Belgium's Agony
Belgium's Agony
License: Public Domain

German Atrocities in Belgium Horrify Humanity

In Vendre, all the inhabitants without exception were brought out and shot. This shooting was heartbreaking, as they all knelt down and prayed.

— The Diary of Eitel Anders

Thousands Are Tortured, Massacred, Violated, Burned Alive, Crucified

The heart of humanity was inexpressibly shocked by the revelation of the frightful atrocities committed by the German Vandals during their invasion of Belgium and northern France. Even now, when those horrific scenes are fading in the distance, the mind recoils at recollection of the dastardly deeds that have heaped ignominy on the name of Germany forever. It was as though devils, not humans, were seeking to carry out the destructive will of a thousand Satans.

Infuriated by the heroic resistance set up by the Belgians, the barbarous Huns massacred whole villages of innocent people, sparing neither age nor sex. Hundreds of non- combatants were driven into burning buildings, at the point of bayonets and burned alive. Thousands of young women, including many nuns, were fiendishly violated. Countless mothers and girls were herded into trains and rushed into Germany to meet a fate worse than death.

Children were crucified or pinned by bayonets against the walls of their homes. Babies were shot as they reclined on their mothers' breasts. Families without number were exterminated. Beautiful cities, filled with priceless art treasures, were deliberately destroyed. Twenty-five thousand ruined villages and towns mark the trail of the Prussian-Vandal.

The Triangle of Terror

Kaiser William had broken his plighted word, by authorizing- the invasion of Belgium on "strategical grounds," and had shaken for all time the faith of civilized nations in treaties and international agreements. Violence and cunning were exalted in the German war book, as the ideal method of conducting a German war, and all means were classed as permissible if the object of the war could be attained. Cruelty and ruthlessness were encouraged, as tending to shorten warlike operations, and make them more effective. Pity and sympathy with human pain, were feelings unworthy of German warriors; all such sentiments must be discouraged on strategical grounds.

The vast masses of troops which the Germans could use for their turning movement against France amply sufficed to overcome the small, ill-equipped Belgian army, and huge mobile howitzers could raze the forts to the ground, but these measures might take too long. The pace must be accelerated at all costs ; the path of the armies must be rolled flat, no matter if the great pitiless rollers crushed the bodies of a whole free people into the soil, leaving a trail of innocent blood to dye the great flat roads in their wake.

The German armies destined for the Belgian turning movement crossed the Belgian frontier between Malmedy and Aix-la-Chapelle. Near Liege the great tramping columns of troops divided, some to advance along the valley of the Meuse and cross higher up the river, some to move by Lou- vain and Brussels.

The city of Malines lies to the northward of this route and close to the outer forts of Antwerp, behind which the bulk of the Belgian Field Army retired after offering a gallant resistance.

The triangle based on the towns of Malines, Charleroi, and Liege, became a Triangle of Terror, in which the policy of cruel and inhuman torture, of a defenceless civilian population, was deliberately adopted by the Kaiser on "strategical grounds."

The German soldiers, on August 19, 1914, gave themselves up to debauchery in the streets of Liege. Trained incendiaries set fire to houses, and the occupants were either burned, or shot while trying to escape. The Liege fire brigade were prevented from extinguishing the flames, and their cai-ts used to transfer to the Town Hall the heaps of civilian dead that cumbered the streets. Women and girls were permitted to leave the burning houses, but men were either shot or burned alive.

The atrocities perpetrated in Belgium during the passage of the German armies were deliberately prescribed, in order to take the heart out of the Belgian army, and lessen the prospects of resistance which would delay the German movements at a critical time. The still worse atrocities which occurred, after the great army had swept forward, were deliberately prescribed to secure the safety of the German lines of communication, which were vital to the maintenance of the forces in the front line.

The depositions of eye witnesses reek with descriptions of cruelty, which the mind of man can hardly conceive as having occurred in Europe since the days of Attila or of Genghis Khan. One Belgian soldier, returning to his home near Malines, found the dead bodies of his father, mother, brother, and sister, each with both feet cut off just below the ankle and both hands severed just above the wrist. Corpses of bayoneted women, girls, and children, all horribly mutilated, bestrewed the countryside.

