Charges Rupprecht with Death Order

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Charges Rupprecht with Death Order is an article published in The New-York Times on 11 july 1915.

Preface of Arthur Conan Doyle's essay: The Story of British Prisoners (1915).

Charges Rupprecht with Death Order

The New-York Times (11 july 1915, p. 7)

Conan Doyle Cites Affidavits Accusing Bavarian Prince of Having Prisoners Shot.

Wounded Beaten to Death

"The Story of British Prisoners" a Terrible Arraignment Based on German Testimony.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the preface and compiled the annotations for "The Story of the British Prisoners," recently published by the British Central Committee for National Patriotic Organization, a copy of which reached New York yesterday, and which sets forth that Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria is responsible for the orders that resulted in the execution of British prisoners.

In regard to the execution of British Prisoners by the Germans, or rather Bavarians, it says: "The following dispatch, dated The Hague, April 28, has been received by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from Sir Alan Johnstone, his Majesty's Minister at The Hague:

"'I have the honor to transmit copies of declarations by J. Martin, editor of the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad, and N. J. van Ditmar. press correspondent, of Rotterdam, regarding the shooting of British prisoners of war by the German troops, which I have received from his Majesty's Consul General at Rotterdam.

"'The first declaration, made at Rotterdam on April 28, before the British Vice Consul, is as follows:

"'"I, Johannes Martin, editor of the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad, born the 9th or November, 1886, at Leiden, son of K. Martin, professor at the University of Leiden, hereby declare that on the morning of the 18th of March a deserter from the German Army, a certain Richard Lorenz, native of Braunschweig, and belonging to the 208th Regiment, appeared at the office of my newspaper and made the following statement." He began by calling the Bavarian soldiers began by calling the Bavarian soldiers 'Schweine.' (hogs.) and abused them for killing unarmed men, with their hands up and anxious to surrender, and also of shooting British prisoners of war.

Forty Prisoners Burned.

"'He stated that the Bavarian regiments under Prince Rupprecht had received formal orders to make no British prisoners, and that those soldiers who made them were severely punished. He beard from fellow-soldiers how once about forty British prisoners were burned alive in a hangar, and that the men who committed this atrocity received a medal for it. He stated that this order was only directed against British soldiers, and existed exclusively in the Bavarian Army. This interview was published in the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad in the editions of March 18 and 19. The killing of British soldiers was not reported. A blank space was left in order to avoid local difficulties.

"'I made further inquiries regarding the killing of British prisoners, and on March 18 another German deserter called on me. He was a certain Friedrich Kuller, born at Ludwigshaven, Bavaria, 22 years old, belonging to the Twenty-second Regiment, Fifth Company, Third Machine Gun Section of the Second Bavarian Army Corps. This man struck me as being an essentially stupid creature, and it was impossible that he would have sufficient intelligence to invent the following thrilling story. He did not know whether my paper was pro-German or anti-German, and he gave the following account in reply to my questions and not of his own initiative.

Shot Five British Soldiers.

"'On my asking him whether they ever made British prisoners, he said that the Germans did so, but they were not sent to Germany, but killed, the Bavarian regiments having received formal orders to kill every British prisoner of war. The following were his exact words in German: "Wir batten Befehl empfangen, sammtliche gefangene Englander abzumachen." I cross-examined him on the subject, but he maintained his statement and said that he himself had shot five British prisoners a few days before he deserted. On my question as to whether the Bavarian soldiers shot these unarmed men on their own initiative or under orders. he stated that they were brought up to be shot by a section, under the command of an officer. He made this statement as a mere matter of fact which did not interest him much. The interview appeared in the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad of March 20, and a blank was left in lieu of the above-mentioned fact, for the same reason.

"'The following day, March 19, another deserter came to see me. August Kahlmann. born at Karthaus, (near Danzig.) 25 years old, and belonging to the Thirty-fifth Regiment Infantry, Fifth Company, Seventh Division. His statement was practically identical, viz., to the effect that an order, signed by Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria. had ordered the whole Bavarian Army to take no British prisoners in future, and that all had to be shot. He stated that they were brought to the quarters with their hands bound behind their backs, and with bandaged eyes. and that they were not told they were to be shot. They were executed under the supervision of the commanding officer. I asked him if there were any wounded among them, and he answered that nearly all were wounded, and that as long as a British soldier is able to fight he will not surrender. This interview was published in the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad of March 22. and with the same blank as before. Both Kuller and Kahlmann stated that they did not approve of this order very much, and that they were quite aware that Bavarian prisoners were not treated in the same way by the British. They added that they did not hate the British, but were very much afraid of them and praised them as very gallant fighters.

