Before I witnessed this terrible event at Landen some Germans in the train had already told me that they simply killed the British whom they made prisoners. Others assured me that such a thing did not happen in their division, but one asserted that by his company alone already twenty-six had been killed. I did not believe them then, and thought that they were better than they made themselves out, but after having witnessed that scene at Landen ...!We could not keep to the main road all the time, for it was forbidden by proclamation to go farther than nine miles and a half from the town, and we should have been stopped without fail.The unhappy man asserted in a loud voice that183 he was innocent, but got the answer that he would have to prove that later on. But he never had a chance of doing that. Arriving at the market-place, he and three others were simply placed against the wall and shot. He could not even have spiritual assistance.
The road was quite deserted, for the people, who live in great fear, do not venture out.Sometimes I felt as if I were dreaming and wanted to call myself back from this nightmare to another, better, and real world. And I thought constantly of the man who, by one word, had given the order for these murders, this arson; the man who severed husbands and fathers, wives and mothers, and children, who caused so many innocent people to be shot, who destroyed the results of many, many years of strict economy and strenuous industry.Early next morning I walked through the streets of Li猫ge, dull and depressed, deploring the fact that such clumsy, heavy iron monsters had been able to crush this stout defence and such men. As I reached the Place du March茅, there arrived three hundred disarmed Belgian warriors, escorted by a strong German force. They stopped in the square, and soon hundreds of the people of Li猫ge crowded around them. They were the defenders of Fort Pontisse.
"Lies, gossip."At the Caf茅 Quatre Bras, near Tervueren, the innkeeper told me that the Germans had asked the Netherland Government for permission to place a 42 cm. on Netherland territory in order to be able to shell Antwerp also from that side, but that the Netherland Government had refused. I tried as hard as possible to explain to the man that all stories of such requests were mere gossip. When more and more people entered the caf茅 I withdrew into a corner. They were all very excited, and some of them had drunk more than was good for them. They related with violent gesticulations that the Allies had surrounded Brussels and might be expected to enter the town at any moment, that all was over with the Germans, and so on. Shouts of "Vive la Belgique!" and "Vive notre roi!" sounded until suddenly I drew their attention. They looked me up and down critically, and one of them asked:Just outside Tongres I met a fleet of Red Cross cars loaded with wounded. Cavalry escorted them. I was stopped and ordered to go back, as they expected the Belgians to attack Tongres.
ON THE BATTLE-FIELDS"There were other murders on that same 23rd of August.
I think that my answer left nothing to be desired for plainness, and Germany cannot have derived much pleasure from its official contradiction. Moreover, the editor of De Tijd had also made inquiries from the little girl whom I escorted from Louvain on the day of the occurrence at Landen, and although I admit at once that not too great a value can be attached to the evidence of a girl of nine, I insert here what the editor wrote about that interview:鈥擜s we crossed the bridge, I asked my escort why these houses were set on fire. I heard then, for the first time, that "they had been shooting," and they told me of cowardly civilians, who shot from the windows at unsuspicious soldiers, or24 stabbed them treacherously. But of course they had experienced nothing of the kind; it had happened to troops who were now moving ahead. They had, however, taken part in the revenge, and told of it with glittering eyes: how they fired the houses of francs-tireurs and then shot the people who, nearly stifled, appeared at the windows; how in "holy" anger, in order to avenge their comrades, they subsequently entered the houses and destroyed everything. I did not answer, did not know what to think of it, but shuddered, because it was so gruesome."We have in vain visited our municipal representatives. The last of them, Alderman Schmidt, who was prevented134 from fulfilling his office, surrendered to us the municipal power on August 30th.
"Near Maastricht. You know where Maastricht is?"The road itself had prepared me already in some degree for the horrors I should find there. All the villages through which I passed, excepting Tongres and the townlets of St. Trond, Borgloon, and Tirlemont, were for the greater part burned down or shelled into ruins. The German troops, who had been stoutly resisted during their march through St. Trond and Tirlemont, had attacked in a great rage the civilian population. They set the houses on fire and aimed their rifles at the terror-stricken civilians who fled from them. The men were nearly all killed, but women and children were shot as well."I don't know yet. The things I see ... and ... of course that cannot do harm to the German army."
In Devant-le-Pont, a hamlet opposite Vis茅, the doors of all the houses stood open, as a sign that the28 inhabitants did not propose to offer any resistance to the Germans. After much shouting the landlady of a caf茅 appeared, distressingly nervous, but doing her utmost to look unconcerned.Between Thienen and Louvain I met endless trains of refugees, exactly like those I had seen already near Vis茅, Li猫ge, and other places. These also carried their wretched bundles, and children and young people did their utmost to encourage and support their elders on their arduous path. All these people saluted me in a cringing, timid manner, nodding smilingly and taking off their caps already from afar.Professor Noyons took me all over the hospital, and if I should describe all I saw and heard there, that story alone would fill volumes. He took me, for example, to a boy of eight years old, whose shoulder was shattered by rifle-shots. His father and140 mother, four little brothers and a sister, had been murdered. The boy himself was saved because they thought that he was dead, whereas he was only unconscious. When I asked for his parents, brothers and sister, he put up his one hand and, counting by his little fingers, he mentioned their names.
Of a heavy heart, however, there was not a trace. In the previous chapter I described how beastly they behaved during the destruction of Vis茅; how the soldiers drank immoderate quantities of alcohol, and then jeered at the wretched refugees; how they indulged in unmitigated vandalism, and wrecked by hand things of which they knew that by and by would be destroyed by fire.The streets offered the same aspect as those at Vis茅. From each house floated the pitiful little white flag; the people sat together on their "stoeps," for they did not venture out in the streets. Everywhere I was again saluted in the same cringingly polite manner, and eyed with suspicion.Although I had been commanded to return "at once" to Maastricht, I succeeded in having a chat here and there with the inhabitants of Riemst. I had visited the village about eight days ago, but what a change! Then the people assured me that "die Duutschen" were not so bad after all, that they were compelled to do their duty, and were kind to the inhabitants if these were kind to them.
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"Well, all the Netherland papers have extensive official reports about it. The French are now at Namur and the British landed troops at Ostend....""Do you know," I asked the officer, "that this old man and his grandchild are starving? He put me up because I gave him a couple of pieces of bread-and-butter for the child." He looked at me somewhat crossly, but inquired all the same whether my information was correct, and then gave the old man two loaves, which dried his tears immediately, and for which he thanked the donor in a quivering voice."Possibly! Not allowed!"
Very slowly the huge monster sauntered along, stopping and waiting everywhere to allow long trains with fresh troops to pass. These came straight from Germany, with the youngest levies and volunteers who had just finished their drill. These had decorated their trains all over with green boughs and outside painted all sorts of caricatures, from which especially King George had to suffer much. Then one read "To Paris, to England," and similar hopeful devices.These and similar questions were asked after a superficial examination of my papers, and, having answered them, I was allowed to go on. But at a certain moment an officer appeared, who summoned me to dismount, and asked for my papers. After a short examination he ordered a soldier to take me to the commanding officer at Riemst.In the flowerbeds in front of the station many corpses had been buried, especially those of soldiers who had been killed in the fight near Louvain. The station itself was well guarded, but, thanks to my passport and resolute manner, I gained admission and was finally ushered into the presence of the man who is responsible for the destruction of Louvain, Von Manteuffel.详情
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