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Title: German Barbarism
       A Neutral's Indictment

Author: Léon Maccas

Contributor: Paul Girard

Release Date: June 30, 2018 [EBook #57424]

Language: English

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This new volume on Germany’s conception and practice of war is the work of a neutral, a fact which would alone suffice to secure it our sympathies. Moreover, it is a book which is systematically arranged, based on documentary evidence, serious and obviously sincere, qualities too weighty not to compel the respect not only of the French public, but of all those, to whatever nationality they may belong, who may care to read it or merely to glance through it with an unprejudiced eye.

The author is a Greek, who loves France and who knows her. He knows her because he has lived there; he is not blind to her weak points, but having been early captured by her, he knows the profound mistake into which a stranger falls who is content to judge her by appearances: he has fathomed the depths of her character and discovered the inexhaustible resources of will and energy concealed beneath an apparent, yet much exaggerated, levity. It is for this reason that in the dread crisis through which she is passing, and from which, as he well knows, she will emerge victorious, he has been willing to fight on our side, at least with the pen. Let us thank him, and may our gratitude extend beyond him to his noble country, to that Greece whose feelings have long been known to us, who has not changed them, notwithstanding the ebb[vi] and flow of her domestic policy or of transitory influences, and who will not change them, we are convinced: otherwise she would not be Greece.

So much for the author of these pages which we are about to read. When I add that M. Léon Maccas belongs to the best society in Athens: that while still very young he won the degree of doctor of law in his own country by a remarkable thesis; that he came to us with the intention of pursuing further, thanks to the assistance which we can give him, his studies in international law and diplomatic history, I shall have concluded a very inadequate introduction of author to reader.

As for the contents of this volume, what is the good of dwelling upon them? It is an established fact, at the present moment, that the Germans have introduced into war a new law, a new morality. This law and this morality are obviously contrary to the ideas which humanity has hitherto formed of these great subjects and to the impulses which urged and still urge humanity to endeavour to mitigate the permissible sufferings and horrors which war between civilised nations entails. The Germans have taken quite a different line. They appear to have made it their business to practise everywhere, in different forms, the abuse of force. It is a method, and one, too, which has something spacious about it. But a method is something which confesses or proclaims itself. We do not blush for a method, we blush for an unpremeditated, precipitate act, not for conduct coldly calculated with the purpose of attaining a supreme end, the righteousness of which justifies everything in the thought of those who aim at it. What is the meaning, then, of all these shufflings, these denials,[vii] disputings or flimsy vindications of facts? Why these shameless apologies among neutrals? Why these pamphlets, these articles scattered broadcast over two hemispheres, these idyllic pictures of movements of German troops to whom the peasants, peasants of France, express (in a language which betrays clumsy falsehood) their good wishes for a safe return to their native land. Why all this effort, if not from the necessity to justify themselves, a necessity which in these souls who profess to be emancipated from the vain prejudices of the world is even stronger and more deeply rooted than the desire to compel everything by force? Is not this necessity the clearest and most invaluable of admissions?

But that is not the whole story. By a contradiction which would have something grotesque about it if the tale of bloodshed and destruction made such an expression permissible, those who every day shamelessly violate the law of nations are the first to protest with impassioned vehemence against what in their opponents they assert to be a violation of the law of nations, as if the right to trample right under foot was a privilege of Germany. I am well aware that on that point also we are critical, but even though there were some motive for being critical, a thing which is by no means proven, we must admit that a nation which has signed certain declarations designed to mitigate as far as possible the severities of war, and which, as soon as it becomes belligerent, no longer holds itself bound by these same declarations, is not justified in trying to pose as punctilious in the matter.

The only result of all this is hatred, stubborn invincible hatred, which neither peace nor victory will destroy. Some Germans, it is said, are beginning to[viii] be anxious about it; others are getting used to it, provided that with hate they reap the harvest of fear; but it is a mistaken calculation, because love, or, if you like, a minimum of sympathy, is necessary for the daily round of that common life which we call international relations. Force, admitting that those who have it at their disposal can always count upon it, is powerless to bind nations together, and by force I understand not merely material force, but a spiritual force, such as is, for example, science, of which Germany is so justly proud. If hatred persists, fostered as a religious duty, kindled in the sacred fire of memory, there is no security possible for him who is the object of it: it is the flaw which silently threatens with sudden destruction the steel upon which so much reliance is placed.

Woe to the nation which makes itself hated!

Paul Girard.



The reader will find in the pages which we herewith offer him a detailed picture of the cruelties committed by Germany in the war which involves half the nations of Europe.

In this war, which she let loose upon the world, Germany is not attacking merely armies and fortresses. She takes her victims even from the civil population, and systematically harries even the property of private individuals. She revives under our eyes the times of Attila: to every soldier whom she dispatches against her enemies she recalls the saying of the Scourge of God that “wherever he rode there the grass must cease to grow.” She devotes herself to pillage and destruction; aye, and to pollution and desecration. From her captains, her leaders, her diplomats down to her plain citizens and private soldiers she has disclosed her barbarous spirit, her base instincts; under the blazing light of the devouring flames which she has kindled she lays broad the infamous groundwork and shameful foundations of what she dares to call her civilisation, and which, on the plea of its superiority, she claims to impose upon the whole universe.

Great towns have perished in the flames by her hands, with all the treasures of science, art and industry which they contained; innumerable districts, less populous but no less prosperous, have likewise been plundered, looted and abandoned to the ravages of fire and sword; whole regions have been laid waste[x] without a shadow of military necessity; thousands of peaceful residents, and harmless citizens of these areas, priests and women, children and old folk, have been shot, killed, executed, martyred; women and young girls have been violated and subjected to the most frightful tortures; prisoners have been ill-treated or even shot; the wounded have been dispatched on the field of battle; young people below the military age have been carried off to Germany and treated as prisoners at common law. In the field, the German armies have been guilty of shameful acts of treachery: weapons forbidden because they cause horrible wounds have been used without scruple and without shame. Towns have had monstrous levies imposed upon them, which they had to pay on penalty of seeing their inhabitants massacred. And these things were repeated everywhere: in Belgium, in France, in Poland, in Galicia, in Serbia. Fire, sword, bloodshed, dishonour, slaughter, murder, torture have been flaunted before the eyes of astonished Europe.

That is the story we are going to tell. And with the evidence in the case ready to hand, we shall draw a picture of German barbarism. We shall appeal to the civilised world and ask it to reflect upon the monstrous exhibition of the instincts, the character and the principles of the German nation, which claimed to be gifted with fine feelings and to be punctilious about morals. The facts which will be narrated to the reader will pass judgment upon this claim. In face of the flattering or mendacious pleas, circulated for the last fifty years by Germany herself or by her dupes, this book, the author is fully persuaded, will but anticipate the verdict of history.






The Custom of War

Eternal peace is a chimera. Whatever pains we may take to avoid war, there always comes a moment when tradition and interest, passion and affection clash and bring to pass the shock which we desired to avoid, a shock which, in the conditions within which civilisation evolves, appears not merely inevitable, but salutary. So we see that philosophers and historians have generally spoken of war as a necessary evil.

But just because of the services which war is called upon to render at certain times, it is important not to keep it apart from all the wholesome, righteous and moral ideas disseminated by civilisation, some of which are an age-long gain to society. The evils which war brings with it must be reduced as much as possible. A state of war, disastrous in itself, must be made subject to laws, approved by righteousness and morality, laws which experience has shown to be practicable and salutary.

These laws are in effect the international conscience of civilised nations. They are the laws of humanity. In every case where military necessity is not absolutely involved, the nations demand that these laws should be set in motion. To reduce the enemy to[2] impotence; to make it impossible for him to resist, is the aim of belligerents: but to attain that end there is no need to disown humanity. A war humanely conducted may be speedily brought to an end. Often, even, it attains its end more quickly by declining to exasperate the enemy and by conciliating opinion. On the other hand, by resorting to terrorism and attacking the enemy’s dearest, most cherished and most sacred possessions—the lives of non-combatants, private property, works of science and art, the good name of families, religion—you renew his power of resistance, increase his moral strength, and infuse into him the spirit of hatred and vengeance.

German Military Writers’ Theory of War

German military writers have paid no attention to that. In the picture which they have drawn of force, they have left no room for justice and moderation, which alone make it worthy of respect and bring about lasting results. The triumph, such as it is, of violence, bounds their whole horizon. Clausewitz, an author who has the ear of Germany, writes, “War knows only one means: force. There is no other: it is destruction, wounds, death, and this resort to brutal force is absolutely imperative. As for that right of nations, about which its advocates talk so much, it imposes on the purpose and right of war merely insignificant and, so to speak, negligible, restrictions. In war every idea of humanity is a blunder, a dangerous absurdity. The violence and brutality of combat admit no kind of limitation.”

“Let France reflect upon the words of one who has been called ‘an immortal teacher,’” says a[3] celebrated commentator of the same Clausewitz, Baron Bronsard de Schellendorf, a former Prussian Minister of War, in another work (France under Arms). And this author adds, “If civilised nations do not scalp the vanquished, do not cut their prisoners’ throats, do not destroy towns and villages, do not set fire to farms, do not lay waste everything in their path, it is not from motives of humanity. No, it is because it is better policy to ransom the vanquished and to make use of productive territories.”

The author does not ask himself if, always from this point of view, no other limitations to the brutalities of war are imposed upon thoughtful people, limitations which are in conformity with well-understood interest, and which at the same time would win the approbation of righteousness and humanity. Wholly obsessed by the coarse intoxication of his principle of absolute violence, he adds—

“The style of old Clausewitz is a feeble affair. He was a poet who put rosewater into his inkpot. But it is only with blood that you can write about the things of war. Besides, the next war will be a terrible business. Between Germany and France it can only be a question of a duel to the death. To be or not to be: that is the question, and one, too, which will only be solved by the destruction of one of the combatants.”

Such is the tone of German military authors. Their responsibility is of the highest importance in the story we have to tell. It is they, it is their principles disseminated through Germany, which have set up like a dogma in that country the cult of force in and for itself, divorced from all the moral elements with which the thought of civilised people surrounds it. And, having been taught by such masters, the German[4] nation can in matters of war only thirst for murder and violence.

The German State of Mind on the Eve of War

These principles had their full effect as soon as the Germans thought that war was inevitable.

Do not let us here discuss the excitement which people naturally feel under such circumstances, nor the emotions of wild enthusiasm and patriotic hatred into which the rush of events leads them. If these emotions lead to excesses, we can neither wonder nor complain at it. Excess is in the nature of things and is part and parcel of a system in which material forces work for a just end—namely, the safety of the country. The general upheaval which accompanied a declaration of war cannot fail to rouse the masses and to lead to extravagant and blustering demonstrations. Nevertheless, even in that respect, there are limits which a nation will never exceed, unless it is being exploited in the interests of the gospel of frightfulness, unless the love of destruction for its own sake is the aim of its leaders and its preceptors, and is the basis of the nation’s conception of war.

That is the case with the Germans. The instincts of blind violence which men carry naturally within them and which education alone restrains, had been so carefully fostered by the Clausewitz and Schellendorf schools in the mind of the German people that, once the restraint of peace has been removed, we could postulate in them the symptoms of the most dangerous impulses: symptoms which, in the eyes of every impartial judge, appeared like the dismal omens of an appalling thirst for blood.


The correspondent of the Hovedstaden (La Capitale), a Danish journal, tells that he heard some women at Berlin uttering impassioned speeches, shouting that an attempt was being made to annihilate Germany, and urging the men to the task of destruction by fire and sword in the foreign countries to which they were going. This same correspondent records the fact that “men and women speakers followed one another in the Café Piccadilly belching out curses against Great Britain and her allies.” Such were the feelings of the public in Germany, different, one might say, from what one would naturally expect to find in such a case, for, is it human for a woman to urge on her husband, her father or her son to a work of cruel destruction? How effective must have been the doctrines disseminated by German authors like those we have quoted, if they have been able, as they have been, to destroy absolutely the finer feelings even of women, and if the thirst for violence has led women to make public attempts to incite their men-folk?

The State of Mind of German Intellectuals

But let us leave the military writers, and speak of men whose peaceful profession ought to have the effect of inspiring in them feelings of moderation. The classes whom we call the intellectuals have been the most savage of all.

“We are barbarians!” wrote the famous German journalist, Maximilian Harden, in his paper Die Zukunft, at the beginning of the war. “England is in alliance with yellow apes and rejoices to hear it said that Germans have been murdered by drunken Cossacks. The English, the Belgians, the French, the[6] northern and southern Sklavs and the Japanese cannot praise one another enough, declaring that they are the guardians and purveyors of the most refined civilisation, and calling us barbarians.

“We should be quite wrong to contradict them. For ancient Rome when it was sick unto death, the Germans who dug its grave were barbarians. Your civilisation, friends, wafts to you no fine perfumes! Accustom yourselves to the idea that on German soil live barbarians and warriors who for the moment have no time to talk soft nothings. They shall defeat your armies, overpower your general staffs, and cut your tentacles in the oceans. When Tangiers and Toulon, Antwerp and Calais are subject to barbaric power, then sometime we shall have a kindly chat with you.”

It is in this state of mind, the mark of unbridled violence, that the German people embarked on the war of 1914. A monstrous outburst followed, the desire and the firm expectation of victory, of which German patriotism had perhaps the right to be glad. But at the same time the most brutal and savage instincts of mankind were let loose.

The will to ravage, destroy, pollute everything belonging to the enemy filled the German armies, and the results of teachings printed in books could be seen written in letters of blood and fire on the page of history. The theory of blind violence openly professed in Germany for half a century, a theory which has been drilled into the very soul of the nation, and has become a principle of conduct for the individual, has borne its fruit. We shall tell the story of them.



The Plea of Reprisals

Violations of the law of nations and, still more, acts of cruelty committed in war, have almost always escaped punishment properly so called. The victim usually finds himself powerless to exact retribution for them. Only one course is permitted to him: that of reprisals, by which he counters acts of violence with other acts of violence. His aim, therefore, is not vengeance: the point is to compel the enemy to keep to what is permissible, through fear of penalties to which he will be exposed if he persists in wrongdoing. Reprisals may frequently involve great violence, but one rule is universally admitted—that they never justify acts of cruelty properly so called. Amongst the latter are the massacre of women and children, mutilation, cunningly devised torture, etc. Two other principles are likewise admitted as regards reprisals, to wit—

(1) that the severity of reprisals must not be out of proportion to the gravity of the offence.

(2) that in cases where the offence has been committed by individual non-combatants, reprisals must not be inflicted on their fellow-citizens,[8] as the aggrieved army has its legitimate remedy under what is called martial law. Now the Germans have violated this rule and these principles.

Reprisals and the Germans

On many occasions the Germans have had recourse to the plea of reprisals to justify acts of violence committed by them. We shall show that this plea is a misuse of terms. One of the excuses which they have most frequently put forward is that civilians have taken part in the war, in Belgium, in France, in Poland. But the question of the civilian population taking part in military operations is bound up with the question of francs-tireurs, which Germany wanted to solve to suit herself and which will occupy our attention later on. Let us here point out one thing—that the circumstances under which, even according to the German version of events, civilians have taken part in the war, are very often quite enough to condemn Germany. For example, Herr de Bethmann-Hollweg, the Imperial Chancellor, thought he could persuade the whole world of the innocence of the German soldiers, whose admitted excesses, so far as Louvain was concerned, were due, he said, to the fact that the young girls of the town had gouged out the eyes of the German soldiers. Let us assume the Chancellor’s good faith in making such a statement. Assuredly he cannot have supposed that this happened in many instances or that it went so far as a general execution. It can only have been reported to him, and he can only have been induced to believe it as an exceptional act. It is not of the nature of such an act, alike from the cruelty which it assumes in women and from the[9] difficulty of carrying it out, to be repeated often, and this is the reason for destroying a town, burning Louvain and pillaging the whole country. “A plea of self-defence like this,” said M. Hanotaux, “by itself gives you a picture of the German soul.”

German Slanders which Attempt to Disguise Cruel Acts of the Imperial Troops as Reprisals

All the other excuses of the Germans are of the same kind. Their very weakness proves that they are slanders. For example, Germany has endeavoured to spread in foreign countries, and especially in Switzerland, a rumour to the effect that people on their way back from enemy countries who had stopped in France, and also Swiss subjects, had been ill-treated by the French authorities. The object of this grotesque report was obviously to forestall charges under the same heading which would fall on Germany, and to prepare the public opinion of the world to think that charges outstanding against them were cancelled by the necessity of resorting to reprisals for acts committed in France. The Swiss newspapers did not fail to denounce the German manœuvre. To show the extent to which the policy of lying was being carried, the Journal de Genève published a letter from the Swiss Consul at Besançon, giving the highest praise to the manner in which Germans and Austrians had been treated in France.

Moreover, of what value can these slanders be when, on the other hand, documentary evidence proves that the French authorities have behaved to the Germans with an excess of indulgence. It is certain, at least, that nowhere in France has any hatred been shown to[10] the prisoners. Even prisoners of war have been most energetically protected by the heads of the army against the passions of crowds. On this head here is a note which a French general, Commandant at Angers, addressed to the newspapers of this town—

“For some days convoys of prisoners of war have been passing through the Angers railway station.

“Part of the civil population, and not always the best part, crowds on the bridge above the station and utter cries when they think they recognise an enemy uniform on the platform. These demonstrations are unbecoming; if the Germans behave like brutes to their prisoners, there is no reason why we should imitate them. A nation like France, which boasts with good right of being the most civilised of all, cannot, by acting like them, follow in the footsteps of the barbarians whom we are on the way to conquer at our will and pleasure, with arms in our hands. I beg, therefore, the staff of the local press to be good enough to invite civilians to maintain the calmness and dignity which are the qualities of strong races, conscious of their place in civilisation.

Général d’Ormesson.

Trivial Acts have sometimes been the Cause of Terrible Reprisals

One of the manœuvres practised by the Germans consists in their firing some gunshots themselves, at the moment when they were entering a village evacuated by enemy troops, and pretending that these shots came from civilians. Consequently they began to resort to what they called reprisals. All the more[11] did they resort to them when the smallest actual offence gave them any pretext.

In his book, German Evidence for German Crimes, M. Bédier tells how at Orchies “a woman was shot for not having obeyed the word of command to halt. The result, the whole district burnt!” The disobedience of this peasant woman was considered by the German, Major Mehring, the Commandant at Valenciennes, a “terrible atrocity.” In the belief that other equally terrible atrocities had been, according to report, committed at Orchies this Major decided on the destruction of the town. Moreover, he was extraordinarily proud of it, for he issued a proclamation saying that “unfortunately” he had been compelled to the most rigorous measures of martial law against the town of Orchies. “In this locality,” he adds, “the most terrible atrocities were committed. I have drawn the due inferences therefrom, and have destroyed the whole town. The old town of Orchies, a town of 5000 inhabitants, is no more … The dwelling-houses, town hall and church are annihilated.” As a matter of fact the Germans directed a furious bombardment against Orchies; incendiary bombs, benzine sprinklers, every means was employed. For a radius of six leagues the red lights of the conflagration could be seen rising.

In Poland

A circumstance quite as trivial as the disobedience of the Orchies peasant woman was the occasion for the monstrous acts of cruelty and extortion of which the Germans were guilty at Kalich, in Poland. In that place, because some one threw a stone at a patrol,[12] Lieutenant-colonel Prenster, in command of the garrison, caused all the residents in one house to be shot, and then, thinking that that was not enough, he had all the people who lived in Rue Vroclavska brought out of their houses and riddled with grapeshot. About a hundred were killed. Another inhabitant of Kalich, Sokolof, the treasurer, was shot “for having burnt, the evening before the Germans entered, the banknotes in the departmental bank.” Another, named Dernbourg, was hanged on the mere charge of having “carried a lantern in his hand.” This fact proved him to have been a spy! The truth is that the unfortunate man had used the lantern only for the purpose of carrying out certain necessary repairs to his mill. Four workmen engaged in the mill were also put to death, after some forms of trial. Four hundred houses were destroyed in this town, representing a loss of sixty million roubles. The leader of the Germans in this performance was an individual of German extraction, Michel by name, the former head of a brothel at Kalich, whom the German Commandant appointed mayor of the town.

The Germans Admit that their Pleas of Defence are a Sham

The Germans have been trained in a rigorous school, but they are lacking in flexibility of mind. Moreover, they were unable to avoid admissions which confute their falsehoods.

So it happened that when the Berliner Tageblatt recorded acts of cruelty which it alleged had been committed by the Allies, a refutation of its charges came from Germany itself. This paper told that in[13] France cigars and cigarettes filled with powder were given to German prisoners: Vorwaerts took up the task of replying to this piece of stupidity, showed that a great number of stories of the same kind had been admitted to be false, and that in particular the story of the cigarettes was a mere invention. The legend that German soldiers had had their eyes gouged out by francs-tireurs was also denounced as a mere imagination. On this point Vorwaerts wrote: “No proof has been made out on official authority that German soldiers have had their eyes gouged out by francs-tireurs. A certain well-known Berlin newspaper declared that there were at the Grosslichterfeld hospital ten slightly wounded soldiers, who had had their eyes gouged out by the enemy. When Herr Liebknecht asked the superintendent of the hospital if the report was correct, the latter replied, ‘Fortunately, these rumours are devoid of all foundation.’”

Vorwaerts recurred to this same question on the 6th December, 1914, when it published the results of an inquiry made of the management of the Hanover hospitals and the grand charity hospital at Berlin.

The management of the Hanover hospitals addressed the following reply to the Socialist journal. “As a result of inquiry made among the doctors of the different sections of hospital 3, we are able to inform you that we have not at present at the hospital a single wounded person whose eyes have been gouged out. We have never had one.”

Similarly, the management of the charity hospital at Berlin communicated the following note to Vorwaerts: “The charity hospital has admitted no wounded who have had their eyes gouged out.”


Finally, the great Catholic newspaper, the Kölnische Volkszeitung, having published in the month of November an article in which the same legend reappeared, Arch-presbyter Kaufmann had a conclusive document inserted in this paper.

A doctor, M. Saethre, who said he had visited the Cologne hospitals, had written, “There can be no doubt about the atrocities committed by francs-tireurs. I myself saw at Aix-la-Chapelle a Red Cross sister whose breast had been cut off by francs-tireurs, and a Major whose eyes had been gouged out whilst he lay on the field of battle.” He replied, under date 26th November, in a letter to the paper from which we make this extract: “You asked me to write to you what I thought about this report. I, therefore, applied to the competent military authorities to know if the statements made by Doctor Saethre were correct. The superintendent of the hospital writes me under date 25th November, ‘The atrocities of which you tell me have not been committed, at least as far as Aix-la-Chapelle is concerned. We have not seen the Red Cross sister referred to nor the Major either.’

“I do not know,” continued the Arch-presbyter, where the doctor of whom the Kölnische Volkszeitung speaks has got his information. “I think it necessary to state here again that in the hospitals of Aix-la-Chapelle there is not a single wounded man to be found whose eyes have been gouged out, and no Red Cross sister who has suffered the above-mentioned mutilation.”

In this way was the device foiled. The attempts made to disguise the German crimes as reprisals led to nothing.


Reprisals among the Allies

These took place on account of the treatment of German prisoners of war after their internment. Even on this question complete equality has not yet been reached, as the Allies did not desire to treat their prisoners in the least like Germany treats hers.

In their behaviour towards civilians the Allies have always confined themselves to the limits prescribed by martial law, without having recourse to the right of reprisals. In Alsace, German immigrants very nearly gave occasion for reprisals.

At Cernay, a French section which had deployed lost thirty-eight men, who had all been struck in the back; the shots had been fired in the town, before any German soldier could have reached there. At Lutran, the German teacher fired on a cavalry patrol and killed two horses. This attitude of the Germans of Alsace, as well as the numerous arrests of German spies caught red-handed in the course of operations in Upper Alsace, brought several persons before a court-martial. In these citations the procedure of war was scrupulously observed. This was particularly the case with the Mayor and the comptroller of the post office of Thann, as also with the wife of a German forester of Schlierbach, who was condemned to death by the court-martial for having led several soldiers into an ambuscade.

Only on one occasion did the French speak of reprisals and threaten to carry them out. This threat was delivered by aeroplanes, which threw down proclamations declaring “We have many hostages in our hands. For every Alsatian killed, we shall kill ten Germans; for every Alsatian wounded, we[16] shall kill a German.” The object was to protect Alsatian civilians, who had fallen into the hands of the Germans again, against the vengeance of the latter.


To sum up, while the Allies, in face of the cruelties committed by their enemies, waived or restricted their right of reprisals; the Germans, on the contrary, not only exercised it, but boldly exceeded it, using it as a random excuse to justify a policy of vengeance and terrorisation. Acts of little importance were repressed by them like outrages. The doings of a single individual brought about the ruin of a village. Still more, these doings were invented to justify gratuitous excesses practised for the mere purpose of terrorisation. These general remarks were necessary before embarking on the story of the excesses and crimes which Germany wished to dispute and the details of which we are about to read.



German Violence

German violence, once it had been let loose by the declaration of war, forthwith became lost to restraint of every kind. It was not merely in pitched battles and amongst soldiers that it was displayed, but behind the lines, and in matters commonly supposed to be subject to diplomatic regulations. The official representatives of foreign countries had to suffer the consequences. By their conduct towards these distinguished people, German ministers and officials by their deliberate action proved to the civilised world that Germany is the land of cruelty no less than of insolence and rudeness. The ambassadors, consuls, etc., of the powers on which Germany had just declared war were exposed to infamous treatment, perhaps, in its way, worse than the acts of cruelty committed by the heads of the army and by the soldiers. Even people of royal blood, members of the Imperial family of Russia, were the victims of these outbursts of violence.

In making this statement we must not exonerate any section of the German people. The members of the Government, no less than officials, are responsible, for none of the latter were censured, and this responsibility must be traced back to the Emperor. On the[18] other hand, the German people, without distinction of class, deliberately associated themselves with these outbursts.

How the German Authorities behaved to the Dowager Empress of Russia

The Dowager Empress of Russia, Marie Feodorovna, mother of the Emperor of Russia and sister of Queen Alexandra of England, was travelling through Germany on the day after the declaration of war. She had just left England and was going back to Russia.

On the order of the German authorities—

(1) Her Majesty was stopped at Berlin, where she was forbidden to continue her journey to Petrograd to meet her family.

(2) She was given the choice of going to Copenhagen or of returning to London.

The Dowager Empress had to obey. She went to Copenhagen and thence continued her journey.

How the German Authorities behaved to the Grand Duke Constantin of Russia and his Family

The Grand Duke Constantin Constantinovitch, grandson of Nicholas I, known as a patron of arts and letters, who was at the baths of Wildungen, in Germany, with his family, when war broke out, was stopped two days after the Empress. At first the Germans thought of detaining him and making him prisoner, as they had done with Admiral Skridlof, formerly Admiral-in-Chief of the Russian Black Sea fleet, and several Russian generals who likewise[19] happened to be in German territory. But they merely shut him up with his family in a carriage of a frontier train. In this carriage they made a point of putting some soldiers who were travelling pipe in mouth, and forbade any one to open the windows. At different stages in the journey the authorities were guilty of repeated acts of rudeness to the Prince, and even went so far as to jeer at his suite. When the Grand Duchess expressed a wish to send a telegram to the Empress of Germany, who had been her friend from childhood, she found that she was arrogantly refused.

From the station at Gumbinnen up to the Russian frontier, that is to say for a distance of three leagues, the Grand Duke and his family had to complete the journey on foot.

How the Germans behaved to the Ambassador of France at Berlin

The German authorities behaved in similar fashion to M. Jules Cambon, the Ambassador of France at Berlin. When, armed with his passports, he asked to leave by way of Holland, the minister refused his request and sent him word by M. de Lancken, a former adviser to the German Embassy at Paris, that he would have to return to France through Austria.

“We should not recommend you,” he said, “to go through Denmark. The sea may not be safe…” M. Cambon then asked for himself and his staff a safe-conduct which would guarantee his journey through Austria, where his official position would be no protection to him. This safe-conduct was promised him. On the following morning this order was countermanded,[20] and M. Cambon was informed that he would be brought back again to the Danish frontier. Whether the sea would be safe or not was no longer taken into consideration. His departure took place the same day. It took no less than twenty-four hours to cross the 400 kilometres which separate Berlin from Denmark. When the train got near the frontier all the blinds were lowered, and soldiers armed with revolvers beset the doors of each compartment. The passengers were warned that these soldiers would fire if they left the carriage, if they put their hands in their pockets, or if they attempted to touch their luggage.

When they were close to the frontier, a military official, Commandant de Rheinhaben, came, shamefacedly enough, and asked M. Cambon for the cost of the train by which he had travelled from Berlin. The ambassador offered a cheque on the Bleichroeder Bank, which was declined. The total expense, which amounted to 3600 marks, was demanded in gold. The Embassy staff was able to scrape together this sum. The passengers then continued their journey, with the addition to their party of a curious-looking person who, the Commandant said, was a Scandinavian merchant. M. Cambon and his companions met this curious merchant again at Copenhagen and in Norway at the time of their embarkation for England.

Moreover, as they were going through the Kiel Canal, the Germans went so far as to claim the right to search the ambassador’s luggage. And though, through the interposition of an official, he was spared this humiliation, soldiers forced themselves into the carriages and stood on guard facing the passengers, with their hands on the trigger of their revolvers; even women and children did not escape this kind of[21] treatment and were threatened with death if they made the slightest movement.

How the German Authorities behaved to other Members of the Diplomatic Corps

The French Minister at Munich and his family were notified on the 3rd August, at 6 p.m., that they must take train the following morning for Constance, under the supervision of an officer and a Bavarian official. The Minister asked for an extension of time, which was refused in accordance with instructions which he was told had been received from Berlin. On the other hand, the owners of the premises used as offices and residences by the legation demanded, under threat of distress, immediate payment for the current quarter.

M. de Nélidof, the Russian Envoy at the Vatican, who was returning to Russia through Germany with his wife, was kept prisoner for two days in the Munich railway station, where he and Mme. de Nélidof had to submit to the worst possible treatment at the hands of soldiers.

The Russian Minister at Dresden was ordered to leave at nine hours’ notice. With great difficulty he had the time extended to twenty-four hours. He and his staff were put into a carriage with blinds drawn, and he was kept under observation by two police officials all the way to Munich.

Brutal Behaviour, which was Permitted by the German Police, of the Mob, to the Diplomatic Representatives of Foreign Countries

We cannot be surprised that the mob shows little self-control in circumstances so critical as a declaration[22] of war. But what cannot be permitted is that mob violence should be let loose, and not be forbidden by the authorities, upon the representatives of foreign powers, whose mission under such circumstances automatically comes to an end. In Germany, on certain occasions, the authorities were actually accomplices of the mob. This was the case as regards the treatment of the French and Russian diplomatic body as they were leaving Berlin.

When the French diplomatic body was passing through Neumunster, near Kiel, violent demonstrations were made by a party of ladies of the German Red Cross. These ladies crowded round the carriage in which were the staff of the French Embassy, shouting and shaking their fists. As a glass of water was being brought to a little girl of three years old, who was travelling with the Embassy, these ladies took hold of it and threw it to the ground. In some cases the behaviour of the crowd was so shameful that Commandant de Rheinhaben, who had been instructed to travel with the Embassy, said that in all his life he had never had so painful a duty to perform.

The demonstrations against the Russian diplomatic body began on the 27th July, according to a subsequent statement of M. de Sverbeef, Russian Ambassador to Berlin, to one of the editors of Novoïé Vrémia, 29th August, 1914. A howling mob, he said, filled all the streets round the Embassy, shouting insults to the Russians. This lasted till two o’clock in the morning. These demonstrations began again the following day, but, curious to relate, were at first aimed at Russia and not at France. At the beginning of the war it was supposed at Berlin that France would not participate in the struggle.


“I left Berlin,” continued the ambassador, “with the staff of the Embassy on Sunday, 2nd August, at noon. A mob had gathered in front of the Embassy in the morning. To avoid unpleasantness, the gate had been shut. It was only opened at the moment when we were getting into a motor. I went in front in the motor of the United States Ambassador. The crowd did not attack me and I heard hardly any hostile cries. On the other hand, the mob indulged in murderous attacks on the other motors.

“Although at Berlin the fact of these murderous attacks on the members of the Russian Embassy is denied, they are nevertheless authentic. The mob wounded not only the men, but also the ladies. It was not merely the proletariat who gave themselves up to these acts of violence, but people who appeared to be quite of high position participated.”

Moreover, several official representatives of Russia were arrested in the street, but were set at liberty again when their papers had been examined.

Crapovitzki, the Chamberlain, formerly Secretary-in-Chief of the Russian Embassy at Berlin, was struck on the head by blows so violent that his blood saturated two handkerchiefs, and he had to put himself under medical care at Copenhagen.

Princess Belosselska, an American citizen, was struck on the back, on the shoulder, and on the head, by a well-clad man with a white beard, and some people spat in her face.

Several other people were ill-treated, especially Countess Litke, wife of the Russian Minister at Stuttgart; Mme. Todleben, wife of the Russian Minister at Carlsruhe; Mmes. Plantine and Raevska; MM. Diacre and Chapelle of the Embassy at Berlin,[24] and M. Lopaiko. The children were stowed away on the floor of the motors to protect them from blows.

How the German Authorities behaved to Members of the Consular Service

Members of the Russian, French and English consular service in Germany were to have still less favour shown to them than ambassadors and ministers. The Consul-General of Russia at Leipzig was unexpectedly summoned to the police station. He was there allowed thirty-five minutes to go to the station and take the train. His vice-consul, who was of a lower rank, was allowed only ten minutes, and his pockets were searched to boot.

The Consul-General of France at Frankfurt got orders to go on the 4th August, and he immediately obeyed. The German authorities conducted him to the Belgian frontier, then on the way they changed their minds and conducted him to Constance. When he reached the station at Offensburg he was arrested by an officer. With the consular staff he remained shut up for five hours in the waiting-room, closely watched. Then he was conducted, with about one hundred French people, men, women and children, who had left Frankfurt at the same time as their consul-general, to Donaueschingen. There they were all led under escort in a pelting rain to the other end of the town into an open station, where their only opportunity of rest was upon some bundles of straw. On the next morning it was announced that the French, with their wives and children, would be detained by the local authorities. A protest by the consul-general[25] was ineffective. The consul and his staff were unable to resume their journey to Constance until 5 o’clock.

On the 5th August the German authorities ordered the consuls of France, Russia and England to leave Danzig within an hour.

The three consuls and their families were brought to Bentheim, on the Dutch frontier, amid insults and ill-treatment and without being allowed to take any food. On the 8th August, at Bentheim, the three consuls were separated from their wives and families, and shut up in a prison cell, with the sons of the English consul and M. Vassel, of the French Consulate at Prague.

They were treated like criminals: they had bread and water for food, straw mattresses and a stone floor for bed; they were compelled to clean their cells, to take a regular walk of half an hour within the prison precincts, in the company of men who had been convicted at common law.

The French consul, M. Michel, being ill, asked for a doctor, but was unable to get one. The superintendent of the prison thought he had done all that was required by giving him some castor oil. This regimen lasted several days. Finally, on the 13th August, the English consul was released and met again his wife and his children, who, unknown to him, had been shut up in another cell. The other consuls were not set at liberty until some days afterwards.

M. de France de Tersant, Vice-Consul of France at Frankfurt on the Main, took thirty-three hours to traverse the 300 kilometres between Frankfurt and the frontier. He underwent the same annoyances: tedious confinement in railway stations, perpetual change of route; he was compelled to travel with[26] blinds drawn and windows shut in a stifling heat, in the company of an armed official.

The wife of this consul, Mme. de France de Tersant, who left Germany on the 31st July—that is, before the declaration of war, was arrested at Metz and her luggage confiscated. In vain she made application to the military authorities. They refused to receive it and threatened to keep her in custody. However, she obtained permission to continue her journey by horse carriage to Novéant. As she was leaving the soldiers hooted her. At Novéant the driver refused to bring her any further. Then she had to go on foot as far as Pagny-on-the-Moselle, which is the first French village. A peasant at Novéant lent her a wheelbarrow, in which she could put her young child. The peasant consented to push the wheelbarrow.

