Copyright in U.S.A.
French Official Report on German Atrocities
Having been instructed to investigate atrocities said to have been committed by the Germans in portions of French territory which had been occupied by them, a commission composed of four representatives of the French Government repaired to these districts in order to make a thorough investigation. The commission was composed of M. Georges Payelle, First President of the Cour des Comptes; Armand Mollard, Minister Plenipotentiary; Georges Maringer, Counselor of State, and Edmond Paillot, Counselor of the Cour de Cassation.
They started on their mission late in September last and visited the Departments of Seine-et-Marne, Marne, Meuse, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Oise, and Aisne. According to the report, they made note only of those accusations against the invaders which were backed up by reliable testimony and discarded everything that might have been occasioned by the exigencies of war.
Presented to the President of the Council by the commission instituted with a view to investigating acts committed by the enemy in violation of international law. Decree of Sept. 23, 1914. MM. Georges Payelle, First President of the Cour des Comptes; Armand Mollard, Minister Plenipotentiary; Georges Maringer, Counselor of State, and Edmond Paillot, Counselor at the Court of Appeal.
To the President of the Council of Ministers:
Sir: Having been appointed by virtue of a decree of the 23d of last September to carry out on the spot an inquiry in relation to acts committed in violation of international law in the portions of French territory occupied by the enemy which have been reconquered by the armies of the republic, we have the honor to lay before you the first results of our mission.
We have already a full harvest of information to submit. It includes, however, a very limited part of the findings at which we should have been able to arrive if we had not submitted all the evidence which was laid before us to severe criticism and rigorous examination. We have indeed believed it to be our duty only to place on record those facts which, being established beyond dispute, constitute with absolute certainty what may be clearly termed crimes, omitting those the proofs of which were, in our view, insufficient, or which, however destructive or cruel they were, might have been the result of acts of war properly so-called, rather than of willful excesses, attributable to the enemy.
Thus we are convinced that none of the incidents which we have investigated could be disputed in good faith. In addition the proof of each of them does not depend only on our personal observations; it is founded chiefly on photographs and on a mass of evidence received in judicial form, with the sanction of an oath.
The lamentable sights which we have had before our eyes have made the task to which we all four addressed ourselves, with a close association of ideas and feelings, a very grievous one. It would indeed have been too painful, if we had not found a powerful support in the sight of the wonderful troops whom we met at the front, in the welcome of the military leaders whose kind assistance has never failed us, and in the sight of the population who bear unprecedented calamities with the most dignified resignation. In the districts which we crossed, and particularly in that country of Lorraine which was so frequently the victim of the scourge of war, not one entreaty for help, not one moan, reached our ears; and yet the terrible misery of which we have been witness surpasses in extent and horror anything which the imagination can conceive. On every side our eyes rested on ruin. Whole villages have been destroyed by bombardment or fire; towns formerly full of life are now nothing but deserts full of ruins; and, in visiting the scenes of desolation where the invader's torch has done its work, one feels continually as though one were walking among the remains of one of those cities of antiquity which have been annihilated by the great cataclysms of nature.
In truth it can be stated that never has a war carried on between civilized nations assumed the savage and ferocious character of the one which at this moment is being waged on our soil by an implacable adversary. Pillage, rape, arson, and murder are the common practice of our enemies; and the facts which have been revealed to us day by day at once constitute definite crimes against common rights, punished by the codes of every country with the most severe and the most dishonoring penalties, and which prove an astonishing degeneration in German habits of thought since 1870.
Crimes against women and young girls have been of appalling frequency. We have proved a great number of them, but they only represent an infinitesimal proportion of those which we could have taken up. Owing to a sense of decency, which is deserving of every respect, the victims of these hateful acts usually refuse to disclose them. Doubtless fewer would have been committed if the leaders of an army whose discipline is most rigorous had taken any trouble to prevent them; yet, strictly speaking, they can only be considered as the individual and spontaneous acts of uncaged beasts. But with regard to arson, theft, and murder the case is very different; the officers, even those of the highest station, will bear before humanity the overwhelming responsibility for these crimes.
In the greater part of the places where we carried on our inquiry we came to the conclusion that the German Army constantly professes the most complete contempt for human life, that its soldiers, and even its officers, do not hesitate to finish off the wounded, that they kill without pity the inoffensive inhabitants of the territories which they have invaded, and they do not spare in their murderous rage women, old men, or children. The wholesale shootings at Luneville, Gerbeviller, Nomeny, and Senlis are terrible examples of this; and in the course of this report you will read the story of scenes of carnage in which officers themselves have not been ashamed to take part.
The mind refuses to believe that all these butcheries should have taken place without justification. Still, it is so! It is true that the Germans have always advanced the same pretext for them, alleging that civilians had begun by firing upon them. This allegation is a lie, and those who advance it have been unable to give it any probability, even by firing rifle shots in the neighborhood of houses, as they are accustomed to do in order to be able to state that they have been attacked by an innocent population on whose ruin or massacre they have resolved. We have many times ascertained the truth of this; here is one among others:
One evening the Abbe Colin, Cure of Croismare, was standing near an officer when the report of a gun rang out. The latter cried, "Monsieur le Cure, that is enough to cause you to be shot as well as the Burgomaster, and for a farm to be burned; look, there is one on fire." "Sir," replied the priest, "you are too intelligent not to recognize the sharp sound of your German rifle. For my part, I recognize it." The German did not press the point.
Personal liberty, like human life, is the object of complete scorn on the part of the German military authorities. Almost everywhere citizens of every age have been dragged from their homes and led into captivity, many have died or been killed on the way.
Arson, still more than murder, forms the usual procedure of our adversaries. It is employed by them either as a means of systematic devastation or as a means of terrorism. The German Army, in order to provide for it, possesses a complete outfit, which comprises torches, grenades, rockets, petrol pumps, fuse-sticks, and little bags of pastilles made of compressed powder which are very inflammable. The lust for arson is manifested chiefly against churches and against monuments which have some special interest, either artistic or historical.
In the departments through which we have gone thousands of houses have been burned, but we have only investigated in our inquiry fires which have been occasioned by exclusively criminal intention, and we have not believed it our duty to deal with those that have been caused by shells in the course of violent fighting, or due to circumstances which it has not been possible to determine with absolute certainty, such as those at Villotte-devant-Louppy, Rembercourt, Mogneville, Amblaincourt, Pretz, Louppy-le-Chateau, and other places. The few inhabitants who remained among the ruins furnished us with information in absolute good faith on this subject.
We have constantly found definite evidence of theft, and we do not hesitate to state that where a body of the enemy has passed it has given itself up to a systematically organized pillage, in the presence of its leaders, who have even themselves often taken part in it. Cellars have been emptied to the last bottle, safes have been gutted, considerable sums of money have been stolen or extorted; a great quantity of plate and jewelry, as well as pictures, furniture, objets d'art, linen, bicycles, women's dresses, sewing machines, even down to children's toys, after having been taken away, have been loaded on vehicles to be taken toward the frontier.
The inhabitants have had no redress against all these exactions, any more than they have for the crimes already described; and if some wretched inhabitant dared to beg an officer to be good enough to intervene to spare a life or to protect his goods he received no other reply (when he was not greeted by threats) than the one invariable formula, accompanied by a smile, describing these most abominable cruelties as the inevitable results of war.
As you have already learned from reading the documents of which we have sent you copies, we proceeded first to the Department of Seine-et-Marne. We there collected proofs of numerous abuses of the laws of war, as well as of crimes committed against common rights by the enemy, some of which exhibited features of special gravity.
At Chauconin the Germans set fire to five dwelling houses and to six buildings used for agricultural purposes with the assistance of grenades, which they threw on to the roofs, and with sticks of resin which they placed under the doors. M. Lagrange asked an officer the reason of such acts and the latter merely replied: "It is war." Then he ordered M. Lagrange to point out to him the situation of the property known as the Farm Proffit, and a few moments later the buildings of this farm were in flames.
At Congis a body of the enemy were engaged in burning a score of houses, into which they had thrown straw and poured petrol, when the arrival of a French detachment prevented them from carrying out their design.
At Penchard, where three houses had been burned, Mme. Marius Rene saw a soldier carrying a torch which, stuck in his belt, appeared to form part of his equipment.
At Barcy an officer and soldier made their way to the Mairie, and, after having taken all the blankets belonging to the schoolmaster, set fire to the muniment room.
At Douy-la-Rame the Germans set fire to a mill, whose situation they had ascertained by inquiry in the neighborhood. A workman 66 years old had a narrow escape from being thrown into the flames. By struggling violently and clutching on to a wall he was able to avoid the fate with which he was threatened. Finally, at Courtacon, after having compelled the inhabitants to furnish them with matches and faggots, they sprinkled a great number of houses with petrol and set them ablaze. The village, a great part of which is in ruins, presents a lamentable appearance.
Together with these crimes against property, we have been able to place on record in the Department of Seine-et-Marne many grave offenses against the person.
Early in September a German cavalryman arrived one day at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon at the house of M. Laforest, at May-en-Multien, and asked for a drink. M. Laforest hurried off to draw some wine from the cask, but the German, no doubt annoyed at not being served quickly enough, fired his rifle at the wife of his host, who was seriously wounded. Taken to Livry-sur-Ourcq, Mme. Laforest was there cared for by a German doctor and had her left arm amputated. She died recently in the hospital at Meaux.