Butchery in the Liege District

The more fiendish atrocities committed in the Liege district may be thus summarized: Four men tied together, tortured with bayonets and with lighted cigarettes in ears and nostrils, then murdered. Boy murdered by cutting his throat and cutting out his tongue. Women bayoneted. Baby girl dragged from her mother's arms, dashed to the ground, and murdered. Boy of twelve, hand cut off for clinging -to parents, who were being pushed into a burning building to be burned alive. Girl of ten, ears cut off. Two men buried alive. Two little children bayoneted, lying murdered at the feet of a woman tied naked to a tree, murdered and mutilated. Violation of girls twelve years of age. Small baby's head cut off. .Child of five years ripped open, after parents were slain. Whole villages burned. Hundreds of civilians shot in masses.

The trail of the Beast through the Meuse and Sambre valleys, in the Charleroi district, was marked by unbelievable atrocities, a partial summary of which is as follows : Town of Seules burned, inhabitants massacred. Defenceless man in Huy tortured and killed slowly by hanging. Farmer's family burned alive at Marhovelette. Peasants hacked to pieces with swords at Bournine. Namur set on fire and inhabitants killed when escaping from burning houses.

Hospital set on fire deliberately. Cripple of thirty-six and a paralyzed old man of eighty shot in cold blood. Boys of fifteen, twelve, and eight years murdered. Girl of seven bayoneted in the neck and killed. Civilian hostages, including priests, roped in and used as a screen for German troops from enemy's fire.

Nuns and young girls herded on to a bridge at Montigny and used as a screen against the enemy's fire. Women burned alive at Bouffioulx. Inhabitants of Charleroi deliberately suffocated with burning straw in cellars where they had taken refuge. Indiscriminate murders of inhabitants throughout the district.

The Terror In Aerschot

Burgomaster of Aerschot and 150 civilians shot in cold blood. Women shot and bayoneted at Aerschot. Woman and baby killed at Rodenburg. Three months' old baby strangled in mother's arms. Boy of seven bayoneted. Boy of eight beheaded. Priest murdered and legs cut off.

Girl of eleven crucified to a door. Houses at Aerschot burned, women and children shot while escaping from them. Woman hanged to a tree and bayoneted.

Atrocities During the German Retreat

During the German retreat in August these atrocities were authentically reported: Boy burned to death. Old woman murdered. Young girl bayoneted. Young woman's legs cut off. Boy of ten hanged by the neck. Boy of sixteen bayoneted. Peasant woman's eyes gouged out. Public violation of women. Feet of six children severed. Child of ten months pierced through with a lance. Child of five years hanged to a tree.

Old women clubbed to death with butts of rifles. Men of seventy strangled. Hands of four children cut off. Men burned alive. Old man decapitated. Hands and feet of a boy of four cut off. Heads and hands of a woman and her three children cut off. Thirty wounded prisoners bayoneted. Child of seven and woman of forty decapitated. Whole family murdered for trying to defend a girl from being ravished.

Louvain Wantonly Destroyed

The barbarous Huns began those acts of vandalism, which have made their name execrated throughout the world, shortly after the fall of Namur. Entering the beautiful university city of Louvain, August 26, 1914, they at once disarmed the Civic Guards and confiscated the arms. Then, under orders of Major von Manteufel, they began the systematic destruction of the city.

Incendiary bombs and paraffin-soaked rags were thrown in through numberless windows of dwelling houses. Soon the city was a roaring furnace. The famous University, with its priceless library was destroyed; the Halles, notable for their arches, were reduced to ruins, and hundreds of houses were burned to the ground; only the walls of St. Peter's remained intact.

Defenceless priests and laymen, women and children were herded together, bound, beaten, stoned, spat upon, and driven long distances into the interior. Hundreds of "hostages" were taken by train, densely packed in horse trucks deep with dung, into Germany, and upon their arrival jeered at by Germans. Many of these hostages became insane. Patients were turned out of hospitals and the buildings burned. Priests were selected for the most brutal treatment. One little girl of six was slowly cut to pieces in the presence of her father and mother.

Malines Three Times Bombarded

The wanton destruction of Malines (or Mechlin) was another crime for which no palliation can be offered. King Albert's army, darting out of Antwerp on the 23d of August, had retaken Malines, but was compelled to vacate the city four days later.

In a fit of pure pique, the Germans bombarded Malines, August 27, 1914, directing their fire at the Cathedral of St. Rombaut, and partially wrecking it. On September 2, 1914, they resumed the bombardment, again damaging the facade of the Cathedral, the populace fleeing in wild panic from the city.

