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German Plots And Propaganda In America

( Originally Published 1918 )

THE pages of Germany's militaristic history are black with many shameful deeds and plots. Those pages upon which are written the intrigues against the peace of America and against the lives and properties of American citizens during the period between the declaration of war in 1914 and the armistice ending the war, while not so bloody as those relating to the atrocities in Belgium and Northern France are still revolting to civilized mankind.

Germany not only paid for the murder of passengers on ships where its infernal machines were placed, not only conspired for the destruction of munition plants and factories of many kinds, not only sought to embroil the United States, then neutral, in a war with Mexico and Japan, but it committed also the crime of murderous hypocrisy by conspiring to do these wrongs under the cloak of friend-ship for this country.

It was in December of 1915 that the German Government sent to the United States for general publication in American news-papers this statement :

The German Government has naturally never knowingly accepted the support of any person, group of persons, society or organization seeking to promote the cause of Germany in the United States by illegal acts, by counsel of violence, by contravention of law, or by any means whatever that could offend the American people in the pride of their own authority.

The answer to this imperial lie came from the President of the United States, when, in his address to Congress, April 2, 1917, urging a declaration of war on Germany, he characterized the German spy system and its frightful fruits in the following language:

"One of the things that has served to convince us that the Prussian autocracy was not and could never be our friend is that from the very outset of the present war it has filled our unsuspecting communities, and even our offices of government, with spies, and set criminal intrigues everywhere afoot against our national unity of counsel, our peace within and without, our industries and our commerce. Indeed it is now evident that its spies were here even before the war began; and it is unhappily not a matter of conjecture, but a fact proved in our courts of justice, that the intrigues which have more than once come perilously near to disturbing the peace and dislocating the industries of the country have been carried on at the instigation, with the support, and even under the personal direction of official agents of the Imperial Government accredited to the Government of the United States."

Austria cooperated with Germany in a feeble way in these plots and propaganda, but the master plotter was Count Johann von Bernstorff, Germany's Ambassador. The Austro-Hungarian Ambassador, Constantin Theodor Dumba, Captain Franz von Papen, Captain Karl Boy-Ed, Dr. Heinrich F. Albert, and Wolf von Igel, all of whom were attached to the German embassy, were associates in the intrigues. Franz von Rintelen operated independently and received his funds and instructions directly from Berlin.

One of the earliest methods of creating disorder in American munition plants and other industrial establishments engaged in war work was through labor disturbances. With that end in view a general German employment bureau was established in August, 1915, in New York City. It had branches in Philadelphia, Bridgeport, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago and Cincinnati. These cities at that time were the centers of industries engaged in furnishing munitions and war supplies to the Entente allies. Concerning this enterprise Ambassador Dumba writing to Baron Burian, Foreign Minister of Austria-Hungary, said:

A private German employment office has been established which provides employment for persons who have voluntarily given up their places, and it is already working well. We shall also join in and the widest support is assured us.

The duties of men sent from the German employment offices into munition plants may be gathered from the following frank circular issued on November 2, 1914, by the German General Headquarters and reprinted in the Freie Zeitung, of Berne.


In all branch establishments of German banking houses in Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, China and the United States, special military accounts have been opened for special war necessities. Main headquarters authorizes you to use these credits to an unlimited extent for the purpose of destroying factories, workshops, camps, and the most important centers of military and civil supply belonging to the enemy. In addition to the incitement of labor troubles, measures must be taken for the damaging of engines and machinery plants, the destruction of vessels carrying war material to enemy countries, the burning of stocks of raw materials and finished goods, and the depriving of large industrial centers of electric power, fuel and food. Special agents, who will be placed at your disposal, will supply you with the necessary means for effecting explosions and fires, as well as with a list of people in the country under your super-vision who are willing to undertake the task of destruction.

(Signed) DR. E. FISCHER.

Shortly after the establishment of the German employment bureau, Ambassador Dumba sent the following communication to the Austrian Foreign Office :

It is my impression that we can disorganize and hold up for months, if not entirely prevent, the manufacture of munitions in Bethlehem and the Middle West, which, in the opinion of the German military attaché, is of importance and amply outweighs the comparatively small expenditure of money involved.