Germans Starving in Trenches.

"'Kuller stated that he first fought at Rheims, but afterward he was sent to Ypres, where he stayed for three months. Kahlmann fought on the Yser between Nieuport and Dixmude and in the neighborhood. They stated that the principal reason for their desertion was the rough treatment meted out on them by their officers and the lack of food. It appears that the soldiers were practically starving in the trenches.

"'Some days after these interviews Kuller disappeared in a curious manner. Being short of money, he went to the German Consulate and stated that as he was a German he thought they must help him there. Kahlmann tried to persuade him not to go, but Kuller had not sense enough to understand why he should not do so. There he waited for his friend three hours and a half, but Kuller never appeared. Since that time he has never been seen by Kahlmann, nor did he return to his lodgings, where he had left all his belongings.'"

The declaration of W. N. J. van Ditmar, which was sworn to at the British Consulate on April 23, is almost identical with the foregoing, except that details are added. It is as follows:

"'..., W. N. J. van Ditmar, press correspondent, residing in Rotterdam, hereby make oath and declare that Friedrich Kuller, 23 years old, a laborer, Twenty-second Regiment, Fifth Company, Third Machine Section, Second Bavarian Army Corps (von Kluck's army) informed me that on or about Dec. 28, 1914, twenty-four British prisoners of war were shot by his company. One of the reasons which were given him at the time was that they belonged to a regiment that had blown up the bridge over the Scheldt near Antwerp at a time that a great many German troops were marching over it in pursuit of the then retreating English army. Among the men shot were many officers. All these men were placed against a wall one after another, new German soldiers being called from the ranks for the purpose of shooting various prisoners in turn. In this way nearly every man in the German battalion concerned obtained his turn in practicing shooting an Englishman.

"On a subsequent occasion one British officer and four soldiers who had surrendered were shot in the Castle of Hollebeke, after a hand-to-hand fight. I have cross-examined Kuller about the above statement on two occasions. Subsequently he disappeared in a most extraordinary manner, after a visit to the German Consulate in Rotterdam. His friend, August Kahlmann, waited outside the Consul's office for him for three and one-half hours without his reappearing. The German Consulate told me over the telephone, in reply to an inquiry, that Friedrich Kuller had never called at that office."

Conan Dovle's Observations.

Sir Arthur cites other instances of German mistreatment of British prisoners of war and wounded British soldiers.

"The conduct of the Germans to our wounded upon the field," he says, has been on a par with their brutality to their British prisoners. At the battle of Festhubert upon Dec. 19, 1914, when the Germans temporarily occupied some British trenches, an officer described the conduct of his own men in this fashion: 'The sight of the trenches and the fury — not to say the bestiality — of our men in beating to death the wounded English affected me so much that for the rest of the day I was fit for nothing.'

"The writer of this was in the Thirteenth Regiment, Thirteenth Division of the Seventh German Corps. His testimony as to the brutality of our enemy is borne out by the evidence of our own men on numerous occasions, notably at Neuve Chapelle, where several of our wounded, temporarily left behind, were subsequently found bayonetted or with their brains blown out.

"Another extract from a letter referring to this same fight on Dec. 19 mentions that some of the English, being surrounded, surrendered after a most gallant resistance. The writer adds: 'But they got no mercy! The rifle butts were turned around and made the sparks fly. Prisoners were not taken.'

"Perhaps it is as well," Sir Arthur observes, "that prisoners should not be taken, if prison means the slow torture of the German jailers. But can it be wondered that an ugly spirit is beginning to rise along the Allies and that men's hearts are hardened at the thoughts of what their friends have undergone? If the war assumes a grimmer aspect, can we not turn to the whole world and lay our evidence before them as to who is the prime mover in so shocking a relapse from all that is chivalrous and honorable in warfare?"