On Sept. 8 eighteen inhabitants of Vareddes, among whom was the priest, were arrested without cause and led away by the enemy. Three of them escaped. None of the others had returned up to Sept. 30, the day we were there. From information collected, three of these men were murdered. Anyhow, the death of one of the oldest among them, M. Jourdain, aged 73, is certain.
Dragged as far as the village of Coulombs and being unable to walk further, the unfortunate man received a bayonet wound in the forehead and a revolver bullet through the heart.
At about the same time a man of 66, named Dalissier, living at Congis, was ordered by the Germans to give up his purse to them. When he proved unable to give them any money, he was tied up with a halter and ruthlessly shot. The marks of about fifteen bullets were found on his dead body.
On the 3d of September, at Mary-sur-Marne, M. Mathe, terrified at the arrival of the German troops, attempted to hide himself under the counter of a wine shop. He was found in his hiding place and killed by a thrust of a knife or bayonet in the chest.
At Sancy-les-Provins, on the 6th of September, about 9 o'clock at night, about eighty people were summarily arrested and imprisoned in a sheep pen. On the next day thirty of them were taken by an officer's order some five kilometers from the village to the barn called "Pierrelez," where a German Red Cross ambulance was established. There an army doctor (medecin-major) addressed some words to the wounded under his charge, who at once proceeded to load four rifles and two revolvers, their intention being obvious. Moreover, a French hussar, who had been wounded in the arm and taken prisoner, said to the priest, while asking him for absolution: "I am going to be shot, and it will be your turn next." After having done as the soldier asked him, the priest, unbuttoning his cassock, went and took his place between the Mayor and another of his fellow-citizens, against a wall along which the hostages were lined up; but at this moment two French chasseurs a cheval suddenly arrived, and the doctors, with their ambulance staff, surrendered to these soldiers, near whom the hussar had hastened to place himself.
As showing the responsibility of officers of high rank for these proceedings, it is interesting to note that the schoolmaster at Sancy, when he was about to be taken off with the others, was allowed to retain his freedom as a favor by General von Dutag, who was quartered on him.
On the 6th of the same month, after having set on fire some of the houses in Courtacon, a body of soldiers, believed to belong to the Imperial Guard, took five men and a child of thirteen out into the fields, and exposed them to the French fire so long as the engagement lasted. In the confines of the same commune, Edmond Rousseau, liable to serve in the 1914 class, was arrested for the sole reason that his age marked him out as being on the eve of being called up to the colors, and was murdered under tragic circumstances.
The Mayor, who was one of the hostages, when questioned as to the position of this youth from the military point of view, replied that Rousseau had passed the medical examination, that he had been declared fit for service, but that his class had not yet been called up. The Germans thereupon made the prisoner strip, in order to satisfy themselves of his physical condition, then put his trousers on again, and shot him within fifty meters of his fellow-citizens.
The town of Coulommiers has suffered considerable pillage. Plate, linen, and boots were taken away, principally from empty houses, and a large number of bicycles were loaded on motor wagons. The Germans occupied this place from the 5th to the 7th of September. On this day before they left they arrested, without any pretext, the Mayor and the Procureur de la Republique, and an officer grossly insulted them. These two officials were kept in custody until the next morning, together with the Secretary of the Mairie. Guards were set over the Procureur during the night, and did their best to persuade him by remarks exchanged between them that his execution was imminent.
It is generally believed at Coulommiers that criminal attempts have been made on many women of that town, but only one crime of this nature has been proved for certain. A charwoman, Mme. X., was the victim. A soldier came to her house on the 6th of September, toward 9:30 in the evening, and sent away her husband to go and search for one of his comrades in the street. Then, in spite of the fact that two small children were present, he tried to rape the young woman. X., when he heard his wife's cries, rushed back, but was driven off with blows of the butt of the man's rifle into a neighboring room, of which the door was left open, and his wife was forced to suffer the consummation of the outrage. The rape took place almost under the eyes of the husband, who, being terrorized, did not dare to intervene, and used his efforts only to calm the terror of his children.
In the same way, Mme. X., at Sancy-les-Provins, and Mme. Z., at Beton-Bazoches, were the victims of similar outrages. The former was forced to submit to the will of a soldier with a revolver at her throat; the second, in spite of her resistance, was thrown upon a bed and outraged in the presence of her little daughter, aged 3. The husbands of these two women have been with the army since the commencement of the war.
On the 6th of September, at Guerard, where two workmen, Maitrier and Didelot, had been killed at the outposts, the enemy took possession of six hostages. One only was able to escape and return to his village.
At Mauperthuis, on the same day, four Germans who had already gone in the morning to the house of M. Roger, presented themselves there again at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. "There were three of you here this morning, and now you are only two. Come out," said one of them. Immediately Roger and a refugee named M. Denet, who was a guest in the house, were seized and led away. The next day, at the end of the village, Mme. Roger found the body of her husband, pierced by two bullets. Denet had also been shot, and his body was discovered some little time afterward in such a state of decomposition as to make it impossible to ascertain the nature of the wounds which the unfortunate man had received.
In a hamlet in the same commune, M. Fournier, caretaker of a farm at Champbrisset, resided with a Swiss named Knell. The Germans took them on a cart as far as Vaudoy and murdered them. An inhabitant of Voinsles, named Cartier, suffered the same fate. As he passed on his bicycle along a road a little way from Vaudoy, he was stopped by the Germans, who searched his bag, in which was a revolver. Cartier, without any resistance, gave up his weapon of his own accord. His eyes were bandaged, and he was shot then and there.
On the 8th of September at Sablonnieres, where there were scenes of general pillage, M. Delaitre, who had left his house during the battle to take refuge under a culvert, was discovered in his hiding place by a German soldier, who fired at him five times; he died the same day.
At the same place, M. Jules Griffaut, 66 years of age, was herding his cows peacefully in a field, when a detachment of the enemy passed 150 meters from him. A soldier who was alone in the rear of the column took aim at him, and shot him in the face. It is proper to add that a German officer took the trouble to have the wounded man attended to by a German army doctor, and that Griffaut recovered fairly soon.
At Rebais, on the 4th of September, at 11 in the evening, the Germans, after pillaging the jeweler's shop of M. Pantereau and loading the goods which they had taken on to a cart, set fire to the house. They also burned three private houses in the Rue de l'Etang by throwing lighted straw into them.
In this little town serious acts of violence were committed. M. Auguste Griffaut, 79 years of age, was treated with horrible brutality. They repeatedly struck him on the head with their fists. A revolver shot grazed his head. His watch and his purse, containing 800 francs, were stolen from his person.
On the same day, some German soldiers grossly ill-treated Mme. X., a wine-shop keeper, aged 29, on the pretense that she was hiding English soldiers. They undressed her and kept her in the middle of them completely naked for one and a half hours; then they tied her to her counter, giving her to understand that they were going to shoot her. They were, however, called out just then, and went away, leaving their victim in charge of an Alsatian soldier, who untied her and restored her to liberty.
Again, on the 4th of September, other soldiers attempted to rape Mme. Z., 34 years of age, after having sacked her grocery shop. Angered by her resistance, they tried to hang her, but she cut the rope with a knife which was open in her pocket. She was then beaten mercilessly until the arrival of an officer, who was fetched by a witness of the scene.
At St. Denis-les-Rebais, on the 7th of September, a Uhlan obliged Mme. X. to undress, threatening her with his rifle; then he threw her on a mattress and raped her while her mother-in-law, powerless to intervene, endeavored to keep her grandson, 8 years old, from this revolting sight.
On the same day, at the hamlet of Marais, in the Commune of Jouv-sur-Morin, the three daughters of Mme. X., aged respectively 18, 15, and 13, were with their sick mother when two German soldiers entered, seized the eldest, dragged her into the next room and raped her in succession; while one committed his crime, the other watched the door and with his weapons kept back the half-maddened mother.
Frightful scenes occurred at the Chateau de —— in the neighborhood of La Ferte-Gaucher. There lived there an old gentleman, M. X., with his servant, Mlle. Y., 54 years old. On Sept. 5 several Germans, among whom was a non-commissioned officer, were in occupation of this property. After they had been supplied with food, the non-commissioned officer proposed to a refugee, a Mme. Z., that she should sleep with him; she refused. M. X., to save her from the designs of which she was the object, sent her to his farm, which was in the neighborhood. The German ran there to fetch her, dragged her back to the chateau and led her to the attic; then, having completely undressed her, he tried to violate her. At this moment M. X., wishing to protect her, fired revolver shots on the staircase and was immediately shot.
The non-commissioned officer then made Mme. X. come out of the attic, obliged her to step over the corpse of the old man, and led her to a closet, where he again made two unsuccessful attempts upon her. Leaving her at last, he threw himself upon Mlle. Y., having first handed Mme. Z. over to two soldiers, who, after having violated her, one once and the other twice, in the dead man's room, made her pass the night in a barn near them, where one of them twice more had sexual connection with her.
As for Mlle. Y., she was obliged, by threats of being shot, to strip herself completely naked and lie on a mattress with the non-commissioned officer, who kept her there until morning.
We have also taken note of the fact that, as appears from declarations made by a municipal councilor of Rebais, two English cavalrymen who were surprised and wounded in this commune were finished off with gunshots by the Germans when they were dismounted and when one of them had thrown up his hands, showing thus that he was unarmed.