M. Damier, Russian consul at Frankfurt, was brought by force from his house to a statue of Germania which he was compelled to salute. A howling mob kicked him and struck him with their fists. M. Alberic Néton, Consul-General of France at Düsseldorf, was ordered on the 2nd August by the Chief of Police to leave the town at once. Two officials were stationed before his door with orders not to leave it. On the next day, on his way to the consulate, he could not give them the slip. All the day they kept near him whether he went on foot or rode.

After interminable negotiations with regard to his departure, the Consul-General of France finally left Düsseldorf on the 5th August, bringing with him only a small portmanteau. The destination of the train was the Dutch frontier (Roermont). But at the first station, which is Neuss, an officer in a uniform trimmed with lace came and opened the compartment in which[27] were the consul-general and many other passengers, and informed them that the Dutch line was cut and that they would have to go to Cologne and then to Switzerland.

He had to go to Cologne in a train full of soldiers and in a third-class carriage. During the whole journey the soldiers never ceased to make insulting remarks about France.

At Cologne, the consul-general’s journey was interrupted by the military authorities. He underwent a regular search and had to undress to allow these people to search every bit of his clothing. As he complained of having to submit to such treatment, the German officer said to him, “You will see many other people in the same case as yourself.”

And, in fact, when the search was completed he was brought, carefully escorted, to an hotel of the lowest class, an annexe of the Prefecture of Police, where police officers searched his luggage. M. Néton was kept there three days under police supervision. He was forbidden to communicate with any one outside or to read the newspapers.

“During the third night of our detention,” says the consul-general in his official report of the 10th August, “on Friday, 7th August, a little before midnight, there was a violent knocking at the door of my room. ‘Everybody get up,’ cried a voice; ‘you will be off to Holland in ten minutes.’ Everybody dressed in great haste. We were compelled to get into two military motors, which brought us with all speed to the station. There we were brought to a train which was standing ready, and pushed into a carriage where we were locked in and all the blinds lowered. The signal for departure was given, but none of us knew where we were going.


“At six o’clock in the morning the train stopped. We had just passed Clèves and we were a short distance from the Dutch frontier. To get us over the remaining thirty kilometres the mayor of the place, who had been notified of our arrival, offered to have us driven across in a light trap.

“When we got down from the carriage he demanded of us 14 marks, i.e. about 18 francs.

“We were at Vyler, the last Prussian station from which the boundary, marking the frontier, could be seen; we thought we were at the end of our troubles, but we had reckoned without the station officer. ‘Your papers,’ said he. Each of us showed what the official who searched us at Cologne had left us. ‘Not in order,’ he declared. ‘I shall have to report the matter. In the meantime you must be searched,’ and for a second time, men and women, we were obliged to undress completely and to undergo a more minute search than one could possibly imagine. They even looked between our toes. The brims of our hats were turned back. The insoles of our shoes were lifted up. My watch was opened and the glass of it broken.

“Once more I protested. Police officers, revolver in belt and rifle in hand, surrounded me and commanded me to keep silent. The official came towards me. My last papers and documents were seized and even my private letters were taken…

“The official took leave of me, saying, ‘I shall return all this to you at Düsseldorf when you come back.’

“After a few more minutes waiting we were allowed to cross the frontier. We were free. On my arrival in Holland I noticed that the soldiers who had searched me had taken 90 marks in gold which happened to be in my pocket.”


M. René d’Hennezel, French Vice-Consul at Mannheim, left his post under similar circumstances. At Immendigen a non-commissioned officer and four men burst into his carriage. He examined M. d’Hennezel’s passports and those of M. Lancial, diplomatic attaché, had their luggage carefully searched, and passed on to them the word to follow him to the captain. On the platform the crowd shouted angrily and the non-commissioned officer sneered at them.

The captain questioned them fiercely and declared that their passports were not in order. He prevented them leaving and had them brought back to the station-master’s office, where a fresh examination of their luggage was made in his presence. Finally, he consented to let them travel by Constance, saying, “Above all things, mind what you are about, and take very good care that I hear no complaint of you, or you will immediately be shot. You must get into the luggage van.”

M. Armez, French Consul at Stuttgart, during the last days of his stay received all his correspondence “unsealed as a military safeguard.”

On the 3rd August he was ordered to leave his post within three hours, and to bring only hand luggage. He was stopped at the first station as a spy, and threatened with death by the other passengers, in the presence of a menacing crowd. It was only after many anxieties of every kind and not without having received several blows and even having been wounded, that he succeeded in reaching Constance in Swiss territory.



The most celebrated German writers on international law, Heffter, Klueber, Geffcken, have taught that the State which declares war can neither keep enemy subjects who happen to be on its territory nor their property, for as they came into this territory in reliance upon public law and have received permission to stay there, they can avail themselves of the tacit promise made by the State that every freedom and safety are guaranteed them for their return. If the State wishes them to go, it must allow them a reasonable time to go away with their property; if not, enemy subjects, who are subject to the regulations of the police and of public safety have the right, so long as they respect these laws, to appeal for protection to them. In any case deliberate ill-treatment of enemy subjects cannot be permitted.

This principle, by the confession of the Germans themselves, condemns the methods to which Germany has resorted by empowering her officials to behave cruelly to French and Russian subjects who happened to be in Germany on the 3rd August, and by tacitly approving the behaviour of the mob to them.

The fear of spying, of which it appears that all these people were suspected, perhaps because of the audacity which the Germans themselves showed in resorting to it in foreign countries, was invoked by the Germans as the excuse for all these outrages and the justification for all these annoyances.


German Misconduct towards People Incapable of Espionage

Nevertheless, ill-treatment could not be justified in this way. As a precaution against spying, foreigners may be compelled to leave a country en masse. A straightforward and honest supervision may be exercised over them at their departure, but no one has the right to allow them to be struck, nor to expose them to the clamours of a mob, nor to speak to them as if they were prisoners in the dock. Only definite suspicion falling upon individuals would justify such conduct, and by justifying it would give, in addition, the rights of arrest and cross-examination.

People who are merely being brought back to their own country in case of war have the right to be shown every consideration by the authorities.

In all the disgraceful situations which German officials and private citizens brought about in Germany in their dealings with enemy subjects of Germany, we can, therefore, see merely the expression of a cowardly hatred of everything that belongs to the powers hostile to Germany, powers which the Germans think they are hitting when they insult and ill-treat their peaceful and harmless citizens. The same feeling which animated German officials against the Dowager Empress of Russia, against the Grand Duke Constantin, against the ambassadors, ministers and consuls of Russia and France, could only assert itself with still greater fury, devoid of all consideration and all scruple, against plain French citizens or Russian subjects. In this letting loose of evil passions there were manifested features of grotesque arbitrariness. For example, such was these people’s whim, every woman who wore spectacles was subjected to a more[32] minute search than other travellers, on the ground, it was alleged, that there was more likelihood of her being a spy!

How the Germans treated Russian Travellers

Thirty-two Russians belonging to the highest aristocracy, who were passing the summer at Baden and other bathing resorts, were arrested at Hamburg and detained for several days. Thanks to the intervention of the Spanish consul, M. Veler, they were able eventually to continue their journey; but at Neumunster, M. Schebeko, on the authority of a telegram from Berlin, was suddenly arrested in the train, compelled to get out of the carriage guarded by soldiers with fixed bayonets, in the midst of a crowd shouting “Shoot him!” He was then dragged off to prison, where he spent twenty-four hours in a dark cell, in the company of malefactors under the common law.

The Countess of Vorontsoff, daughter of the Viceroy of the Caucasus, went so far as to protest. Immediately the soldiers, in a rage, forced themselves into her carriage, pushed her with the butt-ends of their rifles on to the platform and began to search her. It was only with great difficulty that the travellers were able to resume their journey, which, from Baden to the Danish frontier, lasted seven days. At Reudsburg station they were again dragged from their carriage and carefully searched: at the Fleusburg station they were detained for four hours under a guard of armed soldiers. Other Russian travellers of note were at first brought to the frontier town of Eydtkuhnen, and then dispatched again to Mecklenburg, and the Island of Ruegen.


The travellers were fearfully crowded together. Some of them were put into cattle-trucks and had nothing to eat or drink. Even women were not spared blows with the fist and with the butt-ends of rifles, nor threats of death. Several had to make long marches on foot between rows of armed soldiers, and at stopping-places had no shelter but pig-sties. A large number of men aged from seventeen to fifty were stopped.

Husbands were taken away from their wives, children were harshly treated, and left alone at the stopping-places in spite of the cries of their mothers, who were forced to continue their journey.

In the sanatorium at Frankfurt, which was filled with a large number of foreigners, especially Russians, several of whom had just been operated on, shameful behaviour of the same kind took place. The sanatorium was cleared in twenty-four hours. A woman who had just been confined was sent to Berne, where she arrived in a dying condition. Her baby died on the way.

After stories like these, we can easily imagine what bad treatment travellers of less distinction had to endure. The vicissitudes through which they passed not merely astound, but revolt, the hearer. The Russians who were brought to Sasuitz, for the most part robbed of all that they had, agreed to make the following declaration—

“Those who wish to do so may take the boat to go back to Sweden. Those who do not wish to return to Sweden will remain here, as prisoners of war, until the end of the war. The women will sew linen for our soldiers, the men will be employed in making trenches. Whoever departs from the appointed place where he is to stop will be brought before a court-martial and will be shot. We do not guarantee regular food.”


How the Germans Behaved to French Residents and Travellers

The French were no more spared than the Russians. At Kembs, fronting Istein, the German authorities blew up with dynamite Monsignor Kannengieser’s dwelling-house. The noble prelate, who was almost blind, was shamefully ill-treated, because (such is the statement of the Liberté de Fribourg) he had in his possession plans of Istein.

As for French travellers going back to France, their journey was checked at any moment by the police, who stopped them for long hours, if not for whole days, at every station. Several found that they were treated like regular prisoners; on the slightest suspicion they were shut up in dark cells, and in order to intimidate them or to drag confessions out of them, they were threatened with death. Those who were not stopped by the police were unmercifully beaten by the crowd, who loaded them with insults.

At Hanover a child who was wearing the inscription France on the ribbon of its hat was dragged from its mother and ill-treated.

At Donaueschingen a certain number of women were compelled by the German military authorities to discontinue their journey, and were brought to a school, where they had to sleep on straw.

They got the benefit, however, of the sole and only act of charity which was performed during the whole of this time in Germany towards an enemy subject, for the Princess of Fürstenberg, whose castle is at Donaueschingen, hearing of their condition, had beds given them in a hospital of which she is patroness.



In these acts of unbridled violence due note should be made of the fact that German officials, officers and private soldiers made no distinction between individuals who held public offices and mere private citizens. Still more worthy of note is the fact, which we think is obvious, that they made no distinction between the subjects of enemy and those of neutral states. The sacred duty laid upon every State to protect the life, property and even the interests of neutrals was absolutely repudiated in Germany, and we think it is our duty to draw the reader’s attention with special emphasis to outrages of this kind committed by the Germans both in Germany and in the territories which they invaded.

Outrages committed by the Germans on Neutral Subjects Resident in Germany

M. Bernardino del Campo, ex-Minister of Finance of Brazil, ex-President of Sao-Paolo and leader of the Republican Party of that country, happened to be on the 3rd August at Bad-Nauheim with his wife, who was taking a course of treatment there, and his four children. The Germans showed no consideration either for his nationality, his rank or his age. M. Bernardino del Campo, although he had reached the[36] age of sixty-two years, was struck with the butt-end of the rifle by Bavarian soldiers, robbed of his jewels and left dying at the Swiss frontier.

The news of this incident caused great indignation in Brazil.

Baroness Karen-Groothe, daughter of the King of Denmark’s Master of the Hunt, and wife of a Turkish officer, happened to be at Mecklenberg when war was declared, and was arrested as a spy and treated so brutally that she had to keep to her bed at Copenhagen, to which she was brought back.

Several Danish subjects resident in Schleswig were treated with the same kind of brutality. Count de Schack was imprisoned; when, on his release, he tried to escape across the Danish frontier, he was arrested again and sent to a fortress in the interior of Germany. The editors of the Danish papers in Schleswig, and a large number of distinguished people in the annexed provinces, were also imprisoned.

Americans were no better treated than Danes. The New York Sun (11th August, 1914) discussed the treatment of Americans in Germany in an article dealing with the arrest of Mr. Archer Huntington and his wife on a baseless charge of espionage, and the brutality with which several young Americans had been treated.

“It would seem that the German authorities” (said the Sun) “think that in war there is no obstacle to their will and no atonement for their acts. The American Government will speedily have to disabuse them of this idea. Germany must be made to understand clearly that ample compensation is due to her victims, and that those who have abused their authority must be punished.”


In Austria

The Austrian authorities were as discourteous as the German to foreigners, subjects of neutral countries. At Carlsbad the famous singer, Adelina Patti, and her husband, Baron Cederstrom, a Danish subject, were kept prisoners for several days in their hotel, where the police searched everything and rummaged through all their trunks and portmanteaus, while the crowd, who threatened to carry the hotel by assault, raised a hideous din by way of demonstration against the singer, who is a friend of Russia and France.

According to the Italian newspaper Messagero, an Italian commercial traveller, M. Ugo Lorenzini, and ten fellow-countrymen were ill-treated by the Austrians on their return from Berlin to Italy on the outbreak of hostilities. They were imprisoned at Innsbruck, then shut up in a motor wagon, which took a day and a half to bring them to Trente. There they were robbed of everything they had, especially of 2000 crowns, which was all the money in their possession. For a whole week the Austrians actually kept them digging trenches for fifteen hours a day: hardly any food was given them and they were struck with sticks and swords. One morning, after one of them had killed the guard, they managed to escape. A Trentino peasant helped them to make good their flight to the Italian frontier, where they arrived in a state of exhaustion.

Crimes committed by Germans against Neutral Subjects in the invaded Countries

The most serious of these crimes was that committed by the soldiers of Lieutenant-colonel Blegen at Dinant against M. Himmer, Vice-Consul of the[38] Argentine. This vice-consul, who ought to have been respected not merely as a non-combatant and a neutral, but because his consular rank should have protected him, was killed, and the Argentine flag trampled under foot, with the result that keen indignation was aroused in the Argentine.

Amongst the many inhabitants at Liège who were shot were five young people of Spanish nationality. They were massacred on the 20th August. Their names were known and were as follows: the brothers Oliver, Juan and Antonio, natives of Oller, Jaime Llabres of Majorca, Juan Nora and José Nielle.

The Consul-General of the Balearic Islands, who had received confirmation of this report, made an official request to the Spanish Government that they should protest against these outrages and exact reparation—that is to say, present a demand for an indemnity for the families of the murdered men, and in order to make the demand effective, seize all the German ships which had taken refuge in Spanish ports.

In France, at Jarny, twelve kilometres from Briey, the German soldiers, not satisfied with other acts of barbarism which they had committed, shot in addition thirteen Italian subjects. Here is the story of these murders, given by one of the comrades of the victims, the Italian Agostino Baccheta de Gattico of Novara, in the Gazetta del Popolo (see the Matin for 27th August, 1914).

At Jarny, Baccheta ran a small café which was a rendezvous for Italians, some of whom were his boarders. He returned to Italy, after a long and painful journey, accompanied by the sister of one of the men who had been shot.

“It was about eight o’clock in the morning, on the[39] 3rd August,” said he, “when several battalions of the 63rd German infantry regiment, with some cavalry and artillery, got as far as Jarny, without meeting with much resistance from the French, who were not in great numbers.

“The Germans lost one man killed and four wounded. They immediately accused the inhabitants of having fired on their party, and, having summoned the chief magistrate and the local doctor, ordered them to assemble the whole male population on the open space of the village.

“Women and children were knocked down. When they wanted to follow their men-folk they were brutally driven back with the butt-ends of rifles and several were bayoneted. A woman, named Giuseppa Trolli, tried to prevent her husband getting out of the bed where he was lying seriously ill, and called out to the Germans, ‘Savage brutes.’ She, and the child which she was holding in her arms, were wounded.

“When all the men had assembled, patrols began to search the houses. In the rooms of my café, which had been let to some Italians, they found pickaxes and other tools. This was the excuse for arresting and immediately afterwards shooting the workmen, whose names are as follows: Gerolamo Bernacchini of Gattico; Giovanni Testa of Bergama; Angelo Luisetti of Borgomanero; Stefano Piralli of Gattico; Giovani Zoni of Trevisa.

“In the inn kept by a man named Gaggioli Stefano of Serralunga, two rusty revolvers were found. The proprietor of the inn, a man named Vaglia Giuseppe of Castelamonte, and Cesaroni Vincenzo of Viterbe, were arrested and paid with their lives for what this search had yielded.


“Finally, in the Carrera Café, a fowling-piece was found belonging to Pesenti Luigi, of Milan, who was forthwith shot.”

Bachetta adds that some days afterwards the following were arrested and shot: Giovanni Tron of Conegliano; Andrew Bisesti of Bologna; a lad of thirteen years old called Eurigo Maffi of Lugo; Amilcare Zoni of Trevisa, because, when asking for a passport of repatriation, they had questioned the German Commandant in a spirited manner.

Italian refugees informed the consular authorities of the tragedy of which their companions had been the victims. They then went to Gattico to bring to M. Niccolo Leonardi the material proofs of their story.

Spanish subjects resident in Reims suffered dreadfully during the German occupation and the famous bombardment, which we describe in detail further on.

During the occupation, M. Rolland, a Spanish subject, was ill-treated and fifty German soldiers looted everything in the restaurant of which he was proprietor, especially his cellar.

Several other houses and shops belonging to Spaniards, over which their national flag was flying, were systematically pillaged.

The bombardment of September 18-20 had fresh disasters in store for the Spanish residents of Reims. The Spanish Consulate was bombarded although the Spanish flag made it conspicuous and all the Spaniards of Reims had taken refuge there on the advice of a Frenchman, M. Humbert, who, in the absence of the vice-consul, Cama, had taken charge of Spanish interests. The house of Narcisso Torres, which also had the Spanish flag upon it, was struck by two shells.[41] Father Torres, aged seventy-six years and ill, died of excitement. M. Antonio’s house was set on fire; his daughter, aged eleven years, was seriously wounded.

In the outskirts of Reims, the premises of the well-known Spanish firm, Montener & Co., were bombarded four times, and suffered damage which might be estimated at 500,000 francs.

The Spanish committee of Paris, which had sent a deputation to the department of the Marne, to report upon the disasters of the war, protested as soon as they received the report of their deputies against the crimes committed in defiance of the Spanish flag and of humanity.

Finally, let us add that, at the time of the second bombardment of Dunkirk, which was carried out by German aeroplanes (22nd January, 1915), the United States consul, Mr. Benjamin Morel, was wounded by a bursting bomb. The consulates of the United States, Norway and Uruguay were, in addition, struck by explosive projectiles thrown by German airmen.



Among savage races, or even nearer home, before certain agreements had been made between nations, poisoned or barbed arrows, small shot, pounded glass, and soft-nosed bullets were used to aggravate the condition of wounded enemies to the worst possible extent. To-day all these contrivances are prohibited, with the consent of Germany, who signed the conventions which embodied this prohibition. German jurists like Bluntschli approved this concurrence of opinion, and the German General Hartmann declared that for a long time these kinds of projectiles have gone into the lumber-rooms of arsenals.

This fact, however, did not prevent Germany from resorting in this war to the use of weapons of the same kind, or even the still more formidable dum-dum bullets. Moreover, dum-dum bullets are expressly specified among the list of prohibitions laid down by the Hague Conference, 29th July, 1899, prohibitions signed by Germany and her ally Austria. These declare that “the contracting parties forbid the use of bullets which expand or easily get flattened in the human body, such as bullets with a hard outer case which does not completely cover the core or is notched at the end.”


The Use of Dum-dum Bullets in Belgium

The report of the military governor of Ghent, Lieutenant-general L. Clooten, and the results of experiments made by M. V. Rousseaux, armoury expert at Antwerp, prove indisputably that these bullets were in use among the Germans. The following is the report—

Headquarters at Ghent, 26th September, 1914.


“I have the honour to send herewith some cartridges with bullets of the kind called ‘dum-dum,’ seized on the Hanoverian Lieutenant von Halden, who was taken prisoner at Ninove, by my troops, on the 29th inst.

“This officer’s pistol, which he threw away shortly before his capture, could not be found again.

Lieutenant-general L. Clooten,
“Military Governor.”

The following is the result of the experiment made by M. V. Rousseaux—

“The box with green label which you send me (20 cartridges for Mauser self-loading pistols of calibre 7·63) must have contained full cartridges. It contains three rows of expanding dum-dum bullets, taken from the special boxes with yellow labels. These bullets were made to expand by the process of manufacture, and it is impossible to make them so by hand.

V. Rousseaux,
“Armoury Expert.

Antwerp, 28th September, 1914.


The Use of Dum-dum Bullets on French Soil

The first instance of the use of dum-dum bullets on French soil goes back to the early days of the war. It was denounced by the French Government in the protest which they addressed (21st August, 1914) to the signatory powers of the Hague Convention.

This protest points out that “on the 10th August, 1914, after an engagement between French and German troops, a surgeon-major sent to the general in command of the Infantry Brigade” a case found on the road to Munster “close to the German Custom-House,” which contained five cartridges primed with cylindro-conical bullets cut at the end, the nickel cover of which was incomplete and left bare the upper portion of the lead slug.

This was not the only instance. On the 14th September, Dr. Chas. Lavielle, superintendent of the auxiliary hospital of Baignots-à-Dax, sent to the sub-prefect of the department of Landes a report on the operations which had been performed on patients, and declared that four of them had been struck by expanding bullets. Photographs were appended to the report.

Doctor Napieralski, physician-in-chief of the 7th auxiliary hospital of the third French army corps à Pont Audemer, noted the case of a foot soldier wounded in the shoulder with a huge scar as big as an open hand. It was not an ordinary wound.

The wounded man’s name was Adrien Bousquet, the foreman of some electricity works at Verdalles. He related (said the report) that on the 2nd November, in a battle to the East of Ypres, he found himself cut off with his section from the rest of his company.


For three days his comrades and he fired from a trench, but at last, on the 5th November, they were outnumbered. The majority surrendered. Bousquet, however, not wishing to be made prisoner, tried to escape towards the main body of his troop. He was fired at from different sides. All at once he felt in his shoulder so violent a concussion that it actually turned him round. Still, it was only a bullet which had struck him.

Dr. Napieralski noted that there could be no question of a wound caused by a bursting shell, for the wound showed no trace of powder nor any blackish stain of metallic oxide.

As the wounded man was carrying his knapsack on his back, Dr. Napieralski adds that the explosive force of the bullet was increased by the pressure of the knapsack. The result was that the sinews were torn over a wide surface and the bone formation of the shoulder-blade was shattered.

The depositions of the other wounded men who took part in the battle in which Bousquet was wounded confirm all his statements. On that day, at this point on the front, no artillery battle took place, and the Germans made use of many explosive bullets; no mistake is possible on this point, for it is easy to recognise them because as soon as they touch the ground, or any obstacle whatever, they burst with a dry, crackling noise. All the wounded who were questioned quote typical examples of deaths and wounds caused by these bullets; they also mention numerous witnesses, soldiers, their own comrades, whose evidence it is easy to collect and who will confirm their statements (Temps, 29th December).


Use of the Same Kind of Bullets in the Colonies

German troops have used dum-dum bullets on all fronts and at every point where military operations were in progress. The fact that they have done so was proved particularly in the Togoland battles and confirmed by the English Governor of the Gold Coast in his report to the Colonial Minister in London (September 1914).

Counter-accusations by the Germans

The discovery of these facts could not fail to arouse universal indignation which Germany tried to forestall by accusing her enemies of similar acts. The Kaiser used the Wolff Bureau to make this accusation against France and England, and lodged a complaint against both with the President of the United States. France immediately issued a denial in a telegram under date 11th September, 1914. Another denial drawn up on September 8 had come from England.

The Lokal-Anzeiger and the Tag of Berlin (September 10) published facsimiles of cartridges, and of pouches of cartridges alleged to be dum-dum, found by German troops at Longwy. Now, the very inscription on these pouches—“Practice Cartridges”—showed the futility of the accusation, for it proves that here we have to do merely with ammunition for use at the rifle-ranges of military training clubs. As these ranges sometimes had to be prepared in a hurry, it was a case of necessity to send them cartridges crushed at the end, so that the speed of the bullet should be reduced and that it should not go right through targets which were not thick enough.


These cartridges were not even used at the regimental rifle-range, and the fact that they neutralise the projectile capacity of the French rifle was a still stronger reason why nobody ever thought of using them in war.

Moreover, the Germans left at Compiègne, and on several battlefields of France, pouches, carefully put in a conspicuous position, of French cartridges which they had made into dum-dum bullets by scooping out the protruding end. The object of this artifice was to give currency to the belief that these prohibited missiles were used by the French troops.

The following is the reply made by the President of the United States to the Emperor of Germany. “In reply to your protest, the United States can do nothing. I do not think your Majesty expects me to say more.”

Doctors attached to the German Medical Service have admitted that the German Accusation was False

People who allowed themselves to be deceived by an accusation which had its origin in Germany soon received proof, and from Germany too, that the accusation was false.

Professor Straub, of Freiburg in Bresgau, published in a Munich medical journal the results of his inquiry into the nature of the French bullet. He admitted that, from the medical point of view, this bullet was composed of an admirable alloy, which could not poison, and he came to the conclusion that it was humane. Dr. Haberlin, a Swiss doctor attached to the hospitals at Arlon and at Louisburg, where he had[48] chiefly German wounded under his care, declared on his honour that he had never heard tell of wounds inflicted on Germans by dum-dum bullets.

Dum-dum Bullets used Against the Russians

That the Germans used dum-dum bullets against the Russians was proved in a hospital at Vilna, where a lieutenant-colonel in the Russian infantry, wounded in the leg, chanced to be under treatment. The wound, which at its entrance was smaller than a penny, was as large as a hand where the bullet left the body.

The photograph of one of the dum-dum bullets used in this way was given by the Novoïé Vrémia on 17th September, 1914.

Moreover, the German missiles used against the Russian troops often gave off poisonous gases which caused the death of the wounded, and which were expressly forbidden by the Hague Conventions (1899) under the category of “projectiles, the sole purpose of which is to spread asphyxiating or noxious gases.”

The Same Practices followed in Austria

The use of explosive bullets by the German troops was regularly followed by their allies, the Austrians, both on the Russian front and the Serbian.

The superintendent of the Red Cross at Petrograd was informed at the beginning of the war by his deputy at the first outpost detachment that, after Austrian field works had been taken, a large quantity of explosive bullets in special pouches and in belts for use in machine-guns had been found, and also many spent cartridges which had been adapted for[49] this kind of bullet. These bullets bore the date 1914, and were used on every occasion that the Russians took the offensive.

On the other hand, “The use of explosive bullets by the Austrians,” declared an official note of the Russian Government, “has been often proved by medical reports and photographs of wounds.” Cartridges and bullets which have been captured leave no doubt on that point. The Russian troops which had succeeded in taking the village of Lajenki, near Nemirof, found there 10,000 explosive bullets, the place of origin of which is obvious from the fact that they had the stamp of an Austrian arsenal upon them.

On the 21st October, near Przemsyl, the Russian troops took some machine-guns, the belts of which were full of cartridges with explosive bullets.

Moreover, all the Serbian generals without exception declared that the Austrians employed explosive bullets on the whole Serbian front. The first ten rounds from the machine-guns were always, they said, made with this kind of bullet, and the Austrian soldiers were provided with explosive cartridges in the proportion of 20 per cent.

Again, Dr. Reiss, professor at the University of Lausanne, who was sent to Serbia as a special commissioner of the Gazette de Lausanne, and who returned from his expedition on the 10th December, told of numerous Austrian bullets which had been found on Balkan battlefields and which all the marksmen to whom they were shown declared to be explosive.



Abuse of the Privilege allowed to Bearers of a Flag of Truce and to Prisoners

The following are some examples of this dastardly conduct. At Liège, the Germans resorted to it against the Commandant of the Bucelles fort, upon whom they treacherously made a murderous attack. They appeared with a flag of truce and demanded the surrender of the fort. “I refuse,” he replied. “Commandant,” was the answer, “come and see the condition of your defence works. You will agree that they can hold out no longer.”

The Commandant went off with the Germans, intending to show them the satisfactory condition of the works. Scarcely had he crossed the threshold when they fired their revolvers at him. The brave officer received two bullets in the thigh and only by chance got away from this murderous attack.

A similar case happened during the siege of Liège. On the night of 5-6th August about a hundred German soldiers came to a point 750 metres from the Belgian trenches, and, throwing down their arms, held up their hands and waved white flags. The Belgian Commandant gave the order to cease firing, and went towards the spot with some men. He had hardly gone more than about thirty yards when he fell, mortally wounded.


Near Hofstade, in Belgium, on the 26th August, the Germans advanced to the attack in the same way, preceded by a white flag.

In a battle which took place sixty kilometres from Lemberg, the Austrians resorted to the same means. The regiment of the Russian Colonel Frolow having attacked them with the bayonet, they hoisted the white flag. The colonel immediately gave the order to halt. He himself went alone to the enemy’s position and gave the order to cease firing. In vain, for as he was going back to his men he was mortally wounded.

Other Forms of German Treachery

One form of treachery repeated very often by the Germans was to sound the bugle calls of enemy troops and thus mislead them. In the thick of the battles round about Mulhausen, in the beginning of August, the French were not a little surprised to hear the call to cease firing. Fortunately, one of the superior officers saw through the enemy’s treachery and immediately ordered the signal to be given for attack, which sent the Germans flying helter-skelter. As such acts in German eyes are permissible stratagems, they constantly resorted to them. Another consisted in marching civilians of the invaded countries in front of the German troops. One of the officers who did this, Lieutenant A. Eberlein, has with extraordinary composure related in one of the most reputable German newspapers (Münchener Neueste Nachrichten, 7th October, 1914) how he resorted to this device.

“We stopped three people,” writes this officer, “as we were going into Saint Dié; and then a fine idea occurred to me. We gave them chairs, and ordered them to carry these into the middle of the street and[52] sit down. Entreaties followed on the one side, and some blows with the butt-end of the rifle on the other. By degrees one gets frightfully harsh. At last they sat down outside in the street. I do not know what prayers they said, but their hands were all the time clasped as if they had cramp. I was sorry for them, but the plan served its purpose and at once the firing aimed from the houses at our flanks immediately slackened, and we could now occupy the house opposite and in that way had command of the principal street. Everybody who showed himself in the street after this was shot. Moreover, the artillery had been hard at work all this time, and when, at seven o’clock in the evening, the brigade came up to our rescue, I was able to report, ‘Saint Dié is cleared of enemies.’

“As I learnt later, the reserve regiment … which entered Saint Dié further north, had experiences exactly like ours. The four people whom they also had compelled to sit in the street were killed by French bullets. I myself saw them lying in the middle of the street near the hospital.”

According to information which will complete the story and which appeared two months later in the Saint Dié Gazette Vosgienne, the names of the four people stopped by the reserve regiment “which entered Saint Dié further north” were Camille Chôtel, carpenter, aged thirty-four years; Léon George, twenty-seven; Henri Louzy and Georges Visser. They were compelled, not merely to sit down, but to march in front of the German detachment.

The same thing happened elsewhere on other occasions.

In Belgium, near Liège, on the 6th August, when two captive Belgian soldiers who had been forced[53] to march before the German troops met their death at the hands of their fellow-countrymen. At Dietz, on the 26th August, several women and children, who had been barbarously compelled to play the same part, were struck by the fire of the German troops.

At Marchiennes several hundred persons were driven in front of a German column. At Erpe, on the 12th September, a German column of two hundred to three hundred men, which had been fired upon by a Belgian machine-gun, took twenty to twenty-five young men, among whom was a lad of only thirteen years, and placed them in the middle of the road, with the result that these young people were in the line of fire. Two were wounded and the firing was stopped. In the fight at Alost, on the 26th September, the Germans drove before them several people, whose names are given by the Belgian Commission of Inquiry in one of their reports. At Lierre-Sainte-Marie four priests officiating in a church were taken by the Prussians, because they had not been quick enough in bringing the service to a close and had thereby delayed the quartering of the troops in the church. On the following day they were obliged to march in front of the soldiers and all four were killed.

In France the same crime was repeated twenty times. We shall not record all the cases. In the battle at Billy, on the 10th August, according to an official report of the French Commandant, the Germans compelled several women and children to march in front of them, as a screen for themselves and to prevent the French firing on them as they were coming out of the village and filing on to the battlefield.

In the Belfort area the Germans stripped a great number of prisoners, drove them in front of their[54] line, and exposed them almost naked to the French bullets.

At Denain, on the 25th August, the German cavalry, at two o’clock in the morning, compelled women and children to march in front of the column; at Méry (in the Department of the Oise), during a battle with the French on the 1st September, the Germans seized the manager of a sugar-refinery, his family, and the whole staff of the works, and made them march side by side with them, as a screen against a fusillade on their flank. As a result, a workwoman, Mlle. Jeansenne, was killed by a French bullet. The foreman of the works was wounded.



The bombardment of towns, villages, and dwelling-houses is forbidden when these places have no military defence. If they have, bombardment is permitted, but under certain conditions. The commander who carries it on is bound to give notice beforehand to the enemy authorities, or at least to do everything he can to warn them. In the second place, bombardment must spare buildings dedicated to religion, science, and philanthropy, and also hospitals and centres for the sick and wounded, provided, of course—

(1) that these buildings have not been used for military purposes;

(2) that they are distinguished by some mark besiegers can see.

Consequently, the crimes which an army may commit, so far as bombardment is concerned, are as follows—

(1) bombardment of an undefended town or village.

(2) bombardment of a town or village without previous notice.

(3) bombardment of churches, monuments, scientific and charitable institutions, hospitals, ambulances.


Undefended Towns bombarded by the Germans

The Germans committed all these crimes simultaneously, but the least excusable and most cruel of all was the bombardment of towns which the enemy had evacuated, and to which, therefore, he could render no further aid.

Three French towns and districts, Pont-à-Mousson, Douai, and Lille, met with this fate from artillery and aeroplanes.

Bombardment of Pont-à-Mousson

This began on the 11th August, continued the following day, then on the 14th August and finally became intermittent. The firing on the town was resumed more than a hundred times. It was an open town, however, and the French army were not defending it, further than that the bridge over the Moselle had been put in a state of defence at the outbreak of hostilities by the 26th light infantry battalion.

Moreover, the bombardment of Pont-à-Mousson took place without previous warning, and was not preceded by any notice, nor any occupation by the German troops, who did not even show themselves (on the 11th, 12th and 14th August) before the town. The operation was carried out by means of guns placed in concealment on the other side of the frontier. The firing was directed by an airship flying over the batteries.

Acts of this kind are the proof of a deliberate and premeditated desire to destroy and to terrorise. In this case destruction is here not the inevitable sequence to attack and defence, but an end pursued for its own sake in contravention and defiance of established laws.[57] Thanks to the signals given by the airship, the German batteries were able to damage the St. Martin quarter, on the right bank of the Moselle, and the site of the new hospital and the college. The hospital was flying the Red Cross flag, but was struck precisely for that very reason: a shell burst near the bed in which a wounded Saxon officer was under treatment. Fortunately, no one in the hospital was wounded, though not less than seventy shells struck the building during the 14th August. In the rest of the town forty people were killed and as many wounded. They were women and children.

Bombardment of Douai

Towards the end of the month of August the town of Douai served as a storehouse for numerous German troops. It was formerly occupied on the 1st October. The outrages which it suffered from the Germans on the 8th and 12th October were committed against a town which it was, in fact, impossible for the French to defend. On the 8th October a Taube bombarded Douai, throwing two bombs, which did little damage. On the 12th October a second Taube threw another bomb, which burst behind M. Mathieu’s house, in the Rue d’Hesdin, and killed a little girl named Briois, aged five years, who was closing the windows of a house.

