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Belgian Franctireurs 1914


fritz
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Thank you for this extra information; differentiating fact from propaganda is one of the hardest tasks that military historians must face; it may serve its purpose at the time but makes both reconciliation and research considerably more difficult afterwards.

My main field of interest is the "Battle of the Frontiers"; particularly the weekend of 22/23 August 1914 in the sector between Neufchateau and Virton (including Rossignol, Saint Vincent, Bellefontaine and Ethe) and the period of occupation thereafter. My wife is from Jamoigne in the Semois valley and we spend many weeks there. Did your Grandfather have an involvement in these early battles ?

Belgium is a country "created" in the political climate after the Napoleonic Wars, whose neutrality was respected by both sides at the time of the Franco-Prussian war. It was a country of two languages and cultures, the northern Flemish speaking and the southern French speaking "united" in the King and Brussels [the Germanic speaking region in the East was added after the Treaty of Versailles - interestingly this contains the military training area and camp at Eisenborn, used by the German Army pre WW1 and Belgian Army post WW1, scene of intense fighting during the "Bulge"]. Your point about the "culture" clash is important: those German Army elements who advanced through Luxembourg where the local dialect is Germanic got a largely friendly welcome compared to that received when they crossed into the French speaking southern province of Belgium

Belgium's neutrality was respected in 1870/71 largely because Britain said (and signed treaties) saying that whoever invaded the country Britain would join in on the other side.

The Germans were OT welcomed in Luxembourg in either 1914 or 1940. In 1914 the country as a whole could not believe that one of the guarantors of their neutrality had invaded it and the that the other guarantors told them to ..... off. My book "l'Invasion du Luxembourg, 1914" makes this very clear.

The British response n 1914 was, "Thank you for the two telegrams you have sent. The serious maters to which they allude will receive the most serious attention of His Majesty's government". Gosh, thanks.

There was trouble in 1914 right from the beginning,many being arrested for anti-German behaviour (which could take many forms from laughing at a German officer when a dog lifted his leg against his boots to active spying - at least 100 were arrested for this).

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If you could mail me off-list we may have quite bit of interest in common. I'm in Luxembourg.
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It is clear that there was a good deal of franc-tireur activity, and a lot of other odd and complex activity on the part of the Belgian Army and population. It is also clear that this was anticipated.

right a couple of things

Bob is quite right to be extremely wary of nearly all the books produced in English during and after the war. I hope he is as careful with German newspaper reports " priests firing machine guns from towers". That is why I try to work from local contemporary sources (diaries, communal records etc.).

However I cannot agree with the " a good deal of franc tireur activity". From what I find there some very rare cases of franc tireur activity. I furthermore do not understand what Bob means " that this was anticipated" . Is this the old " civilian resistance was planned by the Belgian governement" canard ?

I also do not see the impact of Walloon Flemish difficulties in this topic. Both Walloon and Flemish villages and town were destroyed. Indeed the last case of civilians that were executed as franc tireurs happened on 27 and 28/05/1940 in Vinkt in Flanders. In this village 83 civilians were executed by soldiers of IR377. (some after the Belgian surrender).

Carl

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It is clear that there was a good deal of franc-tireur activity, and a lot of other odd and complex activity on the part of the Belgian Army and population. It is also clear that this was anticipated.

right a couple of things

Bob is quite right to be extremely wary of nearly all the books produced in English during and after the war. I hope he is as careful with German newspaper reports " priests firing machine guns from towers". That is why I try to work from local contemporary sources (diaries, communal records etc.).

Carl - good to see you joining the discussion. I have NEVER even bothered reading German newspapers of the period. Never! I too try to work, as much as possible, from contempory sources, as the diary I mentioned, which was/is in manuscript form. If I get to publish it, I will do so with facing pages of a photostat of the original page, with my translation on the facing page, so that people can check my translation. Perhaps I will eventually publish my grand-father's letters, and again make the original available. One letter, right from a battlefield (he describes the twisted corpses), even seems to have a bloodstain on it, and I have even thought of a DNA test!

I almost never read news reports, or more correctly read them sometimes but do not take items out of them as research findings. I have seen some 1914 reporting from the New York Times that seems honest and unbiased, but later in the war (when Wilson was jamming people not sufficiently enthusiastic about the war into prison), forget it. I have occasionally used news reports, not for research notes, but for leads to more reliable sources.