In the Department of the Marne, as everywhere else, the German troops gave themselves up to general pillage, which was carried out always under similar conditions and with the complicity of their leaders. The Communes of Heiltz-le-Maurupt; Suippes, Marfaux, Fromentieres, and Esternay suffered especially in this way. Everything which the invader could carry off from the houses was placed on motor lorries and vehicles. At Suippes, in particular, they carried off in this way a quantity of different objects, among these sewing machines and toys.
A great many villages, as well as important country towns, were burned without any reason whatever. Without doubt these crimes were committed by order, as German detachments arrived in the neighborhood with their torches, their grenades, and their usual outfit for arson.
At Lepine, a laborer named Caque, in whose house two German cyclists were billeted, asked the latter if the grenades which he saw in their possession were destined for his house. They answered: "No, Lepine is finished with." At that moment nine houses in the village were burned out.
At Marfaux nineteen private houses were burned.
At le Gault-la-Foret seven or eight houses were burned. Of the Commune of Glannes practically nothing remains. At Somme-Tourbe the entire village has been destroyed, with the exception of the Mairie, the church, and two private buildings.
At Auve nearly the whole town has been destroyed. At Etrepy sixty-three families out of seventy are homeless. At Huiron all the houses, with the exception of five, have been burned. At Sermaize-les-Bains only about forty houses out of 900 remain. At Bignicourt-sur-Saultz thirty houses out of thirty-three are in ruins.
At Suippes, the big market town which has been practically burned out, German soldiers carrying straw and cans of petrol have been seen in the streets. While the Mayor's house was burning, six sentinels with fixed bayonets were under orders to forbid any one to approach and to prevent any help being given.
All this destruction by arson, which only represents a small proportion of the acts of the same kind in the Department of Seine-et-Marne, was accomplished without the least tendency to rebellion or the smallest act of resistance being recorded against the inhabitants of the localities which are today more or less completely destroyed. In some villages the Germans, before setting fire to them, made one of their soldiers fire a shot from his rifle so as to be able to pretend afterward that the civilian population had attacked them, an allegation which is all the more absurd since at the time when the enemy arrived the only inhabitants left were old men, sick persons, or people absolutely without any means of aggression.
Numerous crimes against the person have also been committed. In the majority of the communes hostages have been taken away; many of them have not returned. At Sermaize-les-Bains, the Germans carried off about 150 people, some of whom were decked out with helmets and coats and compelled, thus equipped, to mount guard over the bridges.
At Bignicourt-sur-Saulx thirty men and forty-five women and children were obliged to leave with a detachment. One of the men—a certain Emile Pierre—has not returned nor sent any news of himself. At Corfelix, M. Jacquet, who was carried off on the 7th of September with eleven of his fellow-citizens, was found five hundred meters from the village with a bullet in his head.
At Champuis the cure, his maid-servant, and four other inhabitants, who were taken away the same day as the hostages of Corfelix, had not returned at the time of our visit to the place.
At the same place an old man of 70, named Jacquemin, was tied down in his bed by an officer and left in this state without food for three days. He died a little time after.
At Vert-la-Gravelle a farm-hand was killed. He was struck on the head with a bottle and his chest was run through with a lance.
The garde champetre Brulefer of le Gault-la-Foret was murdered at Maclaunay, where he had been taken by the Germans. His body was found with his head shattered and a wound on his chest.
At Champguyon, a commune which has been fired, a certain Verdier was killed in his father-in-law's house. The latter was not present at the execution, but he heard a shot and next day an officer said to him, "Son shot. He is under the ruins." In spite of the search made the body has not been found among them. It must have been consumed in the fire.
At Sermaize, the roadmaker Brocard was placed among a number of hostages. Just at the moment when he was being arrested with his son, his wife and his daughter-in-law in a state of panic rushed to throw themselves into the Saulx. The old man was able to free himself for a moment and ran in all haste after them and made several attempts to save them, but the Germans dragged him away pitilessly, leaving the two wretched women struggling in the river. When Brocard and his son were restored to liberty, four days afterward, and found the bodies, they discovered that their wives had both received bullet wounds in the head.
At Montmirail a scene of real savagery was enacted. On the 5th of September a non-commissioned officer flung himself almost naked on the widow Naude, on whom he was billeted, and carried her into his room. This woman's father, Francois Fontaine, rushed up on hearing his daughter's cry. At once fifteen or twenty Germans broke through the door of the house, pushed the old man into the street, and shot him without mercy. Little Juliette Naude opened the window at this moment and was struck in the stomach by a bullet, which went through her body. The poor child died after twenty-four hours of most dreadful suffering.
On the 6th of September at Champguyon, Mme. Louvet was present at the martyrdom of her husband. She saw him in the hands of ten or fifteen soldiers, who were beating him to death before his own house, and ran up and kissed him through the bars of the gate. She was brutally pushed back and fell, while the murderers dragged along the unhappy man covered with blood, begging them to spare his life and protesting that he had done nothing to be treated thus. He was finished off at the end of the village. When his wife found his body it was horribly disfigured. His head was beaten in, one of his eyes hung from the socket, and one of his wrists was broken.
At Esternay, on the 6th of September, toward 3 in the afternoon, thirty-five or forty Germans were leading away M. Lauranceau, when he made a sharp movement as if to free himself. He was immediately shot down.
In the same town the following facts have been laid before us:
During the night, between Sunday, the 6th of September, and Monday, the 7th, the soldiers who were scattered among the houses pillaging, discovered the widow Bouche, her two daughters, and Mmes. Lhomme and Mace, who had taken refuge under the cellar staircase. They ordered the two young girls to undress, then, as their mother tried to intervene, one of the soldiers, bringing his rifle to his shoulder, fired in the direction of the group of women. The bullet, after having struck Mme. Lhomme near the left elbow, broke the right arm of Mlle. Marcelle Bouche at the armpit. During the following day the young girl died as a result of her wound. According to the declarations made by witnesses, the wound was horrible to behold.
Further, our inquiry in the Department of the Marne established other crimes of which women were the victims.
On the 3rd of September, at Suippes, Mme. X., 72 years of age, was seized by a German soldier, who pushed the barrel of his revolver under her chin and brutally flung her on her bed. Her son-in-law rushed up at the noise, fortunately for her, at the moment when the rape was about to be consummated.
At the same place and time little ——, 11 years old, was for three hours the prey of a licentious soldier, who, having found her with her sick grandmother, dragged her to a deserted house and stopped her mouth with a handkerchief to prevent her crying out.
On the 7th of September, at Vitry-en-Perthois, Mme. X., aged 45, and Mme. Z., aged 89, were both raped; the latter died a fortnight later.
At Jussecourt-Minecourt, on the 8th of September, toward 9 in the evening, Mlle. X. was violated by four soldiers, who broke in the door of her room with the help of a billhook. All four flung themselves on this young girl, who was 21 years old, and ravished her in succession.
As the bombardment of open towns constitutes without doubt a violation of international law, we thought it necessary to go to Rheims, which was for eighty days bombarded by the Germans. We received a sworn statement from the Mayor, from which we learned that about 300 of the civilian population had already been killed; we saw that in different parts of the town numerous buildings had been destroyed, and we took note of the enormous and irreparable damage which had been inflicted on the cathedral. The bombardment has continued since the 7th of October, the day of our visit; the number of the victims, therefore, must now be very considerable. Every one knows how the unhappy town has suffered, and that the attitude of the municipality has been above all praise.
While we were working at the Hotel de Ville, six shells were fired in the direction of this building. The fifth fell only a short distance from the principal front, and the sixth burst fifteen or twenty meters from the bureau.
Next day we went to the Chateau of Baye and witnessed the traces of the sack which this building has suffered. On the first floor a door which leads into a room next to a gallery, where the owner had collected valuable works of art, has been broken in; four glass cabinets have been broken and another has been opened. According to the declarations of the caretaker who, in the absence of her masters, was unable to acquaint us of the full extent of the damage, the principal objects stolen were jewels of Russian origin and gold medals. We noticed that the mounts covered with black velvet, which must have been taken out of the cases, were stripped of a part of the jewels which had previously been affixed to them.
Baron de Baye's room was in the greatest disorder. Numerous objects were strewn on the floor from the drawers which remained open. A writing table had been broken open. A Louis XVI. commode and a bureau a cylindre of the same period had been ransacked.
This room must have been occupied by a person of very high rank, for on the door there still remains a chalk inscription, "J.K. Hoheit." No one could give us exact information as to the identity of this "Highness"; however, a General who lodged in the house of M. Houllier, Town Councilor, told his host that the Duke of Brunswick and the staff of the Tenth Corps had occupied the chateau.
The same day we visited the Chateau of Beaumont, which is near Montmirail, and belongs to the Comte de la Rochefoucauld-Doudeauville. The wife of the caretaker declared that this house had been sacked by the Germans in the absence of its owners during an occupation which lasted from the 4th to the 6th of September. The invaders left it in an indescribable state of disorder and filth. The writing tables, bureaus, and safes had been broken open. The jewel boxes had been taken from the drawers and emptied.
On the doors of the rooms we could read inscriptions in chalk, among which we took note of the following: "Excellenz," "Major von Ledebur," "Graf Waldersee."
The Department of the Meuse, a great part of which the German armies still occupy, has suffered cruelly. Important communes there have been destroyed by fires lighted willfully by the Germans in the absence of any kind of military necessity, and without the population's having given any provocation for such atrocities by their attitude. This is the case particularly at Revigny, Sommeilles, Triaucourt, Bulainville, Clermont-en-Argonne, and Villers-aux-Vents.
