Rachel Bodner offered a comment on last Thursday’s blog concerning the duties of an occupying army. Her comment drew on An English Wife in Berlin, the memoir of Evelyn, Princess Blucher whose German husband had to withdraw to Germany not long after the declaration of war in 1914.
While scanning her memoir, I found the following poignant thoughts.
But for most of us the pain and suffering of humanity have eaten into our souls, and as for love? Is there room for love in any one’s soul nowadays? The dainty, delicate, rainbow-hued god of the past can have nothing to do with the agonizing hurried embrace in between two battles, which love means at present.
In spite of my varied interests and occupations in connection with the war, I sometimes feel terribly lonely. Not the loneliness of being alone, but the loneliness of being one in a crowd, in a country where every one’s sympathies and opinions are so terribly in opposition to my own.
I sometimes feel fairly rent in two, between love of my family and native land and love and loyalty to my husband and his country for his sake.
Throughout the war, Princess Blucher devoted herself to the care of British prisoners and British wounded who were held in Germany.
Another telling anecdote she gives from early in the war (p. 35) occurs during a dinner party at the Esplanade Hotel. All the English and American women have agreed among themselves to not wear decollete for the duration of the war. When a German lady appears in a very low-necked dress too formal for the occasion, and someone compliments her, she remarks, “I put this on to celebrate the fall of Antwerp; but wait until you see the dress I am keeping for the day when England is beaten.”
Princess Blucher describes her anguish thusly, “I could have stabbed her, and I think if looks can hurt, my look must have penetrated to the marrow of her bones.”
Blucher realized that the German offensives resulted in thousands of men lying in their death agony in the trenches, something the German lady never considered.