When Germany Lost The War

No man knows exactly when and where the three and twenty allies will

win the war, but all men know when and where Germany lost it. It was

four years ago this morning, at a point near Gemmenich, a village

southwest of Aix-la-Chapelle. It was then and there that the first gray

uniform crossed the frontier from Germany into Belgium.

An hour before and it was not too late for Germany to win the war, or

at lea
t to lose it with honor. An hour afterward, and Germany was

doomed. What has befallen her since that 4th of August, what will

befall her in the future, were predetermined from the fatal instant of

that summer morning when the first German soldier trod where Prussia

had promised he should never go. There is not a German killed to-day in

the flight to the Vesle whose fate was not written at Gemmenich.

It was not merely that the invasion of a land guaranteed perpetual

neutrality brought Great Britain into the fight and turned into a world

war what Germany had hoped would be a small, swift, and easy campaign.

It was the exposure of Germany herself. Know of her what we may to-day,

we thought of her otherwise four years ago yesterday. She had thrown

about herself a mantle which hid the sword and the thick, studded

boots. She worked at science and played at art. She sang and thumped

the piano. She cleaned her streets and washed her children's faces.

Many persons in America and England believed that she was efficient and

that her very verboten signs were guides to the ideal life. Even as

the Kaiser reviewed his armies he babbled of peace; peace, to believe

him, was the first object of his life.

We do not know of any writer who has condensed the proof of Germany's

falsehood and cowardice into so few words as Von Bethmann-Hollweg, who,

as Chancellor of the Empire, spoke as follows to the Reichstag four

years ago this afternoon:

Gentlemen, we are now acting in self-defence. Necessity knows no

law. Our troops have occupied Luxemburg and have possibly

already entered on Belgian soil. [The speaker knew that the

invasion had begun.]

Gentlemen, that is a breach of international law.

The French Government has notified Brussels that it would

respect Belgian neutrality as long as the adversary respected

it. But we know that France stood ready for an invasion. France

could wait, we could not. A French invasion on our flank and the

lower Rhine might have been disastrous. Thus we were forced to

ignore the rightful protests of the Governments of Luxemburg

and Belgium. The injustice--I speak openly--the injustice we

thereby commit we will try to make good as soon as our military

aims have been attained. He who is menaced as we are and is

fighting for his all, can only consider the one and best way to


There stood the German Empire, intensively trained in the arts of war

for forty years, pleading cowardice in extenuation of her broken word.

"France could wait, we could not!" A brave man, Bethmann-Hollweg,

unless he knew before he spoke that the whole nation had sunk to the

immoral level of the cowards who invaded Belgium because they feared

that on a fair field France would have beaten them! It is curious that

in the whole record of German state-craft in the war, the Chancellor's

confession of his empire's degradations stands out almost like a clean


The Chancellor did not deceive the people except in his implication

that France would have struck through Belgium if Germany had not. He

did not deceive himself, either. He knew the cowardice of Germany. It

is probable that he believed, as the Junkers believed, that England,

too, was a coward. Prince Lichnowsky had told them the truth about

England, but they had not believed. In the years of Kultur, they had

forgotten what honor was like. They chose to credit the stories that

England was torn with dissensions, threatened with rebellion in

Ireland and India, nervous from labor troubles, and not only physically

unprepared for war but mentally and morally unfit for war. Even the

telegram of Sir Edward Grey, communicated on the day of Belgium's

invasion, to the German Government by the British Ambassador at Berlin,

did not dispel the illusion about Great Britain:

In view of the fact that Germany declined to give the same

assurance respecting Belgium as France gave last week in reply

to our request made simultaneously at Berlin and Paris, we must

repeat that request and ask that a satisfactory reply to it and

to my telegram of this morning be received here by 12 o'clock

to-night. If not, you are instructed to ask for your passports

and to say that His Majesty's Government feels bound to take all

steps in their power to uphold the neutrality of Belgium and the

observance of a treaty to which Germany is as much a party as


Even that memorable document, we say, did not convince Germany that

common honor still lived across the Channel. The Foreign Secretary, Von

Jagow, a mere tool of the Kaiser, took it mechanically; but Von

Bethmann-Hollweg added to the sum of German cowardice. Brave as he had

been in the Reichstag, he whimpered to Sir Edward Goschen when he saw

that "12 o'clock to-night" on paper. This account of the conversation

is Goschen's, but the German Chancellor later confirmed the

Englishman's version:

I found the Chancellor very agitated. His Excellency at once

began a harangue which lasted for about twenty minutes. He said

that the step taken by His Majesty's Government was terrible to

a degree; just for a word--"neutrality," a word which in war

time had so often been disregarded--just for a scrap of paper,

Great Britain was going to make war on a kindred nation who

desired nothing better than to be friends with her.

When he added that it was a matter of "life and death" to Germany to

advance through Belgium, the British Ambassador replied that it was "a

matter of life and death for the honor of Great Britain that she should

keep her solid engagement to do her utmost to defend Belgium's

neutrality if attacked." Her utmost! Aye, she has done it!

A last gasp from the German Chancellor: "But at what price will that

compact have been kept? Has the British Government thought of that?"

Sir Edward Goschen replied that "fear of consequences could hardly be

regarded as an excuse for breaking solemn engagements," but these words

were lost. The German Chancellor had abandoned himself to the

contemplation of the truth: that morning Germany had been beaten when a

soldier stepped across a line. How long the decision might be in

dispute Bethmann-Hollweg could not know, but he must have known that,

cheating, Germany had loaded the dice at the wrong side. If she had

struck fairly at France, England would have had to stand by, neutral.

The seas would be open to Germany. If France had violated Belgium's

neutrality--as Germany professed to believe she intended to do--England

would have attacked France, keeping the pledge made in the Treaty of

London. But now, because England weighed a promise and not the price of

keeping it, there could be no swift stroke at lone France, no dash

eastward to subdue Russia. To-day, when Germany sees how ripe Russia

was then for revolution, the remembrance of that 4th of August must be

the bitterest drop in the deep cup of her regret.

The items at which we have glanced were not all or even the most

important acts of Germany's dawning tragedy. It was not merely that she

revealed herself to the world, but that she revealed herself to

herself. The moving picture of Kultur, of fake idealism, of humaneness,

which she had unreeled before our charitable eyes was stopped, and

stopped forever. The film, exposed momentarily to the flame of truth,

exploded and left on the screen the hideous picture of Germany as she

was. No more sham for a naked nation. In went the unmasked Prussian to

outrage and murder, to bind and burn. When a Government violated its

word to the world, why should the individual check his passions? All

the world, at first unbelieving, watched the procession of horror, and

then, against its wishes, against all the ingrained faith that the long

years had stored within the human breast, the world saw that it was

dealing with nothing less than a monster.

England's day, this? Yes, and a glorious anniversary for her. She has

indeed kept her "solid engagement to do her utmost." In a million

graves are men of the British Empire who did not consider the price at

which the compact would be kept. Their lives for a scrap of paper--and

welcome! When we think that we are winning the war--and nobody denies

that it is American men and food and ships and guns that are winning it

now--let us look back to the 4th of August, 1914, and remember what

nation it was that stood between the beast and his prey, scorning all

his false offers of kindness to Belgium, his promises not to rob

France, and his hypocritical cry of "kindred nation" to the England he

really hated.

But it is not alone England's day. It is the day of the opening of the

world's eyes to the criminality of Prussia. It is the anniversary of

Germany's loss of the war. We--America, France, England, Italy, and the

rest of us--will win it, but Germany lost it herself with the one

stroke at Gemmenich. She believed it a masterpiece of cunning. It was

the foul thrust of a coward and the deliberate mistake of a fool.

The New York Sun, August 4, 1918.