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THE TRUTH ABOUT GERMAN
ATROCITIES***


E-text prepared by Brian Coe, Moti Ben-Ari, and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team (http://www.pgdp.net) from page images generously made
available by Internet Archive (https://archive.org)







Transcriber's note:

Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

Text enclosed by equal signs is in bold face (=bold=).





THE TRUTH ABOUT GERMAN ATROCITIES

Founded on the Report of the Committee on Alleged German Outrages







1915
Parliamentary Recruiting Committee,
12, Downing Street, London, S.W.




CONTENTS.

PAGE

INTRODUCTION 1
Appointment of Committee 2
Terms of Reference 2
Composition of Committee 2
1. CIVILIANS murdered and ill-treated 5
2. WOMEN murdered and outraged 15
3. Murder and ill-treatment of CHILDREN 16
4. Brutal treatment of the AGED, the CRIPPLED and the INFIRM 17
5. The use of CIVILIANS as SCREENS 18
6. KILLING WOUNDED SOLDIERS and PRISONERS 19
7. LOOTING, BURNING and DESTRUCTION of PROPERTY 19
FINDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE 23


(1365) W. 5601/507 250M 7/15 H. C. & L., Ltd.




THE TRUTH ABOUT GERMAN ATROCITIES.




INTRODUCTION.


_Prussia joined in a Guarantee of Belgian Neutrality._

The neutrality of Belgium was guaranteed by a treaty signed in 1839 to
which France, Prussia and Great Britain were parties.


_Recent German Assurances._

In 1913 the German Secretary of State, at a meeting of a Budget
Committee of the Reichstag, declared that "Belgian neutrality is
provided for by international conventions, and Germany is determined to
respect those conventions."

On July 31st, 1914, when the danger of war between Germany and France
seemed imminent, Herr von Below, the German Minister in Brussels, being
interrogated by the Belgian Foreign Department, replied that he knew of
the assurances given by the German Chancellor in 1911 (that Germany had
no intention of violating Belgian neutrality) and that he "was certain
that the sentiments expressed at that time had not changed."


_Passage through Belgium Demanded by Germany._

Nevertheless, on August 2nd, the same Minister presented a note to the
Belgian Government demanding a passage through Belgium for the German
Army on pain of an instant declaration of war.


_Passage Refused by Belgian King and Government._

Startled as they were by the suddenness with which this terrific war
cloud had risen on the eastern horizon, the leaders of the nation
rallied round the King of Belgium in his resolution to refuse the
demand and to prepare for resistance.


_Invasion._

On the evening of August 3rd, the German troops crossed the frontier.


_Early Outbreak of Atrocities._

No sooner had the Germans violated Belgian territory, than statements
of atrocities committed by German soldiers against civilians - men,
women and children - found their way into the newspapers of this
country. The public could hardly believe the record of cruelty that
rapidly accumulated, but the persistence with which reports from one
district tallied in general outline with reports from other localities
left little doubt in the public mind as to the truth of the alleged
atrocities. But it became necessary to make absolutely certain of the
facts.


_Home Office Collected Evidence._

The Home Office, in the autumn of 1914, wisely decided to collect
evidence of the truth, and, during the concluding months of 1914, a
great number of statements taken in writing were collected from Belgian
witnesses (mostly civilians), and from British officers and soldiers.
The statements were taken by the staff of the Director of Public
Prosecutions and a number of barristers who assisted the Home Office.


_Government Appointed a Committee to Investigate - Terms of Reference._

On December 15th, 1914, the Government took the important step of
appointing a Committee: -

"To consider and advise on the evidence collected on behalf
of His Majesty's Government, as to outrages alleged to have been
committed by German troops during the present war, cases of alleged
maltreatment of civilians in the invaded territories, and breaches
of the laws and established usages of war; and to prepare a report
for His Majesty's Government showing the conclusion at which they
arrive on the evidence now available."=


_Careful Selection of Members of Committee._

In order that the findings of the Committee should command the
confidence of the public, the Government was careful to appoint upon
it men whose judicial outlook, training and experience for their
responsible task could not be questioned.

