War can bring out the worst in people, and not only those on the front-lines of battle. In 1914 there were a number of attacks in Dublin carried out against businesses owned by German nationals, with particular attention being paid to pork butchers in the city. Much of this violence occurred on a single night, with a number of premises attacked in Dublin on 15 August 1914.
The violence was detailed in contemporary newspaper reports, with the Irish Independent reporting that “German pork shops on the south side of Dublin city had a rough time on Saturday night. Between 11 and 11.30 Lang’s shop in Wexford Street was wrecked. A jeering crowd of youths, it appears, had become aggressive towards the manager.” According to the newspaper, “everything breakable in the place was smashed, and the shop left a wreck.” The paper condemned the violence, stating that “the mob, never a wise arbitrator” had no authority to carry out such actions. The poet Padraic Colum asked, in a letter to the Irish Independent, “what have these defenceless traders done to the citizens of Dublin that their means and substance should be destroyed? What has Germany done to Ireland that she should be insulted by mean attacks?”
While there was considerable damage done to Lang’s premises, it was not the only one to be greatly damaged in the heat of the moment. Newspapers noted that George Retz’ butchers on the South Circular Road and Morton’s tobacconist on the same road were also attacked. It was reported that a sum of £20 was taken from the till of Reitz’ premises, while £14 was taken from the till of Lang’s premises.
In October it was reported that Lang was seeking compensation via a sitting of the City Sessions for the damage done to his premises, which was estimated to be just over £117. It was noted that he had lived in the country for twenty-three years, had married an Irish woman and had children here, yet amazingly it was argued on behalf of the Corporation that “the applicant was an alien enemy, and therefore not entitled to sue in their courts while a state of war existed between Great Britain and Germany.” Reitz also sought compensation from the authorities, to the sum of £223, and detailed that he had lived in Britain for the past twenty-six years and was not eligible for German military service. The Independent report noted that “his Lordship during the discussion said very few Englishmen had been allowed to do business in Germany. If these claimants had any right to sue, it was suspended during the war.”
Manus O’Riordan has noted that that among those to condemn the outrage outright was The Irish Worker newspaper, which accused the mob of “German baiting” and the authorities of turning a blind eye, noting that the DMP had arrested Reitz himself. The paper claimed that it was the “sport” of Redmondites, and also made it clear that if the homes and businesses of Germans were to be attacked again, “an appeal to the men of the Transport Union and the Citizen Army to act as a guard for their houses would not fail to produce good results.”
Highlighting the moronic and politically clueless nature of the attack on Lang’s premises was a report in newspapers on 20 October of that same year, detailing the fact his son Frederick Lang, aged 16, had died in the war effort in the service of British forces. His other son, Augustine, also served in the war effort with the Royal Marines at Antwerp.