Erckmann-Chatrian: In a century the war gods will be recognized as barbarians
The Story of the Plebiscite
Told By One of the Seven Million Who Voted “Yes” (1872)
And the Germans ran, some laughing, others astonished, gazing at the walls which they had won without a fight; for they have taken almost every place without fighting; they have shelled the poor inhabitants instead of storming the walls; they have starved the people. They may boast of having burnt more towns and villages, and killed more women and children in this one campaign, than all the other nations in all the wars of Europe since the Revolution.
But, to be sure, they are a religious people, much attached to the doctrines of the Gospel, and who sing hymns with much feeling. Their Emperor especially, after every successive bombardment, and every massacre – whilst women, children and old men are weeping around their houses destroyed by the enemy’s shells, and from the battle-fields strewn with heaps of dead are rising the groans and cries of thousands and thousands of sufferers whose lives are crushed, whose flesh is torn, whose bodies are rent and bleeding! – their Emperor, the venerable man, lifts his bloodstained hands to heaven and thanks God for having permitted him to commit these abominable deeds! Does he look upon God as his accomplice in crime?
They have won! That is to say, the survivors; for those who are buried, or who have lost their limbs, have no great gain to boast of, and can hardly rejoice over the success of the enterprise. They have gained – what ? The hatred of people who had loved them; they have gained that they will be obliged to fight every time their lords and masters give the order…they have gained the envy of a vast number of people, and the distrust of a vast many more, who will end by agreeing together to fall upon them in a body, and treat them to fire and slaughter and bombardment, of which they have set us the example.
This is what the peasants, the artisans and the bourgeois have gained; as for the chiefs they have won some a title, some a pension or an epaulette; others have the satisfaction of saying, “I am the great So-and-So! I am William, Emperor of Germany; a crown was set on my head at Versailles, whilst thousands of my subjects were biting the dust!”
Alas! notwithstanding all this, these people will die, and in a hundred years will be recognized as barbarians; their names will be inscribed on the roll of the plagues of the human race, and there they will remain to the end of time.
Humane Germans, fathers of families, pious men, seated quietly by their counters at Hamburg, Cologne, or Berlin, in every town and village of Germany, eating and drinking heartily, warming their fat legs before the fire during this winter of unexampled severity, cried to their king at Christmas time to bombard Paris, and set fire to the houses – to kill and burn fathers and mothers of families like themselves, but reduced to famine in their own dwellings!