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Belgian Franctireurs 1914


fritz
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I have nothing but contempt for German 'culture' (a misnomer anyway) in the early to mid 20th. century

Dave,

I would just like to suggest that you try to read Thomas Mann's "Magic Mountain" or maybe watch one of Fritz Lang's movies. Bauhaus architecture and design is nice too; not to talk about paintings by Dix or Grosz. I would hope that your appreciation of German culture will be greater afterwards.

regards

Matt

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"We have been OT more than enough. Such a discussion would wander about US religous politics of the era, the US missionary movement, Turkey, and WW II, the New York City District Attorney's office, and very little of it military. If I want to venture off of the reservation again it will not be about the Morgenthaus."

What has that though, got to do with your contempt for Barbra Tuchman---- you said it Bob---you ought to be able to defend it!

Dave.

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Hi all,

just one or two points: in the sixties German historians Conze, Rothfels and Petri together with Belgian historians De Sturler, Mayence and van der Essen formed a committee to look into the question of franc-tireur activities and German reprisals in a bi-partisan way. I think that at least one book about Leuwen was published - maybe more. They were adamant that in Leuwen for example there was no shred of evidence that any attacks by Belgian civilians occurred. According to them it is clear that the 6000 Belgian civilian were the victims of war crimes or the excessive use of force. On the other hand they found no evidence that the German army had pre-planned to terrorize the Belgian population into submission. They pointed out that most (all?) of the large incidents were not committed when the first German units entered a city but always on the second or third day of occupation when second echelon troops arrived but were uninformed about other friendly forces in the area. So I think it is a valid stance to acknowledge the occurrence of war crimes and at the same time to deny that these were planned.

As to the question of there being any franc-tireurs at all:

"During the retreat I had many times to do with Germans, but they were not nearly so dangerous as the posts of Territorials or lunatic armed civilians that one met on the roads at frequent intervals... These posts had no idea of what they were expected to do, but very often, at night especially, they used to just fire and as they were often armed with shot guns, the chance of their doing damage was very great indeed." Edward Spears as quoted by Nikolas Gardner "Trial by fire: command and the British Expeditionary Force in 1914".

regards

Matt

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I find it somewhat disconcerting that you have picked up on this...
Dave, my concern relates to the use of secondary sources. You are perfectly entitled, of course, to draw whatever conclusions you wish from such sources. Other users of this Forum may not have access to such sources. It is important, IMHO, that a more detailed analysis can be made available, where appropriate. This will allow readers to make their own judgements.

If I understand correctly then Terraine has suggested a premeditated media campaign. Ludendorff's account has been mentioned. Here is the text from the relevant paragraph:

"[Ludendorff] was in Hervé [on the evening of August 4th], my first headquarters on enemy soil. We spent the night at an inn opposite the station. The whole town was intact, and we went to bed in a quiet mind. During the night I was awakened by brisk firing, some of which was directed at our house. The franc-tireur warfare of Belgium had begun. It broke out everywhere the next day, and it was this sort of thing which aroused that intense bitterness that during those first years characterised the war on the Western Front, in contrast to the feeling prevailing in the East."

Please note that Ludendorff's comments relate to his personal experience, not to his reading of accounts in the press.

I checked Tuchman's book for the Princess Blücher reference. Tuchman wrote: "'ghastly rumours' had already reached Berlin by August 11 to be recorded by Princess Blücher. A German officer whom she asked for verification told her that in Aachen at that moment there were thirty German officers lying in the hospital with their eyes put out by Belgian women and children."

On August 11th, Princess Blücher actually wrote: "People [not newspapers] say that the Belgians fight badly and that the army is utterly demoralized. Already ghastly rumours are being spread of cruelty to Belgian civilians, and their ill-treatment of the wounded German soldiers."

It was on September 6th 1914 that Princess Blücher "asked a German officer whether the prevailing reports of the cruelty of the German soldiers to the Belgian population were true, and he told me they were much exaggerated, but that in Aix there were thirty officers lying at that moment in hospital, with their eyes put out by women and children in Belgium. The troops who hear such things go mad with rage, and revenge their comrades by burning and killing as they pass through the land. This sounds to me quite incredible."

The diary entry for September 11th reads "The chief themes of conversation are the 'German atrocities' and the English dum-dum bullets, both which each country denies. The Germans declare they were never brutal unless in self-defence, but the stories one hears of the brutality of certain German regiments to the Belgian civilians I fear I know are partly true, and then on the other hand Prince A. Salm, writing to a relation, says he saw with his own eyes two Belgian girls of 16 and 12 years old mutilating a wounded German in an absolutely indescribable manner."