The Right Hon. Viscount Bryce, O.M., the distinguished British
Ambassador at Washington from 1907 to 1912, was appointed
Chairman, and the other members of the Committee were: -

The Right Hon. Sir Frederick Pollock, Bart., who was Corpus
Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford University, 1883-1903,
and is Judge of the Admiralty Court of Cinque Ports. He is one of
the leading authorities on the laws of this country;

The Right Hon. Sir Edward Clarke, K.C., was Member of Parliament for
Plymouth (20 years) and London City (1906); was Solicitor-General
from 1886 to 1902;

Sir Kenelm Digby, G.C.B., K.C., who was a County Court Judge from
1892 to 1894, and Permanent Under-Secretary of the Home Office from
1895 to 1903;

Sir Alfred Hopkinson, K.C., LL.D., represented Manchester and North
Wiltshire in the House of Commons; was Principal of Owens College,
Manchester, from 1898 to 1904; and Vice-Chancellor of Victoria
University, Manchester, from 1900 to 1913;

Mr. H. A. L. Fisher, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield;

Mr. Harold Cox, the well-known Journalist and Editor of the
"Edinburgh Review," who represented Preston in the House of
Commons from 1906 to 1910.


_How the Committee Worked._

The Committee laboured for three months, examining the evidence, and
more than 1,200 statements made by witnesses were considered. These
depositions were in all cases taken down in this country by gentlemen
of legal knowledge and experience, and the greatest care was exercised
in the task.


_Doubt Removed as Work Proceeded._

The Committee approached their responsible task in a spirit of doubt,
but, to use their own words, "the further we went and the more
evidence we examined, so much the more was our scepticism reduced....
When we found that things which had at first seemed improbable were
testified to by many witnesses coming from different places, having
had no communication with one another, and knowing nothing of one
another's statements, the points in which they all agreed became more
and more evidently true. And when this concurrence of testimony, this
convergence upon what were substantially the same broad facts, showed
itself in hundreds of depositions, =the truth of those broad facts
stood out beyond question=."


_Fairness of Witnesses' Evidence._

The Committee expected "to find much of the evidence coloured by
passion, or prompted by an excited fancy. But they were impressed by
the general moderation and matter-of-fact level-headedness of the
witnesses."


_No desire to "Make a Case."_

Nor could the Committee, in examining the depositions, "detect the
trace of any desire to 'make a case' against the German Army." "In
one respect, the most weighty part of the evidence," according to
the Committee, consisted of the diaries kept by the German soldiers
themselves.


_A Terrible Record._

The Report of the Committee, with the Appendix, covers 240 foolscap
pages. These 240 pages of cold, judicial print make a terrible
indictment against a so-called Civilised Power - and one, moreover,
whose home is not in "Darkest Africa," but in the very heart of
enlightened Europe.

In this pamphlet space will only permit of the insertion of the
Findings of the Committee, and of some examples taken from the Report.
_Those who seek fuller information should obtain one or other edition
of the official Report and Appendix, particulars of which are given on
the cover of this pamphlet._

It should be borne in mind that this terrible record embraces a part
only of the area in the occupation of German troops, and is based
mainly on the statements of Belgian refugees _in this country_. If
it had been possible to extend the enquiry, and to get evidence from
the Belgians and the French now inhabiting the districts occupied by
Germany, there is no doubt that the volume of evidence would have been
much greater.

* * * * *

Note. - _For the purpose of this short pamphlet, the methodical
arrangement in geographical areas followed in the Report has been
abandoned, and a simpler grouping adopted. The whole of the language,
however, in the following pages (apart from the headings) is the
official language of the Report. In no instance has it been altered,
except where an explanation is required, in which case the explanation
is put in brackets. The references in the margin are to the pages in
the report from which the statements have been taken. When taken from
the Appendix, the letter "A" is prefixed._




1. CIVILIANS MURDERED AND ILL-TREATED.


_The Care of the Belgian Civil Authorities to Collect Firearms from
Civilians and to Warn them against taking part in the Hostilities._

[Sidenote: 7]

The Belgian King and Government were aware of the danger which would
confront the civilian population of the country if it were tempted to
take part in the work of national defence. Orders were accordingly
issued by the civil governors of provinces, and by the burgomasters
of towns, that the civilian inhabitants were to take no part in
hostilities, and to offer no provocation to the invaders. That no
excuse might be furnished for severities, the populations of many
important towns were instructed to surrender all firearms into the
hands of the local officials.


