A short distance beyond this little caf茅 lies the large bridge across the Meuse. Before the Germans arrived it was partly destroyed by the Belgians, but so inadequately that obviously the enemy could repair it easily. Bombs were therefore fired regularly from Fort Pontisse at the bridge, and only an hour ago it had been hit, with the result that a big hole was made in the undamaged part. In the road also big holes were made by the exploding projectiles. Having passed underneath the viaduct of the bridge, I found myself opposite Vis茅 on the sloping bank of the Meuse. Two boys had been commanded by the Germans to work the ferry-30boat for them, and after I had shown them my passport, they took me to the other side.But because the German libels go on accusing the Belgian people of horrible francs-tireurs acts, I have thought that I ought not to wait any longer before giving my evidence to the public.Never thinking of rest he went on day and night, taking away the poor fellows' arms and legs, and all this by the miserable light of some candles. Gas and electricity were not to be had, the works being idle after the destruction of the town....
A short time after the destruction I was even obliged to accept it for a whole week, as on the same day on which I arrived in Louvain for another visit there was renewed fighting round the town. The Belgians had advanced as far as Rotselair, where the next day they held their ground against overwhelmingly superior numbers; but at last they had to retire, leaving a great many dead behind. The Belgians had even got on to the road Tirlemont-Louvain, and blown up the railway line in two places.My companion wanted to take a snapshot of this point, but in order to enliven the scene somewhat, he requested a few soldiers to stand in the square in front of the church. Each had a couple of champagne bottles hanging on his stomach, and refused absolutely to accede to my colleague's request to remove them. They insisted upon being snapshotted with those bottles hanging on their bodies! So my companion took this snapshot of "Kultur" in that condition, houses burned down, a church destroyed, and in front of these the grinning and coarse villains, puffing out their bodies, proud of their empty bottles....I succeeded in laying my hands on an original copy of a proclamation that ought not to have been posted before the following day. I took the document with me to The Netherlands, and it is of special interest, because in it the Germans admit to have tyrannised the people, and to have not only burned Louvain, but also ransacked the town. The proclamation had been drawn up in concert with the German authorities and was approved by them. It was in French and in Flemish, and read as follows:
"Vis茅 is under a real reign of terror. The day before yesterday the town-crier walked the streets with his bell, and announced that within twenty-four hours everyone had to deliver his bicycle at the bridge. Anyone in whose house92 a bicycle should be found would be shot and his house set on fire. Yesterday morning the Germans announced once more that all arms, including those that were old or damaged or taken to pieces, should be handed in at the town-hall within an hour. If any arms should be found anywhere after that, they would shoot the inhabitants and burn down the town. Eatables and drinkables were requisitioned continuously under threats of firing the town, and the inhabitants are afraid of nothing so much as of the possibility that something may be required some day or other that cannot be produced."During the occupation a war contribution of 150,000 francs in silver had been imposed on Bilsen, although there was hardly any silver left in the place. This punishment was inflicted because Belgian soldiers had destroyed the railway in two places.
Some uphold the accusation on the ground of expressions in Belgian newspapers, collected in a German pamphlet. In my opinion these quotations have not the slightest value. Everyone will understand this who thinks of the excitement of journalists, whose country was suddenly and quite unexpectedly involved in a terrible war, and who felt now that as journalists they had to perform a great, patriotic duty. In their nervous, over-excited condition they sat at their desk and listened to the gossip of refugees about civilians taking part in the struggle. In their imagination they saw hordes of barbarians overrun their native soil, saw man and man, woman88 and woman, shoulder to shoulder, resisting the invader without regard for their own life. The thoughts of such journalists, whose very own country had been at war now for a few days, were not on severe logical lines; they found a certain beauty in that picture, and I can quite understand how some came to believe in it as a reality, and gloried in it."Oh, but, sir, Wolff confirmed these reports."The sun was already setting, and became still redder, making still more abominable and more infernal the glare of the burning town. Nobody moved about in this abode of death.