Bombardment of Lille

On the 10th October, when the French were coming up to Lille, the Germans forcibly carried off M. Delesalle, mayor of the town; M. Ducastel, municipal councillor, and several other municipal officials. Then, when they had almost evacuated the town, they directed against it a furious bombardment, which began on the evening[58] of the 10th October and continued, with a short interval, until the 12th October at 9 o’clock in the morning. The Rue Faidherbe was completely demolished and the end of the Rue de l’Hôpital Militaire was terribly damaged. Many fires broke out in the Rues de Paris, du Mélinel and de Béthune. The town hall, the prefecture, the post office, the Palais des Beaux Arts were injured. The Kulmann and Wallaert works were burnt down. The Times correspondent stated that a bomb thrown by a Taube, near the prefecture, wounded a woman who was walking along, and killed by her side her little son, aged twelve years.

Let us repeat that this bombardment of Lille took place when the French were only coming up to the town and that the latter had not been completely evacuated by the Germans, who were, therefore, guilty of violation of the laws of war. It was the same with the bombardment carried on upon the 11th and 12th November. On this occasion also the allied troops were only coming up. More than 7000 shells fell on the town during the time the Germans remained there. The presence of the Germans is proved by one abominable detail. It is a fact that they had cut the water-pipes in order that the fires kindled by the bombardment could not be put out. A little later they were compelled to blow up houses with melinite to stop the fire which was spreading in all directions.

At the beginning of the month of December Lille had a total of 998 burnt houses. During the bombardment the College Saint-Joseph, which was flying a white flag as a signal that it should be spared, was struck by two shells.


Bombardment of Belgrade

On account of its geographical situation the capital of Serbia was evacuated by Serbian troops. Only civilians remained and the Red Cross flag was hoisted. Consequently the town was entitled to think itself immune from outrage and bombardment. Nothing of the kind was the case.

Belgrade was bombarded on the 28th and 30th July, then from the 16th to the 18th August, and finally on the 14th and 15th September. Several quarters of the town were burnt; many of the inhabitants were killed, amongst others two mental patients in a private asylum.

As soon as a fire broke out, the places round the burning building were riddled with bullets, so that the residents could neither put out the fire nor localise it.

In the midst of all the turmoil the Serbian Government took care to lodge its complaint with the Powers, through their representatives.

Bombardments without Notice

We should not forget that the notice of bombardment required by the laws of war was impossible in more cases than one. Moreover, it is admitted that attacking troops are absolved from the charge of breach of these laws, when they do all they can to give warning. Besides, warning of bombardment is not always required to make an attacked town expect it. We could not, therefore, regard as a contravention of law all bombardments, without exception, which the Germans had made without giving notice. But, this said, can we allow to pass the circumstance that, of all these bombardments, only two, those of Antwerp and Reims, were preceded by the[60] necessary warning? German callousness and cruelty stand self-condemned by the fact that the proportion is so small. Add that the bombardment of Reims, started on the pretext that two German bearers of a flag of truce, who had lost their way in the French lines, were not brought back quickly enough, was in itself a sheer outrage.

Towns bombarded behind the Lines

One kind of bombardment for which there is no excuse is that in which German aircraft engaged over towns and villages behind the enemy lines, out of the reach of German guns and sometimes even outside the theatre of war. It is certain that the intention to give oneself up to such acts absolutely precludes respect for open towns and for preliminary warnings. It is the proof of an absolute contempt for the laws of war, and of a fixed determination to act contrary to ordinary good sense.

The bombing of Paris, Antwerp (25th August to 2nd Sept.), Dunkirk, Warsaw—towns all of which were situated, when the attack took place, out of the range of German cannon, is an outrage of a special kind. No military object was in view, but merely a desire to terrorise the civil population. At Paris six people were killed and about thirty wounded: at Antwerp there were twelve people killed and twenty-five wounded; at Dunkirk about fifteen were killed and more than twenty wounded; at Warsaw 106 people were injured. All these victims—except at Warsaw, where among the people struck were nine soldiers—were civilians, for the most part women, children and old men. Hence we understand the indignation aroused among neutrals[61] by these bombardments, and the care which several nations took to protest against them.

The American Committee, founded by the United States ambassador in Paris, and consisting of the most influential Americans resident in Paris, was entrusted with the duty of keeping an eye upon the conduct of Germans on the outskirts of the French capital and above it. They were indignant at the deadly acts of the German aeroplanes in Paris, and dispatched a report on the subject. As for the throwing of bombs on Antwerp, the American newspapers denounced it and emphatically assigned it to its category. The World described this kind of attack as “murder, pure and simple”; “dynamite for children,” said the New York Herald; the New York Times spoke of “crime against humanity”; and the Tribune energetically protested against the repetition of murder so blind, so purposeless and so unpardonable.

Bombardment of Malines and Lierre

When the Belgians took Malines again, on the 25th August, the Germans began to bombard it. This act can only be put down to a thirst for vengeance. They made violent efforts to demolish it quarter by quarter by bursting shells. One shell struck a bakehouse and killed two workmen in it. The cathedral, the museum, the town hall, St. Peter’s Church, the magistrates’ court, and all the buildings round about the “Grand Place” were badly damaged, and the ministers of State of the Triple Entente, who visited Malines on the 13th September, saw shells smashing in before their eyes the pro-cathedral of Saint-Rombaud, full of miracles of art, where Van Dyck’s “Christ upon the Cross” towered high above the tombs of the archbishops;[62] they witnessed also the destruction of the famous old carillon of the pro-cathedral, and the belfries of churches, convents and seminaries buried beneath the ruins (vide the photograph of one of the chapels of “Our Lady of Malines” after the Germans had passed by, in L’Illustration for the 3rd October).

What is left of Malines? A German journalist, war-correspondent of the Berliner Tageblatt, undertook to reply to this question, in a description, entitled Malines the Dead, of the town in the condition in which the German bombardment left it.

“Life has become extinct. The town is dead. The sixty thousand inhabitants have fled. The melancholy houses stand open. The streets are empty. German soldiers go up and down. In the Grand Place, the wool-market, the Place d’Egmont, at the railway station, soldiers are working in larger groups, but the ordinary residents are wanting.

“The emptiness and the havoc in these venerable-looking streets are so awful and so overwhelming that one’s breath is stopped and one recalls with terror the legend of towns that bore a curse upon them. What no one has ever seen, what Hoffmann and Edgar Poe have never dreamed of in their morbid visions, has here become a reality.

“In the midst of the town rises the cathedral, a Gothic building of gigantic size. The tower, 100 metres high, bounds the horizon on the west. At the top, at a height which makes the brain reel, four dials, fourteen metres in diameter, are twisted and riddled with bullets. Shells have hollowed out seven holes in the wall.”

Lierre, a town of 26,000 inhabitants, was, like Malines, pitilessly bombarded towards the end of September.

When the cannonade began the inhabitants concealed[63] themselves in cellars, but shortly afterwards they fled. Several among them took refuge in Antwerp. Many houses in the town were destroyed and a certain number of people were wounded. A shell even struck a hospital and killed nine persons.

Bombardment of Mars-la-Tour

The village of Mars-la-Tour, in Lorraine, was bombarded by the Germans on the 16th August, the anniversary of the battle which took place in 1870. They cannonaded the memorial church, Abbé Faller’s Musée patriotique, and the monument to commemorate the battle of 1870. The bombardment lasted a full hour, and took place with mathematical regularity. Only one house was damaged, which proves that the buildings mentioned were the carefully chosen target of the German guns; two persons, an old mechanic and a woman, were fatally injured. The other inhabitants took refuge in the cellars.

Bombardment of Étain

On the 24th August, at one o’clock in the afternoon, the bombardment of Étain began. Suspended for some hours, it began again at nearly eleven p.m. and lasted until two a.m. The results were frightful. The next morning half the town was in ashes; the other half was falling into ruins. The Red Cross hospital in particular was aimed at. The first shell struck down the white flag, while Dr. Proust was operating on the wounded: the latter had to be hidden away in the cellars, whence they were driven to Verdun (Report of Mme. Paul, President of the Committee of the Association des Dames Françaises at Étain).


Bombardment of Albert

The bombardment of Albert took place on the 30th August. We may judge how violent it was from a photograph of the ruins which appeared in L’Illustration for the 10th October. Whole streets disappeared, and the whole Place d’Armes was demolished: the Germans made a target of Notre Dame de Brébières, the basilica which the inhabitants call the Lourdes of the North, and to which so many pilgrimages make their way each year. This church was completely ruined by the sacrilegious fire expressly aimed at it, and the Statue of the Miraculous Virgin which crowned it is to-day thrown down and lies upon the ground. All around there is nothing but building material that has fallen in, half-burnt beams, charred walls, houses without roofs, broken tiles, doors broken in, cut up by grapeshot.

Bombardment of Nancy

The French Commission of Inquiry, in its report, published in the Journal Officiel of the 8th January, 1914, states that the capital of Lorraine was bombarded “without previous warning during the night of the 9th to 10th September. About sixty shells (continues this report) fell on the central and southern-cemetery districts—that is to say, on places where there is no military defence. Three men, a young woman, and a little girl were killed, thirty people were wounded, and serious damage was done.”

“Enemy airmen flew over the town twice. On the 4th September one of them threw two bombs, one of which killed a man and a little girl, and wounded six people on the ‘Place de la Cathédrale.’ On the 13th October three bombs were thrown on the goods station.[65] Four employees of the Eastern Railway Company were wounded.”

First Bombardment of Reims

The story of the first bombardment of Reims was told in the Temps of the 26th October by M. Henriot, who had the opportunity of interviewing an influential resident in the town.

On the 4th September, whilst Zimmer, head of the German Stores Department, was negotiating the terms of a levy to be paid by the village, a shell, says M. Henriot, burst hard by.

“What was that explosion?” cried the German. “You know you have no right to destroy anything.” He thought that the French were blowing up some outwork. Another shell disabused him. Then he thought the French had begun to fire on the town in order to drive the Germans. The local people undeceived him. One of them ran out to the Place and brought back a fragment of shell, which the commissary was compelled to admit was a German missile. Then he was seen to grow pale, nor could he understand how his own troops should engage in such an attack. The white flag was hoisted on one of the belfries of the cathedral: at the same time Zimmer sent a motor to give the order to cease firing. In the space of three-quarters of an hour there fell upon the town 200 shells, which struck Saint-Remi and Saint-André churches, broke down houses, and killed sixty people. That was the first bombardment of Reims, due, as was then believed, to a misunderstanding. Zimmer expressed his regrets for it, and cried in tones of wonder, “What a fine cathedral you have!”


Second Bombardment of Reims (18th to 20th September)

The bombardment of the 4th September took place by order of General Bülow, as a reprisal for the disappearance of two bearers of a flag of truce, MM. Armim and Kimmer, who had been sent by him on the evening before to Reims. On account of these two worthies, who, without fulfilling their mission, had lost their way in the French lines, the town found that it was threatened with the execution of ten hostages, with bombardment, and with a levy of 100 million francs. The second bombardment took place some days afterwards under circumstances of barbarism which will hold it up to the execration of the ages. In the past history of Europe there is nothing to compare with the destruction of the Cathedral of Reims, save that of the Acropolis of Athens by the Venetians. This cathedral was pitilessly bombarded for two days (18th to 20th September): the masterpiece of Gothic art, honoured by the coronation of the kings of France, where Jeanne d’Arc put the crown upon Charles VII in 1429, became the target of destructive shells, hurled by the Vandals.

The following is a faithful account of this event, telegraphed to the Daily Mail by the special correspondent of that paper—

“By artillery fire deliberately aimed at the Cathedral of Reims, the Germans set fire to and burnt the magnificent building, which was not merely the pride of the town, but an historic monument known and admired by the entire world. Of this jewel of architecture there remains only an empty shell, burnt and charred walls. The impression left by this act of hideous[67] vandalism will never leave the memory of those who have had an opportunity of seeing these ruins.

“The sight of flames devouring a wonder which took not less than 150 years to build, and which was respected throughout numberless wars which took place in this part of France, was one which both alarms and haunts the mind. It seemed as if one were present at an attack by some supernatural power, outside humanity: it was like the vision of a work of hell.

“The fire began between four and five o’clock on Saturday afternoon (19th September). All day shells fell in the town. A whole district of the town, 100 metres in extent, was devoured by the fire, and in the majority of streets only blazing houses and buildings were to be seen.

“Even on the evening before (18th September) some shells had accidentally struck the cathedral. On Saturday morning the German batteries of Nogent l’Abbesse, eight kilometres to the east of Reims, started aiming at the cathedral. Shells discharged regularly and without intermission made a breach in it. These huge blocks of stone, which had resisted the storms of several centuries, and might still have braved the assaults of time, sank with a fearful crash like the roll of thunder.

“At 4.30 the scaffolding on a part of the cathedral where repairs were going on took fire. In a moment this mass of woodwork and scaffolding began to blaze like straw. Sparks falling on the roof carried the fire to the old oak beams which support this part of the building. Soon the roofs of the naves and the transepts were nothing but a blazing brazier, and the flames darted out and licked the towers. One of the burning beams fell on a bed of straw which the Germans, as soon as they[68] occupied the town, had spread inside the cathedral to lay their wounded on. At once the confessionals, the chairs, and everything which happened to be inside the building took fire.

“I had left Paris at midday and I had made a detour round Meaux. I did not get as far as Reims until sundown. It was too late to enter the town, but from the hills which surround it, it was possible to get a still more impressive view of the town than what I should have been able to see in the streets themselves.

“From the gaping roof rose red fire and black smoke, and the reflection of the flames glanced upon the glasswork. At last the dead of night came on, but it was not undisturbed for long. At two o’clock in the morning the German batteries reopened fire. By day it is the smoke of the shell which calls attention to the explosion. By night the swift red flashes make a still more terrible spectacle.

“The dawn came, grey and gloomy with a cold rain, and when the shadows were dispelled and light at length glimmered through the dismal leaden-coloured clouds, which rose and brought the plain into view again, the sight of the ravaged city with its ruined cathedral, the walls of which smouldered among houses still in flames, was a spectacle so dismal that the sun in his course can have seen none more wretched in any quarter of the world.”

Damage to the Cathedral of Reims

According to the report of the Commission of Inquiry, which had as President the French Under-Secretary for Fine Arts, and whose task was to prepare official accounts of the damage done to the Reims Cathedral, the following were the results of the bombardment—


“The cathedral was struck by about thirty projectiles which, by actually striking the building or by explosion, pulverised the stonework, smashed the glass, and set fire to everything inflammable.

“Projectiles, fragments of which struck the whole building, for the most part hit the upper part of the north tower, smashing the corner of a turret, scraping the face of the tower, and pressing so hard upon the adjoining masonry as nearly to displace it; one of them carried away the upper support of a flying buttress; another smashed the stonework of some bays sloping up to the tower; another broke up a staircase the steps of which had been cut; still another knocked down part of the balustrade of the principal façade under the rose-window.

“The fire kindled by the shells caused the most serious damage; no vestige of roof is to be seen over the nave, the transepts, the choir, the apse, the aisles: only some chapels kept their covering; but everything else was reduced to ashes, the woodwork, the slates consumed; everywhere lead melted and iron twisted.

“All this debris settled down beneath the vaulted roofs, which, although they evidently suffered by contact with the fire, were not broken in.

“On the other hand, the stonework close to the great gallery at the top of the walls, and of the circular galleries underneath the great glass work, was shattered and charred.

“The belfry was devoured by the flames. The bells, which fell on the lower roof without breaking it in, were partly melted; the louvre-boards were untouched. The flames started by the conflagration, driven over the surfaces by the wind, completely defaced the stonework, throwing down not only some of the statues which[70] decorated the open entrance underneath this particular tower, but also the copings of the arches which rise above the door, crowned by a gable containing a representation of the Crucifixion. The damage extends to the pinnacles that rise above the buttresses as high as the gallery of kings.

“The right side of this portal was less damaged; the other portals were struck by fragments of shells.

“In the interior, where German wounded had been laid out on couches of straw, the fire splintered off the moulding at the bases of the pillars in the nave, setting fire to the tympana of the gates and even to the gates themselves. This fire destroyed the statues placed in the niches of the inner front, right and left of the door of the south entrance. Finally, all the glasswork was damaged by the explosion of projectiles and of splinters which passed through them; half of the upper rose-window and the open-work parts above the north and south entrances were denuded of their stained glass; the rose-window above the central entrance was only riddled.

“To sum up, the cathedral was disfigured in its outlines and in the details of its decoration; if its powerful construction has partly sustained the shock of the projectiles, its wonderful sculptures can never be replaced, and it will bear for ever the imprint of a vandalism beyond all imagination.”

“See also photographs of the burning cathedral in L’Illustration (10th October, 1914. These photographs are genuine historic documents. See also M. P. Gsell’s account in the Liberté of the 24th September and Mr. Bartlett’s in the Daily Telegraph, in L’Illustration of the 26th).”


Other Results of the Second Bombardment of Reims (18th to 20th September)

The cathedral was not the only objective of the second bombardment. Not only were several houses also destroyed and several people killed, amongst others Dr. Jacquin, who lived next door to the mayor, but the Spanish consulate was bombarded, with the result that several neutral subjects met their death, a fact which was noted in a preceding chapter. The town hall, the musée, the sub-prefecture (historic monuments all of them) were almost wholly demolished. An auxiliary hospital of the Société des Sœurs de l’Enfant-Jesus was also cannonaded, and five Red Cross nurses were killed and two others wounded at the bedside of the wounded whom they had under their care.

Fresh Bombardments of the Cathedral of Reims (20th to 27th November)

After the 20th September, and in spite of the universal indignation aroused by the outrage which they had committed, the Germans continued the bombardment of Reims without intermission. But it was not until the last days of the month of November that the cathedral suffered fresh damage.

On the 23rd November a shell struck and went right through a bell-turret in the south tower at the top; on the 27th another shell, falling between the south buttresses, burst on the vault of the aisle. A third shell which fell on the vaults above the south apse, brought down a great deal of plaster in the church. A huge shell, which fell to the right of the cathedral, a little in front of the façade, damaged three statues over the small entrance to the right which until then had escaped.[72] It was but one of many other calamities and one which completed the ruin of an historic monument. After the 20th November other shells destroyed a pinnacle, a part of the upper gallery in the apse and a part of this gallery beside the Salle des Rois.

Of the archbishop’s palace and the musées there remain, in a word, only the walls.

As for the statues in the cathedral which appear unharmed, they are burnt right through and crumble away at the touch. The crime of the barbarians is complete.

The Bombardment of the Cathedral of Reims is Inexcusable

In the words of M. Delcassé, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the protest addressed by him to the governments of neutral states on the morning after the first bombardment, the Germans committed this crime “without being able to appeal even to the appearance of military necessity and for the mere lust of destruction.”

Nevertheless the Germans tried to justify it by alleging—

(1) That by means of strong entrenchments the French had made Reims the chief corner-stone of their defence, and thus forced Germans to attack the town by every means.

(2) That by the order of the German higher command, the cathedral was to be spared as long as the enemy did not utilise it to his own advantage; but in spite of the white flag which had been hoisted upon it from the 20th September, the Germans declared that there was on the cathedral towers[73] an observation post which assisted the operations of the French artillery.

(3) That as soon as this post was destroyed the German field artillery ceased firing.

(4) That only the roof of the cathedral was burnt, while the towers and the framework of the building were uninjured. (This statement goes back to the 21st September and emanates from the German chief headquarters.)

(5) Finally, that the fire was due to the scaffolding erected in front of the cathedral to carry out some repairs, and that when beams which had caught fire had fallen on the roof, the French had done nothing to put out the fire.

These several excuses are worthless—

(1) General Joffre has formally declared that “at no time did the military commandant of Reims place any observation post on the towers of the cathedral.”

(2) It was not on the 20th, but on the 4th September, on the day of the first bombardment of Reims by the Germans, that the white flag was hoisted on the cathedral.

(3) One wants to know to what moment the Germans assign the destruction of the alleged observation post on the cathedral. According to them, if this observation post had been destroyed they would have stopped the bombardment. Now, although for a long time every observation post had been made impossible, the fire still continued.

(4) The report, quoted above, of the Commission des Beaux Arts, refutes the German assertion about[74] the seriousness of the damage caused up to the evening of the 21st September.

(5) Do not let us forget to recall the fact that, ten days before the bombardment, the German censorship permitted the Frankfurter Zeitung (of the 8th September) to recommend respect for French cathedrals, “especially that of Reims, which is one of the finest in the world, which, since the Middle Ages, has been especially dear to Germans, since the master of Bamberg was inspired by the statues on its portals to design several of his figures, and which, like the other magnificent churches of France, must be respected and treated with veneration by the Germans, as was the case with their fathers in 1870.” However, the censorship did not prevent the appearance of the sinister warning, three days previously, in the Berliner Tageblatt, in these words: “The western group of the Imperial Armies has already passed the second line of forts, except Reims, whose royal splendour, dating from the time of the white lily, will surely and soon crumble in the dust under the strokes of our 420 howitzers.”

The criminal responsibility of the commandant of the German forces has, therefore, been proved in this matter.

Public Opinion throughout the World roused to Indignation by the Bombardment of the Cathedral of Reims

It is difficult to describe the indignation roused throughout all countries of the civilised world by the bombardment of the cathedral of Reims. The newspapers of the whole planet were its living mouthpieces.


In Italy a number of learned institutions sent protests, either to the French Embassy at Rome or directly to the German authorities.

The Association of Artists, especially, held a reunion, at which the most distinguished critics and artists of Italy were present, and which passed unanimously a resolution of protest.

The Giornale d’Italia, echoing the indignation of its country, declared that “this act destroyed all the ingenious and fertile excuses for Germany’s methods of war,” and that “no act of reparation could wipe out this act of purposeless barbarism, a crazy exhibition of wounded vanity and ruffled pride.”

In Greece the newspapers were unanimous in stigmatising German vandalism. Nea Hellas wrote: “In the name of art, in the name of the Parthenon half destroyed by the fire of the Venetian Morosini, Greece, the mother of civilised nations, appeals to belligerents to respect treasures of art, and asks the Germans to cease to dishonour their country.”

In Spain the destruction of the cathedral of Reims partly destroyed the long preparation of Spanish opinion which had been carried on in favour of Germany. The indignation of Spaniards was faithfully expressed by an article in the Libéral, in which the following words occur: “It seemed that the universal anathema heaped upon the Germans after the destruction of Louvain would have restrained their acts of unjustifiable destruction. The Emperor appeared to feel sorry in his letter of apologies addressed to the President of the United States; but his soldiers surpassed themselves, and the appalling barbarism of their achievement is unexampled in history.”

Finally, in America not only the general public but the Government were profoundly moved by the news[76] of the bombardment of one of the finest cathedrals in the world. The American Consul at Lausanne was instructed by his Government, on the day after the crime, to go to Reims and make an inquiry on the spot. As for American newspapers, the following are extracts from them—

The Tribune said: “The destruction of the fine monument of the Middle Ages is an act of vandalism which puts German military methods on a level with those of the Goths and the Huns. The crime of destroying this venerable pile was committed by a nation which claims that its mission is to impose its civilisation on the rest of the world. By violating the laws of war, Germany is encouraging other nations to do the same.”

The World said: “Prussian militarism has outdone everything previously seen in the category of vandalism. Throughout the centuries, since the destruction of the Parthenon, the world has known no such act.”

The Sun said: “In spite of the regrets which Germany pretends to express, we cannot fail to draw the conclusion that the cathedral of Reims was the target of a deliberate attempt to destroy.”

Bombardment of Gerbeviller

The following are other examples of bombardments at this period, which were carried out at places less known, but in which the aim to destroy at any cost, by any means, and in violation of every law stands no less emphatically self-condemned. Of the picturesque little village of Gerbeviller there remains only a heap of stones, dust and ashes. The Germans bombarded it mercilessly in the month of August. Possibly this[77] bombardment was due to necessity, but the precise aim of the German guns, posted in the outskirts of the village, reveals the criminal design at work. The village church was the chief object aimed at: it was burnt down by shell fire, the pretty palatine chapel demolished, and the château completely wiped out.

Bombardment of Dompierre-aux-Bois

On the 22nd September the Germans forced a way into Dompierre-aux-Bois. They entered each house with fixed bayonets, made all the men come out, and then shut them up in the church. On the following day it was the women’s and children’s turn, and so these poor people found they were compelled to face the fire of the German artillery which was let loose in the village. Men, women, children and old folk were, for five long days without ceasing, exposed to a rain of bombs and shells.

On the 27th September the Germans lay in ambush in the country behind Troyon so as to be able to fire on the fort from which the French were bombarding them. During the artillery duel which followed, the Germans thought it well not to forget the wretched people of Dompierre-aux-Bois, who were still shut up in the church. About five p.m. they fired at the church and a shell fell upon it. Forty persons were killed or wounded by the hand of the same people who forced them to stay in this spot, and who, from being their gaolers, made themselves their executioners.

Bombardment of Recquignies

According to the evidence of Dr. Barbey (Echo de Paris of the 20th January), the first German shells[78] fired at Recquignies, in the beginning of the month of September, were aimed at the brewery, which the Red Cross flag upon it plainly marked as a refuge for the wounded. Four inhabitants were killed and two others were wounded.

Bombardment of Soissons

The town of Soissons was bombarded from the 13th to the 17th September almost without intermission. The post office and the Grand Seminaire are in ruins. The cemetery quarter of the town was set on fire. Happily the cathedral suffered little. But the Germans deliberately and with precise aim fired at the hospital. This bombardment was without any reason that could be admitted, for the town ought to have been protected from artillery, as the Germans occupied the hills to the north of the town when the French troops had taken a position to the south-east and did not discharge a single shell at it.

From the month of September the bombardment of Soissons was interrupted: it began again in the month of January. The Germans aimed their fire on the hospitals, the ambulances, and especially on all places where the wounded were gathered. During the bombardment, which was carried on almost every day in the month of January, the cathedral suffered a great deal; it was reckoned that in eight hours seventy-five shells of large calibre were fired at the building. The entrance, the pulpit, and one of the columns of the spire were ruined, and one of the bells broken. On the 15th January a young girl was killed in the Rue de la Barde, and many children fell victims to German barbarism.


Bombardment of Sampigny

On the 15th September and the 8th October the Germans, with the desire to wreak revenge, bombarded the private residence of M. Poincaré, the President of the French Republic. The second bombardment, in the course of which forty-eight shells were discharged at this residence, brought about its complete destruction.

It is well to note that this destruction was nevertheless denied by the Wolff agency, which declared that the story was a myth, and added that if the site upon which this residence stood had been burned, it could only have been done by the French artillery itself.

Bombardment of Arras

The town of Arras was included, during the month of October, in the theatre of military operations. The Germans found a pretext for destroying it by two bombardments, one on the 6th, the other on the 20th and 21st October, which sowed destruction and death in this town.

The first bombardment of Arras, which may be compared to that at Reims, was meant to destroy the town hall, a miracle of Flemish art, built at the beginning of the seventeenth century, one of the finest ornaments of northern France.

“On the 6th October, at six a.m.,” said the Liberté of the 16th October, “the first shells fell near the railway station. A little afterwards a bomb fell on the roof of the town hall. All day long the guns belched forth death, destruction and terror. The inhabitants took refuge in the cellars, and even the wretched wounded also had to be brought down into[80] them, for, disregarding the Red Cross, the Germans plied with machine-guns all the streets round the town hall, in which there were several hospitals and ambulances.

“The Hôpital St. Jean was the scene of a frightful accident. A whole storey collapsed under the shells. A nun and some wounded happened to be in the storey below, and were buried underneath the ruins. It was not possible to recover their bodies until the evening, when the assassins of the Kaiser had ceased bombardment.

“The musée, the cathedral, the Church of St. John the Baptiste, the old Convent of the Holy Sacrament, with its seventeenth-century campanile, and the Ursuline belfry (a reproduction of the old reliquary of the Holy Candle) were damaged. The shells fired at the cathedral pierced its roof in two places and laid bare the vault.”

The town hall alone was struck by nine-tenths of the explosive shells thrown at Arras. Finally, the two old towers, so stately and so peculiar in appearance, which were all that was left of the old abbey founded by Saint Eloi, in the village of that name near Arras, were demolished by the Germans, who bombarded them without any excuse, for the mere pleasure of destruction.

The Germans cannot pretend that they did not know the site of all these monuments, nor that of the hospitals of Arras, for they had occupied the town one day in the beginning of September. No more can they allege that the French had made use of the quarter destroyed by them for attack or for self-defence, for this part of the town is in a hollow, which an army would never try to utilise.


As for the second bombardment of Arras (20th to 21st October), it was aimed at the belfry, the incomparable monument of the town which alone remained standing above the centre of the town hall. The building fell on the 21st, at eleven a.m., having been cut off close from the ancient roof of the structure round about it.

The Outrage on Notre-Dame of Paris

German aeroplanes made frequent moves towards Paris, of which we have already spoken. The outrage of the 11th October, 1914, deserves special mention, for this time the machine aimed at the cathedral. An incendiary bomb was dropped on Notre-Dame. This bomb set fire to one of the inner beams of the roof, smashed six of the stays of the north transept, and riddled with grapeshot the glass frame of the clock in the same transept.

This outrage, coming after that at Reims, roused fresh protests from neutral countries. The Messagero of Rome (13th October) declared, and with reason, that “the murder of peaceful citizens and the crime of throwing bombs on Notre-Dame need no comment.” These acts, the paper added, are a fresh crime against humanity and against art for which the civilised world will demand an account from the German people.

Bombardment of Hazebrouck

About the middle of November Hazebrouck suffered bombardment by a German aeroplane: a bomb killed a railway worker named Georges Demonvaux, and wounded two other people. The aviator came a second time, an hour afterwards, and threw three[82] more bombs, aiming at the English and French Red Cross hospitals, which, fortunately, were only slightly injured.

Finally, to bring to an end the list of cruel bombardments, let us put on record that of Houplines (15th December), where fifty civilians were killed and St. Paul’s Church was destroyed; those of Dunkirk (24th December and 22nd January), where, besides the murder of many civilians, the United States Consul was wounded, and the consulates of the United States, Norway and Uruguay were damaged. The hospital was also struck by bombs. Finally, let us note the bombardment of Béthune, which was carried on almost without intermission, which caused the death of ten people, and which was aimed at the hospital, in the court of which a shell had fallen and burst.

The bombardment of Libau (in Courlande) is to be added to the foregoing. On the 28th March a German aeroplane caused the death of several persons and wounded a little girl. Let us add also that of Calais, where, quite recently, a Zeppelin damaged Notre-Dame Church. A chapel of the latter, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, had its vault broken in and its stained-glass windows shattered. These were of great artistic merit and represented scenes of the Crucifixion.



The Wounded, the Red Cross, and the Geneva Convention

What is the aim and object of battles between belligerent powers? To put out of action as large a number as possible of enemy soldiers, and thus, as much as may be, to break the enemy’s resistance. That, at least, is the conception of the aim of war entertained by all civilised nations, since only barbarians, from desire for revenge, from blindness and brutality, would seek to do injury for its own sake, and to seize the opportunity of a state of war to gratify their instincts for plunder. This conception, let us repeat, Germany, like all other nations, has countersigned in solemn covenants.

Nevertheless, the aims which this war is laying bare in them are contrary to these pledges.

In fact, we see Germany deliberately killing either those whom she could prevent from doing her any injury by keeping them as prisoners, or even those who were non-combatants. Some have thought that the Germans aimed, in a manner, at the annihilation of the race in nations hostile to Germany. It would be dreadful if this were the case. As for ourselves, we shall neither say that this has not been proved nor that it is impossible. What is certain is that the number of outrages committed by Germany can only be explained by a deliberate attempt at barbaric destruction.


Beyond question they have attempted to damage the property of the enemy. Pillage in their eyes has not been one of the more or less inevitable concomitants of war: it has been one of its deliberate aims. Moreover, the policy of terrorisation is a part of their general plan of action. In their view fear is a good ally of invasion, and in order to reap all the advantage of it they have left untried no form of violence or even of cruelty.

Besides, we are not here concerned with policy shaped from above, by the Government or the higher command: in the rank and file we may take everything for granted. “Let us kill them all: there will be so many the fewer left.” Who knows how often this monstrous thought has entered the brain of people whose cruelty and violence is a part of their plans of war? How often has it not been a necessity to kill, as to sack, in order to overthrow, to reduce, to weaken an enemy nation not merely in war, but in general, and even as regards the future in which rehabilitation might be anticipated. But civilised nations look to treaties to prevent the rehabilitation of the enemy. By looting and robbing industrial establishments, the property of private individuals, the Germans showed that their peculiar method was to try to prevent it by war itself, to draw up a schedule of barbarism which by its very nature endangers life itself, which includes murder as well as pillage. Thus we understand how the Germans, both in theory and practice, have violated the most widely accepted conventions which, in the midst of the havoc of war, limit the right to kill either civilians or soldiers.

To begin with, the present chapter will be devoted to the complete denial of the principles of humanity laid down in the Geneva Convention. We reserve the right of discussion in subsequent chapters of the questions of[85] the treatment of prisoners, of the massacre of civilians, etc. The violation of that part of the Convention of Geneva which bears upon the wounded and the Red Cross is, in fact, a deliberate crime, without any extenuating circumstances; it is inexcusable and unpardonable.

What are the terms of the Convention of Geneva? That “soldiers and other persons officially attached to armies shall, when wounded or sick, be respected and taken care of by the belligerent in whose power they may be, without distinction of nationality.” The latter, therefore, must look for and collect the sick and wounded, and prevent every act by any third party which might do them injury. These sick and wounded will be prisoners of war, but “prisoners who must be taken care of.” As for people attached to the Red Cross, it was declared, and Germany and Austria-Hungary subscribed both to this and to the preceding stipulations, that “the personnel engaged exclusively in the collection, transport and treatment of the wounded and sick, as well as in the administration of medical units and establishments, and the chaplains attached to armies, shall be respected and protected under all circumstances; if they fall into the hands of the enemy they shall not be treated as prisoners of war.”

Principles of the Geneva Convention which Germans have violated

We have already stated in the preceding chapter how seldom the Germans have carried out these principles, for, contrariwise, they have deliberately aimed their artillery at establishments for the shelter of the wounded, the sick, and the hospital services. This fact is not the only one which shows the contempt displayed by the[86] Germans for the Geneva Convention. It seems that they have eagerly seized upon every opportunity which presented itself to violate this convention in every way. Not only have the wounded who fell into their hands not been properly treated by them, but in many instances these wounded have been put to death. Sometimes, before killing them, they treated themselves to the enjoyment of making them suffer. It is scarcely credible, but it is true, that in more than one case the killing of the wounded assumed the form of a command issued by the officers themselves. We have said that the Germans have also fired on ambulances. They have killed and ill-treated Red Cross nurses, male and female, and the doctors engaged on Red Cross work.

Killing of the Wounded ordered by Officers

The German wounded are many. It followed, therefore, that the German medical service was disinclined to encumber itself with relays of enemy wounded. Perhaps this is also the reason why orders were given to the soldiers to kill the wounded. General Stenger issued, on the 26th August, an order of the day giving instructions to make no more prisoners and to leave no living man behind. The authenticity of this order, the full text of which we give in the next chapter, was confirmed by the evidence of German prisoners.

The prisoners cross-examined, says the Temps, which reported the depositions, belong to the 112th and 142nd infantry regiments. They were put on oath and signed the report of their examination. A soldier of the 142nd deposed that, on the 26th August, about three o’clock, he was in the van of his battalion in the forest of Thiaville when the company order giving instructions to[87] kill the wounded was sent along the ranks and repeated from man to man.

This prisoner added that as soon as this order was passed round, ten or twelve French wounded who were lying here and there round about the battalion were dispatched with rifle shots.

Another prisoner in the same regiment deposed that, on the 26th August, he saw a cavalry officer, unknown to him, come and give the order in question as coming from headquarters. Immediately afterwards rifle shots were heard coming from the head of the detachment in front of him.

