Erckmann-Chatrian: In war belligerents conspire against their own citizens
The Story of the Plebiscite
Told By One of the Seven Million Who Voted “Yes” (1872)
I am writing this story for sensible people. It is my own story during the calamitous war we have just gone through. I write it to show those who shall come after us how many evil-minded people there are in the world, and how little we ought to trust fair words…
Could anyone have imagined that there are so many deceivers in the world? No, indeed; it requires to be seen with one’s own eyes to be believed.
In the end we have had to pay dearly. We have given up our hay, our straw, our corn, our flour, our cattle; and that was not enough. Finally, they gave up us, our own selves…
What a miserable thing is war! The Germans have lost more men than we have; but we will not be so cruel as to rejoice over this.
The less you speak the more you think; and your indignation, your disgust, your hatred for violence, force, and injustice is ever on the increase. You conceive a horror for those who have been the cause of such sufferings…Abject wretches alone accept injustice as a final dispensation; and we have ever God over us all, who forbids us to believe that murder, fire, and robbery may and ought to prevail over right and conscience.
“There now,” said George, “look at that ! ” Placiard was passing the house arm-in-arm with a Landwehr officer, followed by a few men; they were making requisitions and entered the house opposite.
“There is the Plebiscite in flesh and blood. Now that scoundrel is working for his Imperial Majesty William I., for the Germans have their emperor as we have had ours: they will soon learn the cost of glory; each has his turn!”
George exclaimed: “How miserable to be surprised and deluged as we have been daily by six hundred thousand Germans, and to have our hands bound like culprits, without arms, munitions, orders, chiefs or anything! Ah! the deputies of the majority who voted for war would not demand compulsory service; they feared to arm the nation. They would not risk the bodies of their own sons…Miserable self-seekers! they are the cause of our ruin! their names should he exposed in every commune, to teach our children to execrate them.’*