'Soeur Julie of Gerbevillier'
from the book :
‘Our Part in the Great War’
by Arthur Gleason

Sister Julie

left : honored by French soldiers - from a popular magazine
right : a photo


THIS is the story of Sister Julie. The Germans entered her village of Gerbeviller, where she was head of the poor-house and hospital. As they came southward through the place they burned every house on every street, 475 houses. In a day they wiped out seven centuries of humble village history. In her little street they burned Numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12, but they did not burn Number 14, the house where Sister Julie lived. There they stopped, for she stopped them. And the twenty houses beyond her hospital still stand, because that August day there was a great woman in that little village. They killed men, women and children throughout the village, but they did not kill the thirteen French wounded soldiers whom she was nursing, nor the five Roman Catholic sisters whom she directed as Mother Superior. Outside of a half dozen generals, she is perhaps the most famous character whom the war has revealed, and one of the greatest personages whom France has produced: even France in her long history. The last days of Gerbeviller live in her story. I write her account word for word as she gives it. Her recital is touched with humor in spite of the horror that lay heaped around her. She raises the poignard of the German Colonel: you see it held over her head ready to strike. By pantomime she creates the old paralytic men, the hobbling women, the man who went "fou."

Because she remained through the days of fire and blood, and succored his troops, General Castelnau cited her in an Order of the Day. The Legion of Honor has placed its scarlet ribbon on the black of her religious dress. The great of France — the President and the Premier, senators and poets — have come to see her where she still lives on in the ruins of the little village.

Amelie Rigard, whose religious name is Sister Julie, is a peasant woman, sixty-two years old, belonging to the Order of Saint Charles of Nancy. She is of the solid peasant type, with square chin and wide brown eyes. Everything about her is compact, deep-centered, close-growing; the fingers are stubby, the arms held closely to the body, and when the gesture comes it is a strong pushing out from the frame, as if pushing away a weight. Whenever she puts out power, she seems to be delivering a straight blow with the full weight of the body.

With Sister Julie it is not only a genius of simple goodness. She carries a native shrewdness, with a salient tang. She knows life. This is no meek person, easily deceived by people, thinking every one good and harmless. She reads motives. Power is what I feel in her — direct, sheer power. The wonder is not that she rose to one of the supreme crises of history, and did a work which has passed into the consciousness of France. The wonder is that she remained hidden in a country village for sixty-two years. Her gift of language, her strength of nature, had vitality enough to burn through obscurity. The person she made me think of was that great man whom I once knew, Dwight Moody. Here was the same breadth of beam, the simplicity, the knowledge of human nature, the same native instinct for the fitting word that comes from being fed on the greatest literature in the world, and from using the speech of powerful, uneducated persons. When she entered the room, the room was filled. When she left, there was a vacancy.

Here follows the account in her own words, of the last days of Gerbeviller. The phrase that speaks through all her recital is "feu et sang" "fire and blood." The Germans said on entering that they would give "fire and blood" to the village. The reason was this: A handful of French chasseurs, about sixty in number, had held up the German army for several hours, in order to give the French Army time to retreat. This battle had taken place at the bridge outside the village. When at last the Germans broke through, they were irritated by the firm resistance which had delayed their plans. So they vented their ill-will by burning the houses and murdering the peasants.

Sister Julie's Story

The Germans reached the Lunéville road at the entrance of Gerbeviller at 10 minutes after seven in the morning. They saw the barricades, for our troops had built a barricade, and they said to a woman, Madame Barthelemy:

"Madame, remove the barricades." As she waited undecided for a few seconds, they said:

"You refuse. Then fire and blood."

They then began to set fire to all the houses and they shot six men. They threw a man into an oven, a baker, Joseph Jacques, a fine fellow of fifty years of age, married, with children. It was necessary to eat, even at Gerbeviller, and it was necessary to work out a way to make bread. The former baker had been mobilized, and his good old papa was infirm and unable to work. So Monsieur Jacques was busy at this time with the baking. They killed him when they came. It was about eight o'clock in the morning. The fires of the oven had already started. For a long time I did not believe it, but I have had a confirmation since. You will see how by what follows. When there was an attack in Champagne, a youth of Gerbeviller, Florentin, whose father was the gardener at the chateau, found himself in front of certain Germans who wished to give themselves up as prisoners. He looked at them, and said:

"You are not 'Comrades' ('Kamerade' is the word the German calls out when he surrenders). You know what you did at Gerbeviller. So don't call yourselves 'Comrades.' "

A German said to him, "It was I who flung the man into the oven. I was ordered to do it, or else I should have been 'kaput.'" (This is slang for a "dead one").

