"Swine!"So at last the lock of the heavy door screeched, and I was admitted. I noticed that about a score of sisters had gathered behind the gate and were anxiously discussing the "strange occurrence." My meeting with S?ur Eulalie, however, was so cordial that the good nuns lost all anxiety, and I was taken inside accompanied by nearly all the inmates of the convent.It is a lamentable sign that this German, probably well educated, had not taken the slightest trouble to find out the reason for this wholesale wrecking of a town, that the whole affair impressed him so little. "Somebody" had said that those cursed civilians had been shooting, that explained it to his satisfaction, and gave him ample cause for coarse abuse of the wretched people.
"7. Who neglect necessary precautions which ought to be taken on behalf of the army.The attitude of all the soldiers changed immediately; they looked at me with angry eyes, and from time to time I heard hostile remarks. Whenever I did not walk quickly enough or turned a little to the right or the left, my escort pulled me roughly by the arm. All the same I took the case as coolly as possible, fully convinced that the commanding officer would release me after a superficial examination.In this grand old monastery, both inside and out a jewel of architecture, about five hundred people had found shelter. They were lodged in halls, rooms, and kitchens. The fathers gave them everything in the way of food they might require, but they had to do their own cooking. As not one of these people had a home left, which they could call their own, no wonder that they greatly admired the fathers. Often when I strolled about with one of these, one or other of the refugees came to him to press his hand and express gratitude for the hospitality offered.
"A glass of beer, madame."During my first visit I estimated the number of civilian victims at about eighty. This number turned out to be larger, as many during the second fire fled to their cellars, exits of which were however choked up by the collapsing walls. The corpses of numerous suffocated citizens were found in these cellars.And he went on to say that he desired especially, most fervently the return of the fled population.
The German officers at the commander's office were elated in consequence of the reports received, and also told me that Antwerp would not be able to hold out for more than two days. They also tried to explain this to the people in the hall who were waiting for their passports. I followed the conversation, but not very closely, and one of the officers explained on a map what he asserted. Willy-nilly, because they had to get their passports, the waiting people listened to him. Suddenly I heard him say: "And after all we might have surrounded Antwerp also on the north by crossing Netherland territory, as we did when we invaded Belgium."A good many lads had been able to escape from Bilsen and the environs to Antwerp; in the aggregate, 500 from this district, and more went every day. They were driven to the Belgian army by all they had seen and experienced. Often one heard women and girls say: "Oh, if I were a man, if I were a boy, I should be in the army to-morrow!"They have not been able to maintain that story for very long; the truth overtook the lie.
I saw that I must act, and jumped on a chair.During the next days I found a hospitable domicile at the convent of the Sacred Heart on the Namur Canal ("Naamsche Vest"). It is a seminary for missionaries, and when I went to them for the first136 time I had a letter from their head, the "provincial" in The Netherlands, who sent the order that all the theological students should be transferred to The Netherlands as quickly as possible. They received me with the greatest kindness, and ever since I enjoyed their hospitality."What is happening here is frightful; those men are also human beings, who had to do their duty as much as you!"
As even high officers told me those things, not without some emotion, I began to believe them and wrote something about them to my paper. But what was made clear to me at a later visit! That there was not a word of truth in the whole story of that poisoning; that on that day and in that square no shooting had taken place; that a couple of days before the population had been ordered to leave their houses within two hours without any reason being given; and afterwards several houses had simply been burned down.Near Lanaeken I met suddenly a Belgian soldier, who did not trouble me after I had shown him my papers. I was quite astonished to find that man there all by himself, whilst so many Germans were only a few miles away. When I asked whether he knew this, he answered:"2. Kleyer, burgomaster of Li猫ge.
Well, I could not keep calm when I heard such things read by a father from a letter of his only son on the battle-field; that is impossible.At Eerneghem we were not only stopped, but also sent back outright. It was considered extremely impudent on our side that we had dared to push246 on so far, because we were in the fighting-line. Even the permit given by the commander of Thourout was of no avail.The history of the destruction of Vis茅 affords also interesting support to my opinion, as previously expressed, that the violent actions of the Germans took place according to a fully thought-out design.
They drank deep, in long draughts, with trembling lips, and beseeched us not to leave them again: "Oh, gentlemen, then we shall die!" We swore that we should come back, and that later on carriages would arrive from Louvain to take them to some convent or hospital; and, trusting us, they resigned themselves in the end.CHAPTER XA few days later I had to go to Canne, a Belgian hamlet near the frontier, south of Maastricht. In the evening of August 18th an atrociously barbarous crime had been committed there, a cool-blooded murder. At Canne live some good, kind Flemings, who would not hurt a fly. The kind-hearted burgomaster had, moreover, tried for days to comfort his fellow-citizens, and was for ever saying:
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The beastly scenes which I witnessed in the glaring, scorching heat benumbed me, and I looked on vacantly for a long time. At last I went back and called at St. Hadelin College, the Head of which I had visited already once or twice. The building was still undamaged.25We entered another caf茅, and once more I shouted51 for the inhabitants at the top of my voice. At last I heard a feeble sound somewhere in the hall, which I entered, but as I saw no one there, I called out once more. Then I heard distinctly, and knew whence the answer came. I opened a door, behind which stairs led to the cellar, and from there I was at last able to speak to some of the Herstal people. I heard that all of them stayed in their cellars for fear of the bombardment.
The foregoing record of my experiences in Louvain will make it sufficiently clear to the unprejudiced reader that the destruction and wholesale murders were nothing but wanton crimes committed by the German troops stationed there, crimes which it is impossible to justify on any ground.Back at Bruges we attended in the market the concert given by a German military band near the statues of Breydel and de Koninck. At the commander's office I witnessed a remarkable incident. A German post-official and a soldier had just brought in a decently dressed gentleman. The postman began to relate that he was taking away the telephone instrument at that gentleman's house in order to fix it up at the commander's office, and that the gentleman had said: "Why do you steal that instrument?" As the postman said this the commander jumped up in a fury, and called out:Need I say that I did all I could to make the woman a little more reasonable, and make her understand that it would not do to let a child of ten walk by itself from Li猫ge to Maastricht, and least of all in these dire times. But I could not make her see this, and this instance proves all the more, perhaps, how upset the inhabitants of Li猫ge were that morning; they were nearly out of their senses for fear.详情
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