Three weeks later, on September 26, 1914, when the inhabitants were returning to Malines, the town for the third time was bombarded and a fire started which raged furiously for several days. Thus this beautiful city was put to the torch without the excuse of military necessity to justify the barbarous crime.

Termonde Shares the Same Fate

The historic town of Termonde was occupied by the Germans early in September, and shared the fate of Louvain and Malines. An enormous fine had been levied upon the inhabitants, and on the pretext that this fine was withheld, the Vandal-Prussians deliberately destroyed the beautiful city with all its priceless treasures.

Inflammable oil was sprayed upon houses from hose carts and the city soon was in roaring flames. The destruction of Termonde was absolute, the city being literally leveled to the ground. The superb Cathedral of Notre Dame, with its paintings by Vandyck and Reubens, and the historic Town Hall, were totally destroyed. Thousands of families were rendered homeless, fleeing penniless and starving through Belgium into France.

Hundreds of Towns Blotted Out

More than 2500 villages and towns were laid waste by the vindictive Vandals, whose uppermost thought was to strike terror into the hearts of the inhabitants. Dinant and Tamines soon shared the fate of Louvain, Malines, and Termonde.

Looting and Pillage

While these towns were being put to the torch or shattered by shells, the Germans looted many wealthy Belgian homes of all their valuables. Louvain was stripped bare of everything worth the taking. Beautiful works of art were ripped from their frames and shipped to Germany. Household furniture was wantonly destroyed.

Nothing was left intact which might profit the inhabitants in event of their return. Only the complete extinction of the homes of Belgians would satisfy the merciless Vandals.

Wholesale Massacres of Belgians and Alsatians

The pages of remotest history may be scanned in vain for a record of such unparalleled atrocities as were visited upon the defenceless victims of Belgium and Alsace, by the Vandal conquerors. Like beasts of the jungle, the German barbarians glutted themselves in human blood. Aged people, mothers with babes at their breasts, innocent children were bayoneted, shot, or burned to death.

Untold thousands of girls were torn from their homes, herded in trains, and sent into Germany, to suffer a fate worse than death. Belgian women and girls were used as a screen to protect the firing lines of the German armies. And later, when food supplies intended for the starving people began to arrive, they were seized by the Germans and appropriated to their own use.

The Investigating Commission

The Bryce Commission, charged by the British government with the duty of investigating the whole subject of Hun atrocities in Belgium and northern France, cited revolting atrocities that shocked the entire civilized world.

The evidence is conclusive that there were organized massacres of the civil population in many parts of Belgium and Alsace. Innocent men and women among the civilians were murdered in large numbers; women were violated; children even put to torture. The massacres, looting, incendarism, and isolated murders were ordered and countenanced by the officers of the German army. The rules and usages of war were frequently broken, in the murder of wounded prisoners, and in the frequent abuse of the Red Cross and the white flag.

664 Civilians Shot at Dinant

At Dinant alone, 664 civilians were herded in a square near the convent and shot; sixty other corpses were recovered from a hole in the brewery yard, and forty-eight bodies of women and children were found in a garden.

At Louvain, while the Huns were setting fire to the city, bands of soldiers would break into the houses and set fire to them, shooting the inhabitants who tried to leave their dwellings. Many persons who took refuge in their cellars were burned to death.

Children Wantonly Killed

At Aerschot, the fifteen-year-old son of the burgomaster was put to death in revenge for the shooting of a German soldier. In Hofstade, the dead body of a boy five years old was found with his hands nearly severed. The corpses of a woman and a boy were seen at the blacksmith's. They had been killed with the bayonet.

Two children, aged three and four years, were wantonly killed in the village of Weerde, as they stood in the roadway prattling with their mother. At Boortmeerbeek, a German soldier was seen to fire three times at a little girl five years old. Having failed to shoot her he subsequently bayoneted her. At Halcht, the bodies of ten civilians were seen lying in а ГОЛУ by a brewery well.

At Dinant, sixty women and children were confined in the cellar of a convent from Sunday morning till the following Friday without food or water except for a carrot thrown to each prisoner on Wednesday. A great crowd of women, children, and men from Aerschot were marched to Lou- vain and suddenly exposed to fire from machine guns and rifles. Numbers were killed.

Hundreds of Belgians Burned Alive

Hundreds of Belgians were driven within their fired dwellings and burned alive. Many others, who had taken refuge in the cellars of their homes, shared a similar fate.

