TWO WAR YEARS IN CONSTANTINOPLE
For the better understanding of the fact that a German journalist, the representative of a great national paper like the Kölnische Zeitung, could publish such a book as this, and to ward off in advance all the furious personal attacks which will result from its publication, and which might, without an explanation, injuriously affect its value as an independent and uninfluenced document, it is, I think, essential to explain the rôle I filled in Constantinople, how I left Turkey, and how I came to the decision to publish my experiences.
As far as my post on the Kölnische Zeitung is concerned, I accepted it and went to Turkey although I was from the very beginning against German "World-politics" of the present-day style at any rate (not against German commercial and cultural activity in foreign countries) and against militarism—as was only to be expected from one who had studied colonial politics and universal history unreserved-
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ly, and had spent many years studying in the English, French, and German colonies of Africa—and although I was quite convinced that Germany's was the crime of setting the war in motion. Besides, my "anti-militarism" is not of a dogmatic kind, but refers merely to the relations customary between civilised nations—witness the fact that I took part in the Colonial War of 1904-6 in German South-West Africa as a volunteer.
I hoped to find in Turkey some satisfaction for my extra-European leanings, a sphere of labour less absorbed by German militarism, and opportunity for independent study, and surely no one will take it amiss that I seized such a chance, certainly unique in war-time, in spite of my political views.
Once arrived in Turkey, I kept well in the background to begin with, so as to be able to form my own opinion, of course doing my uttermost at the same time to be loyal to the task I had undertaken. In spite of everything I had to witness, it was quite easy to reconcile all oppositions, until that famous day when my wife denounced Germany to my face. From that moment I became an enemy of pres-
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ent-day Germany and began to think of one day publishing the whole truth about the system. Until then I had contented myself with never saying a good word about the war, as one can easily find for oneself from a perusal of my various articles in the Kölnische Zeitung during 1915-16, dated from Constantinople and marked (a small steamship).
That dramatic event which finally alienated me from the German cause took place just after the end of a severe crisis in my relationship with German-Turkish Headquarters. Some slight hints I had given of Turkish mismanagement, cynicism, and jingoism in a series of articles appearing from February 15th, 1916, onwards, under the title "Turkish Economic Problems," so far as they were possible under existing censorship conditions, was the occasion of the trouble. One can imagine that Headquarters would certainly be furious with a journalist whose articles appeared one fine day, literally translated, in the Matin under the title: "Situation insupportable en Turquie, décrite par un journaliste allemand" ("Insufferable situation in Turkey, described by a German journalist"), and cropped up
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once more on June 1st, in the Journal des Balcans. I was three times over threatened with dismissal. My paper sent a confidential man to hold an inquiry, and after a month he made a confidential report, which resulted in my being allowed to remain. But the fact that the same journalist that wrote such things was married to a Czech was too much for my colleagues, who were in part in the pay of the Embassy, in part in the pay of the Young Turkish Committee, whose politics they praised; regardless of their own inward convictions, like the representative of the Berliner Tageblatt, to get material benefit or make sure of their own jobs. I gleaned many humorous details at a nightly sitting of my Press colleagues in Pera, at which I myself was branded as a "dangerous character that must be got rid of," and my wife (who was far too young ever to worry about politics) as a "Russian spy"— perhaps because, with the justifiable pride and reserve of her race, she did not attempt to cultivate the society of the German colony. That began the period of intrigues and ill-will, but my enemies did not succeed in damaging me, although matters went so far as a denunciation
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of me before the "Prevention of Espionage Department" of the General Staff in Berlin. My paper, after they had given me the fullest moral satisfaction, and had arranged for me to remain in Constantinople in spite of all that had taken place, thought it was better to give me the chance of changing and offered me a new post on the editorial staff elsewhere.
However, I was now quite finished with Germany, or rather with its politics; it would have been a moral impossibility for me to write another single word in the editorial line; so I refused the offer and applied for sick-leave from October 1st, 1916, to the end of the war (by telegram about the middle of August). It was granted me with an expression of regret.
