War Cyclopedia - Q
Quarter. Article XXIII of the Hague Regulations contains the following provision: "It is especially forbidden . . . to declare that no quarter will be given." From the month of September, 1914, the French Government received by several channels information which showed that Gen. Stenger, commanding the Fifty-eighth Brigade (One hundred and twelfth and One hundred and forty-second ~regiments of German Infantry) bad ordered his troops to kill all prisoners. Here is one version of the order: "From to-day on no more prisoners are to be taken. All prisoners are to obe slaughtered. Even prisoners already grouped in convoys are to be killed. Let not a single living enemy remain behind." That some such order was given seems clearly established, both by testimony given under oath by German prisoners and by extracts from captured diaries of German soldiers who had belonged to Stenger's command. (See Bedier, German Atrocities from German Evidence.) On the East Front the same wickedness was enacted. The following are letters received by Mr. Gerard in the early days of the war from German soldiers who were eyewitnesses to the slaughter of Russians among the Masurian lakes and swamps:
(1) It was frightful, heart-rending, as these masses of human beings were driven to destruction. Above the terrible thunder of the cannon could be heard the heart-rending cries of the Russians: "Oh, Prussians! Oh, Prussians!" but there was no mercy. Our captain had ordered:
"The whole lot must die; so rapid fire."
As I have heard, five men and one officer on our side went mad from those heart-rending cries. But most of my comrades and the officers joked as the unarmed and helpless Russians shrieked for mercy while they were being suffocated in the swamps and shot down. The order was: "Close up and at it harder!"
For days afterwards those heart-rending yells followed me, and I dare not think of them or I shall go mad. There is no God; there is no morality and no ethics any more. There are no human beings any more, but only beasts. Down with militarism!
This was the experience of a Prussian soldier. At present wounded; Berlin, October 22, 1914.
If you are a truth-loving man, please receive these lines from a common Prussian soldier.
(2) RUSSIAN POLAND, December 18, 191k.
In the name of Christianity I send you these words. My conscience forces me as a Christian German soldier to inform you of these lines.
Wounded Russians are killed with the bayonet according to orders, and Russians who have surrendered are often shot down in masses according to orders in spite of their heart-rending prayers.
In the hope that you, as the representative of a Christian State, will protest against this, I sign myself,
A GERMAN Soldier AND CHRISTIAN.
I would give my name and regiment, but these words could get me court-martialed for divulging military secrets. See Hague and Geneva Conventions, German Violations; "Kriegs-Raison"; Prisoners of War; War, German. Ruthlessness.