100D #2 | The Manifesto of the Ninety-Three

15 May

[This is the second installment in a new ongoing series — The First World War in 100 Documents; I will create a sort of central hub for them as they begin to accumulate.]

The publication and wide-scale public distribution of the Authors’ Declaration prepared by Wellington House in September of 1914 had certain consequences, and one of them was a more or less direct rebuke.  The Declaration had made many claims about the infamous actions undertaken by the German army in Belgium during its invasion of that country in August, and — in spite of it having likely been more prudent to have not dignified them with a response — German authorities swiftly drafted a counter-manifesto.

The origins of the document that followed can be found in the planning of certain high-ranking officers in the Navy, with the enthusiastic participation of German propagandists and intelligentsia.  The task of drafting the manifesto itself fell to the playwright Ludwig Fulda, a gifted and inventive writer whose star has fallen considerably in the present day in spite of a number of fascinating works to his credit and a tragic end that might have been appropriate for a play itself.  After a short round of revisions from some of his colleagues and intended fellow signatories, the manifesto was distributed for endorsement by the German cultural elite.

And endorse it they did.  The Authors’ Declaration had boasted fifty-three of the biggest names in literary and academic Britain; the drafters of the German manifesto, not to be outdone, brought together ninety-three such persons in addition to a host of internationally renowned scientists, theologians, musicians and artists.  The list of signatories included no fewer than ten Nobel laureates.

It is, in many ways, an astounding document.  Much is made of the caution with which Germany made the weighty decision to invade Belgium in the first place, and several of the articles in the manifesto seem to be direct refutations of claims found in the Authors’ Declaration.  Little effort is made to deny that the German hand in Belgium had been heavy — atrocities are dismissed either as exaggerations or as having been thoroughly deserved.  The emphasis is rather upon the degree to which the German culture is a superior and desirable one, with this being offered as an assurance of the ultimately civilized outlook of both the German army and its administrators.  This is painted in stark contrast to the Allies, who are bewilderingly accused of “inciting Mongolians and Negroes against the white race.”

Many (possibly even most) of the manifesto’s signatories repudiated its contents after the war — some because their perspective on the proceedings had changed, but some also because, as they unhappily admitted, they had not actually had the chance to read the manifesto before agreeing to endorse it.

Whatever the legitimacy of the document as an example of the German intellectuals’ position at the war’s outset, it remains a peculiar and important piece:

   Appeal to the Civilized World

As representatives of German Science and Art, we hereby protest to the civilized world against the lies and calumnies with which our enemies are endeavoring to stain the honor of Germany in her hard struggle for existence—in a struggle that has been forced on her.

The iron mouth of events has proved the untruth of the fictitious German defeats; consequently misrepresentation and calumny are all the more eagerly at work. As heralds of truth we raise our voices against these.

It is not true that Germany is guilty of having caused this war. Neither the people, the Government, nor the Kaiser wanted war. Germany did her utmost to prevent it; for this assertion the world has documental proof. Often enough during the twenty-six years of his reign has Wilhelm II shown himself to be the upholder of peace, and often enough has this fact been acknowledged by our opponents. Nay, even the Kaiser, whom they now dare to call an Attila, has been ridiculed by them for years, because of his steadfast endeavors to maintain universal peace. Not till a numerical superiority which has been lying in wait on the frontiers assailed us did the whole nation rise to a man.

It is not true that we trespassed in neutral Belgium. It has been proved that France and England had resolved on such a trespass, and it has likewise been proved that Belgium had agreed to their doing so. It would have been suicide on our part not to have preempted this.

It is not true that the life and property of a single Belgian citizen was injured by our soldiers without the bitterest self-defense having made it necessary; for again and again, notwithstanding repeated threats, the citizens lay in ambush, shooting at the troops out of the houses, mutilating the wounded, and murdering in cold blood the medical men while they were doing their Samaritan work. There can be no baser abuse than the suppression of these crimes with the view of letting the Germans appear to be criminals, only for having justly punished these assassins for their wicked deeds.

