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Six Women and the Invasion   By:

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SIX WOMEN AND THE INVASION

MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED London · Bombay · Calcutta · Madras Melbourne

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY New York · Boston · Chicago Dallas · San Francisco

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD. Toronto

SIX WOMEN AND THE INVASION

BY GABRIELLE & MARGUERITE YERTA

WITH PREFACE BY MRS. HUMPHRY WARD

MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON 1917

COPYRIGHT

PREFACE

This little book gives a very graphic and interesting account by an eye witness who knows how to write! of life in the occupied provinces of France under the daily pressure of the German invasion. There are many repulsive and odious incidents recorded here of the German occupation, but, mercifully, few "atrocities," such as those which make of the French Governmental Reports, or that of the Bryce Commission, tales of horror and infamy that time will never wash out. These pages relate to the neighbourhood of Laon, and the worst brutalities committed by German soldiers in France seem to have happened farther south, along the line of the German retreat during the battle of the Marne, and in the border villages of Lorraine. But the picture drawn of the Germans in possession of a French country district, robbing and bullying its inhabitants, and delighting in all the petty tyrannies of their military régime, is one that writes in large hand the lesson of this war. "There must be no next time!" If Europe cannot protect itself in future against such conduct on the part of a European nation, civilisation is doomed.

And that this little book under states the case rather than over states it, can be proved by a mass of contemporary evidence. I pass for instance from Madame Yerta's graphic account of the endless "requisitions," "perquisitions," "inquisitions," to which the inhabitants of Morny in the Laonnois were subject in 1915, to a paragraph in this week's Morning Post (Tuesday, September 18), where a letter found upon a German soldier, and written to a comrade in Flanders from this very district, gleefully says: "We take from the French population all their lead, tin, copper, cork, oil, candlesticks, kitchen pots, or anything at all like that, which is sent off to Germany. I had a good haul the other day with one of my comrades. In one walled up room we found fifteen copper musical instruments, a new bicycle, 150 pairs of sheets, some towels, and six candlesticks of beaten copper. You can imagine the kind of noise the old hag made who owned them. I just laughed. The Commandant was very pleased."

No doubt the Commandant was of the same race as the Von Bernhausens or the Bubenpechs, whom Madame Yerta pillories in these lively and sarcastic pages. It would be too much indeed to expect that any Frenchwoman who had passed through fifteen months of such a life should write with complete impartiality of her temporary masters. She would be less than human were it possible. Yet in the sketches of the two German officers "Barbu" and "Crafleux," billeted on the "six women," there is no more than a laughing malice, and an evident intention to be fair to men who had no evident intention to be cruel. But of the bullying Commandant, Lieutenant von Bernhausen, and of the officer, Lieutenant Bubenpech, who succeeded him as the absolute master of the French village which is the scene of the book, Madame Yerta gives us portraits in which every touch bites. The drunken, sensual manners of such men, combined with German conceit and German arrogance, make up a type of character only too real, only too common, to which throughout the districts where the Germans have passed, French experience bears inexorable and damning witness.

It is clear, however, that these six brave women Madame Valaine, her four daughters and her daughter in law, the writer of the book were well able to take care of themselves. The tale of their courage, their gaiety, their resource under the endless difficulties and petty oppressions of their lot, lights up the miserable scene, kindling in the reader the same longing for retribution and justice on a barbarian race, as burnt in their French hearts... Continue reading book >>




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