Early in the month, probably about the 4th, a witness saw two civilians murdered by Uhlans. Another witness saw their dead bodies, which remained in the street for ten days. Two hundred civilians were utilized as a screen by the German troops about this date.
On the 5th the town was partially burned. One witness was taken prisoner in the street by some German soldiers, together with several other civilians. At about 12 o'clock some of the tallest and strongest men among the prisoners were picked out to go around the streets with paraffin. Three or four carts containing paraffin tanks were brought up, and a syringe was used to put paraffin on to the houses, which were then fired. The process of destruction began with the houses of rich people, and afterward the houses of the poorer classes were treated in the same manner. German soldiers had previously told this witness that if the Burgomaster of Termonde, who was out of town, did not return by 12 o'clock that day the town would be set on fire. The firing of the town was in consequence of his failure to return. The prisoners were afterward taken to a factory and searched for weapons. They were subsequently provided with passports enabling them to go anywhere in the town, but not outside. The witness in question managed to effect his escape by swimming across the river.
Another witness describes how the tower of the Church of Termonde St. Gilles was utilized by the Belgian troops for offensive purposes. They had in fact mounted a machine gun there. This witness was subsequently taken prisoner in a cellar in Termonde in which he had taken refuge with other people. All the men were taken from the cellar and the women were left behind. About seventy prisoners in all were taken; one, a brewer who could not walk fast enough, was wounded with a bayonet. He fell down and was compelled to get up and follow the soldiers. The prisoners had to hold up their hands, and if they dropped their hands they were struck on the back with the butt end of rifles. They were taken to Lebbeke, where there were in all 300 prisoners, and there they were locked up in the church for three days and with scarcely any food.
A witness living at Baesrode was taken prisoner with 250 others and kept all night in a field. The prisoners were released on the following morning. This witness saw three corpses of civilians, and says that the Germans on Sunday, the 6th, plundered and destroyed the houses of those who had fled. The Germans left on the following day, taking about thirty men with them, one a man of 72 years of age.
Later in the month civilians were again used as a screen, and there is evidence of other acts of outrage.
Alost was the scene of fighting between the Belgian and German Armies during the whole of the latter part of the month of September. In connection with the fighting numerous cruelties appear to have been perpetrated by the German troops.
On Saturday, Sept. 11, a weaver was bayoneted in the street. Another civilian was shot dead at his door on the same night. On the following day the witness was taken prisoner together with thirty others. The money of the prisoners was confiscated, and they were subsequently used as a screen for the German troops who were at that moment engaged in a conflict with the Belgian Army in the town itself. The Germans burned a number of houses at this time. Corpses of 14 civilians were seen in the streets on this occasion.
A well-educated witness, who visited the Wetteren Hospital shortly after this date, saw the dead bodies of a number of civilians belonging to Alost, and other civilians wounded. One of these stated that he took refuge in the house of his sister-in-law; that the Germans dragged the people out of the house, which was on fire, seized him, threw him on the ground, and hit him on the head with the butt end of a rifle, and ran him through the thigh with a bayonet. They then placed him with seventeen or eighteen others in front of the German troops, threatening them with revolvers. They said that they were going to make the people of Alost pay for the losses sustained by the Germans. At this hospital was an old woman of 80 completely transfixed by a bayonet.
Other crimes on noncombatants at Alost belong to the end of the month of September. Many witnesses speak to the murder of harmless civilians.
In Binnenstraat the Germans broke open the windows of the houses and threw fluid inside, and the houses burst into flames. Some of the inhabitants were burned to death.
The civilians were utilized on Saturday, Sept. 26, as a screen. During their retreat the Germans fired twelve houses in Rue des Trois Clefs, and three civilians, whose names are given, were shot dead in that street after the firing of the houses. On the following day a heap of nine dead civilians were lying in the Rue de l'Argent.
Similar outrages occurred at Erpe, a village a few miles from Alost, about the same date. The village was deliberately burned. The houses were plundered and some civilians were murdered.
Civilians were apparently used as a screen at Erpe, but they were prisoners taken from Alost and not dwellers in that village.
DIARIES OF GERMAN SOLDIERS.
This disregard for the lives of civilians is strikingly shown in extracts from German soldiers' diaries, of which the following are representative examples.
Barthel, who was a Sergeant and standard bearer of the Second Company of the First Guards Regiment of Foot, and who during the campaign received the Iron Cross, says, under date Aug. 10, 1914:
"A transport of 300 Belgians came through Duisburg in the morning. Of these, eighty, including the Oberburgomaster, were shot according to martial law."
Matbern of the Fourth Company of Jaegers, No. 11, from Marburg, states that at a village between Birnal and Dinant on Sunday, Aug. 23, the Pioneers and Infantry Regiment One Hundred and Seventy-eight were fired upon by the inhabitants. He gives no particulars beyond this. He continues:
"About 220 inhabitants were shot, and the village was burned. Artillery is continuously shooting—the village lies in a large ravine. Just now, 6 o'clock in the afternoon, the crossing of the Meuse begins near Dinant. All villages, chateaux and houses are burned down during the night. It is a beautiful sight to see the fires all around us in the distance."
Bombardier Wetzel of the Second Mounted Battery, First Kurhessian Field Artillery Regiment, No. 11, records an incident which happened in French territory near Lille on Oct. 11: "We had no fight, but we caught about twenty men and shot them." By this time killing not in a fight would seem to have passed into a habit.
Diary No. 32 gives an accurate picture of what took place in Louvain:
"What a sad scene—all the houses surrounding the railway station completely destroyed—only some foundation walls still standing. On the station square captured guns. At the end of a main street there is the Council Hall which has been completely preserved with all its beautiful turrets; a sharp contrast: 180 inhabitants are stated to have been shot after they had dug their own graves."
The last and most important entry is that contained in Diary No. 19. This is a blue book interleaved with blotting paper, and contains no name and address; there is, however, one circumstance which makes it possible to speak with certainty as to the regiment of the writer. He gives the names of First Lieutenant von Oppen, Count Eulenburg, Captain von Roeder, First Lieutenant von Bock und Polach, Second Lieutenant Count Hardenberg, and Lieutenant Engelbrecht. A perusal of the Prussian Army list of June, 1914, shows that all these officers, with the exception of Lieutenant Engelbrecht, belonged to the First Regiment of Foot Guards. On Aug. 24, 1914, the writer was in Ermeton. The exact translation of the extract, grim in its brevity, is as follows:
"24.8.14. We took about 1,000 prisoners: at least 500 were shot. The village was burned because inhabitants had also shot. Two civilians were shot at once."
We may now sum up and endeavor to explain the character and significance of the wrongful acts done by the German Army in Belgium.
If a line is drawn on a map from the Belgian frontier to Liege and continued to Charleroi, and a second line drawn from Liege to Malines, a sort of figure resembling an irregular Y will be formed. It is along this Y that most of the systematic (as opposed to isolated) outrages were committed. If the period from Aug. 4 to Aug. 30 is taken it will be found to cover most of these organized outrages. Termonde and Alost extend, it is true, beyond the Y lines, and they belong to the month of September. Murder, rape, arson, and pillage began from the moment when the German Army crossed the frontier. For the first fortnight of the war the towns and villages near Liege were the chief sufferers. From Aug. 19 to the end of the month, outrages spread in the directions of Charleroi and Malines and reach their period of greatest intensity. There is a certain significance in the fact that the outrages around Liege coincide with the unexpected resistance of the Belgian Army in that district, and that the slaughter which reigned from Aug. 19 to the end of the month is contemporaneous with the period when the German Army's need for a quick passage through Belgium at all costs was deemed imperative.
Here let a distinction be drawn between two classes of outrages.
Individual acts of brutality—ill-treatment of civilians, rape, plunder, and the like—were very widely committed. These are more numerous and more shocking than would be expected in warfare between civilized powers, but they differ rather in extent than in kind from what has happened in previous though not recent wars.
In all wars many shocking and outrageous acts must be expected, for in every large army there must be a proportion of men of criminal instincts whose worst passions are unloosed by the immunity which the conditions of warfare afford. Drunkenness, moreover, may turn even a soldier who has no criminal habits into a brute, who may commit outrages at which he would himself be shocked in his sober moments, and there is evidence that intoxication was extremely prevalent among the German Army, both in Belgium and in France, for plenty of wine was to be found in the villages and country houses which were pillaged. Many of the worst outrages appear to have been perpetrated by men under the influence of drink. Unfortunately, little seems to have been done to repress this source of danger.