_The Kindness extended to the Invading Germans by the Civil Population
of Belgium._

[Sidenote: 26]

Letters written to their homes, which have been found on the bodies of
dead Germans, bear witness, in a way that now sounds pathetic, to the
kindness with which they were received by the civil population. Their
evident surprise at this reception was due to the stories which had
been dinned into their ears of soldiers with their eyes gouged out,
treacherous murders and poisoned food.


_Outbreak of Atrocities from the Moment the German Army crossed the
Frontier._

[Sidenote: 25]

Murder, rape, arson and pillage began from the moment when the German
Army crossed the frontier. For the first fortnight of the war, the
towns and villages near Liège were the chief sufferers.... There is a
certain significance in the fact that the outrages round Liège coincide
with the unexpected resistance of the Belgian Army in that district,
and that the slaughter which reigned from August 19th to the end of the
month is contemporaneous with the period when the German Army's need
for a quick passage through Belgium at all costs was deemed imperative.


Article 46 of the Second International Peace Conference (Convention
concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land), held at the Hague
in 1907, reads as follows: -

_Family honour and rights, individual life, and private property,
as well as religious convictions and worship, must be respected._

_Private property may not be confiscated._


_Instances from Herve and Melen._

[Sidenote: 7]

"On the 4th of August," says one witness, "at Herve" (a village not
far from the frontier), "I saw at about 2 o'clock in the afternoon,
near the station, five Uhlans [German cavalry]; these were the first
German troops I had seen. They were followed by a German officer and
some soldiers in a motor car. The men in the car called out to a couple
of young fellows who were standing about 30 yards away. The young men,
being afraid, ran off, and then the Germans fired and killed one of
them named D - - ." The murder of this innocent fugitive civilian was a
prelude to the burning and pillage of Herve and of other villages in
the neighbourhood, to the indiscriminate shooting of civilians of both
sexes, and to the organised military execution of batches of selected
males. Thus at Herve some 50 men escaping from the burning houses were
seized, taken outside the town and shot. At Melen, a hamlet west of
Herve, 40 men were shot. In one household alone the father and mother
(names given) were shot, the daughter died after being outraged, and
the son was wounded.


_The Slaughter of Civilians speedily became a Custom._

The burning of the villages in this neighbourhood, and the wholesale
slaughter of civilians, such as occurred at Herve, Micheroux and
Soumagne appear to be connected with the exasperation caused by the
resistance of Fort Fléron, whose guns barred the main road from
Aix-la-Chapelle to Liège. Enraged by the losses which they had
sustained, suspicious of the temper of the civilian population, and
probably thinking that by exceptional severities at the outset they
could cow the spirit of the Belgian nation, the German officers and men
speedily accustomed themselves to the slaughter of civilians.


_No Official German Denial of Atrocities._

[Sidenote: 25]

Citizens of neutral states who visited Belgium in December and January
report that the German authorities do not deny that non-combatants were
systematically killed in large numbers during the first weeks of the
invasion, and this, so far as we know, has never been officially denied.


_Flight of Belgian Refugees without Parallel._

[Sidenote: 25]

If it were denied, the flight and continued voluntary exile of
thousands of Belgian refugees would go far to contradict a denial, for
there is no historical parallel in modern times for the flight of a
large part of a nation before an invader.


_German Government seek to justify Severities, but no Proof given of
Alleged Firing by Civilians._

[Sidenote: 25]

The German Government have, however, sought to justify their severities
on the grounds of military necessity, and have excused them as
retaliation for cases in which civilians fired on German troops. There
may have been cases in which such firing occurred, but no proof has
ever been given, or, to our knowledge, attempted to be given, of such
cases, nor of the allegations of shocking outrages perpetrated by
Belgian men and women on German soldiers.