A soldier of the 112th declared that he heard, on the 26th August, Captain Curtins, in command of the 3rd Company, say that henceforth no more wounded were to be made prisoners. Shortly afterwards he heard rifle shots fired at the French wounded who happened to be lying along the roads.

Another soldier of the 112th gave evidence that on the same day, between four and five o’clock, some French wounded who happened to be on the sides of the road from Thiaville to Saint Benoit, were killed by order of the commander of the 1st battalion.

About twenty German soldiers who were cross-examined admitted that this order had been given, but without giving details about the manner in which it had been carried out. Some prisoners, who did not know even in the field about the company order of the day, declared that they were subsequently informed of it by their comrades.

Moreover, the German soldier Karl Johannes Kaltenochner (9th company of the regiment of Count Bülow of Tervuenwist), who deserted and took refuge in Holland, declared in the Telegraaf of Amsterdam (Temps[88] of 3rd January, 1915) that when Turcos were made prisoners the German officers did not take the trouble to send them to any place behind the lines, and gave orders to the soldiers to shoot them. He quoted Major Botwitz as having given orders to kill two Turco prisoners. It is not, then, to be wondered at that the soldier who made this disclosure accompanied it with the declaration “that the German soldiers have become like wild animals and think only of killing and pillaging.”

Finally, in the hospital at Nancy two German soldiers who were under treatment there made similar confessions. One of them, who had a wound in the stomach, confided to Dr. Rohmer that it had been caused by a revolver-shot from his officer, because he declined to kill a wounded Frenchman. The other, who was wounded in the back by a shot fired point-blank, declared to Dr. Weiss that, in obedience to the order of an officer, a soldier had fired on him to punish him for having carried several wounded Frenchmen into a village not far from the battlefield.

French and Belgian Officers killed by the Germans

The number of officers killed by Germans on the different battlefields to which the war has extended is certainly greater than one would think. The following are two attested instances—

On the 9th August, at Ormael in Belgium, the Belgian Commandant Knapen, who was already wounded, was killed.

On the 12th August, after the battle of Haelen in Belgium, the Germans killed, by a revolver-shot in the mouth, Commandant Van Daume, who had been seriously wounded.


On the 22nd August, at Gommery (Belgian Luxemburg) M. Charles Deschars, former commercial attaché of France at Berlin, was killed under the following disgraceful circumstances. M. Deschars, an interpreter lieutenant at the headquarters of General Trentinian, had been wounded at the battle of Elbe, in Belgian Luxemburg, on the 22nd August. On that day he had to be left at an ambulance in the village of Gommery. In the evening came a German troop belonging to the 47th infantry regiment, in command of a non-commissioned officer. The latter pretended that a shot had been fired at his platoon. He asked for an interpreter, and M. Ch. Deschars came down, helped by attendants. He went up to the German non-commissioned officer, and the latter, after exchanging some words with him, drew a revolver and blew out his brains.

After this murder the German platoon gave itself up to all sorts of excesses. Dr. Vaissières, who happened to be in the ambulance, was killed. Dr. Sedillot, surgeon-major of the 1st class, was wounded. The majority of the wounded were killed.

A similar crime took place during an engagement between French dragoons and German light cavalry. A French lieutenant, who afterwards told the story in the Matin of the 22nd August, finding he was wounded, called for help. A German came up and, seeing that he had to deal with an officer, appealed to his commandant, M. de Schaffenberg, of the Trèves light cavalry. The latter went behind the French lieutenant, took his cavalry revolver, and at point blank shot him in the stomach. The French officer’s orderly was spared only because Commandant de Schaffenberg thought he was dead.


Wounded Soldiers tortured before being put to Death

The German crime of killing enemy wounded assumes a still more dreadful aspect when it is committed only after the victims have suffered cruel treatment. The tortures inflicted on the wounded argue an exceptional ferocity in those who are guilty of them, and yet such cases are not rare.

On the 16th August, at Dinant, French soldiers were found with their heads smashed in by the butt-ends of rifles. On the 25th August, at Hofstade in Belgium, a soldier who had been slightly wounded was also killed by blows from the butt-end of a rifle. In a wood not far from the road to Malines, at Tervueren, eighteen Belgian riflemen were killed by bayonet thrusts in the head. One of the French wounded, who had been taken again by the French troops and then left at Besançon, had been struck on the head and sides with blows from the butt-end of a rifle and kicked. A German soldier had dragged him along the ground. Beside him another wounded Frenchman was dispatched with bayonet thrusts. The Belgian quartermaster Beaudin van de Kerchove (5th lancers), who had been wounded by two German bullets at the battle of Orsmael, on the 20th August, was also tortured. The French sergeant Lemerre, who had been wounded in the leg at Rembercourt by a bursting shell, was left on the ground for eight days by the German ambulance, who had, however, seen him. On the fourth day, on the order of an officer who, revolver in hand, was crossing the field of battle, this non-commissioned officer was wounded again by a rifle shot fired by a soldier.

The French Commission of Inquiry on their part quote three cases of torture inflicted on the wounded—


“On the evening of the 25th August,” say the Commission in their report, the Abbé Denis, Curé of Reméreville, tended Lieutenant Toussaint, who had only left the forestry school in the previous month of July. As he lay wounded on the field of battle, this young officer had been bayoneted by all the Germans who had passed by him. His body was one great wound from head to foot.

“At the Nancy hospital we saw Private Voger of the infantry regiment, who was still bearing the marks of German barbarism. Seriously wounded in the spinal column, in front of the forest of Champenoux, on the 24th August, and paralysed in both legs as a result of his wound, he had remained lying on his stomach, when a German soldier brutally turned him over with his rifle and struck him three times with the butt on the head. Others, who were passing near him, also struck him with the butt-ends of their rifles and kicked him.

“Finally, one of them with a single stroke made a wound below and three or four centimetres from each eye with the help of an instrument which the victim could not distinguish, but which in the opinion of Dr. Weiss, chief physician and professor of the faculty of Nancy, must have been a pair of scissors.”

These facts appear difficult of belief. Nevertheless a confession of similar deeds has been made by German soldiers; for example, Paul Gloede, of the 9th battalion of Pioneers (9th corps), actually writes in his notebook: “Mutilation of the wounded is the order of the day.”

Published Admission by Germans

These acts of German troops did not always make Germans ashamed. On the contrary, in certain cases they even thought it was a clever thing to boast about[92] it. For instance, a story, which had come from the German non-commissioned officer Klemt (154th infantry regiment, 1st company), was published in a newspaper of Jauer in Silesia on the 18th October, 1914. The paper even put as a marginal note the following phrase “The 24th September, 1914, a day of honour for our troops.” In his pamphlet, German Crimes according to German Evidence, M. Bédier has put on record the non-commissioned officer’s story.

“We bludgeon and transfix the wounded,” says the wretch, “for we know that these scoundrels, when we have passed by, would fire at our backs. There lies at full length a Frenchman, face to the ground, but he is shamming death. A kick from the foot of a stout fusilier lets him know that we are there. Turning round, he asks for quarter, but we say to him, ‘That is how, you ⸺, your tools work,’ and we pin him to the ground. Beside me, I hear strange crashing noises. They are blows from the butt-end of a rifle which a soldier of the 154th regiment is vigorously applying to a Frenchman’s bald head: very cleverly he used a French rifle for his work, lest he should break his own. Men with exceptionally tender hearts do the French wounded the favour of finishing them off with a bullet, but others distribute as many cuts and thrusts as they can. Our opponents had fought bravely: they were picked troops whom we had in front of us: they let us come as close as thirty and even ten metres to them: too close. Knapsacks and arms thrown in a heap prove that they wanted to take to flight, but at sight of the ‘grey phantoms,’ terror paralysed their limbs, and on the narrow path which they were taking the German bullet brought them the order to ‘halt.’ At the entrance to their hiding-place of boughs of trees they lie,[93] groaning and asking for quarter. But, whether they were lightly or seriously wounded, the fusiliers spare the fatherland the expensive attentions which would have to be given to a crowd of enemies.”

The non-commissioned officer adds that Prince Oscar of Prussia, on being informed of the exploits of the 154th and of the regiment which with the 154th forms a brigade, declared they were both worthy of the name “King’s Brigade.” “When evening came,” he continued, “with a prayer of thanks upon our lips we fell asleep in expectation of the following day.” Then, having added by way of postscript a little bit of verse, “Return from Battle,” he brings the whole, prose and verse, to his lieutenant, who countersigns it, “Certified to be correct, De Niem, lieutenant and company commander.”

German Murder of People attached to the Medical Service and the Red Cross

No more than the wounded were people engaged in tending or transporting the wounded spared by the Germans.

We have said that in bombardments no distinction was made between Red Cross establishments and the others. But even outside these cases the Geneva Convention was so frequently violated that we are driven to attach no credence to the excuses invented in case of bombardment.

Enemy doctors, nurses male and female, ambulance workers have been often ill-treated, wounded and even killed by the Germans. We have noted one case, in reporting the murder of the French lieutenant Deschars who had been previously wounded. It is not the only one.


M. Pierre Nothomb reports several in his pamphlet, Belgique Martyre. We must also remember the testimony given by Dr. Barbey (Echo de Paris of the 20th January, 1915). Speaking of the cruelties committed by the Germans at Recquignies (Nord), this doctor says—

“On the afternoon of the 6th September German soldiers came to the ambulance; they were very much excited: two of them caught hold of me brutally and another presented his rifle at me. I explained to them that they were in a temporary hospital, where there were no arms, which was true, and, moreover, all arms had been punctiliously given up by the civilians at the beginning of the siege. The Boches searched everywhere without finding anything. Then they went off, leading the eight attendants and stretcher-bearers, whom, as they pretended, they needed to bring their wounded to Boussois. The little company set out. As they were passing before my house, which was still uninjured, the Germans, revolver in hand, compelled attendant Jus to set fire to it. They did the same with the mayor’s house, which was next door to mine.

“On the way back from this expedition, as the eight attendants, who all the time had been surrounded by Boches, were going along the railway-line from Paris to Cologne, the leader of the detachment suddenly caused a halt: the French soldiers were lined along the bank: they were ordered to raise their arms and they obeyed.

“‘Shoot them,’ commanded the leader. A volley rang out. The eight men fell. Without troubling further about them the bandits went off at once, shouting, for they were drunk… Fortunately, so drunk, in fact, that their bullets had nearly all missed.[95] Only four of our attendants were wounded: Private Hacrien; Private Caudren, who had his leg broken; a private who was a native of Perenchies, and who had a bullet through his thigh, and a fourth private who sustained a not very serious wound on the knee. When the Boches were gone the four attendants, who were unhurt and who had been shamming death, lifted up their comrades and brought them to the ambulance.

“On the following day all the wounded under treatment in this ambulance were brought, without food, to Beaumont in Belgium, where a kindly major had them collected in a convent which had been transformed into a hospital. There I left them, as I had been authorised to go back alone to France.

“I set out on foot, without a copper, on an empty stomach. On the way, I met with a German patrol; without parley, the savages belaboured me with the butt-ends of their rifles and left me for dead, having just stripped me of all I had left—namely, my clothes.”

M. Herriot, Mayor of Lyon, on his part, in a letter to a French minister, declares that “he knows ten French doctors whose ambulances had been bombarded and their attendants killed,” and that “the Chief Rabbi of Lyon was killed as he was endeavouring to get the wounded out through the window of an ambulance which had been set on fire by shells.”

On the other hand, the French Commission of Inquiry states in its report that, on the 25th August, at Einvaux some Germans had opened fire at 300 metres on Dr. Millet, surgeon-major of the colonial regiment, just when, with the help of two bearers, he was dressing the wounds of a man who was lying on a stretcher. As his left side was turned to them they saw his brassard[96] perfectly. Besides, they could not have been mistaken about the kind of job on which the three men were engaged.

“At Xivry-Circourt,” writes M. Bonne, senior curé of Étain, in a report which he drew up, “the Germans seized an ambulance and a convoy of wounded, only the first carriage of which succeeded in escaping, in a hail of bullets.”

In a report on the outrages and crimes committed by the Germans at Arras, M. Briens, prefect of the Department of Pas de Calais, remarks: “The most painful feelings have been roused by the taking away of all the wounded under treatment at the hospitals whom it was possible to carry… The surgeon-majors of the Medical Service and the Red Cross attendants were attached to this convoy of prisoners.”

Finally, before Lunéville, a French Red Cross nurse, Mme. Prudennec, while on the look-out for wounded on the battlefields, tended a German officer who, to show his gratitude, gave her a sabre thrust in return. The nurse was injured in the leg, and for five days remained wounded in the hands of the Prussians. But when the time came for them to retreat the Germans left behind the nurse (who was unable to walk), and so it came to pass that she was saved by French soldiers.



By common consent good treatment of prisoners of war is a law imposed on civilised nations. American instructions, in their article 56, do but put into words the feelings of civilised mankind when they say, “A prisoner of war must suffer no penalty in so far as he is a public enemy; no suffering, no dishonour will be intentionally imposed upon him by way of reprisal, neither imprisonment, nor deprivation of food, nor mutilation, nor death, nor any barbarous treatment.” Such is the line of conduct which belligerents long have followed in this matter; such is the idea they entertain of their duty in war.

The German Idea

In the present war, however, we have seen the Germans change all that: in this respect, as in so many others, they have shown unmitigated contempt for current conceptions of war. They have been seen to vent their hatred and desire for vengeance upon a prisoner. Therein is the reaction of a feeling of cruel pride. Have not the prisoners of war who fall into German hands committed the crime of offering resistance to the actions of the first people in the world? Consequently, M. Pierre Nothomb remarks, in his book, Belgique Martyre, “in the hands of the German a prisoner is not a soldier who has been unlucky, but a victim who is to endure his hatred.”


Germany took good care not to advertise this principle. It would have been too open a violation of the law of nations, and, besides, it would have exposed her to reprisals. Prisoners who surrendered in a body were spared up to a certain point. But the case was different with prisoners taken in little groups. Towards them, because their fate was more obscure, and the manner in which they were treated might appear to involve less responsibility for the whole system, no ill-treatment and cruelty, from insults to death, were omitted. They were jeered at, and from mockery their tormentors went on to blows and wounds.


At Camperhout (in Belgium) the Germans amused themselves with imposing on the prisoners fatigue-duty, in the course of which the latter were struck on the slightest pretext. A Greek, who was a volunteer in the French army, has told what happened, in a letter to the Nea Himera at Athens. “There were eight hundred prisoners of us, five of whom were Greeks. We were brought before German officers, who ordered us to undress. Then they had us tied with ropes and whipped by six German soldiers.”

They were undressed and stripped of what they had. “When I was able to get my clothes again,” said the same witness, “I found that a sum of 3850 francs and an old gold medal had disappeared.”


At the same time that vengeance was being taken on the prisoners, attempts were made to extract from them information which would be useful for carrying[99] on the war. They were questioned as to what they had seen, as to the enemy forces and the positions occupied by them, and in general on all military or strategic questions on which they might be supposed to have knowledge, as an hour previously they had been in the trenches. Sometimes, in order to obtain information like this, they were content to resort to a ruse; on other occasions they went as far as threats followed by actions.

Despicable German officers dared to cross-examine prisoners whom they had just made. Brought bound before the officers, the prisoners found they were ordered to reply under penalty of being tortured and killed. Near Aerschot, a Belgian soldier, who had been made a prisoner, understood that he was asked in this manner, by an officer and three soldiers, where were his regiment and the body of his troops. This soldier, who had refused to reply, was thrown to the ground, kicked, and finally abandoned, still tied with ropes.

On the 29th March the Germans took prisoner, north of Mychinetz, a Russian non-commissioned officer, Paphyre Panasiouk, and tortured him in the presence of ten German officers, who tried to drag information from him about the positions of the Russian troops. Having refused to act as a traitor to the advantage of his enemies, the wretched non-commissioned officer had the lobe of his right ear cut off by a German officer, who then, in four strokes, cut off the top of the ear, leaving only a piece of cartilage round the auricular passage. In the meantime, another officer was mutilating his nose, separating the cartilage from the bone, and biting him. This torture lasted for a whole hour, and the victim, who afterwards succeeded in giving[100] his guards the slip, was placed in hospital at Warsaw, where the doctors photographed his mutilated face.


In other places prisoners were shot. In an official note of the Russian Government, a German officer was mentioned by name as having formally given the order to hang all Cossacks who should be made prisoner. This was Major Modeiski, of the German cuirassiers. In confirmation of the fact, it was stated that in many places Cossack prisoners had been hanged, shot or killed by bayonet thrusts; at Radom, in the middle of October, an officer and four Cossacks; at Ratchki, a Cossack; at Monastijisk, four Cossacks; at Tapilovka, the Cossack Jidkof, who had been made prisoner at Souvalki, etc.

At Chabatz, sixty Serbian soldiers, who had been made prisoner, were massacred, and in the Belfort region a large number of French prisoners were undressed by the Germans, who exposed them naked to French bullets, and threw others into the canal, only to take them out again and throw them in once more.

At Namur, during the retreat, Parfonnery, an infantryman, was made prisoner with a group of soldiers. “Their hands were tied behind their backs, they were bound together four by four; they were compelled to march all day, being struck with the flat of the sword and the butt-end of the rifle, and finally were thrown into the cellars of the Château Saint-Gérard.” Elsewhere another Belgian prisoner, who rebelled against this ill-treatment, had his neck twisted by his guards.

At Dixmude, Lieutenant Poncin (of the 12th Belgian Regiment of the Line) was shot after having been bound round the middle by a wire tied about ten times[101] round his legs. On the 6th September a Belgian cavalryman, who had been made prisoner, was disarmed, then bound and had his bowels opened with bayonet thrusts. Near Sempst the Germans opened the bowels of two Belgian carabineers and pulled out their entrails; at Tamine the Germans tied a French officer to the trunk of a tree and harnessed horses to each of his legs. By forcing the horses to run, the wretched man was torn asunder. These latter facts are reported in M. Pierre Nothomb’s book. At Saenski (in the Souvalki area) a Cossack was burnt alive on the first of October. Other Russian prisoners also were condemned to die of hunger. In other places Cossacks were condemned to dig their graves and were shot.

German Admissions

In September 1914, when the Russians were forced to evacuate eastern Prussia before the advancing Germans, they had recourse to what was an indisputable right by making unusable such provisions as they could not carry away. In this way enormous quantities of bread were wet with petrol by orders from headquarters, so that the enemy could get no advantage from it. The Frankfurter Zeitung of the 8th October recorded this act as a crime which deserved punishment. Under the heading “A Just Punishment,” this paper had the hardihood to tell of the vengeance which the Germans enacted for it. The stores were at Insterbourg. The Russians, wrote the Frankfurter Zeitung, had reckoned without General Hindenburg’s sense of humour. When this general was informed of the matter, he said, “There is no accounting for tastes. The Russians have their tastes. This bread will do to feed Russian prisoners of war until these[102] provisions are exhausted.” Let us not forget to notice the style of this article. This expression of the most cruel wrath, and of the keenest thirst for vengeance, is called “humour.” And in what journal? In one of the most influential and most moderate organs in Germany. There can be no more striking admission both of the acts of cruelty and of the barbaric passion which instigated them.

A perusal of the confession of these abominations, a confession, too, made in such terms, gives a better idea of the character and aims of this nation.

General Stenger, to whom we have already referred, the commander of the 38th Brigade, gave instructions for the massacre of the wounded in an order of the day which we reproduce verbatim, and which is so abominable that it is beyond criticism.

From to-day, there will be no more prisoners made. All prisoners will be massacred. Even prisoners who have already been arranged in convoys will be massacred. Behind us no enemy will be left alive.

Stoy, Lieutenant and Commander-in-Chief of the Company.

Neubauer, Colonel in command of the Regiment.

Stenger, General in command of the Brigade.”

M. Bédier has reproduced in his book the actual original of this document.

Treatment of Prisoners in Germany

Once they had left the battlefields for the German fortresses, where they were to be kept under guard, it was inevitable that prisoners of war should be exposed to the most brutal ill-treatment, death, wounds and blows. A regular prison regimen following upon[103] possible outrages on the field of battle would, of course, absolutely prevent that. But all the penalties which the prisoners could possibly be made to suffer under these new circumstances were heaped upon them in profusion. They were not allowed to have their letters; customs duties were imposed on the packages sent to them from their own country, and the transmission of these packages was irregular and uncertain; finally, some of these consignments were constantly and systematically looted.

The French Government complained. In fear of reprisals the Germans had to alter their ways, though in some respects they continued as before. They refused to sanction the pay of private soldiers and non-commissioned officers, who had been taken prisoner; they fixed the pay of inferior and superior officers at the ridiculous amounts of sixty and a hundred marks; they refused to serve out allowances of tobacco and cruelly cut short the supply of food.

These measures are significant. They show Germany’s view of the prisoner of war. The only favour she allows him is not to kill him, not to beat him, not to let him die outright of hunger. We speak here of orders given and measures taken by the higher command, for which no excuse that pleads the inhumanity of war could be admitted.



The present and following chapters will contain the most abominable part of this indictment. We shall read the story of outrages of which women have been made victims by the German scoundrels. Were not these outrages, established as they are by certain reports, and confirmed by confessions which the Germans themselves have inadvertently made, the result of the unbridled instincts of an army in a state of delirium? We should like to think so, but the details to hand with regard to the circumstances under which these acts were performed compel us to recognise that something more is involved in them. They reveal the presence of cruelty and thirst for innocent blood in the perpetrators of these murders and acts of violence.

Crimes committed against octogenarian old women seem to issue from a special hatred, directed against those who gave birth to their enemies of to-day. The number of acts of violation committed by these invaders proves that there is inherent in the German mind a peculiar contempt for all human laws, a regular bestiality, a cynical audacity, which, if the reins are given to it, borders on madness.

In the performance of these abominable acts the Germans showed no trace of humanity. Their thoughts[105] were incapable of going back to themselves and their fatherland, to the daughters, the fiancées, the wives, the mothers whom they themselves had left at home; wholesale murders, mutilations, tortures, treatment so frightful as to drive the victims crazy, refinements of cruelty by which the relatives and parents of the latter were made partners in their punishment, and in which, as we have seen, neither organisation nor method was wanting—such are the acts of which we are about to give proofs and examples.


In the story of the murders committed by the Germans, of which women have been the victims, we see almost always that these were surprised in the midst of their common daily tasks. The horror of the crime committed against them is enhanced. It is still worse when the massacred women were about to perform some act of charity. At Tamines, in Belgium, a woman was killed in the middle of the street as she was carrying a sick old man. At Mayen-Multien a woman named Laforest was seriously wounded, in the beginning of September, by a German horseman to whom she and her husband had been obliged to give hospitality. His excuse was that they were too long about serving him. At Hazebrouck, in the middle of the month of October, a German soldier, who was riding a bicycle, seeing in a corner a poor mother seated with her child sleeping on her knees, transfixed the latter with his bayonet, and at the same time wounded the mother in the thigh, without any of his comrades interfering. At Audun-le-Roman, Mlle. Tréfel was struck at the very moment when she was giving a drink to a German soldier.


Examples of such acts are innumerable. The most striking instances were those which took place at Malines, Gerbeviller, Audun-le-Roman, Boortmeerbeck, Neuville-en-Artois, Hériménil. At Hériménil, Mme. Truger, twenty-three years old, was shot by order of an officer. At Boortemeerbeck, the maid-servant of Mlle. van Hoorde was killed because she was accused of having assassinated an officer. This officer had committed suicide, after leaving on his table a letter in which he declared his intention. At Lunéville a young girl of sixteen years, Mlle. Weill, was killed in her own house by her father’s side.

In the same town a woman aged ninety-eight years was killed in her bed and thrown into the flames; at Triaucourt, Mme. Maupoix, aged seventy-five years, was so violently kicked that she died some days afterwards. Two other old women of the same place were shot dead. During the following night the Germans played the piano near the corpses. At Nomény several women were forced to make a long march on foot; an old woman, who was just on the verge of a hundred years, fell down in a state of exhaustion and died. At Hofstade, another old woman was found dead by the Belgian soldiers. She had been bayoneted several times as she sat down to sew. At Gerbeviller, widow Guillaume, aged sixty-eight years, was killed by a shot fired point-blank.

Wholesale Murder

In many cases the Germans went as far as general massacres. The excuse invoked by them was a pretended right of reprisals.

The most appalling of these butcheries seems to have been that of Dinant, which took place on the[107] 22nd August and following days. “In these terrible days,” writes a Dutchman, M. Staller, on this topic, in the Telegraaf (translated in the Temps, 19th December, 1914), “at Dinant and also in the neighbouring villages of Anseremme, Leffe and Neffe, more than eight hundred persons were killed, amongst whom there were many women and children.” The XX Siècle published the names of about sixty women, several of whom were octogenarians, and of about forty children. The excuse put forward was that three German soldiers had been killed by the civilians (see further on).

“At Anseremme,” continues the Telegraaf, “eighteen women and two children were concealed under a bridge; the soldiers caught sight of them and fired with a machine-gun until there was no more sign of life; on the following morning they burnt the corpses, probably that they might not be accused of having killed defenceless people. I saw the horrible remains of the fire.”

Another massacre was that witnessed at Louvain. On the 27th August, at 8 o’clock, the order was given to the inhabitants of Louvain to leave the town, as it was going to be bombarded. Amongst these thousands of wretched people, pursued by the brutal soldiers, were large numbers of women, and some, who had not the strength to follow the procession, were shot.

Tortured Women

A humane reader cannot repress a tremor as he learns the story of the tortures inflicted on women by the Germans on several occasions. We should have spared our readers these stories, were it not necessary[108] to pay special attention to them for the purpose of showing how far German barbarism can go.

At Dompierre-aux-Bois, after the bombardment which we have described, the Germans did not want to allow the people shut up in a church which they were bombarding even to go to look for water to tend the wounded. Women were compelled to wait without help, wounded, bruised, mutilated under the eyes of their parents, who were powerless to help them during a time of agony which for some lasted up to twenty-four and thirty-six hours. When they were dead, the Germans forced the men to dig a grave near the cemetery and to bury them in it. One of them found that in this way he was forced to bury without a coffin his wife, her mother and her sisters.

At Révigny the French Commission of Inquiry notes the case of a woman who was found killed in a cellar, with her breast and right arm cut off. Her little son, aged eleven years, also had a foot cut off.

M. Bonne, the senior curate of Étain, declares in his report that a woman of Audun-le-Roman, who was suckling her child, was tortured for refusing to give the enemy food. They mangled her abdomen and killed her child.

At Sempst, in Belgium, a woman was bayoneted, covered with petrol, and thrown into the flames. The fact is noted in the second report of the Belgian Commission of Inquiry. M. Pierre Nothomb relates the following facts: “On coming to Averbode, on the 20th August, the Germans saw a woman, who—seized with fear—concealed herself in a ditch. They killed her with lance-thrusts. An hour’s journey from there, at Schaffen, they disembowelled a young girl of twenty years. Peasants from the outskirts of Louvain went to Antwerp, on the 12th September, and told that at[109] Wilzele the Germans wanted to burn alive Mme. Van Kriegelinen and her eleven children. The woman and eight children were burnt. We saw the corpses of the mother and her children, and were present at the execution.” The volunteer gunner de R⸺ unpinned from the ground the bodies of a woman and her child, who were fastened to the ground by bayonets. Asked about what had passed at Boortmeerbeck, Dr. V⸺ of Malines deposed: “Mme. Van Rollegem came to the hospital of Malines on the 22nd August. On Thursday the 20th, as she was fleeing from Boortmeerbeck with her husband, she was shot twice in the leg. She threw herself into the ditch to take shelter. Some minutes later the Germans who had fired on her came up to her again and made horrible wounds in her left thigh and left forearm. She remained like that without help until Saturday evening. The wounds were gangrened and worms were swarming over them.”

During the night of the 23rd to 24th August soldiers knocked violently at the door of the Château of Canne, owned by M. Poswick. Mme. Poswick opened the door; she was forthwith bludgeoned with the butt-ends of rifles. On Sunday, the 30th of August, a patrol of hussars, as a Lord’s day recreation, amused themselves by firing, on the Brussels road at Malines, at Catherine Van Kerchove, a woman of seventy-four years of age, at every part of her they could hit without killing her. A rifle shot carried off her right hand, another gashed her cheek. At Battice, before burning houses, the Germans made women go into them and shut them up there.

Sometimes German barbarism spent itself in putting people in captivity. At Dinant many women were kept shut up in the Abbaye des Prémontrés. Here[110] they remained seated on the floor without food. Four of them were confined under these dreadful conditions (see Chap. XIII).

Poland and Serbia

Such acts were outdone at the other end of Europe, in the Eastern theatre of war. In Poland, at Khabbeck, the Austrians mutilated two women on the pretext that civilians were helping the movements of the Russian troops.

In the Podogorsky Arrondissement the Serbian troops found in the village of Jabonka the corpses of a young girl of about ten years old and of three old women, all three alike mutilated. Finally, Professor Reiss, of the University of Lausanne, who visited the Serbian territories invaded by the Austro-Hungarians, confirmed the authenticity of the mutilations in which the invader of Serbia had indulged.

“At Bastave” (he reports in his letter to the Temps of 22nd November) “nearly everybody took to flight when it was known that the Austrians were approaching. The two infirm women named Soldatovich, aged seventy-two and seventy-eight years, did not want to leave their house. They thought that even the most cruel men would do nothing to invalided old women. But when the peasants came back after the Austrians had gone, they found that the two poor old women had been violated, stabbed with bayonet thrusts, their noses, ears and breasts cut. Besides, mutilation was quite a usual practice amongst the murderers of the Austro-Hungarian army.”

These barbarous acts, when they did not cause the victim’s death, sometimes brought on insanity. This was the case, amongst other instances, with several women of Louvain, who were escorted by a detachment[111] of the 162nd German infantry regiment to the riding-school of the town, and having, from want of room, passed a whole night standing, endured such terrible sufferings that they lost their reason.


Let us take the case of abduction of women, led away by German soldiers and brought in troops to Germany. These wretched women were put down as hostages. It is, however, certain that in more than one case they were led away merely to gratify the soldiers’ lust.

At Marcheville the Germans carried off several hundreds of women, who were interned at Amberg in Bavaria in barracks. At Saint-Mihiel seven or eight hundred women were also carried off to Germany.

At Charleville the women were kept on the spot, but brought to their several tasks and kept under a regimen of forced labour. They were kept constantly employed in making equipments for the troops, earning a wage of half-a-loaf of bread. At Bignicourt-sur-Saulx forty women were carried off, as hostages it was said. The Hungarian dragoons in particular, in Poland and in the Lublin and Kielce regions, were noted for this kind of conduct, revived from the most barbarous periods of war.

The second report of the French Commission of Inquiry (Journal Officiel of 11th March, 1915) gives striking details of the fate of Frenchwomen who were carried away from their own country and interned in Germany.

For the most part separated from their children, there was no kind of violence to which they had not to submit. The lack of food induced among them frightful maladies, which they had to endure under[112] the most horrible conditions. So acute were their sufferings, that afterwards, when they were released, they were very depressed, under the idea that they were still in prison, and were obsessed with morbid fears. Several of them, including some octogenarians, had to be carried on stretchers.


The number of women outraged by Germans where they lived is considerable. Violation was practised everywhere on invaded territory as a right of war, and without distinction of age. We feel in touch with an odious perversity as we read the story of these outrages, in which a depraved imagination is as prominent as their brutality.

On the 4th September, at Rebais, a young woman of twenty-nine years, a wine-seller, was accused of having concealed English soldiers at her house. The Germans undressed her, and compelled her to stay in that condition in their midst for an hour and a half. Then they fastened her to her counter, and threatened her with death. The wretched woman would infallibly have died had not orders, which suddenly arrived, compelled her torturers to be off and leave her in the hands of an Alsatian soldier, who released her.

The French Commission of Inquiry reports two cases of violation committed in each of the places it was able to visit, especially at Villers, Trumilly, Sermaize, etc. Special indignation is aroused by those of which quite young girls were the victims.

At Château-Thierry it was a girl of only fourteen years of age, who was dragged into a shop by three Germans, where, under threat of a bayonet, she was violated by two of them, while the third gave way to the young victim’s entreaties. At Begu-Saint-Germain[113] it was a girl of thirteen years. At Loupy-le-Château it was on children of thirteen and eight years that such outrages were committed. At Magnières a little child of twelve years was violated twice by a soldier. At Suippy, on the 3rd September, a child of eleven years was for three hours the butt of the brutality of a man, who found her with her sick grandmother, brought her into a deserted house, and stuffed a handkerchief into her mouth to prevent her crying.

Unbridled bestiality of this kind had no more respect for age than childhood. The nature of some of these acts seems to prove the existence in the German race not merely of moral, but of physical defects. With amazement and disgust we put on record the evidence for acts which in ordinary life are found only in the diseased or maniacs.

At Vitry-en-Perthois a German violated an old woman of eighty-nine years, who died as a result. At Loupy-le-Château an unfortunate woman of seventy-five years was violated; at Suippes another old woman, aged seventy-two years, was seized by a German soldier, who was putting the muzzle of his revolver under her chin, when the woman’s brother-in-law came along and released her. In Serbia the corpses of mutilated old women, the discovery of which we noted above, were examined, and it was proved that these old women had been violated before being mutilated. In certain places soldiers were seen outraging dead bodies. This fact was established at Gerbeviller, the culprit being a Bavarian of the army corps commanded by General Clauss.

Hateful Consequences of these Acts

Several victims of these crimes died: others lost their reason. For a large number the natural consequences[114] of these acts condemn them to become mothers.

Of all the victims of invasion, none have been more unfortunate than these. The practice of abortion cannot be tolerated. They are condemned to bring into the world the hateful fruit of savage bestiality. It should at least be admitted that they should be absolved from the duty of feeding and loving this offspring. A law to this effect will doubtless be passed in France. Permission will be given to declare that the children are the issue of unknown parents. The Committee for Public Assistance will assume responsibility and thus spare private families the morally intolerable burden of bringing up the children of Germans.

Resistance punished with Death

A number of women who resisted the violence of the soldiers were killed either by rifle shots or bayonet thrusts. At Esternay, on the night of Sunday, 6th September, the soldiers violated widow Bouché, her two daughters, and two women called Lhomme and Macé. When the mother resisted they fired on the whole group. Mme. Lhomme was struck, and Marcelle Bouché, who was seriously wounded, succumbed the following morning as a result of her wound. At Rebais, a lady of thirty-four years, who resisted the soldiers, was seized and strung up, but she was able to cut the rope with a knife which she found in her pocket. Then they beat her unmercifully, until an officer came up and released her.

In Belgium, at Aerschot, a young Belgian woman had to pay with her life for the intervention of her fiancé, whom the soldiers also massacred. More deplorable still is the case of a young girl of Louvain, whose[115] body was pierced all over with bayonet thrusts, and who was then violated. Next day she was brought to hospital, but she succumbed to the wounds inflicted upon her.

Refinement of Depravity

In order to increase the horror of these scenes, the Germans were pleased to commit their crimes even in the presence of the parents of these wretched girls. It was not enough for them to shame their victim, they must do it under the eyes of those whose duty it was to defend her, and whom they first made powerless. Pierre Nothomb’s book contains numerous examples. We tremble with indignation as we read the story.

In France, at Coulommiers, a woman was violated on the 6th September before her husband and children. At Saint Denis-les-Rebais another was violated in the presence of her mother-in-law, who, being powerless to intervene, tried to prevent her little grandson, aged eight, from seeing this disgraceful sight. At Commigis (Aisne) a lady was made the object of violent and shameless acts by two Germans, also in her mother-in-law’s presence. At Raucourt (Meurthe-et-Moselle) the Germans violated a woman in the presence of her children.

German Admissions

On the question of the murder of women, young and old, M. Bédier’s book contains the admissions of the Germans themselves. Those of Blamont are told by the German soldier, Paul Spielmann (of the First Guards Infantry Brigade). “It was horrible: blood was plastered over all the houses, and as for the faces of the dead, they were hideous.


