Battle and Destruction of Louvain (Leuven) Belgium

A brave stand was made in front of Louvain, on August 19, by the right wing of the Belgian army, acting as a rear guard, while the center fell back on Antwerp, but so superior in numbers and artillery were the Germans that a further retreat on Antwerp by way of Malines was ordered. Louvain was occupied the next day by an army of 50,000 Huns.

Governor General von Arnim, after taking formal possession of the city, disarmed the citizens, ordered them to bed at 8 p. m. daily and admonished them to leave one lamp burning in each house at night. All doors were to be left unlocked.

A proclamation was issued threatening with immediate death any citizen found with a weapon in his possession or in his house. It was decreed that every house from which a shot was fired would be burned. The burgomaster and other city officials were secured as hostages, and were subsequently put to death.

The Huns were determined to destroy Louvain in reprisal for the brave resistance offered by the Belgians to the German invasion. Seeking a pretext for the reign of terror which they intended to inaugurate, they falsely alleged that German soldiers had been killed by citizens of Louvain.

Three hundred men and boys were seized and shot in the streets. The burgomaster, two magistrates, the rector of the university and all police officials had previously been put to death. The torch was then applied to the "convicted houses" from which it was alleged shots had been fired.

Beautiful Louvain soon became a roaring furnace. Whole districts were wiped out, and with them the architectural gems for which the town was famous. The Halles, the University with its priceless library, and St. Peter's Cathedral, were wholly or partially destroyed.

The quaintly beautiful Town Hall alone was spared among the historic edifices that fell before the Vandal's torch. Whole streets were left in blackened ruins. Women and girls were given over to the brutal uses of the Hun soldiers; priests and aged civilians were shot, and scores of innocent townsfolk, without regard to age or sex, were massacred. Finally, a war indemnity of $40,000,000 was assessed upon the ruined city.

Between Liege and Brussels, the Belgian city of Louvain was the subject of mass destruction by the German army over a period of five days from 25 August 1914. The city itself fell to the German First Army on 19 August 1914 as part of the German strategy to overrun Belgium during the month of August 1914.

Occupied therefore by the Germans the city was relatively peaceful for six days until 25 August. On that date German units to the rear of the city were attacked by an initially successful Belgian force advancing from Antwerp.

Germany invaded Belgium in 1914 as part of the Schlieffen Plan and much of the Western Front fighting of World War I occurred in western parts of the country. Belgium took over the German colonies of Ruanda-Urundi (modern day Rwanda and Burundi) during the war and they were mandated to Belgium in 1924 by the League of Nations. In the aftermath of the first World War, the Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedy were annexed by Belgium in 1925, thereby causing the presence of a German-speaking minority. The country was again invaded by Germany in 1940 during the Blitzkrieg offensive and occupied until its liberation in 1945 by the Allies. The Belgian Congo gained independence in 1960 during the Congo Crisis; Ruanda-Urundi followed two years later.