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Kelly Miller's History of the World War for Human Rights By Kelly Miller Characters: 42579

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

Germany's Barbarity-The Devastation of Belgium-Human Fiends-Firebrand and Torch-Rape and Pillage-The Sacking of Louvain-Wanton Destruction-Official Proof.

The conduct of Germany in ignoring international treaties and invading Belgium first aroused the antagonism of the United States and the rest of the civilized world, and furnished the primary glimpse of how Imperialism made light of human rights. What the Kaiser and his arrogant followers did is fully set forth in the report which a special envoy, appointed by King Albert of Belgium, laid before President Wilson on September 16, 1914.

The mission consisted of Henry Carton de Wiart, Minister of Justice; Messrs. de Sadeleer, Hymans and Vandervelde, Ministers of State, and Count Louis de Lichtervelde, serving as secretary of the mission. On being received by President Wilson, Mr. de Wiart, for the mission, outlined for the world and for America, the situation in part as follows:

"His Majesty, the King of the Belgians, has charged us with a special mission to the President of the United States. Let me say how much we feel ourselves honored to have been called upon to express the sentiments of our King and of our whole nation to the illustrious statesman whom the American people have called to the highest dignity of the commonwealth.

"Ever since her independence was first established, Belgium has been declared neutral in perpetuity. This neutrality, guaranteed by the Powers, has recently been violated by one of them. Had we consented to abandon our neutrality for the benefit of one of the belligerents, we would have betrayed our obligations toward the others. And it was the sense of our international obligations as well as that of our dignity and honor that has driven us to resistance.

"The consequences suffered by the Belgian nation were not confined purely to the harm occasioned by the forced march of the invading army. This army not only seized a great portion of our territory, but it committed incredible acts of violence, the nature of which is contrary to the laws of nations.

"Peaceful inhabitants were massacred, defenseless women and children were outraged; open and undefended towns were destroyed; historical and religious monuments were reduced to dust and the famous library of the University of Louvain was given to the flames.

"Our government has appointed a Judicial Commission to make an official investigation, so as to thoroughly and impartially examine the facts and to determine the responsibility thereof, and I will have the honor, Excellency, to hand over to you the proceedings of the inquiry.


"In this frightful holocaust which is sweeping over Europe, the United States has adopted a neutral attitude.

"And it is for this reason that your country, standing apart from either one of the belligerents, is in the best position to judge, without bias or partiality, the conditions under which the war is being waged.

"It is at the request, even at the initiative of the United States, that all civilized nations have formulated and adopted at the Hague a law regulating the laws and usages of war.

"We refuse to believe that war has abolished the family of civilized powers, or the regulation to which they have freely consented.

"The American people has always displayed its respect for justice, its search for progress and an instinctive attachment for the laws of humanity. Therefore, it has won a moral influence which is recognized by the entire world. It is for this reason that Belgium, bound as she is to you by ties of commerce and increasing friendship, turns to the American people at this time to let you know the real truth of the present situation. Resolved to continue unflinching defence of its sovereignty and independence, it deems it a duty to bring to the attention of the civilized world the innumerable grave breaches of rights of mankind, of which she has been a victim.

"At the very moment we were leaving Belgium, the King recalled to us his trip to the United States and the vivid and strong impression your powerful and virile civilization left upon his mind. Our faith in your fairness, our confidence in your justice, in your spirit of generosity and sympathy, all these have dictated our present mission."


In the report handed to President Wilson, the preface sets forth that the committee appointed to investigate the conduct of the German invaders, and all of the surrounding circumstances, consisted of Messrs. Cattier, professor at the Brussels University; Nys, counselor of the Brussels Court of Appeals; Verhaegen, counselor of the Brussels Court of Appeals; Wodon, professor at the Brussels University; Secretary, Mr. Gillard, Director of the Department of Justice. Afterwards, when the invasion made it necessary to transfer the seat of the government from Brussels to Antwerp, a sub-committee was appointed there, consisting of Mr. Cooreman, Minister of State; Members, Count Goblet d'Aviella, Minister of State, Vice President of the Senate; Messrs. Ryckmans, Senator; Strauss, Alderman of the City of Antwerp; Van Cutsem, Honorary President of the Law Court of Antwerp. Secretaries, Chevalier Ernst de Bunswyck, Chief Secretary of the Belgian Minister of Justice; Mr. Orts, Counselor of the Legation.