Concerning the operations of the arson and murder squad organized by von Bernstorff, Dumba and their associates, it is only necessary to turn to the records of the criminal courts of the United States and Canada. Take for example the case against Albert Kaltschmidt, living in Detroit, Michigan. The United States grand jury sitting in Detroit indicted Kaltschmidt and his fellow conspirators upon the following counts:

"To blow up the factory of the Peabody's Company, Limited, at Walkerville, Ontario, engaged in manufacturing uniforms, clothing and military supplies.

"To blow up the building known as the Windsor Armories of the City of Windsor.

"To blow up and destroy other plants and buildings in said Dominion of Canada, which were used for the manufacture of munitions of war, clothing and uniforms.

"To blow up and destroy the great railroad bridges of the Canadian Pacific Railroad at Nipigon.

"To employ and send into said Dominion of Canada spies to obtain military information."

Besides the acts enumerated in the indictment it was proved upon trial that Kaltschmidt and his gang planned to blow up the Detroit Screw Works where shrapnel was being manufactured, and to destroy the St. Clair tunnel, connecting Canada with the United States. Both of these plans failed. Associated with Kaltschmidt in these plots were Captain von Papen, Baron Kurt von Reiswitz, German consul-general in Chicago; Charles F. Respa, Richard Herman, and William Al. Jarasch, the latter two German reservists. Testifying in the case Jarasch, a bartender, said: "Jacobsen (an aide) told me that munition factories in Canada were to be blown up. Before I left for Detroit, Jacobsen and I went to the consulate. We saw the consul and he shook hands with me and wished me success."

Charles F. Respa in his testimony made the following revelations in response to questions by the government's representatives :

Q. How long had you been employed before he (Kaltschmidt) told you that he wanted you to blow up some of these factories? A. About three weeks.

Q. Did Kaltschmidt at the time speak of any particular place that he wanted you to blow up? A. The particular place was the Armory.

Q. Did he mention the Peabody Building at that time? A. Not particularly—he was more after the bridges and the armories and wanted those places blown up that made am-munition and military clothing.

Q. The explosion at the armories was to be timed so that it would occur when the soldiers were asleep there? A. Yes—he did not mention that he wanted to kill soldiers.

Q. Did he say that if the dynamite in the suitcase exploded it would kill the soldiers? A. I do not remember that he said so, but he must have known it.

Q. Did you take both grips? A. Yes.

Q. Where did you set the first grip?

A. At the Peabody plant (blown up on June 20, 1915).

Q. Where did you put the other suitcase? 14. Then I walked down the Walkerville road to the Armories At Windsor, and carried the suitcase.

Q. When you got to the Armories did you know where to place it? A. I had my instructions.

Q. From Kaltschmidt?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you place this suitcase containing the dynamite bomb at the armory in a proper place to explode and do any damage?

A. Yes.

Q. Was it properly connected so that the cap would explode and strike the dynamite? A. I fixed it so that it would not.

Q. Did you deliberately fix this bomb that you took to the Armories so that it would not explode?

A. Yes.

Q. Why did you do that? A. I knew that the suitcase contained thirty sticks of dynamite and if exploded would blow up the Armories and all the ammunition and kill every man in it.

It is interesting to note in this connection that Kaltschmidt was sentenced to four years in the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kansas, and to pay a fine of $20,000. Horn's sentence was eighteen months in the Atlanta penitentiary and a fine of $1,000.

Attempts were also made to close by ex-plosions the tunnels through which the Canadian Pacific Railroad passes under the Selkirk Mountains in British Columbia. The German General Staff in this instance operated through Franz Bopp, the German consul-general in San Francisco, and Lieutenant von Brincken. J. H. van Koolbergen was hired to do this work. Concerning the negotiations, van Koolbergen made this statement :

"Not knowing what he wanted I went to see him. He was very pleasant and told me that he was an officer in the German army and at present working in the secret service of the German Empire under Mr. Franz Bopp, the Imperial German consul.

"I went to the consulate and met Franz Bopp and then saw von Brineken in another room. He asked me if I would do something for him in Canada and I answered him, `Sure, I will do something, even blow up bridges, if there is money in it.' And he said, `You are the man; if that is so, you can make good money.'