Robert

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Dave,

I would just like to suggest that you try to read Thomas Mann's "Magic Mountain" or maybe watch one of Fritz Lang's movies. Bauhaus architecture and design is nice too; not to talk about paintings by Dix or Grosz. I would hope that your appreciation of German culture will be greater afterwards.

regards

Matt

I understand the genius of Fritz Lang---make no mistake----and the 12 year period of Hitlers rule (itself part of my "early to mid 20th. century---saw a huge decline in German CULTURE and science as the best in those fields fled the country---the loss of great scientists (many of them Jews,) indeed fatally weakened Germany at that time---one might say anti semitism sowed the seeds of Germany's downfall! I don't think that overstates it much.

You miss out the great Albert Einstein----without doubt the greatest scientist (an area of great interest to me) since Isaac Newton.

In the first decade of the century he did three amazing things---he made it possible to calculate the size of an atom! He presented his 'special theory of relativity', and he began the work on explaining Quantum theory that would earn him a Nobel prize!!!

Or Nernst, who, in 1905 worked out (for another Nobel prize) the 'second law of thermodynamics' proving that it is impossible to reach absolute zero.

Or Wassermann, who discovered a diagnostic test for Syphillis.

Do not forgetThomas Manns 'Buddenbrooks'---or Rilke, Wedekind---

OR FRITZ HABER---

Who worked to perfect the horrible and inhuman, and illegal weapon of GAS!---Haber began investigations at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin. Though initial tests were dissapointing (at Neuve Chapelle on Oct. 27th. Haber and his fellow scientists fired several hundred 105mm howitzer shells embedded with tear gas, but the effect was negligable.

In December 1914, during experiments with cacodyl chloride an explosion killed one of Habers scientists.

Clara, Habers wife, (also a scientist) pleaded with the great man to stop gas experiments. On the eve of his departure to the Russian front for more tests she committed suicide. Gas was used---and it took some time before the allies caught up.

So, my use of the word "contempt" for German culture in the early to mid 20th. century is not that I have contempt for some great men--indeed heroes of mine, like Einstein---or women working in Science, or the arts---but that it does'nt matter how good they were, they were part of the sheer evil ---the deadly danger to democracy and the freedom of nations---recall that Thomas Mann left Germany in 1933, as did Martin Buber---in 1938.

So if my use of the word "contempt" seems harsh---- so to is plunging the world into two holocausts in the period in question---

Dave.

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Dave, my concern relates to the use of secondary sources. You are perfectly entitled, of course, to draw whatever conclusions you wish from such sources. Other users of this Forum may not have access to such sources. It is important, IMHO, that a more detailed analysis can be made available, where appropriate. This will allow readers to make their own judgements.

If I understand correctly then Terraine has suggested a premeditated media campaign. Ludendorff's account has been mentioned. Here is the text from the relevant paragraph:

"[Ludendorff] was in Hervé [on the evening of August 4th], my first headquarters on enemy soil. We spent the night at an inn opposite the station. The whole town was intact, and we went to bed in a quiet mind. During the night I was awakened by brisk firing, some of which was directed at our house. The franc-tireur warfare of Belgium had begun. It broke out everywhere the next day, and it was this sort of thing which aroused that intense bitterness that during those first years characterised the war on the Western Front, in contrast to the feeling prevailing in the East."

Please note that Ludendorff's comments relate to his personal experience, not to his reading of accounts in the press.

I checked Tuchman's book for the Princess Blücher reference. Tuchman wrote: "'ghastly rumours' had already reached Berlin by August 11 to be recorded by Princess Blücher. A German officer whom she asked for verification told her that in Aachen at that moment there were thirty German officers lying in the hospital with their eyes put out by Belgian women and children."

On August 11th, Princess Blücher actually wrote: "People [not newspapers] say that the Belgians fight badly and that the army is utterly demoralized. Already ghastly rumours are being spread of cruelty to Belgian civilians, and their ill-treatment of the wounded German soldiers."

It was on September 6th 1914 that Princess Blücher "asked a German officer whether the prevailing reports of the cruelty of the German soldiers to the Belgian population were true, and he told me they were much exaggerated, but that in Aix there were thirty officers lying at that moment in hospital, with their eyes put out by women and children in Belgium. The troops who hear such things go mad with rage, and revenge their comrades by burning and killing as they pass through the land. This sounds to me quite incredible."

The diary entry for September 11th reads "The chief themes of conversation are the 'German atrocities' and the English dum-dum bullets, both which each country denies. The Germans declare they were never brutal unless in self-defence, but the stories one hears of the brutality of certain German regiments to the Belgian civilians I fear I know are partly true, and then on the other hand Prince A. Salm, writing to a relation, says he saw with his own eyes two Belgian girls of 16 and 12 years old mutilating a wounded German in an absolutely indescribable manner."