Arrived in Switzerland (February 7th, 1917), I severed all connection with my paper by mutual consent from October 1st, 1916, onwards. After my resignation, no special editorial representative of the Kölnische Zeitung was appointed to take my place, as the censorship made any kind of satisfactory work impossible.
I should like to emphasise the fact that the intrigues against me, the crisis with Head-
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quarters I have just mentioned, and my departure from Constantinople did not injure me in any way either morally or financially, and have nothing whatever to do with the present publication. It is certainly not any petty annoyance that could bring me to such an action, which will probably entail more than enough unpleasant consequences for me. The reproaches levelled against me by my pushing, jingoistic colleagues were as impotent as their attempts to get rid of me as "dangerous to the German Cause"; I have written proof of this from my paper in my hand, and also of the fact that it was of my own free-will that I retired. I can therefore look forward quite calmly to all the personal invective that is sure to be showered on me for political reasons.
I had sufficient independent means not to feel the loss of my post in Constantinople too keenly; and if I still kept my post after the beginning of the crisis with Headquarters, it was simply and solely so that as a newspaper correspondent I might be in possession of fuller information, and able to follow up as long as possible the developments that were taking place on that most interesting soil of
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Turkey. When that was no longer possible, I refused the post offered me in Cologne—in fact twice, once by letter and once by telegram—for I could not pretend to opinions I directly opposed. I therefore remained as a free-lance in the Turkish capital. I was extremely glad that the difference of opinion ended as it did, for I had at last a free hand to say and write what I thought and felt.
My stay in Constantinople for a further three months as a silent observer naturally did not escape the notice of the German authorities, and after they had reported to the Foreign Office that a "satisfactory co-operation between me and the German representatives was not longer possible," they had of course to discover some excuse for putting an end to my prolonged stay in Turkey. They finally attempted to get rid of me by calling me up for military duty again. But this was useless in my case, for my health had been badly shaken by my spell at the Front at the beginning of the war, and besides I had the doctor's word for it that I should never be able to stand the German climate after having lived so long in the Tropics.
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Whether they liked it or not, the authorities had to find some other means of getting me out of Constantinople. The Consul-General approached me, after he had discussed the matter with the Ambassador, to see if I would not like to go to Switzerland to get properly cured; otherwise he was sure I would be turned out by the Turks. They were evidently afraid, for I was getting more and more into bad odour with the German authorities for my ill-concealed opinions, that I would publish my impressions, with documentary support, as soon as ever there was a change of government in Turkey, or as soon as the German censorship was removed and anything of the kind was possible. They apparently thought that the frontier regulations would be quite sufficient to prevent my taking any documentary evidence with me to Switzerland.
As a matter of fact this was the case, and the day before my departure from Constantinople I carefully burned the whole of my many notes, which would have produced a much more effective indictment against the moral sordidness of the German-Young Turkish system than these very general sketches. But the
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strictest frontier regulations could not prevent me from taking with me, free of all censorship, the impressions I had received in Turkey, and the opinions I had arrived at after a painful battle for loyalty to myself as a German and to the duties I had undertaken. Even then I had considerable difficulty in getting across the frontier, and I had to wait seventeen whole days at the frontier before I was finally allowed into Switzerland. It was only owing to the fact that I sent a telegram to the Chancellor, on the authority of the Consul-General in Constantinople, begging that no difficulties of a political kind might be placed in the way of my going to Switzerland, as I had been permitted to do so by medical certificate, the passport authorities and the local command, that I finally won my point with the frontier authorities and was permitted to cross into Switzerland.
To tell the truth, I must admit that the high civil authorities, and particularly the Foreign Office, treated me throughout most kindly and courteously. For this one reason I had a hard fight with myself, right up to the very last, even after I arrived in Switzerland, before I
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sat down and wrote out my impressions and opinions of German-Turkish politics. And if I have now finally decided to make them public, I can only do so with an expression of the most honest regret that my private and political conscience has not allowed me to requite the kindness of the authorities by keeping silent about what I saw of the German and Turkish system.
Stuermer, Harry. Two War Years in Constantinople. USA: George H. Doran