In brief the report submits first, that in violation of the perpetual treaty of June 26, 1831, Germany notified Belgium that France was about to march upon Germany, and that Germany proposed to frustrate such a move by sending its soldiers through Belgium; that the German government had no intention of making war against Belgium, and that if Belgium made no opposition it would evacuate Belgium after hostilities ceased, and during the period the German forces were in the country, would buy everything needed for its army. Belgium replied that it had assurance from France that France had no intention of invading Belgium, and that if France attempted to pass through Belgium would oppose such an act with force. It informed the German Imperial Government that it would similarly oppose any move on the part of Germany to pass through.

Nevertheless Germany proceeded at once through Belgium. Quoting articles from the Hague treaty, the commission's report reads:


"In the days of barbarism, the population of a territory occupied by the enemy was deprived of all judicial capacity. At that time," as Ghering writes ironically, "'the enemy was absolutely deprived of rights; everything he owned belonged to the gallant warrior who had wrenched it away from him. One had merely to lose it.'

"In our days the rules of warfare clearly establish the difference between the property of the government of the territory occupied and the property of individuals. While the present doctrine allows the conqueror to seize, in a general way, everything in the way of movable property belonging to the State, it obliges him, on the other hand, to respect the property of individuals, corporations and public provincial administrations.

"The Hague Convention, signed October 18, 1897, by all the civilized States, among others by Germany, contains the following stipulations regarding laws and customs of warfare on land:

"'Art. 46. The honor and right of the family, the life of the individual and private property, as well as religious convictions and the exercise of worship, must be respected. Private property cannot be confiscated.

"'Art. 47. Pillaging is formally prohibited.

"'Art. 53. When occupying territory, the army can only seize cash as well as funds and securities belonging entirely to the State; also depots of arms, ways and means of transportation, warehouses and provisions, and in a general way all movable property belonging to the State and liable to be used for warlike operations.

"'Art. 56. Property of municipalities, property of establishments consecrated to worship, to charity and instruction; to art and science, even though belonging to the State, will be treated as private property.'

"In defiance of these conventional rules, voluntarily and solemnly accepted by Germany, she has committed, from the beginning of her invasion of Belgian soil, numerous attacks upon private property."


At Hasselt, the report shows that on August 12, 1914, the Germans confiscated the funds of the branch of the National Bank, which amounted to 2,075,000 francs. At Liege, on entering the city, they forcibly seized the funds of a branch of the same bank, amounting to 4,000,000 francs. Moreover, upon finding at that branch bundles of bank notes of 5-franc denomination, representing an amount of 400,000 francs, and which were not yet signed, they forced a printer to sign those bank notes by means of a rubber stamp, which they had also seized, and afterwards put the notes in circulation. The bank, it is explained, was a shareholders' corporation, the capital having been obtained by subscription from private parties and was in no wise an institution of the State.

The enormity of this offence is made apparent by the fact that in the war of 1870, when the Prussians entered Rheims in the Franco-Prussian war, and they wanted to confiscate the funds of the branch of the National Bank of France, Crown Prince Frederick ordered that funds which were found at the bank could not be seized so long as they were not used for the maintenance of the French army, it having been contended by directors of the institution that the bank was not a State, but a private bank. But more than this Germany levied supplies from every Belgian city and tried to levy upon the city of Brussels the sum of 50,000,000 francs and the province of Brabant 450,000,000 francs.


Categorically, the violation and disregard of every phase of the Hague treaty is described. In spite of the strict provision that undefended cities, villages and dwellings are not to be bombarded, and where bombardment is necessary the commanding officer of the attacking party must warn the authorities that such bombardment is to take place, German aeroplanes and dirigibles bombarded relentlessly from the beginning. In Antwerp a Zeppelin threw explosive bombs at the Royal Palace, but the missiles went astray, demolishing private residences, killing eight persons and injuring many. Servants were killed in their beds in one private house when the bombs tore away the top of the building.