In the present war, however—and this is the gravest charge against the German Army—the evidence shows that the killing of noncombatants was carried out to an extent for which no previous war between nations claiming to be civilized, (for such cases as the atrocities perpetrated by the Turks on the Bulgarian Christians in 1876, and on the Armenian Christians in 1895 and 1896, do not belong to that category,) furnishes any precedent. That this killing was done as part of a deliberate plan is clear from the facts hereinbefore set forth regarding Louvain, Aerschot, Dinant, and other towns. The killing was done under orders in each place. It began at a certain fixed date, and stopped, (with some few exceptions,) at another fixed date. Some of the officers who carried out the work did it reluctantly, and said they were obeying directions from their chiefs. The same remarks apply to the destruction of property. House burning was part of the program; and villages, even large parts of a city, were given to the flames as part of the terrorizing policy.
Citizens of neutral States who visited Belgium in December and January report that the German authorities do not deny that noncombatants were systematically killed in large numbers during the first weeks of the invasion, and this, so far as we know, has never been officially denied. If it were denied, the flight and continued voluntary exile of thousands of Belgian refugees would go far to contradict a denial, for there is no historical parallel in modern times for the flight of a large part of a nation before an invader.
The German Government have, however, sought to justify their severities on the grounds of military necessity, and have excused them as retaliation for cases in which civilians fired on German troops. There may have been cases in which such firing occurred, but no proof has ever been given, or, to our knowledge, attempted to be given, of such cases, nor of the stories of shocking outrages perpetrated by Belgian men and women on German soldiers.
The inherent improbability of the German contention is shown by the fact that after the first few days of the invasion every possible precaution had been taken by the Belgian authorities, by way of placards and handbills, to warn the civilian population not to intervene in hostilities. Throughout Belgium steps had been taken to secure the handing over of all firearms in the possession of civilians before the German Army arrived. These steps were sometimes taken by the police and sometimes by the military authorities.
The invaders appear to have proceeded upon the theory that any chance shot coming from an unexpected place was fired by civilians. One favorite form of this allegation was that priests had fired from the church tower. In many instances the soldiers of the allied armies used church towers and private houses as cover for their operations. At Aerschot, where the Belgian soldiers were stationed in the church tower and fired upon the Germans as they advanced, it was at once alleged by the Germans when they entered the town, and with difficulty disproved, that the firing had come from civilians. Thus one elementary error creeps at once into the German argument, for they were likely to confound, and did in some instances certainly confound, legitimate military operations with the hostile intervention of civilians.
Troops belonging to the same army often fire by mistake upon each other. That the German Army was no exception to this rule is proved not only by many Belgian witnesses, but by the most irrefragable kind of evidence—the admission of German soldiers themselves, recorded in their war diaries. Thus Otto Clepp, Second Company of the Reserve, says, under date of Aug. 22: "Three A.M. Two infantry regiments shot at each other—9 dead and 50 wounded—fault not yet ascertained." In this connection the diaries of Kurt Hoffman and a soldier of the 112th Regiment, (Diary No. 14,) will repay study. In such cases the obvious interest of the soldier is to conceal his mistake, and a convenient method of doing so is to raise the cry of "francs-tireurs!"
Doubtless the German soldiers often believed that the civilian population, naturally hostile, had, in fact, attacked them. This attitude of mind may have been fostered by the German authorities themselves before the troops passed the frontier, and thereafter stories of alleged atrocities committed by Belgians upon Germans, such as the myth referred to in one of the diaries relating to Liege, were circulated among the troops and roused their anger.
The diary of Barthel, when still in Germany on Aug. 10, shows that he believed that the Oberburgomaster of Liege had murdered a Surgeon General. The fact is that no violence was inflicted on the inhabitants at Liege until the 19th, and no one who studies these pages can have any doubt that Liege would immediately have been given over to murder and destruction if any such incident had occurred.
Letters written to their homes which have been found on the bodies of dead Germans bear witness, in a way that now sounds pathetic, to the kindness with which they were received by the civil population. Their evident surprise at this reception was due to the stories which had been dinned into their ears of soldiers with their eyes gouged out, treacherous murders, and poisoned food—stories which may have been encouraged by the higher military authorities in order to impress the mind of the troops, as well as for the sake of justifying the measures which they took to terrify the civil population. If there is any truth in such stories, no attempt has been made to establish it. For instance, the Chancellor of the German Empire, in a communication made to the press on Sept. 2 and printed in the Nord Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung of Sept. 21, said as follows:
"Belgian girls gouged out the eyes of the German wounded. Officials of Belgian cities have invited our officers to dinner and shot and killed them across the table. Contrary to all international law, the whole civilian population of Belgium was called out and, after having at first shown friendliness, carried on in the rear of our troops terrible warfare with concealed weapons. Belgian women cut the throats of soldiers whom they had quartered in their homes while they were sleeping."
No evidence whatever seems to have been adduced to prove these tales, and though there may be cases in which individual Belgians fired on the Germans, the statement that "the whole civilian population of Belgium was called out" is utterly opposed to the fact.
An invading army may be entitled to shoot at sight a civilian caught redhanded, or any one who, though not caught redhanded, is proved guilty on inquiry. But this was not the practice followed by the German troops. They do not seem to have made any inquiry. They seized the civilians of the villages indiscriminately and killed them, or such as they selected from among them, without the least regard to guilt or innocence. The mere cry, "Civilisten haben geschossen!" was enough to hand over a whole village or district, and even outlying places, to ruthless slaughter.
We gladly record the instances where the evidence shows that humanity had not wholly disappeared from some members of the German Army, and that they realized that the responsible heads of that organization were employing them not in war, but in butchery: "I am merely executing orders, and I should be shot if I did not execute them," said an officer to a witness at Louvain. At Brussels another officer says: "I have not done one-hundredth part of what we have been ordered to do by the high German military authorities."
As we have already observed, it would be unjust to charge upon the German Army generally acts of cruelty which, whether due to drunkenness or not, were done by men of brutal instincts and unbridled passions. Such crimes were sometimes punished by the officers. They were in some cases offset by acts of humanity and kindliness. But when an army is directed or permitted to kill noncombatants on a large scale the ferocity of the worst natures springs into fuller life, and both lust and the thirst of blood become more widespread and more formidable. Had less license been allowed to the soldiers and had they not been set to work to slaughter civilians there would have been fewer of those painful cases in which a depraved and morbid cruelty appears.
Two classes of murders in particular require special mention because one of them is almost new and the other altogether unprecedented. The former is the seizure of peaceful citizens as so-called hostages, to be kept as a pledge for the conduct of the civil population or as a means to secure some military advantage or to compel the payment of a contribution, the hostages being shot if the condition imposed by the arbitrary will of the invader is not fulfilled. Such hostage-taking, with the penalty of death attached, has now and then happened, the most notable case being the shooting of the Archbishop of Paris and some of his clergy by the Communards of Paris in 1871, but it is opposed both to the rules of war and to every principle of justice and humanity. The latter kind of murder is the killing of the innocent inhabitants of a village because shots have been fired, or are alleged to have been fired, on the troops by some one in the village. For this practice no previous example and no justification have been or can be pleaded. Soldiers suppressing an insurrection may have sometimes slain civilians mingled with insurgents, and Napoleon's forces in Spain are said to have now and then killed promiscuously when trying to clear guerrillas out of a village. But in Belgium large bodies of men, sometimes including the Burgomaster and the priest, were seized, marched by officers to a spot chosen for the purpose, and there shot in cold blood, without any attempt at trial or even inquiry, under the pretense of inflicting punishment upon the village, though these unhappy victims were not even charged with having themselves committed any wrongful act, and though, in some cases at least, the village authorities had done all in their power to prevent any molestation of the invading force. Such acts are no part of war, for innocence is entitled to respect even in war. They are mere murders, just as the drowning of the innocent passengers and crews on a merchant ship is murder and not an act of war.
That these acts should have been perpetrated on the peaceful population of an unoffending country which was not at war with its invaders, but merely defending its own neutrality, guaranteed by the invading power, may excite amazement and even incredulity. It was with amazement and almost with incredulity that the committee first read the depositions relating to such acts. But when the evidence regarding Liege was followed by that regarding Aerschot, Louvain, Andenne, Dinant, and the other towns and villages, the cumulative effect of such a mass of concurrent testimony became irresistible, and we were driven to the conclusion that the things described had really happened. The question then arose, how they could have happened. Not from mere military license, for the discipline of the German Army is proverbially stringent, and its obedience implicit. Not from any special ferocity of the troops, for whoever has traveled among the German peasantry knows that they are as kindly and good-natured as any people in Europe, and those who can recall the war of 1870 will remember that no charges resembling those proved by these depositions were then established. The excesses recently committed in Belgium were, moreover too widespread and too uniform in their character to be mere sporadic outbursts of passion or rapacity.