A search was then made, and in the oven was found the thigh bone of the unfortunate baker.

I have seen many other things. I have seen a man, Barthelemy of Chanteheux. I have seen that man spread out spitted on the ground by a bayonet.

Here is what they have done. It was half-past six in the evening. I heard their fifes. Our little chasseurs had retreated. The Germans had made fire and blood all the day long. I saw them and watched them well in this street. I was at the door. Yes, there were six of us at this door. They put fire to the houses, house by house, shouting as they burned them. Picture to yourself a human wave, where the bank has been broken down. They poured into the street precipitately, with their "lightning conductors," which shone brilliant in the sun (the point of their helmets). They sat down, seven and eight in front of a house. They kept going by in great numbers, but these who were ordered remained behind in front of each house. There these sat before the houses, while those others went past without a word. They put their knapsacks on the ground. They took out something that looked like macaroni. They hurled it into the house. There wasn't a pane of glass left in our windows, because of the pom-pom of cannon on the Fraimbois road. I saw them ordered to go on with their work of firing the houses, when they coolly stopped for a tiny minute to talk. Then, afresh, I saw them look in their knapsacks, and next I heard a detonation. But it was not a detonation like that of the report of a rifle or revolver. This was like the crackle of powder priming, of crackers, if you prefer. They were incendiary pastilles which they had thrown into the fire to hasten the destruction. At the end of a few minutes the fire picked up with greater intensity, and directly the roofs broke in one after the other with a crash. Many of our people did not see the burning, because they stayed in the cellars, lying hidden there, frightened, under the rubbish.

In one of the burning houses a woman was living in her room on the first floor. Two Germans came to our house and said:

"My sister, come quick and look for a woman who is in the fire."

The woman was Madame Zinius. It is our sisters who went there at their risk and peril.

The Germans had their destruction organized. In all the well-to-do houses they began by plundering. They did not burn these as they passed.

A few minutes later we saw five or six vehicles draw up, the "Guimbardes," vans, for plundering and carrying away the linen and the clothing. Women came with these vans, young women, well dressed, rich enough. They were not "bad."

[When the Germans captured a town, their organization of loot was sometimes carried out by women, who brought up motor lorries, which the soldiers filled with the plunder from the larger houses, and which the women then drove away. Sometimes these women were dressed as Red Cross nurses. I can continue the proof by other witnesses elsewhere than in Gerbeviller. The organization of murder, arson and pillage is participated in by German men and women.

Monsieur Martin had at his place many sewing-machines, with the trade-mark Victoria. The Germans carried them away.

I have told you that they threw persons into the fire. Monsieur Pottier was forced back into the fire. His wife moaned and called for help.

"Help me get my husband out of the fire," she cried.

"Go die with him," they answered her, and she, too, was pushed into the flames.

"They" kept coming on, playing the fife. We awaited them at the door. Only thirteen wounded French soldiers had stayed with us. They had been scattered through the different rooms. But we put them up in one room in order to simplify the service and give them a bit of "coddling."

We saw four officers on horseback approach. They dismounted in front of our town-hall, twenty meters away. They entered the building, and there they put everything upside down. They tumbled out all the waste paper, the entire office desk, determined to find the records.

They remounted and rode up in front of our house. They sat there looking at us for a moment. They had the manner guttural and hard, which is the German way. They began speaking German. When they showed signs of listening to my reply, I said to them:

"Speak French. That is the least courtesy you can show me. Speak French, I beg of you, and I will answer you."

"You have French soldiers hidden in your house with their arms," said one of them.

And he tramped hither and thither like a madman, and he sputtered and clattered. (Et il se promenait de long en large comme un fou, et il bavait et degoisait.)

I answered :

"We have no French soldiers here------"

The German: "You have French soldiers."

"Yes, we have French soldiers, but they are wounded. They have no arms."

One of them, mighty, with a truculent air, pulled out his sword.

"They have their arms," he shouted, and he brandished his sword.

"They won't hurt you. Enter," I said.

A Lorraine to say to a German "Enter," that means mischief. (Un Lorraine dire a un Allemand "Entrez": Que cela fait mal!)