Robert

But that is near enough to make no difference exactly what I quoted Robert.

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Where do you stand on all this---you still (shades of Bob) seem reluctant to answer

With respect though Robert, I always respect an ultra cautious man :)

Dave.

Post edited forum rules Keith

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John Terraine says exactly that---in 'Mons-The Retreat To Victory'

".....at Huy they would be crossing the river Meuse FROM SOUTH TO NORTH...." You are the expert here Bob, 75 books just on this very area and moment in time---I readily bow to your answer to this simple question-----if one crosses the Meuse at Huy heading North----does that take one towards Belgium or towards France?

First of all, in my present work, I am not concerned much about the general march of the armies; your reading and my work is at vastly different degrees of scale.

But, to answer your question, if the 2nd army formations just reaching Huy would cross the Meuse there and head north, that would be massive stupidity, it would take them back to where they had just left, the vicinity of Liege. They were headed south-west, toward Namur, to take it. If some elements of the 2nd Army peeled off there and headed west or north-west I would not know (or care), but again it would have been stupid, they had plenty of intact bridges at Liege. Why on earth would they march south-west from Liege and its perhaps eight bridges in their hands to march to Huy, where there was one bridge (I have a map here, actually four from Bieberstein), but they did not know if it was blown, in fact the Belgians would have been nuts not to blow it, and they had plenty of time, to then, if they were able to cross the river, turn back and march mostly in the direction they had just come from? The Belgians generally were prepared to blow or otherwise block most or all bridges, and rail tunnels as well. At one key rail tunnel the Belgians crashed 17 locomotives together to block it, and it took German railroad troops about 4-5 days to clear it, an important delay.

Belgium, surely and directly towards Lanrezac's Fifth army, and the BEF---as I said.---- all part of 'the plan'---surely!

Surely not. The formations in the vicinity of Huy were headed for Namur, to besiege and take it. The forces headed west to try to turn the French flank (the First Army) were passing in the vicinity of Vise, about 40 km to the north, and also perhaps trying to utilize the rail lines passing thru Liege, a key rail junction. Study the road net, the rail lines, and the bridges. A rail line passes thru Huy on the way to Namur, there is no rail line going north or north-west from there.

You are trying to deduct what the Germans were doing, and planning to do, based on reading conversations between French and Brit officers who had little idea as to where the Germans were and less ideas as to what they were up to, and then Terraine, who, if the fragment of his text conveys what he was saying in the broader context, didn't have a clue what was going on, and seemingly didn't understand the geography. But what do I know? You only cite 13 words of his text.

Dave.

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Simple question Bob----is NORTH of Huy--- Belgim---or France you say you have the "maps in front of you"---do me a favour and tell me which way is Belgium---and the coast--from Huy---North---or South?

Dave.

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Robert---

I find it somewhat disconcerting that you have picked up on this, to the exclusion of anything else, and are 'running' with it-----whilst nary a comment on the failure of Bob to answer any questions at all on the matter.

You certainly have his back covered and perhaps he is getting his second wind after all that 'chasing'.

I have made my position quite clear on this matter-----dear me, I don't know how to make it any clearer.

Let us agree to this-----perhaps! I BELIEVE,

I believe implicitly, based on half a century of reading history books, most of which are in my library as we speak, that when John Terraine speaks of Ludendorff telling us that franc-tireur activity "broke out everywhere..." and this on August 4th. for heavens sake---DAY ONE!

Or when he tells us (me) that --

"There is, moreover a distinct suggestion of orchestration in the IMMEDIATE accusations of franc-tireur and other ant-German activity. It is, TO SAY THE LEAST, remarkable that a seaman of the High Seas fleet, in far away Wilhelmshaven, could write home on the 5th. of August with the war only 24 hours old: 'Terrible reports of atrocities against German citizens arrived from Belgium. Our nation is not at all prepared for war, I thought, as I read this'

One cannot help feeling that the German press was all too well prepared"

or further--

"A PRECONCIEVED, systematic campaign of self justification was CLEARLY in operation from the VERY BEGINNING of the war.

or further yet-

"There was a lot to justify; the Germans were marching to a tight schedule; their advanced forces (whose function was to open the way for the massive right wing of Schlieffens plan) were not strong enough to detach garrisons on their lines of communication; instead, they DELIBERATELY resorted to Schrecklichkeit....."

Who primed the German press Robert-----that it could be reporting such stories within 24 hours of them SUPPOSEDLY happening?

What do you suppose "deliberately" and "preconcieved" mean. I have my understanding of those words----- I would be amazed if I am alone in that.

