An Unusual Picture of a Nation Being Driven to Desperation.
G. LOWES DICKINSONFebruary151921
Germany Under the Treaty
An Unusual Picture of a Nation Being Driven to Desperation.
G. LOWES DICKINSON
THERE are those who cry for the last turn of the screw to be applied to Germany—who find her unrepentant, only waiting her chance to arise and strike again, but there are other pictures of Germany than that. G. Lowes Dickinson, writing in the Manchester Guardian, puts a far different complexion on the matter. He says:
“It is unfortunate but inevitable that when you punish a nation you have to begin with the infants and children. It seems, too, at first sight unjust, since they were not born when the crime was committed. But, as we know, the sins of the fathers are visited on the children, and when we play Providence we must adopt the principles of Providence. As I write these words there lie on mÿ table reports from all over Germany on the condition of the children in the big cities. It is always the same story—underfeeding, rickets, skin disease, tuberculosis. This, to begin with, is a legacy of the blockade. The blockade was lifted, not at the Armistice, but some months later. But the underfeeding continues owing to the economic conditions perpetuated or produced by the treaty. It is recorded statistically in the weight and height of the children and in the number and the seriousness of cases of disease. In May, 1920, it was calculated that of three million odd children from the great cities over two hundred thousand were tuberculous, over eight hundred thousand badly undernourished, over a million sick. Of the children in Berlin at the beginning of 1920, 25 per cent, had no overcoats, 28 per cent, no shoes. In many families the children must stay in bed all day because they have no clothes to put on. In many families no clothes are obtainable for newborn infants. In certain districts of Thuringia the children, from their third year on, get no milk at all, and expectant and nursing mothers get so little that permanent injury to their infants is unavoidable.
“When you punish a nation the children, as I have said, will be your first victims; next will come the very poor, then the poor, then the middle class. The well-to-do you are hardly likely to reach. You certainly will not reach those who are really responsible for what you are punishing—the proprietors and editors, of prosperous newspapers, the war profiteers, the generals, the statesmen, the crowned heads. The Kaiser lives comfortably in Holland, and Ludendorff and Hindenburg flourish at home. But the mass of the people of Germany are sunk into a kind of living death. Did they make the war? Did they prolong it? The notion is absurd. They did what almost every man believes to be the duty of all men—they offered to their country in the hour of need tbe sacrifice of all they had.
“The sufferings of the people of Germany date back to the blockade. And what the blockade really meant Englishmen have always refused to consider. They are aware that it won the war. They are aware that their fleet was used to starve the population of Germany. But they do not allow their imaginations to dwell on what that process meant. If they did, they would see that the cruelty of the submarine war was at least not worse than the long-drawn horror of the blockade.
“A general idea of German poverty is given by the calculation of a careful statistician that while prices have risen in Germany to ten times the pre-war rate, wages have risen only six times, and salaries from four times to twice. These figures represent only general averages, and cover very wide variations. There are, of course, very rich men in Germany. There are individual working men and perhaps whole trades that are well off, but the statement shows what all inquiry in detail bears out—a fall in the standard of life of all classes that can only be called catastrophic. Thq, fall is most striking in the middle class, to which we shall retxirn. But it is more serious in the working class because there it is reflected not only in loss of comfort, leisure, and refinement, but in actual destitution. Take a concrete case. In Berlin the cost of the bare necessaries of life for a family of four is estimated as at least 300 marks a week. But the weekly wage of tramway drivers is somewhere about 200 marks a week. There are trades worse paid and trades better paid, and wages and costs, of course, vary in different districts. The miners are among the best paid, and very likely an indignant visitor from the upper classes might find a lucky bachelor living in what he would consider shameful luxury. But a miner with a family of seven lives in something like destitution; and M. Jouhaux, the French Labor leader, has recently stated, after a visit to the German mining districts, that one cause why production is not further increased is that the miners are underfed.
“Even if everyone in Germany was fully employed a large number of people would be underfed, underhoused, and underclothed at the present rates of wages and prices. But, in fact, there is a large measure of unemployment, how large, precisely, there are no figures to show. The official statistics for the Empire give only the numbers of those both wholly unemployed and receiving the unemployment allowance from public funds. The number of these was about 400,000 on October 1. But this figure does not give a complete account even of those wholly unemployed. And in addition to these there is a very large number employed only for part of the day or week. There is no way of ascertaining accurately the number of these, though, under new regulations, statistics should be available in a month or two. Meantime, after inquiry and discussion with those best informed, I think I maysay that one and a half million would be likely to be an understatement and two millions not likely to be an overstatement of the whole number not in full employ-
“There used to be a form of torture which consisted in piling weights on a man’s chest until he succumbed. That is what the Allies are doing to Germany. The people are under a press, and every now
and again the Prime Ministers of England and fiance give another turn to the screw. What is squeezed out of the press is something very terrible—the blood of little children, the tears of despairing mothers, and the foam on the lips of rabid men. And from that mixture rises like a mist the very spectre that Allied Governments desire to conjure—the spectre of Bolshevism. For, as Mr. Keynes has grimly remarked, ‘men will not always die quietly.’ We shall hear more of that during the coming winter.”
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