"Von Brincken told me that they were willing to send me up to Canada to blow up one of the bridges on the Canadian Pacific Rail-road or one of the tunnels. I asked him what was in it and he said he would talk it over with the German consul, Bopp.

"I had accepted von Brincken's proposition to go to Canada and he offered me $500 to Van Koolbergen only made a pretended effort to blow up the tunnel. He did furnish the evidence, however, which served to send Bopp and his associates to the penitentiary.

Even more sensational was the plot against the international bridge upon which the Grand Trunk Railway crosses the border between the United States and Canada at Vanceboro, Me.

Werner Horn was a German reserve lieu-tenant. Von Papen delivered to him a flat order to blow up the bridge and he gave him $700 for the purpose of perpetrating the out-rage. Horn was partially successful. At his trial in Boston in June, 1917, he made the following confession:

"I admit and state that the facts set forth in the indictments as to the conveyance of explosives on certain passenger trains from New York to Boston and from Boston to Vanceboro, in the State of Maine, are true. I did, as therein alleged, receive an explosive and conveyed the same from the city of New York to Boston, thence by common carrier from Boston to Vanceboro, Maine. On or about the night of February 1, 1915, I took said ex-plosive in a suitcase in which I was conveying it and carried the same across the bridge at Vanceboro to the Canadian side, and there, about 1.10 in the morning of February 2, 1915, I caused said explosive to be exploded near or against the abutments of the bridge on the Canadian side, with intent to destroy the abutment and cripple the bridge so that the same could not be used for the passage of trains."

Bribery of congressmen was intended by Franz von Rintelen, operating directly in touch with the German Foreign Office in Berlin. Count von Bernstorff, Germany's Ambassador at Washington, sent the following telegram to Berlin in connection with his plan:

I request authority to pay out up to $50,000 in order, as on former occasions, to influence Congress through the organization you know of, which can perhaps prevent war. I am beginning in the meantime to act accordingly. In the above circumstances, a public official German declaration in favor of Ireland is highly desirable, in order to gain the support of the Irish influence here.

That it was Rintelen's purpose to use large sums of money for the purpose of bribing congressmen was stated positively by George Plochman, treasurer of the Transatlantic Trust Company, where Rintelen kept his de-posits.

Rintelen was the main figure on this side of the water in the fantastic plot to have Mexico and Japan declare war upon the United States. During the trial of Rintelen in New York City in May, 1917, it was testified "that he came to the United States in order to embroil it with Mexico and Japan if necessary; that he was doing all he could and was going to do all he could to embroil this country with Mexico; that he believed that if the United States had a war with Mexico it would stop the shipment of ammunition to Europe; that he believed it would be only a matter of time until we were involved with Japan."

Rintelen also said that "General Huerta was going to return to Mexico and start a revolution there which would cause the United States to intervene and so make it impossible to ship munitions to Europe. Intervention," he said, "was one of his trump cards."

Mexico was the happy hunting-ground for pro-German plotters, and the German Ambassador in Mexico, Heinrich von Eckhardt, was the leader in all the intrigues. The culmination of Germany's effort against America on this continent came on January 19, 1917, when Dr. Alfred Zimmerman, head of the German Foreign Office, sent the following cable to Ambassador von Eckhardt:

On the first of February we intend to begin submarine warfare unrestricted. In spite of this, it is our intention to endeavor to keep neutral the United States of America.

If this attempt is not successful, we propose an alliance on the following basis with Mexico: That we shall make war together and together make peace. We shall give general financial support, and it is understood that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. The details are left to you for settlement. You are instructed to inform the President of Mexico of the above in the greatest confidence as soon as it is certain that there will be an outbreak of war with the United States, and suggest that the President of Mexico, on his own initiative, should communicate with Japan suggesting adherence at once to this plan; at the same time, offer to mediate between Germany and Japan.

Please call to the attention of the President of Mexico that the employment of ruthless submarine warfare now promises to compel England to make peace in a few months.

This was almost three months before the United States entered the war. As an ex-ample of German blindness and diplomatic folly it stands unrivaled in the annals of the German Foreign Office.