Two of the officers dismounted. Each of them hid a dagger somewhere in his breast. That thought that they could harm my poor little wounded men made me turn my look a few seconds on the action. And as they took out their revolvers at the same time, I did not see where they had hidden the daggers.

The finger on the trigger, they nodded their head for me to go on in front of them. I went in front and led the way into this room where there was nothing but four walls, and no furniture except the thirteen beds of my wounded. I entered by this door, not knowing in the least what they wanted to do. Imagine this room with the first bed here, and then the second here, et cetera, et cetera. I went automatically to the first and, more involuntarily still, placed my hand on the bed of wounded Number One, a dragoon wounded by a horse.

See, now, what took place: the imposing one of them walked in with his dagger in his left hand (son poignard, la gauche); the other man with his revolver was there, ready. With his dagger in his left hand, the first man stripped the bed for its full length, lifting the sheet, the coverlet and the bedclothes. He looked down in a manner evil, malevolent, ill- natured (mechante, malveil-lante, mauvaise).

No response from the wounded men.

He did not say anything when he had seen what he wished to see. He stepped up to the head of the wounded man. I made a half turn toward him. I was separated from him by our wounded man who was between the two of us.

He said to my poor unfortunate, with a harsh gesture:

"You and your men, you make our wounded suffer on the battlefield. You cut off their ears. You put out their eyes. You make them suffer." Still no response. (Pas reponse encore.)

When I saw the state of mind he was in, I went round at once on the left side of the wounded, and I said:

"This is a wounded man, and this place is the Red Cross. Here we do well for all and ill for none, and if you mean well, do not hurt us. Leave us in peace as you do everywhere else. We will nurse your wounded and nurse them well."

He had turned around to watch the smoke of the fires which was pouring into the room through that opening, and he stood there several seconds with set face.

My little wounded men hardly ventured to breathe. Seeing that calm, that brooding which did not bode anything good, I exerted myself to repeat once more:

"If you mean well, do not hurt us. We will nurse your wounded."

And, at last, to help him come out of his speech-lessness:

"See, there, everything is on fire over there."

He answered me:

"We are not barbarians. No, we are not barbarians. And if the civilians had not fired on us with rifles, we should not have had any burning here."

"Those were not civilians. Those were soldiers."

"Civilians," he said.

"No. No. No. Soldiers."

"Civilians," he repeated; "I know well what I am saying. I saw them."

He made a gesture to show me that men had fired, while he cried in my ears with all his might "Civilians."

He went in front of me, and stripped the second bed. I feared that he might speak to my wounded, and I thought I should do well if I placed myself at the head of each of the beds as he uncovered them. I stepped between the two beds, and I feared what would come of it all. In this way I made the round of the room with them, standing at each of the thirteen points, always placing myself at the pillow of each wounded man, while "they" advanced bed by bed, and cautiously.

I did not know how they had arranged their weapons, but it seemed to me that they always had their finger placed on the trigger.

The second man with his revolver held his gun aimed low.

I followed them, shutting the door, when they went to the Infirmary of the old men. They did not say anything and they did not promise that they would not set fire to us. How should I go about getting that promise?

A third time I asked them:

"It is clearly understood that we shall nurse your wounded, and that you will not burn this house."

"They" start to leave, and go toward the door, walking slowly. When the chief was just leaving, I said again to him:

"It is clearly understood that you will not harm us nor burn our house." "No, no."

I looked to see if he gave the order to any of his soldiers. I didn't see that, but I noticed one of our sisters who was drawing a wheelbarrow with an old man in it, who weighed at least seventy-five kilos and who was paralyzed.

"Where are you going?" I asked her. "Over there; the soldiers tell me that they are coming to set fire to the hospital," she replied. "One of our old men cried out to me, 'My sister, do not make us stay here. Let us go and die in peace, since they are killing everybody here. We would rather leave and die of hunger in the fields.' So I said, 'Come along, then.' "

For the moment I am all alone in this room with my thirteen wounded men. I said to myself, "My God, what will become of me all alone in the midst of fire and blood."

I stood a few seconds in the doorway and then went in to see our little soldiers.

"My poor children, I ask your forgiveness for bringing in such a visitation, but I assure you that I thought my last quarter hour had come. I thought they were going to kill us all."

"My sister, stay with us," they said; "stay with us."

"I will bear the impossible, my children, to save your life."

I remained there a few minutes, and then two German soldiers presented themselves with fixed bayonets. I stepped down the two stairs; see what an escort was there for me!