And you do not BELIEVE----simple---is that agreeable? Either you believe as I or you do not, after all, that is what debate is all about---BUT I really do not know what you believe or do not believe----it is somewhat hidden in your constant questions which I constantly reply to!

But, and here is the rub for you Robert-----a veritable army of historians agree with Terraine, Barnett and all the rest----but (it seems to me), Bob simply does not----by his silence I am fully justified in judging him so, and you ---well, JUST WHERE do you actually stand Robert, as apart from asking the same question of me regardless of how many times I answer it----you have not made your position very clear----at least not to my addled old mind.

Cheers,

Dave.

Robert does not require assistance from me or anyone else in any debate and this is not an attempt to offer any. But if I may make an observation? The purpose of the forum is to debate. That is, we each are entitled to state our opinion. It is not a competition where one person batters down all opposition and emerges triumphant. Killing the thrice slain is not required. If someone disagrees, so be it. If one of us is reluctant to accept a point, that person is not any more likely to accept it because it is repeated several times in block letters.

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What has that though, got to do with your contempt for Barbra Tuchman---- you said it Bob---you ought to be able to defend it!

Dave.

I don't have contempt for Tuchman, she is a best-seller, but not really much of a historian. I have two copies of The Guns of August, and I probably haven't cracked them, save once, in 20 years. I mentioned her to my wife, a supremely literate person (and, yes, she does have some Swahili) and she says that Tuchman is not a historian, she is a publicist. But I have almost no use for secondary sources. If I wanted to waste a few hours of my life I am sure that I could pick her work up and find 80 deficiencies, stupidities, etc.

There are members of her intergenerational family that I have issues with, and one that I utterly despise, but I need not get into that.

The more things you cite from these historians you read the worse and worse opinion I have of them.

bob

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Simple question Bob----is NORTH of Huy--- Belgim---or France you say you have the "maps in front of you"---do me a favour and tell me which way is Belgium---and the coast--from Huy---North---or South?

Dave.

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Belgium is no way from Huy. Huy is Belgium. Go in any direction, and you are going toward Belgium.

"and the coast -- from Huy ---North --- or South?"

Both. North - you hit neutral Holland about 45 km north, then plow about 250 km ??? thru Holland, and fall in the North Sea.

South - you go perhaps 700 km, and you fall into the Med. paddle a bit, and you are in Africa.

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bob

Post edited forum rules. Keith

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Robert does not require assistance from me or anyone else in any debate and this is not an attempt to offer any. But if I may make an observation? The purpose of the forum is to debate. That is, we each are entitled to state our opinion. It is not a competition where one person batters down all opposition and emerges triumphant. Killing the thrice slain is not required. If someone disagrees, so be it. If one of us is reluctant to accept a point, that person is not any more likely to accept it because it is repeated several times in block letters.

"Debate" is what I am attempting here---but one 'debater' won't answer a straight question----ever, and another 'debater' seems only to want to hear me repeat myself over and over----then offers quotes that are, manifestly, exactly the same as the quotes I produced days ago!

What am I doing other than "stating an opinion" pray tell?

Where on earth do you get this "batter down" imagery from?

I make no effort to "kill" anyone----this is, as you so observantly say, a debate----in a debate I will try my level best, my very hardest, to substantiate my side of it, and, where required, attack the other side.

Now this does not mean I attack the person making it----if you can point out a personal attack by me that isn't retaliation (I can point out some against me mind) on anybody please do so----- but in a debate I am entitled to attack the areas I do not agree with----robustly if pushed, and I have been pushed.

I disagree with your "if one of us disagrees so be it"---what kind of debate is that going to lead to ?

I think the 5th. army was smashed and routed in March 1918-------I disagree---oh! righto then

Really truthergw, I expected more commonsense than this.

The "block letters" are either Battles---the numbers of the dead--all of which deserve them I feel (rightly or wrongly, but a small point indeed to find fault over---or,

Frustration at repeating the same answeres to the same questions over and over again.

Remember also, in the final analysis----no one HAS to read my posts if they don't want to.

Sorry I seem to have offended you----but there you have it.

Dave.

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"It was now 17th. August, and Lanrezac was a worried man. He had good reason to be worried. The French army was poised to implement plan XVII, which called for four out of the five French armies, a force numbering around 80,000 men to surge through Alsace and Lorraine into the heart of Germany with the aim of dislocating the enemy war machine before it could swing into action.

The First and second armies would attack South of Metz and would be connected by the third army to Lanrezacs Fifth army tothe NORTH of that city, while the Fourth army remained in reserve. Plan XVII was taking shape, but Lanrezac had the distinct impression that something formidable was taking place IN THE NORTH and threatening his left flank along the Belgian frontier, on the rivers Sambre and Meuse.