The explanation seems to be that these excesses were committed—in some cases ordered, in others allowed—on a system and in pursuance of a set purpose. That purpose was to strike terror into the civil population and dishearten the Belgian troops, so as to crush down resistance and extinguish the very spirit of self-defense. The pretext that civilians had fired upon the invading troops was used to justify not merely the shooting of individual francs-tireurs, but the murder of large numbers of innocent civilians, an act absolutely forbidden by the rules of civilized warfare.[A]
[Footnote A: As to this, see, in appendix, the Rules of The Hague Convention of 1907, to which Germany was a signatory.]
In the minds of Prussian officers war seems to have become a sort of sacred mission, one of the highest functions of the omnipotent State, which is itself as much an army as a State. Ordinary morality and the ordinary sentiment of pity vanish in its presence, superseded by a new standard, which justifies to the soldier every means that can conduce to success, however shocking to a natural sense of justice and humanity, however revolting to his own feelings. The spirit of war is deified. Obedience to the State and its war lord leaves no room for any other duty or feeling. Cruelty becomes legitimate when it promises victory. Proclaimed by the heads of the army, this doctrine would seem to have permeated the officers and affected even the private soldiers, leading them to justify the killing of noncombatants as an act of war, and so accustoming them to slaughter that even women and children become at last the victims. It cannot be supposed to be a national doctrine, for it neither springs from nor reflects the mind and feelings of the German people as they have heretofore been known to other nations. It is a specifically military doctrine, the outcome of a theory held by a ruling caste who have brooded and thought, written and talked, and dreamed about war until they have fallen under its obsession and been hypnotized by its spirit.
The doctrine is plainly set forth in the German Official Monograph on the usages of war on land, issued under the direction of the German Staff. This book is pervaded throughout by the view that whatever military needs suggest becomes thereby lawful, and upon this principle, as the diaries show, the German officers acted.[A]
[Footnote A: "Kriegsbrauch im Landkriege," Berlin, 1902, in Vol. VI., in the series entitled "Kriegsgeschichtliche Einzelschriften," published in 1905. A translation of this monograph, by Professor J.H. Morgan, has recently been published.]
If this explanation be the true one, the mystery is solved, and that which seemed scarcely credible becomes more intelligible, though not less pernicious. This is not the only case that history records in which a false theory, disguising itself as loyalty to a State or to a Church, has perverted the conception of duty and become a source of danger to the world.
Having thus narrated the offenses committed in Belgium, which it has been proper to consider as a whole, we now turn to another branch of the subject, the breaches of the usages of war which appear in the conduct of the German Army generally.
This branch has been considered under the following heads:
First.—The treatment of noncombatants, whether in Belgium or in France, including—
(a) The killing of noncombatants in France;
(b) The treatment of women and children;
(c) The using of innocent noncombatants as a screen or shield in the conduct of military operations;
(d) Looting, burning, and the wanton destruction of property.
Second.—Offenses committed in the course of ordinary military operations which violate the usages of war and the provisions of The Hague Convention.
This division includes:
(a) Killing of wounded or prisoners;
(b) Firing on hospitals or on the Red Cross ambulances and stretcher bearers;
(c) Abuse of the Red Cross or of the white flag.
TREATMENT OF THE CIVILIAN POPULATION.
(a) Killing of Noncombatants.
The killing of civilians in Belgium has been already described sufficiently. Outrages on the civilian population of the invaded districts, the burning of villages, the shooting of innocent inhabitants, and the taking of hostages, pillage, and destruction continued as the German armies passed into France. The diary of the Saxon officer above referred to describes acts of this kind committed by the German soldiers in advancing to the Aisne at the end of August and after they had passed the French frontier, as well as when they were in Belgian territory.
A proclamation, (a specimen of which was produced to the committee,) issued at Rheims and placarded over the town, affords a clear illustration of the methods adopted by the German Higher Command. The population of Rheims is warned that on the slightest disturbance part or the whole of the city will be burned to the ground and all the hostages taken from the city (a long list of whom is given in the proclamation) immediately shot.
The evidence, however, submitted to the committee with regard to the conduct of the German Army in France is not nearly so full as that with regard to Belgium. There is no body of civilian refugees in England, and the French witnesses have generally laid their evidence before their own Government. The evidence forwarded to us consists principally of the statements of British officers and soldiers who took part in the retreat after the battle of Mons and in the subsequent advance, following the Germans from the Marne. The area covered is relatively small, and it is from French reports that any complete account of what occurred in the invaded districts in France as a whole must be obtained.
Naturally, soldiers in a foreign country, with which they were unacquainted, cannot be expected always to give accurately the names of villages through which they passed on their marches, but this does not prevent their evidence from being definite as to what they actually saw in the farms and houses where the German troops had recently been. Many shocking outrages are recorded. Three examples may here suffice; others are given in the appendix. A Sergeant who had been through the retreat from Mons and then taken part in the advance from the Marne, and who had been engaged in driving out some German troops from a village, states that his troop halted outside a bakery just inside the village. It was a private house where baking was done, "not like our bakeries here." Two or three women were standing at the door. The women motioned them to come into the house, as did also three civilian Frenchmen who were there. They took them into a garden at the back of the house. At the end of the garden was the bakery. They saw two old men between 60 and 70 years of age and one old woman lying close to each other in the garden. All three had the scalps cut right through and the brains were hanging out. They were still bleeding. Apparently they had only just been killed. The three French civilians belonged to this same house. One of them spoke a few words of English. He gave them to understand that these three had been killed by the Germans because they had refused to bake bread for them.
Another witness states that two German soldiers took hold of a young civilian named D. and bound his hands behind his back, and struck him in the face with their fists. They then tied his hands in front and fastened the cord to the tail of the horse. The horse dragged him for about fifty yards, and then the Germans loosened his hands and left him. The whole of his face was cut and torn, and his arms and legs were bruised. On the following day one of his sisters, whose husband was a soldier, came to their house with her four children. His brother, who was also married and who lived in a village near Valenciennes, went to fetch the bread for his sister. On the way back to their house he met a patrol of Uhlans, who took him to the market place at Valenciennes, and then shot him. About twelve other civilians were also shot in the market place. The Uhlans then burned nineteen houses in the village, and afterward burned the corpses of the civilians, including that of his brother. His father and his uncle afterward went to see the dead body of his brother, but the German soldiers refused to allow them to pass.
A lance corporal in the Rifles, who was on patrol duty with five privates during the retirement of the Germans after the Marne, states that they entered a house in a small village and took ten Uhlans prisoners, and then searched the house and found two women and two children. One was dead, but the body not yet cold. The left arm had been cut off just below the elbow. The floor was covered with blood. The woman's clothing was disarranged. The other woman was alive but unconscious. Her right leg had been cut off above the knee. There were two little children, a boy about 4 or 5 and a girl of about 6 or 7. The boy's left hand was cut off at the wrist and the girl's right hand at the same place. They were both quite dead. The same witness states that he saw several women and children lying dead in various other places, but says he could not say whether this might not have been accidentally caused in legitimate fighting.
The evidence before us proves that in the parts of France referred to murder of unoffending civilians and other acts of cruelty, including aggravated cases of rape, carried out under threat of death, and sometimes actually followed by murder of the victim, were committed by some of the German troops.
(b) The Treatment of Women and Children.
The evidence shows that the German authorities, when carrying out a policy of systematic arson and plunder in selected districts, usually drew some distinction between the adult male population on the one hand and the women and children on the other. It was a frequent practice to set apart the adult males of the condemned district with a view to the execution of a suitable number—preferably of the younger and more vigorous—and to reserve the women and children for milder treatment. The depositions, however, present many instances of calculated cruelty, often going the length of murder, toward the women and children of the condemned area. We have already referred to the case of Aerschot, where the women and children were herded in a church which had recently been used as a stable, detained for forty-eight hours with no food other than coarse bread, and denied the common decencies of life. At Dinant sixty women and children were confined in the cellar of a convent from Sunday morning till the following Friday, (Aug. 28,) sleeping on the ground, for there were no beds, with nothing to drink during the whole period, and given no food until the Wednesday, "when somebody threw into the cellar two sticks of macaroni and a carrot for each prisoner." In other cases the women and children were marched for long distances along roads, (e.g., march of women from Louvain to Tirlemont, Aug. 28,) the laggards pricked on by the attendant Uhlans. A lady complains of having been brutally kicked by privates. Others were struck with the butt end of rifles. At Louvain, at Liege, at Aerschot, at Malines, at Montigny, at Andenne, and elsewhere, there is evidence that the troops were not restrained from drunkenness, and drunken soldiers cannot to be trusted to observe the rules or decencies of war, least of all when they are called upon to execute a preordained plan of arson and pillage. From the very first women were not safe. At Liege women and children were chased about the streets by soldiers. A witness gives a story, very circumstantial in its details, of how women were publicly raped in the market place of the city, five young German officers assisting. At Aerschot men and women were deliberately shot when coming out of burning houses. At Liege, Louvain, Sempst, and Malines women were burned to death, either because they were surprised and stupefied by the fumes of the conflagration or because they were prevented from escaping by German soldiers. Witnesses recount how a great crowd of men, women, and children from Aerschot were marched to Louvain, and then suddenly exposed to a fire from a mitrailleuse and rifles. "We were all placed," recounts a sufferer, "in Station Street, Louvain, and the German soldiers fired on us. I saw the corpses of some women in the street. I fell down, and a woman who had been shot fell on top of me." Women and children suddenly turned out into the streets, and, compelled to witness the destruction by fire of their homes, provided a sad spectacle to such as were sober enough to see. A humane German officer, witnessing the ruin of Aerschot, exclaims in disgust: "I am a father myself, and I cannot bear this. It is not war, but butchery." Officers as well as men succumbed to the temptation of drink, with results which may be illustrated by an incident which occurred at Campenhout. In this village there was a certain well-to-do merchant (name given) who had a good cellar of champagne. On the afternoon of the 14th or 15th of August three German cavalry officers entered the house and demanded champagne. Having drunk ten bottles and invited five or six officers and three or four private soldiers to join them, they continued their carouse, and then called for the master and mistress of the house.
