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November 28 , 2009

In the Claws of the German Eagle


The horrible and incomprehensible hates and brutalities of the European War! Unspeakable atrocities! Men blood-lusting like a lot of tigers! Horrible they are indeed. But my experiences in the war zone render them no longer incomprehensible. For, while over there, in my own blood I felt the same raging beasts. Over there, in my own soul I knew the shattering of my most cherished principles. It is not an unique experience. Whoever has been drawn into the center of the conflict has found himself swept by passions of whose presence and power he had never dreamed. For example: I was a pacifist bred in the bone. Yet, caught in Paris at the outbreak of the war, my convictions underwent a rapid crumbling before the rising tide of French national feeling. The American Legion exercised a growing fascination over me. A little longer, and I might have been marching out to the music of the Marseillaise, dedicated to the killing of the Germans. Two weeks later I fell under the spell of the self-same Germans. That long gray column swinging on through Liege so mesmerized me that my natural revulsion against slaughter was changed to actual admiration. Had an officer right then thrust a musket into my hand, I could have mechanically fallen into step and fared forth to the killing of the French. Such an experience makes one chary about dispensing counsels of perfection to those fighting in the vortex of the world-storm. Whenever I begin to get shocked at the black crimes of the belligerents, my own collapse lies there to accuse me. It is in the spirit of a non-partisan, then, that this chronicle of adventure in those crucial days of the early war is written. It is a welter of experiences and reactions which the future may use as another first-hand document in casting up its own conclusions. There is no careful culling out of just those episodes which support a particular theory, such as the total and complete depravity of the German race.
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