Villa Elsa A Story of German Family Life

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THIS narrative offers a gentle but permanent answer to the problem presented to humanity by the German people. It seeks to go beyond the stage of indemnities, diplomatic or trade control, peace by armed preponderance. These agencies do not take into account Teuton nature, character, manner of living, beliefs.

Unless the Germans are changed, the world will live at swords' points with them both in theory and in practice. Whether they are characteristically Huns or not, it should be tragically realized that something ought to be done to alter their type. Their minds, hearts, souls, should be touched in a direct, personal, intimate way. There should be a natural relationship of good feeling, an intelligent and lived mutual experience, worked up, brought about. A League of Nations, of Peace, inevitably based on some sort of force, should be followed by a truly human programme leading to the amicable conversion of that race, if it is at heart unrepentant, crafty, murderous.

In the absence of any particular heed being paid to this underlying, fundamental subject, the present pages suggest for it a vital solution that seems both easy and practical and would promise to relieve anxiety as to an indefinitely uncertain, ugly future ahead of harassed mankind.

How shall the German be treated in the present century and beyond?

To try to answer this aright, it is obviously necessary to know what the German is—what he is really like. To know him at his best, in his truest colors, is to live with him in his most normal condition, and that is at his fireside, surrounded by his family. This aspect has been the least fully presented during the war. What the Teuton military and political chieftains, clergymen, professors, captains of industry, editors and other men of position have said, how they have conducted themselves toward the rest of humanity, is notoriously and distressingly familiar. But what the ordinary, educated German of peaceful pursuits, staying by his hearthstone far behind and safe from the battle line, thought and wished to say, has been beyond our ken. There has been no way to get at him or hear from him as to what lay frankly in his mind.

His leaders loudly proclaimed themselves to be as terrifying as Huns and unblushingly gloried in this profession. Has he agreed or has he silently disagreed? Has he too wished this or has he been unwilling? Is he essentially a Hun, are his family essentially Huns, or are they in reality good and kindly people like our people? Are they temporarily misled?

The humble German families of education who are hospitable, who sing and weep over sentimental songs in their homes, whose duties are modest and revenues small, who have never been out of their provinces, who have had no relations with foreigners and could have no personal cause for hatred—have they been so bloodthirsty about killing and pillaging in alien lands?

Villa Elsa contains a family immune from any foreign influence and matured in the most regular and unsuspecting Teuton way. The German household is the most thoroughly instructed of all households. Its members are disciplined to do most things well. How can it then be Hun in any considerable degree? Impossible, said the nations, and so they remained illy prepared against a frenzied onslaught. But a shocked public has beheld how readily the most erudite of mankind, as the Germans were generally held to be, could officially, deliberately and repeatedly as soldiers, singly and en masse, act like their ancestors—the barbarians of the days of Attila.

These are all puzzling queries which this story attempts to illuminate and solve by its pictures and observations of the life of such a modest and typical Teuton home in 1913 and 1914. Admittedly too much light, too much study, cannot be given to the greatest issue civilization as a whole has faced....