Document 10: Louis Lochner to Woodrow Wilson, 2 June 1915, Library of Congress, Ford Peace Plan Papers (Jane Addams Papers microfilm, reel 8, #1080)
Louis Lochner, as Secretary of the Chicago Peace Party (CPP), attended the Women's Peace Congress at The Hague. He often wrote to government officials at the request of Jane Addams, the CPP’s President, attempting to persuade them to support the American women's peace efforts.The following letter, written from Amsterdam on behalf of Jane Addams, contested various assertions by the American government about Germany. As a German speaker, Lochner gathered information on the situation in that nation while he helped prepare for Addams's visit. Lochner observed that many Germans wanted the war to end. Throughout the letter, Lochner provided several concrete examples to question the official information received by government officials in the United States. This letter illustrated the positions of various German groups on the question of peace and prepared the President of the United States for a meeting with Jane Addams.
To His Excellency,
Washington, D. C.
Dear Mr. President:
At the suggestion and request of Miss Jane Addams, with whom it was my privilege to associate during her recent trip to The Hague, I take the liberty of submitting to you the following facts, believing that every bit of information concerning the European situation will be welcome to you.
In the first place, Miss Addams requests me to report an interview which she had with Sir Edmund Grey. Mr. Grey volunteered the significant statement that, while it was impossible for the belligerent nations to act in the direction of an early peace, it was in his estimation up to the neutrals to do so. Miss Addams told me that Mr. Grey seemed extremely harassed over the terrible situation, as his brother was even then in a hospital with a shattered arm, and another relative with several intestinal wounds. He also admitted that, if the freedom of Belgium were to be secured by force of arms on the part of the Allies, Belgium would practically be ruined.
Miss Addams upon her return will no doubt amplify upon the substance of her message as above given, but she desired me meanwhile to communicate this much to you.
While Miss Addams was in England, I went to Germany to arrange for her interview with the Germany government. It is my observations in Germany that I have been especially requested to communicate to you. I shall be glad to amplify upon the facts herewith submitted, in case you so desire.
The impression which seems to prevail in this country is that Germany is absolutely united in the present war. However true that may have been in the beginning, I certainly found many voices raised in favor of an early peace, and also found many evidences of a determined campaign to rid the country of militarism through the German people themselves.
In the first place, it is an open secret that there is a rift between the foreign office and the general staff. The Lusitania tragedy, for instance, was conceived by Admiral von Terpitz against the advice of the foreign office, as was also, I have every reason to believe, the reply to the American protest.[A]
Another faction that is out of sympathy with the military regime that now has the upper hand, is the Socialist Party. Eduard Bernstein, a member of the Reichstag and leader of the Socialists, told me that if Karl Liebknescht were to come up for re-election at this time, he would be returned by at least a three-fourths majority. Bernstein further added that, if further appropriations were to be voted by the Reichstag for the war, he for one would support Liebknescht, as would probably a number of other Socialists. Even those who would not have the courage to stand up and be counted as against additional appropriations, he said, were at heart against the military. I have an exceedingly interesting manuscript by Mr. Bernstein -- written in German -- which gives the position of the German Socialists at the present time. I shall be glad to send you a copy or translation if you think it worth while. Mr. Bernstein is now bending all his efforts towards an understanding with the French Socialists, and told me confidentially that the foreign office had approached Liebknescht and asked him to bring about a French-German understanding between the working people of both countries, so that the way might be paved for peace.
A third group is that associated in the "Bund Neues Vaterland," concerning which I enclose a statement.[B] You will see from the personnel that it includes such men even as Dr. Hans Dolbruck. This "Bund" is diligently at work to bring about an understanding with England, as it believes that the military party is trying to effect a coalition with Russia, with a view to perpetuating autocracy. This splendid group is working under tremendous difficulties, but with marked success.
It was my privilege to address this body on the topic, "Warum ist Deutschland in Amerika unbeliebt?"[C] and this body readily agreed that the violation of the neutrality of Belgium, the action of the German-Americans in arranging for so-called "neutrality meetings," the activities of men like Professor Kuhnemann, the procedure of Count Bernstorff in inserting an advertisement regarding the Lusitania in American newspapers, and the torpedoing of the Lusitania were open to criticism, to say the least. May I not in passing note that the introductory remarks precedent to my speaking were made by Professor Ernst Sieper of Munich University, a man who has long worked in the Anglo-German "Verständegungs-Bewegung."[D] Professor Sieper pointed out that while there is now a blatant and arrogant party in Germany which temporarily has the upper hand, yet a talk here and there with private citizens in their homes, yes, even confidential talks with newspaper editors would soon convince me that the real Germany was not speaking through the papers, and that the real Germany was most anxious for peace and for international understanding.