However, I have to repeat, that I do not think that there is any literature as "cooked" as that in English, and I have read varying amounts of the war literature from 12-15 combatants. But they had so much to lose or gain from their enormous effort. (See footnote below.)

However I cannot agree with the " a good deal of franc tireur activity". From what I find there some very rare cases of franc tireur activity.

My g-f, for one, got quite tired of being sniped at out of windows. It evidentally happened to him at least several times. The sergeant, who seems fair and really upset at many things that he saw, also reported events where he was present. A sample of two is hopelessly small. This is extremely difficult to quantify.

Also I furthermore do not understand what Bob means " that this was anticipated" . Is this the old " civilian resistance was planned by the Belgian governement" canard ?

No, I am merely agreeing with Steve M's suggesting that, based on their experiences in the Franco-Prussian War, the Germans were anticipating such activity, and such anticipation might even have led them to imagine such activity in confused situations. I have never heard claims that "civilian resistance was planned by the Belgian government". But, that may only prove that I am successful in not even reading the blatent propaganda effort of the combatants.

Carl, as you have fortunately dropped in, did the "Cookoos" (sorry that I don't have the Flemish at hand, probably mostly a matter of swapping "k"s for "c"s.) wear uniforms, or civvies, or both? The Germans also had units trained in stealth; the Jaegers were, as much as possible, manned with foresters and professional hunting guides. It seems that, to the German mind (and seemingly my own), the Belgians tended to be rather flexible on this uniform business (the previously posted account of the troops running about in pink underwear is revealing, pun intended), while the German mind was perhaps even fixated on this uniform business. Or perhaps I have also led myself astray with a Germanic uniform fixation?

I also do not see the impact of Walloon Flemish difficulties in this topic. Both Walloon and Flemish villages and town were destroyed. Indeed the last case of civilians that were executed as franc tireurs happened on 27 and 28/05/1940 in Vinkt in Flanders. In this village 83 civilians were executed by soldiers of IR377. (some after the Belgian surrender).

I think, with all respect, that the Walloon/Flemish differences may have a lot to do with this. Again, Steve M., who seems to be at least an honorary Belgian, also brought the topic up. Flemish people blowing up a Walloon monument to the victims of the "Rape of Belgium" in 1931, before they were able to dedicate the monument, speaks volumes to me, although I am not sure what exactly is being said, I am afraid. I have also, over the years, communicated with several Belgians who seemed to be rather "pro-German", to my puzzlement, and also seem to be almost certainly Flemish. I confess that I do not understand this, but there seems to be something going on here. An alternative, parallel universe? Perhaps some Flemish are so annoyed at the Walloons that they take a position, perhaps distorted, expected and planned to annoy Walloons. My Belgian professor friend told me that the situation was very bad, and that in her city it was impossible for them to exist in the same university. I didn't even ask her her ethnicity. (We were working together in a Slovene research institute teaching advanced methods of regional planning to Jugoslavs.)

Carl

Bob

PS: My wife, the Book Detective, just called me and told me that she has received a copy of the supposed "War Book of the German General Staff", of the original book, the German book, which is an extremely rare (since so few were ever printed) and obscure German book of 1902 that the British propaganda machine decided to describe as the most important book in Germany, ground out in multiple editions to train Prussian officers in the ways and means of "frightfulness". In fact, my wife was only able to find four copies in the US (there might be more), and the Library of Congress, the world's largest library, which generally has everything (142 million cataloged items), does not have a copy. The closest library which has it declined to loan it to my wife's library, even they supposedly functionally are the same library and share a common catalog (of sorts), but Yale University would lend it, sent sealed in a special envelope with a warning of its extreme fragility.

In a search of about an hour, I have been able to find about 12 editions of this book, supposedly translated from the German to the English, or from the German to the French, or, oddly, from the French to the English (I beg your pardon?), published in multiple editions in at least four countries. As reported elsewhere on this forum. I did an analysis of the seemingly most important edition of this set of translations, the Morgan translation, published in London in 1915, and, as far as I could estimate, the 75 page original should have translated to 61 pages of English, but it seems that Professor Morgan inserted an additional 58 pages of his own material into the original German text. My, my. Such an effort to arrive at the pronounced faithful translation. I am sure that it was a fair and accurate translation.