That flank was at present 'in the air' since the British army had not mobilised with the French army on 1st. August, and the BEF had therefore not arrived as expected and taken up position on his left flank (The NORTH.)

Apart from a French cavalry division and some territorial units the country between Lanrezacs left flank and the French Channel coast (THE COAST) was completley devoid of troops."

Ah, but this is just another English language secondary source historian talking-----you know, the kind you have nothing but contempt for.

Still, he talks a bit (like I do---but I, like them---ALL of them, "have no idea what I am talking about" either) about 'to the North of Lanrezac' and a bit about 'the coast,' also.

But nevermind----you know best. Better than the whole lot!

'course you do.

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Interesting to see that Robert Dunlop has made the effort to plunge into Barbara Tuchman and show that, with a concrete example, she is either not capable of picking material out of a source and put it into her text without mangling the meaning and screwing up the dates, or, as she was not a stupid person, wilfully twisting cited sources to alter their meaning and impact. I think Robert's finding shows her intellectual dishonesty.

I last read Tuchman say 20 years ago, I was not a student of WW I, but I clearly saw that it was in some part rubbish, and was clearly flawed and "cooked" history. But I can't remember the details, and frankly don't care. I can only remember one slight detail, unimportant, but offensively and stupidly anti-German. (Of course, this must to be Dave's delight) Interestingly, it is a lot similar to another bit from one of Ambassador Morgenthau's books: From memory, speaking of a Turkish government leader: "He appeared quite civilized, and was even able to eat with a knife and a fork, but it just concealed that he was a savage beast." Morgenthau's book(s) is actually interesting, and I have with care used some material from it, but I do understand the various pressures on him and also the biases he carried, and hopefully can seperate the wheat from the chaff.

A diversion: I know that I must appear to be sensitive to anti-German opinions and statements, although I certainly understand the roots of a lot of it. I have given you autobiographic detail, perhaps more than some might want, but I will pile on a bit more. When I started kindergarden and first grade, about 1945-46, my teachers (I don't remember how many, probably only my "home room" teacher) would announce to the class that we were going to have a patriotic exercise, and then drag me to the front of the class and beat me up, as a German. Of course we had been in the US for 20 years, and my father had done very valuable work in the war effort for both the US Army and then the US Navy, the latter in a somewhat dangerous war zone, but of course that was no shield. This went on for two years, and finally my parents took me out of public school, for my own safety, and put me in a private school, where things were quite better, and of course I associated with a "better" set of kids, better education, and ended up with 9 1/2 years at top universities. My parents were working class, so the private school was a burden, but the end result was good. There is more, of course, but I will spare you; I suspect that that and other things have made me a bit cranky.

Bob

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Interesting to see that Robert Dunlop has made the effort to plunge into Barbara Tuchman and show that, with a concrete example, she is either not capable of picking material out of a source and put it into her text without mangling the meaning and screwing up the dates, or, as she was not a stupid person, wilfully twisting cited sources to alter their meaning and impact. I think Robert's finding shows her intellectual dishonesty.

I last read Tuchman say 20 years ago, I was not a student of WW I, but I clearly saw that it was in some part rubbish, and was clearly flawed and "cooked" history. But I can't remember the details, and frankly don't care. I can only remember one slight detail, unimportant, but offensively and stupidly anti-German. (Of course, this must to be Dave's delight) Interestingly, it is a lot similar to another bit from one of Ambassador Morgenthau's books: From memory, speaking of a Turkish government leader: "He appeared quite civilized, and was even able to eat with a knife and a fork, but it just concealed that he was a savage beast." Morgenthau's book(s) is actually interesting, and I have with care used some material from it, but I do understand the various pressures on him and also the biases he carried, and hopefully can seperate the wheat from the chaff.

A diversion: I know that I must appear to be sensitive to anti-German opinions and statements, although I certainly understand the roots of a lot of it. I have given you autobiographic detail, perhaps more than some might want, but I will pile on a bit more. When I started kindergarden and first grade, about 1945-46, my teachers (I don't remember how many, probably only my "home room" teacher) would announce to the class that we were going to have a patriotic exercise, and then drag me to the front of the class and beat me up, as a German. Of course we had been in the US for 20 years, and my father had done very valuable work in the war effort for both the US Army and then the US Navy, the latter in a somewhat dangerous war zone, but of course that was no shield. This went on for two years, and finally my parents took me out of public school, for my own safety, and put me in a private school, where things were quite better, and of course I associated with a "better" set of kids, better education, and ended up with 9 1/2 years at top universities. My parents were working class, so the private school was a burden, but the end result was good. There is more, of course, but I will spare you; I suspect that that and other things have made me a bit cranky.

Bob

Sure have!

