Hide Articles List

7 articles on this Page

A LOOK ROUND.

UNDER THE HUN.

News
Cite
Share

UNDER THE HUN. The Story That Taught Europe. A FEW months before the war began, all Europe rang with the name of Zabern, a little town of 8,000 inhabitants lying in the folds of the Vosges Mountains. The reason was that Zabern is in Alsace, and that its experiences had o-iven the world a. vivid reminder of what it meant to the Alsatians to have Germany for their master, and showed how impos- sible it was for any self-respecting race to I live contentedly under Prussian rule. Zabern was a garrison town, and-as we shall see-had good reason to know it. The 99th Regiment of Infantry was quartered there, and its officers swaggered I about the town with the offensive arro- gance that makes so revolting an impres- sion on every nation but their own. One in particular—Baron von Forstner, a lieutenant of the 5th company—had made himself conspicuous by his overbearing manners and his readiness to make scenes by way of asserting his dignity. One day in a restaurant, finding that the bill of fare was written in French, he drew his sword and thrust it through the offending document, to show how intoler- able that language was to the proud sou! of a German officer. The people of Zabern laughed at the story, and at a dozen other performances of the same kind that came to be related of Forstner and his col- leagues. They got into the habit of laughing whenever one of them made his appearance in the street. The Valiant Lieutenant. That eternal smile began to get upon the nerves of the German officers. The greatest offence you can commit in the eyes of a Prussian is not to be frightened at him. Forstner felt obliged to take strong measures, and set his men to chase a troop of giggling children, who took refuge in a neighbouring belfry. When the pursuers reached the belfry door they came upon a lame shoemaker, who was the only person in sight, and brought him before their indignant officer. That hero forthwith drew his sword, and while half-a-dozen soldiers held the prisoner safe, dealt him a furious cut across the forehead. When he was tried afterwards for this cowardly assault upon a crippled man, the defence put forward was that he acted in putative self- defence." That is to say, that he was justified because the cripple might have struck him, and, it was added, that his men, having their rifles to hold, might have been embarrassed in defending him At last the public good temper was broken by a report of Forst- ner's insulting language about the Alsatian recruits. Enquiring of a soldier one day why he had received a sentence of imprisonment, he was told it was for striking an Alsatian in a quar- rel. "What! he exclaimed, for hitting one of those Alsatian blackguards? Two months in prison ? Why, I would have given you ten marks for your trouble! When this story got about, a crowd of some fifty people, mostly women and chil- dren, gathered about the barracks and made their sentiments known by hootmg and jeering. Inside there was a terrible to do. Ball cartridges were distributed, bayonets were fixed, drums were beaten, and the Com- manding Officer, Colonel Von Router, or- dered his men to charge. They sallied forth into the street, and after a confused melee returned with a mixed bag of some thirty prisoners. They seem to have ar- rested every one who did not run away- persons chiefly who were wondering what it was all about. Two judges and a barris- ter coming out of the Law Courts were in the collection: also a fireman on his way to duty. One Lieutenant Schad afterwards admitted that he arrested everybody whom he "suspected of laughing" (that insup- pressible and unpardonable crime ) German Justice." Except for the judges, who were liberated at once, the prisoners were shut up all night in a filthy coal cellar, and brought next day before the local court, which promptly released them. The out- rage upon them was a glaring one, for a military officer had no right to make ar- rests except at the request of the civil authority. So clear and so scandalous was it that the Reichstag passed a vote of censure by 293 votes to 54. But the sequel showed how little anybody in Germany counts for as against the military caste. Nobody resigned because of the vote. The Crown Prince telegraphed his congratula- tions to Colonel Von Reuter, who was acquitted by a court-martial, although he had admitted saying that it would be a good thing if blood were shed, because it would help to restore Government authority." As for the valiant Forstner, he was sen- tenced to 43 days' imprisonment for his assault on the cripple, and then, when public feeling had subsided, the sentence was annulled on appeal, on the ground of his putative self-defence and his hav- ing vindicated the honour of the Army! So that was how Zabern enabled the world to understand the Alsace question.

"A CLEAN PEACE."

FATHERS OF FRANCE.

GENERAL FOCH.ttsmi■1- 114i

CHILDREN OF FRANCE.

A I A SHEAF OF WAR STORIES.