3447 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.
individuals to perpetrate many cruel acts
upon their own responsibility. Furthermore, some of the worst crimes were undoubtedly committed by men who had
drunk to excess of looted liquors. The
evidence revealed by captured diaries is
overwhelming that wine cellars were ransacked whenever found, and that the troops
reveled in an excess of such refreshment.
One soldier confided to his diary that of
red wine "there is so much here that one
can literally swim in it."
The acts committed by authority likewise took a wide range. They included
the burning of villages and towns, the
destruction of other property, pillage,
the use of civilians, including women and
children, as shields against the bullets of
their countrymen, and wholesale executions
of the civil population.
The real facts regarding the "German
terror in Belgium" were long a matter
of controversy in America and some other
neutral countries. The Germans issued
lying statements, and bribed or misled
some neutral newspaper correspondents
into issuing statements that no outrages
had taken place. But the truth could
not be concealed forever, and the world
now knows that German behavior in that
unhappy country would have disgraced
savages. Yet all the while Germans were
boasting of the superiority of their Kultur.
Prussian troops had never been distinguished for gentleness. Even in repressing the Revolutionists of 1848, who
were men of their own race, they were
guilty of many atrocities, including the
massacring of civilians, mistreatment of
women, and the bayoneting of babies.
When German troops were about to embark for China, in 1900, to fight the Boxers,
the Kaiser himself had addressed them
and had said:
"As soon as you come to blows with
the enemy he will be beaten. No mercy
will be shown! No prisoners will be taken!
As the Huns, under King Attila, made a
name for themselves, which is still mighty
in traditions and legends today, may
the name of Germany be so fixed in China
by your deeds that no Chinese will ever
again dare even to look at a German
askance. . . .Open the way for Kultur once
It was this speech which now led to
the Germans being called "Huns."
The German officers were provided in
advance with blank forms to be used in
issuing proclamations to terrorize the
people. Furthermore, officers and men
were supplied with phrase books containing alternate translations in German
and French of sentences most likely to
be useful. The very first sentence in the
book was: "Hands up!" Among others
were: "Carry out all the furniture."
I am thirsty. Bring me some beer, gin,
rum." "You have to supply a barrel of
wine and a keg of beer." "If you lie to
me, I will have you shot immediately."
"Lead me to the wealthiest inhabitants
of this village. I have orders to requisition several barrels of wine." "Show
us the way to -. If you lead us astray,
you will be shot."
All told, many hundreds of Belgians
were executed during the month following
the invasion of the country. The Germans
claimed that these deeds were done by
way of reprisal for unlawful acts of war
committed by the inhabitants, and in
some cases this was probably true. But
in most cases the retaliation was carried
out in a way that was particularly shocking to a world which has come to accept
the view that the innocent must not be
punished for the guilty. Even in those
cases where civilians committed acts of
war against the invaders it was, of course,
frequently impossible to ascertain exactly
who had done the firing. Often such persons escaped scot free. The German
procedure in such cases was to collect a
number of men, preferably men of importance, stand them up in line, and shoot
The Hague Conventions of 1907 expressly recognized the right of a people,
when suddenly assailed, to conduct an
unorganized warfare against the invader.
But the Germans in their treatment of
the Belgians refused to recognize this
right and treated the unorganized