The Germans having completely sacked the houses of Revigny and carried off their booty on vehicles, burned two-thirds of the town during three consecutive days from the 6th to the 9th of September, sprinkling the walls with petrol by means of hand pumps, and throwing into the houses little bags full of compressed powder in tablets. We have been furnished with specimens of these little bags and these tablets, as well as with fuse sticks of inflammable matter which had been left by the incendiaries.
The church, which was classed as a historical monument, and the Mairie with all its archives, have been destroyed.
Many inhabitants, among whom were children, have been taken away as hostages. They were, however, set at liberty next day, with the exception of M. Wladimir Thomas.
Few localities in the Department of the Meuse have suffered as much as the Commune of Sommeilles. It is nothing but a heap of ruins, having been completely burned on the 6th of September by a regiment of German infantry bearing the number fifty-one. The place was set on fire with help of machinelike bicycle pumps with which many of the soldiers were furnished.
This unhappy village was the scene of a terrible drama. At the commencement of the fire Mme. X., whose husband is with the colors, took refuge in the cellar of M. et Mme. Adnot, together with these latter and their four children, aged respectively 11, 5, 4, and 1-1/2 years. A few days afterward the bodies of all these unfortunate people were discovered in the middle of a pool of blood. Adnot had been shot, Mme. X. had her breast and right arm cut off; the little girl of 11 had a foot severed, the little boy of 5 had his throat cut. The woman X. and the little girl appeared to have been raped.
At Villers-aux-Vents, on the 8th of September, German officers invited the inhabitants who had not yet fled to leave their dwellings, warning them that the village was about to be burned, because, they alleged, three French soldiers had dressed themselves in civilian clothes; others gave the pretext that an installation of wireless telegraphy had been found in a house. The threat was carried out so rigorously that one house alone remains standing.
At Vaubecourt, where six dwelling houses were burned by the Wuerttemburgers, fire was set to a barn with straw piled up by the soldiers.
At Triaucourt the Germans gave themselves up to the worst excesses. Angered doubtless by the remark which an officer had addressed to a soldier, against whom a young girl of 19, Mlle. Helene Proces, had made complaint on account of the indecent treatment to which she had been subjected, they burned the village and made a systematic massacre of the inhabitants. They began by setting fire to the house of an inoffensive householder, M. Jules Gand, and by shooting this unfortunate man just as he was leaving his house to escape the flames; then they dispersed among the houses in the streets, firing their rifles on every side. A young man of 17, Georges Lecourtier, who tried to escape, was shot. M. Alfred Lallemand suffered the same fate; he was pursued into the kitchen of his fellow-citizen, Tautelier, and murdered there, while Tautelier received three bullets in his hand.
Fearing, not without reason, for their lives, Mlle. Proces, her mother, her grandmother of 71, and her old aunt of 81, Mlle. Laure Mennehand, tried with the help of a ladder to cross the trellis which separates their garden from a neighboring property. The young girl alone was able to reach the other side and to avoid death by hiding in the cabbages. As for the other women, they were struck down by rifle shots. The village cure collected the brains of Mlle. Mennehand on the ground on which they were strewn, and had the bodies carried into Proces's house. During the following night the Germans played the piano near the bodies.
While the carnage raged, the fire rapidly spread and devoured thirty-five houses. An old man of 70, Jean Lecourtier, and a child of two months perished in the flames. M. Igier, who was trying to save his cattle, was pursued for 300 meters by soldiers, who fired at him ceaselessly. By a miracle this man had the good fortune not to be wounded, but five bullets went through his trousers. When the cure, Viller, expressed his indignation at the treatment inflicted upon his parish to the Duke of Wuerttemburg, who was lodged in the village, the latter replied: "What would you have? We have bad soldiers just as you have."
In the same commune an attempt at rape was made which was unsuccessful by reason of the obstinate and courageous resistance of the victim. Three Germans made the attempt on Mme. D., 47 years old. Further, an old woman of 75, Mme. Maupoix, was kicked so violently that she died a few days afterward. While some of the soldiers were ill-treating her others were ransacking her wardrobes.
The little town of Clermont-en-Argonne, on the slope of a picturesque hill in the middle of a pleasant landscape, used to be visited every year by numerous tourists. On the 4th of September, at night, the 121st and 122d Wuerttemburg Regiments entered the place, breaking down the doors of the houses and giving themselves up to unrestrained pillage, which continued during the whole of the next day. Toward midday a soldier set fire to the dwelling of a clockmaker by deliberately upsetting the contents of an oil lamp which he used for making coffee. An inhabitant, M. Monternach, at once ran to fetch the town fire engine, and asked an officer to lend him men to work it. Brutally refused and threatened with a revolver, he renewed his request to several other officers, with no greater success. Meanwhile the Germans continued to burn the town, making use of sticks on the top of which torches were fastened. While the houses blazed the soldiers poured into the church, which stood by itself on the height, and danced there to the sound of the organ. Then, before leaving, they set fire to it with grenades as well as with vessels full of inflammable liquid, containing wicks.
After the burning of Clermont, bodies of the Mayor of Vauquois, M. Poinsignon, (which was completely carbonized,) and that of a young boy of 11, who had been shot at point-blank range, were found.
When the fire was out pillage recommenced in the houses which the flames had spared. Furniture carried off from the house of M. Desforges and stuffs stolen from the shop of M. Nordmann, a draper, were heaped together in motor cars. An army doctor (medicine-major) took possession of all the medical appliances in the hospital, and an officer of superior rank, after having put up a notice forbidding pillage on the entrance door of the house of M. Lebondidier, had a great part of the furniture of this house carried away on a carriage, intending it, as he boasted without any shame, for the adornment of his own villa.
At the time when this happened the town of Clermont-en-Argonne was occupied by the Thirteenth Wuerttemburg Corps, under the command of Gen. von Durach, and by a troop of Uhlans, commanded by Prince von Wittenstein.
On the 7th of September half a score of German cavalrymen entered the farm of Lamermont in the Commune of Lisle-en-Barrois, and, after having milk given to them, went away apparently satisfied. After their departure rifle shots were heard in the distance. A little later a second troop, composed of about thirty men, presented themselves in their turn, and accused the farm people of having killed a German soldier. Immediately the farmer, Elly, and one of his guests, M. Javelot, were seized and taken to a place near, where, in spite of their protestations of innocence, they were mercilessly shot.
At Louppy-le-Chateau the Germans gave themselves over to immorality and disgusting brutality during the night of the 8th and 9th in a cellar where several women had taken refuge from the bombardment. All these unhappy women were vilely ill-treated. Mlle. X., aged 71; Mme. Y., aged 44, and her two daughters, one aged 13 and the other 8, and Mme. Z. were violated.
Hostages have been taken away from many communes. At the beginning of September, at Laimont, eight persons were obliged to follow the German troops, and on the 27th of October none of them had returned. The cure of Nubecourt, who was carried off on the 5th of September, has not yet reappeared in his parish.
At Saint-Andre, M. Havette, who was among the number of persons arrested, obtained from an officer permission to watch over the body of his wife, who had been killed on the previous day by a fragment of a shell. In the evening the inhabitants were ordered to collect together in a barn. Havette believed that he was exempt from this order by reason of the authority he had received, and remained at his house until 11 in the evening. When he left his house he was struck down by a rifle bullet.
Of the other villages besides those whose burning we have related, Vassincourt and Brabant-le-Roi were more or less completely burned. Up to now it has not been possible for us to ascertain completely the circumstances of their destruction. Our inquiry so far as it concerns them will be further pursued.
It has been brought to our knowledge that in the Department of the Meuse the enemy has committed acts of cruelty toward the French soldiers who were wounded and prisoners. We will set out the facts of this at the end of the present report.
We arrived in the Department of Meurthe-et-Moselle on the 26th of October, and visited a great number of communes in the arrondissements of Nancy and Luneville.
Nancy, an open town into which the German Army has not been able to enter, was bombarded without formal warning during the night of the 9th and 10th of September. About sixty shells fell into the middle of the town and in the southern cemetery—that is, in places where there is no military establishment. Three women, a young girl, and a little girl were killed; thirteen people were wounded; the material damage done was considerable.
The enemy's aviators have flown over the town twice. On the 4th of September one of them dropped two bombs, by one of which a man and a little girl were killed and six people wounded, in the Place de la Cathedrale. On the 13th of October three bombs were thrown on the goods station. Four persons employed by the Eastern Railway Company were wounded.
When we reached Pont-a-Mousson, on the morning of the 10th of November, seven shells had just been fired by the German batteries a few hours before. It was the 24th day of the bombardment, which began on the 11th of August. The evening before a young girl of 19 and a child of 4 had been killed in their beds by fragments of shells. On the 14th of August the Germans took as their special objective the hospital, from whose towers floated Red Cross flags, visible from a great distance. No less than seventy shells fell on to this building, and we have witnessed the damage they have caused.
About eighty houses were damaged by the different bombardments, all of which took place without any warning. Fourteen civilians, mainly women and children, were killed. There were about the same number of wounded. Pont-a-Mousson is not fortified. Only the bridge over the Moselle had been put in a state of defense, on the outbreak of hostilities, by the Twenty-sixth Battalion of Chasseurs, who were then quartered in the town.