Plots against shipping were the deadliest in which the German conspirators engaged. Death and destruction followed in their wake. In direct connection of von Bernstorff and his tools with these outrages the following testimony by an American secret service man employed by Wolf von Igel is interesting. It refers to an appointment with Captain von Kleist, superintendent of Scheele's bomb factory in Hoboken, N. J.

"We sat down and we spoke for about three hours. I asked him the different things that he did, and said if he wanted an interview with Mr. von Igel, my boss, he would have to tell everything. So he told me that von Papen gave Dr. Scheele, the partner of von Kleist in this factory, a check for $10,000 to start this bomb factory. He told me that he, Mr. von Kleist, and Dr. Scheele and a man by the name of Becker on the Friedrich der Grosse were making the bombs, and that Captain Wolpert, Captain Bode and Captain Steinberg, had charge of putting these bombs on the ships; they put these bombs in cases and shipped them as merchandise on these steamers, and they would go away on the trip and the bombs would go off after the ship was out four or five days, causing a fire and causing the cargo to go up in flames. He also told me that they have made quite a number of these bombs; that thirty of them were given to a party by the name of O'Leary, and that he took them down to New Orleans where he had charge of putting them on ships down there, this fellow O'Leary."

About four hundred bombs were made under von Igel's direction; explosions and fires were caused by them on thirty-three ships sailing from New York harbor alone.

Four of the bombs were found at Marseilles on a vessel which sailed from Brooklyn in May, 1915. The evidence collected in the case led to the indictment of the following men for feloniously transporting on the steamship Kirk Oswald a bomb or bombs filled with chemicals designed to cause incendiary fires : Rintelen, Wolpert, Bode, Schmidt, Becker, Garbade,. Praedel, Pâradies, von Kleist, Schimmel, Scheele, Steinberg and others. The last three named fled from justice, Scheele being supplied with $1,000 for that purpose by Wolf von Igel. He eluded the Federal authorities until April, 1918, when he was found hiding in Cuba. under the protection of German secret service agents. All the others except Schmidt were found guilty and sentenced, on February 5, 1918, to imprisonment for eighteen months and payment of a fine of $2,000 each. It was proved during the trial that Rintelen had hired. Schimmel, a German lawyer, to see that bombs were placed on ships.

Schmidt, von Kleist, Becker, Garbade, Praedel and Paradies had already been tried for conspiracy to make bombs for concealment on ocean-going vessels, with the purpose of setting the same on fire. All were found guilty, and on April 6, 1917, von Kleist and Schmidt were sentenced to two years' imprisonment and a fine of $500 each.

Robert Fay, a former officer in the German army, who came to the United States in April, 1915, endeavored to prevent the traffic in munitions by sinking the laden ships at sea. In recounting the circumstances of his arrival here to the chief of the United States secret service, Fay said :

"I had in the neighborhood of $4,000. This money came from a man who sent me over (named) Jonnersen. The understanding was that it might be worth while to stop the shipment of artillery munitions from this country. I imagined Jonnersen to be in the (German) secret service."

After stating that he saw von Papen and Boy-Ed, and that neither would have anything to do with him, apparently because they were suspicious of his identity and feared a trap, Fay continued :

"I did not want to return (to Germany) without having carried out my intention, that is, the destruction of ships carrying munitions. I proceeded with my experiments and tried to get hold of as much explosive matter as in any way possible."

Fay and two confederates were arrested in a lonely spot near Grantwood, New Jersey, while testing an explosive. During his examination at police headquarters in Weehawken immediately after the arrest he was questioned as follows :

Q. That large machine you have downstairs, what is that?

A. That is a patent of mine. It is a new way of getting a time fuse.

Q. Did you know where Scholz (Fay's brother-in-law) had this machine made?

A. In different machine shops.

Q. What material is it you wanted (from Daeche, an accomplice) ?

A. Trinitrotoluol (T. N. T.). .

Q. How much did the machinery cost?

A. Roughly speaking, $150 or $200.

Q. What would be the cost of making one and filling it with explosives?

A. About $250 each. If they had given me money enough I should simply have been able to block the shipping entirely.

Q. Do you mean you could have destroyed every ship that left the harbor by means of those bombs?

A. I would have been able to stop so many that the authorities would not have dared (to send out any ships).

It was proved during Fay's trial that his bomb was a practical device, and that its forty pounds of explosive would sink any ship to which it was attached.