I don't quite see the " wilfully twisting" in Tuchman that you see---well, you would, being self confessed 'cranky' I say again, the basic truths and the almost exactly similar quotes that I gave, compared to the ones Robert gives match seamlessly---Princess Blucher said what Isaid she said. Ludendorff said exactly as I quoted----- what on earth is going on here? -I do not think Robert could possibly disagree to the similarities in the quotes, which leaves us---where?

You simply have a downer on historians of the English tongue varierty---you have made that abundantly clear, and your bitterness over your past, and your families pasts, have tainted yor objectivity, and the resulting 'crankiness' manifests itself as personal attacks.

Not very clever---especially as when you attack me for quoting eminent historians, you attack them really. They are all multi book authors with worldwide reputations and I bet that 90% of this forum knows most of whatever they Know because of those self same luminaries----the one's you so deprecate.

You are a strange one Bob----you claim great knowledge, but you also claim to have no truck with secondary sources----with, in other words, all those historians I keep talking about and quoting from.

This is how I learn, always from reading those great men---how did you master this discipline of history?

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But that is near enough to make no difference exactly what I quoted...
Dave, you kindly quoted what the secondary sources provided. I have no issue with what you quoted, merely thanks that you took the time to do so. The issue that I have is with the conclusions drawn by the authors themselves. In this case, 'near enough' is definitely not good enough, for reasons that I will come onto.

In one instance, Terraine quotes from Tuchman who 'quotes' Princess Blücher. At one end of this line of references is the conclusion that there was a premeditated orchestrated media campaign to support the systematic violence towards Belgian civilians. At the primary source, we find that by August 11th Princess Blücher had heard about the atrocities towards civilians as well as the alleged atrocities by civilians. The fact that atrocities towards Belgians was being put about in Germany completely exposes the erroneous misquotations (not by you let me hasten to reiterate) that focus on 'rumours' about franc-tireur. There were other instances where primary sources have been misquoted out of context by secondary authors.

There are two very significant consequences of the secondary sources only being 'near enough'. First, and most important, use of these sources can create the impression that 'Germans' were more evil. There is an enormous danger in this conclusion, IMHO. It enables us to parcel the violence and atrocities off, assigning them to a collective population as if, somehow, it was something to do with 'them'. What we have to grapple with, IMHO, is that the episodes of violence were not a 'German' thing at all. The reason that I am so interested in this is because the more I study these issues in respect of WW1 (and WW2, etc) then the more I realise that this tendency is part of the human condition. All of us could be susceptible to the same forces that drove some soldiers to exact a terrible price on Belgian civilians. We must understand what happened when some men were driven by fear and anger, and any other psychological drivers. If we label this problem as 'German' then we do our German colleagues a great injustice. And for those of us who are not German, we do ourselves an even greater injustice.

The second important consequence is that it raises doubts about the validity of secondary sources. This Forum is very much about addressing such doubts. Secondary sources are not discarded. Indeed they are an important starting point in many situations. But there is a staggering amount of primary sources available to members of this Forum. It is hugely impressive, especially the information that has been kindly surfaced to the Forum by colleagues who are German, French, Belgian, Dutch, Polish or from a myriad of other nationalities. With respect to this thread, we need to dig deeper into the secondary sources and expose, where appropriate, incorrect or unsupported assumptions by the authors. The 'great' names are not immune in this respect, whether they be English, American or other.

Robert

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This thread contains too many personal attacks on other members. One would be too many. I am going back a couple of pages, and will remove or edit EVERY post that I consider to be in breach of forum rules. if anyone has a problem, please read them again.

If the thread then remains remotely viable I will leave it open, but I expect all contributors to keep their contributions courteous.

Keith

EDIT I have just completed my review of the last three or four pages. here is a small extract from the rules

You will not incite or be aggressive in tone.

You will respect the right of others to express their opinion.

You will not post irrelevant text designed to disrupt discussion.

You will not make any statements that could be construed as defamatory of an individual, group or business.

I will not close this thread, but it should be understood that any further personal attacks on forum members, as distinct from civilised expression of contrary views risks suspension from the forum.

Keith

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I have been following this debate with interest.

I beleive it shows w3hat a complex subject History can be. There will always be some denial to claims of atrocities be they Belgum in 1914, the states of the Former Yugoslaviain the 1990's and Empires & States from earlier periods. I suspect any army that has occupied a country by force will have committed some nasty deeds. The British, French and Belgians will not be an exception to this. Within the time scale of WW1 British Army and Police Auxilleries where involved in disagreeable behaviour in Ireland (as where their oponents the IRA); nasstiness occurred in Spain and Portugal in the Peninsular War I could go on and on.

There was some agressioin by Belgian civillians or para militry in 1914 probably on a small scale. After all the Germans had not been invited . If some foreign power should ever invade my homeland I hope I would be brave enough to resist them.