At Triaucourt, the Huns gave themselves up to the worst excesses. Here many women and girls were violated; the village was burned, and a systematic massacre of the inhabitants begun. Among these victims were two grandmothers, each above eighty years of age, who were shot while trying to escape. While the carnage reigned, the fire rapidly spread and 35 houses were destroyed. An old man of seventy and a child of two months perished in the flames.

A Carnival of Murder

All through Belgium and northern France, in hundreds of towns and villages, there was a carnival of murder, a Saturnalia of crime, rivaling the worst excesses of the barbarous armies that followed in the train of Attila, Alaric, Genghis Khan, and Tamurlane.

These crimes were committed, not by a race confessedly barbarous, but by a people who esteemed themselves the most cultured race on earth, yet who in reality were more base than the lowest race of barbarians that the world had hitherto known.

On the 22d of August, 1914, the Germans occupied Tamines in Belgium. After burning 242 houses, the Hun soldiers drove 374 of the inhabitants to the bank of the river and massacred them by machine-gun fire, some of the wounded being finished off by bayonet thrusts.

Killed While At Prayer

From the private diaries taken from the bodies of dead German soldiers, corroboration is had of some of the atrocities perpetrated in Belgium. The diary of Eitel Anders reads: "In Vendre, all the inhabitants without exception were brought out and shot. This shooting was heartbreaking, as they all knelt down and prayed. It is real sport, yet it was terrible to watch. At Haecht, I saw the dead body of a young girl nailed by her hands to the outside door of a cottage. She was about fourteen or sixteen years old."

The notebook of Private Max Thomas reads: "Our soldiers are so excited, we are like wild beasts. Today, destroyed eight houses with their inmates. Bayoneted two men with their wives and a girl of eighteen. The little one almost unnerved me, so innocent was her expression.

"During the retreat from Malines, eight German soldiers met a child of three years. One of the soldiers skewered her on his bayonet and carried the corpse away amidst the plaudits of his comrades."

Innocent to Suffer with the Guilty

The infamous Gen. von Lieber, on August 27, gave out this proclamation: "The town of Waevre will be set on fire and destroyed without distinction of persons. The innocent will suiter with the guilty." True to his promise, the town was destroyed and all its inhabitants were massacred.

In a village in Lorraine, the Germans had set up their machine guns in a church belfry, and to insure their own safety they imprisoned 275 French women and children in the church, warning the French soldiers that if they fired upon the machine-gun rest, they would kill their own kith and kin. One dark night, after the women had suffered tortures for several days, they sent out a little boy with a message to the French soldiers, imploring them to fire upon the belfry, since they would prefer death to a continuance of the horrors to which they had been subjected. The belfry was demolished and the bombardment resulted in the death of twenty women and children. The savage Huns, upon their arrival in the town of Gerbeviller, Lorraine, hung a boy by the neck to the limb of a pear tree.

After sacking the village of Hastiere-pardela, on August 23, 1914, the Germans killed and wounded a large number of inhabitants, including the parish priest and the schoolmaster, upon condemnation of a court martial conducted by drunken officers.

At sunrise, eighteen men, including the priests, were summarily shot upon the allegation that a girl of fifteen had fired on one of the German officers.

At Gerbeviller, the Bavarian troops rushed into the houses with savage yells, pillaging and destroying, and killing men, women, and children.

At Senlis, where the Germans were opposed by African troops, they revenged themselves upon the townspeople, killing many of the inhabitants, including the mayor, and destroying 105 houses.

Male Inhabitants Consigned to the Flames

The diary of an officer of the 178th Regiment, Twelfth Saxon Army Corps, relates the destruction of the beautiful village of Gue D'Hossus in Belgium. "Apparently a cyclist fell from his machine, and in the fall his gun went oif itself. Straightway there was firing in his direction. The male inhabitants were simply consigned to the flames."

The diary of a soldier of the sarne regiment tells of the murder of 43 civilians in a town north of Dinant. Reservist Schlauter of the 4th Regiment of field artillery writes that 300 inhabitants of a town in Belgium were shot.

On August 26, 1914, Major Gen. Stenger, commander of the 58th Brigade, issued an order that all prisoners be put to death, the wounded as well as the armed. "No enemy shall be left alive behind us."

5,000 Belgians Murdered

It is conservatively estimated that 5,000 Belgian men, women, and children, all non-combatants, were put to death in a most fiendish brutal manner by the Huns.