"In the Place du Poids Public a bomb fell on the pavement. Fragments scattered all over the place. Not a house facing the square was untouched. A policeman was cut to pieces, all that was found of him being a leg covered with a few rags of his uniform. Five other persons who opened their windows were blown to atoms. The bed-rooms of two houses facing one another were visited. In the first there were three corpses. Blood was scattered all over the place. The floor was covered with fragments of windows and with blood-soaked underwear. On the ceiling and walls, parts of intestines and brains were visible. In the other house two old persons had been killed while looking down upon the street. Later Antwerp was bombarded, as was Heyst-op-den-Berg and the city of Malines, which was undefended, and where there was not a Belgian soldier. At Malines the batteries fired shell after shell in the direction of the Cathedral of Saint Rombault, a beautiful edifice, which was hit many times and badly damaged, though there was no military reason for the assault as the town was practically abandoned."

The commission turned over to President Wilson explosive bullets used by the Germans at Werchter, and submitted briefs from physicians who treated wounds made by the explosive bullets.


A few details of the atrocities are outlined as follows:

"German cavalry, occupying the village of Linsmeau, were attacked by some Belgian infantry and two Gendarmes. A German officer was killed by our troops during the fight, and subsequently buried at the request of the Belgian officer in command. None of the civilian population took part in the fight. Nevertheless, the village was invaded at dusk on August 10 by a strong force of German cavalry, artillery and machine guns. In spite of the assurance given by the Burgomaster that none of the peasants had taken part in the previous fighting two farms and six outlying houses were destroyed by gunfire and burned. All the male population were compelled to come forward and hand over what they possessed. No recently discharged firearms were found, but the invaders divided the peasants into three groups. Those in one group were bound and eleven of them placed in a ditch, whither they were afterward found dead, their skulls fractured by the butts of German rifles.

"During the night of August 10, German cavalry entered Velm in great numbers; the inhabitants were asleep. The Germans, without provocation, fired upon Mr. Deglimme-Gever's house, broke into it, destroyed furniture, looted money, burned barns, hay, corn stacks, farm implements, six oxen, and the contents of the farmyard. They carried off Mme. Deglimme half-naked, to a place two miles away. She was then let go and was fired upon as she fled, without being hit. Her husband was carried away in another direction."

Farmer Jeff Dierckx, of Neerhespen, bears witness to the following acts of cruelty committed by German cavalry at Orsmael Neerhespen, on August 10, 11 and 12:


"An old man of the latter village had his arm sliced in three longitudinal cuts; he was then hanged head downward and burned alive. Young girls have been raped and little children outraged at Orsmael, where several inhabitants suffered mutilations too horrible to describe. A Belgian soldier belonging to a battalion of cyclist carbineers who had been wounded and made prisoner was hanged, while another who was tending his comrade was bound to a telegraph pole and shot."

The sacking of Louvain, which was one of the vile acts of the Germans during the early days of the war, is described briefly in the report of the commission as follows:

"The Germans entered Louvain on Wednesday, August 19, after having set fire to the towns through which they passed.

"From the moment of their having entered the city of Louvain, the Germans requisitioned lodgings and victuals for their troops. They entered every private bank of the city and took over the bank funds. German soldiers broke the doors of houses abandoned by their inhabitants, pillaged them and indulged in orgies.

"The German authorities took hostages; the mayor of the city, Senator Vander Kelen, the Vice Rector of the Catholic University, the Dean of the City; magistrates and aldermen were also detained. All arms down to fencing foils had been handed over to the town administration and deposited by the said authorities in the Church of St. Peter.

"In the neighboring village, Corbeck-Loo, a young matron, 22 years old, whose husband was in the army, was surprised on Wednesday, August 19, with several of her relatives, by a band of German soldiers. The persons who accompanied her were locked in an abandoned house, while she was taken into another house, where she was successively violated by five soldiers.


"In the same village, on Thursday, August 20, German soldiers were searching a house where a young girl of 16 lived with her parents. They carried her into an abandoned house and, while some of them kept the father and mother off, others went into the house, the cellar of which was open, and forced the young woman to drink. Afterwards they carried her out on the lawn in front of the house and violated her successively. She continued to resist and they pierced her breast with bayonets. Having been abandoned by the soldiers after their abominable attacks, the girl was carried off by her parents, and the following day, owing to the gravity of her condition, she was administered the last rites of the church by the priest of the parish and carried to the hospital at Louvain."