On the point of the German Army having a Preconcieved plan to be nasty I am not sure it was a policy passed down from the Highest commmand but there was probably some directive at lower formation level to meet local circumstances. Howver I beleive the German press did publish horror stories from the start as a propaganda idea. This then may have influenced the German army to expect attacks and then over react to the few incidents.

Bill

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The historiographical sweep of this topic is what I find especially intriguing. Talk about the swing of the pendulum !

An initial credence given to incredibly lurid tales of atrocities, followed by a retreat and a sense that people were gullible to believe such nonsense : it was even postulated that this reaction resulted in British refusal to countenance the extent of German crimes in the Second World War.

In more recent times there has been a significant modification of this view.....the numbers of Belgian civilians killed, and the manner in which they were killed, was sufficient to justify Gordon Corrigan's cogent and cautious assessment :

There is, however, ample evidence of officially condoned acts of terror during the initial invasion of Belgium, acts which, if committed in a later war, would have led to trials for war crimes.

Phil (PJA)

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Use of these sources can create the impression that 'Germans' were more evil. There is an enormous danger in this conclusion, IMHO. It enables us to parcel the violence and atrocities off, assigning them to a collective population as if, somehow, it was something to do with 'them'. What we have to grapple with, IMHO, is that the episodes of violence were not a 'German' thing at all. The reason that I am so interested in this is because the more I study these issues in respect of WW1 (and WW2, etc) then the more I realise that this tendency is part of the human condition. All of us could be susceptible to the same forces that drove some soldiers to exact a terrible price on Belgian civilians. We must understand what happened when some men were driven by fear and anger, and any other psychological drivers. If we label this problem as 'German' then we do our German colleagues a great injustice. And for those of us who are not German, we do ourselves an even greater injustice.

Robert

I think Robert you raise the most important point of all; I am always struck by how readily my Belgian friends and relatives identify with victims of "collateral damage" and worse, in modern conflicts. My father-in-law is a native of Ethe, where each year the battle and executions are remembered but always in the context of the new Europe that we have moved on to.

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However I believe the German press did publish horror stories from the start as a propaganda idea. This then may have influenced the German army to expect attacks and then over react to the few incidents.
Bill, Steve Marsdin rightly drew our attention to the role of propaganda on all sides during those opening weeks. With respect to the German army, there was a different issue at work from the outset. There was considerable concern about guerilla tactics based on the experience of the latter (and less well known to British readers) phase of the Franco-Prussian War. After the initial stunning victories by the Prussian armies, there followed a relatively prolonged period of occupation. This was associated with the investment of Paris and the battles against the newly created republican forces. Guerilla attacks were a feature of this period. The Germans referred to this period as der Volkskrieg, literally the people's war. The problem posed by this type of warfare, which included but was not just about guerilla activity, was extensively written about by German military thinkers. No doubt it exercised the German General Staff too. I have no proof of what follows but I suspect that Ludendorff's rapid assumption about the cause of the firing in Hervé was not due to anything he had read in the press. It was due to knowledge, as a Staff Officer, of what happened in France in the '70s.

It is becoming more clear that rumour was an important factor as well. It is likely (but I have not studied this in detail) that news spread rapidly through informal networks within the army. Princess Blücher's diary shows how the rumours within the military domain spilt over to civilians.

Robert

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"Debate" is what I am attempting here---but one 'debater' won't answer a straight question----ever, and another 'debater' seems only to want to hear me repeat myself over and over----then offers quotes that are, manifestly, exactly the same as the quotes I produced days ago!

What am I doing other than "stating an opinion" pray tell?

Where on earth do you get this "batter down" imagery from?

I make no effort to "kill" anyone----this is, as you so observantly say, a debate----in a debate I will try my level best, my very hardest, to substantiate my side of it, and, where required, attack the other side.

Now this does not mean I attack the person making it----if you can point out a personal attack by me that isn't retaliation (I can point out some against me mind) on anybody please do so----- but in a debate I am entitled to attack the areas I do not agree with----robustly if pushed, and I have been pushed.

I disagree with your "if one of us disagrees so be it"---what kind of debate is that going to lead to ?

I think the 5th. army was smashed and routed in March 1918-------I disagree---oh! righto then

Really truthergw, I expected more commonsense than this.

The "block letters" are either Battles---the numbers of the dead--all of which deserve them I feel (rightly or wrongly, but a small point indeed to find fault over---or,

Frustration at repeating the same answeres to the same questions over and over again.

Remember also, in the final analysis----no one HAS to read my posts if they don't want to.

Sorry I seem to have offended you----but there you have it.

Dave.