"Immediately my mistress came in," says the valet de chambre, "one of the officers who was sitting on the floor got up, and, putting a revolver to my mistress temple, shot her dead. The officer was obviously drunk. The other officers continued to drink and sing, and they did not pay great attention to the killing of my mistress. The officer who shot my mistress then told my master to dig a grave and bury my mistress. My master and the officer went into the garden, the officer threatening my master with a pistol. My master was then forced to dig the grave and to bury the body of my mistress in it. I cannot say for what reason they killed my mistress. The officer who did it was singing all the time."
In the evidence before us there are cases tending to show that aggravated crimes against women were sometimes severely punished. One witness reports that a young girl who was being pursued by a drunken soldier at Louvain appealed to a German officer, and that the offender was then and there shot. Another describes how an officer of the Thirty-second Regiment of the Line was led out to execution for the violation of two young girls, but reprieved at the request or with the consent of the girls' mother. These instances are sufficient to show that the maltreatment of women was no part of the military scheme of the invaders, however much it may appear to have been the inevitable result of the system of terror deliberately adopted in certain regions. Indeed, so much is avowed. "I asked the commander why we had been spared," says a lady in Louvain, who deposes to having suffered much brutal treatment during the sack. He said: "We will not hurt you any more. Stay in Louvain. All is finished." It was Saturday, Aug. 29, and the reign of terror was over.
Apart from the crimes committed in special areas and belonging to a scheme of systematic reprisals for the alleged shooting by civilians, there is evidence of offenses committed against women and children by individual soldiers, or by small groups of soldiers, both in the advance through Belgium and France as in the retreat from the Marne. Indeed, the discipline appears to have been loose during the retreat, and there is evidence as to the burning of villages and the murder and violation of their female inhabitants during this episode of the war.
In this tale of horrors hideous forms of mutilation occur with some frequency in the depositions, two of which may be connected in some instances with a perverted form of sexual instinct.
A third form of mutilation, the cutting of one or both hands, is frequently said to have taken place. In some cases where this form of mutilation is alleged to have occurred it may be the consequence of a cavalry charge up a village street, hacking and slashing at everything in the way; in others the victim may possibly have held a weapon; in others the motive may have been the theft of rings.
We find many well-established cases of the slaughter (often accompanied by mutilation) of whole families, including not infrequently that of quite small children. In two cases it seems to be clear that preparations were made to burn a family alive. These crimes were committed over a period of many weeks and simultaneously in many places, and the authorities must have known, or ought to have known, that cruelties of this character were being perpetrated; nor can any one doubt that they could have been stopped by swift and decisive action on the part of the heads of the German Army.
The use of women and even children as a screen for the protection of the German troops is referred to in a later part of this report. From the number of troops concerned, it must have been commanded or acquiesced in by officers, and in some cases the presence and connivance of officers is proved.
The cases of violation, sometimes under threat of death, are numerous and clearly proved. We referred here to comparatively few out of the many that have been placed in the appendix, because the circumstances are in most instances much the same. They were often accompanied with cruelty, and the slaughter of women after violation is more than once credibly attested.
It is quite possible that in some cases where the body of a Belgian or a French woman is reported as lying on the roadside pierced with bayonet wounds or hanging naked from a tree, or else as lying gashed and mutilated in a cottage kitchen or bedroom, the woman in question gave some provocation. She may by act or word have irritated her assailant and in certain instances evidence has been supplied both as to the provocation offered and as to the retribution inflicted.
(1) "Just before we got to Melen," says a witness who had fallen into the hands of the Germans on Aug. 5, "I saw a woman with a child in her arms standing on the side of the road on our left-hand side watching the soldiers go by. Her name was G., aged about 63, and a neighbor of mine. The officer asked the woman for some water in good French. She went inside her son's cottage to get some and brought it immediately he had stopped. The officer went into the cottage garden and drank the water. The woman then said, when she saw the prisoners, 'Instead of giving you water you deserve to be shot.' The officer shouted to us, 'March.' We went on, and immediately I saw the officer draw his revolver and shoot the woman and child. One shot killed both."
Two old men and one old woman refused to bake bread for the Germans. They were butchered.
Aug. 23—I went with two friends (names given) to see what we could see. About three hours out of Malines we were taken prisoners by a German patrol—an officer and six men—and marched off into a little wood of saplings, where there was a house. The officer spoke Flemish. He knocked at the door; the peasant did not come. The officer ordered the soldiers to break down the door, which two of them did. The peasant came and asked what they were doing. The officer said he did not come quickly enough and that they had "trained up" plenty of others. His hands were tied behind his back, and he was shot at once without a moment's delay. The wife came out with a little sucking child. She put the child down and sprang at the Germans like a lioness. She clawed their faces. One of the Germans took a rifle and struck her a tremendous blow with the butt on the head. Another took his bayonet and fixed it and thrust it through the child. He then put his rifle on his shoulder with the child upon it; its little arms stretched out once or twice. The officers ordered the houses to be set on fire, and straw was obtained and it was done. The man and his wife and the child were thrown on the top of the straw. There were about forty other peasant prisoners there also, and the officer said: "I am doing this as a lesson and example to you. When a German tells you to do something next time you must move more quickly." The regiment of Germans was a regiment of Hussars, with crossbones and a death's head on the cap.
Can any one think that such acts as these, committed by women in the circumstances created by the invasion of Belgium, were deserving of the extreme form of vengeance attested by these and other depositions?
In considering the question of provocation it is pertinent to take into account the numerous cases in which old women and very small children have been shot, bayoneted, and even mutilated. Whatever excuse may be offered by the Germans for the killing of grown-up women, there can be no possible defense for the murder of children, and if it can be shown that infants and small children were not infrequently bayoneted and shot it is a fair inference that many of the offenses against women require no explanation more recondite than the unbridled violence of brutal or drunken criminals.
It is clearly shown that many offenses were committed against infants and quite young children. On one occasion children were even roped together and used as a military screen against the enemy; on another three soldiers went into action carrying small children to protect themselves from flank fire. A shocking case of the murder of a baby by a drunken soldier at Malines is thus recorded by one eyewitness and confirmed by another:
"One day when the Germans were not actually bombarding the town I left my house to go to my mother's house in High Street. My husband was with me. I saw eight German soldiers, and they were drunk. They were singing and making a lot of noise and dancing about. As the German soldiers came along the street I saw a small child, whether boy or girl I could not see, come out of a house. The child was about two years of age. The child came into the middle of the street so as to be in the way of the soldiers. The soldiers were walking in twos. The first line of two passed the child. One of the second line, the man on the left, stepped aside and drove his bayonet with both hands into the child's stomach, lifting the child into the air on his bayonet and carrying it away on his bayonet, he and his comrades still singing. The child screamed when the soldier struck it with his bayonet but not afterward."
These, no doubt, were for the most part the acts of drunken soldiers, but an incident has been recorded which discloses the fact that even sober and highly placed officers were not always disposed to place a high value on child life. Thus the General, wishing to be conducted to the Town Hall at Lebbeke, remarked in French to his guide, who was accompanied by a small boy: "If you do not show me the right way I will shoot you and your boy." There was no need to carry the threat into execution, but that the threat should have been made is significant.