It is not true that our troops treated Louvain brutally. Furious inhabitants having treacherously fallen upon them in their quarters, our troops with aching hearts were obliged to fire a part of the town as a punishment. The greatest part of Louvain has been preserved. The famous Town Hall stands quite intact; for at great self-sacrifice our soldiers saved it from destruction by the flames. Every German would of course greatly regret if in the course of this terrible war any works of art should already have been destroyed or be destroyed at some future time, but inasmuch as in our great love for art we cannot be surpassed by any other nation, in the same degree we must decidedly refuse to buy a German defeat at the cost of saving a work of art.

It is not true that our warfare pays no respect to international laws. It knows no indisciplined cruelty. But in the east the earth is saturated with the blood of women and children unmercifully butchered by the wild Russian troops, and in the west dumdum bullets mutilate the breasts of our soldiers. Those who have allied themselves with Russians and Serbians, and present such a shameful scene to the world as that of inciting Mongolians and negroes against the white race, have no right whatever to call themselves upholders of civilization.

It is not true that the combat against our so-called militarism is not a combat against our civilization, as our enemies hypocritically pretend it is. Were it not for German militarism, German civilization would long since have been extirpated. For its protection it arose in a land which for centuries had been plagued by bands of robbers as no other land had been. The German Army and the German people are one and today this consciousness fraternizes 70,000,000 Germans, all ranks, positions, and parties being one.

We cannot wrest the poisonous weapon—the lie—out of the hands of our enemies. All we can do is to proclaim to all the world that our enemies are giving false witness against us. You, who know us, who with us have protected the most holy possessions of man, we call to you:

Have faith in us! Believe, that we shall carry on this war to the end as a civilized nation, to whom the legacy of a Goethe, a Beethoven, and a Kant is just as sacred as its own hearths and homes.

For this we pledge you our names and our honor:

  1. Adolf von Baeyer, chemist: synthesized indigo, 1905 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
  2. Peter Behrens, architect and designer
  3. Emil Adolf von Behring, physiologist: received the 1901 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
  4. Wilhelm von Bode, art historian and curator
  5. Aloïs Brandl, Austrian-German philologist
  6. Lujo Brentano, economist and social reformer
  7. Justus Brinckmann, art historian
  8. Johannes Conrad, political economist
  9. Franz von Defregger, Austrian artist
  10. Richard Dehmel, anti-conservative poet and writer
  11. Adolf Deissmann, Protestant theologian
  12. Wilhelm Dörpfeld, architect and archeologist (including site of ancient Troy)
  13. Friedrich von Duhn, classical scholar
  14. Paul Ehrlich, awarded the 1908 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, initiated chemotherapy, “the magic bullet”
  15. Albert Ehrhard, Catholic priest and church historian
  16. Karl Engler, chemist
  17. Gerhart Esser, Catholic theologian
  18. Rudolf Christoph Eucken, philosopher: winner of the 1908 Nobel Prize for Literature
  19. Herbert Eulenberg, poet and playwright
  20. Henrich Finke, Catholic church historian
  21. Hermann Emil Fischer, chemist: 1902 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
  22. Wilhelm Foerster, also signed counter-manifesto
  23. Ludwig Fulda, Jewish playwright with strong social commitment
  24. Eduard von Gebhardt, painter
  25. Jan Jakob Maria de Groot, Sinologist and historian of religion
  26. Fritz Haber, chemist: received the 1918 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for synthesizing ammonia
  27. Ernst Haeckel, biologist: coined the words “ecology, phylum, stem cell,” developed “”ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”
  28. Max Halbe, dramatist
  29. Adolf von Harnack, Lutheran theologian
  30. Carl Hauptmann, playwright
  31. Gerhart Hauptmann, dramatist and novelist: received the 1912 Nobel Prize in Literature
  32. Gustav Hellmann, meteorologist
  33. Wilhelm Herrmann, Reformed theologian
  34. Andreas Heusler, Swiss medievalist
  35. Adolf von Hildebrand, sculptor
  36. Ludwig Hoffmann, architect
  37. Engelbert Humperdinck, composer: including “Hänsel und Gretel”
  38. Leopold Graf von Kalckreuth, painter
  39. Arthur Kampf, history painter
  40. Friedrich August von Kaulbach, painter
  41. Theodor Kipp, jurist
  42. Felix Klein, mathematician: group theory, complex analysis, non-Euclidean geometry; “the Klein bottle”
  43. Max Klinger, Symbolist painter, sculptor, printmaker, and writer
  44. Aloïs Knoepfler, art historian
  45. Anton Koch, Catholic theologian
  46. Paul Laband, professor of law
  47. Karl Lamprecht, historian
  48. Philipp Lenard, physicist: winner of the 1905 Nobel Prize for Physics for cathode rays research
  49. Maximilian Lenz, painter
  50. Max Liebermann, Jewish Impressionist painter and printmaker
  51. Franz von Liszt, jurist and legal scholar (cousin of the composer)
  52. Karl Ludwig Manzel, sculptor
  53. Joseph Mausbach, theologian
  54. Georg von Mayr, statistician
  55. Sebastian Merkle, Catholic theologian
  56. Eduard Meyer, historian
  57. Heinrich Morf, linguist
  58. Friedrich Naumann, liberal politician and Protestant pastor
  59. Albert Neisser, physician who discovered the cause of gonorrhea
  60. Walther Hermann Nernst, physicist: third law of thermodynamics, won the 1920 Nobel Prize in chemistry
  61. Wilhelm Ostwald, chemist: received the 1909 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
  62. Bruno Paul, architect, illustrator, interior designer, and furniture designer.
  63. Max Planck,theoretical physicist: originated quantum theory, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918
  64. Albert Plohn, professor of medicine
  65. Georg Reicke, author
  66. Max Reinhardt, Austrian-born, American stage and film actor and director
  67. Alois Riehl, philosopher
  68. Carl Robert, philologist and archeologist
  69. Wilhelm Roentgen, physicist: known for X-rays, awarded 1901 Nobel Prize in Physics
  70. Max Rubner, physiologist and hygienist
  71. Fritz Schaper, sculptor
  72. Adolf von Schlatter, Evangelical theologian
  73. August Schmidlin, theologian
  74. Gustav von Schmoller, economist
  75. Reinhold Seeberg, theologian
  76. Martin Spahn, historian
  77. Franz von Stuck, symbolist/Art Nouveau painter, sculptor, engraver, and architect
  78. Hermann Sudermann, dramatist and novelist
  79. Hans Thoma, painter
  80. Wilhelm Trübner, realist painter
  81. Karl Vollmöller, playwright and screenwriter
  82. Richard Voss, dramatist and novelist
  83. Karl Vossler, linguist and scholar
  84. Siegfried Wagner, composer, son of Richard Wagner
  85. Wilhelm Waldeyer, anatomist: named the chromosome
  86. August von Wassermann, bacteriologist: developed the “Wassermann test” for syphilis
  87. Felix Weingartner, Austrian conductor, composer and pianist
  88. Theodor Wiegand, archeologist
  89. Wilhelm Wien, physicist: received the 1911 Nobel Prize for work on heat radiation
  90. Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, classical philologist
  91. Richard Willstätter, organic chemist: won the 1915 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for structure of plant pigments
  92. Wilhelm Windelband, philosopher
  93. Wilhelm Wundt, physician, psychologist, physiologist, philosopher, “father of experimental psychology”

Further reading:

  • Kramer, Alan and John Horne.  German Atrocities, 1914: A History of Denial (2001).
  • Vergey, Jeffrey.  The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth, and Mobilization in Germany (2006).
  • Stromberg, Ronald N.  Redemption by War: The Intellectuals and 1914 (1982).
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