by Georg Metzler
All good Germans are absolutely convinced that a terrible, undeserved fate has befallen their peace-loving, industrious, innocent country. No revelations, no documentary evidence, no matter how convincing, none of the countless declarations, no statement by the entire world, can weaken their conviction that their country fought a holy, defensive war, honestly, piously and unreservedly, against a world full of enemies, and ended it ‘undefeated’, thanks to brilliant military leadership. No undeniable facts can shake this conviction that only a combination of disastrous circumstances: the temporary weakness and psychological overload of an otherwise unconquerable commander-in-chief, the agitation and treacherous betrayal by unpatriotic knaves at home, the breach of oath by unworthy, misled troops, maliciously tore the inevitable victory from it at the last moment. This country believes that only despicable intrigues on the home front stabbed the brave and undefeated army at the front, in the back. If we had only held out for another three or six months, all the enemies of Brandenburg, Prussia and Germany would have been prone permanently in the dust. That is the dominant opinion in Germany. To be able to believe these completely false assertions requires not just a lack ethical sensitivity, self awareness and self criticism, but the degree of naivety which only a people who have been educated for a hundred years in servitude and blind obedience has. The war was at no time defensive. Anyone who examines the countless documents which have been available for critical examination for years, and now more than ever, impartially, for even an hour, must realize that. The assertion that it was a defensive war is a lie.
And the war was lost militarily, as much as any war in the whole history of the world was lost militarily. Is it a counter-argument that the final catastrophe didn’t actually take place? We didn’t wait for it, but it was unavoidable, and the German High Command only avoided it by unconditional surrender. The opinion of the German High Command, expressed repeatedly, verbally and in writing, was that if the war had continued for just four more months, the military collapse of the Western Front was unavoidable by February, or, at the latest, March 1919. Do you really believe that Hindenburg would have allowed the surrender otherwise? Is there any idiot in the entire German Empire who considers it to be possible that decisions like this, which are vital to the existence of an entire country, were not ratified by the High Command before being conveyed to the enemy? This is why it is a second lie to go on about an undefeated army, just because it continued to physically exist and was preserved in its structure only by surrendering unconditionally, not to mention that the whole South and South-East of Germany was defenceless against the advances of the Entente forces after the defeat of Austria, and the loss of Bulgaria and Turkey, and that the enemy armies could have easily made their way into the heart of Germany via Vienna, Dresden and Munich. No, the German army would have been defeated sooner or later, because it was confronted by a terrible, at first militarily, technically, economically, and finally morally, overwhelming force.
And the third assertion: the revolution caused by mutinous troops was the result of the military collapse. It is another lie to make it the cause. It is sad enough that this revolution was only possible as the consequence of a lost war, that the troops were only able to raise the courage and strength to shake off a yoke which had become unbearable, by this feeling of defeat. And enemies are absolutely right when they repeatedly claim that Wilhelm and the rest of the German princes were only thrown out because they lost the war. It is not as though the German rulers did not already deserve to be punished and to fall for starting this criminal war, which made a mockery of all divine and human justice, and continuing to fight it by the most dishonourable means, not just because they lost it! Perhaps it was the only good deed of these people that they recognized the impending military collapse in time, and acted accordingly.
The German people were lied to and deceived every morning, noon and night for four years about the causes, outbreak and conduct of this war, although it is true that it let itself be deceived too willingly. And even now, when it would be possible to recognize the truth, and find out about the atrocity of the German conduct of the war, the lying continues. The belief continues to be nourished in the German soul that the Germans are an innocent people who have lost a holy war and are now being cruelly tormented by overwhelming enemies.
The rest of the civilized world observes this German mentality completely perplexed, and with no comprehension. It does not understand, and comes to the logical conclusion of a downright incomprehensible brutality and obstinacy of thought and feelings. But those who want to make the German people believe that admitting their guilt would make the peace negotiations more difficult, are lying. If things in Germany stay as they are, if all those who covered the crimes of 1914 in word and deed, stay in office, there will be no question of Germany becoming an equal partner in the association of free peoples. As long as the German people continue to believe that the war was defensive, the army undefeated, and the enemies harsh to them, the other peoples of the world will continue to believe that the Germans are seeking revenge, and will commit new crimes to get it. The world would unavoidably throw the intellectual and economic cordon sanitaire around Germany which the central European Friedrich Naumann already wanted to establish, and that would permanently seal the fate of our people. We would become, through our own fault, for ever the helots of the world.
It is the old terrible tragedy which we have experienced for four years: while the rest of the world turned away with a shudder from the outrages committed by Germans, from a policy which alternated perfidiously between cowardice and brutality, Germans dreamt of victories, hoisted flags and let off fireworks in drunken joy, and only a handful of them realized that a people cannot achieve happiness and greatness by following such a path of crime and terror. The entire intellectual elite of the country thought, spoke and wrote with the blinkered narrow-mindedness of those who are technically competent, but, in the scope of their thoughts, actually pitifully limited people. And every word which pointed towards purer and freer heights was mocked and insulted, and every independent thinker was rendered harmless…
Only the truth, only the renunciation of lies, can save our people, and bridge the gap to the rest of the world. And only the government can acknowledge this truth, openly, honestly and with dignity, and use its power to ensure that this truth becomes the commonplace of the whole country. A government which baulks against recognition of the truth, and its dissemination among the people, and must do so, because it would otherwise incriminate itself, will not be able to save the German people from doom.