We cannot tell whether these acts of cruelty to children were part of the scheme for inducing submission by inspiring terror. In Louvain, where the system of terrorizing was carried to the furthest limit, outrages on children were uncommon. The same, however, cannot be said of some of the smaller villages which were subjected to the system. In Hofstade and Sempst, in Haecht, Rotselaer, and Wespelaer, many children were murdered. Nor can it be said of the village of Tamines, where three small children (whose names are given by an eye witness of the crime) were slaughtered on the green for no apparent motive. It is difficult to imagine the motives which may have prompted such acts. Whether or no Belgian civilians fired on German soldiers, young children at any rate did not fire. The number and character of these murders constitute the most distressing feature connected with the conduct of the war so far as it is revealed in the depositions submitted to the committee.
(c) The Use of Civilians as Screens.
We have before us a considerable body of evidence with reference to the practice of the Germans of using civilians and sometimes military prisoners as screens from behind which they could fire upon the Belgian troops, in the hope that the Belgians would not return the fire for fear of killing or wounding their own fellow-countrymen.
In some cases this evidence refers to places where fighting was actually going on in the streets of a town or village, and to these cases we attach little importance. It might well happen when terrified civilians were rushing about to seek safety that groups of them might be used as a screen by either side of the combatants without any intention of inhumanity or of any breach of the rules of civilized warfare. But, setting aside these doubtful cases, there remains evidence which satisfies us that on so many occasions as to justify its being described as a practice the German soldiers, under the eyes and by the direction of their officers, were guilty of this act.
Thus, for instance, outside Fort Fleron, near Liege, men and children were marched in front of the Germans to prevent the Belgian soldiers from firing.
The progress of the Germans through Mons was marked by many incidents of this character. Thus, on Aug. 22 half a dozen Belgian colliers returning from work were marching in front of some German troops who were pursuing the English, and in the opinion of the witnesses they must have been placed there intentionally. An English officer describes how he caused a barricade to be erected in a main thoroughfare leading out of Mons when the Germans, in order to reach a crossroad in the rear, fetched civilians out of the houses on each side of the main road and compelled them to hold up white flags and act as cover.
Another British officer who saw this incident is convinced that the Germans were acting deliberately for the purpose of protecting themselves from the fire of the British troops. Apart from this protection the Germans could not have advanced, as the street was straight and commanded by the British rifle fire at a range of 700 or 800 yards. Several British soldiers also speak to this incident, and their story is confirmed by a Flemish witness in a side street.
On Aug. 24 men, women, and children were actually pushed into the front of the German position outside Mons. The witness speaks of 16 to 20 women, about a dozen children, and half a dozen men being there.
Seven or eight women and five or six very young children were utilized in this way by some Uhlans between Landrecies and Guise.
A Belgian soldier saw an incident of this character during the retreat from Namur.
At the battle of Malines 60 or 80 Belgian civilians, among whom were some women, were driven before the German troops. Another witness saw a similar incident near Malines, but a much larger number of civilians was involved, and a priest was in front with a white flag.
In another instance, related by a Belgian soldier, the civilians were tied by the wrists in groups.
At Eppeghem, where the Germans were driven back by the Belgian sortie from Antwerp, civilians were used as a cover for the German retreat.
Near Malines, early in September, about 10 children, roped together, were driven in front of a German force.
At Londerzeel 30 or 40 civilians, men, women, and children, were placed at the head of a German column.
One witness from Termonde was made to stand in front of the Germans, together with others, all with their hands above their heads. Those who allowed their hands to drop were at once prodded with the bayonet. Again, at Termonde, about Sept. 10, a number of civilians were shot by the Belgian soldiers, who were compelled to fire at the Germans, taking the risk of killing their own countrymen.
At Tournai 400 Belgian civilians, men, women, and children, were placed in front of the Germans, who then engaged the French.
The operations outside Antwerp were not free from incidents of this character. Near Willebroeck some civilians, including a number of children, a woman, and one old man, were driven in front of the German troops. German officers were present, and one woman who refused to advance was stabbed twice with the bayonet, and a little child who ran up to her as she fell had half its head blown away by a shot from a rifle.
Other incidents of the same kind are reported from Nazareth and Ypres. The British troops were compelled to fire, in some cases at the risk of killing civilians.
At Ypres the Germans drove women in front of them by pricking them with bayonets. The wounds were afterward seen by the witness.
(d) Looting, Burning, and Destruction of Property.
There is an overwhelming mass of evidence of the deliberate destruction of private property by the German soldiers. The destruction in most cases was effected by fire, and the German troops, as will be seen from earlier passages in the report, had been provided beforehand with appliances for rapidly setting fire to houses. Among the appliances enumerated by witnesses are syringes for squirting petrol, guns for throwing small inflammable bombs, and small pellets made of inflammable material. Specimens of the last mentioned have been shown to members of the committee. Besides burning houses, the Germans frequently smashed furniture and pictures; they also broke in doors and windows. Frequently, too, they defiled houses by relieving the wants of nature upon the floor. They also appear to have perpetrated the same vileness upon piled up heaps of provisions so as to destroy what they could not themselves consume. They also on numerous occasions threw corpses into wells, or left in them the bodies of persons murdered by drowning.
In addition to these acts of destruction the German troops, both in Belgium and France, are proved to have been guilty of persistent looting. In the majority of cases the looting took place from houses, but there is also evidence that German soldiers and even officers robbed their prisoners, both civil and military, of sums of money and other portable possessions. It was apparently well known throughout the German Army that towns and villages would be burned whenever it appeared that any civilians had fired upon the German troops, and there is reason to suspect that this known intention of the German military authorities in some cases explains the sequence of events which led up to the burning and sacking of a town or village. The soldiers, knowing that they would have an opportunity of plunder if the place was condemned, had a motive for arranging some incident which would provide the necessary excuse for condemnation. More than one witness alleges that shots coming from the window of a house were fired by German soldiers who had forced their way into the house for the purpose of thus creating an alarm. It is also alleged that German soldiers on some occasions merely fired their rifles in the air in a side street and then reported to their officers that they had been fired at. On the report that firing had taken place orders were given for wholesale destruction, and houses were destroyed in streets and districts where there was no allegation that firing had taken place, as well as in those where the charge arose. That the destruction could have been limited is proved by the care taken to preserve particular houses whose occupants had made themselves in one way or another agreeable to the conquerors. These houses were marked in chalk, ordering them to be spared, and spared they were.
The above statements have reference to the burning of towns and villages. In addition, the German troops in numerous instances have set fire to farmhouses and farm buildings. Here, however, the plea of military necessity can more safely be alleged. A farmhouse may afford convenient shelter to an enemy, and where such use is probable it may be urged that the destruction of the buildings is justifiable. It is clearly, however, the duty of the soldiers who destroy the buildings to give reasonable warning to the occupants so that they may escape. Doubtless this was in many cases done by the German commanders, but there is testimony that in some cases the burning of the farmhouse was accompanied by the murder of the inhabitants.
The same fact stands out clearly in the more extensive burning of houses in towns and villages. In some cases, indeed, as a prelude to the burning, inhabitants were cleared out of their houses and driven along the streets, often with much accompanying brutality—some to a place of execution, others to prolonged detention in a church or other public buildings. In other cases witnesses assert that they saw German soldiers forcing back into the flames men, women, and children who were trying to escape from the burning houses. There is also evidence that soldiers deliberately shot down civilians as they fled from the fire.
The general conclusion is that the burning and destruction of property which took place was only in a very small minority of cases justified by military necessity, and that even then the destruction was seldom accompanied by that care for the lives of noncombatants which has hitherto been expected from a military commander belonging to a civilized nation. On the contrary, it is plain that in many cases German officers and soldiers deliberately added to the sufferings of the unfortunate people whose property they were destroying.
OFFENSES AGAINST COMBATANTS.
(a) The Killing of the Wounded and of Prisoners.
In dealing with the treatment of the wounded and of prisoners and the cases in which the former appear to have been killed when helpless, and the latter at, or after, the moment of capture, we are met by some peculiar difficulties, because such acts may not in all cases be deliberate and cold-blooded violations of the usages of war. Soldiers who are advancing over a spot where the wounded have fallen may conceivably think that some of these lying prostrate are shamming dead, or, at any rate, are so slightly wounded as to be able to attack or to fire from behind when the advancing force has passed, and thus they may be led into killing those whom they would otherwise have spared. There will also be instances in which men intoxicated with the frenzy of battle slay even those whom on reflection they might have seen to be incapable of further harming them. The same kind of fury may vent itself on persons who are already surrendering, and even a soldier who is usually self-controlled or humane may, in the heat of the moment, go on killing, especially in a general melee, those who were offering to surrender. This is most likely to happen when such a soldier has been incensed by an act of treachery or is stirred to revenge by the death of a comrade to whom he is attached. Some cases of this kind appear in the evidence. Such things happen in a1l wars as isolated instances, and the circumstances may be pleaded in extenuation of acts otherwise shocking. We have made due allowance for these considerations and have rejected those cases in which there is a reasonable doubt as to whether those who killed the wounded knew that the latter were completely disabled. Nevertheless, after making all allowances, there remain certain instances in which it is clear that quarter was refused to persons desiring to surrender when it ought to have been given, or that persons already so wounded as to be incapable of fighting further were wantonly shot or bayoneted.
