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Remembered Today:

Belgian Franctireurs 1914


fritz
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Carl,

Feldwebel is a singular, not plural, term, and it doesn't mean 'gendarme' or 'gendarmes'. It is a German military rank - a senior NCO of approx sergeant-major level. If the German officer referred to his Belgian prisoner as a Feldwebel, he clearly regarded that man as a member of the military, not as a civilian. Is there any other reference to corroberate the belief that the man sent to parlay was in fact a gendarme?

Mick

Mick,

Thanks for the translation. Thanks to the other responses as well. The Belgian Gendarmes were definitely part of the Belgian military, so any instance of them being treated as franc tireurs would be interesting indeed. Here is a good pre-war description of the Belgian Gendarmes from "Rüstung und Abrüstung: eine Umschau über das Heer, -und Kriegswesen aller Länder," Volume 25.

"Die Gendarmerie untersteht in Allem, was die Ausrüstung, die Unterkunft, Besichtigung, Disziplin und Beförderung betrifft, unter dem Kriegsministerium; im Übrigen dem Departement der Justiz. Die Gendarmerie übt die Kontrolle aller Beurlaubten und Reservisten aus, besorgt ihr Einberufen und hat im Kriegsfalle für die Ordnung innerhalb der Lager und im Rücken des Heeres zu sorgen. Die Gendarmerie gilt mit Recht als ein Elitekorps in Belgien."

Paul

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Re the Gendarmerie.

Until just a few years ago, Belgium had as 'police':

1. A Gendarmerie which came under the Ministry of Defence and was a national force with national powers. Part of their training was with the military.

2. Police Municipale or local police. They did local duties ranging from traffic wardens to policing processions at the local church, reacting as a first force to any crime, etc.

3. The Gardes Champetres or Gamekeepers/ field and wild animal protectors. They were (and are) the local police in rural areas (and are described as such in most dictionaries). Their training varies from the very basic relating to issuing hunting licences to having diplomas in crime investigation, prevention and law.

A few years ago 1 and 2 were amalgamated. 3 are still a separate force (largely because the majority of their ostensible duties are to do with hunting - they give courses before letting out licences to hunt).

In France, it is still the case that the Gendarmerie come under the army, and somtimes reports on crimes will talk about the 'militaire' being present when, in fact, they mean the Gendarmerie.

Of course, the French have a multitude of other 'police' forces as well. Who does what is a mystery to most French people let alone anyone else, but most of these are post WW1.

So, what this shows is that the training of the German army was sadly deficient if they didn't know anything about these different forces. Not that this is the only example. One German officer (in advance of everyone else) crossed into Luxembourg and immediately (at the end of the bridge) asked the way of a passer by. He didn't know how to read a map! The passer by was at a lost because the question he was asked was the equivalent of asking "How do I get to Liverpool" when standing outside Paddington station.

However, all the accounts that I have read about this period - mostly diaries or onlookers accounts, say that the Germans were utterly amazed that anyone should be shooting at them, and when they were not standing in full view waiting to be shot at in their turn, were obviously franc tireurs and, as we would say, terrorists. They seem to have been told or taken for granted that everyone would stand beside the roads doffing their caps and politely answering questions in perfect German (if they didn't speak German they were obviously spies or terrorists). People taking fright were spies as were people running away (getting the ...... out of it) were also spies.

The plain fact is that the German army:

a. was terrified of fighting,

b. assumed that they could just walk through anywhere they pleased and that no one would say anything about it. Which is presumably how they acted in Germany

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Well

There is a testimony by lieutenant Oor (commander of the armoured car in this incident) who states that he held his fire when he saw that some injured gendarmes where being used as a human shield by the German unit.

Carl

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All this being so, there seems little doubt that Oberstleutnant Graf von Preysing, at least, was aware of the military status of the Belgian Gendarmerie.

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  • 1 year later...

<!--quoteo--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE </div><div class='quotemain'><!--quotec-->"Germany seems to have decided that it was illegal for a citizen to take up arms to defend his country."

"Quite why they thought it was illegal/unfair for anyone to shoot at them is a mystery."<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Any army on the world will put irregular formations and armed civilists outside the laws of war. The allies did so as well.

Indeed, and many armies would execute irregulars....

But it takes special armies to line up women and children and shoot them as well.

Just a note...

Heavily involved were the 182nd and 101st Inf regiments, both of wich the great grandfather of my wife served in. Both units shot over 100 "terrorists" many women and small children amongst them...

