“On August 23 placards signed by (German) General von Bülow were posted in Liège, Belgium, announcing that the people of Andenne, a small town on the Meuse near Namur, having attacked his troops in the most “traitorous” manner, “with my permission the General commanding these troops has burned the town to ashes and has had 110 persons shot.”

“The burning of Andenne and the massacre— which Belgian figures put at 211— took place on August 20 and 21 during the Battle of Charleroi.”

“The turn of events in Belgium was a product of the German theory of terror. Clausewitz had prescribed terror as the proper method to shorten war, his whole theory of war being based on the necessity of making it short, sharp, and decisive. The civil population must not be exempted from war’s effects but must be made to feel its pressure and be forced by the severest measures to compel their leaders to make peace.

…the deliberate use of terror was prescribed by the Kriegsbrauch, “War cannot be conducted merely against the combatants of an enemy state but must seek to destroy the total material and intellectual (geistig) resources of the enemy.”

ww i tamines plaque

“At Seilles, across the river from Andenne, 50 civilians were shot and the houses given over to looting and burning. At Tamines, captured on August 21, sack of the town began that evening after the battle and continued all night and next day. The usual orgy of permitted looting accompanied by drinking released inhibitions and brought the soldiers to the desired state of raw excitement which was intended to add to the fearful effect. On the second day at Tamines some 400 citizens were herded together under guard in front of the church in the main square and a firing squad began systematically shooting into the group. Those not dead when the firing ended were bayoneted.

In the cemetery at Tamines there are 384 gravestones inscribed 1914: Fusillé par les Allemands.”

“In response to a report of sniping, a German regiment was sent to Visé from Liège on August 23. That night the sound of shooting could be heard at Eysden just over the border in Holland five miles away. Next day Eysden was overwhelmed by a flood of 4,000 refugees, the entire population of Visé except for those who had been shot, and for 700 men and boys who had been deported for harvest labor to Germany. The deportations, which were to have such moral effect, especially upon the United States, began in August. Afterward when Brand Whitlock, the American Minister, visited what had been Visé he saw only empty blackened houses open to the sky, “a vista of ruins that might have been Pompeii.” Every inhabitant was gone. There was not a living thing, not a roof.”

*

“At Dinant on the Meuse on August 23 the Saxons of General von Hausen’s Army were fighting the French in a final engagement of the Battle of Charleroi. Von Hausen personally witnessed the “perfidious” activity of Belgian civilians in hampering reconstruction of bridges, “so contrary to international law.”  His troops began rounding up “several hundreds ” of hostages, men, women, and children. Fifty were taken from church, the day being Sunday. The General saw them “tightly crowded—standing, sitting, lying— in a group under guard of the Grenadiers, their faces displaying fear, nameless anguish, concentrated rage and desire for revenge provoked by all the calamities they had suffered .”

The Village of Dinant, Belgium, August, 1914

The Village of Dinant, Belgium, August, 1914

Von Hausen, who was very sensitive, felt an “indomitable hostility” emanating from them. He was the general who had been made so unhappy in the house of the Belgian gentleman who clenched his fists in his pockets and refused to speak to von Hausen at dinner. In the group at Dinant he saw a wounded French soldier with blood streaming from his head who lay dying, mute and apathetic, refusing all medical help. Von Hausen ends his description there, too sensitive to tell the fate of Dinant’s citizens .

They were kept in the main square till evening, then lined up, women on one side , men opposite in two rows, one kneeling in front of the other. Two firing squads marched to the center of the square, faced either way, and fired till no more of the targets stood upright. Six hundred and twelve bodies were identified and buried, including Félix Fivet, aged three weeks. The Saxons were then let loose in a riot of pillage and arson.”

The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I, 1962,  Barbara W.  Tuchman

 

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