“Among them were many old women and one pregnant woman.” The excuse alleged was “there was telephonic communication with the enemy.” The existence of this telephone was the cause of this fearful massacre.

The outrages at Langeviller and another locality are put on record in an unsigned notebook of a soldier of the 11th Battalion of Pioneers. “Langeviller, 22nd August, a village demolished by the 11th Battalion of Pioneers. Three women hanged on trees: the first dead whom I had seen.” Why were these women hanged? We are not told. Eight days afterwards, he continues, “We destroyed eight houses. In a single one of them two men and their wives and a young girl of eighteen had been bayoneted. I was almost moved at the sight of the little one, her look was so full of innocence. But an excited body of men could no longer be kept in check, for at such moments we are no longer men, but beasts.” Here, we see, full confession is made. Another notes that at Orchies “a woman had a military execution.” Why? For not having obeyed the command to “halt.”

Something even of the acts of violence runs through these confessions. A soldier of the 12th infantry reserve, 3rd corps, writes, “I am forced to note one fact which cannot be due to accident, but there are, even in our army, some … who are no longer men, some … to whom nothing is sacred. Last night a man of the Landwehr, more than thirty-five years old, wanted to violate the daughter of the house on which he quartered himself, a mere little girl, and when her father intervened he pointed his bayonet against the man’s chest.”



The plea of reprisals is no more valid in the case of children, old people and priests than it is in the case of women. All these classes of people have a right to consideration and to absolute respect from the invader. Every crime committed against them can bear no other name than wanton cruelty.

In the foregoing pages we have seen how children were killed with their mothers, and old women were outraged and killed. We must now unfold the chapter of crimes against the weak and against those whose character should have saved them from the violences of war. Ill-treatment, imprisonment, wounds, murder, torture—all these we hardly like to think that children, the personification of weakness and innocence, have had to suffer. Such has been the cruelty of the German troops in the field, that what has moved all men’s interest and compassion has, in several cases, only urged them on the more readily to violence.

Belgian and French Children ill-treated, wounded and killed

We have already told the story of the ill-treatment to which six to eight thousand people, who were packed together standing in the riding-school and had to pass the night there, were exposed at Louvain. A number of children were included in these. Several endured[118] great hardships, and the youngest died in their mothers’ arms. At Dinant, in the slaughter which took place, several children were massacred.

In other cases we see that children were exposed to exceptional acts of violence. “On the way back from Tirlemont,” writes the special correspondent of the Times (29th August, 1914), “I met a little girl of eleven years old, who was stumbling and groping before her as if blind. A stroke of a lance had laid open her cheek and her eye. A poor peasant woman, her face wet with tears, told me that her husband had been killed in her presence by German horsemen, that two of her children, who were under nine years of age, had been trampled by their horses and that two others were missing. And this” (concluded the English journalist) “is not an isolated case; it is an example of what happens day by day in the areas occupied by the German soldiers, and, I regret to say, it is only an example among hundreds which have been attested beyond any possibility of doubt.”

Instances abound, and the following are a selection. At Louguyon, out of 153 people who were shot on the 23rd, 24th and 25th August by soldiers of the 102nd and 112th Prussian regiments, there were twelve children.

At Bantheville (Meuse), young Felix Miquel, aged about fifteen years, who had hidden behind a heap of wood so that he might not be arrested, got a violent sabre thrust from the soldier who discovered him, which split his lips; afterwards, as he was being led away, when he tried to hide in a wood, he stumbled against a sentinel, who with a bayonet stroke cut off a joint of his left hand.

At Mouchy Humières (Oise) a little four-year-old[119] girl, who belonged to a family living in Verdun, was wounded on the 31st August by a German soldier. On the way from Bouligny to Mourière (Meuse) a child of fifteen years was shot in the groin as she was passing quietly by a wood in which a German patrol was concealed.

At Spontin, near Dinant, fearful reprisals were carried out because a poacher had killed a Prussian officer, and children of all ages were shot or butchered with their mothers.

In the outskirts of Malines many corpses of children were found on the spot where the Germans had left them unburied. At Morfontaine, near Longwy, two children of fifteen were shot for having warned the French gendarmes of the arrival of the enemy. At Gerbeviller a young girl named Parmentier, who was barely seven years old, was also shot. At Dinant, too, several children met with the same fate. At Aerschot the burgomaster’s two children were shot; the murder of the little girls Luychx and Ooyen, aged twelve and nine years, both of whom were shot, was also confirmed. Pierre Nothomb quotes the case of two little children two years old, named Neef and Deekers, who were massacred at Testelt. Sometimes the despicable torturers added obscenity to cruelty. At Bertrex a grown-up brother and sister were killed and, when the penalty was paid, their bodies were put naked, clasping each other as if they had been embracing.

Children tortured by Germans

At Hofstade, said Pierre Nothomb, a lad of less than fifteen years was found with hands crossed behind his back and his body pierced with bayonet thrusts.[120] At Pin, near Izel, two young boys saw the Uhlans coming; the latter took them as they passed, and made them run, with hands bound, between their galloping horses. Their dead bodies were found an hour afterwards in a ditch; as an eye-witness said, their knees were “literally worn out”; one had his throat cut and his breast laid open; each had a bullet in his head. At Schaffen a lad was bound to a shutter, sprinkled with petrol, and burnt alive. The soldiers who marched on Antwerp took a butcher’s cleaver at Sempst; they seized a little servant boy, cut off his legs, then his head, and roasted him in a burning house. At Lebbeke-les-Termonde, Frans Mertens and his comrades, Van Dooren, Dekinder, Stobbelaer and Wryer, were bound arm to arm; their eyes were gouged out with a pointed weapon, then they were killed by rifle shots.

In France, at Dompierre-aux-Bois, the children who were wounded in the bombardment of the church found themselves left to their agony, without attendance and without food. The dead bodies of two children who had been killed by bayonet thrusts were found at Neuville-en-Artois. At Vingras a little girl of eight years was thrust into the flames with her parents, whose farmhouse had been set on fire. At Sommeilles the dead body of a child of eleven was found with its foot cut off. At Triaucourt the wretches burnt a two-year-old child.

In Serbia similar outrages were committed. M. Reiss, Professor of Lausanne University, has proved that children of two months old were massacred. “I found children in common ditches who were not more than two or three years old. Amongst the 109 hostages of Lechnitza who were shot in front of a ditch[121] which had previously been dug out, and which was not less than twenty metres long, there were some children of not more than eight years old.”

German Admissions

We read above the admission of a soldier of the Prussian Guard, Paul Spielmann, about the massacre of a village which “had been in telephonic communication with the enemy.” Among those who were massacred he adds that there were three children. “I saw this morning (2nd September) four little boys carrying on two sticks a cradle in which was a child of five to six months old. All that is fearful to behold. Blow for blow. Cannon for cannon. Everything was given up to pillage.

“… I saw also a mother with her two little ones; one had a great wound on the head and the other had its eye gouged out.

The German soldier, Karl Johann Kaltendshner, Ninth Company of the Regiment of Count Bülow Tervuenwist, who deserted and fled to Holland, and whose statements in the Telegraaf we have already quoted, tells the following story: “I have seen children in tears, clinging to their defenceless mothers’ skirts, coming out of a threshing-mill where they had sought shelter, and I have seen how these mothers and their children were killed in cowardly and cold-blooded fashion. Although we were compelled, under penalty of death, to obey all the orders of our officers, I have seen some of my companions who joyfully performed their melancholy work of massacre. At a certain moment I was myself required to shoot two boys, aged fifteen and twelve years old respectively, whose father had already been killed. I had not the heart to do[122] it, and I had lowered my arm, expecting to be executed myself, when one of my comrades, jeering at my sentimentality, saved me by pushing me aside and himself firing on the two children. The eldest fell stark dead, and the second, who got a bullet in the back, was dispatched with a revolver shot” (Temps, 3rd January, 1915).

Outrages on Old People

At every place where the civil population was brutally treated, outraged or shot en masse—at Louvain, at Dinant—no exception was made in the case of old folk. People of seventy and eighty years of age had to bear forced marches, to remain standing in packed masses, where they were kept for whole nights, at the risk of death, as was the result for a large number. But, in addition to these common instances, outrages of a peculiar kind are not wanting. At Rebais-en-Brie an old man of sixty-nine years old, Auguste Griffaut, was struck with blows of the fist on the head, and finally wounded by a revolver shot. At Sablonnières another old man of the same name, Jules Griffaut, aged sixty-six, was tending his cows in an enclosed field when a German soldier, who was at the rear of a column, fired on him. In Belgium an old man of seventy years, formerly steward to M. Davignon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium, was shot by the Germans because to the first question that the latter put to him he replied that he was deaf, which was true.

Another was shot without mercy at Montmirail because he tried to protect a widow, named Naudé, who was in danger of being outraged by a non-commissioned officer.


At Lamath, in Lorraine, an old man called Louis, aged seventy years, was shot. At Domèvre-sur-Vezouze Adolphe Claude, aged seventy-five years, met with the same fate. At Lunéville an old alderman, Théophile Martin, aged sixty-three years, was commanded by an officer to come out of his house with his two daughters. As soon as they came out the old man saw from the revolvers and guns that were levelled at him that he was about to be killed. The young girls threw themselves on their knees and begged the Germans to spare their father’s life. It was in vain. Shots rang out and the old man fell. Again at Lunéville, M. Édouard Bernard, municipal councillor, aged sixty-five years, who had six sons at the front, was arrested. He was hardly allowed time to dress himself. He was taken away, and it is not known what became of him. M. Charles Chérer, husbandman, aged sixty-four, first cousin to M. Lébrun, ex-minister, got four bullets in his body. As none of the wounds which they made was mortal, the Uhlans dispatched him with revolver shots.

At Nomény M. Petitjean, aged eighty-six years, was struck as he was sitting in his armchair by a bullet which cracked his skull, and a German took pleasure in doing violence to the dead body (vide p. 148).

Finally, the number of old people who were taken away as hostages or simply deported to Germany was very large. Of that we shall speak in a subsequent chapter, but let us only note here that among the hostages who were taken away to Vareddes four old men were shot or bludgeoned with the butt-ends of rifles, their names being Jourdaine (73 years old), Liévin (61), Ménil (65) and Milliardet (78 years).


Torture of Old People

On the 26th August, not far from Malines, the dead body of an old man was found bound by the arms to a beam in the ceiling of his farmhouse. The body was completely burnt, except the head, arms and feet.

At Triaucourt, in France, an old man of seventy, Jean Lecouturier, was thrown into the flames of a burning house.

At Champuis, Jacquemin was bound to his bed by a non-commissioned officer, and left in this state without food for three days. He died some days afterwards. At Lavigneville (Meuse), on the 23rd September, MM. Woimbée, aged sixty-one years, and Fortin, aged sixty-five years, both farmers, were arrested in their own homes on the plea that they were francs-tireurs. Now, Woimbée had had his foot shattered two months before, and Fortin, who was afflicted with chronic rheumatism, had for long been unable to walk without the help of a stick. The Germans carried them off in their working garb, without allowing them to take any other clothes, and attached them to a convoy which contained about thirty soldiers who had been taken prisoner. Fortin, who could not get on, was bound by a rope, the ends of which were held by two horsemen, and, notwithstanding his infirmity, he had to keep up with the horses. As he fell every minute, he was struck with lances to compel him to get up again. The wretched man, covered with blood, besought them in mercy to kill him. At last Woimbée obtained permission to carry him to the village of Saint-Maurice-sous-les-Côtés, with the help of several of our soldiers. There the Germans made the two old men go into a[125] house, compelled them to remain standing for two hours face to the wall and arms crossed, whilst they themselves rattled their arms noisily so as to make their victims believe they were going to shoot them. At last they decided to let them lie on the ground, and gave them a little bread and water. For more than twenty-four hours Woimbée and Fortin had had no food.

In Poland, at Andrief, the Germans, displeased because they had only got a little money from the alderman of the town, closed up the latter, M. Krassinsky, aged seventy years, in his house and set fire to it.

Outrages on Priests

The crimes committed in Belgium and France against the priests deserve separate treatment.

The German newspapers and the Emperor alleged, in justification of these acts, that at the beginning of hostilities the curés and nuns of the invaded regions had abused their spiritual authority over the civil population by rousing them to frenzy and inciting them to act as francs-tireurs. But of such acts Germany has brought forward no proof. On the contrary, the German Catholic bureau Pax and the Kölnische Volkszeitung took the trouble personally to refute a great number of accusations against the clergy, amongst others the famous legend of eyes being gouged out, of which we spoke above and with which German newspapers had connected the names of several priests who had been carried away to Germany.

As for the general plea that they had encouraged the civil population to resist, far from justifying the German conduct, it only makes it more odious, for[126] what finer praise could be given to a priest in time of war than to say that he tried to stimulate the love of country among the faithful, especially when it is traitorously attacked by people who violate their pledged word?

Besides, the very accounts of the outrages in question show that the plea of reprisals has no validity. In these stories the immorality and blasphemy of the torturers reveals itself without any disguise. The worst criminal feels a kind of fear and remorse as he stands in the presence of God’s representative. This fear is unknown to the German soldier. The German invaders have even shown that they are devoid of respect for the sacred or charitable occupations in the midst of which they almost everywhere found the priests whom they have been known to massacre. With them everything has given way to the deliberate desire to sow terror among the civil population. In many places it is certain that this end could not be better attained than by ill-treating and massacring their spiritual heads.


M. Auguste Mélot, deputy of Namur, published a book, Martyre du Clergé Belge, which throws light upon this conduct so far as Belgium is concerned.

The curés of Wygmael and Wesemael were forced to march, on the 29th August, before the army with their elbows bound together. A curé of Rotselaer and a curé of Wackerzeel, aged seventy years, were shut up for whole days in a church, almost without food and under dreadful conditions. They were finally brought away to Germany, where insults were heaped upon them. A German officer at Aix-la-Chapelle[127] spat in the face of the curé of Rotselaer. Tainted bread was given them to eat. At last they were brought back to Belgium, by forced marches, from Brussels to Haeren, from Haeren to Vilvorde, from Vilvorde to Malines.

The Germans indulged in outrages of a disgraceful kind on the curé of Beyghem. The curé and the curate of Ellwyt were shut up for five days in their church. The curé of Schaffen-lez-Diest was hanged. They made him believe that he was going to be put to death, and when he was on the point of dying they loosed the rope; then they started again. Afterwards they compelled him to look at the sun, and if he lowered his eyes he was struck with the butt-ends of rifles and threatened with being hung up again. The curé of Yvoir was compelled to march in front of the troops as far as Marienburg, laden with a sack. At Pin the Germans made five priests walk for ten leagues, allowing them for food nothing but a little bread and water. The Superior of the French College of Florennes (in Belgium) was beaten, struck with butt-ends of rifles and with spurs on the back and the head. He was then stripped of his robes and left dying. The curate of Montigny-sur-Sambre was struck with the fist, and obliged to walk under the horsewhip, with hands bound, in front of the troops. The Bishop of Tournai, who was seventy-two years of age, was brought on foot, being beaten as he went, from Tournai to Ach.

Murder of Priests

According to inquiries made in four dioceses out of six, Malines, Liège, Namur and Tournai, it has been possible to fix the names of forty-four priests[128] whom the Germans killed and of a dozen who are missing. These names are found in M. Mélot’s book.

These crimes took place when a priest took it upon him to resist some massacre or some other kind of crime ordered by the Germans. Thus M. Wonters, curé of Pont-Brûlé, was shot because he wanted to prevent a German soldier from ill-treating an old prisoner. Another was killed because he tried to prevent an act of violation which was about to be committed under his eyes. On other occasions the crime took place without motive, or at least the motive alleged was trivial. For example, the curé of Blegny was shot for having, so it was said, allowed an observation post to be placed in the belfry of his church. However, it is certain that he could not have prevented it.

Torture of Priests

Some priests died as a result of the agonies inflicted upon them. The executioners were not content with killing them outright; they wanted to make them suffer as well.

M. de Clerck, the curé of Buecken, who was accused of having fired on the Germans, was first placed on a cannon. When his tormentors had their fill of watching his terror, they threw him into a ditch. Then the soldiers took him, some by the arm, others by a leg, and dragged him over the pavement. Only then did they shoot him. However, it was certain that he had not fired on any one. He suffered from diabetes, and was confined to his bed when the Germans entered into the village, and they could not have been unaware of the fact, for it was from his bed that they went to take him.


M. Dergent, curé of Gelrode, found he was accused of spying for the English. Without any explanation he was brought to the town hall, ill-treated, brought in front of the church, struck with the butt-ends of rifles, then shot.

M. Glouden, curé of La Tour, and two other priests who, by permission of the German commandant, were taking up the wounded on the Ethe territory had a machine-gun turned upon them, and were then dispatched with revolver shots, by order of the same commandant.

The curé of Spontin was taken in his bed, dragged half-naked out of his house, and hung up several times, sometimes by the feet, sometimes by the hands. Afterwards he was stabbed with bayonets and then shot.

There is no better picture of the hatred of the Germans towards members of the Belgian clergy than the proclamation about hostages which was posted up on the 6th September at Grivegnée, especially when we know the fate which was almost always reserved for them. The proclamation said: “In the front rank were placed as hostages priests, burgomasters and other public officials.”

The Arrest of Cardinal Mercier

The abominable behaviour of the Germans to the Belgian Catholic clergy was crowned by the arrest of Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines. The following is the account of the circumstances under which he was arrested, given by the reverend prelate in a letter of the 10th January, sent secretly to all the parishes in the diocese of Malines.

“You are, doubtless, aware of a communication[130] made by the German Government to the Brussels daily papers, to the effect that the cardinal archbishop of Malines had in no wise been hampered in the exercise of his episcopal duties. The facts show how far this communication is from the truth.

“On the evening of the 1st January and on the following morning soldiers forced their way into the apartments of the curés, seized my pastoral letter and entered an injunction against it. They forbade the curés to read it to their flocks, threatening, in case of disobedience, the severest penalties to their parishes and to themselves.

“On the 2nd January, at 6 a.m., I received the order to appear during the morning before the Government, to give explanations with regard to my letter to the priests and their parishioners.

“On the following day I was forbidden to take part in the religious service at the Cathedral of Antwerp.

“Finally, I was not permitted to travel freely to visit the other bishops of Belgium.

“Thus your rights and mine have been violated.

“As a Belgian citizen, as pastor, and as a member of the Sacred College of Cardinals I protest energetically against the violation of these rights.

“Whatever interpretation others may have put upon my pastoral letter, experience has proved that it caused no risk of rebellion. On the contrary, it had the effect of calming and soothing people’s minds. I congratulate you on having done your duty.”

Using Cardinal Mercier’s pastoral letter as a pretext, the Germans proceeded to fresh acts of violence against the Catholic clergy. We need not, however,[131] be astonished that this letter enunciated a certain principle—to wit, that the Belgians owed allegiance only to the King and to the Government of the nation of which they form a part. The Cardinal went on to instruct his people that none the less they should accept the actual situation in the occupied districts, and leave to the regular army the task of national defence. These declarations, which are in absolute harmony not only with the teachings of religion and the principles of the law of nations, but also with the laws of war, gave the Germans a pretext for ill-treating several members of the clergy, desecrating a certain number of churches, tearing the priests from their confessionals, and looting sacristies.

Outrages on the French Clergy

The town of Roye was occupied by the Germans on the 7th September. On the morning of the 9th a burial was taking place. At the very time when the service was being held in the church, a French machine-gun came into the town and forthwith began to fire at a German outpost which had taken up a position in the town hall. The Germans rushed madly into the church, to the number of about fifty, and, to the great indignation of those who were present, seized the two officiating priests and the two choristers. Still clad in their sacred vestments, the priests were led into the line of fire of the French machine-guns, and it was only by a miracle that they escaped the bullets. In the sequel, the machine-gun could not keep up its fire and had to leave the town.

During this time the crowd had escaped from the church by the sacristy and the adjoining gardens, and the coffin remained alone without celebrants or congregation.[132] The Germans did not release their victims. They compelled the two priests and the two choristers to get into a motor, forcing them to remain standing, and brought them like that to Chauny, where the German general staff was installed. Their intention was doubtless to intimidate the villages through which this wretched party passed.

At Chauny the two priests and the two choristers remained for more than twenty-four hours without food or drink, and were kept prisoners for three days. Their release was only brought about through the intervention of the professor of German at the college of Chauny, who by dint of parleying and negotiation had them set at liberty; they returned to Roye, where they were believed to be dead.

In the diocese of Cambrai six priests were first of all killed by the Germans. The assassination of the Abbé Delebecque, of Valenciennes, which followed, must be described in detail.

On the 16th September this priest was coming back from a service which had taken place at Dunkirk for the repose of the soul of his father, who had died in the month of August. He was riding a bicycle and was carrying some letters written by soldiers. He was stopped by a patrol and accused of espionage. He was sentenced the same day at midnight. In spite of his denials and of the obvious proofs which he gave of his good faith, the council of war, consisting of officers, condemned him to death. Handed over to the charge of the German military chaplain, he passed the night in prayer before the Holy Sacrament in St. Nicholas Church. Then, having given confession and received the sacrament, he set out bravely at 5.30 on foot to the Dampierre Column, on the way to Denain.


As he went he was repeating the prayer for the dying. When he reached the spot fixed by the Germans he sent a letter to his mother, then knelt down and said to some people present that he gave his life for France. At six o’clock the Abbé Delebecque fell, hit by twelve German bullets.

A hole fifty centimetres deep was made and he was thrown into it. As the end of his cassock protruded, a civilian came and placed some stones upon it in the form of a cross, and some women threw flowers on the tomb of this martyr. Finally, the Superior of Notre Dame College, who had the German military chaplain lodging with him, with some difficulty got his consent to the body being given back to him, that suitable burial might be given to it.

On the other hand, the Curé Fossin, of Vareddes, was shot on the charge of having signalled to a French troop from the top of his belfry.

In the department of Meurthe-et-Moselle two curés were also shot, M. Thiriet at Deuxville and M. Barbot at Rehainviller.

But the most horrible outrage inflicted upon people dedicated to God was that suffered by two nuns in a commune of the department of Meurthe-et-Moselle. They were handed over defenceless to a soldier’s lechery. “The pledges which we have given,” writes the French Commission of Inquiry, which denounces this crime in its report, “prevent our making known the names of the victims of this disgusting exhibition, or of the village in which it took place, but the facts have been revealed to us under oath and in confidence by most trustworthy witnesses, and we take the responsibility of attesting their authenticity.”



The German Theory of Francs-tireurs

The behaviour of the Germans to civilians gives us the opportunity of considering, before we proceed further, a theory which they promulgated at the outbreak of war, and which referred to the distinction that would be made as regards non-combatants who took up arms against invasion.

In the early days of the war the German Government, through the agency of a neutral power, communicated the following two documents to France and Belgium. In order to show that the principle is both technically wrong and inhuman, we propose to reproduce them in full. The first of these documents is as follows—


The reports of German troops show that in contempt of the law of nations, a national war has been organised in France. In many cases the inhabitants of the country, under the protection of civilian garb, fired surreptitiously on German soldiers. Germany is opposed to this method of making war, which is a violation of the law of nations. The German troops have been instructed to stamp out this kind of resistance by the most rigorous measures. Every non-combatant inhabitant who carries arms, impedes communications,[135] cuts telegraph wires, uses explosive appliances—in short, any one who takes any illegitimate part in the war, will at once be brought before our courts-martial and shot. If by this means the war becomes violent Germany declines all responsibility for it, and France alone will be responsible for the floods of blood that will be shed.

The second document is in the following terms—


His Majesty’s Government of Belgium have rejected Germany’s sincere offer to spare them the horrors of war. Belgium has willed war and has replied to our proposal by armed opposition.

Notwithstanding the note of the 8th August, by which the Belgian Government intimated that, in accordance with the laws of war, they would wage it only with soldiers, many civilians took part in the battles at Liège, under the protection of civilian garb. They not merely fired on the German troops, but they cruelly killed the wounded and the doctors who were doing their duty.

At Antwerp also civilians barbarously looted the property of Germans, and brutally massacred women and children. Germany asks the whole civilised world to take note of the blood of these unoffending people and of the Belgian method of waging war which shows the low grade of their civilisation. If henceforth the war becomes cruel the fault lies with Belgium. In order to protect the German troops against the unbridled passions of the people, it is decreed that henceforth every man who takes part in the conflict without being in uniform and wearing the recognised distinguishing marks, who impedes the communications of our troops, cuts telegraph wires, uses explosive appliances—in short, who takes any illegitimate part whatsoever in the war, will be treated as a franc-tireur, brought before a court-martial, and shot.


The German Military Authorities and Non-combatants

German generals and officers have quibbled about inhumanity in their proclamations. The Burgomaster of Hasselt could communicate to his fellow townsmen on the 17th August the decision of the German military authorities, by which, “in case civilians fired on the soldiers of the German army, a third of the male population would be shot.” The German Generalissimo Bülow announced, in a proclamation addressed to the communal authorities of Liège (22nd August), that “the inhabitants of the town of Andenne, after a declaration of their peaceful intentions, treacherously made a surprise attack, and that on this ground, with his consent, the general in command caused everything in the whole of the district to be burnt, and that a hundred persons were shot.” He adds that the people of Liège “ought to try to imagine the fate with which they are threatened, if they adopt a similar attitude.” The commandant at Namur, who had taken many hostages, declared that “the life of these hostages is at stake unless the civilians remain quiet under all circumstances.” He demanded that “all civilians walking about in his district” should show their respect to German officers by taking off their hats, or by raising their hands to their head as in a military salute. In case of doubt, he adds, every German soldier must be saluted. Whoever declines to do so must expect German soldiers to make themselves respected by every means.


These proclamations are a denial, pure and simple, of the right of civilians to resist an invader. This right, however, is recognised by the Hague Convention.


In fact, these conventions declare that irregular corps raised to meet an invader are permissible, and that the soldiers who compose them must be treated according to the laws of war, provided that they take care—

(1) “to have at the head of them a person who is responsible for his subordinates;

(2) “to have a distinguishing mark, which is fixed and recognisable at a distance;

(3) “to carry arms openly;

(4) “and to conform in their operations to the laws and customs of war.”

In conclusion the conventions go further, and add—

“The civilians of an unoccupied territory which on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to combat the invading troops without having had time to organise themselves in conformity with the terms of Article I will be considered as belligerent if they respect the laws and customs of war.”

To this rule of international law Germany had subscribed, both in 1899 and 1907, without any reservation.

Germany, therefore, is acting in violation of conventions which she herself has signed, by treating as rebels the inhabitants of invaded territories who attack her before she has actually occupied the area in which these inhabitants live; she lies when she declares that this method of making war is “contrary to the law of nations,” and she acts like a barbarous tyrant when she announces that every civilian who takes part in the war “will be brought before a court-martial and shot.”

It is superfluous to observe how much more insolent still are the notices issued by the German military[138] authorities, in which the latter ignore not merely the civil population’s right of armed resistance, but also the declaration of the German Government, which affirmed that only the non-combatant who participated in the war would be brought before a court-martial and shot.

The right (which, by the way, is in this case non-existent) of inflicting reprisals on individuals, the right to which the German Government has appealed, has been shamefully transformed by the German military authorities into a right which consists of ill-treating the whole population of a locality in case a civilian may have fired on a German soldier, and of offering this as a justification for the ruin of the locality and the execution of the hostages.

As for the threat uttered by the German commandant, which declared that whoever did not show respect to German officers and did not give them the military salute must expect that German soldiers “would use every means to make themselves respected,” we think it shows the lengths to which German frenzy can go. In itself we may say that it tells us more than all the acts of cruelty. These demands for servile obeisance, uttered under threat of violence and death, have in all times and in all history been the mark of the basest tyrants. Such is the reign of terror which Germany proposed to inflict upon invaded territories by covering it up in fictitious principles which were at variance with all recognised conventions, and which were the expression of nothing but her own caprice.

The Attitude of the Belgian Government

The declaration made by the Belgian Government the 5th August, 1914, and referred to in the communication of the German Government, reproduced[139] above, included the assurance that Belgium would conform during the war to the laws and usages of war laid down by the Hague Conferences. Belgium, therefore, was perfectly within her rights in allowing armed resistance by civilians, in cases and under conditions recognised as legitimate by the Hague Conventions. And it was only from caution and from premonition of the fate which civilians would undergo, if they failed in any one of the conditions defined in the first article of the Hague Convention, that the Belgian Government recommended civilians to refrain from resistance. But a recommendation which was made only as a precaution against flagrant injustice does not rid an action, foreseen and in fact committed, of its unjust character. In spite of the advice given by their Government, the Belgians consequently did not lose their right “to take up arms spontaneously on the approach of the enemy to oppose invading troops,” and, notwithstanding that opposition, of being treated as belligerents by the Germans.

Did the Belgians exercise this right? In certain places it is reported that some people did exercise it. If the fact is as stated, we can see nothing in it but what is worthy of admiration. Such instances do infinite honour to Belgian patriotism. However, it appears clear that the order given was followed, and that the whole thing, if it took place at all, reduces itself to the acts of individuals. The acts of violence committed by the Germans have been no less far-reaching and extreme, so true is it that, though invoking principles which were notoriously erroneous and cruel, the application which they made of them was nevertheless lying and arbitrary. Such is the first category of crimes committed by the Germans against non-combatants.


Moreover, even if they had had in this respect some complaint to make of civilians, if they had been authorised by the law of war to punish acts of violence committed against them under conditions that were forbidden, the right of repression which they invoke could never go so far as the penalty of death. Every addition thereto in point of punishment is excess, and an indication of barbarism. To extend to a whole population reprisals inflicted in consequence of a single act is something no less abominable, but that is just what the Germans have done.

Crimes committed by the Germans in the Exercise of Reprisals

At Liège, on the 21st August, a shot was fired from a house situated on the Quai des Pêcheurs. Immediately the Germans opened fire with a machine-gun and blew up on the spot twenty houses, whose inhabitants were killed. Shortly afterwards ten other houses on the Place de l’Université were set on fire, but as the flames seemed to be spreading too much, the firemen were ordered to put them out.

At Champguyon, on the 6th September, a man named Louvet was arrested for having fired under conditions forbidden by the laws of war. He was liable to the penalty of death. Accordingly, ten German soldiers fell on the wretched man, beat him unmercifully with sticks in the presence of his wife, dragged him away covered with blood, broke his wrist, shattered his skull, and dragged him to the end of the village, where at length they gave him the finishing stroke.

The same rule would apply to the cases of André Willen (twenty-three years of age), Gustave Lodts (forty) and Jean Marken (forty), all inhabitants of[141] Aerschot, in Belgium, if they had been guilty. The Germans, instead of shooting them, bound them to a tree and beat them, before burning the first alive and burying the other two alive.

In the province of Namur a young man whom some Uhlans had arrested was bound to two horses, who dragged him along, then tied to a tree, and finally shot. Under the same conditions M. Cognon, of Visé, was thrown into the water with his abdomen torn open. Holding in his entrails with one hand, he clung with the other to a boat, until he grew weak and died.

The innumerable mutilations inflicted on Serbian peasants at Chabatz and elsewhere show on this side of the area of war the same barbarism in the carrying out of reprisals. Some who were hardly wounded were buried alive, for they had been shot in the lump, and every one who fell was thrown into the common ditch which had been dug out beforehand.

Massacres of Civilians for Paltry Reasons

No less criminal are the attacks made by the Germans on the lives of civilians, for paltry reasons, for slight insubordination to unimportant orders, or even for acts that were quite blameless. The following are some examples of these crimes.

In the government of Warsaw the Germans killed a Polish magnate, Count Thomas Potocki, for merely protesting against a requisition.

At Dartainitza, near Semlin, on the frontier of Austria and Serbia, the whole of the inhabitants were led by the Austrians to Petenwarden, where a quarter of them were shot. The accusation alleged against these peasants was that they had given expression to their joy when the Serbians had entered Semlin.[142] It was the same with the villages of Bejania, Sourtchine, Beclika and Pancsova.

At Vingias, in the department of the Aisne, the owner of a farm was thrown into the flames because he had harboured the French headquarters staff on his farm.

At Mauperthuis four Germans who had previously come in the morning to the house of a man named Roger presented themselves again the afternoon. “There were three of you this morning; there are now but two! Get out!” said one of them. Immediately Roger and an immigrant named Denet, to whom he had been giving hospitality, were seized, carried off and shot.

A young druggist who lived in a village near Étain was shot for having gone to Étain with the sub-prefect of Briey, who had carried letters there for his fellow-citizens.

As for non-combatants who were found carrying arms, they were consistently massacred.

Massacre of Civilians without any Pretext

Other executions took place without any pretext. Sometimes the Germans gathered together, without rhyme or reason, all the male inhabitants of a village, and chose at haphazard a certain number, whom they shot without any form of trial and simply with the object of terrorising the population. Sometimes their fury was directed against peasants who were already struck with terror, and then whoever showed any signs of wanting to avoid meeting the enemy was shot for the mere reason that he had tried to flee before the invader. Sometimes they took vengeance on the inhabitants of a village where one of their[143] number had been killed by some enemy soldier in retreat.

Sometimes they forced their way into houses, bent on pillage, and as they thought the presence of the inhabitants seemed inconvenient, they made haste to assassinate them. Sometimes the fusillade was merely an amusement or recreation for the Germans. This took place sometimes during their marches from village to village. The peasant who had the misfortune to find himself in their path at once had a taste of their cruelty. Sometimes the execution of peaceable, quiet people served the Germans as a consolation for checks which the enemy had inflicted upon them. Sometimes, in their desire to offer some excuse for massacre, they have been seen to make a show of evacuating a village which it was said had been threatened, and then to fire some shots, which they then blamed the inhabitants for doing. Reprisals thereupon followed. Sometimes they attacked peaceable peasants because the latter opposed some offence which they wanted to commit. The following are some accounts of acts of this kind. They took place at Dinant, at Louvain, at Nomény, at Lunéville, where, perhaps to a greater extent than elsewhere, the fury of the invader was let loose upon inoffensive persons.

At Dinant

A Dutchman, M. Staller, has told as follows in the Telegraaf (quoted above, see Chap. XI) the story of the massacre of the people of Dinant.

“On Friday, the 21st August, about a dozen Germans ventured as far as the middle of the town in an armoured motor, a regular moving fortress. They had machine-guns with them, and whilst the motor rolled along they fired to right and left at the houses, aiming[144] chiefly, I maintain, at the upper storeys. It was already late, and, as the majority of the people had retired, many of them were killed or wounded in their beds.

“What happened on that night? Were there some civilians who replied to this cowardly and unexpected attack by revolver shots? I do not think so, for some days before, by order of the burgomaster, they had all given up their arms. Were the Germans drunk—as their comrades told me later—and had they a quarrel amongst themselves? What is certain is that the next morning three soldiers were found dead on the streets. I saw them. The Germans laid hold of this fact as an excuse for bombarding the town.

“On Monday morning the Germans entered the town. Their first act was to arrest 153 civilians, to lead them on the Petite Place and shoot them. In these terrible days, at Dinant as well as in the surrounding villages like Anseremme, Leffe and Neffe, more than 800 persons were killed, amongst whom there were many women and children; and all this for three German soldiers? No; but the Germans alleged that after the bombardment, at the moment of their attack on the town, the inhabitants had fired from their houses. What had happened? I know very well, and the Germans could not fail to know it. The Grand Rue of Dinant, parallel with the Meuse, is joined to the river by a number of lanes; the French, who were posted on the other bank, killed through these lanes a large number of Germans, and the enemy pretended that the citizens had fired on them. They started then by shooting 153 people, after which 500 were arrested and brought to Cassel. As for us, we were brought to the Abbaye des Prémontrés; for three days women and children were shut up in little rooms without a seat, and the[145] unfortunate women spent three days on a stone pavement almost without food. Four of them were confined under these terrible circumstances. Some officers took an infernal pleasure in making us every moment undergo the dread anticipation of death: they made us line up, and the soldiers pretended they were going to charge their rifles; then the officers laughed and said the execution would be resumed on the following morning. I am certain that some of those who were thus detained went mad.