Upon entering villages occupied by the Germans after they were driven back to Louvain, the report says the Belgian soldiers found that the German soldiers had sacked, ravaged and set fire to the villages everywhere, taking with them and driving before them all the male inhabitants. "Upon entering Hofstade, the Belgian soldiers found the corpse of an old woman who had been killed by bayonet thrusts; she still held in her hand the needle with which she was sewing when attacked; one mother and her son, aged about 15 years, lay there pierced with bayonet wounds; one man was found hung.

"In Sempst, a neighboring village, were found corpses of two men partially burned. One of them was found with legs cut off to the knees; the other was minus his arms and legs. A workman had been pierced with bayonets, afterward while he was still living the Germans soaked him with petroleum and locked him in a house which they set on fire. An old man and his son had been killed by sabre cuts; a cyclist had been killed by bullets; a woman coming out of her house had been stricken down in the same manner."


Concerning the sacking of Louvain itself, the report says that one detachment of the Germans met another detachment while in full flight from the Belgian soldiers, and attacked one another. This was the basis for the pretext that they had been attacked by the citizenry of Louvain and was responsible for the bombardment of the city. The bombarding lasted until 10 o'clock at night, and afterward the German soldiers set fire to the city.

"The houses which had not taken fire were entered by German soldiers, who were throwing fire grenades, some of which seem to have been provided for the occasion. The largest part of the city of Louvain, especially the quarters of 'Ville Haute,' comprising the modern houses, the Cathedral of St. Peter, the University Halls, with the whole library of the University with its manuscripts, its collections, the largest part of the scientific institutions and the town theatre were at the moment being consumed by flames.

"The commission deems it necessary, in the midst of these horrors, to insist on the crime of lese-humanity which the deliberate annihilation of an academic library-a library which was one of the treasures of our time-constitutes.

"Numerous corpses of civilians covered the streets and squares. On the routes from Louvain to Tirlemont alone one witness testifies to having seen more than fifty of them. On the threshold of houses were found burnt corpses of people, who, surprised in their cellars by the fire, had tried to escape and fell into the heap of live embers. The suburbs of Louvain were given up to the same fate. It can be said that the whole region between Malines and Louvain and most of the suburbs of Louvain have been devastated and destroyed.


"A group of 75 persons, among whom were several notables of the city, such as Father Coloboet and a Spanish priest, and also an American priest, were conducted, during the morning of Wednesday, August 26, to the square in front of the station. The men were brutally separated from their wives and children, after having received the most abominable treatment after repeated threats of being shot, and were driven in front of the German troops as far as the village of Campenhout. They were locked, during the night, in the church. The following day, at 4 o'clock, a German officer came to tell them that they might all confess themselves and that they would be shot half an hour later. When, finally, they were released, the report continues, they were recaptured by another German brigade and compelled to march to Malines, where they were finally liberated.

"An eye witness testified that he met nothing except burned villages, crazed peasants, lifting to each comer their arms, as mark of submission. From each house was hanging a white flag, even from those that had been set on fire, and rags of them were found hanging from the ruins. The fire began a little above the American College, and the city is entirely destroyed, with the exception of the town hall and the depot. Today the fire continues and the Germans, instead of trying to stop it-seem rather to maintain it by throwing straw into the flames, as I have myself seen behind the Hotel de Ville. The Cathedral and the theatre have been destroyed and fallen in, and also the library. The town resembles an old city in ruins, in the midst of which drunken soldiers are circulating, carrying around bottles of wine and liquor; the officers themselves being installed in arm chairs, sitting around tables and drinking like their own men.

"In the streets dead horses are decaying, horses which are completely inflated, and the smell of the fire and the decaying animals is such that it has followed me for a long time."