Both dont mention these actions with a word in their histories... if it were a justified action they could at least have defended them?

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When reading accounts of the German occupiers in Belgium and France. ( Unfortunately, I have not come across any accounts of the experiences undergone by inhabitants of Luxembourg) I am struck by the brutality and also by the mendacity of the occupying forces. The first actions on entering a town or city seem to have been to take hostages and demand large sums of money with menaces. Most of the hostages who were not shot ended up in Germany carrying out forced labour and I have seen no reports of ' sureties' being returned. Presumably shooting a franc-tireur would allow the local commander to hang on to his loot.

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When reading accounts of the German occupiers in Belgium and France. ( Unfortunately, I have not come across any accounts of the experiences undergone by inhabitants of Luxembourg) I am struck by the brutality and also by the mendacity of the occupying forces. The first actions on entering a town or city seem to have been to take hostages and demand large sums of money with menaces. Most of the hostages who were not shot ended up in Germany carrying out forced labour and I have seen no reports of ' sureties' being returned. Presumably shooting a franc-tireur would allow the local commander to hang on to his loot.

Hi truthergw,

Well said, and certainly true.

I was heavily involved in two long running and acrimonious threads on 'Aerodrome'--over a couple of years, on this very subject, (my use of the word 'Schrecklichkeit' caused a storm of Germanic denials) but, as someone has already observed in an earlier post here----it has been 'done to death' here also.

I won't add my own take on this, for that reason----though will say that it is one which is certainly not kind to the German army----but will quote this---

"At Tamines the cemetrery contains 384 graves whose stones bear the inscription: '1914; Fusille par les Allemands' Vise, on the Dutch frontier, was destroyed on 23rd. August; people in Holland heard shooting during the night and the next day 4,000 refugees crossed the frontier--the whole of the remaining population left alive, except for 700 men and boys taken to Germany for forced labour. This was another sign of things to come. So was the universal taking of hostages; ten from every street in Namur, elsewhere one from every house, as guarantee of 'good behaviour'."

As I have already remarked, on a different thread here----the simple and innocuous sounding word 'occupation' covers a multitude of horrific sins where German army's in the 20th. century were concerned.

Cheers,

Dave.

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Good evening All,

I think three factors help explain why the incidents are largely forgotten outside Belgium:

1. The Germans obviously are unlikely to publicise them

2. As many of the incidents coincided with the heavy French defeats of the Battle of the Frontiers, there are relatively few French histories of August 1914, they usually jump quickly to the Marne

3. Many British, regaled with erroneous tales of bayonetting babies, mutilating women etc fail to see beyond the propoganda to the real atrocities that actually did take place.

I'll be in the Gaume tomorrow and I can assure that they do remember there

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Good evening All,

I think three factors help explain why the incidents are largely forgotten outside Belgium:

1. The Germans obviously are unlikely to publicise them

2. As many of the incidents coincided with the heavy French defeats of the Battle of the Frontiers, there are relatively few French histories of August 1914, they usually jump quickly to the Marne

3. Many British, regaled with erroneous tales of bayonetting babies, mutilating women etc fail to see beyond the propoganda to the real atrocities that actually did take place.

I'll be in the Gaume tomorrow and I can assure that they do remember there

100% agreement with everything in your post Steve. Though women, and sometimes, babies, were 'executed'.

Cheers,

Dave.

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Against my better judgement, I am going to pitch in here.

I have studied what went on in Belgium, off and on, for 11 years. As I work almost entirely from primary sources, and, very carefully, official histories, almost all of my research has been from German, French (Belgian and French French), and Flemish sources. I have been working a lot on Belgium over the last nine months, and over this period not much more than 1% of my sources are in English. As the Brits only had a fleeting role in Belgium, very few primary sources are in English.

If you are trying to sort out what happened in Belgium in 1914, and you are only working in English, you are on a Fool's Errand. During the war the English and Belgians (and to a very, very lesser extent the French) churned out an absolute tidal wave of propoganda, almost entirely produced in English, aimed 95% at the neutral Americans and also the Canadians. I have studied these and their production, and it is a fascinating story. Interestingly, while hundreds of these were produced, their publishing largely stopped in 1917, when the US finally entered the war. I probably could write 50 pages on this topic without referring to materials. This was a very important, vital aspect of the Allied war effort. But it has poisoned the history of the period severely ever since.

But let's go to the substance and core questions.