Having both the original and the "translation", we can actually see what was done. But the whole premise is a humbug. The original book was one of long series of books published by a historical office of the general staff, not an operational or training detachment, book number 31 in a series of God knows how many different books, publidhed in 1902. From its extreme rarity (of abebooks and ZVABs stock of 125,000,000 old books on offer, exactly one copy of this book is offered), probably it was published in an edition of 200-300, or something, this book is elevated to the role as the Devil's Handbook. One Polish paper holds it responsible for the invasion of Poland in 1939! Of course by chosing an extremely rare, obscure book it was almost impossible for anyone to actually check these claims out, not that anyone would.

I will report on this when I have studied the two books side by side.

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If you could mail me off-list we may have quite bit of interest in common. I'm in Luxembourg.

Note for "healdav"

I will when I get to the 10 posts I need to qualify for these extra permissions !

I'm in Belgium towards the end of the month and hope to attend the commemorative walk around the key points of the Battle of Ethe. This year the dates fall on the correct days of the week but I understand they are holding the walk on the Sunday (23/08) at 2.00pm, rather than the Saturday (apparently it is a "ticket" event).

The locals have made lifesize mannekins in the uniforms of French Soldiers to highlight the route - unfortunately some have already been stolen (kidnapped ?) - see "L'Avenir de Luxembourg" , several of this weeks daily issues have references.

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Note for "healdav"

I will when I get to the 10 posts I need to qualify for these extra permissions !

I'm in Belgium towards the end of the month and hope to attend the commemorative walk around the key points of the Battle of Ethe. This year the dates fall on the correct days of the week but I understand they are holding the walk on the Sunday (23/08) at 2.00pm, rather than the Saturday (apparently it is a "ticket" event).

The locals have made lifesize mannekins in the uniforms of French Soldiers to highlight the route - unfortunately some have already been stolen (kidnapped ?) - see "L'Avenir de Luxembourg" , several of this weeks daily issues have references.

I can't come over to Ethe I'm afraid. I shall be at the commemoration of the small battle at Cosnes et Romains that took place on the 22nd (but the ceremony is on the nearest Sunday) but let me know next year and I MAY be able to organise a group.

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Bob

PS: My wife, the Book Detective, just called me and told me that she has received a copy of the supposed "War Book of the German General Staff", of the original book, the German book, which is an extremely rare (since so few were ever printed) and obscure German book of 1902 that the British propaganda machine decided to describe as the most important book in Germany, ground out in multiple editions to train Prussian officers in the ways and means of "frightfulness". In fact, my wife was only able to find four copies in the US (there might be more), and the Library of Congress, the world's largest library, which generally has everything (142 million cataloged items), does not have a copy. The closest library which has it declined to loan it to my wife's library, even they supposedly functionally are the same library and share a common catalog (of sorts), but Yale University would lend it, sent sealed in a special envelope with a warning of its extreme fragility.

In a search of about an hour, I have been able to find about 12 editions of this book, supposedly translated from the German to the English, or from the German to the French, or, oddly, from the French to the English (I beg your pardon?), published in multiple editions in at least four countries. As reported elsewhere on this forum. I did an analysis of the seemingly most important edition of this set of translations, the Morgan translation, published in London in 1915, and, as far as I could estimate, the 75 page original should have translated to 61 pages of English, but it seems that Professor Morgan inserted an additional 58 pages of his own material into the original German text. My, my. Such an effort to arrive at the pronounced faithful translation. I am sure that it was a fair and accurate translation.

Having both the original and the "translation", we can actually see what was done. But the whole premise is a humbug. The original book was one of long series of books published by a historical office of the general staff, not an operational or training detachment, book number 31 in a series of God knows how many different books, publidhed in 1902. From its extreme rarity (of abebooks and ZVABs stock of 125,000,000 old books on offer, exactly one copy of this book is offered), probably it was published in an edition of 200-300, or something, this book is elevated to the role as the Devil's Handbook. One Polish paper holds it responsible for the invasion of Poland in 1939! Of course by chosing an extremely rare, obscure book it was almost impossible for anyone to actually check these claims out, not that anyone would.

I will report on this when I have studied the two books side by side.