Fay and his accomplices, Scholz and Daeche, were convicted of conspiracy to attach explosive bombs to the rudders of vessels, with the intention of wrecking the same when at sea, and were sentenced, on May 9, 1916, to terms of eight, four and two years respectively, in the federal penitentiary at Atlanta. Dr. Herbert Kienzle and Max Breitung, who assisted Fay in procuring explosives, were indicted on the same charge. Both were interned.

Another plan for disabling ships was suggested by a man who remained for some time unknown. He called one day at the German Military Information Bureau, maintained at 60 Wall Street by Captain von Papen, of the German embassy, and there gave the following outline of his plan :

"I intend to cause serious damage to vessels of the Allies leaving ports of the United States by placing bombs, which I am making myself, on board. These bombs resemble ordinary lumps of coal and I am planning to have them concealed in the coal to be laden on steamers of the Allies. I have already discussed this plan with at and he thinks favorably of my idea. I have been engaged on similar work in after the out-break of the war, together with Mr.von.

The German secret service report from which the above excerpt is taken states that the maker of the bomb was paid by check No. 146 for $150 drawn on the Riggs National Bank of Washington. A photographic copy of this check shows that it was payable to Paul Koenig, of the Hamburg-American Line and was signed by Captain von Papen. On the counterfoil is written this memorandum, "For F. J. Busse."

Busse confessed later that he had discussed with Captain von Papen at the German Club in New York City the plan of damaging the boilers of munition ships with bombs which resembled lumps of coal.

Free access to Allied ships laden with sup-plies for Vladdvostok would have been invaluable to the conspirators, and in order to obtain it Charles C. Crowley, a detective employed by Consul-General Bopp, resorted to the extraordinary scheme revealed in the following letter to Madam Bakhmeteff, wife of the Russian Ambassador to the United States:

MME. J. BAKUMETEFF, care Imperial Russian Embassy,

Newport, R. I.:

DEAR MADAM :—By direction of the Imperial Russian Consul-General of San Francisco, I beg to submit the following on behalf of several fruit-growers of the State of California. As it is the wish of certain growers to contribute several tons of dried fruit to the Russian Red Cross they desire to have arrangements made to facilitate the transportation of this fruit from Tacoma, Washington, to Vladivostok, and as we are advised that steamships are regularly plying between Tacoma and Vladivostok upon which government supplies are shipped we would like to have arrangements made that these fruits as they might arrive would be regularly consigned to these steamers and forwarded. It would be necessary, therefore, that an understanding be had with the agents of these steamship lines at Tacoma that immediate shipments be made via whatever steamers might be sailing.

It is the desire of the donors that there be no delay in the shipments as delays would lessen the benefits intended to those for whom the fruit was provided.

Respectfully yours,


The statements of Louis J. Smith and van Koolbergen, combined with a mass of other evidence consisting in part of letters and telegrams, caused the grand jury to indict Consul General Bopp, his staff and his hired agents, for conspiracy to undertake a military enter-prise against Canada. Among the purposes of this enterprise specified in the indictment was the following:

"To blow up and destroy with their cargoes and crews any and all vessels belonging to Great Britain, France, Japan or Russia found within the limits of Canada, which were laden with horses, munitions of war, or articles of commerce in course of transportation to the above countries."

The following descriptions have been made by the United States Government of the tools of von Bernstorff in German plots:

Paul Koenig, the head of the Hamburg-American secret service, who was active in pass-port frauds, who induced Gustave Stahl to perjure himself and declare the Lusitania armed, and who plotted the destruction of the Welland Canal. In his work as a 'spy he passed under thirteen aliases in this country, and Canada.