We experienced real horror when we found ourselves before the lamentable ruins of Nomeny. With the exception of some few houses which still stood near the railway station in a spot separated by the Seille from the principal group of buildings, there remains of this little town only a succession of broken and blackened walls in the midst of ruins, in which may be seen here and there the bones of a few animals partially charred and the carbonized remains of human bodies. The rage of a maddened soldiery has been unloosed there without pity.
Nomeny, on account of its proximity to the frontier, received from the beginning of the war the visits of German troopers from time to time. Skirmishes took place in its neighborhood, and on Aug. 14, in the courtyard of the farm de la Borde, which is a little distance off, a German soldier, without any motive, killed by a rifle shot the young farm servant, Nicholas Michel, aged 17.
On Aug. 20, when the inhabitants sought refuge in the cellars from the bombardment, the Germans came up after having fired upon each other by mistake and entered the town toward midday.
According to the account given by one of the inhabitants, the German officers asserted that the French were torturing the wounded by cutting off their limbs and plucking out their eyes. They were then in a state of terrible excitement. That day and part of the next the German soldiers gave themselves over to the most abominable excesses, sacking, burning and massacring as they went. After they had carried off from the houses everything which seemed worth taking away, and after they had dispatched to Metz the product of their rifling, they set fire to the houses with torches, pastilles of compressed powder and petrol which they carried in receptacles placed on little carts. Rifle shots were fired on every side; the unhappy inhabitants, who had been driven from the cellars before the firing, were shot down like game—some in their dwellings and others in the public streets.
MM. Sanson, Pierson, Lallemand, Adam Jeanpierre, Meunier, Schneider, Raymond, Duponcel, and Hazotte, father and son, were killed by rifle shots in the streets. M. Killian, seeing himself threatened by a sabre stroke, protected his neck with his hand. He had three fingers cut off and his throat gashed. An old man aged 86, M. Petitjean, who was seated in his armchair, had his skull smashed by a German shot. A soldier showed the corpse to Mme. Bertrand, saying: "Do you see that pig there?" M. Chardin, Town Councilor, who was Acting Mayor, was required to furnish a horse and carriage. He had promised to do all he could to obey, when he was killed by a rifle shot. M. Prevot, seeing the Bavarians breaking into a chemist's shop of which he was caretaker, told them that he was the chemist, and that he would give them anything they wanted, but three rifle shots rang out and he fell, heaving a deep sigh. Two women who were with him ran away and were pursued to the neighborhood of the railway station, beaten all the way with the butts of rifles, and they saw many bodies heaped together in the station garden and on the road.
Between 3 and 4 o'clock in the afternoon the Germans entered the butcher shop of Mme. Francois. She was then coming out of her cellar with her boy Stub, and an employee named Contal. As soon as Stub reached the threshold of the entrance to the door he fell severely wounded by a rifle shot. Then Contal, who rushed into the street, was immediately murdered. Five minutes afterward, as Stub was still groaning, a soldier leaned over him and finished him off with a blow of a hatchet on the back.
The most tragic incident in this horrible scene occurred in the house of M. Vasse, who had collected a number of people in his cellar in the Faubourg de Nancy. Toward 4 o'clock about fifty soldiers rushed into the house, beat in the door and windows, and set it on fire. The refugees then made an effort to flee, but they were struck down one after the other as they came out. M. Mentre was murdered first; then his son Leon fell with his little sister, aged 8, in his arms. As he was not killed outright, the end of a rifle barrel was placed on 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 and little boy aged 10 and little girl aged 3 were shot. The murderers went on firing on them after they had fallen. Kieffer, stretched on the ground, received another bullet in the forehead, and his son had the top of his head blown off by a shot. Last of all M. Strieffert and one of the sons of Vasse were murdered, while Mme. Mentre received three bullets, one in the left leg, another in the arm on the same side, and one on her forehead, which was only grazed. M. Guillaume was dragged into the street and there found dead. Simonin, a young girl of 17, came out last from the cellar, with her sister Jeanne, aged 3. The latter had her elbow almost carried away by a bullet. The elder girl flung herself on the ground and pretended to be dead, remaining for five minutes in terrible anguish. A soldier gave her a kick, crying "Capout."
An officer arrived at the end of this butchery, and ordered the women who were still alive to get up, and shouted to them: "Go to France!"
While all these people were being massacred, others, according to an expression used by an eyewitness, were driven like sheep into the fields under the threat of immediate execution. The cure, in particular, owed his escape from being shot to extraordinary circumstances.
According to the depositions which we have received, all these abominations were committed chiefly by the Second and Fourth Regiments of Bavarian infantry. To explain them, the officers have alleged that civilians had fired on their troops. As our inquiry has established formally, this allegation is a lie, for at the moment when the enemy arrived all arms had been deposited at the Mairie, and the part of the population which had not quitted the country had hidden itself in the cellars, a prey to the greatest terror. Besides, the reason alleged, even were it true, would assuredly be insufficient to excuse the destruction of a whole city, the murder of women, and the massacre of children.
A list of persons who were killed in the course of the burning and the shootings has been drawn up by M. Bievelot, Conseiller d'Arrondissement. The list includes no less than 50 names. We have not quoted all of them. For one thing, among the people whose death has been proved, some died under conditions which are not stated with sufficient precision; on the other hand, the dispersal of the inhabitants of the town which has now been destroyed made our inquiry very difficult. Our efforts will be continued. In any case, what we have already been able to establish beyond dispute is enough to give an idea of what was, on the day of Aug. 20, the martyrdom of Nomeny.
Luneville was occupied by the Germans from Aug. 27 to Sept. 11. During the first few days they were content to rob the inhabitants without molesting them in any other way. Thus, in particular on Aug. 24, the house of Mme. Jeaumont was plundered. The objects stolen were loaded on to a large vehicle in which were three women, one of them dressed in black and the two others wearing military costumes and appearing, as we were told, to be canteen women.
On Aug. 25 the attitude of the invaders suddenly changed. M. Keller, the Mayor, went to the hospital about 3:30 o'clock in the afternoon and saw soldiers firing in the direction of the attic of a neighboring house, and heard the whistling of the bullets, which appeared to him to come from behind. The Germans declared to him that the inhabitants had fired on them. He protested, and offered to go around the town with them in order to prove the absurdity of this allegation. His proposal was accepted, and as at the beginning of the circuit they came across in the street the body of M. Crombez, the officer commanding the escort said to M. Keller, "You see this body. It is that of a civilian who has been killed by another civilian who was firing on us from a house near the synagogue. Thus, in accordance with our law, we have burned the house and executed the inhabitants." He was speaking of the murder of a man whose timid character was known to all, the Jewish officiating minister, Weill, who had just been killed in his house, together with his 16-year-old daughter. The same officer added, "In the same way we have burned the house at the corner of the Rue Castara and the Rue Girardet, because civilians fired shots from there." It is from this dwelling that the Germans alleged shots had been fired on to the courtyard of the hospital, but the position of the building makes it impossible for such a statement to be true.
While the Mayor and the soldiers who accompanied him were pursuing their investigation the fire broke out on different sides; the Hotel de Ville was burned as well as the synagogue, and a number of houses in the Rue Castara, and the Faubourg d'Einville was in flames. The massacres, which were continued until the next day, began at the same time. Without counting M. Crombez, the officiating minister, Weill, and his daughter, whose deaths we have already mentioned, the victims were MM. Hamman, Binder, Balastre, (father and son,) Vernier, Dujon, M. Kahn and his mother, M. Steiner and his wife, M. Wingerstmann and his grandson, and, finally, MM. Sibille, Monteils, and Colin.
The murders were committed in the following circumstances:—
On Aug. 25, after having fired two shots into the Worms Tannery to create the belief that they were being attacked from there, the Germans entered a workshop in this factory, in which the workman, Goeury, was working, in company with M. Balastre, father and son. Goeury was dragged into the street, robbed there and brutally ill-treated, while his two companions, who were found trying to hide themselves in a lavatory, were killed by rifle shots.
On the same day soldiers came to summon M. Steiner, who had hidden in his cellar. His wife, fearing some misfortune, tried to keep him back. As she held him in her arms she received a bullet in the neck. A few moments after, Steiner, having obeyed the order which had been given to him, fell mortally wounded in his garden. M. Kahn was also murdered in his garden. His mother, aged 98, whose body was burned in the fire, had first been killed in her bed by a bayonet thrust, according to the account of an individual who acted as interpreter to the enemy. M. Binder, who was coming out to escape the flames, was also struck down. The German by whom he was killed realized that he had shot him without any motive, at the moment when the unfortunate man was standing quietly before a door. M. Vernier suffered the same fate as Binder.
Toward 3 o'clock the Germans broke into a house in which were Mme. Dujon, her daughter aged 3, her two sons, and M. Gaumier, by breaking the windows and firing shots. The little girl was nearly killed; her face was burned by a shot. At this moment, Mme. Dujon, seeing her youngest son, Lucien, 14 years old, stretched on the ground, asked him to get up and escape with her. She then saw that his intestines were protruding from a wound, and that he was holding them in. The house was on fire; the poor boy was burned, as well as M. Gaumier, who had not been able to escape.
M. Wingerstmann and his grandson, aged 12, who had gone to pull potatoes a little way from Luneville, at the place called Les Mossus, in the District of Chanteheux, were unfortunate enough to meet Germans. The latter placed them both against a wall and shot them.
