When the Prussians Came to Poland - L. DeGozdawa

Alcohol is Once More Permitted

My refusal to drink the toast was evidently reported for on the 9th of May my petition was refused! I was not to be allowed to rejoin my husband. It was a blow, coming right on top of the horrors of that orgy, but I refused to let myself be discouraged, feeling if that happened we never should be let out, knowing somehow, sometime, my prayers would be answered. I immediately busied myself writing another petition. The officers were still there on the 9th. Two of them looked a little ashamed when they greeted me. One, however, told me he had something for me to read,—written by an American.

Thereupon, I was introduced to Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who is English, not American! What an awful creature he must be to write such things. Also what an awful lot of money he must have received as the price of his soul! For he has painted the Germans as the Germans dream of being—blameless, angelic. Point by point, comparing the English with the Germans, he presents the former in character and language vastly to their disadvantage. They are left without a feather; plucked bare! Though he did say English was the only possible rival of the German as a world language, simply because there was a resemblance between the two! English being suited only for commerce, for the people had the true commercial soul, which soul was in their pocket-books. But, to make love, to express tenderness, or great and high sentiments, the only language in the world was the German.

Seeing so much of their high nobility at close range I felt like expressing myself also in German, with the word which was oftenest on their lips "Hinaus!" As no one but a German would by any chance read those booklets of Herr Chamberlain's, they can do small harm. And if any one did read them, they could not be taken seriously. The compliments showered upon the Germans are too fulsome.

I was also given a booklet by Sven Hedin. He is clever, at least. A People in Arms is carried about by most of the officers. All very fine; but, if Hedin had been a prisoner to those people, left to their tender mercies, instead of travelling about as the guest of the commanding General, perhaps his song would have been written in another key. Most probably it would not have been one of praise.

Once more life settled down to a grey routine of waiting. We were told that "civil government" was to be given the town. Naturally we poor prisoners dreaded it, knowing any change would be for the worse. Food again grew scarce. One day there was literally nothing of which to make soup for the military prisoners. When the time to feed them came, and food was not forthcoming, the German soldier on watch came to ask what was the reason for the delay! When I told him he said to give him money, and he would buy bread for the waiting hungry prisoners. My cook went with him and a Jew was forced to sell bread at a more reasonable rate than he demanded of the townspeople. The precedent was not a good one for me. Very often after that demand was made upon me for money, and my funds were simply evaporating. Once when the prisoners employed about the hospital asked me for food, I gave each a silver half rouble. There were only four of them, and they told me some of the German soldiers would sell a piece of their bread if they had silver money to pay for it. For this I was severely reprimanded. I was told my privilege of feeding prisoners or caring for them would be taken away if I did such a thing again. Curious indeed! If I even delayed feeding the prisoners the German soldiers were after me insisting on my giving food yet threatening to forbid it.

Two prisoners were given to serve the old Jewish woman, who proudly said she was and always had been a German spy. They had to carry wood and water for her, receiving much abuse. A contrast to another old Jewess, whom I often saw and who helped all she could, feeding the unfortunate ones. She would come with a little pail of soup or cereal, whatever she could get, the soldiers standing about her and dipping in with their own spoons. The poor old woman always shared her food with the men,—it was only a few spoonsful,—but what a difference it made! Rain or shine she was there with her little pail, asking no permission, and for some reason never was stopped. Her son was somewhere among the Russian soldiers.

The Jewish people were not meeting with the treatment, which they had been led to expect. Fines were continually imposed upon them. Everything had been taken away. Of course they were clever enough to have money concealed where not even the enemy could find it, bringing it out when a time of comparative quiet came. Many got permission to buy things in Prussia. We had some benefit from this even if it cost us dearly. I got ten pounds of sugar, paying ten roubles. The thing which was really bad for the town was the fact that alcohol was once more on sale. People who could not buy food were beginning to drink rum!