Captains Boy-Ed, von Papen, von Rintelen, Tauscher, and von Igel were all directly connected with the German Government itself. There is now in the possession of the United States Government a check made out to Koenig and signed by von Papen, identified by number in a secret report of the German Bureau of Investigation as being used to procure $150 for the payment of a bomb-maker, who was to plant explosives disguised as coal in the bunkers of the merchant vessels clearing from the port of New York. Boy-Ed, Dr, Bunz, the German ex-minister to Mexico, the German consul at San Francisco, and officials of the Hamburg-American and North German Lloyd steamship lines evaded customs regulations and coaled and victualed German raiders at sea. Von Papen and von Igel supervised the making of the incendiary bombs on the Friedrich der Grosse, then in New York Harbor, and stowed them away on out-going ships. Von Rintelen financed Labor's National Peace Council, which tried to corrupt legislators and labor leaders.

Among the other tools of the German plotters were David Lamar and Henry Martin, who, in the pay of Captain von RinteIen, organized and managed the so-called Labor's National Peace Council, which sought to bring about strikes, an embargo on munitions, and a boycott of the banks which subscribed to the Anglo-French loan. A check for $5,000 to J. F. J. Archibald for propaganda work, and a receipt from Edwin Emerson, the war correspondent, for $1,000 traveling expenses were among the documents found in Wolf von Igel's possession.

Others who bore English names were persuaded to take Ieading places in similar organizations which concealed their origin and real purpose. The American Embargo Conference arose out of the ashes of Labor's Peace Council, and its president was American, though the funds were not. Others tampered with were journalists who lent themselves to the German propaganda and who went so far as to serve as couriers between the Teutonic embassies in Washington and the governments in Berlin and Vienna. A check of $5,000 was discovered which Count von Bernstorff had sent to Marcus Braun, editor of Fair Play. And a letter was discovered which George Sylvester Vierick, editor of the Fatherland, sent to Privy Councilor Albert, the German agent, arranging for a monthly subsidy of $1,750, to be delivered to him through the hands of intermediaries-women whose names he abbreviates "to prevent any possible inquiry." There is a record of $3,000 paid through the German embassy to finance the lecture tour of Miss Ray Beveridge, an American artist, who was further to be supplied with German war pictures.

The German propagandists also directed their efforts to poisoning the minds of the people through the circulation of lies concerning affairs in France and at home. Here are some of the rumors circulated throughout the country that were nailed as falsehoods:

It was said that the national registration of women by the Food Administration was to find out how much money each had in the bank, how much of this was owed, and everything about each registrant's personal affairs.

That the millions collected from the public for the Red Cross went into the pockets of thieves, and that the soldiers and sailors got none of it, nor any of its benefits.

That base hospital units had been annihiIated while en route overseas.

That leading members of other hospital units had been executed as spies by the American Government.

That canned goods put up by the housewives were to be seized by the government and appropriated to the use of the army and navy.

That soldiers in training were being instructed to put out the eyes of every German captured.

That all of the "plums" at the officers' training camps fell to Roman Catholics. The plums went to Protestants when the propagandist talked to a Catholic.

That the registration of women was held so that girls would be enticed into the cities where white slaves were made of them.

That the battleship Pennsylvania had been destroyed with everyone on board by a German submarine.

That more than seventy-five per cent of the American soldiers in France had been infected with venereal diseases.

That intoxicants were given freely to American soldiers in Y. M. C. A. and Knights of Columbus huts in France.

But the lies and the plots failed to make any impression on the morale of American citizenry. In fact, America from the moment war was declared against Germany until the time an armistice was declared, seemed to care for nothing but results. Charges of graft made with bitter invective in Congress created scarcely more than a ripple. The harder the pro-German plotters worked for the destruction of property and the incitement to labor disturbances, the closer became the protective network of Americanism against these anti-war influences. After half a dozen German lies had been casually passed from mouth to mouth as rumors, the American people came to look upon other mischievous propaganda in its true light. Patriotic newspapers in every community exposed the false reports and citizens everywhere were on their guard against the misstatements. It was noticeable that the propaganda was intensified just previous to and during the several Liberty Loan campaigns. Proof that the American spirit rises superior to anti-American influences is furnished by the glorious records of these Liberty Loans. Every one was over-subscribed despite the severest handicaps confronted by any nation.

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