Finally, toward 5 o'clock in the evening, soldiers entered the house of the woman Sibille, in the same place, and without any reason took possession of her son, led him 200 meters from the house and murdered him there, together with M. Vallon, to whose body they had fastened him. A witness, who had seen the murderers at the moment when they were dragging their victim along, saw them return without him and noticed that their saw bayonets were covered with blood and bits of flesh.
On the same day a hospital attendant named Monteils, who was looking after a wounded enemy officer at the hospital of Luneville, was struck down by a bullet in the forehead while he was looking through a window at a German soldier who was firing.
The next day, the 26th, M. Hamman and his son, aged 21, were arrested in their own house and dragged out by a band of soldiers who had entered by breaking down the door. The father was beaten unmercifully; as for the young man, as he tried to struggle, a non-commissioned officer blew out his brains with a revolver shot.
At 1 o'clock in the afternoon M. Riklin, a chemist, having been informed that a man had fallen about thirty meters from his shop, went to the spot indicated and recognized in the victim his brother-in-law, M. Colin, aged 68, who had been struck in the stomach by a bullet. The Germans alleged that this old man fired upon them. M. Riklin denied this statement. Colin, we are told, was a harmless person, absolutely incapable of an aggressive act, and completely ignorant of the means of using a firearm.
It appeared to us desirable to deal also at Luneville with acts which are less grave, but which throw a peculiar light on the habits of thought of the invader. On Aug. 25 M. Lenoir, 67 years of age, together with his wife, were led into the fields with their hands tied behind their backs. After both had been cruelly ill-treated, a non-commissioned officer took possession of 1,800 francs in gold which M. Lenoir carried on him. As we have already stated, the most impudent theft seems to have formed part of the customs of the German Army, who practiced it publicly. The following is an interesting example:
During the burning of a house belonging to Mme. Leclerc, the safes of two inhabitants resisted the flames. One, belonging to M. George, Sub-Inspector of Waters and Forests, had fallen into the ruins; the other safe, belonging to M. Goudchau, general dealer, remained fixed to a wall at the height of the second story. The non-commissioned officer, Weiss, who was well acquainted with the town, where he had often been welcomed when he used to come before the war to carry on his business of hop merchant, went with the soldiers to the place and ordered that the piece of wall which remained standing should be blown up with dynamite, and saw that the two safes were taken to the station, where they were placed on a truck destined for Germany. This Weiss was particularly trusted and esteemed by the persons in command. It was he who, installed at Headquarters, was given the duty of administering the commune in some sense, and was in charge of the requisitioning.
After having committed numerous acts of pillage at Luneville, after having burned about seventy houses with torches, petrol, and various incendiary machines, and after having massacred peaceful inhabitants, the German military authorities thought it well to put up the following proclamation, in which they formulated ridiculous accusations to justify the extortion of enormous contributions in the form of an indemnity:
NOTICE TO THE POPULATION.
On Aug. 25, 1914, the inhabitants of Luneville made an attack by ambuscade against the German columns and transports. On the same day the inhabitants fired on hospital buildings marked with the Red Cross. Further, shots were fired on the German wounded and the military hospital containing a German ambulance. On account of these acts of hostility a contribution of 650,000 francs is imposed on the commune of Luneville. The Mayor is ordered to pay this sum—50,000 francs in silver and the remainder in gold—on Sept. 6, at 9 o'clock in the morning, to the representative of the German military authority. No protest will be considered. No extension of time will be granted. If the commune does not punctually obey the order to pay 650,000 francs all the goods which are available will be seized. In case payment is not made domiciliary searches will take place, and all the inhabitants will be searched. Any one who shall have deliberately hidden money or shall have attempted to hide his goods from the seizure of the military authorities, or who seeks to leave the town, will be shot. The Mayor and hostages taken by the military authorities will be made responsible for the exact execution of the above order. The Mayor is ordered to publish these directions to the commune at once.
Henamenil, Sept. 3, 1914.
Commander in Chief, Von FOSBENDER.
On reading this extraordinary document one is justified in asking whether the arson and murders committed at Luneville on Aug. 25 and 26 by an army which was not acting under the excitement of battle, and which during its preceding days had abstained from killing, were not ordered on purpose to make more plausible the allegation which was to serve as a pretext for the exaction of an indemnity.
The village of Chanteheux, situated quite close to Luneville, was not spared either. The Bavarians, who occupied it from the 22d of August to the 12th of September, burned there 20 houses in the customary manner and massacred 8 persons on the 25th of August, MM. Lavenne, Toussaint, Parmentier, and Bacheler, who were killed, the first three by rifle shots, the fourth by two shots and a blow with a bayonet; young Schneider, aged 23, who was murdered in a hamlet of the commune; M. Wingerstmann and his grandson, whose death we have recorded above in setting out the crimes committed at Luneville; lastly, M. Reeb, aged 62, who certainly died as the result of the ill-treatment which he suffered. This man had been taken as hostage with some 42 of his fellow-citizens who were kept for 13 days. After having received terrible blows from the butt of a rifle in his face and a bayonet wound in his side, he continued to follow the column, although he lost much blood and his face was so bruised that he was almost unrecognizable, when a Bavarian, without any reason, gave him a great wound by throwing a wooden pail at his forehead. Between Henamenil and Bures his companions saw that he was no longer with them; no doubt he fell by the way.
If this unhappy man was to suffer the most cruel martyrdom of all, the hostages taken with him in the commune had also to suffer violence and insult. Before setting fire to the village, the hostages were set with their backs to the parapet of the bridge while the troops passed by ill-treating them. As an officer accused them of firing on the Germans, the schoolmaster gave him his word of honor that it was not so. "Pig of a Frenchman," replied the officer, "do not speak of honor; you have none."
At the moment when her house was burning Mme. Cherrier, who was coming out of the cellar to escape suffocation, was drenched with an inflammable liquid by some soldiers who were sprinkling the walls. One of them told her that it was benzine. She then ran behind a dunghill to hide herself with her parents, but the fire raisers dragged her by force in front of the blaze and she was obliged to witness the destruction of her dwelling.
Like Nomeny, the pretty town of Gerbeviller, on the banks of the Mortagne, fell a victim to the fury of the Germans under terrible circumstances. On the 24th August the enemy's troops hurled themselves against some sixty chasseurs a pied, who offered heroic resistance, and who inflicted heavy loss upon them. They took a drastic vengeance upon the civilian population. Indeed, from the moment of their entrance into the town, the Germans gave themselves up to the worst excesses, entering the houses, with savage yells, burning the buildings, killing or arresting the inhabitants, and sparing neither women nor old men. Out of 475 houses, 20 at most are still habitable. More than 100 persons have disappeared, 50 at least have been massacred. Some were led into the fields to be shot, others were murdered in their houses or struck down in passing through the streets as they were trying to escape from the conflagration. Up to now 36 bodies have been identified. They are those of MM. Barthelemy, Blosse (Senior), Robinet, Chretien, Remy, Bourguignon, Perrin, Guillaume, Bernasconi, Gauthier, Menu, Simon, Lingenheld (father and son), Benoit, Calais, Adam, Caille, Lhuillier, Regret, Plaid (aged 14), Leroi, Bazzolo, Gentil, Victor Dehan, Charles Dehan, Dehan the Younger, Brennevald, Parisse, Yong, Francois, Secretary of the Mairie; Mmes. Perrot, Courtois, Gauthier, and Guillaume, and Mlles. Perrin and Miquel.
Fifteen of these poor people were executed at a place called "La Prele." They were buried by their fellow-citizens on Sept. 12 or 15. Almost all had their hands tied behind their backs; some were blindfolded; the trousers of the majority were unbuttoned and pushed down to their feet. This fact, as well as the appearance of the bodies, made the witnesses think that the victims had been mutilated. We did not think we ought to adopt this view, the bodies being in such an advanced state of decomposition that a mistake on the subject might be made. Besides, it is possible that the murderers unbuttoned the trousers of the prisoners so as to incumber their legs, and thus make it impossible for them to escape.
On Oct. 16, at a place called Le Haut-de-Vormont, buried under fifteen to twenty centimeters of earth, we found the bodies of ten civilians with the marks of bullets upon them. On one of them was found a laissez passer in the name of Edward Seyer, of Badonviller. The other nine victims are unknown. It is believed that they were inhabitants of Badonviller, who had been taken by the Germans into the neighborhood of Gerbeviller to be shot there.
In the streets and houses, during the day of the sacking, the most tragic scenes took place.
In the morning the enemy entered the house of M. and Mme. Lingenheld, seized the son, 36 years of age, who wore the brassard of the Red Cross, tied his hands behind his back, dragged him into the street, and shot him. They then returned to look for the father, an old man of 70. Mme. Lingenheld then took to flight. On her way she saw her son stretched on the ground, and as the unhappy man was still moving some Germans drenched him with petrol, to which they set fire in the presence of the terrified mother. In the meantime M. Lingenheld was led to La Prele, where he was executed.