“But what a martyrdom was endured by the women and children who saw their fathers, husbands or brothers shot! All this went on with frightful rapidity; in the twinkling of an eye, in spite of heart-rending cries, the women and children were separated from the men and ranged on the other side of the Petite Place, then between the two groups were placed the platoons which were to execute them; 153 wretched people fell bleeding; six of these, of whom two had not been touched by the bullets and four were only slightly wounded, shammed death, but the officer ordered the two who could still stand upright to rise, as there would be no more firing. When the six survivors obeyed, he gave the order, ‘Down with them also!’ Then he had machine-guns fired at the heaps of bodies. It is impossible to describe the grief and the cries of the women and children, but the monster who had given the order for this butchery remained unmoved. ‘Ladies,’ he said, with a strong German accent, ‘I have done my duty.’ Then off he went with his men. The bodies must have lain untouched on the square for three days; after this interval they were buried on the very spot where they had been executed. I took part in the work of interment.”


At Louvain

Several people who had been killed at Louvain by the Germans had been buried by them on the square in front of the railway station. The Kölnische Zeitung had the assurance to deny the fact. But search was made, and the bodies of these victims of German barbarism were discovered. The following account of the exhumation was given by the Tijd of Amsterdam, above the signature of a journalist who took part in the work in the presence of several Belgians, Colonel Lubbert, German commandant of Louvain, and his aide-de-camp.

“Fortunately a fresh wind was blowing on that day, as the stench which came out of the open tomb was unbreatheable. The objects found on the bodies were immediately thrust into a sack, which was duly numbered. Twenty bodies were disinterred after frightful labour; twenty bodies jammed into a hole not more than four square metres in extent!

“We had to take infinite care not to collect legs or arms belonging to other bodies, so much were the limbs jumbled together.

“Emotion overwhelmed us all, but the German Colonel Lubbert could not refrain from saying to the burgomaster, ‘How such an event could have taken place is incomprehensible when you think how educated and cultivated our people are.’ And the aide-de-camp added, ‘I am glad I was not at Louvain during these tragic moments!’ Words which have their value, and which show that plain people in Germany now regret the indescribable act ordered by their leaders, in contempt of the laws of the most elementary humanity!


“Professor Maldague, who was among the wretched prisoners callously picked out one after another for slaughter, and who had miraculously escaped death, could not control the profound emotion which overwhelmed him. On that fatal day the crowd of people were forbidden to look at the atrocities committed by civilised Germany, but a woman who happened to be near Professor Maldague ventured nevertheless, and saw that the victims marked out for expiation were compelled to lie face downwards on the paving-stones. Then they were killed by shots in the nape of the neck, the back or the head.

“The majority of the victims consequently lay with skulls fractured, not merely as a result of shots, but of blows from the butt-end of rifles. Even that was not enough. All the bodies which were recovered—the medical reports assure us on this point—had been pierced through with bayonet thrusts. Some had their legs and arms broken. Two bodies only had no wound. A post-mortem examination of them will be made to discover the causes of death.

“Mme. Van Ertrijck then recognised at the edge of the pit her husband, aged sixty years, the well-known cigar manufacturer, and her son, aged twenty-seven years; then appeared the bodies of a Belgian soldier, who could not be identified, and of a young lad not fifteen years old. The following victims were afterwards identified: Charles Munkemer, husband of Amélie Marant, born 1885; Edgard Bicquet, brewer at Boort-Meerbeek, whose family, known throughout Louvain, lives in the Rue de la Station; the retired Belgian Major Eickhorn, aged sixty years, inventor of short-range cartridges; A. Van de Gaer, O. Candries, Mme. A. Bruyninckx, née Aug. Mariën; Mme. Perilleux,[148] aged about sixty years. But on turning over the ground we discovered a second tomb, which contained seven other corpses concealed under thirty centimetres of earth.

“On the next day the melancholy task was resumed. In quite a small pit two more bodies were brought to light: that of Henri Decorte, an artisan of Kessel-Loo, and that of M. Van Bladel, curé of Hérent. There was not a sound when the wretched priest’s tall form was disinterred. R. P. Claes merely gasped, ‘The curé of Hérent!’ The poor man was seventy-one years old” (see the Temps of 5th February, 1915).

At Nomény

On the 20th August, 1914, the 8th Bavarian Regiment entered Nomény in command of Colonel Hannapel. “According to a story told by one of their soldiers,” said the French Commission of Inquiry, “their leaders had told them that the French tortured the wounded by tearing out their eyes and gashing their limbs. Thus they were in a fearful state of unusual excitement. From all sides came the rattle of rifle shots. The wretched inhabitants, whom the dread of fire drove from their cellars, were shot down like game, some in their domiciles and others on the public road.

“Messrs. Sanson, Pierson, Lallemand, Adam, Jeanpierre, Meunier, Schneider, Raymond, Dupoucel, Hazatte, father and son, were murdered on the street by rifle shots. M. Killian, seeing himself threatened with a sabre stroke, put his hands on his neck to protect himself. Three of his fingers were cut off and his throat cut open. An old man of eighty-six years old, M. Petitjean, who was seated in his armchair,[149] was struck by a ball which cracked his skull, and a German thrust Mme. Bertrand in front of the body, saying to her, ‘You saw that ⸺!’ M. Chardin, municipal councillor and acting mayor, was ordered to supply a horse and carriage. He had hardly promised to do all he could to comply, when he was killed by a shot. M. Prevot, who saw the Bavarians rushing into the chemist’s shop of which he was in charge, told them that he was the chemist, and that he would give them all that they wanted, but three shots rang out and he fell with a heavy groan. Two women who happened to be with him escaped, but were pursued with blows from the butt-ends of rifles up to the approaches to the railway station, where they saw in the garden and on the road many corpses heaped together.

“Between three and four o’clock in the afternoon the Germans forced their way into Mme. François’ butcher’s shop. Thereupon she came out of her cellar with her son Stub and an employee named Contal. As soon as Stub came to the threshold of the outside door he fell, seriously wounded by a rifle shot. Then Contal, who escaped into the street, was immediately murdered. Five minutes afterwards, as the death-rattle was still in Stub’s throat, a soldier leant over him and dispatched him with a blow of a hatchet in the back.

“The most tragic incident of these horrible scenes took place at the house of M. Vassé, who had gathered together a number of people in his cellar in the suburb called Nancy. About four o’clock a party of about fifty soldiers forcibly entered the house, bursting open the door and the windows, and immediately set fire to it. The refugees then endeavoured[150] to escape, but they were felled one after another at the exit. M. Mentré was first murdered. His son Léon then fell with his little sister, eight years old, in his arms. As he was not quite dead, the end of the barrel of a gun was put to his head and his brains blown out. Then it was the turn of the Kieffer family. The mother was wounded in the arm and shoulder; the father, a little son of ten years old and a little girl of three years old were shot. The scoundrels fired at them again as they were lying on the ground. Kieffer, who was lying on the ground, got a fresh bullet in the forehead; his son had the top of his skull blown off by a rifle shot. Then M. Strieffert and Vassé, one of his sons, were murdered, and M. Mentré was struck by three bullets, one in the left leg, another in the arm on the same side, and a third on the forehead, which was merely grazed. M. Guillaume, who was dragged out into the street, met his death there. Finally, a young girl called Somonin, aged seventeen years, came out of the cellar with her young sister Jeanne, aged three. The latter had her elbow nearly carried off by a bullet. The eldest threw herself on the ground and pretended to be dead, remaining for five minutes in fearful agony. A soldier kicked her and called out, ‘Kaput’ (done for).

“An officer came up at the end of this slaughter. He ordered the women who were still alive to get up, and called out to them, ‘Go to France.’”

At Lunéville

The murders at Lunéville were committed, according to the French Commission of Inquiry, under the following circumstances—


“On the 25th August, after firing two shots from the inside of the Worms tannery, to make it appear that they had been attacked, the Germans rushed into a workshop of this manufactory, in which an artisan named Goeury was working in company with Messrs. Balastre, father and son. Goeury was dragged out into the street, stripped, and brutally ill-treated, whilst his two companions, discovered in the lavatory where they had sought refuge, were shot.

“On the same day the soldiers came and called for M. Steiner, who was concealed in his cellar. His wife, in dread of some disaster, tried to keep him back. As she clasped him in her arms she was struck by a bullet in the neck. Some moments afterwards Steiner, having obeyed the command which had been given him, fell mortally wounded in his garden. M. Kahn also was murdered in the garden of his house. His mother, aged ninety-eight, whose body was burnt to a cinder in the fire, had previously been killed in her bed with a bayonet thrust, according to the story of an individual who was acting as interpreter to the enemy. M. Binder, who was going out to get away from the flames, was also struck down. The German by whom he was killed admitted that he had wantonly killed him when the poor man was quietly standing before a door. M. Vernier met with the same fate as Binder.

“About three o’clock the Germans, breaking the windows and firing shots, forced an entrance into a house in which were Mme. Dujon, her daughter, aged three, her two sons and a M. Gaumier. The little girl just missed being killed; her face was singed by a shot. At this moment Mme. Dujon, seeing her youngest son lying on the ground, begged[152] him to get up and flee with her. She then noticed that he was holding with full hands his intestines, which were dropping out. The house was on fire and the poor lad was burnt to a cinder, as was M. Gaumier, who had been unable to escape.

“M. Wingstermann and his grandson, aged twelve, who had gone to dig potatoes a little way off from Lunéville, at a place called ‘les Mossus,’ in the Chanteheux district, had the misfortune to meet the Germans. The latter put them both against a wall and shot them.

“Finally, about five o’clock in the evening, some soldiers went into the house of a woman named Sibille, in the same place, and without any excuse seized her son, dragged him off 200 metres from the house, and massacred both him and a M. Vallon, to whose body they had bound him. A witness who saw the murderers just when they were dragging off their victim saw them return without him, and declared that their bayonets were covered with blood and pieces of flesh.

“On the same day a male nurse, named Monteils, who was tending a wounded enemy officer at the Lunéville hospital, was struck by a bullet in the forehead as he was watching through the window a German soldier firing rifle shots.

“On the following day, the 26th, M. Hammann and his son, aged twenty-one years, were arrested at their house and dragged outside by a gang who had broken in the door and entered. The father was unmercifully beaten, and as for the young man, when he tried to struggle a non-commissioned officer cracked his skull with a revolver shot.

“At 1 p.m. M. Riklin, a druggist, who had been[153] told that a man had fallen about thirty metres from his shop, went to the spot and recognised in the victim his own brother-in-law, M. Colin, aged sixty-eight years, who had been struck in the stomach by a bullet. The Germans alleged that this old man had fired on them, but M. Riklin formally denies this statement.

“Colin, he told us, was an inoffensive man absolutely incapable of any act of aggression, and quite ignorant of the use of firearms.

“The mind refuses to believe that all these massacres took place without excuse,” continues the French Commission of Inquiry. “That, however, is the case. The Germans, it is true, have always given the same excuse, alleging that civilians were the first to fire on them. This allegation is false, and those who have made it have been unable to make it appear probable, even by firing rifle shots close to dwelling-houses, as they were in the habit of doing so that they might be able to declare that they had been attacked by unoffending civilians upon whose ruin or massacre they had decided. On many occasions we obtained proof of this; the following, for example, is one of many others. One evening, when a report rang out while the Abbé Colin, curé of Croismare, happened to be with an officer, the latter exclaimed, ‘That is sufficient reason, M. le Curé, why you and the burgomaster should be shot and a farm burnt. Look! there is one burning.’ ‘M. l’Officier,’ replied the priest, ‘you are too intelligent not to recognise the crack of your rifle. For my part, I do recognise it.’ The German did not insist.”


Outrages and Attacks on Hostages

Before ending this chapter and putting on record the admissions which German officers and soldiers have involuntarily made on the subject with which we are engaged, we may draw up two other categories of criminal acts which they have committed: (1) the practice of taking hostages, everywhere and on all kinds of pretexts, some of whom were ill-treated and killed, and (2) the callous deportation of civilians to Germany.

To take hostages from among civilians whom the fortune of war condemns to invasion is a thing so cruel in itself that all civilised nations try to limit the practice. The Germans, on the contrary, are noted for the fact that they extend it as much as they can. The name of hostages repeated everywhere gave a melancholy significance to the Prussian barbarism of 1870. “This practice,” writes Bluntschli, “is all the more open to criticism, as it endangers the lives of peaceful citizens without any fault of theirs, and, moreover, without bringing any appreciable increase of security.” On the other hand, Geffcken writes: “We cannot approve of the practice by which in 1870 Germany forcibly seized the chief people in enemy communes to secure the railroads against attacks by francs-tireurs.”

This opinion of German jurists, which is, moreover, shared by all writers, has not prevented the Germans from resorting in 1914 to the same practices as in 1870, and even adding thereto fresh cruelties.

In Belgium it was the clergy who principally served as hostages. The majority of the Belgian priests who had been ill-treated came under this category.

M. Hottier, mayor of Homécourt; M. Varin, curé[155] (both of whom were taken prisoner on the night of the 3rd-4th August, 1914); MM. Alexis and Jean Samain (of the Souvenir Français) were taken away to Alsace and German Lorraine.

MM. Hottier and Varin had both been denounced by a spy living at La Petite-Fin, whose reports served as a pretext for the accusation made against them by the German authorities.

Mayor and curé were first brought to Malancourt, the seat of headquarters.

“My companion,” the mayor of Homécourt afterwards told an editor of L’Est Républicain, “was more unfortunate than I. He was not allowed time to take his hat nor put on his stockings; he was clad only in his cassock. He marched in a bad pair of slippers. His colleague at Malancourt clothed the wretched ecclesiastic.

“They searched me, seized my purse, which contained a sum of twenty-seven francs, my papers… But the acutest suffering which rent my heart was when the hands of a Boche officer snatched my poor ribbon of 1870, my humble decoration. It was as if I had been punished with a lowering of rank.”

MM. Hottier and Varin were transferred to Metz and brought before a court-martial. The former was charged with having organised a campaign of francs-tireurs; in regard to the latter, another complaint was formulated—that he had urged some young people in the annexed territories to enlist in the foreign legion.

The discussions ended in a double acquittal. But M. Hottier was treated with no more consideration on that account. For five days he was shut up in a cell, getting only food that was uneatable. Fortunately a generous intervention took place. M.[156] Winsbach, an ex-chemist, succeeded in bringing about some mitigation of the rigour of certain orders. He enjoyed a high reputation at Metz. He used his business connections, his influence, his knowledge of the German and French languages sometimes to recommend sick people to the care of the doctors, sometimes to act as interpreter and express their desires or pass on their explanations. These are services which will never be forgotten by the hostages, to whom M. Winsbach rendered them with unwearied devotion.

The hostages were brought from Metz to Ehrenbreitstein, where there were 232 French prisoners, all natives of Metz, Thionville, etc. There were also the brothers Samain, the eldest of whom was (until the month of December) supposed in France to be dead, executed by the Germans. He had tried in vain to get news of himself brought through, but his correspondence could not escape the fine net of supervision which encompassed him.

The majority of these hostages carried away by the Germans were detained by them. Only men of more than sixty years of age were set free in the month of November. M. Hottier and some of his companions then set off on the 20th November, went through the Grand Duchy of Baden, crossed the Swiss frontier, and finally arrived at Nancy. The brothers Samain were amongst those who were detained in Germany.

In France, almost everywhere he went, the invader took hostages amongst the men of the villages or the representatives of authority. In Belgium also several people were carried off on the same plea.

Everybody knows of the case of M. Max, mayor of Brussels, who was imprisoned at Glatz; but Brussels[157] did not pay punctually the war tax which the Germans had levied on it.

Often the hostages whom the Germans appeared to have taken merely for the time of their passing through disappeared. This was the case at Gueraid, Seine-et-Marne, where, of six hostages whom the Germans took, one only was able to escape and to return to the country; and at Révigny, where one of the hostages, a man named Wladimir Thomas, was never set at liberty again.

In other cases the hostages were shamefully ill-treated. M. Colin, a Professor of Science at the Louis-le-Grand Lycée at Paris, who happened to be rusticating at Cogney, was carried off barefoot and in his shirt, loaded with insults as he went. Enraged at the treatment which other people and especially children were made to undergo, M. Colin said to a lieutenant, “Have you not a mother?” “My mother,” the German officer had the insolence to reply, “did not give birth to ⸺ like you!”

The hostages taken at Lunéville were no less brutally treated. Neither violence nor outrage was spared these peaceful citizens. They were put with their backs to the parapet of a bridge, before the houses in the town were set fire to, and the German troops who passed by behaved brutally to them. As an officer accused them of having fired on the Germans, a teacher among them pledged his word of honour that it was not so. “You French ⸺,” said the officer, “do not speak of honour, for you have none.” One of the hostages taken at Lunéville, named Rebb (sixty-two years of age), was pummelled on the face with the butt-end of a rifle, and bayoneted in the side. Nevertheless he continued to follow the column,[158] although he lost much blood. Then a Bavarian amused himself by inflicting fresh blows upon him and throwing a bucket at his head.

The wretched old man died on the way, between Hénaménil and Bures.

Massacre of Hostages

At Blamont in Lorraine, ex-Mayor Barthélemy, aged forty-six years, was taken as a hostage and shot. The same fate awaited the then mayor and the chief people in the locality; when the French entered the town they found notices on the walls announcing that these people would be shot on the following morning.

This was also the case at Courtacon (Seine-et-Marne), where five men and a child of thirteen years, taken as hostages, were exposed to the French fire during an engagement. Another hostage, named Rousseau, a conscript of the 1914 class, arrested in the same commune, was murdered under tragic conditions.

Questioned about the military position of this young man, the mayor, who happened to be amongst the hostages, replied that Rousseau had passed the military court, that he had been passed as fit for service, but that his class had not yet been called up. The Germans then made the prisoner undress, in order to discover what was his physical condition, then they put on his trousers again and shot him fifty metres away from his compatriots.

Hostages in Serbia

The hostages taken by the Austrians may be divided into two categories. They were, in the first place, the best-known Serbians, mayors or prominent inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose imprisonment had[159] no other object than to stop the invasion of that province by the threat of shooting them. The second category was composed of peasants, living in Serbian villages, who were shot in order to strike terror into the inhabitants. Amongst the hostages of the first category several were shot. There were amongst them priests, both Orthodox and Catholic, the Mayor of Raguse, M. Tchingrin, the Vice-President of the Municipal Council of this town, Dr. Puglissi, the poet, and the Serbo-Croatian deputy, Tressitch.

As for the others, here is the story told by M. Reiss, whom we mentioned above—

“A group of hostages of from eight to eighty-two years had been brought to Lechnitza. There were 109 of them. Quite close to the railway station of the place the soldiers dug a pit twenty metres long, three wide and two deep. In front of this grave they placed the group of 109 persons and bound them with ropes round their necks. Then a squadron of infantry took up a position on the slopes of the railway and fired a volley at the peasants. The whole group stumbled into the pit, and the soldiers threw earth upon them without having first made sure that all those who had been shot were dead. It is certain that a large number of victims had not been mortally wounded and even that some of them had not been struck at all. I think I am not mistaken in calculating that fifty per cent. of these poor people were buried alive.

“During these proceedings, another group of forty hostages had been brought up. The latter were compelled to be present at the massacre of their fellow-citizens and they were forced to shout, whilst the others were being killed, ‘Long live the Emperor Franz-Joseph.’


“I saw the pit opened into which these wretches fell, and I was able to establish the fact that the number of those who died of suffocation was very large. This huge human bundle was firmly fastened together: no rope had been broken.”

Deportation of Civilians

“The German military authorities had as profound contempt for liberty as for human life. Almost everywhere, people of every age were dragged from their homes and led away to captivity. Many died or were killed on the way.” These are the words in which the French Commission of Inquiry denounces that other crime committed by the Germans in the territories which they had invaded. In several places the inhabitants found they were deported en masse to Germany to dig trenches or to replace German agricultural labourers. In other places the inhabitants were imprisoned. It is hardly necessary to say that such acts are a violation of the law of nations in the very point where it is most universally recognised. We read in the articles of the Hague Convention that operations of war may be carried on “provided the inhabitants are not compelled to take part in them, in any form whatever,” that “the occupant of a country shall not raise reserves among them, nor compel them to fight, nor put them in the trenches, nor employ them on the offensive,” etc., and finally, “that the peaceful and inoffensive inhabitants of the territory and passive enemies must not be taken into captivity.”

Although by carrying away hostages the Germans have done violence to that rule of law which is accepted by their own authors, the deportation of civilians is[161] something more serious still, as it cannot be justified by any military necessity or by any plea for security.

Nevertheless, this policy was practised on a large scale. The following are some examples. At Lebbeke, in Flanders, forty-five farmers were brought away and sent to Germany to make hay. At Boisschot, also in Belgium, 200 men were seized and deported to Germany for the same purpose. At Louvain, several thousand men, who escaped the fusillades and the conflagration, were led away to Germany.

In France, in the department of the Nord, at Saint Pol-en-Ternois, 350 civilians were taken prisoner. This was also the case at Douai, Cambrai, Caudry, Noyon, where the German authorities demanded that the young people of fifteen to seventeen years, a list of whom had been supplied by spies, should be returned. Those who failed to answer the summons were sought for, and they and their parents were shot. The inhabitants did as they were told, and the young people to the number of 4000 were made prisoner and brought to the Russian frontier to dig trenches or else to the German countryside to make hay.

At Marcheville, at Saint Mihiel, women and children met with the same fate. At Avillers, too, all the men of sixteen to sixty years were brought away to Germany, including the deputy mayor, M. Alcide Blaise.

As in the provinces of the Nord and Meuse, so also in the Ardennes, the Germans made a regular practice of putting the inhabitants in prison. In all the towns and villages of this region men who were liable to be mobilised were treated as prisoners of war. This was the case at Rethel, where Dr. Bourgeois and ten[162] of his colleagues had the experience of being shut up in a spinning-mill with 400 men taken from the villages of the province. The prisoners were compelled to work for their enemies: they had to wash the soldiers’ linen, gather potatoes in the fields, and make earthworks. At Charleville, men whom the Germans had the assurance to call civil prisoners were employed in making entrenchments, while the women, as we have said above, were given sewing-work, which was to be used for the equipment of the troops. Their wage was half a loaf of bread.

In the province of Oise, about a hundred inhabitants of Creil, Nogent-sur-Oise and the adjoining districts were imprisoned, and had to submit to the disgrace and vexation of working against their country, cutting a field of maize, which might have been in the way of the German fire, and digging trenches which were to be used as shelters for the enemy. For the seven days they were kept without food being dealt out to them. Fortunately the women of the country were able to get some provisions through to them.

At Lamath (Meurthe-et-Moselle), three inhabitants, one of whom had chest complaint, were deported. At Amiens, in particular, the scandal of incidents of this kind was shocking. An order of the military authority, which the mayor thoughtlessly countersigned, required all citizens liable to be mobilised to go to the citadel and declare their position as regards military service. Relying on the mayor’s signature, about 1500 men, of whom nearly 800 were railway workers at the Amiens passenger and goods stations, went to the citadel. There the Germans made a selection. They sent back the men of the auxiliary services and kept the others as prisoners, to the number of more[163] than 1000, whom they brought on foot to Personne. The wretched procession halted and slept at La Motte-en-Santerre. Some prisoners, with the assistance of the few residents in Santerre, managed to hide and make good their escape. The others were entrained and taken away to Germany.

The second official report of the French Commission of Inquiry is full of really shocking details of outrages suffered by the French, who were taken from their homes and interned in Germany (Journal Officiel, 11th March).

Ten thousand of these wretched people were reinstated in French territory in the month of March. The order for internment had included a very large number of old men, children and women, several of whom were pregnant. All of these people had to submit to long and painful marches, ill-treatment and wretched diet.

The Vareddes hostages especially went through a veritable Calvary. Several of them, all old people, were murdered, as we have already mentioned. Those of Sinceny, about 200 in number, were likewise shockingly ill-treated.

At Gravelines, 2000 conscripts were deported, and all the natives of Combres, after being exposed to the French fire, were transferred to the camp at Zurickau.

Life in the camps was intolerable. Several of these “civil prisoners” lay in tents: others were huddled together in prisons. At Landau, an old woman aged eighty-seven was undressed and drenched with petrol. She succumbed some time afterwards to the fearful burns which she sustained. Blows, ill-treatment and painful forced labour were the order of the day. We[164] cannot, therefore, be surprised at the enormous number of cases of death and illness among them. The only medicine prescribed by the doctors was tincture of iodine. As one of the victims said, “We were like burnt-out candles, for we no longer had the strength to stand upright.” Those who went back to France had their health more or less permanently affected, and the mental depression to which they were subject was really an illness. The effects, therefore, of German activity continued after they were released.

The Austrians followed the example of the Germans, even in carrying out this kind of policy, especially in Syrmie (Semlin and the regions adjoining).

At Chid, also, all the inhabitants, children excepted, were deported: at Pazoon, M. Petrovitch, deputy to the Parliament of Pest, was arrested with his son, pummelled with the butt-end of a rifle, and deported. At Karlowitz and at Rouma, all the inhabitants of Serbian extraction were arrested and deported.

The Germans admit all these Crimes

As in the case of other kinds of outrage, so in that of the actions which we have just enumerated we are in possession of some admissions which have come from the Germans themselves.

A soldier named Philip, of Kamenz in Saxony, writes as follows: “At ten p.m. the first battalion of the 178th regiment went down into a burnt village to the north of Dinant, a sadly beautiful spectacle, which made us shudder. At the entrance to the village there lay about fifty citizens, who had been shot for having fired on our troops from an ambuscade.

“In the course of the night many others also were[165] shot, to such an extent that we could count more than 200 of them. Women and children, lamp in hand, were compelled to look on at this fearful sight. We then ate our rice in the middle of the dead bodies, for we had had nothing to eat since morning.”

“At Leppes” (writes a Saxon officer, of the same regiment as Private Philip, 12th army corps, 1st Saxon corps), “two hundred inhabitants were killed, among whom there must have been some unoffending people. In future, we must have a regular inquiry and establish the guilt of the accused before shooting them.”

Even the Kölnische Zeitung published the story of an eye-witness of the destruction of Aerschot, who would not have escaped had he not called out to the soldiers, “Do you want to kill a man who comes from Cologne?” The Germans then set him at liberty again. “In the streets,” he writes, “the fusillade lasted the whole night. All those found in possession of a weapon were mercilessly shot. The sight was terrifying … the wretches who were shot lay on the pavement, and all the time fresh ‘culprits’ were being brought before the platoons charged with the task of execution. Women and children wept and asked for mercy. In spite of all their indignation at the attack which had been made upon them, no German heart could be untouched by pity for the innocent victims.”

In the notebook of Private Hassemer of the 8th corps we find this fearful confession—

“3rd September, 1914. At Sommepy (Marne), dreadful slaughter, the village burnt to the ground, the French thrown into the burning houses; civilians and all burnt together.”


“On the third of September, at Creil,” writes a German soldier of the 32nd reserve regiment of infantry, “the iron bridge was blown up. For this reason we set the streets on fire and shot civilians.”

The Saxon officer, some of whose narratives we have already reproduced, also admits that the inhabitants were not spared punishment by fire. “The fine village of Gué-d’Hossus (Ardennes) has been consigned to the flames, although it had committed no offence that I can see. I have been told that a man on a bicycle fell from his machine and that, in his fall, his gun went off of itself, and then some one fired in his direction. After that men were simply thrown into the flames. We must hope that atrocities of this kind shall not be repeated.

“At Bouvignes, north of Dinant,” writes this Saxon officer of the 178th Regiment of the Line, “we entered, through a breach made in the rear, the grounds of a well-to-do resident and occupied the house. Through a labyrinth of rooms we reached the entrance of the house. There lay the body of the owner. Outside, in the fields, the sight of the inhabitants who had been shot, and whose bodies were lying on the ground, baffles all description. The point-blank fusillade almost decapitated them. Each house was searched in the tiniest corners and the residents dragged out from all their hiding-places. The men were shot.

The writer of this notebook alleges no pretext which would excuse or explain, in his eyes, all these murders. No more does the reservist Schlanter (3rd battery of the 4th regiment of field artillery of the Guard) mention any reason in justification of the murders which he describes. He writes: “25th August. In Belgium, three hundred inhabitants of the town were shot.[167] Those who survived the volley were requisitioned to act as grave-diggers (which proves that they were not considered guilty). You should have seen the women at this moment!”

“All the French, though civilians, were shot,” writes another, “if they only looked suspicious or ill-disposed. We shot them all: men and even young boys.”

“I have seen three convoys of French peasants pass by,” writes a third; “all will be shot.” An officer admits that the allegation that civilians took part in the fighting is a mere excuse. “We shall say,” he writes, “that it was not the civilians who fired, but it was the custom-house officers and foresters.” The same admission is also made by a Saxon officer of the 178th regiment, who writes: “Near Lisogne, the 23rd August. The company lost its way. Our men say that they could not advance any further, as francs-tireurs were firing upon them from the houses. We seized these alleged francs-tireurs, placed them in three ranks so that a single shot would hit three men at once.

Lieutenant Eberlein, who (in the Münchener Neueste Nachrichten) tells the story of the barbarous manner in which the troops entered Saint Dié, added on his part: “Everybody who showed himself in the streets was shot.” On the other hand, the commandant of the garrison of Hay was so enraged at the disgraceful conduct of the troops that he issued the following order of the day, which constitutes a terrible accusation against the Germans—

“25th August, 1914.

“Last night a terrible fusillade took place. It has not been proved that the inhabitants of the town were still in possession of arms. Neither has it been[168] proved that civilians took part in the firing. On the contrary, according to all appearances the soldiers were under the influence of alcohol, and opened fire through incomprehensible fear of an enemy attack.

The conduct of the soldiers, with few exceptions, appears to have been disgraceful.

“When officers, or non-commissioned officers set fire to houses without permission or order of the commandant, or at least of the senior officer, and encourage their troops to burn and pillage, it is an act in the highest degree to be deplored.

“I expect that in every case strict instructions shall be given as to the attitude to be observed towards the life and property of civilians. I forbid any one to fire into a town without the order of an officer.

“The regrettable conduct of the troops has had the result that a non-commissioned officer and a soldier have been seriously wounded by German fire.

Von Bassewitz (Major),

Even the proclamations issued by the German authorities show for what hateful purposes the hostages were taken away, and how precarious was their condition as soon as the slightest check was inflicted on the German troops, or the slightest attack was made upon them.

“The life of hostages,” wrote Commandant Dieckmann at Grivegnée, on the 6th September, “depends on whether the inhabitants of the communes previously mentioned keep quiet under all circumstances.” And he adds, “I shall mark in the lists submitted to me the names of those individuals who must stay as hostages from noon on one day to noon of the next.


“If a substitute has not been found within reasonable time, the hostage will remain for a further twenty-four in the fort. After this second period of twenty-four hours, the hostage will run the risk of death, if a substitute has not been found.”

Moreover, Marshal Von der Goltz, military governor of Belgium, caused to be posted up in Brussels on 5th October, 1914, a proclamation in which the following announcement was made: “In future, the localities nearest to the place where the destruction of railway lines and telegraph wires has taken place (whether they have been accessory or not) will be mercilessly punished. To this end hostages have been taken from all localities near to railroads threatened by such attacks, and at the first attempt to destroy lines of railroad, telegraph or telephone lines, they will be immediately shot.”

As for the deportation of civilians and the imprisonment with which they were threatened, when they were not carried off to Germany, two German soldiers volunteered the following admissions: “On the 6th September,” writes one of them, “we dispatched three hundred Belgians to Germany, including twenty-one curés.” “We shut up,” writes the other (Karl Bertram de Westeregein, near Magdeburg), “450 men in the church at Aerschot. I myself happened to be near the church at the moment.”


All this evidence and all these admissions are sufficient to prove the criminal nature of the German treatment of civilians whose territory had been invaded. The pretexts which they allege have no validity. They are only made for the sake of appearances, and, on the other hand, the acts which they committed are[170] such as admit no kind of excuse and can in no case be justified. Nevertheless the German Government attempted to do so. The Berlin Cabinet undertook to prove that the inhabitants of Liège were guilty and deserved to suffer the fearful butchery which followed the entry of the Germans. To prove this the latter relied upon the evidence of a certain Hermann Costen, who was represented as a Swiss member of the Red Cross. But the chief of the Swiss police promptly published the following information—

(1) M. Hermann Costen never belonged to the Swiss Red Cross.

(2) M. Hermann Costen is not Swiss, as he was refused naturalisation.

(3) For two years M. Hermann Costen has been under the surveillance of the Swiss police. I maintain that since the declaration of war this person only left Switzerland from the 9th to the 14th August. It is absolutely impossible that he can have been at Liège at the period of the siege mentioned by you.

(4) M. Hermann Costen left Switzerland finally in consequence of a decree of expulsion on the 19th September.

(5) M. Hermann Costen’s moral and material credit is nil. He is an individual for whom there is little to be said.

After the picture of German atrocities which has been put before us, it is not without its uses to form from this reply some idea of the duplicity which endeavoured to cloak them.



The life of the inhabitants of invaded countries, the honour of their women, the liberty of their youths were not the only blessings, which the Germans attempted to take away from them in contempt of all humanity and all law. Even the property of these inhabitants suffered from invasion. They had to gaze on the ruin of their ravaged homes, which the invader left to be devoured by the flames, and when, deprived of all their possessions, these wretched victims of invasion wanted to take refuge in the temples of God, this last resource was denied them, for the barbarians had sometimes destroyed the church, and sometimes taken possession of it to use as a barracks for their soldiers.

Arson as a Policy

As the French Commission of Inquiry remarked, arson was a common German practice, sometimes used as a weapon of destruction, sometimes as a means of intimidation. “The German army,” adds this Commission, “in order to be prepared for it, has a regular equipment, including torches, grenades, fuses, petrol-sprinklers, rockets which carry inflammable matter, and even little bags containing pastilles of a very inflammable compressed powder. Its incendiary fury is chiefly manifested against churches and monuments interesting from the point of view of art or of history.”


Often the invader was not content with sprinkling the beds of dwelling-houses with petrol, he took care also to heap straw under agricultural machines to destroy them, as well as dwelling-houses, harvests, and the cattle remaining in the stalls. This was done at Château-sur-Morin by the 76th German regiment.

Often, also, arson was employed as a means to compel people to leave their houses, and to make it easier to pillage. As soon as they entered the villages the Germans, with this object in view, set fire to them. On other occasions they resorted to this method only when the loot was over: then the destruction of the houses of a village was only the crown of their work.

It would be impossible to record in detail acts of this kind committed by Germans on all the invaded territories. We must be content with noting those cases in which parts of large towns were destroyed and whole villages disappeared.


The burning of Louvain must be regarded as an operation distinct from the bombardment. The bombardment was slight, but the burning fearful. The burning began on the 26th August at ten p.m. It was systematically carried out. In places where the fire did not catch on, the soldiers went from house to house throwing incendiary grenades.

The largest part of the town, especially those parts of the upper town which included St. Peter’s Church, the university and its library, the greater part of the scientific institutions of the university, and the town theatre were henceforth the prey of the flames.

Everybody knows that the academic library of Louvain was one of the scientific treasures of Europe.

In token of peace all the houses in Louvain were[173] flying a white flag, strips of which might be seen floating over the ruins.

The fire was still going on the next day. Far from taking measures to stop it, the Germans did all they could to keep it going by throwing into the flames all the straw they could find. On the 27th August Louvain looked like an old city of ruins. Drunken soldiers were walking about in it, carrying wine and brandy. The officers, seated in armchairs round tables, drinking like their men, looked on at the ominous results of the disaster. In the streets, the bodies of dead horses were decomposing in the sun, and the stench of putrefaction from them mingled with that of the fire, corrupted the air of the whole town.

The conflagration came to an end on the 2nd September. On that day four more fires were lit by the German soldiers in the Rue Leopold and the Rue Marie-Thérèse. Eight hundred and ninety-four houses were reduced to ashes within the precincts of the town of Louvain, and about five hundred in the suburb Kessel-Loo. The suburb of Berent and the commune of Corbeek-Loo were almost entirely destroyed. The suburb of Heverlé was the only one which was respected, perhaps because the Duke of Arenberg, a German subject, has property there.

