossed to Unter-den-Linden avenue, which leads directly to Brandenburg
Gate which opens on the Tiergarten. I mention these details to show
that we took the shortest route from the jail to the garden.

On Unter-den-Linden avenue we suddenly found ourselves face to face
with Captain Wolff, of the Kommandantur. The officer knew me well,
having met me four or five times at the jail, where he came every
week to take the statements of prisoners who, through petitions or
otherwise, had complained of the treatment inflicted upon them.

He advanced towards me and spoke thus:

“You are going for a walk in the garden?”

“Yes,” I answered.

I carried a small parcel in my hand.

“And,” said he, “you make some little purchases when you go out of

I thought it well to answer affirmatively.

“Au revoir!” said he sharply, and went his way.

I noticed that my Alsatian escort was very much annoyed by this
accidental meeting. He remained taciturn all the way back to the jail.

Two days elapsed and Officer Block then came to my cell, anxiety being
written all over his face.

“You went out this week?” he inquired.

“Yes, on Tuesday.”

“Where did you go?”

“To the park.”

“Did you go to any other place?”


“This is strange,” he said. “I have just received from the
Ober-Kommando a document which contains a single phrase to the
following effect: ‘Why have instructions been transgressed in the case
of Dr. Beland?’”

I feigned bewilderment. I could not understand how we could have
transgressed the orders, for, I remarked, we went direct from the jail
to the Tiergarten.

“Did you meet anyone?” asked the officer.


“Who was it?”

“Captain Wolff, of the Kommandantur.”

“Ah!” said he, “there is the whole story. Where did you meet him?”

“On Unter-den-Linden avenue.”

“On Unter-den-Linden avenue!” the officer cried; “on Unter-den-Linden

“Yes, and what harm was done?” I demanded. “Am I not allowed to
promenade within the limits of the park? How can I get there more
direct than by following Unter-den-Linden avenue?”

“Ah!” said he, “that is true, but it is not according to the orders we
have received.”

And he thereupon explained how, under these instructions, I was to
go to the park, accompanied by a non-commissioned officer, by urban
train without however passing through the streets. He added that while
I was not supposed to know these instructions, the non-commissioned
officer would be punished if he “ignored them.” I expressed regret to
see a fine fellow like Non-Commissioned Officer Hoch implicated in the
matter. He agreed that Hoch was a dutiful man as a rule.

The idea at once occurred to me of saving Hoch from punishment if it
were possible. I accordingly asked the officer to delay his answer to
the Ober-Kommando for an hour. Having granted the request, he left me
and I immediately went to the room of Non-Commissioned Officer Hoch.

Directly he saw me he realized that something was wrong.

“We are having some annoyances,” he said.

“Yes, but the matter is not very serious. This is the trouble we have
to face.”

I related what had just taken place between the officer and myself,
whereupon the poor non-commissioned officer, lifting his arms,
exclaimed: “I am done for!”

“No, no,” I said, “I assure you that all is not lost. There is a means
to arrange matters.”

“How?” he asked.

“Well, according to regulations, one day each week you spend the
afternoon in town. Let us suppose,” I said, “that the afternoon the
instructions concerning me were read by the sergeant-major, you were

“Ah!” replied Hoch; “but I was present.”

“I am not asking you,” I said, “if you were present. I am affirming
that you were absent.…”

“Very well,” said he, “but the sergeant-major will remember that I was

“I will attend to this,” I said. “For the time being we will take it
that you were absent when the instructions were read.”

I left him, and proceeded to the sergeant-major’s room. This officer
was at that time a sick man, and had consulted me three or four times
about some kidney trouble he was suffering. He was surprised to see me
and asked the reason for my visit.

“Well,” I said, “you remember the famous instructions concerning me?
Three months ago, when you read them to the non-commissioned officers,
Non-Commissioned Officer Hoch was out on his afternoon leave, was he

“That is true,” he said.

“Well, on my last outing, I asked him to pass along Koenig street with
me, and he consented.”

“Then there was no offence,” said the sergeant-major.