Bob,

Just a couple of anecdotal pieces from my wife that help illustrate the point of linguistic/cultural differences but first just to clarify the points about linguistic zones:

Apart from the north/south Flemish/French divide it is more complicated in the southern province of Belgium (called the Province of Luxembourg) and the adjoining country, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The majority of the province spoke French/French dialect but the south-eastern tip, adjoining the Grand Duchy largely spoke the same Germanic dialect, called “Patte-Deutsch”, that their neighbours in the Grand Duchy spoke. The welcome that the advancing German Army received got cooler the further they advanced through these zones.

(1) When I return to Belgium at the end of next week my wife will show me a knife exchanged by a young German soldier during WW1 for a loaf of bread from her Great, Great, Grandmother. She was baking on her stove when the soldier, attracted by the aroma of freshly baked bread, entered her house brandishing the knife. Her initial reaction was to be terrified – was he going to cut her throat or worse ? However, from his gesticulations his real intentions quickly became clear – he laid the knife on the kitchen table and pointed back and forth to one of the loaves, which she was happy (and relieved) to swap for the knife, the hungry young man went away happy (and nourished).

(2)At the beginning of WW2, as the German Army advanced, my wife’s maternal side family fled, scared, from Jamoigne to the south of France (along with thousands of other families from the region), only returning when word reached them that “things weren’t as bad as they had been in 1914-1918”. My wife asked a grand-parent from her paternal side who lived in the same province, 40km away in Messancy, “did you have to move when the Germans came “ Yes” he said, “a lot of the villagers welcomed them and they were very worried for our safety, evacuating us all by lorry for 48 hours, whilst they dealt with the French Army in nearby Longwy” !!!

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Steve;

Interesting. My father was never in Belgium. He did mention a couple of things that are possibly relevant. He said, that when he and others were sent to France to join the flame regiment, the replacements were gathered together, and told by an officer that if they took as much as a loaf of bread from the French civilians behind German lines, that they would be shot. (This is of course rediculous, in over four years I believe the Germans shot only 82 of their men, in an army of about six million at any one time.)

He then told me that, while no one got shot, one of his comrades borrowed an iron frying pan from a a Frenchwoman, and that thru a misunderstanding, he did not return it at the time that she understand that it was to be returned. She went to the company officers and complained, and the soldier was in considerable trouble.

Due to their function, his company was in a French barracks about 20 miles behind the front. (They had their own trucks and trucked to the front for attacks or counter-attacks.) Pop had good French, and had a relationship of some duration with a Frenchwoman, the wife of a customs official on the other side of the front lines.

Bob

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A week or two ago, I read in "Shrapnel, WFA België", 2009, N° 2 (June), pages 61-64, an article "Het Bloedbad van Dinant, 23 augustus 1914" (The Massacre in Dinant, 23 Aug 1914). It describes what happened that day. All together on that day German troops killed 674 people. The oldest : 88, the youngest 3 weeks. There were over 70 women among them and almost 40 children.

Reading this was sickening.

Yet it is "only" a summary of I don't know how many pages from : L'Invasion Allemande dans les Provinces de Namur et de Luxembourg", by Jean Schmitz & Norbert Nieuwland, part 4.

I intend to read more about this, in that source. But first I would like to know if this source is reliable. I'm not sure what year it dates from, but I think is was one or two years after WW1. Is it an example of anti-German propaganda ? Are the authors Belgian ? (If so they may be biased.) Maybe the events at Dinant were a little exaggerated ? Maybe they were some aspects that were omitted, and would make the German behaviour understandable and defendable ?

I also have two other questions.

In one of my previous postings I think I mentioned that I had read that approx. 5000 (five thousand) Belgian civilians were killed by German troops in the first weeks of WW1, as a revenge for the Belgian franc-tireurs that had attacked them. My question : is there an official figure as to the total number of German soldiers that were killed by Belgian franc-tireurs. (Or : was the number of the killed German soldiers higher or lower than 5000 ? And if lower : was that number of 5000 Belgians proportionate ?)

I also have another question, and it is serious. Since I am not that familiar with franc-tireur activity. (I live near Ypres, and of course my main focus goes to the Salient. But I do know some things about the events in the town where I come from, Roeselare (Roulers), 14 miles from here, and the killings of dozens of civilians there on "Schuwe Maandag" 19 Oct 1914 .)