The cases to which references are given all present features generally similar, and in several of them men who had been left wounded in the trenches when a trench was carried by the enemy were found, when their comrades subsequently retook the trench, to have been slaughtered, although evidently helpless, or else they would have escaped with the rest of the retreating force. For instance, a witness says:
"About Sept. 20 our regiment took part in an engagement with the Germans. After we had retired into our trenches, a few minutes after we got back into them, the Germans retired into their trenches. The distance between the trenches of the opposing forces was about 400 yards. I should say about fifty or sixty of our men had been left lying on the field from our trenches. After we got back to them I distinctly saw German soldiers come out of their trenches, go over the spots where our men were lying, and bayonet them. Some of our men were lying nearly half way between the trenches."
"The Germans advanced over the trenches of the headquarters trench, where I had been on guard for three days. When the Germans reached our wounded I saw their officer using his sword to cut them down."
Another witness says:
"Outside Ypres we were in trenches and were attacked, and had to retire until reinforced by other companies of the Royal Fusiliers. Then we took the trenches and found the wounded, between twenty and thirty, lying in the trenches with bayonet wounds, and some shot. Most of them, say three-quarters, had their throats cut."
In one case, given very circumstantially, a witness tells how a party of wounded British soldiers were left in a chalk pit, all very badly hurt, and quite unable to make resistance. One of them, an officer, held up his handkerchief as a white flag, and this
"attracted the attention of a party of about eight Germans. The Germans came to the edge of the pit. It was getting dusk, but the light was still good, and everything clearly discernible. One of them, who appeared to be carrying no arms and who, at any rate, had no rifle, came a few feet down the slope into the chalk pit, within eight or ten yards of some of the wounded men."
He looked at the men, laughed, and said something in German to the Germans who were waiting on the edge of the pit. Immediately one of them fired at the officer, then three or four of these ten soldiers were shot, then another officer and the witness, and the rest of them.
"After an interval of some time I sat up and found that I was the only man of the ten who were living when the Germans came into the pit remaining alive and that all the rest were dead."
Another witness describes a painful case in which five soldiers, two Belgians and three French, were tied to trees by German soldiers apparently drunk, who stuck knives in their faces, pricked them with their bayonets, and ultimately shot them.
We have no evidence to show whether and in what cases orders proceeded from the officer in command to give no quarter, but there are some instances in which persons obviously desiring to surrender were, nevertheless, killed.
(b) Firing on Hospitals or on the Red Cross Ambulances or Stretcher Bearers.
This subject may conveniently be divided into three subdivisions, namely, firing on—
(1) Hospital buildings and other Red Cross establishments.
(3) Stretcher bearers.
Under the first and second categories there is obvious difficulty in proving intention, especially under the conditions of modern long-range artillery fire. A commanding officer's duty is to give strict orders to respect hospitals, ambulances, &c., and also to place Red Cross units as far away as possible from any legitimate line of fire. But with all care some accidents must happen, and many reported cases will be ambiguous. At the same time, when military observers have formed a distinct opinion that buildings and persons under the recognizable protection of the Red Cross were willfully fired upon, such opinions cannot be disregarded.
Between thirty and forty of the depositions submitted related to this offense. This number does not in itself seem so great as to be inconsistent with the possibility of accident.
In one case a Red Cross depot was shelled on most days throughout the week. This is hardly reconcilable with the enemy's gunners having taken any care to avoid it.
There are other cases of conspicuous hospitals being shelled, in the witnesses' opinion, purposely.
In one of these the witness, a Sergeant Major, makes a suggestion which appears plausible, namely, that the German gunners use any conspicuous building as a mark to verify their ranges rather than for the purpose of destruction. It would be quite according to the modern system of what German writers call Kriegsraeson to hold that the convenience of range-finding is a sufficient military necessity to justify disregarding any immunity conferred on a building by the Red Cross or otherwise. In any case, artillery fire on a hospital at such a moderate range as about 1,000 yards can hardly be thought accidental.
(2) As to firing on ambulances, the evidence is more explicit.
In one case the witness is quite clear that the ambulances were aimed at.
In another case of firing at an ambulance train the range was quite short.
In another a Belgian Red Cross party is stated to have been ambushed.
On the whole we do not find proof of a general or systematic firing on hospitals or ambulances; but it is not possible to believe that much care was taken to avoid this.
(3) As to firing on stretcher bearers in the course of trench warfare, the testimony is abundant, and the facts do not seem explicable by accident. It may be that sometimes the bearers were suspected of seeing too much; and it is plain from the general military policy of the German armies that very slight suspicion would be acted on in case of doubt.
(c) Abuse of the Red Cross and of the White Flag.
THE RED CROSS.
Cases of the Red Cross being abused are much more definite.
There are several accounts of fire being opened, sometimes at very short range, by machine guns which had been disguised in a German Red Cross ambulance or car. This was aggravated in one case near Tirlemont by the German soldiers wearing Belgian uniforms.
Witness speaks also of a stretcher party with the Red Cross being used to cover an attack and of a German Red Cross man working a machine gun.
There is also a well-attested case of a Red Cross motor car being used to carry ammunition under command of officers.
Unless all these statements are willfully false, which the committee sees no reason to believe, these acts must have been deliberate, and it does not seem possible that a Red Cross car could be equipped with a machine gun by soldiers acting without orders. There is also one case of firing from a cottage where the Red Cross flag was flying, and this could not be accidental.
On the whole, there is distinct evidence of the Red Cross having been deliberately misused for offensive purposes, and seemingly under orders, on some, though not many, occasions.
ABUSE OF THE WHITE FLAG.
Cases of this kind are numerous. It is possible that a small group of men may show a white flag without authority from any proper officer, in which case their action is, of course, not binding on the rest of the platoon or other unit. But this will not apply to the case of a whole unit advancing as if to surrender, or letting the other side advance to receive the pretended surrender and then opening fire. Under this head we find many depositions by British soldiers and several by officers. In some cases the firing was from a machine gun brought up under cover of the white flag.
The depositions taken by Professor Morgan in France strongly corroborate the evidence collected in this country.
The case numbered h 70 may be noted as very clearly stated. The Germans, who had "put up a white flag on a lance and ceased fire," and thereby induced a company to advance in order to take them prisoners, "dropped the white flag and opened fire at a distance of 100 yards." This was near Nesle, on Sept. 6, 1914. It seems clearly proved that in some divisions at least of the German Army this practice is very common. The incidents as reported cannot be explained by unauthorized surrenders of small groups.
There is, in our opinion, sufficient evidence that these offenses have been frequent, deliberate, and in many cases committed by whole units under orders. All the acts mentioned in this part of the report are in contravention of The Hague Convention, signed by the great powers, including France, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States, in 1907, as may be seen by a reference to Appendix D, in which the provisions of that convention relating to the conduct of war on land are set forth.
From the foregoing pages it will be seen that the committee have come to a definite conclusion upon each of the heads under which the evidence has been classified.
It is proved—
(i.) That there were in many parts of Belgium deliberate and systematically organized massacres of the civil population, accompanied by many isolated murders and other outrages.
(ii.) That in the conduct of the war generally innocent civilians, both men and women, were murdered in large numbers, women violated, and children murdered.
(iii.) That looting, house burning, and the wanton destruction of property were ordered and countenanced by the officers of the German Army, that elaborate provision had been made for systematic incendiarism at the very outbreak of the war, and that the burnings and destruction were frequent where no military necessity could be alleged, being indeed part of a system of general terrorization.
(iv.) That the rules and usages of war were frequently broken, particularly by the using of civilians, including women and children, as a shield for advancing forces exposed to fire, to a less degree by killing the wounded and prisoners, and in the frequent abuse of the Red Cross and the white flag.
Sensible as they are of the gravity of these conclusions the committee conceive that they would be doing less than their duty if they failed to record them as fully established by the evidence. Murder, lust, and pillage prevailed over many parts of Belgium on a scale unparalleled in any war between civilized nations during the last three centuries.
Our function is ended when we have stated what the evidence establishes, but we may be permitted to express our belief that these disclosures will not have been made in vain if they touch and rouse the conscience of mankind, and we venture to hope that as soon as the present war is over the nations of the world in council will consider what means can be provided and sanctions devised to prevent the recurrence of such horrors as our generation is now witnessing.
We are, &c.,
BRYCE, F. POLLOCK, EDWARD CLARKE, KENELM E. DIGBY, ALFRED HOPKINSON, H.A.L. FISHER, HAROLD COX.