"Why is this house shut up? There are French in it, lying hidden with their arms."

"The owner has been mobilized, and so has gone away. His wife and children have gone away."

They kept on insisting: "The French. Hidden. In there."

They indicated the place with a gesture.

I thought to myself, What is happening? What will they do? Here are the men who will set fire to the house.

"Why will you set fire to this house?" I asked. "Your chiefs don't wish it. They have promised me that they won't burn here. You want to set fire here out of excitement (par contagion). Will you put out the fire?"

I said again to them:

"It is wicked to set fire here, because we shall nurse your wounded."

While this was going on, our sisters upstairs were not able to subdue the poor father Prevost. He is an old man of eighty-eight years, partly paralyzed in leg and arm. I was at the doorway. I heard him call out:

"They shoved me into the fire. They have gone away and left me. I am going to fall out of the window."

I climbed to the fourth floor of the house where he was, to try to attract him away, but he did not wish to come. He was foolish. I knew that he was fond of white sugar. I went up to him and showed him the sugar. I took his jacket and put his snow-boots on him, so that he could get away more quickly. You know those boots which fasten by means of two or three buckles, very primitive, and which are so speedily put on. At last I led him to the edge of the doorway here.

The Germans saw him and said: "It is a lunatic asylum, don't you see?" so they said to each other. "They want to kill the sisters. There is no need of going into that house. It is a lunatic asylum."

That is the reason, I believe, why they didn't come into the house during the night. They entered the chapel of the hospital.

While I was with the Germans, some of their like had come to our Infirmary to say:

"You must leave here because we are going to set fire."

They then said to the old people:

"We have orders to burn the Infirmary."

Among the number we had the poor mother Andre, Monsieur Porte, who walked hobbling like this; Monsieur Georget, who is hung on only one wire, and Monsieur Leroy, who isn't hung on any (qui ne tenait qu'a un fil, Monsieur Leroy qui ne tenait plus non plus).

[Sister Julie limped across the room. She bent her back double. She went feeble. In swift pantomime she revealed each infirmity of the aged people. She created the picture of a flock of sick and crippled sheep driven before wolves.]

At four o'clock they were led away to Mareville. Those of whom I tell you died in the course of the year. Death came likewise to seven others who would not have died but for that.

The next morning we had German wounded. No one to care for them. What to do? I said to a wounded Lieutenant-Colonel:

"You have given us many wounded to tend. Where are your majors'?"

See what he answered me. "They have abandoned us."

That evening this Lieutenant-Colonel said to me in a rough voice:

"Some bread, my sister."

"You haven't any bread?" I said. "You have burned our bakery and killed our baker in it. You have burned our butcher shop with our butcher in it. And now you have no bread and no meat. Eat potatoes as we have to."

He was hit in the calf of the leg, but the leg bone was not touched, nor the femur; it was not a severe wound. He unrolled his bandage and showed me his treatment, assuming an air of pain. "Aie! Aie!" he cried.

Ah! "They" are more soft (douillets) than our poor little French. I began to dress his leg.

"It is terrible, my sister, this war. Terrible for you and for us also. If the French were the least bit intelligent, they would ask for peace at once. Belgium is ours. In three days we shall be at Paris."

The bandage tightened on his wound. "Ah," he said.

I replied to him: "It is your Kaiser who is the cause of all this."

"Oh, no. Not the Kaiser. The Kaiser. Oh, the Kaiser." As he pronounced the word "Kaiser," he seemed to be letting something very good come out of his mouth, as if he were savoring it.

The bandage went round once more. "Ah," he said.

"It is then his son, the Crown Prince, who is responsible?" I continued.

"Not at all. Not at all; it is France."

"France is peace-loving," I replied.

"It is Serbia, because the Austrian Archduke was killed by a Serbian."

The 29th or 30th of the month shells fell occasionally over our roof. My famous wounded German was frightened.

"My sister, I must be carried to the cellar at once."

"There's no danger. The French never fire on the Red Cross," I said to him.

"I am a poor wounded man. So carry me to the cellar."

I gave in. I carried him to the cellar, and he stayed there some days.

DURING the days of fire and blood Sister Julie was acting mayor of Gerbeviller. It was no light job, for she had to steer an invading army away from her hospital of wounded men, and she was the source of courage for the village of peasants, who were being hunted and tortured. Many months have passed, and nothing is left of those days but crumbled stone and village graves and an everlasting memory. But she is still the soul of Gerbeviller. Pilgrims come to her from the provinces of France, and give her money for her poor and sick. The village still has need of her. I saw her with the woman whose aged mother was shot before her eyes, and with the mother whose little boy was murdered.