_On the contrary, Civilians were Warned after the Invasion._

[Sidenote: 26]

The inherent improbability of the German contention is shown by the
fact that after the first few days of the invasion every possible
precaution had been taken by the Belgian authorities, by way of
placards and handbills, to warn the civilian population not to
intervene in hostilities.


_Civilians Shot Indiscriminately and without any Inquiry._

[Sidenote: 26]

An invading army may be entitled to shoot at sight a civilian caught
red-handed, or anyone who though not caught red-handed is proved guilty
on inquiry. But this was not the practice followed by the German
troops. They do not seem to have made any inquiry. They seized the
civilians of the village indiscriminately and killed them, or such as
they selected from among them, without the least regard to guilt or
innocence. The mere cry "Civilisten haben geschossen" ("Civilians have
been shooting") was enough to hand over a whole village or district,
and even outlying places, to ruthless slaughter.


_Killing of Civilians on Scale without any Parallel in Modern Warfare
between Civilised Powers._

[Sidenote: 25]

In the present war - and this is the gravest charge against the German
Army - the evidence shows that the killing of non-combatants was carried
out to an extent for which no previous war between nations claiming to
be civilised furnishes any precedent.


_Mass of Evidence convinced Committee of its Truth._

[Sidenote: 27]

That these acts should have been perpetrated on the peaceful population
of an unoffending country which was not at war with its invaders, but
merely defending its own neutrality, guaranteed by the invading Power,
may excite amazement and even incredulity. It was with amazement and
almost with incredulity that the Committee first read the depositions
relating to such acts. But when the evidence regarding Liège was
followed by that regarding Aerschot, Louvain, Andenne, Dinant and the
other towns and villages, the cumulative effect of such a mass of
concurrent testimony became irresistible, and the Committee were driven
to the conclusion that the things described had really happened.


_Killing of Civilians deliberately planned by the Higher Military
Authorities and carried out methodically._

[Sidenote: 27]

The excesses recently committed in Belgium were, moreover, too
widespread and too uniform in their character to be mere sporadic
outbursts of passion or rapacity.

[Sidenote: 25]

That this killing was done as part of a deliberate plan is clear from
the facts set forth regarding Louvain, Aerschot, Dinant and other
towns. The killing was done under orders in each place. It began at a
certain fixed date, and stopped (with some few exceptions) at another
fixed date.


_German Army Disciplined to Obey._

[Sidenote: 27]

The discipline of the German Army is proverbially stringent, and its
obedience implicit.

[Sidenote: 23]

It was to the discipline rather than the want of discipline in the Army
that these outrages, which we are obliged to describe as systematic,
were due, and the special official notices posted on certain houses
that they were not to be destroyed show the fate which had been decreed
for the others which were not so marked.


_A few German Officers showed Feelings of Humanity._

[Sidenote: 27]

The Committee gladly record the instances where the evidence shows
that humanity had not wholly disappeared from some members of the
German Army, and that they realised that the responsible heads of that
organisation were employing them, not in war, but in butchery. "I am
merely executing orders, and I should be shot if I did not execute
them," said an officer to a witness at Louvain. At Brussels another
officer said: "I have not done one hundredth part of what we have been
ordered to do by the High German military authorities."

[Sidenote: 30]

A humane German officer, witnessing the ruin of Aerschot, exclaimed in
disgust: "I am a father myself, and I cannot bear this. It is not war,
but butchery."


_Drink Responsible for many of the Worst Outrages._

[Sidenote: 25]

[Sidenote: 30]

Many of the worst outrages appear to have been perpetrated by men under
the influence of drink. Unfortunately, little seems to have been done
to repress this source of danger.... Officers as well as men succumbed
to the temptation of drink.


_The German Army is Responsible for Crimes which it did not Check._

[Sidenote: 27]

When an army is directed or permitted to kill non-combatants on a large
scale, the ferocity of the worse natures springs into fuller life,
and both lust and the thirst of blood become more widespread and more
formidable. Had less licence been allowed to the soldiers, and had they
not been set to work to slaughter civilians, there would have been
fewer of those painful cases in which a depraved and morbid cruelty
appears.