On the day of my stay at Charleroi, at about seven o'clock in the evening, there was a good deal of bustle round about the station, many trains from Maubeuge arriving. One of these trains was entirely filled by officers of the garrison who had been taken prisoner. Another carried only wounded Germans, lying on light stretchers, on which they were transported through the streets to the hospitals at Charleroi. Many had fearful wounds, and convulsively held their hands on the injured parts, while others lay still, the pallor of death on their face. Maubeuge must have cost the Germans enormous sacrifices, as for many of the wretched wounded no room could be found at Charleroi, and they had to be taken farther by train, to Namur or Brussels.Argenteau was not damaged much, but the inhabitants remained quietly inside their houses, or probably stayed in their cellars, for fear of the shells that tore through the air constantly.The man got more and more excited, but then he was more than "half-seas over." The smoke made him cough and he stuck in the middle of his "swine." He made me shudder, and I hastened to pull out a packet of cigarettes, some of which I gave to him and his mates. In consequence the two others became more communicative, and in touching harmony assured me that:
As soon as they began to chase the men, the greater part of the inhabitants fled in dire fear, most of178 them towards the Campine. In the fields and the shrubberies the Germans must have killed a good many of the male fugitives, and made the others prisoners. Among the latter were my six fellow-victims.Thus my examination opened. I told him everything from beginning to end, also that the commanding officer had given me permission to stay at that house, that I had shown my papers to the soldiers at the goods station opposite the house, and that I did not understand why I should be put to all this inconvenience.152
"According to Clause 58, Section 1, of the Military Penal Code, sentence of capital punishment for treason will be pronounced against those who, intending to assist an enemy army, or to injure the German army:The officer assured me that a new effort would be made soon, as they were commanded to take Pontisse and Lierce at any price, the seventh and ninth regiment of foot-artillery of Cologne being selected for the purpose.They constantly heard the boom, boom of the shells exploding near by, and each time thought that their last hour had struck. The gloomy cellar depressed them still more, and nobody really believed that there was any chance of being saved. So the44 little sisters prayed on, preparing each other for death, and looking for the approaching end in quiet resignation.
But he did not take any notice of all my exhortations and was entirely impervious to them in his grief. So I went to the station side by side with the weeping man, and surrounded by the six soldiers. The crackle of the flames, the sound of collapsing houses seemed more terrifying in the night than in day-time, and now and again I got a shock when suddenly, by the uncertain light of the flames, I saw the corpse of a civilian lying in the dark shade of the tall trees on the Boulevard."Bear up, lad! Keep courage; it will soon be different.""On the previous day many workmen of the silk factory Kimmer and their wives and children had found a shelter in the cellars of the building, with some neighbours and relatives of their employer. At six o'clock in the evening the unfortunate people made up their mind to leave their hiding-place and went into the street, headed by a white flag. They were immediately seized by the soldiers and roughly ill-treated. All the men were shot, among them Mr. Kimmer, Consul of Argentina.
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The man who had this experience was Mr. Coppieters, the District Commissioner, a man who had given all his life to the service of society and the good of the community."Where do you come from?" was his first question."Your Eminence visited Malines last Tuesday, I have been told. I may perhaps ask how you found the condition of the cathedral and the town?"
When I got to the house everything was in a frightful state. A pair of curtains showed traces of fire; cupboards had been emptied, and nearly all the china and glass broken; statuary lay broken on the floor; windows were smashed; bits of bricks and plaster from the ceilings, through which many shots had been fired, completed the scene of destruction. On the doorstep I picked up a cartridge-case, which I have always kept, because it is highly probable that it had contained the bullet which killed Mrs. Poswick.66"What does that matter? What do I care for life? I come from Dinant; they have murdered my dear parents, burned our house. What good is it to me to be alive? I requested them to give me this dangerous outpost. When the Germans come, I'll shoot, and then my comrades at Lanaeken will be warned. Then I'll kill three or four of them, but after that I shall be ready to die myself."详情
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