“Certainly not,” I agreed. “There is need only for a little

I went on speaking of other matters, particularly of his illness, and
leaving him then I hurried off to see Officer Block. I explained to him
that when the instructions concerning myself were read three months
previously Non-Commissioned Officer Hoch was absent.

“Well,” he said, “I will report in that sense.”

We waited four days for the outcome of this explanation, and during
this time Hoch was in terrible fear. He imagined himself condemned to
the dungeon or sent back to the trenches where three of his brothers
had been killed.

Finally, on the fourth day, Lieutenant Block told me he had received
the answer from the Ober-Kommando. “The explanation,” the document
stated, “is satisfactory, but Non-Commissioned Officer Hoch must be
severely reprimanded.”

“I hope the reprimand will not be too severe,” I ventured to say.

Lieut. Block did not reply. A German officer never commits himself when
discipline is in question.

He left me, and a few minutes later the Alsatian non-commissioned
officer was summoned before him. The following colloquy took place
between them:

“Non-Commissioned Officer Hoch?”

“Yes, my Lieutenant.”

“You went out with prisoner Beland last week?”

“Yes, my Lieutenant.”

“You passed along Koenig street and Unter-den-Linden avenue?”

“Yes, my Lieutenant.”

“You know now that this was against the instructions received?”

“Yes, my Lieutenant.”

“I reprimand you severely.”

“Very well, my Lieutenant.”

“You may go.”

“Very well, my Lieutenant.”

And Hoch turned on his heels and disappeared.

The next minute he was in my cell, laughing in his sleeve at the happy
turn of events in the adventure.

One can see that the whole trouble resulted from an excess of zeal on
the part of the notorious Wolff.



I had enjoyed for two days the charming hospitality of Holland when I
was invited to visit the British General Consulate at Rotterdam. The
previous day I was at The Hague, where I registered at the British
Legation. Responding now to the invitation I left my hotel at ten
o’clock and called at the General Consulate at Rotterdam. Here I was
informed that it had been arranged that I should leave Holland on the
following day en route for England, the voyage across the Channel to be
made in a hospital ship. I remarked that it would be quite impossible
for me to leave Holland so soon.

“Why?” I was asked.

“Because,” I answered, “I received in Berlin the assurance that my
daughter–who had been in Belgium for three years, and to whom the
German authorities have up to the present time refused permission to
leave–will receive a passport for the frontier of Holland. I must,
therefore, wait until she arrives from Belgium.”

“But,” said the young officer in charge, “this will not do. The
Legation expects that you will leave for England to-morrow. I would
suggest, as we have only incomplete information on this subject, that
you go to The Hague and discuss the matter there.”

The same afternoon I proceeded to the British Legation at The Hague,
where I had the pleasure of meeting a charming officer of the British
Navy. He explained that it was quite true that I was expected to leave
for England the next day. I again urged my objection to this course.

“Am I not, after all, the one most concerned in this question of
repatriation?” I asked him. “It is of the utmost importance that I
should stay in Holland until the arrival of my daughter, who has been
detained for so long in Belgium. It will be almost impossible for me to
maintain correspondence with her from England.”

The gallant officer admitted that from this point of view my presence
in Holland was likely to be more useful and effective than if I were in

“At the same time,” he said, “you seem to overlook the fact that your
case is a special one. You have been exchanged for a German prisoner in

“I know this,” I answered.

“Well, then,” the officer continued, “this German prisoner whose
liberty has been conceded in exchange for your release cannot leave
England until you arrive there.”

Whatever spirit moved me, I could not help feeling a certain amount of
satisfaction at hearing this explanation.

“Is what you have said quite true?” I asked.

“Assuredly,” was the answer.

“Then,” I said, “why should I not let him stew in his own juice for a
time? Two years ago I was informed when in jail that I was then to be
liberated. They kept me in a state of anxious expectation for more than
two weeks and then shattered my hopes for freedom. I quite approve your
efforts to persuade me to proceed immediately to England, but you may
take my word for it that I have not the slightest intention to leave
Holland to-morrow, nor the day after, nor before, as a matter of fact,
such time as the German authorities have released my daughter, who is
detained in Belgium. You may inform the British authorities that, in
this question of exchange, the most interested party declares himself
satisfied that I consider myself sufficiently ‘exchanged’ to allow, if
they think proper, the German prisoner to leave England. On the other
hand, if the British Government consider it proper to retain its German
prisoner until I arrive in England, I make no pretence to hide the
fact that I shall feel an extreme satisfaction at the manner in which
affairs have turned.”