SCRIABIN'S LAST WORDS.
[From The London Times, May 1, 1915.]
M. Briantchaninov, an intimate friend of Scriabin, telegraphed the news of the composer's death to a friend in England. He stated that Scriabin died of the disease of the lip from which he was suffering when in England last year, and that he had just finished the "wonderful poetical text" of the prologue to his "Mystery." When Scriabin was suffering terrible pain just before his death he clenched his hands and his last words were: "I must be self-possessed, like Englishmen."
M. Briantchaninov is collecting a fund for Scriabin's children, and he suggests that possibly "some English friends and admirers" may care to contribute.
Chronology of the War
Showing Progress of Campaigns on All Fronts and Collateral Events From March 31, 1915, Up to and Including April 30, 1915
[Continued from the May number.]
CAMPAIGN IN EASTERN EUROPE
April 1—Russians take up lively offensive in Central Poland, seeking to prevent reinforcements being sent to the Carpathians; they halt a raid from Bukowina; Austrians drive back Russians near Inowlodz, on the Pilica River; Germans check night attempt of Russians to cross the Rawka River; German bombardment of Ossowetz has been abandoned; cold weather is favoring German operations in East Prussia; German Headquarters Staff reports that in March the German Eastern army took 55,800 Russian prisoners, 9 cannon, and 61 machine guns.
April 2—Russians take the offensive along their whole front from the Baltic Sea to Rumanian border; they are reported to be concentrating an enormous force on the coast of Finland to prevent any attempt at a German landing; Germans in Poland are being pushed back to the East Prussian border; Russians capture another strongly fortified ridge in the Carpathians, scaling ice-covered hills to do it; vast bodies of Russian cavalry are held in readiness for a sweep across the plains of Hungary; main Austrian Army in Bukowina is falling back; Russians now stand upon last heights of the main chain of Beskid Mountains; Austrians repulse Russian attacks east of Beskid Pass; Russians drive back Germans to the east of Pilwiszka; Austrians repulse Russian attacks between the Pruth and Dniester Rivers.
April 3—Fighting in the Carpathians continues night and day along a forty-mile front; Russians are making gains and pressing Austrians hard; Germans are pouring reinforcements into Hungary to support Austrians; Austrians gain in Bukowina; Austrians are trying to cut off Montenegro from all communication with the outside world and starve her into submission.
April 4—Austrians retreat from the Beskid region after Russian success; Austrians make progress in the Laborcza Valley; fighting has been going on for twenty-four continuous hours on both sides of the Dukla Pass; Germans repulse Russian attacks near Augustowo.
April 5—Russians continue to make steady progress in the Carpathians; they are now on the Hungarian side of both the Dukla and Lupkow Passes and are making advances on the heights which dominate Uzsok Pass; Russians gain in Bukowina and in North Poland.
April 6—Russians continue their great offensive in the Carpathians; Austrians are retreating at some points and burning their bridges behind them; Russians make progress in direction of Rostok Pass; German reinforcements are being rushed from Flanders to Austria via Munich; Austrian and German troops take strong Russian positions east of Laborcza Valley; Russians have been repulsed in an attempt to cross to the left bank of the Dniester River southwest of Uscie-Diekupie; Austrian artillery is bombarding Serbian towns on the Danube and the Save.
April 7—Russians continue offensive between the River Toplia and the Uzsok Pass region; Austrians take guns and war material on the heights east of the Laborcza Valley; Austrians bombard Belgrade; Austrians win ground along the River Pruth; Austrians are reported to have passed the Dniester and to be advancing on Kamenitz Podolsky, in Russian territory.
April 8—Russian advance in the Carpathians cuts one Austrian army in two; Russians capture Smolnik, east of Lupkow Pass; fierce fighting is going on in the mountain passes.
April 9—The whole southern slope of the Carpathians has been strongly fortified by the Austrians; twenty-four Austrian and six German army corps are stated to be now facing the Russians.
April 10—Russians begin attack on German forces which hold the hills from Uzsok Pass eastward to Beskid Pass; Russians make gains in the direction of Rostok; the general Russian offensive continues on the Niznia-Destuszica-Volestate-Bukowecz line; in places in the Carpathians the Russians are progressing through seven feet of snow; Austro-German forces repulse a strong Russian attack in the Opor Valley.
April 11—All the main ridges of the Carpathians are now in the hands of the Russians, who hold the eighty-mile front Uzsok-Mezo-Laborcza-Bartfeld, with the head sections of five main railways; at some points the Russians are descending the southern slopes and are approaching the Uzsok Valley.
April 12—Germans repulse Russian attack near Kaziouwka, Russians losing heavily; artillery duels are in progress near Ossowetz and in the region of Edvabno; German attack on village of Szafranki is repulsed; Austro-Germans still hold the Uzsok Pass; they repulse Russian attacks east of there.
April 13—Large German reinforcements are being sent to the Austrians; 280,000 Germans, comprising seven army corps, are co-operating with the Austrians in a formidable attack on the left wing of the Russian army which is invading Hungary; Austrian Embassy at Washington gives out an official bulletin from Vienna saying the Russian advance in the Carpathians is halted; heavy fighting is in progress in the Bartfeld-Stryi region; Russians advance on both banks of the Ondawa, and gain success in direction of Uzsok, capturing certain heights; Austro-German forces strongly attack the heights south of Koziouwa, but are repulsed; Russians repel German attacks on the front west of the Niemen; Ossowetz is again bombarded by the Germans; fierce fighting is on in Bukowina.
April 14—After a twelve-hour battle the Austrians retreat precipitately from a strong position at Mezo Laborcz, on Hungarian side of the East Beskid Mountains; the whole main front in this district is in Russian hands; Austro-German forces are contesting stubbornly every foot of the German advance along the front from Bartfeld to Stryi; Austrians are trying to penetrate into Russian territory from Bukowina; Germans are active in Poland; Germans attack the town of Chafranka, on the Skwa River, near Ostrolenka; it is stated at Petrograd that 4,000,000 combatants, including both sides, are now engaged along the Carpathians.
April 15—Russians crush fierce counter-attack against their left wing in the Carpathians made by picked Bavarian infantry; Russians repulse an attack by Austrians on the extreme east; Austrians defeat Russians near Oiezkowice, on the Biala.
April 16—War correspondents at Austrian headquarters, in summing up the result of the fighting in the Carpathians, say that the Russian loss has been 500,000, and that the backbone of the invading army is broken; Germans prepare to attack along an 800-mile Russian front.
April 17—The melting of the snow in the Carpathians, resulting in overflowing streams and rivers and in seas of mud, is stopping various intended movements on both sides; artillery engagements are in progress in Southeast Galicia and Bukowina; Russians repulse attacks in the direction of Stryi; Russian Emperor leaves for the front.
April 18—In a review of the Carpathian campaign issued by Russian General Headquarters it is stated that since the beginning of March Russian troops have carried by storm 75 miles of the principal chain of the Carpathians, have taken 70,000 prisoners, 30 field guns, and 200 machine guns; fighting in the Carpathians on main line of Russian advance is now concentrated on the narrow section between the villages of Telepoche and Zuella; Russians gain on the heights of Telepotch; artillery duels continue in Southeast Galicia.
April 20—Russians repulse vigorous German attack east of Telepotch and Polen; severe fighting for the height near Oravozil is in progress, the Russians reoccupying it by a desperate assault after losing it earlier in the day; 600,000 Austro-German troops are now engaged over an irregular line between the Lupkow and Uzsok Passes.
April 21—Austrians repel, after several days' fighting, a strong Russian attack on the extreme wings of the Austrian forces in the wooded mountains near Laborcza and the Ung Valley; Austrians still hold Uzsok Pass; Russians repulse Austrian attack in Western Galicia near Gorlitz; Russians check an Austrian counter-attack against the heights of Polen; the counter-attack of General Litzinger's Bavarian army against Russian left wing in the Carpathian position has now been definitely halted; nevertheless the Russian advance in the Carpathians has now apparently come to a full stop; Russians reoccupy the hill village of Oravtchik.
April 22—Russians defeat Austrians in bayonet fighting on the Bukowina front; artillery duels are in progress in Russian Poland and Western Galicia; Austrians repulse Russian attacks on both sides of the Uzsok Pass, taking 1,200 prisoners; Russians check attempted Austrian outflanking movements on the central Carpathian front; in Galicia an Austro-German army, defeated by Russians, is falling back.
April 23—Austrians have success in artillery duel in the sector of Nagypolany; Russians gain in the direction of Lutovisk; a strong force of Russian cavalry invades East Prussia near Memel, the seaport at the northern extremity of the province, and is threatening the German left flank; Russians make gains in the region of Telepotch and at Sianka; Austrians repulse several day attacks at points near Uzsok Pass; heavy artillery engagements are being fought in the region of this pass.