Did the franc tireurs exist? There is a great amout of evidence that this sort of irregular military activity happened a great deal. I have the manuscript letters from my grand-father, the "Id" in the Generalkommando of III. Reserve Korps, the formation that besieged and took Antwerp, written on the field in Belgium. He frequently mentions being fired on, or the great likelyhood of being fired on, wrote "half the people in this country are crazy", and "you feel that you are in a powder keg". Family oral history has it that once he had to dive out of his staff car and crawl under it for cover from sniper fire. I bought (at great expense, I got into a bidding was with a Belgian) on e-Bay a German manuscript diary of a sergeant from my grand-father's army corps, and he depicts a very complex relationship with the Belgians, and I might mention a much better relationship with the Flemish, as compared to the Walloons. But he also mentions being fired on from village houses as they marched through, and in one case charging a house from which fire came and dragging out men, boys, and a priest.

He also mentioned an interesting incident when a Belgian auto with two men tried to drive thru their sentry posts. Halted, and questioned, and the car searched, the men turned out to be two Belgian officers, in civvies, and they had explosives hidden in the car. As they were held, one angrily stated that a German soldier had taken his wrist-watch, and the embarrassed German officers investigated, and found the watch and returned it to the officer, and then the two were shot. (I believe that this was quite in order.)

But I have also come to realize that the tactical situation was really more complex. A Belgian friend has provided information of a lot of interest. He did say that the Belgians did form something like eight companies of organized saboteurs like the two mentioned above. Also, Belgian regular troops did attempt a lot of ambush and guerilla warfare, and sometimes this activity was taken for the activity of civilians. The Belgians had a great assortment of uniforms, some not especially military to the foreign eye, and there are persistant reports that the Belgian soldiers carried civilian clothes in their packs.

I also have come across a number of Belgian sources that admit to this franc tireur activity, and discussed it. I might mention that Flemish sources seem to be much more likely to admit to this activity than Walloon sources, and sometimes criticize it, or admit to its foolishness. I also have come across several sources in French that boasted of this patriotic activity. You can't have it both ways, protest and deny it in English, while you boast of the same activity in French, for domestic consumption.

I could go on quite a lot, but won't (it is 4 AM), but the serious student of this fighting cannot deny that there were many cases of Belgian civilians firing on the Germans, and other situations where it seemed to be the case, but was not.

I am very tired, and don't want to get into the even more explosive issue, German atrocities, but I will respond very briefly; there certainly were some, a lot more were invented in the hundreds of fabricated books, and some civilians were shot after they (perhaps) fired on German troops. And the rapidity of the trials of captured franc tireurs is very troubling. I will be happy to provide dozens of absolutely absurd atrocity stories, if requested.

But if you are looking into this question, and are only working in English, you have little chance of getting anywhere close to the truth.

In that vein, the much-rumored "English gene", often hinted at, that allegedly makes it impossible for an Englishman to learn a foreign language, is only that, a rumor. My wife, almost entirely English and Irish (maiden name Megan Elisabeth Foley), literally works in about 80 languages at work, 40 in any given year. She has three ancient languages, and is now teaching herself Basque. So there is hope.

Bob Lembke

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There are quite a few references to German atrocities in French memoirs . The one I have read most recently is that of President Poincare. There was a serious effort to extradite the Kaiser and some OHL to be tried as war criminals when the armistice was signed. Reparations were linked directly to the ' war guilt' clauses which included atrocities in the occupied zones. There was a long rearguard action in Germany against these clauses which sought to downplay the events and write them off as allied propaganda. Global recession and financial depression with all its attendant woes soon overtook these questions in the minds of most people. In the thirties, anti-war sentiment also helped to fix attention on how to avoid war and that was an incentive to drop matters like the occupation atrocities and concentrate on forgive & forget. Although a not unimportant part of the war, the problem tends to lead us into the twenties and thirties and then to break out again in the fifties.( Fritz Fischer et al) Fascinating subject but more political than military, with a tendency to drift off our topic. I have never seen a German account by any of the town commandants who carried out these actions. I'd really like to read the justification which I am sure they fully believed in.

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Bob,

I think you will find that the members are reading french/Belgian/German books.

In fact, living in Germany I find it difficult to find English books.

The discussion of whether the odd civilian took up arms is (IMHO) totally immaterial... and leaving aside the "Babies on bayonets and breasts off nuns" propaganda...

Fact of the matter is, within days of the outbreak of the war, German units were lining up men, women, children, BABIES... and murdering them. Irrespective of whether they had taken up arms or not.