The officer smiled and assured me that he would at once telegraph the
result of our conversation to the British authorities.

I learned, however, that two weeks later on Von Buelow, who had been
Krupp’s representative in England before war was declared, and who had
been detained in that country since the outbreak of hostilities, had
arrived in Holland on his way to Germany. Von Buelow was the prisoner
whom the British Government had consented to liberate in exchange for
me. Three weeks later my daughter was liberated from Belgium. We met,
after a separation of three years, at Rosendaal, and for the next
three weeks, happy in our regained liberty, we enjoyed in a delicious
atmosphere hospitality of this charming country, moving freely amongst
the worthy Dutch population and admiring their old customs and strange
garb. They were days of happiness never to be forgotten.

However, the hour when we would resume the journey towards our Canadian
home would soon be at hand. Breathing the pure air of liberty, soul
o’erflowing with a desire to see once more those landscapes of America
we had not seen for four years, we proceeded to make the necessary
preparations for crossing the North Sea to England.

[Illustration: LUDENDORF (cross) AND VON BUELOW]

For eighteen months these waters had been infested with pirates.
Hereabouts the German submarines had two principal bases–one in Kiel
Bay and the other at Zeebrugge. From these two points, and particularly
from Zeebrugge, the German pirates could, in a few hours, menace an
area as far as the English coast as well as the Rotterdam-Harwich sea
route. This was their zone of operations par excellence.

And well we knew it! We had discussed the danger with Canadian
officers, whose guests we were at Sheveningen where they had
established for themselves the next best residence to a home. Here I
was introduced by the gallant Major Ewart Osborne, of Toronto, and I
have a very happy recollection of the few hours I spent there with him
and his comrades.

We discussed submarines; we talked of Canada, and ventured to speculate
as to the possible epoch of their return.

The British Admiralty had entire charge of the postal and passenger
service between England and Holland. Convoys went and convoys came;
that is all we could tell. As to the hour of departure, the point of
embarkation, the names of the steamers, the route to be followed, the
port of arrival, passengers were kept in the most complete ignorance.

When a permit to cross to England was obtained, the traveler had
to present himself every day between eleven o’clock and noon for
instructions. Thus we paid daily visits at this hour to the British
Consulate at Rotterdam. This went on for one week and then we were told
verbally, and secretly, to board a train at a certain station, at a
given hour.

We were, of course, delighted. We had left the Consulate barely five
minutes, and were waiting on the platform of a tramway station, when
an individual approached and addressing me in perfect English, with an
accent peculiar to a London citizen, said:

“At what hour do we leave?”

“What do you mean?” I asked him.

“Yes, at what hour do the steamers leave? I forget if it is this
afternoon or to-night,” he replied.

“I do not know to what steamers you refer,” I said.

“I refer to the steamers on which ‘we’ are to cross to England,” he

Holland during the war was literally overrun with German spies.

We knew this, because at the hotel in Rotterdam, where I stayed for a
few weeks, “congenial” persons took advantage of any and every pretext
to engage in conversation with me. I had been warned on my first visit
to the Consulate against these “friends.”

When my interlocutor asked the first question I nearly fell into
the trap. I was about to give him the information he sought when a
suspicion flashed through my mind and put me on my guard.

To his last question, therefore, I answered, in a confidential manner:

“Exactly one week from to-day, at six o’clock a.m.”

“That was what I thought I understood,” said the man masquerading as
an Englishman. His remark removed all doubts from my mind. I had been
speaking to a spy.

On this day, June 30, travelers who had permits to cross to England
proceeded towards Hoch Van Holland, where we arrived at seven o’clock
in the evening. Five passenger ships awaited us at the wharf. We went
on board, but no one knew the hour of departure–not even the ship’s
officers, we were told.