The destruction of Louvain caused universal indignation, as the destruction of the Cathedral of Reims was to do a little later. In neutral countries public opinion was roused.

In Sweden it was described as a “monstrous act of barbarism against humanity and against civilisation.” In Spain the press gave voice to unanimous protests which recalled the fact that the Flemish treasures of Louvain had been respected from the time of Philip II to Napoleon I. The Portuguese Academy of Sciences[174] invited the Academies of Science in all countries to raise public subscriptions for the purchase of books for the University of Louvain, and to keep alive the protest of the intellectual world against an act of destruction so barbarous. In America public feeling was profoundly stirred. One newspaper made itself the mouthpiece of general opinion on this topic when it declared “Germany could not complain if her crimes recoiled on her own head” (New York Tribune, 21st September, 1914). In Italy, finally, the Giornale d’Italia, the Messagero, the Secolo, the Mattino, the Corriere della Sera, the Perseveranza, the Piccolo (de Trieste) and the Avanti signed a letter inviting the citizens to testify their indignation at the Belgian Legation at Rome.

The Burning of Nomény

Various crimes committed at Nomény have had their place in foregoing chapters. But the burning of the place surpassed them all. On the 13th August, 1914, at the cry “the Prussians, the Prussians,” the inhabitants of this small village (in the province of Meurthe-et-Moselle) took refuge in the cellars. The German cavalry and infantry, sword unsheathed and revolver in hand, rushed, shouting, into the village. Mlle. Jacquemot, an eye-witness of these incidents, has described them in the Nancy Est Républicain in these words: “Having taken refuge in a cellar with thirteen other persons, she was followed by the Germans, who could not find where they had hidden. The Prussians,” she said, “went up out of the cellar again, but it was to sprinkle us with petrol through the vent-hole. They set fire to it. We were choking. We should die by burning or asphyxiation. We must go out at any cost. In a choice of deaths it is better to die of a bullet or a[175] bayonet thrust. One of us has a watch. He looks at it. It is five o’clock. We had been there for seven hours! A couple of young girls (for, with the women, there were only some children and old men) offered themselves. Three of us then started out, the two Mlles. Nicolas and I. We went out past the outhouse. Everything in Nomény was on fire. The whole street was in flames. We must not think of going along the side of the street. Henceforth we have only one hope, i.e. to gain the fields. We went into the first garden we came to.

“As we went through the blazing streets, we had seen dead upon dead. There were some whose heads were split open. An old woman who would have been a hundred years old in the month of November dropped with exhaustion on the way. Of course she died. At the Zambeau infirmary, some bread and a little sausage meat were given us. We slept on the ground, and this morning, Friday, about six o’clock, we had to go packing.”


The burning of Senlis is one of the most frightful cases of destruction by fire of which the Germans have been guilty. They had hardly entered it on the 2nd September when they began to loot houses, and afterwards threw into them special bombs which caused fires to break out. As M. Émile Henriot has shown, in L’Illustration, 26th September, 1914: “It was not the bombardment that started the fire. A callous and calculated purpose directed this work of destruction. There are witnesses who affirm it, and in some houses spared by the fire, these incendiary bombs, which did not fulfil the mission, were found afterwards. Private houses, hotels domiciles of rich[176] and poor, modern villas or exquisite mansions of former days—nothing was spared. The beautiful home of the law courts and the sub-prefecture, which dated from the time of Gabriel and Louis is no more.” The cathedral, fortunately, was saved.

“Horror!” exclaimed M. Marcel Hutin of the Echo de Paris; “the whole Rue de la République, the principal street of Senlis, has been burnt down. Not a house has been spared. The hotels, private dwelling-houses, the castle, the town hall, the Houssaye Barracks—all, all in ruins.

“On the first day of their arrival, after the bombardment (I was told by the inhabitants, glad in the midst of the mental and material affliction to see a face from Paris) the Germans began to set fire to the houses in the Rue de la République. On what pretext? A tobacconist was alleged to have fired on them, and the unfortunate mayor (M. Odent) to have forgotten to cause all arms left in the possession of the citizens to be sent to the town hall.

“And such scenes! Some soldiers deposited incendiary bombs in the houses. Others, a few minutes afterwards, fired on the houses, which, being full of gases, immediately blew up. Nothing of them remains but the walls.

“Scenes of bestial savagery lifted these brutes to the highest pitch of joy: whilst the houses hard by were ablaze and the fire had just reached the topmost story of the Hôtel du Nord, in the basement a dozen Death’s-Head Hussars, tipsy, were playing infernal music on the piano, and singing with wild eyes. Outside some cavalry were forcing their horses to leap through these furnaces! It was frightful. All the night I had a horrible vision of Senlis burnt down.”



“On the morning after their arrival at Baccarat” (on the 25th August, 1914), says M. Jean Rogier in the Petit Parisien, “without excuse, without any pretext that the population had fired on them—for the mere lust of wickedness and destruction they set fire to the town. To begin with, they made an attack on the town hall. Soldiers bearing some resin torches, others cans of oil and petrol, marched as if on parade, to the town hall, splashed the walls with oil, emptied the petrol into the offices and the basement, and then threw their blazing torches into them.

“This hellish baptism accomplished, they waited. Ah! not for long. The flames burst forth with a fearful roaring noise, blackening the walls and rising above the front like a fiery serpent, and soon all was ablaze.

“This beautiful sight roused the brave soldiers. Close to the mayor’s residence and along the whole length of each side of the Rue des Deux Ponts there were beautiful houses, the residences of middle-class citizens. They sprinkled these sixty houses with petrol and with oil and ran their torches against the damp walls, and some minutes afterwards the whole street was on fire. The flames leaped out of the cellars, ran along the walls, rose, grew larger and larger and climbed up to the roof. They joined each other from one side of the street to the other, and, uniting, leaped to the sky like pillars of fire. The whole air was red. Flakes of flame sped outside the town, and left behind a trail of smoke. Up there on the top of the church the weathercock which revolved on the spire of the ruined belfry gleamed like a jewel of iridescent stones,[178] and all at once, in a din of thunder claps, all the houses collapsed and shed on the town a rain of sparks.

“For five days the rubbish smoked.” One hundred and two houses were burnt down.

A Few Figures

These narratives are eloquent and yet they are far from giving an idea of the destruction which the Germans left behind them. The figures tell us still more than the narratives.

In Belgium, in fifteen towns and villages taken at random among the localities which the Germans systematically ravaged by fire, we note that 2191 houses were burnt: in other words, on an average each Belgian locality damaged by the fire of German torches had 146 houses burnt down. Moreover, we have mentioned in our investigations, which were made at haphazard, the names of ten Belgian localities entirely destroyed by fire, including Tirlemont, Linsneau, Andennes, Schaffer, Spontin, etc. It may easily be imagined what would be the result of a systematic inquiry.

In France, the number of villages completely burnt down like Nomény, Sommeilles, etc., was very great.

Some idea of the damage done may be formed from the fact that in the Meurthe-et-Moselle province alone twenty-two places suffered from fire. Of these twenty-two, two were completely destroyed (Villers-aux-Vents and Sommeilles), and in the other twenty, 663 houses were burnt. This gives an average of twenty-three houses a district.

Burning of Historic Monuments and Castles

It was not merely at Reims during the bombardment, and at Louvain during the fire, that the Germans[179] showed their contempt for monuments and the treasures of art and science contained in them. In the following chapter we shall take note of the loot carried on in the interiors of these buildings. Here we speak only of fire and general destruction. Several castles were burnt down: those of Varolles, Moque-Souris, Sparre (in Chierry), the château of Brumetz (Aisne province), the town hall of Lunéville, the house of M. Alberic Magnard, author of Bérénice (at Baron), who saw all the works of art accumulated there, in value exceeding a million francs, destroyed by fire. In Poland, the town hall of Szydlowice, an architectural masterpiece, was destroyed, notwithstanding the 5000 crowns which the inhabitants of the place paid to the German commandant to secure its preservation.

Sacrilegious Fires

None the more were churches spared. The invader, the enemy alike of his foe’s taste and of his religious faith, spent as it were a double ferocity on the work of destroying the temples of God.

“The church at Aerschot,” writes the Belgian Commission of Inquiry in one of its reports, “is a lamentable spectacle. Its three entrances and those of the sacristy have been more or less consumed. The entrance leading to the nave, and the side entrance on the right, both of massive oak, seem to have been hammered with a battering-ram after the flames had reached them.”

The same was the case at Révigny, the church which was classed among historic monuments, and in many other Belgian and French villages which, when they were totally or partially destroyed by fire, also lost the home of their religion.


Desecration of Churches

The Germans were not content with destruction. On several occasions they went out of their way to desecrate holy places; so much perversity, worse even than barbarism, is there in the regular habits of this nation and in the education which they receive.

The church of Aerschot was not merely burned, it was also polluted; and the following narrative, given by a woman who was an eye-witness, a correspondent of the Evening News (of 24th September, 1914), will help to give us some idea of what went on there—

“On the high altar,” wrote this journalist, “there were three empty champagne bottles, two rum, a broken bordeaux bottle and five beer bottles. In the confessionals other champagne, brandy and beer bottles, also empty.

“On the marble flags, heaps of straw everywhere, heaps of bottles, rubbish and filth. On the forms, on the chairs, bottles and still more bottles, champagne, beer, rum, bordeaux, burgundy and brandy. In all directions wherever we cast our eyes, to whatever part of the church we looked, there were nothing but bottles by the hundred, by the thousand, perhaps; everywhere bottles, bottles, bottles.

“But the sacristan in a trembling voice appealed to me. ‘Madame, do look!’ and he showed me a white marble bas-relief representing the Virgin. They had quite broken the head of the Virgin!

“A little further away there were splendid wood carvings, representing an episode in the life of Christ. They burnt the face and half the body of Christ! Why? For the mere pleasure of destruction, as they slashed with the sword or bayonet the tapestries and[181] costly lace which covered the altar. On the walls hung priceless paintings, the work of Flemish old masters. These they cut along the frames.

“They brought a pig into a little chapel, to the right of the nave, and killed it there.

“On all sides the walls and flagstones bore the marks of prancing horses which had been stabled in the sanctuary.” A pyx was taken away by the Germans from the church of Hofstade. A Belgian priest found the gilt copper foot of it on the way into the village. All the precious stones which adorned it had been taken away, and the Germans also kept the upper part of silver gilt.

In France, likewise, churches were desecrated, and the Germans used that of Betz as a barracks. When they had gone, one could see in it straw mattresses lying on the flagstones, empty bottles in rows on the altar steps, the remains of food on the forms and chairs, a leg-of-mutton bone thrown into the font, etc.

On the 25th October a battalion of the 123rd infantry regiment of Wurtemburg Landwehr entered the village of Seugern, at the bottom of the Guebwiller valley and, on a signal from their leader, immediately set fire to it. The latter, a lieutenant, reserved for himself the church, which he entered at the head of ten men. In obedience to their officer’s orders the gang started operations by destroying the organ, then broke down the confessionals and the high altar, and, making a heap of images in the nave, drenched them all with petrol.

A single Catholic soldier refused to take part in this infamous work. He was, therefore, disarmed and shot the following morning. The arrival of the French[182] Chasseurs Alpins fortunately prevented the church, which had been polluted, from being devoured by fire as well.

The little church of Vitrimont (a league away from Vitrimont) was also desecrated by the Germans. Its stained glass was shattered, its door smashed to pieces, and in the nave the sacrilegious invaders left nothing but a confused heap of timber, plaster, jagged benches, broken glass. Vestments of the priests, the images of the saints, the costly cloths, the beautiful embroidered work, the trimmings of the altar, and the tiny treasure of the sacristy were all found on the road in the mud.

In Russia

Instances of desecration of churches, Orthodox and Catholic, were still more numerous in Russia. The cause of this lies in the orders which were given to attack the Russian or Polish peasant through his religion, the most sacred of his possessions.

The worst of these outrages was that suffered by the famous church of Our Lady at Tchenstokhova. It is the great centre of national pilgrimage, to which more than a million people go each year. The Germans did not shrink from desecrating this renowned sanctuary and looting the famous convent of the Virgin. In particular the two churches at Radom (in the province of Kielce) suffered from the German invasion. The soldiers, who spent the night there, littered the ground with straw, broke the locks of the drawers and the chests, smashed the various images and left everything in frightful disorder.

At Mlava the churches and synagogues were converted into barracks. At Souvalki, after the Germans had gone, it was shown that they had made a stable[183] of the church, for round about were lying the droppings of horses, and hooks and rings had been fastened to the walls. On the altar there were traces of a meal; beside the shattered remnants of the clock several empty bottles and dirty cloths had been left behind, and there were marks of filthy stains. The vestments of the priests had been used to cover horses; the sacrilegious plunderers had carried off the candelabra and the altar cloth.

At Calvaire (in the province of Kovno) the Germans threw the altar-piece, the cross, and various other images into the privies. At Grasewo, Krasno, Topoleza, Konsk and Kielce, similar acts were noted. At Mariampol (in the province of Kovno) the Germans sacked the college library, forced their way into the church and desecrated the altar by dining at it. The remains of this dinner and dirty stockings were found under the altar.

Finally, at Volkawisky two churches were desecrated. One was sacked and its silver cross stolen; the other, the regimental church, was converted into a barracks, and the priests’ vestments were used as dishcloths.

German Admissions

We must not omit the chapter of admissions. So far as the burning of Aerschot is concerned, we find one of these admissions in the Kölnische Zeitung, whose correspondent admits that “the sight was alarming.” He adds that “the town was ablaze on all sides” and that “the barrels of spirits of wine blew up with a deafening clatter.”

The Saxon officer of the 178th regiment, whose evidence we have already put on record, writes that[184]the fine village of Gué-d’Hossus (Ardennes) was abandoned to the flames, although so far as I could see it was innocent.”

A soldier of the 32nd reserve infantry regiment notes in his pocket-book that “the streets of Creil were burnt down” by way of reprisals and because the iron bridge was blown up.

A soldier of the reserve named Schaulter writes: “The crack of rifle shots was heard when we left Ovela, but, in it, fire, women, and our leavings.” So common was the practice of which he mentions one result, that he did not think it necessary to give any details. Arson, pillage, sacrilege, violation, such were the solemn rites of invasion.

The non-commissioned officer, Hermann Levith, of the 160th infantry regiment, 8th corps, says that “the enemy occupied the village of Bièvre,” and adds, “We took the village, then burnt nearly all the houses.” Another, Private Schiller, of the 133rd infantry regiment, 19th corps, writes: “It was at Haybes (Ardennes) that on the 24th August, we had our first battle. The second battalion entered the village, searched the houses, sacked them and burnt those from which any one had fired.” A Bavarian soldier, Reishaupt, of the 3rd infantry regiment, 1st Bavarian corps, writes: “Parux (Meurthe-et-Moselle) was the first village we burnt; after that the dance began—one village after another.”

Would it not have been believed that setting fire to a country was part of the methods of attack and of acts permitted to a conqueror? What formerly was an exceptional occurrence, which remained in the memory of men as an unheard-of crime, is in German eyes the usual way of war.



The German Idea of War-booty

The cherished idea of the German soldier is that war permits and excuses everything. Consequently the property of the inhabitants of the territory he invades does not seem to him to be immune from his cupidity. If the lust of possession seizes him, he thinks it is a brilliantly won booty, which rewards him for his efforts.

Nevertheless, international law only recognises as booty what is taken from a state; in all other cases it is pillage, and Bluntschli, the well-known German jurist, stigmatises it as emphatically as any one.

Let us add that it is not merely the German private soldier who shows that he is capable of this violation of law. The officer and even the general share this view, and commit this crime. In the majority of these cases pillage was not an accident, but a system, and has taken place under such conditions that it could not have been carried out if the officers had not approved of it. In many cases it was they who set the example. Pillage was reduced by them to the movements of a military operation. The narratives which will follow will make that clear. For the present, we shall quote the letter of the wife of a German officer living in Berlin, which the Spanish Embassy at Berne[186] received during the month of January, in which this woman admitted that she was in possession of a quantity of objets d’art, of which she supplied an inventory. These articles her husband had sent her after the sack of a château in France. She added that her husband had taken these articles to leave them in safety with her, that her conscience would not allow her to keep them without giving a list of them, and that she wished to see them restored to their owner after the conclusion of hostilities.

In conformity with this evidence, the French Commission of Inquiry declared that “in every place through which a company of the enemy passed they gave themselves up to a methodically organised pillage, in the presence of their leaders, and sometimes even with their active assistance.”

The Objects of Pillage

Pillage covered everything, everything at least that could be carried away. What could be consumed was used at once, letters were everywhere pillaged. “Strong-boxes,” said the Commission of Inquiry, “have been gutted, and considerable sums robbed or taken by violence from them. A large quantity of silver and jewels, and also of pictures, furniture, objets d’art, linen, bicycles, women’s clothes, sewing-machines, and even children’s toys, have been taken away and put on wagons, to be brought to the frontier.”

The Temps gave an inventory of articles found in two trunks carried off in a motor by German soldiers. This booty came from Belgium.

“First trunk: four table-cloths marked M. S., one sheet, one woman’s chemise marked M. B., two petticoats, one white-and-red bodice, one dress-bodice[187] and velvet skirt marked ‘Maison Richard Ruelens, rue des Joyeuses-Entrées 36, Louvain’; two blouses, a skirt and jacket of velvet, four gowns, a muff, a woollen necktie, the back of a pedestal, two electroplated teapots, a silver coffee-pot, a porcelain article, a teacup, table-knives with silver handles, and a dessert-knife.

“Second trunk: a bronze figure of a Cossack with inscription in Russian characters, four cases containing table-knives, a silver tray, two nickel candlesticks, a small mirror, two revolvers, four swords, seven pairs of ladies’ boots, two pairs of high-heeled shoes, a notebook in which was written on the first page ‘21st July: paid 10 fr. 80’; a registration book of the State Railway Co.; two white petticoats, four of which were marked L. S.; two muffs, a stole, five dress-bodices, one of which was marked ‘Maison Richard Ruelens, rue des Joyeuses-Entrées 36, Louvain’; a black evening cloak, a woman’s nightgown marked M. B., two table-cloths, two ostrich feathers, an evening dress, a child’s embroidered dress, four pairs of stockings, a reticule with the price 1.35 marked on a label, an overcoat with silk lapels marked ‘Maison Février, Maubeuge.’”

The result of such acts was that the not-too-opulent inhabitants of Belgium and north-east France lost all they had. The looters carried off what was not devoured by the flames, and it must be added that the work of pillage, no less than of massacre, rape and arson, was carried out with even greater fury when the inhabitants thought they had stalled it off by their entreaties. The fact has been noticed, especially in Belgium, that houses which bore inscriptions like “Please spare,” or “Decent people; do not plunder them,” were sacked and pillaged first.


The most conspicuous acts of this kind took place in Belgium at Louvain, Aerschot and Dinant; in France at Lunéville, Clermont-en-Argonne, and Château-Thierry.

Pillage a General Practice

Other towns and villages saw acts like these repeated many times. Here are some examples taken at random.

In the Province of Aisne, the village of Brumetz was sacked; in that of Jaulgonne, the Prussian Guard emptied cellars and carried off linen: theft and destruction combined resulted in loss to the extent of 250,000 francs. At Charmel similar incidents occurred. At Péronne, the inhabitants had to endure levies imposed on them without ceasing. All inhabited houses were searched from cellar to attic and stripped bare. Shops that were found shut were forced open. Whole trains full of stolen furniture were brought away to Germany.

At Baccarat it was the same. Everything that the German soldier thought right to take was taken. They took wine and flour. At the glassworks the finest articles, cut-glass services, were packed up with a care which showed every characteristic but blind violence, and packed on wagons directed to Sarrebourg. Carts laden with furniture also took the same road.

At Barbery and at Charmont men forced their way into the rooms of private houses, having first turned out the residents. Furniture and family property—all were taken, and thrown out of the windows or carried off. The village of Bussières, near Château-Thierry, was completely destroyed, of set purpose. The Prussians pillaged there everything they could find. The remainder was destroyed, pulled about, broken up,[189] carried off, smashed to atoms by a kind of savagery. Then it was set on fire, and the flames finished the work of devastation.

At Albert, Captain Zirgow from the 30th August authorised the soldiers under his command to visit, so he said, unoccupied houses. This was as much as to give them carte blanche for pillage and theft. Consequently the booty taken by the Germans in this district was of great value.

The town of Coulommiers was widely pillaged; silver, linen, boots were taken away, especially from deserted houses, and many bicycles were packed on motor-lorries.

At Rebais a jeweller’s shop was sacked.

At Nomény, before burning the town the Germans took out of the dwelling-houses all that they thought worth carrying away. They sent everything to Metz. At Beauzemont, the château was looted by officers of the German general staff, accompanied by their wives; at Drouville, at Hériménil, at Jolivet, there was systematic pillage. In the last locality a sum of 600 francs was stolen by a German.

At Choisy-au-Bac, in Valois, the German soldiers, in presence of their officers, gave themselves up to general pillage, the fruits of which were carried off in carriages stolen from the inhabitants. Two military doctors wearing the Red-Cross brassard with their own hands pillaged Mme. Binder’s house.

At Trumilly the looting was carried out in perfect order. A non-commissioned officer on the general staff of the 19th regiment of Hanoverian Dragoons robbed Mme. Huet of 10,000 francs’ worth of jewels. The German colonel, to whom this lady made complaint, approved of the non-commissioned officer’s action. Another German soldier of the 91st infantry[190] regiment was guilty of several thefts to the value of 815 francs. And these cases were not the only ones clearly proved in this district.

Looting of Louvain

During the days which followed the burning of Louvain, the houses which remained standing and whose inhabitants had been driven out were handed over to be looted under the very eyes of the German officers.

This pillage lasted eight days. In bands of six or eight the soldiers forced in the doors or broke in the windows, rushed into the cellars, soaked themselves in wine, threw the furniture about, broke open safes, stole money, pictures, objets d’art, silver, linen, clothing, provisions.

A great part of this booty was loaded on military wagons and carried off to Germany by railroad.

Looting at Aerschot

M. Orts, Adviser to the Legation, Secretary of the Belgian Commission of Inquiry, stated that the town of Aerschot was partially destroyed by fire, but that so far as the rest was concerned, he could affirm that it had been completely sacked.

“I went into several houses,” he said, “and passed through the different storeys. Everywhere the furniture had been thrown about, gutted, polluted in a disgraceful manner. Paper-hangings fell in strips from the walls, the doors of the cellars were burst in, the locks of the chests, drawers, and all the cupboards had been picked and their contents taken. Linen, articles of the most different kinds, and an incredible number of empty bottles covered the ground.

“In the middle-class houses, pictures were slashed[191] and works of art broken. On the door of one, a huge, fine-looking building belonging to Dr. X, the following inscription, half rubbed out, might still be read in chalk: ‘Please spare this house, as the people in it are really peaceable, decent folks. Signed, Bannach, Orderly.’ I went into this building, in which I was told some officers had been billeted, and which the kindness of one of them appeared to have saved from the general destruction. On the threshold a faint smell of spilt wine called attention to hundreds of empty or broken bottles, which were heaped up in the porch or the staircase and in the court leading into the garden. Unspeakable disorder reigned throughout the rooms; I walked on a layer of torn clothing and tufts of wool which had fallen out of the gutted mattresses. Everywhere furniture smashed open, and in all the rooms within reach of the bed more empty bottles. The dining-room was heaped with them, dozens of wine-glasses covered the large table and the smaller ones which pressed against the slashed armchairs and sofas, while in the corner a piano with dirty keys seemed to have been smashed with kicks of a jackboot. Everything showed that these places had been for many days and nights the scene of shameless debauchery and drinking-bouts. On the Place du Marché the interior of the house of M. X, a solicitor, presented a similar appearance, and, according to the statement made to me by a quartermaster of gendarmerie, who, with his men, tried to restore a little order into all the chaos, it was the same with the majority of houses belonging to prominent families in which the German officers had chosen to take up their quarters.

“All valuables which their owners had not had time to put in a place of safety—silver, family jewels,[192] loose money—disappeared, and the inhabitants declare that arson frequently had no other purpose than to destroy the proofs of unusually serious thefts. Wagons, packed full with loads of booty, left Aerschot in the direction of the Meuse.”

Looting at Dinant

The Dutch journalist whom we have quoted writes in the Telegraaf with regard to this town—

“In the Banque Henri the Germans had a disappointment, for they could not find where the safe had been concealed, but they stopped the manager and his son at the very moment when they were trying to escape on bicycles. As they refused to reveal the secret, they were killed with revolver shots. At the Banque Populaire the Germans, indeed, found the safe, but the greatest part of the money which it contained had already been transferred to a place of safety. The brigandage carried on was frightful, and to find a parallel to it we should have to go back to the days of the blackest barbarism.”

Looting at Lunéville

“During the early days,” says the French Commission of Inquiry, “the Germans were content to pillage, without otherwise molesting the inhabitants. Particularly was this the case on the 24th August, when Madame Jeaumont’s house was stripped. The stolen articles were put in a great cart, in which were three women, one clad in black, the other two wearing military costumes, and having the appearance, we were told, of canteen-attendants.

“On the 25th August, M. Lenoir, aged sixty-seven years, was brought out into the fields with his wife, their hands tied behind their backs. After both had[193] been cruelly ill-treated, a non-commissioned officer took possession of a sum of 1800 francs in gold which Lenoir had about him. Indeed, the most audacious theft, as we have already said, seems to have been part of the habits of the German army, who made a regular practice of it. The following is an interesting example—

“During the burning of a house belonging to Madame Leclerc, the safes of two tenants had resisted the flames. One, belonging to M. George, under-inspector of waterworks and forests, had fallen into the ruins; the other, owned by M. Goudchau, estate-agent, remained fastened to a wall on the second storey. Non-commissioned officer Weiss, who knew the town well, as he had often been well received there when he visited it before the war in his capacity as hop-merchant, came back with his men to the place, gave orders to blow up with dynamite the piece of wall which remained standing, and made sure that the two safes should be brought to the station, where they were placed in a wagon bound for Germany. This Weiss was in the special confidence and favour of the commandant. It was he who at the quarters of the commandant had the duty of administering the commune in some sort of fashion and of arranging for levies.”

Looting of Clermont-en-Argonne

Let us quote the Commission of Inquiry—

“On the 4th September, during the night the 121st and 122nd Wurtemberg regiments entered, breaking the doors of the houses as they passed, and giving themselves up to unrestrained pillage, which was to continue during the whole of the following day. Towards midday a soldier kindled the fire. When the fire had gone out, pillage recommenced in the houses spared by the flames. Articles of furniture[194] taken from the house of M. Desforges, fabrics stolen from the shop of M. Nordman, linen-draper, were piled up in the motors. A surgeon-major took all the hospital dressing materials, and a commissioned officer, after writing at the entrance to the Lebondidier’s house a notice forbidding pillage, caused a large part of the furniture with which this mansion was furnished to be taken away in a cart, intending them, as he boasted without shame, for the adornment of his own villa.

“At the time when all these incidents took place the town of Clermont-en-Argonne was occupied by the 13th Wurtemberg corps under the orders of General von Durach, and by a troop of Uhlans, under command of the Prince of Wittenstein.”

Looting of Château-Thierry

Château-Thierry was looted in the presence of officers, who must even have taken part in it, if we are to judge by the example of two German doctors, surprised in town by the arrival of the French troops, and who were then included in an exchange of prisoners. Their cases were opened, and in them were found articles of clothing obtained by looting shops.

“During the whole week which the German occupation of Château-Thierry lasted,” wrote the Temps of the 25th October, 1914, “shops and rooms were methodically pillaged; jewellers and bazaar owners were plundered most of all. Patients under treatment in the Red Cross hospital whose wounds did not prevent them walking, went through the town all day, thieving here and there, and then returned in the evening with their booty to sleep in hospital.

“One day they offered Mlle. X some bonbons which they had just stolen, and they appeared much surprised when the young Frenchwoman refused their present.


“Lorries loaded with stolen articles were lined up on the road to Soissons as far as the eye could reach. A non-commissioned officer and four men were seen to drag along a little English cart, nicely fitted, quite loaded with booty.

“Needless to say, the cellars were completely emptied. Not a single pot of preserve at Château-Thierry; blankets, sheets, table-cloths, napkins—everything was carried off. The Château of Belle-Vue, which belongs to M. Jules Henriet, was not burnt, but everything in it was plundered. Chests, desks, all the furniture were forced open. As for silver, for the most part it disappeared from the houses that were sacked.”

Serbia and Russia

The same kind of thing took place in Poland and Serbia. At Chabatz the shops were broken open and the goods which they contained stolen.

In the Report of the Serbian Commission of Inquiry it is said that at Prngnavor and in the outskirts all the furniture of the inhabitants, such as beds, chests, chairs, tables, sewing-machines, and even stoves had been completely smashed and thrown outside the houses. The Commission also declared that all the domestic animals which had not been used for food or taken away were slaughtered.

Theft of Pictures and Various Objets d’Art

Objets d’art of every kind and pictures were several times stolen in this way both in Belgium and in France. The review Kunst und Künstler, in an article from the pen of Professor Shaeffer, who goes so far as to specify the pictures which ought to figure in German museums, proclaimed the right to take possession of such articles and bring them to Germany.


It is true that in museums the greater part of the exhibits had been put in a place of safety. Others were surprised and looted. This was the case with the Oberot Museum at Brussels. The following is the account of the incident given by Mme. Latour, wife of the Director of the Museum.

“All the keepers had gone to the battlefield, and my husband and I were alone. Seeing that they were going to beat in the door, my husband decided to open it for them. First of all he had taken the precaution to lock the door into the galleries.

“Without paying the slightest attention to him, the officers immediately went to that in which priceless enamels of the twelfth century and magnificent jewels had usually been exhibited. Not being able to get in, they condescended to ask for the key. My husband refused. They took hold of him and forcibly deprived him of the bunch which he had in his pocket.

“Once inside, when they noticed that certain articles which they doubtless coveted had disappeared, they waxed furious. This, however, did not prevent their taking whatever they liked from the glass cases, some pictures, and some porcelain specimens, which they then compelled me to pack up for them.

“Moreover, they did not attempt to conceal the fact that what they were stealing would later on adorn their own houses.

“‘That would suit very well in my drawing-room, and this in my wife’s bedroom,’ said one. ‘Martha asked me to bring her some real Brussels lace,’ replied the other, ‘but I shall bring her this exquisite miniature. She will be delighted…’

“Every day for more than a fortnight they came back like that, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by other officers or soldiers, and every time[197] they brought away something from the museum. They took away not less than fifty pictures.

“My husband once managed to get into conversation with one of the secretaries of the Military Governor of Brussels, and complained bitterly of the scandalous thefts committed every day at the museum. But this German official refused to listen to the description which M. Latour gave him of the officers and their uniforms. At last he brought him to the door with these words, ‘Woe to the vanquished!’”

The Germans took the furniture of the Government offices, and also all the stage properties of the Park Royal Theatre, the stage of which was converted into a motor garage.

They took away the following articles from the château at Compiègne—

Sixteen large pieces, eight in coral and eight in lava, which belonged to Napoleon I’s chessboard; a chased and gilt bronze figure of Atalanta above a clock; a chased and gilt bronze socket, part of a candelabrum on Sèvres porcelain; a chased gold and steel case containing a poniard, knife and fork, part of a collection of arms; a poniard; a Turkish dagger; a chased silvered case, adorned with precious stones, containing a hunting dagger, knife and fork; two chased stilettoes; three poniards with hollow gilt blades, and three chased and gilt bronze candlesticks, all from the same collection.

Let us add that during the last two days of the occupation three train wagons, which contained, it was said, officers’ baggage, had been shunted into the principal courtyard of the palace. The truth is that these three wagons served merely to load and to carry away valuable articles taken by the soldiers and non-commissioned officers from the houses of[198] Compiègne. The house of M. Orsetti, in front of the palace, was completely looted in this way.

Looting of Châteaux

All the fine old châteaux of the Champagne and Marne region, and all the rich estates and villas situate in that part of Lorraine which has been invaded, were also pillaged and sacked. The ironwork of the fourteenth and fifteenth century, the Gothic wainscoting, the antique furniture, were taken away. Everything which was supposed to have any value—jewels, silver, objets d’art, books—was stolen.

At the Moulinot Priory, the property of M. de Chauffault, and at Raon-l’Etape, where the 99th infantry regiment (to which Renter and Forstner, heroes of the celebrated incidents of Saverne, belonged), the 50th line regiment and the Baden reservists carried out a general pillage, and took away furniture, pianos, libraries, amateur collections, clocks, pictures, and brought them to the railway station, where a train under full steam was ready to take them to Germany. It was Prussian and Baden officers who, in the majority of cases, accompanied by their wives, chose, took, stole or destroyed, defiled or smashed everything, according as the article which they were examining could be removed or not.

Near the town of Meaux and some hundreds of metres from the village of Congis is the château of Gné. At the beginning of the battle of the Marne the German general staff was installed there. Of this château there remained, after the vandals had passed by, only the ruins. The chests-of-drawers were broken, the beautiful tapestries defiled, the armchairs smashed to pieces, the costly pictures slashed, even the linen of the château stolen. When the allied troops forced[199] the Germans back and reoccupied it, only wounded were found in it, who, before the arrival of the conquerors, had taken care to ransack the whole house and to finish the work of destruction which had been begun.

We repeat that these outrages were the work of officers no less than of soldiers. And it was a captain who led the Germans at Creil when they burst into the houses of rich owners, broke the doors and windows, and gave themselves up to pillage.

The same kinds of acts were also committed by the Germans in Alsace. The case of Cernay, where the Germans drove out the inhabitants in the month of January, is an example. All these people had to leave the town at three o’clock in the morning. A manufacturer of the country who returned to his villa at 7.15, found a detachment of German soldiers engaged in taking down the pictures from the walls and packing up articles which they could not carry. When he expressed his surprise at seeing them appropriating his property, the soldiers replied that they were acting under the orders of their superiors.

Robbing the Dead and Wounded

The universally admitted obligation not to plunder an enemy who has fallen on the field of battle has been, like so many others, repudiated by the Germans. The personal belongings, silver, jewels, etc., of the dead and wounded have been not merely coveted, but actually plundered by them. Examples of this infamous conduct were numerous, chiefly on the battlefields of France.

On the 8th August, on the spot where a small cavalry engagement had taken place, at Beuveille (in Champagne), a French lieutenant of dragoons, who was wounded and lying unconscious on the ground,[200] was robbed (for his own account of the incident see the Matin of the 22nd August, 1914) of a sum of 250 francs in gold by the leader of a German platoon, M. de Schaffenberg, of the Trèves light infantry. His orderly, a dragoon, also wounded, lying a few paces away from the French lieutenant, was robbed of some money that he had by the same German officer. A French hussar who was attended by Dr. Weiss at the Nancy hospital told this doctor that he had broken his leg by falling from his horse, and that, as he was lying under his mount, he was attacked by Uhlans, who robbed him of his watch and chain.

Similar cases were so frequent that the French troops scarcely wondered when they captured, near Senlis, a horseman of the German imperial guard, accompanied by three German subjects who spoke French very well, and as they knew the district served him as guide and accomplices in the work of brigandage in which he engaged. The numerous articles which they found in the pockets of these wretches left no doubt on this point: they were, therefore, brought before a court-martial at the same time as several other German prisoners who had been guilty of similar thefts; in particular, a Death’s-head hussar, who had been found in possession of a roll of bills stolen in Belgium, a considerable sum of French gold, and many jewels.

Enormous Taxes levied by the Germans

The taxes levied by the Germans in several towns of Belgium and France were represented by the invaders as either fines or war contributions. If, however, we consider them a little more closely, we shall not be able to see anything in them but theft, admitted and official. It is a consequence and an extension of thefts committed on the field of battle. That such[201] levies should be permitted, they must be represented as expenses arising out of invasion. It is within such limits only that international law recognises war levies. Such as it is, we have no doubt that this limit is stretched to some extent. Collective fines imposed for damage sustained by an invading army are manifestly a mockery. No less ridiculous is the claim to make up for the general expenses of war by levies of this kind.

