Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Trampling of Louvain - Part 2

So what exactly did the Germans do to Louvain?

They spent five days burning it and looting what they could. They destroyed a library of a third of a million ancient manuscripts and medieval books. They burned Louvain's Catholic University and the church of St. Pierre along with the most prominent public buildings. But there was far worse: 250 men, women and children were shot dead. and the whole population of ten thousand were turned out of their homes and told to leave. Their supposed crime was rather nebulous and certainly untried in any court of law. They were said to have fired on German soldiers -- an attempt at an excuse which was seen, even at the time, as ludicrously transparent and self-serving.

In Aarschot there were 156 civilians murdered. In Andenne 211, in Tamines 383, and at the village of Dinant, near Liege, 674 - all murdered in an attempt to terrorize and cow the population. The German army stole all available food, even that growing in the fields, they looted anything that could be removed, broke into wine stores and drank all the alcohol they could get their hands on. Once Belgium was firmly in their grip, they went on to disable the Belgian economy by carting industrial machinery off to Germany along with thousands of workers who would then work at slave rates and act as hostages into the bargain. A third of Belgium's population of eight million became refugees, walking the roads by day and sleeping in ditches by night. How many perished is not recorded.

All this misery was not simply a by-product of war, it was masterminded as an illustration that no one should dare to oppose the Kaiser's will.

German war-planners, noted for their minute attention to detail, overlooked one glaring factor: no provision was made by the invaders to feed the Belgian population. The story of how they were eventually fed is told in my novel "The Deadly Playground." Make no mistake, the imperial German occupation of Belgium was, in almost every respect, a prototytpe for the "Nazi Europe" that appeared twenty-five years later. Those who have seen the movie Schindler's List can begin to imagine that living under the heel of the jackboot was a hellish experience.

"The old Reich knew already how to act with firmness in the occupied areas. That's how attempts at sabotage to the railways in Belgium were punished by Count von der Goltz. He had all the villages burnt within a radius of several kilometres, after having had all the mayors shot, the men imprisoned and the women and children evacuated."

Now guess who wrote that. Yes, you're right, it was indeed Adolf Hitler.

All this barbarism backfired, of course. Neutral countries saw what had been inflicted, and were horrified. Some were horrified enough to send their boys over to help sort it out. You should be proud of their contribution. This really was a case of going out to slay a very nasty dragon indeed.

You may be interested in my fictional account - The Deadly Playground - why not click on this link and get a copy?

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