Saturday night, Sunday, and Sunday night passed and the boats remained
there. Not until a radiograph message was received could we leave
Holland. Finally the expected message came, and at eleven o’clock
on Monday morning we sailed from the mouth of the Meuse River. The
convoy of five ships bearing thousands of passengers of all ages and
conditions slowly advanced northwards, nursing the side coast of
Holland until we reached Sheveningen. At this point we turned to the
west and our boats headed towards England. We were barely out of the
Dutch waters when, suddenly, a cloud of smoke appeared at the horizon
in front of us.

What was it? We did not know. This black spot, hardly perceptible, grew
bigger and advanced towards us. It was the convoy which left England
that morning and was now entering the waters of Holland.

What a grand spectacle it was! Twenty-four ships in three lines cut
through the waves, each ship vomiting thick black smoke. In the centre,
preceded by a daring cruiser, were the seven ships bearing passengers.
On either side were eight leviathans of the sea, boats of a particular
model. They ploughed the waters in all directions, seeking an enemy
whom they would devour!

After some seemingly fine disorder there were exchanges of signals, a
run to right here, a run to left there–the whole business taking but
three minutes–the outlook was clear again. Seven passenger ships were
sailing in security along the Dutch coasts, the protecting warships,
seventeen in number, had turned back. The majestic convoy proceeding
west, and modeled on the one which had just come east, was negotiating
the passage of the most dangerous zone in the North Sea.

All went well until two o’clock in the afternoon. Then a mine field was
signaled. Some of the mines, not completely submerged, could be seen
on the surface of the water. They looked like so many soft felt hats.
Cruisers and torpedo boats at once came into action. Their marvelous
artillery men pointed their guns and fired. A second afterwards a
terrific explosion from a mine, accompanied by a column of water
shooting up towards the sky, told us that the aim had been accurate.
After an hour’s running fire we had crossed the mine field, and were
proceeding at good speed towards England, whose lights we saw at about
nine o’clock. We were due to arrive at the mouth of the Thames at dusk.

From all sides were heard tributes of high admiration for this
marvelous service of protection, extending over the world’s seas and
maintained unceasingly, without rest or respite, by the intrepid
sailors of the British navy!

We were about to cross the line of the two powerful lights, which
marked the limit of the waters frequented by the submarine pirates,
when the seventeen warships approached quite near, as though to embrace
us. Then, after exchanging a few signals, quickly, silently, they half
turned round and were lost sight of in the offing. On the high sea, in
the dark of the night, they went to fulfill another mission of humanity
and protection. And each and every one of these brave sailors carried
with him the homage of our unbounded gratitude and admiration.

On July 2, 1918, we arrived in England, and the inspection which I had
dreaded so much on account of the numerous written works I had brought
with me from Germany was of the most simple kind. At the inspection
office at Gravesend, where I had the advantage of meeting some of the
chief officials, they showed themselves exceedingly conciliating and
accommodating towards me. They did not delay my journey to London,
and promised that all my papers, documents, letters, etc., should
be returned to me at the capital through the office of the High
Commissioner of Canada. There was a big trunk full of these documents,
and I wish here to acknowledge the courtesy of the officials and to
thank them for having kept their word so punctually and considerately.

Of my sojourn of four weeks in London I must mention three events which
will always remain impressed on my memory. The first, of course, is
the gracious invitation I received from his Majesty the King to visit
him at Buckingham Palace. On the day arranged, at noon, I had the very
great honor to be received by the King with a courtesy and a kindness
which deeply moved me. It was impossible not to notice on his Majesty’s
features marks of the anxiety and disquietude he had borne during the
past four years. It was at the time of the new and terrible offensive
of the Germans in Champagne, and it was also–though hoping for it we
did not then know it–the signal for the counter-offensive which was to
lead the allied armies from one success to another and so on to the
definite breakdown of the German military machine.