April 25—Austro-German troops take by storm Ostry Mountain, in the Orava Valley, in the Carpathians, to the south of Koziouwa; the mountain is 3,500 feet high, with precipitous sides, and the Russians believed their fortifications had made it impregnable; this victory gives the Austrians command of the Orava Valley and allows them to advance their lines east of Uzsok Pass eleven miles into Galician territory; Russian artillery repulses a German attack between Kalwaya and Ludwinow in Prussian Poland; heavy fighting continues in the Carpathians in the Uzsok Pass region, the Austrians having brought up fresh units of heavy artillery.
April 26—Russian counter-attacks on the height of Ostry are beaten off; Austrians capture twenty-six Russian trenches; Austrians gain ground south of Koziouwa; artillery duel is being fought on the Dniester in Bukowina.
April 27—Russians have begun another strong offensive around the heights of Uzsok Pass; Austro-German casualties there in two days are estimated by Russians at 20,000; Russians repel Austrian attacks on the heights to the northeast of Oroszepatak; Russians are concentrating at Bojan, Northern Bukowina.
April 28—Heavy fighting continues in the Uzsok Pass region; a battle has been raging for five days in the vicinity of Stryi; Russians repulse Germans at Jednorojetz; Germans take twelve miles of Russian trenches east of Suwalki; Austrians occupy Novoselitsky, on border of Bessarabia, and are advancing into Russian territory.
April 29—Germans begin an offensive along nearly the whole of the East Prussian front, extending from north of the Niemen River to the sector north of the Vistula; Russians are beaten back in an attack in the Carpathians northeast of Loubnia; Russians repulse an attack on the heights of the Opor Valley.
April 30—German cavalry is invading the Russian Baltic Provinces; German attempt to advance on the left bank of the Vistula is checked: in the region of Golovetzko the Russians take the offensive, capturing trenches and prisoners; Russians check an attempted offensive north of Nadvorna; Austrians repulse Russian night attacks in the Orawa and Opor Valleys.
CAMPAIGN IN WESTERN EUROPE.
April 1—Artillery duels are in progress in the Woevre district; French occupy the village of Fey-en-Haye to the west of the Forest of Le Pretre; outpost engagements take place near Luneville.
April 2—Heavy artillery fighting is on between the Meuse and the Moselle; night infantry fighting takes place in the Forest of Le Pretre.
April 3—Germans repulse French in Forest of Le Pretre; Germans repulse French attack on heights west of Muelhausen; French make progress with mining operations southwest of Peronne; French check a German attempt to debouch near Lassigny; French repulse attacks in Upper Alsace.
April 4—Germans take from the Belgians the village of Drei Grachten on the west side of the Yser, this being the first time the Germans have gained a foothold on the west bank for weeks; French make progress in the Woevre district; French take village of Regnieville, west of Fey-en-Haye; Germans repulse French charges in Forest of Le Pretre.
April 5—French capture three successive lines of trenches at the Forest of Ailly, near St. Mihiel; Germans repulse Belgians near Drei Grachten; Germans repulse French attempt to advance in the Argonne Forest and Germans gain ground in the Forest of Le Pretre; French are advancing in Champagne; French gain ground in the Hurlus district and beyond the Camp de Chalons, capturing some of the Germans' prepared positions; bombardment of Rheims is being continued night and day, and it is reported that one-third of the houses have been destroyed and another one-third damaged.
April 6—French are conducting a sustained offensive between the Meuse and Moselle in an effort to dislodge Germans from St. Mihiel; French gain trenches in the Wood of Ailly; French make progress near Maizeray and in the Forest of Le Pretre; strong French attacks at points east of Verdun are repulsed, but French occupy village of Gussainville.
April 7—French, continuing extensive operations, make gains in the Woevre district and southward between St. Mihiel and Pont-a-Mousson; east of Verdun the French take two lines of trenches, and repulse German counter-attacks; Germans report that French offensive, as a whole, is thus far a failure.
April 8—French official report states that since April 4 the French offensive between the Meuse and the Moselle has resulted in important gains on the heights of the Orne, on the heights of the Meuse at Les Eparges, in the Ailly Wood, and in the Southern Woevre between the Forest of Mortmare and the Forest of Le Pretre, the Germans losing heavily; the German report is at variance with French claims and states that the French have failed; Belgians report that the western side of the Yser Canal, in the direction of Drei Grachten, is completely free of Germans.
April 9—Desperate fighting continues on the heights of the Meuse and along the St. Mihiel-Pont-a-Mousson front; French announce complete occupation of Les Eparges, one of their chief objectives; French say Germans were repulsed fifteen times in the Forest of Mortmare; Berlin report is at sharp variance with the French, stating that all French attacks in the Meuse region have been repulsed with heavy loss; Germans make gains in Champagne; Germans retake Drei Grachten from Belgians.
April 10—French extend their gains in the Woevre; French push forward on St. Mihiel-Pont-a-Mousson front in attempt to cut German communications; French hold Les Eparges firmly, where, according to the official French report, the Germans have lost 30,000 men in two months; Germans repulse French between the Orne and the heights of the Meuse, and in the Forest of Le Pretre; French attacks on the village of Bezange la Grande fail.
April 11—French state that they maintain their gains of previous days in the St. Mihiel region, though Germans recapture some of their own lost trenches in Mortmare Wood; French repulse attacks in the Forest of Le Pretre, though the Germans capture some machine guns; a strong French attack on German positions north of Combres results in failure; German main army headquarters denies that the recent French attacks in the St. Mihiel region have been successful; Germans take three villages from the Belgians; Germans are vigorously attacking positions recently taken from them by the French on Hartmanns-Weilerkopf; furious German attacks are made near Albert, being a continuation of an attack begun yesterday; Germans blow up some French trenches by mines; heavy German losses, due to the pounding of six miles of French artillery, occur in an infantry advance.
April 12—Lively fighting in the Woevre district; Germans attack Les Eparges, but are repulsed; French make gains at Courie; Germans have successes in close-quarter fighting in the Forests of Ailly and Le Pretre; German sappers throw letters into British trenches saying they are tired of fighting and expressing hopes for peace.
April 13—French make slight gains east of Berry-au-Bac; Germans repulse French attacks at several points; Germans gain ground in the Forest of Le Pretre; Germans are moving up reinforcements in the region of Thionville and Metz.
April 14—French penetrate the German line at Marcheville, but are driven out by counter-attacks; French extend their front in the Forest of Ailly, and make progress in the Forest of Mortmare; French artillery checks a German attack at Les Eparges; activity is renewed at Berry-au-Bac; Germans are strengthening the forts at Istein, on the Rhine.
April 15—The whole spur northeast of Notre Dame de Lorette has been carried by the French with the bayonet; French gain at Bagatelle in the Argonne; French repulse German counter-attacks at Les Eparges; Germans repulse French attacks at Marcheville, at the Forest of Le Pretre, and elsewhere.
April 16—French repulse German attacks north of Arras and in the St. Mihiel region.
April 17—French make progress in the Vosges on both sides of the Fecht River; in Champagne, northeast of Perthes, the Germans explode mines under French trenches; Germans repulse French near Flirey; French repulse Germans at Notre Dame de Lorette; in the Valley of the Aisne French heavy artillery bombards the caves of Pasly, used as German shelters.
April 18—Germans repulse British attack in the hills southeast of Ypres; Germans capture an advanced French position in the Vosges southwest of Stossweier; French have successes in the Valley of the Aisne, at the Bois de St. Mord, and in Champagne, to the northwest of Perthes; French make progress in region of Schnepfen-Riethkopf in Alsace.
April 19—British line south of Ypres has been pushed forward three miles after much hard fighting; British take Hill 60, an important strategic point, lying two miles south of Zillebeke; German counter-attacks are repulsed; British attacks are repulsed between Ypres and Comines; French make gains along the Fecht River, and capture a division of mountain artillery; French gain the summit of Burgkorpfeld, and are advancing on the north bank of the Fecht; French repulse counter-attacks at Les Eparges; Germans repulse French attacks at Combres.
April 20—Heavy artillery fighting in Champagne and the Argonne; French infantry attack fails north of Four-de-Paris; French make slight progress in the Forest of Mortmare; Germans storm and reoccupy the village of Embermenil, west of Avrecourt.
April 21—Violent German counter-attacks are being made on Hill 60, but all have been repulsed, "with great loss to the enemy," according to the British; Germans capture a French battery near Rheims; French repulse German attacks at several points between the Meuse and the Moselle; French repulse attack in Alsace east of Hartmanns-Weilerkopf; Germans repulse French attack north of Four-de-Paris; Germans repulse French attack extending over a considerable front at Flirey; German gain in the Forest of Le Pretre.