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Two War Years in Constantinople

Sketches of German and Young Turkish Ethics and Politics

301 pages
Library of Alexandria
Anyone who, like myself, set foot on German soil for the first time after years of sojourn in foreign lands, and more particularly in the colonies, just at the moment that Germany was mobilising for the great European war, must surely have been filled, as I was, with a certain feeling of melancholy, a slight uneasiness with regard to the state of mind of his fellow-countrymen as it showed itself in these dramatic days of August in conversations in the street, in cafés and restaurants, and in the articles appearing in the Press. We Germans have never learnt to think soundly on political subjects. Bismarck's political heritage, although set forth in most popular form in his Thoughts and Recollections, a book that anyone opposing this war from the point of view rather of prudence than of ethics might utilise as an unending source of propaganda, has not descended to our rulers in any sort of living form. But an unbounded political naïveté, an incredible lack of judgment and of understanding of the point of view of other peoples, who have their raison d'être just as much as we have, their vital interests, their standpoint of honour—have not prevented us from trying to carry on a grand system of Weltpolitik (world politics). The average everyday German has never really understood the English—either before or during the war; in the latter's colonial policy, which, according to pan-German ideas, has no other aim than to snatch from us our "place in the sun"; in their conception of liberty and civilisation, which has entailed such mighty sacrifices for them on behalf of their Allies; when we trod Belgian neutrality underfoot and thought England would stand and look on; at the time of the debates about universal service, when practically every German, even in the highest political circles, was ready to wager that there would be a revolution in England sooner than any general acceptance of Conscription; and coming down to more recent events, when the latest huge British war loan provided the only fit and proper answer to German frightfulness at sea. Let me here say a word on the subject of colonial policy, on which I may perhaps be allowed to speak with a certain amount of authority after extended travel in the farthest corners of Africa, and from an intimate, personal knowledge of German as well as English and French colonies. Germany has less colonial territory than the older colonists, it is true. It is also true that the German struggle for the most widespread, the most intensive and lucrative employment of the energies and capabilities of our highly developed commercial land is justified. But at the risk of being dubbed as absolutely lacking in patriotism, I should like to point out that in the first place the resources we had at our disposal in our own colonial territory in tropical and sub-tropical Africa, little exploited as they then were, would have amply sufficed for our commercial needs and colonising capacities—though possibly not for our aspirations after world power! And secondly, the very liberal character of England's trade and colonial policy did not hinder us in any way from reaching the top of the commercial tree even in foreign colonies. Anyone who knows English colonies knows that the British Government, wherever it has been possible to do so politically, that is, in all her colonies which are already properly organised and firmly established as British, has always met in a most generous and sympathetic way German, and indeed any foreign, trade or other enterprises. New firms, with German capital, were received with open arms, their excellence and value for the young country heartily recognised and ungrudgingly encouraged; not the slightest shadow of any jealousy of foreign undertakings could ever exist in a British colony, and every German could be as sure as an Englishman himself of being justly treated in every way and encouraged in the most generous fashion in his work.