I took leave of his Majesty, but not without asking leave to express
to him, on behalf of his French-Canadian subjects particularly, our
congratulations and best wishes on the occasion of the twenty-fifth
anniversary of his wedding, which had been celebrated the day previous
at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

It was at about this time that I had the pleasure of meeting, after
about four years’ separation, my stepson, an officer in the Belgian
army, who had obtained leave of absence to come from the battlefields
of Flanders to meet me in England. I had been accompanied from Holland
by the second son of my wife. He had, at great risk to his life,
crossed the electrical barrier which separated Belgium from Holland.
His purpose was now to enter the Belgian army. The two brothers met
for the first time in four years in the hall of a London hotel, and a
few days afterwards both left England together and resumed duty on the
fields of battle.

A few days before the date fixed for my passage to Canada I received
from General Turner an invitation to visit the Canadian camps at
Frencham Pond and Bramshott. At Frencham Pond we saw the troops who had
recently arrived from Canada. Here they received their first military
training in England. They were afterward transferred to Bramshott,
where their military education was completed.

At both places it was my privilege to address a few words to the
Canadian troops, and to congratulate them on their fine deportment,
which, I may add, excited general admiration alike in England and
France. The day I spent with our Canadian officers and soldiers will
remain one of the happiest remembrances of my life. More especially, I
shall never forget the impression created by the march-past of the 10th
Canadian Reserve Regiment (French-Canadian), Col. Desrosiers taking
the salute. One could not witness such a demonstration without feeling
throughout his whole being a thrill of enthusiasm and admiration.

I sought to express to the men the pride and gratitude we felt towards
them, and I promised to bring back to the Canadian people the message
I could plainly read on their faces, which may be thus expressed:
Courage, Patience, and Confidence in Victory.

As I write these lines the exploits of these brave Canadians, without
distinction of race, have been crowned with success–have been enveloped
in immortal glory. Victory, so long doubted, is reflected in all its
radiance in the folds of their flag. All honor to them! History will
record their deeds and heroism in letters of gold.

And the memory of those who have made the supreme sacrifice will be
enshrined throughout this land with perpetual flowers, whilst the
incense of our gratitude will continue to ascend until the last drop
of the majestic rivers of Canada has rolled by their mournful homes on
its way to the sea. Let us bow our heads to those who return from the
mighty struggle and honor the memory of the still more glorious who,
enveloped in the love of Britain, France and Canada, repose in the
soil, witness of their exploits.



To properly understand the German mentality one must turn to the
country’s military history. Germany–that is, Prussia and her forty
millions of people; a few smaller kingdoms such as Bavaria, Saxony, and
Wurtemburg; and some fifteen lesser States–was federated in 1871. In
1864 Prussia made victorious war against Denmark. In 1866 she carried
on another victorious campaign against Austria. Then, in 1870, after
an exceedingly adroit diplomatic campaign which assured the neutrality
of the other great nations of Europe, she, by the falsification of a
despatch, inaugurated the Franco-Prussian war. She dragged into it the
other German States right under the walls of Paris, and at Versailles
founded the German Empire, comprising twenty-six States, with the King
of Prussia proclaimed as Emperor.

She was at the zenith of her power. Bismarck the statesman, Von
Moltke the soldier, were hailed as demigods after the conclusion of a
treaty which wrested from France two of her Provinces and imposed an
indemnity of five billions; these two men were held up to the universal
admiration of the German people.

The artistic sense and idealism which had impregnated the German soul
up to this period, even–which seems impossible now–under Frederic II.,
now gave way to the new-born Positivism. Bismarck had said: “Might is
right,” and “One has only the right that Force can sanction.” These
maxims had justified those who framed them in 1864, 1866, and again
in 1870. Henceforward for the Emperor, for his entourage, for the
hundreds of thousands of officers, war was to be an element, a factor,
and the chief author of the nation’s grandeur. This was the spirit
which dominated the classes, and it must be introduced to, and spread
amongst, the masses. Literature, science and the arts were made to
contribute to the work of this new formation. But it was chiefly
through education and legislation that the new principle was expounded.
Veterans of the war of 1870 became so many tutors who trained the mind
of the rising generation. The children were taken regularly to the
museums where they were shown the flags and cannons taken from the

An old officer was showing these trophies to his two grandsons.

“Who is our enemy?” he asked.