Somehow it seems to me that some sources tend to display the opinion that there is an excuse for the execution by German troops of civilians, either as franc tireurs, or as suspects, or just to set an example. My question : is there a sort of rule, maybe drawn up in a pre-war Convention (The Hague ?), stipulating that when a nation invades another nation, that any franc-tireur activity of the invaded country is to be condemned (and punished by the invader) ? Or : that this is a "game" that should only be played by military troops, of the invading and invaded nation. That civilians should stay out of it. And certainly not act as franc-tireurs. And if they choose not to use weapons against the invader, that the best they can do is take to their heels, and if they choose to stay, that then all they are allowed to is to watch "the game" (and/or hide), and applaude or boo the winner or loser. But that never they should take an active part in it. This would suggest that if some of them got killed (accidentally) or executed, that they simply were in the wrong place on the wrong moment. That they were victims of "un accident de parcours". For war is war, isn't it.

Aurel

("Vermoord" = murdered. Or is "executed" a better word ?)

post-92-1249667996.jpg

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Aurel,

as I said before, it was murder

Roeselare- 'schuwe maandag' : same story

Regards,

Cnock

ps often forgotten : Germany invaded Belgium without declaration of war (that is how they showed their disdain for the neutrality of Belgium and its people)

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Aurel

A couple of things :

I would put the number of Belgian victims a bit higher (6000 and more). The book by the two priests Schmitz and Nieuland suffers from some post war rethoric. If you have the possibility their original research is still accesible. This consists of a very large number of interviews taken in occupied belgium during the period 1915-1917. These are kept in the archives of the diocese of Namur

Carl

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Bob

A couple of things :

The Koekoeken (or Compagnies speciale de destruction to give them their proper name) existed in the 3 , 4, 5 and 6th Belgian divisions. They were formed from different regiments. As the Belgian army was still very 19th century in its appearance this also mant different and colourful uniforms. So you had soldiers from the grenadiers regiments wearing a cap closely resembling the German Feldmütze and carabiniers wearing a green and yellow cap. For their operations they frequently wore black rags as camouflage. So anything but uniform in its appearance.

There is an interesting quote from a Belgian cavalry pow taken in the early days of the war. He was shown all through a German infantry company while a German officer was saying " You see we were right in invading Belgium. Look at his red trousers. The French are already here". The soldier was a member of the Belgian Guides cavalry who dressed since 1831 in green and red.

I do think that reading contemporary newspapers (like the Kölnischer Zeitung) has its uses. It will not give accurate information on events but will give an insight in the mindset of its readers be they ordinary soldiers or senior officers.

Again the Flemish Walloon difficulties are real but the current situation is totally different from the sitaution in 1914. Actually the differences between Flemish and Walloons were knowingly accentuated by German authorities in occupied Belgium all through world war one. (eg Ghent university)

ps If you look at the casualty list of Belgians near Visé (on another thread) on the very first day of the war you will find both Walloons and Flemish in this Walloon town

Carl

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(Or : was the number of the killed German soldiers higher or lower than 5000 ? And if lower : was that number of 5000 Belgians proportionate ?)

Since you asked, I personally reject the concept of "proportionality." I think it's a ridiculous, destructive concept whenever it's used.

If we say that the German response was "proportionate," it means that the Germans were morally correct in MURDERING civilians in reprisal for the Belgians defending against an invasion of their country.

In addition, the concept of "proportionality" now prevents nations from embarking on campaigns designed to bring about decisive victory. Because of the false notion of "proportionality," armed conflicts go on and on and on, costing more lives in the long run. "Proportionality" is supposed to save lives by restraining combatants, but like so many ideas that emanate from the ivory towers of academia it has the exact opposite result.

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Tom,

It was an attempt to sound a little well, euh ... sarcastic.

Of course (in my opinion) there is no such thing as proportionality that can justify in this matter.

Whether the number of German soldiers being killed by Belgian francs-tireurs was 5 times higher or 5 times lower, it can never justify the "execution" of hundreds and hundreds of innocent civilians, among who women and children.