And the policy which developed such outrageous conduct on the part of the Kaiser's soldiers in the early days of the war, against which Belgium protested to the world, inspired brutal acts, ruthlessness and cruel

ty at every stage and during every period of the war. Nowhere is there written a single line which tells of the humanitarian acts of the German soldiers. Those who fight against them acknowledge their stoical bravery, the efficiency of the army, the navy and the people as a whole, but there is no reflection of refined instincts in any of the acts of Germany or the Germans.


Of those conditions which existed in Belgium when the German soldiers overran the country, America's own minister to the devastated country, Brand Whitlock, sent a report to the State Department in the beginning of 1917, when President Wilson was protesting against the treatment accorded the helpless people of Belgium by the Germans.

Mr. Whitlock tells how the Germans determined to put the Belgians thrown out of employment to work for them. "In August," says the report, dealing with the treatment of the helpless Belgians, "Von Hindenburg was appointed supreme commander. He is said to have criticised Von Bissing's policy as too mild, and there was a quarrel; Von Bissing went to Berlin to protest, threatened to resign, but did not. He returned, and a German official said that Belgium would now be subjected to a more terrible regime, would learn what war was. The prophecy has been vindicated.

"The deportations began in October in the Etape, at Ghent and at Bruges. The policy spread; the rich industrial districts at Hainaut, the mines and steel works about Charleroi were next attacked, and they seized men in Brabant, even in Brussels, despite some indications and even predictions of the civil authorities that the policy was about to be abandoned.

"As by one of the ironies of life the winter has been more excessively cold than Belgium has ever known it and while many of those who presented themselves were adequately protected against the cold, many of them were without overcoats. The men, shivering from cold and fear, the parting from weeping wives and children, the barrels of brutal Uhlans, all this made the scene a pitiable and distressing one.


"The rage, the terror and despair excited by this measure all over Belgium were beyond anything we had witnessed since the day the Germans poured into Brussels. The delegates of the commission for relief in Belgium, returning to Brussels, told the most distressing stories of the scenes of cruelty and sorrow attending the seizures. And daily, hourly almost, since that time, appalling stories have been related by Belgians coming to the legation. It is impossible for us to verify them, first because it is necessary for us to exercise all possible tact in dealing with the subject at all, and secondly because there is no means of communication between the Occupations Gebiet and the Etappey Gebiet.

"I am constantly in receipt of reports from all over Belgium that tend to bear the stories one constantly hears of brutality and cruelty. A number of men sent back to Mons are said to be in a dying condition, many of them tubercular. At Molines and at Antwerp returned men have died, their friends asserting that they have been victims of neglect and cruelty, of cold, of exposure, of hunger.

"I have had requests from the burgomasters of ten communes asking that permission be obtained to send to the deported men in Germany packages of food similar to those that are being sent to prisoners of war. Thus far the German authorities have refused to permit this except in special instances, and returning Belgians claim that even when such packages are received they are used by the camp authorities only as another means of coercing them to sign the agreements to work.


"By the deportation of Belgians to work in Germany," says Mr. Whitlock's report, "they have dealt a mortal blow to any prospect they may ever have had of being tolerated by the population of Flanders; in tearing away from nearly every humble home in the land a husband and a father or a son and brother; they have lighted a fire of hatred that will never go out; they have brought home to every heart in the land, in a way that will impress its horror indelibly on the memory of three generations, a realization of what German methods mean, not as with the early atrocities in the heat of passion and the first lust of war, but by one of those deeds that make one despair of the future of the human race, a deed coldly planned, studiously matured, and deliberately and systematically executed, a deed so cruel that German soldiers are said to have wept in its execution, and so monstrous that even German officers are now said to be ashamed."

And if these acts were not sufficient to convince the world that Germany "is without the pale" so far as civilized warfare is concerned her conduct in wantonly destroying property in Flanders while in retreat could permit of no other conclusion.

After the violation of Belgium and the destruction of the Lusitania and the adoption of the policy of sinking neutral ships on sight for military advantage, or "necessity," why shouldn't the soldiers pollute wells, kill trees, carry off the girls, smash the household furniture not worth taking away and smear the pictures on the wall, just for revenge or in the sheer lust of destruction?