“France,” replied the boys.

“We defeated them, did we not?”


“And we shall defeat all our enemies, present and future,” the veteran

“Yes,” the children agreed.

“You are good and true children of the Fatherland,” their grandfather
told them.

The standard reading-books in all the schools were full of
stories recounting valiant and successful exploits of the German
soldiers–cavalry charges, the taking of cities by storm, epic
encounters with swords, all leading up to the exultant conclusion that
the glory of German arms had dazzled the world. The intellects of the
youth were thus impregnated, saturated, with principles of militarism
from the first days at school. And if one dared venture to raise a
voice against the “sanctus sanctorum” of the caste born of the spirit
of Bismarck and Von Moltke, he was silenced by force. Was not Germany,
like Pygmalion, surrounded by enemies who were ever ready to pounce
upon and crush her? Therefore all must be prepared to advance every
means for self-defence. Everything undertaken to build up the enormous
mechanism of the barracks and the munition factories was for protection
and self-preservation. Against whom? Against a world of enemies. This
was the bogey which the pan-German press paraded before a population
stricken with terror. The next war was to be, as appearances were
represented, one of defence. Military and civilians of this caste,
estimated then at half a million adults, while seeking to hide their
real intentions from the rest of the German population, of course from
the people of other countries, always invoked the name of Bismarck.
He was made the great national hero. And what does Bismarck say? First
that “Might is Right,” and then that “War is the negation of order.”
Why does he say this? Everybody knows now. It is an old story. Wait.
The Man of Iron has a purpose. Read further: “The most efficient means
to force an enemy nation to sue for peace is to devastate its territory
and terrorize its civil population.”

This new theory, based on the victory of 1870, so obtained, raised
very little protest in Germany. It is monstrous, but it is true. And
the disciples of Bismarck, having elaborated a finished theory on his
guilty words and deeds, first shocked the good people of Germany,
but the people soon became reconciled to the new faith. In short, a
credulous people allowed themselves to be carried away by this wave of
militarism which spread into the remotest corners of the territory.

As for the military caste itself, its members quite believed their
prodigious preparedness of forty years was destined to make Germany
mistress of the universe. As for the masses, they were led to believe
that all the preparations were a means of defence and protection. The
sinister designs of the schemers were concealed from the eyes of the
credulous, and those of the masses who realized the actual game of the
ringleaders in the Empire dared not ask any questions. One is governed
or is not governed. And these people were being governed.

Moreover, why trouble one’s conscience? Had not this system justified
itself in 1870? These two Provinces, these five billions of moneys,
wrested, extorted from France, were they not the two determining
factors in the tremendous industrial impulsion which would open the
gates to Germany’s commercial preponderance in all the markets of the
world? No wonder the masses kept silent.

Intensive militarism, then, became a religion of the State.
Philosophers, litterateurs, and historians having done all they could
to attain the dreamed-of purpose, others followed their lead. Each
and every discovery in mechanics, optics, chemistry was studied and
tested by its respective author in the light of the possibility of its
practical adaptability and utility in the work of destruction.

The works of art also showed the effects of the enveloping atmosphere.

The Kaiser’s only daughter paraded in the uniform of a Hussar, while
her august father talked of “keeping the powder dry.” One day, on his
own domains at harvest time, he was seized by mad admiration at the
sight of the millions of ears of golden corn.

“They remind me,” he said, “of the ocean of lances of my Uhlans.”

On another occasion, during a hunt near the French frontier, when the
Kaiser was surrounded as usual by sycophants and toadies attired in
all the resplendence of their military uniforms, the then Most Highest
allowed a mysterious word to escape his lips. Having half drawn his
sword, he snapped it back into its scabbard and exclaimed:

“They tremble in Europe.”

Then he burst out laughing.

And now came the decade which preceded the world war. Germany rejected
Great Britain’s proposal that each side should limit its naval armament
and halt for a while. Convinced at this time that her tremendous
military machine was not only invincible, but irresistible, Germany
applied herself feverishly to a mad rush of naval construction with
the object of making her shores intangible. The idea was that in this
way Britain would be kept quiet and Germany would be able to proceed
to crush the Franco-Russian entente and obtain continental domination.
From this to universal control only one step was required.