A fourth group are the rank and file whom you meet in the trains and on the cars. I always made it a point to travel in a third-class coupe, so that I might get close to the people. As I am of German extraction -- though neutral -- I speak German as readily as I do English, and was thus in a position to talk to many Germans without disclosing my American identity. However blatant the censored press, however "patriotic" German people when in large gatherings, speak to them alone and they wish nothing more than that the accursed war might soon stop. I find that people are entirely in the dark as to the American viewpoint or the contentions of the Allies. How the Americans can furnish arms to the Allies without also furnishing them to the Germans is a mystery to them, which, of course, the press has taken no trouble to explain. The rank and file are also absolutely convinced that the Russians broke into Germany before the Germans, "in self-defense," went into Belgium.
A further division with the Empire is that over the question of the future of Belgium. The war party maintains that Belgium must be permanently annexed. But the foreign office and sane people generally see the greatest possible danger to Germany in such contemplated action, should it be possible from a military point of view. I wish in this connection especially to report an interview with Dr. Hans Delbruck. He said to me --
"If you have any opportunity to communicate with the President directly, please tell him that, if he will stop the shipment of munitions of war to the Allies, I and those of like thought with me will pledge ourselves to see to it that Belgium is evacuated and the war stopped, with the understanding, however, that England will compensate us for the evacuation of Belgium (a thing I have reason to believe England will gladly do) through the offer, possibly, of a strip of land in Africa."
Acting on the assumption that this was more or less of a "feeler" on the part of Dr. Delbruck, I take it that this represents maximum terms rather than minimum, and that Germany will in any event be glad to leave Belgium, provided some means be found to call a halt to military operations on the part of the Allies.
In that connection may I not point out how terrible it will be for Belgium should Germany be beaten back by military force. The evidence that I have gathered leads me to believe that a conquering army often behaves reasonably well so long as it is in possession of the enemy's territory; the minute, however, that it is forced to abandon a place, the commanding officers lose control of their men and wholesale destruction and rapine takes place.
One further observation to which I permit myself to draw your attention is the fact that the German Chancellor has become so grieved over the loss of his son on the battlefield, and over the death of his wife, that he is not physically strong enough to dominate the military clique. He stands with the foreign office (with a possible exception of Von Jagow) for peace and for the strict observance of international conventions regarding warfare, but does not assert himself sufficiently.
In the course of my visit to Holland and Germany, I had many opportunities to see letters written by soldiers in the trenches. They would seem to indicate that everybody is thoroughly sick of the war, and would hail as the greatest benefactor to mankind him who will point the way out of the melee.
In conclusion, I desire to venture the criticism that our ambassador at Berlin does not keep in touch with the various currents in Germany, but rather listens to one party -- the military -- only. I make this criticism with considerable hesitancy, but in the belief that these serious times require the greatest frankness. I base my criticism upon the following facts:
(1) Mr. Gerard stated to me that "Miss Addams has not a ghost of a show to be received by the German government. The Germans do not care for peace." Yet Miss Addams has already been received.
(2) He ventured the assertion that "Nobody in Germany thinks of peace" -- in contradiction to which I submit the above evidence.
(3) He warned me that "Nobody is allowed to talk about peace, nor even discuss terms of peace. Anybody so doing is locked up in jail." As a matter of fact,I spoke at a public peace meeting of the "Bund ist Vaterland" and nothing happened to me.
(4) He said, "Germany is going to keep Belgium -- Von Dermburg simply lies when he says the thing she is reported to have said in America." As I have tried to point out, the Belgium question is already splitting Germany, and Mr. Von Dermburgis certainly reflecting the opinion of many Germans when he indicates Germany's willingness to leave Belgium.
(5) He pointed out that to the Germans the Congress of Women at The Hague was a farce, and that not a single German newspaper paid any attention to it. As a matter offact, to my personal knowledge, the "Berliner Tageblatt," the"Varwärts," the "Kölnische Zeitung," the "Wossische Zeitung," and the "Hamburger Fremdenblatt" contained daily accounts of the meetings.
I have the honor to remain
Very respectfully yours,
A. The Lusitania was a British passenger liner carrying a number of Americans which was sunk by a German submarine. For more information on the sinking of the Lusitania please visit these two sites: The First Lusitania Note to Germany and William Jennings Bryan: American Protest Over the Sinking of the Lusitania.
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B. The "Bund Neues Vaterland" was a German newspaper which covered the war.
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C. The English title of the topic was "Why is Germany Not Loved in America?"
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D. An English translation of this organization is Movement for Anglo-German Mutual Understanding.
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