We come to a debate and we air our opinions. We defend them or alter them in response to hearing others opinions. That is what a debate is intended to be. You are a tad too hysterical in your reaction to anyone who does not accept your opinion in every tiny detail. A firm conviction is one thing. Dogmatic assertion quite another. As it happens, I am in broad agreement with much of what you say but your crass over assertiveness is developing into one of the worst displays of bad manners I have seen on the forum in quite a while.

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What a wealth this thread for a voyeur like me. What a treat to read how forum members self castigate themselves. And do not realize how they take themselves down, deep into the GWF sewage system.

Everything is represented here, hate, dogmatism, thrive for total dominance. A pseudo discussion on a topic that is not relevant anymore, because the main protagonist actually has reached a state where he desperately needs to see blood here on this forum. A newcomer , pretend-to-be-" scout of Bristol" trolling through history and the GWF, straying into absurdity; on the other side an old pal falling into the trap of somebody who poisons the spirit of this forum.

This very subject has been beaten to death so often, links were quoted above, new facts are not discussed, just the „my historian I quote is much better than yours". Previous discussions were conducted in a civilized, respectful manner.

And now comes this hobby I-want-to-be-taken-serious historian and insults German culture in general , or states that Bomber Harris is fine for him although I compare him on the same evil level with Göring, both killing hundred of thousands of innocent women and children in Coventry, London , Cologne and Dresden. Yes from my voyeuristic standpoint I see this is the breed that seeds hate because in his youth the main protagonist here, was overwhelmed with anti-German TV propaganda and it is still there today in any of his single brain winding. I have nothing than contempt against these modern despots. Primary sources from both sides have been quoted in previous threads and the general outcome was of course, yes atrocities have been committed by the Germans there should be no doubt about that, but there was also Franctireur activity, the Germans feared since 1870/71 so very much. Premeditated- what an utterly nonsense! But if it fits into ones so totally biased brain- you got to live with it. Thats the dark side of human being. I will follow with amusement this Bristol self-adulation as I have brought forward my facts and comments in the other threads.

My concern is the GWF spirit that is in danger here from somebody new who has no respect towards other arguments, who leaves a trail of blood, exactly like the German Army in the August days of 1914 towards Belgian civilians

Kieth,

I am amazed that you removed my answer to this most shocking of flagrant attacks BUT signally left this in place. It is---'inciteful and aggressive' in tone! Yes, to the nth. degree!

It does not respect MY right to 'express my opinion'

It IS 'defamatory'

Yet here it is allowed to stand----obviously by design.

I do not understand this at all. Does this mean an 'all pigs are equal, except some who are more equal than others' regimen here?

Dave.

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Dave,

There is no one more equal than others, the Forum rules are there for everyone. The issue seems to have been around the overly-assertive and repeated manner in which you have posted your opinions.

I am surprised that this thread hasn't been nuked a while back. It would be a shame to see the thread closed, but it will be if necessary.

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We come to a debate and we air our opinions. We defend them or alter them in response to hearing others opinions. That is what a debate is intended to be. You are a tad too hysterical in your reaction to anyone who does not accept your opinion in every tiny detail. A firm conviction is one thing. Dogmatic assertion quite another. As it happens, I am in broad agreement with much of what you say but your crass over assertiveness is developing into one of the worst displays of bad manners I have seen on the forum in quite a while.

Let me see now, in two posts you have accused me of-

1) "battering down...."

2) "being "hysterical"

3)"dogmatic assertion"

4) "bad manners"

These are serious accusations I think, and I deserve some proof from you that they have any substance at all.

Please be good enough to offer some quotes from past posts of mine that reflect ---and prove, your assertions about me.

Please make sure, in the process, that any rudeness on my behalf that you may detect, is not a direct retaliation for previous rudeness against me, I reserve the right to retaliate to personal attacks or sarcasm---though I seldom, in fact, fully exercise that right.

It seems to me that any "hysteria" here is of the denial of any German 'unpleasantness' (yes, I believe that some here would like it termed just like that---then briskly move on to brighter 'sunlit uplands') in the 20th. century.

It is constantly 'matched' with ---ah well!---the Americans do it in Iraq, the Belgians did it in the Congo, the Brits did it in the Boer war, or Kenya----never forget Mai Lai, always remember India---or the Opium wars---or.......

But crikey! there I go being "hysterical" again.

What you term 'hysteria', I term historical discussion. What you term 'battering' I term historical discussion. What you term 'bad manners' (funny how you never chastised Bob when he referred to me as a 'stripling') I term historical discussion.

The thread was perfectly 'normal' (if robust sometimes, on all sides) until the redoutable Egbert produced his bile-----bile which setill stands on this thread-----to my great disgust!

Dave.

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