She went on with her story:

As soon as the Germans came they began their work by taking hostages, the same number as that of the municipal councilors. They led them all away to the end of town by the bridge, on the road which leads to Rambervillers. A German passed, and when he saw them he shouted out:

"See the flock of sheep. They are taking you away to be shot." And he pointed out to them with his fingers the place of their torment.

In the morning four or five officers arrived to hear testimony from some of the men. It was Leonard, the grocer, who told me that four persons were questioned.

"Stand there, "They" said to them.

"Which is the one who lives next door to the hospital ?" an officer asked.

Leonard stepped forward.

"Is it not true that the Lady Superior of the Hospital organized her people for the purpose of firing on our wounded with rifles?"

Leonard replied:

"I am sure that it is not so. And even if she were to order it, they would not obey."

"Do you know what you are in danger of in telling lies? We have seen the bullets come from the hospital. We are sure. Go write your deposition."

"I can't do it," answered Leonard.

He was forced to write his deposition. When he had finished it, he presented it to the chief.

"Sign it, and follow me. I am sure that I saw bullets come from that part of the street. Certainly men were there who fired on our chiefs."

They also said to him that our chasseurs had fired on them from the chateau of Madame de Lambertye, and they themselves went to get a statement at the spot to see if it was possible to hit a man from the chateau and kill him.

I had seen the turrets of the chateau of Lambertye burning about half-past nine in the morning and all the upper part. That was by incendiary bombs. The day after the fires we saw empty cans, about sixty of them, the kind used for motor-car gasoline, lying about in the garden of the chateau.

Besides all that, there are still the bodily indignities which must not be passed over in silence. The twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth, "they" used fire and blood. The following days "they" amused themselves by teasing everybody. The poor Monsieur Jacob, who makes lemonade, was struck and thrown to the ground. Then they spit in his face, and threatened to shoot him, without any reason.

They were drunk with the wine of Gerbeviller, if one is to judge from their helmets, which had lost their lightning conductors.

The sacred images of the church were not respected. It was the evening of the twenty- ninth. A soldier-priest, Monsieur the Abbé Bernard, went to see a tiny bit of what was taking place.

Do you know, my sister, what has been done to the ciborium (sacred vessel for the sacrament) ?"

I went with him. We came to the church. We entered with difficulty. A bell blocked us from passing, and shells had broken down the vaulting in many places. We went on our way, but always with difficulty. We saw the crucifix which had the feet broken by blow on blow from the butt-end of rifles. We still went on, and saw the pipes of the organ lying on the ground. We came in front of the tabernacle (the box which holds the sacred vessels). There we counted eighteen bullet holes which had perforated the door around the lock. The displacement of air produced by the bursting of the bullet had forced the screws to jump out. "They" had not thought that this little dwelling-place was a strongbox and that it had flat bolts, both vertical and horizontal. We were now agitated to see if anything else had taken place in the tabernacle.

Monsieur, the Abbé Bernard, took a hammer, and as gently as he could he succeeded in making a little opening just large enough for one to see that there was something else inside. With the barrel of an unloaded gun, he then made a full opening. The ciborium, the sacred vessel, was uncovered and had been projected against the bottom. The cover, fallen to one side, had a number of bullet marks, as the ciborium itself had.

The bullets in penetrating the front of the tabernacle had made everywhere little holes, and these holes were in a shape nearly symmetrical around the lock. At the rear there were many much larger holes.

Monsieur, the Abbé, took those sacred things and the cover of the altar and carried them to the chapel.

The 17th and the 60th Bavarian Regiments were the ones that did this work. One-third at least of these men were Protestant, and among them were many returned convicts.

One of our sisters saw a book of a German officer who was nursed here, and noticed that he was from Bitsch.

(Bitsch is a Roman Catholic town in Lorraine which long belonged to France, and which held out against the Germans almost to the end of the Franco-Prussian War).

"How is this 9" she asked. "You are from Bitsch, and yet it is you who dare to do the things that you have done."

"We are under orders," he answered. "The further we go into France, the worse we shall do. It is commanded. Otherwise we shall be killed ourselves."