But my attempt at sarcasm or irony was not very successful I see. ;)

Maybe I had thought that my point of view had been made clear, but that was in a posting of mine in a different topic (First Belgian civilian victims), posted after the one ion this Topic, in which I quoted some point or issue in the Hague Convention (1899), according to which for the large powers civilians taking up weapons against the occupying invaders should be treated as francs-tireurs, and hence : executed. Differently from "lawful combatants", wearing an army uniform, cap, badge etc. So, when it came to defending your farm or country, you'd better make sure you were wearing an official army uniform.

Aurel

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Bob,

Just a couple of anecdotal pieces from my wife that help illustrate the point of linguistic/cultural differences but first just to clarify the points about linguistic zones:

Apart from the north/south Flemish/French divide it is more complicated in the southern province of Belgium (called the Province of Luxembourg) and the adjoining country, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The majority of the province spoke French/French dialect but the south-eastern tip, adjoining the Grand Duchy largely spoke the same Germanic dialect, called “Patte-Deutsch”, that their neighbours in the Grand Duchy spoke. The welcome that the advancing German Army received got cooler the further they advanced through these zones.

(1) When I return to Belgium at the end of next week my wife will show me a knife exchanged by a young German soldier during WW1 for a loaf of bread from her Great, Great, Grandmother. She was baking on her stove when the soldier, attracted by the aroma of freshly baked bread, entered her house brandishing the knife. Her initial reaction was to be terrified – was he going to cut her throat or worse ? However, from his gesticulations his real intentions quickly became clear – he laid the knife on the kitchen table and pointed back and forth to one of the loaves, which she was happy (and relieved) to swap for the knife, the hungry young man went away happy (and nourished).

(2)At the beginning of WW2, as the German Army advanced, my wife’s maternal side family fled, scared, from Jamoigne to the south of France (along with thousands of other families from the region), only returning when word reached them that “things weren’t as bad as they had been in 1914-1918”. My wife asked a grand-parent from her paternal side who lived in the same province, 40km away in Messancy, “did you have to move when the Germans came “ Yes” he said, “a lot of the villagers welcomed them and they were very worried for our safety, evacuating us all by lorry for 48 hours, whilst they dealt with the French Army in nearby Longwy” !!!

The Province of Luxembourg is so called because until 1839 it was a part of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. At that time (when Belgium became an independent country) the French, for reasons best known them, insisted that the native language of the region was French. It wasn't; they spoke Luxembourgish, and many still do in areas close to the border with Luxembourg.

Luxembourgish is not a Platte Deutsche language but a Hoch Deutsch language. Dutch is Platte Deutsch.

Surprisingly, during WW2, the Germans ran more or less compulsory German classes for the population in and around Arlon. I have seen photos of them in their classes in contemporary German magazines, the aptions being of the "Belgians relearning their ancestral language which has been forbidden (it wasn't; it was just no use) for the past century.

Incidentally, a local French newspaper said that when the French army arrived in Thionville in 1918 they ad great difficulty finding anyone who spoke French as they had reverted to Luxembourgish and German since the German takeover. If you draw lines from the western edge of Luxembourg and from the eastern corner and get them to meet somewhere south of Metz, you will have the Luxembourgish penetration into France.

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The Province of Luxembourg is so called because until 1839 it was a part of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. At that time (when Belgium became an independent country) the French, for reasons best known them, insisted that the native language of the region was French. It wasn't; they spoke Luxembourgish, and many still do in areas close to the border with Luxembourg.

Luxembourgish is not a Platte Deutsche language but a Hoch Deutsch language. Dutch is Platte Deutsch.

Surprisingly, during WW2, the Germans ran more or less compulsory German classes for the population in and around Arlon. I have seen photos of them in their classes in contemporary German magazines, the aptions being of the "Belgians relearning their ancestral language which has been forbidden (it wasn't; it was just no use) for the past century.

Incidentally, a local French newspaper said that when the French army arrived in Thionville in 1918 they ad great difficulty finding anyone who spoke French as they had reverted to Luxembourgish and German since the German takeover. If you draw lines from the western edge of Luxembourg and from the eastern corner and get them to meet somewhere south of Metz, you will have the Luxembourgish penetration into France.

Well corrected ! My wife will be annoyed I got the "high" and "low" wrong {"low countries = low german" as a "rough" memory jogger should be easy !}. I think the point we are making and you have more accurately delineated is that linguistic borders do not follow national boundaries which helps explain the varied reception received by the German Army as it entered southern Belgium in August 1914.

Thanks.