It makes no difference, so far as the principles of humanity are concerned, whether the German army is in victory or suffering defeat, advancing or retreating. The treatment accorded the evacuated cities of the Somme district was foretold by the treatment of the cities occupied early in the war. Here is the wording of an order posted during the victorious invasion of Belgium:

"Order-To the people of Liege. The population of Andenne, after making a display of peaceful intentions toward our troops, attacked them in the most treacherous manner. With my authority the general commanding these troops has reduced the town to ashes and has had 110 persons shot. I bring this fact to the knowledge of the people of Liege in order that they may know what fate to expect should they adopt a similar attitude.


Liege, Aug. 22, 1914."


And yet this order showed only a cruel extreme of punishment where some punishment was to be expected. It was left for the retreating Germans of 1917 to destroy, without provocation and without purpose, motived by revenge and obsessed by the Nietschean doctrine of "spare not."

Before Bapaume was evacuated it was deliberately converted into a mass of muck. There is no Bapaume now. It is perfectly understandable that the retreating soldiers should destroy their trenches and put up the question, "Tommy, how do you like your new trenches?" But why smear filth over the photograph of three little girls, a family treasure? All around Bapaume the villages were looted and the night the deliverers entered the destroyers made the sky lurid with the fires of towns and hamlets. Some 300 in the evacuated region were burned.

At Nesle, Roye and Ham there was not time enough to destroy everything. The house of a doctor at Nesle, a specially attractive home, was not blown down for strategic purposes, but some soldiers did find time to drive axes through the mahogany panels of the beds and smash the clocks and mirrors. They were angry at being compelled to leave the house.

Villages like Cressy, near Nesle, where a shell never fell in the course of the war, have been completely destroyed.


There is not a habitable house left in Peronne. The sixteenth century church of St. Jean is but a relic. W. Beach Thomas wrote after the retreat that nothing was left that was valuable enough to be worth collection by a penny tinker or a rag-and-bone merchant. Foul what you cannot have, was the motto.

The famous ruins of the Feudal Castle of Coucy, one of the finest relics of architecture of its period, was wantonly blown up by the Germans on retreat. It was built in the thirteenth century by Enguerrand III and passed to the French crown in 1498, and was one of the great historic landmarks of Northern France.

Coucy was one of the noblest relics of the Middle Ages, respected by the most barbarous wars of the past, whose donjon (greatest in all Europe) dates almost from Charlemagne, harmless, time-wrecked, illustrious Coucy!

To give an idea of Coucy's importance, the French, in their first astonishment and sorrow, proposed to make reprisals on Hindenburg, should it take ten years. Of course, they will not; it is not their way.

Coucy is a mountain of blasted stones. Shoun Kelly, American, owned one of the outer towers of the great castle and the story of its ownership is the American antithesis of German ravage. Americans were always faithful tourists to Coucy; but among them, one loved more than all the glorious old ruin and its story which began with Enguerrand, the Sire of Coucy, in the year 1210. This was the late Edmund Kelly, of New York and Paris, international lawyer and for many years counsel of the American Embassy in Paris. He meditated on the motto of old Enguerrand: "I am not king, nor prince, nor duke, nor even count: I am the Sire of Coucy!" In fact, the Sire made a record for standing off local kings.

"He was a good American ahead of his time," said Lawyer Kelly; and he took to reading up the ancient chronicles, how Enguerrand's descendants stood off royalty for some 200 years, until finally bought out by the wealthy Louis of Orleans, and all the later glories of the place. Mazarin dismantled Coucy, but left it standing in its beauty; and Lawyer Kelly discovered it to be a State museum, impossible to be purchased, in these latter days, even by a millionaire. Not being one, he preferred it so, loving Coucy more than ever, the cultured American did the next best thing.


The little town, once so rich, had dwindled since Mazarin. On the castle side stood two massive towers of the inner defense, belonging to the town. Mr. Kelly asked Mayor and department legislature to make a price on the nearest. As soon as he had bought his tower, he used loving care restoring it. He pierced windows through walls 16 feet thick. He built rooms in three stories, furnishing them in massive antique style. The tower roof was his shady terrace, covered with a little grove of century-old trees! From it he dominated Coucy. All its soul of beauty lay beneath his view.

