Bullets, Bottles, and Gardenias

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Author: Gottfried Benn  | Date: October 12, 1915

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The Shooting of Nurse Edith Cavell

[1915]

III. The Execution

(By a German Doctor)

[Berliner Tageblatt,September 1927]

As chief doctor of the Brussels government, I was ordered to the trial and execution of Miss Cavell. I heard the trial from first to last word, frequently talked to Miss Cavell, certified her death, closed her eyes, and laid her in her coffin.

She was the bravest woman I have seen, was absolutely the heroine that her nation made of her, and went to her death with a bearing that was unforgettable.

Nevertheless, she died absolutely as the logical result of her own actions. She acted towards the Germans as a man, and was punished as a man.

A roar of protest greeted the announcement that Edith Cavell had been executed. It was denounced as "the blackest deed of the war." Herr Zimmerman, then German Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, wired an explanation to the American press:

"I see by the British and American press that the shooting of an Englishwoman and the conviction of several other women in Brussels for treason have created a great impression, and that we are being severely criticized. It is, indeed, hard that a woman has to be executed. . . . No law-book in the world, least of all those dealing with war regulations, makes such a differentiation, and the female sex has but one preference, according to legal usage—namely, that women in a delicate condition may not be executed. . . . No court-martial in the world could have reached any other decision. . . . The sentence has been carried out to frighten those who might presume on their sex to take part in enterprises punishable with death."

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Chicago: Gottfried Benn, "The Shooting of Nurse Edith Cavell—III. The Execution," Bullets, Bottles, and Gardenias in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed July 18, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=21GW85SYNK7DDRD.

MLA: Benn, Gottfried. "The Shooting of Nurse Edith Cavell—III. The Execution." Bullets, Bottles, and Gardenias, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 18 Jul. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=21GW85SYNK7DDRD.

Harvard: Benn, G, 'The Shooting of Nurse Edith Cavell—III. The Execution' in Bullets, Bottles, and Gardenias. cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 18 July 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=21GW85SYNK7DDRD.