At the same time the soldiers knocked at the door of the house occupied by M. Dehan, his wife, and his mother-in-law, the widow Guillaume, aged 78. The latter, who opened the door, was shot point-blank, and fell into the arms of her son-in-law, who ran up behind her. "They have killed me!" she cried. "Carry me into the garden." Her children obeyed and laid her at the end of the garden with a pillow under her head and a blanket over her legs, and then stretched themselves at the foot of the wall to avoid shells. At the end of an hour the widow Guillaume was dead. Her daughter wrapped her in a blanket and placed a handkerchief over her face. Almost immediately the Germans broke into the garden. They carried off Dehan and shot him at La Prele, and led his wife away on to the Fraimbois road, where she found about forty people, principally women and children, in the enemy's hands, and heard an officer of high rank say: "We must shoot these women and children. We must make an end of them." However, the threat was not carried into effect. Mme. Dehan was set at liberty next day, and was able to return twenty-one days later to Gerbeviller. She is convinced, and all those who saw the body share her opinion, that her mother's body had been violated. In fact, the body was found stretched on its back with the petticoats pushed up, the legs separated, and the stomach ripped open.
When the Germans arrived M. Perrin and his two daughters, Louise and Eugenie, had taken refuge in a stable. The soldiers entered, and one of them, seeing young Louise, fired a shot point-blank at her head. Eugenie succeeded in escaping, but her father was arrested as he fled, placed among the victims who were being taken to La Prele and shot with them.
M. Yong, who was going out to exercise his horse, was struck down before his own house. The Germans in their fury killed the horse after the master, and set fire to the house. Some others raised the trap-door of a cellar in which several people were hidden and fired several shots at them. Mme. Denis Bernard and the boy, Parmentier, 7 years of age, were wounded.
At 5 in the evening Mme. Rozier heard an imploring voice crying, "Mercy! Mercy!" These cries came from one of two neighboring barns belonging to MM. Poinsard and Barbier. A man who was acting as interpreter to the Germans declared to a certain Mme. Thiebaut that the Germans boasted that they had burned alive in one of these barns, in spite of his entreaties and appeals to their pity, a man who was the father of five children. This declaration carries all the more conviction, since the remains of a burned human body have been found in the barn belonging to Poinsard.
Side by side with this carnage, innumerable acts of violence were committed. The wife of a soldier, Mme. X., was raped by a German soldier in the passage of the house of her parents, while her mother was obliged to flee at the bayonet's point.
On Aug. 29 Sister Julie, Mother Superior of the hospital, whose devotion has been admirable, went to the parish church with a mobilized priest to examine the state of the interior of the building, and found that an attempt had been made to break through the steel door of the tabernacle. The Germans had fired shots around the lock in order to get possession of the ciborium. The door was broken through in several places, and the bullets had caused almost symmetrical holes, which proved that the shots had been fired point blank. When Sister Julie opened the tabernacle she found the ciborium pierced with bullet holes.
The excesses and crimes which were committed at Gerbeviller were principally the work of the Bavarians. The troops which committed them were under the command of the German General, Clauss, whose brutality has been brought to our notice in other places.
On the 22d of August the Germans burned part of the village of Crevic, using torches and rockets. Seventy-six houses were burned, including in particular that of Gen. Lyautey, which the fire-raisers had entered, led by an officer, crying aloud: "We want Mme. and Mlle. Lyautey in order to cut their throats." A Captain, leveling his revolver at M. Voigin's throat, threatened to shoot him and throw him into the flames, together with one of his fellow-citizens, "whose brains," he said, "we have already blown out." He was alluding to the death of an old gentleman, M. Liegey, 78 years of age, whose body was found in the ruins with a bullet wound under his chin. The officer added, "Come and see the property of Gen. Lyautey, who is in Morocco—it is burning." Meanwhile a workman named Gerard was forced at the bayonet's point to go up to his garret. The Germans set fire to a heap of forage and obliged Gerard to remain near the blaze. When the soldiers were driven out by the intolerable heat, Gerard was able to escape through a little opening, but he had had one cheek already badly burned.
At Deuxville, where the enemy willfully set fire to fifteen houses, the Mayor, Bajole, and the cure, Thiriet, were arrested. L'Abbe Marchal, cure of Crion, saw them both in his parish in the hands of the Germans; he approached his colleague and asked the reason of his arrest. The latter replied, "I made signs." L'Abbe Marchal gave him a little bread and went away; but he had scarcely gone thirty paces when he heard the sound of a volley. The two prisoners had just been executed. The next day an officer who spoke our language perfectly, and said that for eight years he had been attached to the German Embassy in Paris, told L'Abbe Marchal that the cure of Deuxville had made signs and had admitted it. "As for the Mayor," he added, "I do not believe the poor devil had done anything."
At Maixe the Germans burned thirty-six houses and murdered MM. Gaucon, Demange, Jacques, Thomas, Marchal, Chaudre, Grand, Simonin, Vaconet, and Mme. Beurton on the pretext that they had been firing at them. Gaucon was dragged from his own house and thrown on a dunghill where a soldier killed him with a rifle shot in the stomach. Demange, who was wounded in both knees while in his cellar, succeeded in dragging himself as far as the kitchen. The Germans set fire to the house and prevented Mme. Demange from rescuing her husband, and left their victims to be burned in the blazing house.
Mme. Beurton was also in her cellar with her family when two soldiers came down into it; one of them carried a lantern and the other a rifle. The latter fired haphazard on to the group and hit the unhappy woman. Vaconet was struck by a bullet in the side at the foot of M. Rediger's staircase; as for Simonin, he was taken away in the direction of Drouville. A few days afterward a German officer handed to M. Thouvenin, Municipal Councilor of the commune, a note stating that Simonin had been shot and that his last wishes were expressed in a document which was in the hands of the General commanding the Third Bavarian Division. On this document, of which a copy has been sent to us, appears the signature of an officer of the Third Regiment of the Chevauxlegers. The other victims at Maixe met their deaths under conditions which we have been unable to ascertain.
In the same village, Mlle. X., aged 23 years, was raped by nine Germans during the night of Aug. 23-24. An officer was sleeping in the room above that in which this revolting scene was being enacted, but he did not consider it necessary to intervene, though he must certainly have heard the cries of the young girl and the noise made by the German soldiers.
The Chateau of Beauzemont was broken into on the 22d of August. On the fifteenth day of its occupation, the wives of several German staff officers arrived in motor cars. Everything that had been stolen from the Chateau, especially plate, hats, and silk dresses, was loaded on the motor cars. On the 21st of October the Lieutenant Colonel commanding the —— French Infantry Regiment took possession of this chateau. He found it in a state of disorder and revolting filth. The drawers of most of the furniture had been broken into and left open, and the floor of the billiard room was in a filthy condition. There was a disgusting smell in the bedroom occupied by the German General commanding the Seventh Reserve Division. The cupboard at the head of the bed contained body linen and muslin curtains full of excrements.
At Baccarat the enemy did not massacre anybody, but on the 25th of August they carried out a systematic pillage, and in order to be able to do this undisturbed they had ordered the population to assemble at the railway station. The pillage was carried out under the supervision of the officers. Clocks and various articles of furniture and objets d'art were carried off. When the inhabitants returned home they were ordered out again an hour later and informed that the town was to be burned. Indeed, the centre of the town was ablaze. The conflagration, which was started by torches and pastilles, destroyed 112 houses; only four or five were burned by shells. After the fire sentinels were placed, who prevented the owners from approaching the ruins of their houses, and when the blaze had abated the Germans ransacked the ruins themselves in order to gain access to the cellars. After this operation Gen. Fabricius, commanding the artillery of the Fourteenth Baden Corps, said to M. Renaud, the Acting Mayor: "I did not think that Baccaret contained such a quantity of fine wine. We found more than 100,000 bottles." One must, however, add that at the glass works the enemy really displayed comparative honesty, inasmuch as they only exacted, at the revolver's point, a reduction of 60 to 75 per cent. on the goods which they bought.
At Jolivet, on the 22d of August, M. Villemin was leaving M. Cohan's house with the latter and a M. Richard when German soldiers fell upon M. Richard. Struck on the head by the butt of a rifle, Richard fell. Cohan rushed back to his house. Villemin went to look after his cattle, after having followed Richard for a short distance as the latter was being led away by his aggressors. At about 5 o'clock in the evening he went out to see a neighbor, but was immediately arrested and shot. His assassins threw his body over a fence into a garden.
On the 25th of August, in the same commune, Mme. Morin's house was pillaged. The Germans took linen, plate, furs and hats. The next day the house was set on fire by lighting bits of wood found in packing cases.
At Bonvillers, on the 21st, 23d, and 25th of August, twenty-six houses were set on fire by the Germans, who made use of squibs and candles.
At Einville, on the 22d of August, the day the Germans arrived, they shot a Town Councilor, M. Pierson, whom they wrongfully accused of having fired on them. They also executed, without reason, MM. Bouvier and Barbelin, whom they had taken away a short distance from the village. They also massacred a poacher called Pierrat, whom they had found carrying a sack containing a small net and a gun in pieces. The wretched man was terribly tortured by them. Having dragged him beyond the village, they brought him back in front of Mme. Famose's house. This lady saw him pass by in the midst of the Germans. His nose was nearly cut off. His eyes were haggard and, to quote the witness's remark, he seemed to have aged ten years in a quarter of an hour. At this moment an officer gave an order and eight soldiers went off with the prisoner. When they returned ten minutes later without him one of them said in French, "He was already dead."
On the 12th of September M. Dieudonne, Mayor of Einville, was taken off as a hostage with his assistant and another of his townsmen by the enemy at the time of their retreat. He and his companions were taken to Alsace, then into Germany, where they were kept until the 24th of October. Before his arrest, and during a fight which took place around his commune, M. Dieudonne had been forced, notwithstanding his protests, to commandeer several of his townsmen in order to bury the dead. Three of the inhabitants of Einville thus forcible employed on this duty were wounded by bullets; another, M. Noel, was killed by a fragment of a shell.