Let us return to the Germans who were applying fire and blood. They led away fifteen men, old men, to a shed at about quarter past ten. Later they made them leave the shed. General Clauss, who was in command of two regiments, was sitting under the oak tree which you will be able to see on your return trip. He was in front of a table charged with champagne, and was drinking, during the time that his soldiers were arranging the poor unhappy old men, getting them ready to be shot. They had bound them in groups of five, and they shot them in three batches. They now lie buried in the same spot.

The General said: "When I have filled my cup and as I raise it to my lips, give them fire and blood."

We said good-by to Sister Julie. I walked down the street to the ruins of the chateau of Lambertye. Sister Julie has told of the empty gasoline cans that were left in the garden of the chateau. They had served their purpose well: I stepped through the litter that was once a beautiful home. Brat there was one work which flaming oil could not do. I went into the garden, and came to the grotto of the chateau. It is a lovely secret place, hidden behind a grove, and under the shadow of a great rock. It glows red from the fundamental stone of its structure, with jewel-like splinters of many-colored pebbles sunk in the parent stone. Fire, the favorite German instrument for creating a new world, could not mar the stout stone and pebbles of the little place, but such beauty must somehow be obliterated. So the careful soldiers mounted ladders and chipped to pieces some of the ceiling, painfully with hammers. The dent of the hammers is visible throughout the vaulting. The mosaic was too tough even for their patience, and they had to leave it mutilated but not destroyed.

Several times in Gerbeviller we see this infinite capacity for taking pains. The thrusting of the baker into his own oven is a touch that a less thoughtful race could never have devised. When they attacked the tabernacle containing the sacramental vessel of the Roman Catholic church, Sister Julie has told how they placed the eighteen bullets that defiled it in pattern. The honest methodical brain is behind each atrocity, and the mind of the race leaves its mark even on ruins.

Finally, when they shot the fifteen white-haired old men, the murders were done in series, in sets of five, with a regular rhythm. I can produce photographs of the dead bodies of these fifteen old men as they lay grouped on the meadow. We stood under the oak tree where the officer sat as he drank his toasts to death. We looked over to the little spot where the old men were herded together and murdered. Leon Mirman, Prefect of Meurthe-et-Mo-selle, said to us as we stood there:

"I, myself, came here at the beginning of September 1914. Fifteen old men were here, lying one upon the other, in groups of five. I saw them, their clothes drooping. One was able to see also by their attitude that two or three had been smoking their pipes just before dying. Others held their packets of tobacco in their hands. I saw these fifteen hostages, fifteen old men, some ten days after they had been killed; the youngest must have been sixty years of age.

"We shall set up here a commemorative monument which will tell to future generations the thing that has taken place here."

For centuries the race has lived on a few episodes, short as the turn of a sunset. The glancing helmet of Hector that frightened one tiny child, the toothless hound of Ulysses that knew the beggar man — always it is the little lonely things that shake us. Vast masses of men and acres of guns blur into unreality. The battle hides itself in thick clouds, swaying in the night. But the cry that rang through Gerbeviller does not die away in our ears. Sister Julie has given episodes of a bitter brevity which the imagination of the race will not shake off. It is impossible to look out on the world with the same eyes after those flashes of a new bravery, a new horror. I find this sudden revelation in the lifting of the cup with the toast that signed the death of the old men. The officer was drinking a sacrament of death by murder. It is as if there in that act under the lonely tree in the pleasant fields of Gerbeviller the new religion of the Germans had perfected its rite.

That rite of the social cup, held aloft in the eyes of comrades, has been a symbol for good will in all the ages. Brotherhood was being proclaimed as the host of the feast looked out on a table of comrades. At last in the fullness of time the rite, always honored, was lifted into the unassailable realm of poetry, when one greater man came who went to his death blithely from the cup that he drank with his friends. There it has remained homely and sacred in the thought of the race.

Suddenly under the oak tree of Gerbeviller the rite has received a fresh meaning. The cup has been torn from the hands of the Nazarene. By one gesture the German officer reversed the course of history. He sat there very lonely, and he drank alone. The cup that he tasted was the death of men.

It is no longer the lifting of all to a common fellowship. It no longer means "I who stand here am prepared to die for you": pledge of a union stronger even than death. It is suddenly made the symbol of a greater gospel: "I drink to your death. I drink alone."


left : from the cover of a French magazine a photo retouched and hand-colored
possibly from the same series as the photo on the right


Back to Index