This was what the German military caste had in mind–that is to say,
the Kaiser, the Crown Prince, and the 40,000 or 50,000 officers
and civilians recruited from the nobility, high society, from the
professions and the educated officials. And the crowd–the masses–would
go to sleep each evening blinded to the facts, but convinced that
numberless enemies were preparing to pounce covertly on their

The great hope of the German Government from 1908 to 1914 was to get
the war started without it being apparent that Germany provoked it.

But as so often repeated to us by that fine Swiss fellow, Hinterman,
who was interned with us, the artifices of the Germans are easily seen
through. And all the scheming of the events which preceded the invasion
of Belgium, however clever it was, will not prevent history from
bringing against William Hohenzollern and his entourage a verdict of

The interview at Potsdam, on July 5, 1914, in which the Kaiser and the
Austrian delegates took part; the ultimatum to Serbia; the refusal of
Austria to accept the very satisfactory and conciliating answer of
Serbia–and this without previous consultation with Germany–does not
all this show that everything was decided on July 5, aforesaid? The
rejection by Germany of the proposal for a conference made by Sir
Edward Grey, British Minister of Foreign Affairs; the hesitations,
the subterfuges of Von Jagow towards Monsieur Cambon, the French
Ambassador; the entering of German troops into Belgium during the night
of July 31–that is to say two days before the ultimatum of former
Emperor William to the King of Belgium; the telegraphic correspondence
between the Tsar of Russia, King George, and William II., all, indeed,
carries on its face the stamp of Germany’s duplicity.

Of the underhand methods of the authors of the plot and murder at
Serajevo, impartial history will tell later.

The mass of the German population when apprised of these historical
facts disentangled from all pan-Germanic camouflage will not hesitate
to stand as accusers of the real authors of the war; of those, finally,
who were the cause of the collective aberration of the nation.

The flight of the Imperial family and the high officers to Holland will
not prevent them from escaping the abhorrence of the German people. Can
there be a more exemplary and a more bitter punishment at the same
time than that meted out to a sovereign by his own subjects?

A portion of this industrious and frugal people undoubtedly allowed
themselves to be deceived by their rulers who betrayed them on a
pretence of defence; another portion yielded to the temptation for
gain and conquest; a few of them allowed themselves, perhaps–Oh, human
weakness!–to be fascinated by visions of universal domination, but we
are willing to believe that the great majority were but blind tools in
the hands of an ambitious militarism.

The allied nations have won a complete, decisive, definite victory. The
last head of the hydra of militarism seems to have been battered down
for all time.

May peace now be restored for ever among men of good will! But in order
to obtain this end, the flag to be hoisted on civilization by the
League of Nations will have to bear in its folds the words: Justice,
Toleration, Magnanimity!

Justice, that is to say, punishment for the guilty, for the criminals,
for the authors of the slaughtering and devastation.

Justice, that is to say, restitution and reparation. Justice, that
is to say, indemnity for the millions of women and children who are
deprived of their main support.

And why, some will ask, should I speak here of magnanimity? Does not
the entire people of Germany and of her allies deserve the most severe

In uttering here this word “magnanimity,” I only reflect the thought
expressed by the leaders of the three great allied countries, on the
day following the armistice: Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and Woodrow

And as Mr. Winston Churchill declared on the 4th of July last, at
Westminster: “We are bound to the principles for which we are
fighting. Those principles alone will enable us to use with wisdom
and with justice the victory which we shall gain. Whatever the extent
of our victory, those principles would protect the German people. We
could not treat them as they have treated Alsace-Lorraine or Belgium or
Russia, or as they would treat us all if they had the power.”

It is because the population of a country is composed for the most part
of women and children, and because we could not, without stooping to
the level of the methods employed in Belgium, for example, make war
against women, against children, against property.

Justice will have a field of operations large enough, if it wishes, to
reach the conscious authors of the war and of the deeds incompatible
with humanitarian principles and contrary to international laws.

                              (The End.)

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Three Years in a German Prison" ***

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