The farm of Remonville, situated within the boundaries of the same village, was burned down. The women were able to escape. Four men who were working on this estate must have been all killed. The bodies of two of them, Victor Chaudre and Thomas Prosper, were discovered two months later buried together near the buildings which had been burned. Both had been decapitated, and Thomas's head was smashed to pieces.
At Sommerviller the enemy's course on the 23d of August was marked by the sack of the cafes and grocers' shops and of several private houses, and by the murder of M. Robert, aged 70, and M. Harau, aged 65, who were killed by rifle shots. The latter at the moment when he received his death wound was quietly eating a piece of bread.
At Rehainviller, on the 26th of August, the Germans seized the cure, Barbot, and M. Noircler in the street. The bodies of these two men were found a long time afterward buried in the fields a few hundred meters from the village. Their bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition, and it was therefore impossible to ascertain the wounds which the cure had received; as for Noircler, his head was found in the grave by the side of the rest of his body, in a line with his hip.
In this commune twenty-seven houses have been burned. No one saw the fire lighted, but after the disaster a certain number of little fuse-sticks which the Germans frequently use for the purpose of fire-raising, and which the peasants call "macaronis," were collected.
At Lamath, on the 24th of August, the Bavarians shot an old man of 70, M. Louis, who had come out of his house to relieve the needs of nature. The unhappy man received at least ten bullets in the chest. His son-in-law, who was in an advanced stage of tuberculosis, was taken and led away. No news has been received of him. Two other inhabitants of the commune who were made prisoners at the same time as this man are still in captivity in Bavaria.
The Abbe Mathieu, cure of Fraimbois, was arrested on the 29th of August on the false allegation that shots had been fired at the Germans in his parish. In the course of his captivity, which lasted sixteen days, he was present at the murder of two of our fellow-countrymen, M. Poissonnier of Gerbeviller and M. Victor-Meyer of Fraimbois; the former, an invalid who could scarcely stand, was accused of having followed the armies as a spy. The latter had been arrested because his little girl had picked up a bit of telephone wire broken by shrapnel. One morning toward 6 o'clock the Bavarian officers went through a travesty of justice, reading documents drawn up in German, collecting the votes of eight or nine young Lieutenants to whom voting papers had been given. The two men were condemned unanimously and warned that they were about to die, and the priest was requested to give them the consolations of religion. They protested their innocence with prayers and tears, but they were compelled to kneel down against the embankment of the road, and a platoon of twenty-four soldiers drawn up in double file fired twice at them.
The village of Fraimbois was pillaged, and the objects stolen were loaded on to vehicles. The Abbe Mathieu complained to Gens. Tanner and Clauss of the burning of his bee-house, and received from the former the simple reply, "What do you expect? It is war!" The latter did not even reply.
At Mont three houses were burned with petrol. At Herimenil, on the 29th of August, the enemy, who had arrived on the 24th, were guilty of monstrous acts. The inhabitants were asked to come to church and were kept there for four days, while their houses were sacked and the French bombarded the village. Twenty-four people were killed inside the church by a shell. As a woman, who had succeeded with great trouble in leaving the church for a moment, was returning with a little milk for the children, a Captain, furious at seeing that this prisoner had been allowed to pass, cried out, "I meant that the door should not be opened! I meant the French to fire on their own people." This same Captain, a short time before, had been guilty of a revolting cruelty. He was present, eyeglass in eye, when Mme. Winger, a young woman of 23, was going to church in obedience to the general order, together with her servants, a girl and two young men, each of them 18 years old, and, considering their progress too slow, with a word he directed the soldiers to fire, and the four victims fell mortally wounded. The Germans left the corpses in the street for two days.
Next day they shot M. Bocquel, who was ignorant of the orders which had been given and had remained in his house. They also killed in his own house M. Florentin, aged 77. This old man, who received several bullets in the chest, was probably killed in consequence of his deafness, which prevented him from understanding what the enemy had ordered.
In this commune twenty-two houses were burned with petrol. Before setting fire to Mme. Combeau's house the soldiers dug up the floor of a cellar and distinterred the sum of 600 francs, which they appropriated.
On the 23d of August young Simonin, aged 15-1/2, living at Hadiviller, was going back from Dombasle when the Germans threatened him with their rifles and took him prisoner. They began by beating him unmercifully. Then on the orders of an officer, he was led away by a soldier. As he went along he saw his father about 50 meters off calling to him. The soldier then tied him to a telegraph pole, and fired on Simonin's father, who fell vomiting blood, and soon after died as he lay. Meanwhile, the young man was able to free himself from his bonds, and succeeded in running the gauntlet of several shots, one of which tore his coat.
At Magnieres, where one house only was burned, a German armed with a rifle entered, toward the end of August, the house of M. Laurent and compelled a girl of 12, young ——, who had taken refuge there, to accompany him into a room, where he raped her twice, in spite of her ceaseless cries and groans. The poor girl was absolutely terrorized. In addition, the soldier was so threatening that M. Laurent did not dare to interfere.
At Croismare on the 25th of August, when the Germans were forced to beat a retreat, maddened by their check, they began to fire on everybody they met. A Uhlan officer killed with a rifle shot M. Kriegel, who had gone into the field to pull potatoes. He then saw MM. Matton and Barbier returning from their work. He rode up to them and ordered them to stop and stand up against an embankment. The two peasants thought at first that he was anxious to see them sheltered from the rifle shots that were being fired all round. But their delusion was soon dispelled when they saw him load his revolver. In the course of this operation three cartridges were dropped, and the officer ordered Matton and Barbier to pick them up. Barbier handed him one of the cartridges back with the words, "Do not do us any harm; we have just been working in the fields." "Nicht pardon, cochon de franzose, capout," replied the officer, and fired twice. Matton ducked quickly, and thanks to this movement was only hit in the right shoulder instead of full in the chest. As for Barbier, a bullet went through both his thumbs and ripped open his left forefinger.
At Remereville on the 7th of September the enemy, alleging falsely that the inhabitants had fired on them from the steeple, set fire to the houses with the assistance of rockets. A few houses only escaped the flames. Before being burned the village had been bombarded by the Germans, who had taken as their objective an ambulance, whose flag they saw perfectly.
The commune of Drouville, which was twice occupied, was absolutely sacked on the 5th of September. The invaders burned thirty-five houses, using torches and doubtless petrol also, for they left on the spot a can which contained twenty-five to thirty liters.
At Courbesseaux arson and pillage were also committed on the 5th of September. Nineteen houses were burned, and M. Alix, who was trying to put out a fire in a stack of luzerne on his property, was shot at several times and obliged to flee.
Finally, on the 23d of August, at Erbeviller, a Saxon Captain found a very practical means of getting money for himself. He collected the men in the village and tried vainly, by threatening to shoot them, to obtain a declaration from them that the sentries had been shot at, although he knew perfectly well that it was untrue. Then he shut them up in a barn. In the evening he had brought before him the wife of M. Jacques, a retired schoolmaster, who was one of the prisoners, and said to her, "I am not certain that these are the men who fired. They will be set at liberty tomorrow morning if you can give me a thousand francs in the next few minutes." Mme. Jacques gave him the amount, and in reply to her request he gave her a receipt for it, and the hostages were set at liberty.
The receipt drawn up by the officer reads as follows:
Erbeviller, 23d August, 1914.
As a punishment for being suspected of having fired on German sentries during the night of August 22d and 23d I have received from the Commune of Erbeviller one thousand francs, (1,000 fr.)
BARON —— (illegible).
haupt. reit. regim.
In a commune of the Department of Meurthe-et-Moselle two nuns were for several hours exposed without defense to the lust of a soldier. By terrorizing them he obliged them to undress, and after having compelled the elder to pull off his boots, he committed obscenities on the younger. We undertook not to publish the names of the victims of this abominable scene, or of that of the village in which it took place, but the facts were laid before us under the sanction of an oath by witnesses who deserve the fullest confidence, and we take the responsibility of pledging ourselves as to their accuracy.
During our stay at Nancy and Luneville, we had the opportunity of receiving a good deal of evidence with reference to crimes committed by the Germans in districts which were still occupied by their troops, and which the majority of the inhabitants had been forced to evacuate. The most cruel of these acts took place at the village of Embermenil. At the end of October or the beginning of November, an enemy patrol met near this commune a young woman, Mme. Masson, who was obviously pregnant, and questioned her as to whether there were French soldiers at Embermenil. She replied that she did not know, which was true. The Germans then entered the village and were received by our soldiers with rifle fire. On the 5th of November a detachment of the Fourth Bavarian Regiment arrived and collected all the inhabitants in front of the church. An officer then asked which person it was who had betrayed them. Suspecting that he referred to her meeting with the Germans some days before, and realizing the danger that all her fellow-citizens ran, Mme. Masson with great courage stepped forward and repeated what she had said, and declared that in saying it she had acted in good faith. She was immediately seized and forced to sit down on a bench beside young Dime, aged 24, who had been taken haphazard as a second victim. The whole population begged for mercy for the unhappy woman, but the Germans were inflexible. "One woman and one man," they said, "must be shot. Those are the Colonel's orders. What will you? It is war." Eight soldiers drawn up in two ranks fired three times at the two martyrs in the presence of the whole village. The house of Mme. Masson's father-in-law was then set on fire. That of M. Blanchin had been burned a few moments before.