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Dutch is Platte Deutsch.

I know, a detail, and totally irrelevant in this Topic, but please don't call my language (I live in Flanders, so my (standard) language is Dutch) Platte Deutsch. It is true that Nederduits en Platduits (Plattdüütsch") sometimes are (were) used as synonyms. But all that can be said is that indeed in the east of the Netherlands Nedersaksisch dialects are spoken (Nedersakisch being the western half of Nederduits). Nederlands elsewhere in the Netherlands and in Flanders is a different language (different dialects)

True again that until a couple of centuries ago the language in the Netherlands and Flanders was called "Nederduits" (now it's Nederlands, the only correct word), as it was (wrongly) thought that Nederlands was part of Nederduits. Since then this has linguistically been corrected.

In a nutshell, saying that Nederlands = Platduits is not right.

Sorry for this going off Topic (can't help it, once a teacher, always a teacher, even when retired). And no need to reply of course. For there are more important things. Like the Belgian Francs-Tireurs. ;)

Aurel

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The only "mention" of Franctireurs I found in my documentation is ...

c2127545472842.gif

346eda45472833.gif

Apologies for maybe the bad quality of scan ... and ofcourse for the Gothic print ... If needed will transpose the original german text ....

(Source: Amtliche Kriegsdepechen)

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Thank you Grenadier, no translation necessary, I did understand all. :)

This is an unmisleading warning for any activities in doing asymetric war. Belgium was only needed for march through. Anything what could disturb the achievement of the French border was dangerous for the winning of war. So the German troops were forced to stop any resistance at once.

In the history of Jägerbataillon 10 I read, that the paymaster of the battalion had his purse full of Goldmark in order to buy all what they needed in Belgium correctly. A little strange this suggestion "I don´t want anything from you, but please let me through". Of course the proud and honour of our Belgian friends did not allow that.

But there is nothing what excuses this massacres of innocent civilians.

Fritz

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When ever I read a German Regimental history of 1914 it was told about Belgian franctireurs shooting advancing German troops in the rear and fighting like guerilla-troopers. If anybody was captured as suspected he was shot. Otherwise I heart there was even a mass-execution in Dinant with 600 victims, killed by Saxon army.

Did the franctireurs really exist or only the feared fiction of people´s rebellion?

Fritz

Hello Fritz, you my find an answer here. Go to page Vi of the foreword.Written in 1921.

This is taken from the American Libraries Internet Archive files.

Joe

http://www.archive.org/details/germanarmyinbelg00germrich

A second source;

http://www.archive.org/details/growthoflegendst00langrich

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206thCEF;

Thanks for posting the two links. I suggest that everyone interested in this topic read the entire Foreword (eight pages), not just page vi, of the book reached via the first link. It presents information from a variety of Belgian sources of the time describing furious attacks on German troops by Belgian civilians. This is fully consistant with the information in my grand-father's letters, which I possess, and in the family oral history originating with him (which in other matters has proved surprisingly accurate), and also in the contemporary diary of the sergeant from my grand-father's army corps, which I am finishing translating from the manuscript. The Foreword also describes in some detail the Allied war-time propaganda effort, which led to a lot of false information. The candor of the UK author is commendable so soon after the war, but it does represent a lot of the "revision" that occurred in the 1920's, after the heat of the war-time period subsided.

As I have said before, I read in French-language material, not intended for the foreign reader, celebration and praise for franc-tireur activity. As I said, you can't have it both ways.

Bob Lembke

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Interesting,

The foreword to this edition of the German White book ( a propaganda piece if ever there was one) seems to me more concerned in proving the legitimacy of the resistance of the IRA against English forces which is of course a totally different topic.

If I may quote Bob "I have NEVER even bothered reading German newspapers of the period" Are we then supposed to accept quotes from Belgian newspapers (mostly local papers with a limited distribution) as totally accurate and telling the truth in every aspect ???? I think not.

Again there are very few proven attacks by Belgian civilians. I know of one and only one.

Carl

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Interesting,

The foreword to this edition of the German White book ( a propaganda piece if ever there was one) seems to me more concerned in proving the legitimacy of the resistance of the IRA against English forces which is of course a totally different topic.

If I may quote Bob "I have NEVER even bothered reading German newspapers of the period" Are we then supposed to accept quotes from Belgian newspapers (mostly local papers with a limited distribution) as totally accurate and telling the truth in every aspect ???? I think not.

