Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/18

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The Bohemian Review

of the central and southeast European zone, that policy of colonization and Germanization which was one of the main features of her mediæval history.

During the last two years the design of Berlin-Bagdad has materialized under our very eyes. Its weak spot was Serbia, who, when war broke out, gallantly held the breach alone. The supineness of the Entente and the successive blunders of its political and military leaders muddled the attack upon the naval base of Cattaro, lost us the Danube front, with its infinite possibilities of striking at the vitals of the Central Powers, made a present to Austria of the strategic point of Mt. Lovcen, produced chaos in Greece and failed to save Roumania from disaster. The narrow and precarious corridor of a year ago has become the broad route of today, with several alternative railway lines and waterways. But for us the problem remains what it was from the beginning, save that it has become more difficult, and that the very success of our efforts in other directions makes Germany exert herself all the more in the Southeast. Germany’s land connection with the East must be cut, the Turks must be ejected from Europe, the 35,000,000 Slavs and Latins whom Germany is ruthlessly exploiting in a quarrel which is not theirs, must be set free to live their own lives without foreign interference. It is only by their emancipation that the Drang nach Osten can be effectually checked and the menace to European peace which comes from unsatisfied national feeling, allayed. The alternative is the rise of a continental power far more formidable than that of Napoleon, and threatening the very existence of the British Empire by its access to the frontiers of Egypt and of India, under changed conditions of naval war fare which every year may render more unfavorable to Britain.

How Austria Recruits Her Armies.

There has been a large number of recruiting drafts; during the first year of war I saw nine. The manhood of Bohemia was so exhausted that in the villages there were no men left with the exception of priests, old men and cripples. If the ordinary percentage of young men recruited in times of peace was 25, the second draft passed as fit from 50 to 60 per cent of those who had been rejected by the ordinary draft, and the third draft caught 80 per cent of the leavings of the former inspections. That means that out of each one hundred men between the ages of 18 and 50 at least 92 were in the army. The last draft gathered in veritable physical wrecks. Medical inspectors were Magyars, because Bohemian physicians were not strict enough, and even the Magyar doctors were switched daily from place to place to avoid all possibility of bribery. But that was an unnecessary precaution. The Magyar physicians acted in a truly Asiatic fashion and passed every one with soul in his body. Only the manifest cripples were excused, while many people with serious internal disorders were pronounced fit for service. These had still the hope that they might be rejected upon reaching their regiment, but few had so much luck. In the early days of the “Magyar” drafts Bohemian deputies registered a complaint in Vienna against the excessive severity of the draft, which seemed to aim at the extinction of the Czech nation. For a few days following the complaint the recruiting was more reasonable, but after that severe methods were again followed.

The rule was established that every one, presenting himself to the recruiting officers, shall be pronounced “tauglich”, if either member of the commission, whether the medical officer or the line officer, shall consider him fit for military service. Only those escaped whom both members of the commission rejected, and such lucky fellows were very few.

During the war many soldiers were sent home as quite unable to perform military service and received the so-called “Abschied”, releasing them from all ties to the

Translated from his book: “How our Homeland lives and suffers under the blows of war.”