All was systematically blown up, the town, the towers, the castle, by retreating Germans in their rage. Just masses of crumbled stones. The German papers boast that it took 28 tons of high explosives, and any one can see, this hour, the plain of Coucy covered with a white layer of powdered limestone, for miles around.

What for? To clear a battlefield, they say. It is not true. Nothing is cleared. The masses of crumbled stone remained, when they fled their "battlefield."

The donjon was very high. It stood on a kind of bluff or elevation, overlooking the country, and before the days of aeroplanes it might have been used for observation. The donjon walls were 16 yards thick, not feet, but yards! No other tower in Europe had those dimensions. They tell a story about Mazarin. He deemed so strong a place, so near to Paris, might be dangerous to the Crown; so he dismantled Coucy militarily, without destroying its architectural beauty. The donjon worried him in those days when artillery could make no impression on its massive thickness. So Mazarin put 16 barrels of powder inside the tower, and set them off. The tower just converted itself into gun barrel! The powder blew out all the stories and the roof-shot them up like a gun pointed at the sky! But the tower stood, exactly as before.


The masonry was admittedly the heaviest achieved by the Middle Ages. From the donjon extended three great vaulted halls. Massive buildings continued. There was a Gothic chapel, a Tribunal Hall, the Hall of the Nine Peers (whose statues remained), the Hall of the Nine Countesses (whose medallion-portraits were carved on the monumental chimney). There was a Romanesque chapel (relic from Charlemagne, like the original donjon), the separate Fortified Chateau of the Chatelain (the Sire's First Officer), and so on, and so on.

The retreating Germans have not only blown up Coucy, but that other priceless relic, the Tower of the Grand Constable and the entire historic Chateau of Ham, and equally the Castle of Peronne, a jewel of beauty-all in one corner of the Vallois! On the smoking wreck of Peronne, they left a humorous placard:

"Nicht aergen! Tur wundern! Don't be angry, just wonder!" Noyon and Peronne are sacked and ruined. At Chauny 1800 houses out of 2500 were deliberately burned, and at a distance they bombarded the remainder, full of old folks and children whom they had parked there. All the public buildings, churches, hospitals and poorhouse were blown up. Three hundred towns and villages were burning at one time in this small section of the Cradle of France. Hindenburg was at Roisel when they rounded up the populations, went through their pockets for their money (giving "receipts"), took their clothes off their backs (so that all the American relief agencies in Paris were overwhelmed with telegrams of appeal) and burgled all the safes in banks and business houses before setting fire to the town and blowing up the main street!


The German official communique said that it was "all done uniquely according to the technical principles of modern war." At Berlin they caused an American correspondent to cable these words to his papers: "The enemy will find great difficulty to take shelter on a battlefield where everything has been completely razed. We regret the destruction of a beautiful region of France, but it was necessary to transform it into a clear field of battle before we quit it."

They blew up the precious Romanesque Church of Tracy-le-Val (which dates before the Gothic). The church was situated in the midst of the great forest of Laigue; they blew up the church-and left the forest standing! No battlefield was cleared, but they hacked the bark to kill great noble trees by thousands. They made no effort to clear the forest; but weeping old French peasants told how half a German regiment was occupied three days in barking trees to prevent the sap from mounting. The crushed pearl of architecture lies in a dying forest.

At Le Novion, torch in hand, they burned 223 houses; but all the gutted walls are standing.

What technical principles of war command the wholesale destruction of young fruit trees? In 20 orchards, by count, in sweet Leury (hidden at the bottom of a valley) every peach, plum, apricot and pear tree has been assassinated-hacked and standing, when the trunks are thick, and sprawling, severed by one blow of a sharp hatchet, young trees from the thickness of your wrists to your thumb. The French, with loving care, trained peach and pear trees against sunny walls, as if they were grapevines. The slender trunks are cut-and the garden walls left standing.


The soldiers spared neither the orchards nor the single trees that took a generation to grow, and would have borne fruit for generations to come. Reapers and binders and other farming machines were collected and broken to pieces. One might see a measure of advantage that the deliverers would gain from these things if not destroyed, but it is an awful war doctrine that refuses to discriminate between the immediate and the eventual, the direct and the indirect, the important and the negligible advantage that would impoverish posterity to get a dime in cash. No military advantage is sufficient motive for such wanton ravishment. It is military fanaticism.