The Germans had no hesitation in using these two pretexts as an excuse. Moreover, it is plain that in their view a war tax would come under the head of the system in reliance on which war makes everything permissible. In several places these levies were, practically speaking, represented as a ransom for invaded towns. It seemed that these towns had to pay for the favour done them of not being handed over to pillage. If they came and refused the money, because they did not know where to find it, at once the German commandant threatened them with fire, devastation and pillage. These levies, therefore, were reckoned in the category of methods of terrorisation. Their aim was to make the inhabitants desire peace by multiplying their sufferings.

As for openly admitted reasons, the following are taken from an article in the Kölnische Zeitung, which dealt with the levy imposed on Belgium and the city of Brussels and, on the other hand, from a proclamation of Lieutenant-general Nieber, with regard to a tax levied on the town of Wavre.

“The war tribute imposed on Belgium,” wrote the Kölnische Zeitung, “was a punishment for ill-treatment of the Germans in Belgium. We are now at Brussels, where not more than a fortnight ago some Germans, quietly going on with their work in a foreign country, were abandoned to the cruelty of the mob. What[202] happened then will be a perpetual stain on the honour of the Belgian people.

“We have asked ourselves what might be demanded as reasonable compensation for the inhuman treatment inflicted on our compatriots, and it appears it is impossible, save by legal means, to punish those who have committed such acts.

“But another measure is possible and recognised by international law, and that is why we have imposed a very high war tax on the town of Brussels.

“This town must bear the whole weight of the legally recognised expenses of war, to wit: the quartering of the troops, and the supply of all the provisions needed by our army up to the point when all the resources of the town are exhausted, and its inhabitants have begun to realise individually and as a whole that the baiting of defenceless women is not at all the same thing as the occupation of their houses by the enemy. Whatever it be, the punishment inflicted on the Belgians for the offences of which they have been guilty will be inflicted with all the rigour permitted by the law.”

As regards the tax levied on the town of Wavre, Lieutenant-general Nieber writes on the 27th August, in a letter to the mayor—

“On the 22nd August, 1914, General von Bülow, in command of the second army, imposed on the town of Wavre a war-levy of 3,000,000 francs, payable on the 1st September, as punishment for a surprise attack on the German troops, conduct for which no name is too bad, and which was contrary to international law and the usages of war.

“The general in command of the second army has just instructed the general in charge of the depot of the second army to collect the aforesaid levy without delay, which the town must pay for its conduct.


“I command and instruct you to hand over to the bearer of the present note the first two instalments, being 2,000,000 francs in gold. I require you also to give the bearer a letter, duly sealed with the town seal, declaring that the balance of 1,000,000 francs will be paid without fail on the 1st September. I call the attention of the town to the fact that it will under no circumstances be able to count upon any extension of time, for the civil population has put itself outside the pale of international law by firing on the German soldiers. The town of Wavre will be fired and destroyed if payment be not made in good time, without respect of persons; the innocent will suffer with the guilty.”

German Pleas in Defence, and their Validity

It is hardly necessary to say that the principle of holding towns to ransom is not admitted by any one to-day. Bluntschli, the German jurist, writes on this head a phrase which sounds ironical: “War has become civilised…… No one has any longer the right to pillage, and still less the right to destroy, without military necessity; therefore there can no longer be any question of buying off this pretended right.” On the other hand, the policy of terrorisation is not admitted. It is, however, very remarkable that the Kölnische Zeitung apparently caves in to it by commenting on the gravity of the situation in which the Belgians were, owing to (1) the fact “that their houses had been occupied by the enemy,” and (2) the exhaustion of “the whole resources of the town.”

Article 50 of the Hague Regulations stipulates, in fact, that no collective punishment, pecuniary or otherwise, can be enacted against the civil population by reason of individual acts for which they could not collectively be held responsible.


German generals or publicists, therefore, have no authority to set up a system of collective indemnity, monetary or other, in punishment of individual acts, and still less to impose these indemnities under threat of pillaging and burning towns.

As for the claim to recover the costs and expenses of war by a tax levied on the inhabitants of the invaded territory, the Kölnische Zeitung is shamelessly lying when it says that such a claim is “recognised by international law.” Not a single authority in this sense can be quoted; on the contrary, there are express statements of the very opposite. The well-known Argentine writer, Calvo, declares that such a theory involves an abuse of force, and is “in flagrant contradiction to the principle which enacts that war is waged against a state, and not against individuals taken separately.” It was in conformity with this principle that the Germans themselves, in 1870, refused to admit that the amount of the monetary contributions previously levied in France (thirty-nine million francs) could be deducted from the five milliards imposed on France by the Treaty of Frankfurt, a confirmation as clear as it is unexpected of the principle which they are violating to-day.

The Chief Examples in Belgium of this Breach of International Law

The Germans imposed on the town of Liège a payment of ten million francs, and demanded fifty millions from the province. The provinces of Brabant and Brussels were assessed at 50 and 450 million francs respectively, “as a war contribution.” Moreover, it was declared in the note signed in the name of General Arnim by Captain Kriegsheim, of the general staff of the 4th army corps in presence of M. Max, Mayor of Brussels.


At Louvain, the German authorities, represented by the commandant, Manteuffel, demanded a payment of 100,000 francs “as a war indemnity”; after negotiation they reduced the amount to 3000 francs. At Tournai on the 25th August an officer entered, revolver in hand, into the hall where the mayor and the members of the municipal council were in conference, and, on the plea that “civilians had fired on German soldiers,” declared, in spite of the mayor’s protests, that if “two million francs were not sent him by 8 p.m. on the same day, the town would be bombarded.” The sum was paid, but this did not prevent the Germans from taking as hostages the mayor, his deputies, and the bishop, who were sent to Ath and Brussels, where their liberty was restored on presentation of the receipt for two million francs.

Antwerp fell on the 9th October. The town was ordered to pay a war contribution which amounted to the grotesque sum of half a milliard of marks (625 million francs).

From the town of Wavre the Germans demanded, under the conditions mentioned in the letter of Lieutenant-general Nieber, previously quoted, a sum of three millions, which raised the total of the levies imposed by the Germans in Belgium to 1,180,000,000 francs. By distributing this amount equally over the Belgian population we find that each inhabitant of this country, ravaged, burnt, pillaged, and, in short, stripped of all its resources, was mulcted in an average payment of 158 francs.

This colossal theft, though it was ordered, could not be carried out so easily. The Mayor of Brussels paid a first instalment of five millions of the fifty millions imposed on the town of Brussels, and covered another fifteen millions by municipal bonds. But when, in the closing days of September, the military[206] governor of Belgium, Marshal von der Goltz, who had been appointed in the meantime, demanded payment of the outstanding balance of thirty millions, M. Max informed the German authorities that the public treasury had been transferred to Antwerp, and forbade the banks to pay the sum demanded. The mayor was not at all to blame for this, as the German authorities had decided, on the pretext that payment was late, that requisitions would not be paid for. The Germans regarded the refusal of M. Max as a failure to keep engagements made, and the arrest of the mayor took place in violation of every principle of international law.

The Kölnische Zeitung of the 30th September made it appear that the attitude of M. Max was explained by the latter’s confidence that the Germans would soon be defeated; moreover, this same paper postdated the German authorities’ decision not to pay for requisitions in order to palm it off as a reply to M. Max’s refusal. Thus, open prevarication was added to extortion and violence.

None the less, all these difficulties had the effect of inducing the German Government to modify their method of demanding payment. A monthly war tax of forty million francs was substituted for all the levies in the occupied area.

Examples of the same Breach of Law in France

The following is the notice which informed the inhabitants of Lunéville of the tax in which they had been mulcted—

“On the 25th August, 1914” (runs the notice), “the inhabitants of Lunéville made an attack by ambuscade on German columns and trains. On the same day the inhabitants fired on medical sections wearing the[207] Red Cross. Moreover, they fired on German wounded, and on the military hospital, which included a German ambulance. On account of these hostile acts a contribution of 650,000 francs is levied on the Commune of Lunéville. The mayor was ordered to pay this sum in gold (and in silver up to 50,000 francs) on the 6th September at 9 a.m., into the hands of the representative of the German military authority. Any objection will be considered null and void. No delay will be allowed. If the commune does not punctually carry out the order to pay the sum of 650,000 francs all the property that can be requisitioned will be seized. In case of non-payment, a house-to-house investigation will be made and all the inhabitants will be searched. Whoever knowingly conceals money, or tries to secure his property from being seized by the military authority, or who tries to leave the town, will be shot. The mayor and hostages taken by the military authority will be held responsible for the exact carrying out of the orders given herewith. The mayor’s staff are ordered to make known these instructions at once to the Commune.

“Commandant-in-Chief von Fosbender.

“Hénaménil, 3rd September, 1914.”

“A perusal of this ineffable document,” says the Report of the French Commission, “entitles one to ask whether the arson and murder committed at Lunéville on the 25th and 26th August by an army which was not acting under the excitement of battle, and which had refrained from killing during the previous days, were not deliberately ordered for the purpose of adding verisimilitude to an allegation which was to serve as a pretext for the demand for an indemnity.”

The town of Lille was mulcted in a contribution of ten millions; Roubaix and Tourcoing in ten[208] millions; Armentières in half a million; Valenciennes in three millions. The excuse given by the Germans, so far as Valenciennes was concerned, was that a song, entitled “William’s Last Will and Testament,” which was considered to be disrespectful to the Kaiser, had been seized in the town. This justified a fine of two millions. The third million was imposed because the town had not supplied the quantity of flour demanded by the German troops. The threat was made that, if the money was not paid, the mayor, M. Tanchon, would be shot.

The province of Marne was mulcted in a fine of thirty millions, twenty-two of which were for the town of Reims and eight for Châlons-sur-Marne. The German commissary-general agreed to accept from Châlons 500,000 francs merely as an instalment. The remainder had not to be paid, as the Prince of Saxony and his headquarters staff left Châlons three days afterwards, followed two days subsequently by all the German troops who were fleeing before the French.

Epernay had to pay 175,000 francs. But the town came by its money again, thanks to a French surgeon, Dr. Véron, the only one available in this district, who demanded for the treatment he had given a German prince the sum which the town had paid.

In Serbia, the Austrian troops did the same at Losnitza, where a contribution of 100,000 dinars had to be paid to avert destruction by fire. The payment of the money, however, did not prevent hostages being taken away, the town destroyed, and nineteen peasants shot.


In recognition of the necessities of troops in the field, the right of requisition is allowed, but it must, as far as possible, be exercised with moderation.[209] Supplies must be paid for in ready money, or else must be acknowledged by receipts, and in any case payment must take place as soon as possible. The German publicist, Bluntschli, even imposes on the occupying troops the obligation to pay on delivery for supplies for which demand is made.

In violation of this established principle, the Germans have taken supplies without payment not only in Belgium, but also in France. As they were taking without payment their demands were unmeasured. On several occasions the amount of their demands was simply preposterous. Being thus forced to denude themselves far beyond their means, the inhabitants were a prey to famine, whilst the German troops were gorging themselves, and even allowing what they had taken to be lost and go bad. Under such conditions the inhabitants found they were compelled to take to flight.

At Brussels, the requisition of large quantities of provisions was ordered. These provisions had to be delivered on the 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd August, by virtue of a note sent by Captain Kriegscheim, acting in the name of General Sixtus Arnim, in command of the 4th army corps, in presence of the mayor. If these deliveries did not take place by certain fixed times the town would be obliged to pay double the amount, based on the market price. These large quantities of provisions could not be used. Although they had been scraped together by so painful efforts they were simply squandered. Four thousand kilos of meat had to be thrown out, as well as piles of rolls of butter, and quantities of coffee and sugar, which the troops were unable to consume.

It appears that in several cases these requisitions were merely made as an excuse for pillage. In this[210] way the works at Herstal, near Liège, were ordered by the German headquarters staff to deliver 50,000 rifles and three million cartridges. Of course the manager of the works refused. Then the German headquarters staff assembled again the board of administration of the company. There was a fresh refusal, and no less energetic, to do what the enemy demanded. The board urged the authority of the clauses of the Hague Convention. Consequently, and in revenge for this opposition, the German headquarters staff ordered that the armouries should be pillaged.

At Amiens, as the town was unable to supply the enormous quantity of provisions demanded by the Germans, twelve inhabitants were taken as hostages, and transferred to Clermont. There they had to appear before a sort of court-martial, which condemned them to pay 20,000 francs. This sum was paid by the municipality.

At Epernay, 50,000 bottles of wine were requisitioned to enable the German soldiers to get tipsy. At Antwerp, requisitions were made of provisions which were intended to be consumed on the spot. These provisions were sent by rail to an unknown destination.

At Lille, in the month of November, the mayor was obliged to deliver 1,500,000 francs’ worth of food produce. On the 25th of the same month General Heindrich warned him by official letter that Germany could no longer meet the needs of the population, and that if “England could not make up her mind to allow provisions from over seas to come in for the support of the occupied provinces of France, it would be chiefly the French population who would have to bear the result of this state of things.” The amount of requisitions of food produce imposed on Lille was so great, according to the declaration of the mayor[211] of Lille, dated 27th November, 1914, addressed to General Heindrich, that “if the situation continues, the town would suffer an absolute famine, which would affect thousands of families, composed mainly of women and children.”

General Heindrich also made some show of remedying this state of affairs by advising the mayor of Lille to ask for the assistance of the Swiss Government. The mayor of Lille attempted this application on the 28th November, but the German authorities took care not to transmit it (see the Temps of the 20th December).

The fact that the German requisitions amounted to pillage was recognised by the American Commission of Relief for Belgium, which gratuitously distributed ten to twelve million francs’ worth of provisions a month.

On the advice of Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Hoover, President of this Commission, asked the German Government to abstain from requisitioning provisions of any kind, as otherwise American subscriptions would have the effect of indirectly contributing to the support of the German army, which would take pains to pillage officially the provisions sent for poor Belgians. The German Government replied that it would consent to refrain from requisitioning provisions to the east of Ghent. This was as much as to confess that the German military authorities had taken away from the inhabitants of Belgium provisions of which they stood in need.

Other Examples of Official Pillage

Examples of official pillage of every kind practised by Germany are to be had in abundance. Sometimes it was the military authorities who shamelessly seized the deposits in private banks. This was shown to[212] have taken place at Liège, Dinant, and Louvain, where quite a large sum of money was taken from the Bank de la Dyle and 12,000 francs from the Banque Populaire. At Lille the savings bank was robbed. Sometimes pillage took the form of fining newspapers. In this way the Croix du Nord had to pay 150,000 francs for having described the German army in one of its articles as “a flood of Teutons.”

At Châlons-sur-Marne, the German commandant asked M. Servès, deputy mayor, “to have all the shops in the town opened, so that the soldiers might buy what they needed.” When M. Servès remarked that it would be well that sentries should be stationed before the shops, the German officer replied that it was for the police of the town to keep order. M. Servès replied that there were no longer any police. Then the commandant came in in a towering rage and shouted: “There should have been. It is not fair that people who remain in the town should alone have to bear the burden. Those who have fled must bear their part. Consequently our soldiers will be instructed to break open the doors of shops and take what they want.” And pillage, officially ordered, began. To mitigate the odium of it General Seydewitz warned the town that he was reviving the security of 500,000 francs, which had been demanded on the first day of occupation as a guarantee for the requisitions. But this half-million was taken again as an instalment of the monetary contribution levied on the town.

The Chapter of German Admissions

As far as concerns pillage carried on by way of requisitions we have the evidence of proclamations, letters, and other official communications issued by[213] the German authorities. In no other documents could the chapter of admissions be so explicit.

As for theft and pillage committed by soldiers or by officers in their private capacity, the following is evidence supplied by Germans themselves.

A German reservist who died in France, privat-docent of a university, married, and father of a family, carefully notes in his pocket-book, which was found by the French, the parcel he sent to his wife of jewels which he found in an empty house. Another day he confesses he stole a microscope. “The Frenchman” (he wrote) “bought it in Germany, and I took it back again.”

Another German soldier, Gaston Klein (1st Landsturm company), describes the sack of Louvain in the following terms: “At first only a few troops went back to the town, but afterwards the battalion marched into the town in close ranks to break into the first houses to plunder—I beg pardon, to requisition—wine and other things as well. Like a company which had been disbanded, every one went where he pleased. The officers went on in front and set us a good example. One night in barracks, many men drunk, and there the story ends. This day filled me with a disgust which I could not describe.”

The Saxon officer of the 178th regiment, who supplied us with so much precious evidence about German crimes, writes in his pocket-book: “Herpigny-Baclan (17th August). I visited the little château, which belongs to a secretary of the King of the Belgians. Our men behaved like Vandals: first they ransacked the cellar, then they burst into the rooms and threw everything upside down: attempts were even made to burst open the safes; our men carried off heaps of useless things for the mere pleasure of marauding.”


“At Rethel,” continued the same officer, “the interior of the house is charming. The furniture was magnificent. Now everything is in pieces. Vandals could not have done more damage. The leaders of the columns were responsible—they could have prevented pillage and destruction. The damage may be reckoned in millions. Safes were burst open. In an attorney’s house a collection of old pottery and oriental objets d’art was broken into a thousand pieces.”

In spite of protests made to the German troops and their leaders, the Saxon officer at length succumbed to the contagion and followed their example. “As for myself,” he naïvely writes, “I could not help being carried away to this side and that by little souvenirs. I found a magnificent waterproof cloak and a photographer’s apparatus which I am going to give to Felix.”

“In a village near Blamont,” writes another soldier, Paul Spielmann, 1st company, 1st Infantry Brigade of Guards, “everything was given up to pillage.”…

Private Handschuhmacher (11th Battalion reserve light infantry) also writes: “8th August, 1914, Gouvy (Belgium). The Belgians having fired on the German soldiers, we at once began to pillage the goods station. Some cash-boxes, eggs, shirts, and everything which could be eaten was taken away. The safe was gutted and the gold distributed amongst the men. As for bank-bills they were torn up.”

“The enemy,” wrote another non-commissioned officer (Hermann Levith, of the 160th regiment of infantry 7th corps), “occupied the village of Bièvre and the outer-fringe of the wood in the rear. The third company advanced as a first line. We took the village, then pillaged almost all the houses.”


“The second battalion,” wrote a third (Schiller of the 133rd infantry, 19th corps) “entered into the village of Haybes (Ardennes), ransacked the houses and pillaged them.”…

One thing which must be remembered as a feature of German character is that German doctors took part in pillage. This is what we learn from a letter of Private Jean Thode (4th reserve regiment): “Brussels, 5. 10. 14. A motor came up to the hospital and brought some war booty: a piano, two sewing-machines, many albums, and all sorts of other things.”

Some admissions are couched in the form of indignation. “They do not behave like soldiers,” writes a soldier of the 65th Landwehr infantry, “but like highway robbers, bandits, and brigands, and they are a disgrace to our regiment and to our army.” “No discipline,” writes another, (a lieutenant of the 77th reserve infantry); “the pioneers are not much good; as for the artillery they are a band of robbers.”

But if this particular lieutenant blames the conduct of his men, others, on the contrary, deliberately order them to pillage. Like the soldier who writes at Louvain that the officers set a good example, four other German soldiers, named Schrick and Weber (of the 39th Prussian infantry), Waberzech (of the 35th Brandenburg), and Brugmann (of the 15th Mecklenburg hussars), on whom were found a quantity of French paper money, watches and jewels, all taken from houses in Senlis and Chantilly, confessed before the French court-martial that it was their officers who should have been blamed. “If I had not taken the jewels” (said one of them) “one of my officers would have taken them.”… “We got from our leaders” (the others declared) “the order to pillage the houses.”



At this point we shall give our conclusions. We think it necessary to establish the degrees of responsibility for the above attested facts: and the reader will think it right for us to add some precise mention of the authors of the facts. The omission of such a chapter would have the effect of helping to keep our indignation in the air, and thus leaving for objects of the blame contained in it only some multitudes of persons, amongst whom our indictment would be diluted and dispersed. Not that we desire to take away from the German people as such the responsibility which attaches to them, but we desire to add some names thereto.

The first responsible party whom we must mention is the German nation, and explicitly the German army judged by its private soldiers. It is upon the German private soldier, indisputably, that the shame of what we have just read recoils. It was the private soldiers who committed the greater part of the crimes which we have noticed: they were the principal authors of these crimes. But it must be added that the leaders consistently encouraged them. In several instances they acted on explicit instructions from officers, and even from generals.

The Responsibility of the Leaders

At the beginning of this book we noted the fatal teachings of the most famous military writers of[217] Germany, writers who formed the war-school in which was developed the military spirit of the officers of 1914. These teachings were theories of war carried on in defiance of international law. The putting to death of captured soldiers and defenceless civilians is latent in such doctrines.

If, then, we wish to sum up in a word the system practised by German officers, during the course of a war which is still in progress, we may describe it as the system of terrorising the enemy on the plea of military necessity.

German officers showed themselves liberal in their estimate of the urgency, extent, and oftener still of the bare existence of such necessity. Therein we find the source of so many cowardly cruelties and crimes. “War! it is war,” they say. As the French Commission of Inquiry observes, for all their exactions, even for all their crimes, there was no redress; and if any unfortunate dared to beg an officer to deign to intervene and spare his life, or protect his property, he received no other reply, if he was not met with threats, than this invariable formula, accompanied by a smile and ascribing to the inevitable disasters of war the most cruel atrocities.

The German officer, therefore, has made himself responsible for the cruelties that have been committed: (1) either by ordering them or suggesting them to his subalterns or his men; (2) or by himself performing them: (3) or, finally, by tolerating them when they were committed under his eyes, or by not punishing the guilty when he was informed about their crime. By acting in one of these three ways the German officer has justified the English writer who uttered the following judgment of the conduct of the Germans in 1870: “The world at least is indebted to the[218] Germans for having thrown light upon war … in which the soldier, the thief and the assassin can hardly be distinguished” (J. A. Farrer, Military Manners and Customs, chap. iv., p. 119). It is true, and we cannot avoid saying so, that in the present war the German officer has shown an essentially criminal mind. And we now make this accusation, which we have established by facts; our investigations, and the profound study which we have made of the subject, allow us completely to justify the declaration of the French Commission of Inquiry, “the higher command, up to its most exalted personalities, will bear before the world the crushing responsibility of crimes committed by the German army.”

The Names of the Officers

We shall mention here the names of the officers in question. But we must, above all, begin with the princes in whose name so many outrages have been committed.

1. The Emperor William II. In a speech addressed to his troops, on the eve of the battle of the Vistula, the Emperor William himself uttered these words, which form as it were the savage programme of all the atrocities that have been committed: “Woe to the conquered. The conqueror knows no mercy.”

2. The Emperor Franz Joseph. In an Imperial order, which includes instructions to the Austrian soldiers in the war against the Serbs, the Emperor Franz Joseph depicts the latter as “moved by a savage hatred against the Austrians. They deserve,” (he said) “no consideration either of humanity or of chivalry.” By the terms of this order all francs-tireurs who were captured were to be put to death.


3. Prince Eitel-Frederic, son of the Emperor of Germany. The Prince stayed for eight days in a château near Liège. The owner was present. Under the eyes of his hosts the Prince had all the dresses packed up which he found in the chests of the mistress of the house and her daughters.

4. The Duke of Brunswick. The Prince took part in the pillage of the same château, near Liège.

5. Marshal von Hindenburg, commander-in-chief of the Imperial troops in East Prussia. This marshal ordered that the bread found in this province, which had been soaked with petrol, should serve as food for Russian prisoners.

6. Marshal von der Goltz, military governor of Belgium. In a notice signed by him and posted up on the 5th October, 1914, at Brussels, the marshal decreed the penalty of death against the inhabitants, whether guilty or not, in places near which the telegraph wires had been cut or the railway destroyed.

7. General von Bülow, commander-in-chief of the Second German army. This general ordered the first bombardment of Reims: on the 22nd August, after the sack of Ardennes, he had the following notice posted up: “It was with my consent that the general-in-chief had the whole locality burnt and that about a hundred persons were shot.” On the 25th August, at Namur, another proclamation from his hand read as follows: “Belgian and French soldiers must be given up as prisoners of war before four o’clock, before the prison. Citizens who do not obey will be sentenced to forced labour for life in Germany. A strict inspection of houses will begin at four o’clock. Every soldier found will be immediately shot. Arms, powder, dynamite, must be given up at four o’clock. The penalty for default will be a[220] fusillade. All the streets will be occupied by a German guard, who will take ten hostages in every street. If any outbreak takes place in the street, the ten hostages will be shot.

8. The Austrian General Horschstein, commander of the 6th army corps operating against the Serbians. He is the author of the following order, issued on the 14th August at Rouma: “Seeing the hostile attitude of the inhabitants of Klenak and Chabatz, we must, in all Serbian localities which have either been occupied or will be occupied, take hostages who will be kept close to our troops. In cases where the inhabitants commit any offence, or make any attack, or are guilty of any treachery, the hostages will immediately be put to death and the locality ravaged by fire. The headquarters staff alone has the right to fire any locality situate in our territory. This order will be published by the civil authorities.”

9. General Heeringen, commander of the German army of Champagne. He continued the bombardment of Reims, and was the cause of the destruction of the cathedral.

10. General Klauss, was the cause of the butcheries at Gerbeviller and Traimbois.

11. General Forbender, the author of the monstrous and inhuman proclamation by which Lunéville found itself mulcted in taxes.

12 and 13. General Durach and the Prince of Wittenstein, commanders of the Wurtemburg troops and Uhlans during the burning of Clermont in Argonne.

14. The Baden General Fabricius. He emptied the cellars of Baccarat.

15. General de Seydewitz. He was present, and did not interfere to prevent it, at the pillage of Châlons-sur-Marne, ordered by one of his subalterns.


16. General Heindrich, commander of the German troops at Lille, who, by exorbitant requisitions, reduced the population of this town to starvation, and made away with the appeal for help which the mayor of Lille, on his own advice, had addressed to the President of the Swiss Republic.

17. General Stenger, commander of a brigade in France, who issued the well-known order of the day giving instructions to kill the wounded and to execute prisoners of war.

18. Lieutenant-general Nisher. He demanded of the little town of Wavre the exorbitant war-contribution of 3,000,000 francs, which General Bülow had imposed. “The town of Wavre will be burnt and destroyed if payment is not made in good time, without respect of persons—the innocent will suffer with the guilty.”

19. General Sixtus of Arnim, commander of the 4th German army corps, who mulcted the town of Brussels and the province of Brabant in the monstrous contribution of 500,000,000 francs.

20. General von Bissing, commander of the 7th German army corps, who, in a proclamation to his troops in Belgium, told them that when “civilians take upon them to fire on us, the innocent must suffer with the guilty”; that “the German authorities have on several occasions in their instructions to the troops said that human life must not be spared in repressing such acts”; that “it is doubtless regrettable that houses, flourishing villages, and even whole towns should be destroyed, but this must not cause us to be carried away by feelings of misplaced pity. All that is not worth the life of a single German soldier.

21. General de Doehm, commander of the 9th German army corps. When an American journalist[222] of The World and Mr. Gibson, secretary of the United States Embassy at Brussels, told him they had seen the bodies of mutilated women and children at Louvain, this general replied that such incidents were “inevitable in street fighting.” The American journalist remarked that a woman’s body had the feet and hands cut off; that of an old man showed twenty-two bayonet thrusts in the face; that an old man’s body had been found hanging by his hands to the beams of his house, and that he had been burnt alive by lighting a fire underneath him. All that General de Doehm could say was that he was not responsible.

22. Baron Merbach, who, with Prince Eitel and the Duke of Brunswick, took part in looting a château near Liège.

23. The Duke of Gronau. After the château of Villers, Notre Dame, in Belgium, had been occupied by his headquarters he himself caused the following to be taken and sent to Germany: 146 sets of cutlery, 236 silver-gilt spoons, 3 gold watches, 9 savings-bank deposit books, 1500 bottles of wine, 62 hens, 32 ducks, evening clothes, works of art, and a quantity of baby linen.

24 and 25. Count Zichy and Baron Sardas, who presided over the pillage from the estate, château, and farm of M. Budny, in South Prussia, of property to the value of 100,000 roubles.

26. Colonel Goeppel, Professor at the Academy of War in Berlin, who compelled the Lille “Croix” to pay a sum of 150,000 francs for calling the German army “a flood of Teutons.”

27. Colonel Zollern, commandant of the Imperial Army at Tchenstokhova in Poland, which he ordered to be pillaged and destroyed, in proof of which we have the text of the following proclamation made on[223] his arrival into this town: “Houses and quarters of the town the inhabitants of which are suspected of hostile acts towards the army will immediately be pulled down and destroyed. Women and children will not be allowed to leave these houses.”

28. Lieutenant-colonel Preuster, commandant at Kalich, in Poland, who ordered the massacres and destruction of the town.

29. Colonel Hannapel, commander of the 8th Bavarian regiment, who gave the order to burn down the village of Nomény.

30. Modeiski, major of the German cuirassiers, who gave explicit instructions to hang all the Cossacks who were taken prisoners.

31. The Hanoverian Lieutenant von Halden, who was found carrying dum-dum bullets.

32. Captain Curtins, commander of the 3rd company of the 112th German infantry regiment, who gave the order to make no more wounded prisoners.

33. Commandant de Schaffenberg. A French lieutenant whom he found lying wounded on the field of battle in Louvain was robbed by him of 250 francs in gold. The commandant threatened the wounded man with his revolver. The French officer’s orderly, who was lying wounded at his side, was also robbed.

34. Major von Mehring, commandant at Valenciennes, who declared in a proclamation: “I have destroyed the whole town. The ancient town of Vichies, a place of 5000 inhabitants, no longer exists. The houses, town hall, and church have been annihilated.”

35. Major de Honved, in command of the 22nd Hungarian regiment, operating against the Russians. Addressing the recruits, he said: “When you have penetrated into Russia, grant no quarter and no mercy to old men, women, and children even if unborn.”


36. Lieutenant-colonel Blegen, who ordered the massacres and sack of Dinant.

37. Major Botzwitz, who ordered his troops to kill the wounded and murder prisoners of war.

38. Major Manteuffel, who ordered the destruction of Louvain and the horrible atrocities committed in it.

39. Major Sommerfeld, who ordered the destruction of Termonde (in Belgium).

40. Major Müller, who ordered the destruction of Châlons-sur-Marne.

41 and 42. Baron von Waldersee and Major Ledebur, who broke open the writing-desks and jewel-cases of the château of Beaumont.

43. Major von Bülow, who ordered the massacres and destruction of Aerschot.

44. Major Dreckmann. In a proclamation under date 6th September (Guvegnee, Belgium): “The life of hostages depends on whether the inhabitants remain peaceful under all circumstances”; and that, if the first hostages are not replaced in forty-eight hours by others, the hostage runs the risk of death, and whoever does not obey the command “Lift your arms!” is punishable with the penalty of death.

45. Commandant Chrenzer, of the 26th Austro-Hungarian regiment, operating against the Serbians, who himself massacred prisoners and peasants who were brought to him.

46. Commandant Reimond, of the 13th Austro-Hungarian corps, operating against the Serbians, who authorised the massacre of twenty-four peasants, the most part of them old folk of both sexes.

47 and 48. The commandants of the 11th and 4th detachments operating against the Serbians, who ordered their soldiers to annihilate everything Serbian.


49 and 50. Commandant Zerfert, of the 25th regiment, and Captain Zfail, of the 37th Austrian regiment, who caused houses in Serbia to be fired.

51 and 52. Captain Kozda, of the 79th regiment, and Captain Vouitch, of the 21st Austrian regiment, who treated every Serbian soldier on the third conscript list as a franc-tireur and had him shot.

53. Captain Zirgow, who authorised the pillage of Albert in France.

54. The German officer, Walter Bloem, who was entrusted with the task of making an inquiry in Belgium (see the Cologne Gazette of the 10th February, 1915), and who confessed without any sense of shame that all that had happened was part of a system, the principle of which was that “the whole community to which a culprit belonged must pay the penalty, and that the innocent must suffer in their stead, not because a crime has been committed, but in order that a crime may not be committed again.”

55. Lieutenant Bertich, 29th Austro-Hungarian regiment operating against the Serbs, who killed at Lasnitza seven innocent peasants.

56. Lieutenant Eberlein, who, in the Münchener Neueste Nachrichten told the story of the monstrous treachery to which he resorted to get into Saint Dié—viz. using civilians as a screen for his troops.

The above are German generals and officers whose names are known to us. There are many others. But the impossibility of naming them all does not prevent us from holding up to the execration of the civilised world, by printing their names here, those whom the reports supplied to us have mentioned.

In addition to the two emperors, there are two[226] marshals, four generals, six princes and nobles, five colonels, sixteen commandants and majors, thirteen other subaltern officers, written on the picture of horror, which we have sketched, and of which they and the whole of the German people are the individual and responsible authors.

Is “German militarism” alone responsible? We say the German people, for it would be a mistake not to recognise as the authors of these crimes merely the army which performed them, the officers who tolerated them, approved them or ordered them—in a word, only the German military element known as “militarism.” For this militarism is in very truth the offspring of the whole nation, as well as of causes which have nothing military about them—to wit, the teaching in the universities, which has been shaping it for a hundred years.

The cult of force which to the German is the cult of brutal force imposed without mercy, goes down to the very roots of his thought. This must not be confounded with the spirit of violence to which, at all ages of the world, barbarian conquerors have given way. This cult proceeds from the fact that Germany considers herself the only nation worthy of the name, as the people par excellence upon whom, by law of nature, devolves the management of the modern world, around which it is the historic and philosophic duty of Europe to rally until absorbed in it, and until the civilised world is only one vast Germany in fact. When the German declares that force is superior to right, he does not mean force in itself, any force whatever, but his own force, which is right.

Such are the notions taught by the members of the German cabinet, by its professors, by the universities[227] of Berlin, Munich, Halle, and Bonn for one hundred years. Such is the teaching promulgated in Fichte’s famous “Addresses to the German Nation,” uttered in 1808. We shall easily understand that a nation which incarnates in itself all law, all history, all the future, all rational truth, all philosophic influence, hardly needs to think of the means by which it puts itself forward. From the relative point of view of human interest, as from the impartial point of view of eternal ideas, one thing alone matters and that is that Germany should triumph, and that Germanism should grow.

To this there is only need to add one point, that this perverted refinement of thought, this sophism, grows and is developed among a nation which is brutal and barbarous among all others, so that the inclinations of flesh and blood are in it ready to respond to the suggestions of a corrupt philosophy. In Germany the sophist unchains the beast: the man of letters lets slip the barbarian, or, as was forcibly said by Hugo, an old admirer of Germany, when he had become enlightened by the sinister glare of the events of 1870, the pedant is the ally of the trooper. The fusion of these two elements, the intimate union of German thought and of its military counterpart, welding together the whole of the classes intermediate between them: in a word, that is to say, the whole of Germany—all this must not be forgotten in any just appraisement of the foregoing events. So we see that in fact all Germany approves the actions of which we have just told the story, and the German intellectuals have taken the course of identifying themselves with them in their well-known but shameful “appeal to the civilised world.”



The theoretic responsibility for German cruelties, therefore, falls upon the military writers of Germany directly; but fundamentally, and probing more deeply, upon her professors, historians, and philosophers. Then come the heads of the army, who were the first to carry out these teachings.

But the verdict of mankind condemns the whole of Germany; for all her citizens, from the highest to lowest, appear in the eyes of the world, which was at first amazed and then indignant, as identifying themselves with the work of devastation, murder, pillage, and cowardice by which, in the judgment of history, the war that Germany launched upon the world will be noted.

We, at least, who are neutral of nationality and impartial in judgment, lump them all together, in the feeling of contempt and of disgust which they have roused in our indignant breast, and in the stern but just judgment which our reason, bitterly disappointed as it has been, has meted out to them.


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