Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Trampling of Louvain - 1

Having invaded Belgium on August 4th, 1914, the Germans found themselves unable to sweep aside the Belgian army as they had confidently expected. This was rather embarrassing for the generals of the German high command, who regarded their army as the the best-trained and best-equipped military on the planet.

The Germans had planned to march their armies through Belgium on the way to France, whether the Belgians objected to this or not. The Belgians most certainly did object, and fought so well that they retarded the German advance sufficiently to allow France (and to a much lesser extent, Britain) to halt the invasion well before it reached Paris.

Infuriated by their lack of progress, and the surliness of uncooperative Belgians, they fell upon the Belgian city of Louvain (or Leuven, in Flemish) and tortured it mercilessly for five days, from August 25th, to teach Belgians a lesson they would not forget. They then began lying. They tried to blame the Belgians and make themselves out as the victims.

After the Germans took the city on August 19th, Hugh Gibson, a diplomatic official stationed at the American legation in Brussels commented thus:

"There is bad news from Louvain. The reports we have received agree that there was some sort of trouble in the square before the Hotel de Ville a day or two ago. Beyond that, no two reports are alike. The Germans say that the son of the Burgomaster shot down some staff officers who were talking together at dusk before the Hotel de Ville. The only flaw in that story is that the Burgomaster has no son. Some Belgians say that two bodies of Germans who were drunk met in the dusk; that one body mistook the other for French, and opened fire. Other reliable people tell with convincing detail that the trouble was planned and started by the Germans in cold blood. However that may be, the affair ended in the town being set on fire, and civilians shot down in the streets as they tried to escape. According to the Germans themselves, the town is being wiped out of existence. The Cathedral, the Library, the University, and other public buildings have either been destroyed or have suffered severely. People have been shot by hundreds, and those not killed are being driven from the town. They are coming to Brussels by thousands, and the end is not yet. This evening the wife of the Minister of Fine Arts came in with the news that her mother, a woman of eighty-four, had been driven from her home at the point of the bayonet and forced to walk with a stream of refugees all the way to Tervueren, a distance of about twelve miles, before she could be put on a tram to her daughter's house. Two old priests have staggered into the Legation more dead than alive after having been compelled to walk ahead of the German troops for miles as a sort of protecting screen. One of them is ill, and it is said that he may die as a result of what he has gone through."

And so it goes on ...

Any historian following the trouble in eastern Ukraine of late will recognize the dead hand of a despot at work. The Russians are operating in a way not dissimilar to that of the German high command of 1914.  What's perhaps most pathetic of all is their hope that anyone actually believes their lies.

Why not take a look at my latest novel, set in this period?  Click on this link and get a copy.

No comments:

Post a Comment