Again there are very few proven attacks by Belgian civilians. I know of one and only one.

Carl

From whichever position you take there is no denying that subtstantial numbers of Belgian civilians were shot or died in their burning houses over this weekend in 1914. For example, the 120 civilians from Rossignol, Tintigny and Breuvanne executed on the railway embankment near Arlon is well documented but over this August weekend many local villages will have commemoration services, not just to remember the soldiers killed but also the civilians executed. (I will be attending one such event tomorrow). Those killed range from young children to old men. Many houses in villages were burnt down deliberately (not destroyed by artillery fire) - for example in the small village of Les Bulles 25 houses were burnt and 6 civilians killed.

The German "White Book" that previous posters refer to put such outrages down to their legitimate response to "Franc-Tireur" activity; just as some English sources' extreme refrences eg "children been bayonetted" are propaganda-led, so too this German rationale. The vast weight of numbers/cases of victims, destruction and hostage taking is far greater than the number of alleged attacks (let alone the proven ones).

Some people believe it was down to "memories" of the Franco-Prussian war when perhaps such activity did take place - it was certainly recounted in German newspapers in the lead up to the opening engagements of WW1 (propaganda ?!?). Others feel that it was down to the German Army's need to suppress Belgium (and its people who were to be occupied) quickly so they could move on and in to France. I suspect we will never know all the reasons but to deny it happened I think is disrespectful to those Belgians whose villages even today carry painful memories of August 1914.

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Hi, Carl;

Interesting,

The foreword to this edition of the German White book ( a propaganda piece if ever there was one) seems to me more concerned in proving the legitimacy of the resistance of the IRA against English forces which is of course a totally different topic.

The German White Book clearly was a propaganda piece, issued in 1915 in response to the tidal wave of a mix of true accounts and fabricated material being ground out by the British, the Belgian government in exile, and the French. I have no idea as to the mix of factual matters and fabrications within it. (To increase creditability, good propaganda usually contains a mix of truth and fiction.) And the author of the foreword was certainly concerned with what he felt were British offenses against the Irish. But the Foreword is quite remarkable, see below.

If I may quote Bob "I have NEVER even bothered reading German newspapers of the period" Are we then supposed to accept quotes from Belgian newspapers (mostly local papers with a limited distribution) as totally accurate and telling the truth in every aspect ???? I think not.

No, I don't read German newspapers of the period, as I would consider them poor sources for several reasons. The remarkable thing about this Foreword is that it contains several pages of accounts supposedly from Belgian newspapers of the period describing major franc-tireur activity, perhaps eight accounts. What could these possibly mean? One, the articles are complete fabrications. But that could be easily disproved at that time, and that would have completely discredited the entire major publishing effort. I would think that the publisher themselves would require proof of these explosive assertions before undertaking the major effort of printing and publishing this very long book, over 355 pages, I think. Secondly, the newspaper accounts, although actually published in 1914, were fabrications. Then by who? It seems unlikely that say eight different newspaper editors in different towns would simultaneously decide to fabricate and publish such assertions, which might both incite and justify brutal German treatment of the Belgian population. So, if this fabrication is the answer, it would probably have been engineered by the Belgian Army or government, to attempt to incite franc-tireur activity. But, in the stories, after shooting German soldiers, the Belgian franc-tireurs are generally overcome and shot in these newspaper accounts. Hardly an attractive recruiting ploy. Finally, thirdly, the accounts are in some part or entirely correct, and there was considerable serious franc-tireur activity going on.

The reason that these newspaper accounts should be looked at closely is the nature of their assertions. If German papers of the period, from different cities and towns, were filled with letters from Ulan officers serving in Belgium describing in considerable detail (in the words of the immortal film "Burning Saddles") the "stampeding of women and the raping of cattle", I would study those newspapers carefully. As to the fact that the Belgian newspapers in question are largely smaller papers, this, to me, would increase the likelyhood that they are reporting the truth, and not be part of, for example, some sort of organized fabrication campaign.

Again there are very few proven attacks by Belgian civilians. I know of one and only one.

I place great weight on your position on this. (And would, of course, be interested in the details of the one example you have found.) I find this material in the foreword very surprising.

Carl

Bob

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