_The Taking and Murder of Hostages._

[Sidenote: 27]

Two classes of murders in particular require special mention, because
one of them is almost new, and the other altogether unprecedented. The
former is the seizure of peaceful citizens as so-called hostages to
be kept as a pledge for the conduct of the civil population, or as a
means to secure some military advantage, or to compel the payment of a
contribution, the hostages being shot if the condition imposed by the
arbitrary will of the invader is not fulfilled. Such hostage taking ...
is opposed both to the rules of war and to every principle of justice
and humanity.


_Murder in the Villages._

[Sidenote: 27]

The latter kind of murder is the killing of the innocent inhabitants of
a village because shots have been fired, or are alleged to have been
fired, on the troops by someone in the village. For this practice no
previous example and no justification has been or can be pleaded.... In
Belgium large bodies of men, sometimes including the burgomaster and
the priest, were seized, marched by officers to a spot chosen for the
purpose, and there shot in cold blood, without any attempt at trial
or even enquiry, under the pretence of inflicting punishment upon the
village, though these unhappy victims were not even charged with having
themselves committed any wrongful act.

[Sidenote: 16]

The Committee is specially impressed by the character of the outrages
committed in the smaller villages.

_Aerschot and District_ (August 25th). - Immediately after the battle of
Malines ... a long series of murders were committed either just before
or during the retreat of the army. Many of the inhabitants who were
unarmed, including women and young children, were killed - some of them
under revolting circumstances.

Evidence given goes to show that the death of these villagers was due,
not to accident, but to deliberate purpose.


_A Death-stricken Area._

[Sidenote: 14]

The quadrangle of territory bounded by the towns of Aerschot, Malines,
Vilvorde, and Louvain, is a rich agricultural tract, studded with small
villages and comprising two considerable cities, Louvain and Malines.
This district on August 19th passed into the hands of the Germans, and,
owing perhaps to its proximity to Antwerp, then the seat of the Belgian
Government and headquarters of the Belgian Army, it became from that
date a scene of chronic outrage, with respect to which the Committee
has received a great mass of evidence.


_Systematic Massacres._

[Sidenote: 14]

The arrival of the Germans in the district on August 19th was marked by
systematic massacres and other outrages at Aerschot itself, Gelrode and
some other villages.


_Sudden Outburst of Cruelty follows Belgian Victory._

[Sidenote: 14]

On August 25th the Belgians, sallying out of the defences of Antwerp,
attacked the German positions at Malines, drove the enemy from the
town and re-occupied many of the villages in the neighbourhood. And
just as numerous outrages against the civilian population had been the
immediate consequence of the temporary repulse of the German vanguard
from Fort Fléron, so a large body of depositions testify to the fact
that a sudden outburst of cruelty was the response of the German Army
to the Belgian victory at Malines.


_A Reign of Terror._

[Sidenote: 14]

The battle of Malines ... was the occasion of numerous murders
committed by the German Army in retreating through the villages of
Sempst, Hofstade, Eppeghem, Elewyt and elsewhere. In the second place
it led ... to the massacres, plunderings and burnings at Louvain, the
signal for which was provided by shots exchanged between the German
Army, retreating after its repulse at Malines, and some members of the
German garrison of Louvain, who mistook their fellow countrymen for
Belgians. Lastly, the encounter at Malines seems to have stung the
Germans into establishing a reign of terror in so much of the district
comprised in the quadrangle as remained in their power.


_Louvain Peacefully Occupied by Germans for Six Days._

[Sidenote: 19]

_Louvain and District._ - The events spoken to as having occurred in and
around Louvain between August 19th and 25th deserve close attention.

For six days the Germans were in peaceful occupation of the city. No
houses were set on fire - no citizens killed. There was a certain amount
of looting of empty houses, but otherwise discipline was effectively
maintained. The condition of Louvain during these days was one of
relative peace and quietude, presenting a striking contrast to the
previous and contemporaneous conduct of the German Army elsewhere.


_A Sudden Change - Murder of Civilians and Destruction of Property._


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