Ambassador Sharp, after a 100-mile trip through the evacuated territory, declared that never before in the history of the world had there been such a thorough destruction by either a vanquished or victorious army.

One thing alone was left, after the red-brick villages had been turned into heaps and the murdered fruit trees into black fagots, on the hill outside of St. Quentin. This was the log hut and shooting box of the Kaiser's son, Eitel Friederick. Its white-barked beech was unburnt, its glass windows unbroken, its inside adornments unlooted, the tables and chairs of its terrace beer garden remained. All around the works of man and God were destroyed. The contrast made this destroyer's lodge a sort of boast of his destruction.

The shocking ruin to human life in the evacuated region is of even greater moment. The half-starved civilians of Bapaume were forced to make trenches there and later for the defense of Cambrai also. All men and boys strong enough to work were taken along with the retreating forces. Near Peronne some hundreds of old men, women and children were found locked in a barn. One woman pathetically asked of an English officer, "Are you many?" And he was able to answer, "We are two millions now," and see her anxiety turned to relief and joy. Children who had been slowly starving for a year wandered about the ruins of their homes, but soon found reasons for smiling at the soldiers who had rescued them.


These children had had no meat for months and no milk for a year and had almost forgotten the taste of butter. They probably never received a quarter of the rations Americans sent. Girls were compelled to attend the market gardens, and then the Germans took all the produce. The region was desolated and left inhabited by women and children moribund with misery and starvation.

At Noyon, where the Germans had concentrated 10,000 Belgian refugees, they promised to leave the American Relief Committee with sufficient supplies to feed them. But the last patrols completely sacked the American relief storehouses of all eatables and then dynamited the building. And it was from this place that fifty young women, from 18 to 25 years of age, were taken by the officers. Their distracted mothers were told that they were to be used as "officers' servants."

At Ham, when a mother of six children, seeing her husband and two eldest daughters being carried away, remonstrated, she was told that as an alternative she might find their bodies in a canal in the rear of the house.

Nothing could be more significant of the Government's attitude than the incident told by James W. Gerard. The people of a town were imprisoned or fined for their conduct toward a delayed train of Canadian prisoners. When he heard it he thought that at last the Government was going to put a stop to the maltreatment of prisoners. But he learned on investigation that the townsfolk had been punished for giving a little food and drink to the starving and fainting prisoners.

And yet the most singularly brutal phase of this destruction of nature and wealth and art and life is the German defense of it. War is always hell and most of the awful things in this war have had their counterparts in other conflicts, though the Teutonic element has brought some peculiar refinements of cussedness and has given a thoroughness and "pep" and "kick" to the war business.


German writers, instead of making excuses for turning the nation into a war machine for forty years, complain that Germany was not prepared as she should have been and would be better prepared next time. Her professors do not regret that the soldiers at the front are so unrestrained in cruelty, but urge that they are too soft and kind to make effective war. The German correspondents all write enthusiastically of the devastation of the country they are leaving and of the desert created by German genius. Editors speak of the mercy which tempered the necessary hardness towards this once beautiful stretch of country and its inhabitants. The destruction of property which can serve no military purpose is defended on the ground that it is legitimate from a strategic point of view.

This all amounts to saying everything must give way to the considerations of war. It is taking the argument in the fable of the wolf and the lamb as serious philosophy and accepting the position of the wolf. They fail entirely to see the humor of the fable, and hence the fallacy of the wolf's argument.

The greatest hope of civilization, which trembled for a time before the spectre of German barbarity, is that frightfulness cannot endure the long and full test. The great initial advantages are more than offset by new opponents. The gain of the invasion of Belgium was canceled by England coming into the war. The advantage against England of the U-boat campaign was more than canceled by the entrance of the United States in the war.

Irvin Cobb says that the trouble with the Germans is that they are not "good sports and lack a sense of humor. It is impossible to conceive of a group of German officers playing football or baseball or cricket and abiding by the rules of the game. If Barbara Frietchie had said to a Prussian Stonewall Jackson, 'Shoot, if you must, my gray old head,' he'd have done it as a matter of course."

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