For me the following points are relavant.

1) These were men who a week before were at home picking their noses... there was no "and after 4 tours in Vietnam he began to go crazy and shoot peasants..." this is "Within a couple of days on the battlefield he was murdering children"

2) The willingness to line up villagers and shoot them at a drop of the hat... can we assume that Europe was lucky that the war became static, or would they have continued doing the same if their advance continued... or... had the high command by this time realised it was a bad thing to do and given orders to stop.

3) Having the German Histories for a number of the regiments involved in the dirty side of 1914, it is interesting to see that by 1920-30 they were no longer so sure of what they had done. IR101, 182 and RIR31 (Louvain) all gloss over actions like this in a line or two... I assume realising it simply is not to defend.

4) We associate mass shootings with the Eastern Front in WW2, and with the occasional SS unit in the west in WW2... but if you take Belgium 1914 into account... it makes one wonder if such actions are somehow made easier by the German military system... I have not looked into it... but how did the Germans act on the Eastern Front in WW1?

5) I remember some years ago you mentioned how the Germans suffered under French occupation, the main example mentioned was that French Colonial troops had dug toilets on the lawn of an exclusive Baden Baden hotel... I suppose another option would have been to take the hotel employees hostage, shoot them for having kitchen knives, then using the bog behind the reception? ;-)

Best

Chris

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Bob,

I think you will find that the members are reading french/Belgian/German books.

In fact, living in Germany I find it difficult to find English books.

The discussion of whether the odd civilian took up arms is (IMHO) totally immaterial.

Leaving aside the "Babies on bayonets and breasts off nuns" propaganda...

Fact of the matter is, within days of the outbreak of the war, German units were lining up men, women, children, BABIES... and murdering them.

For me the following points are relavant.

1) These were men who a week before were at home picking their noses... there was no "and after 4 tours in Vietnam he began to go crazy and shoot peasants..." this is "Within a couple of days on the battlefield he was murdering children"

2) The willingness to line up villagers and shoot them at a drop of the hat... can we assume that Europe was lucky that the war became static, or would they have continued doing the same if their advance continued... or... had the high command by this time realised it was a bad thing to do and given orders to stop.

3) Having the German Histories for a number of the regiments involved in the dirty side of 1914, it is interesting to see that by 1920-30 they were no longer so sure of what they had done. IR101, 182 and RIR31 (Louvain) all gloss over actions like this in a line or two... I assume realising it simply is not to defend.

4) We associate mass shootings with the Eastern Front in WW2, and with the occasional SS unit in the west in WW2... but if you take Belgium 1914 into account... it makes one wonder if such actions are somehow made easier by the German military system... I have not looked into it... but how did the Germans act on the Eastern Front in WW1?

Best

Chris

Or the Austrians in Sebia in 1914 Chris.

I fully concur with your points, and deprecate this 'belief system' , which is just as pernicious as the '"nun's breasts" type propaganda, that atrocities did not happen!

I, for one, am not disposed to disregard the fact that "a trail of massacre and terror" followed the German armies. As it was in WW2---so the dreadful continuity existed in WW1---aye, and before! We accept, even our German friends accept, that atrocities on an almost unimaginable scale, took place in Russia in WW2, and (not quite so readily, for obvious reasons of continuity, which few Germans seem ready to even contemplate) not just by SS units, but by regular Wermacht units also, but find it somehow propaganda that similar treatment was meted out to Belgians in 1914-----why, I ask myself.

I have not made an indepth study of this for 11 years, nor am I able to read in foreign languages, but I, for one, refuse to categorize all English language histories, or historians, as mythology mongers. My reading of the period early 1914, leaves me in little doubt (and I see little room for denial) that terrible atrocities were commonplace in Belgium and 'occupied' France in 1914---and is'nt Holland lucky it was 'removed' from the 'plan' before 1914!

Cheers,

Dave.

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The Belgians had a great assortment of uniforms, some not especially military to the foreign eye, and there are persistant reports that the Belgian soldiers carried civilian clothes in their packs.

As clothing was expensive in those days, some people having just a couple of changes... I would imagine a soldier who was mobilised at short notice because a country was violating their neutrality... would go to a base depot, get issued his clobber then get rushed of to the front... and to avoid throwing away his only suit, maybe, just maybe... he would stuff it into his pack? I think I would...

Its the difference between having a standing army and planning a war, and being pulled into a war and having to quickly get everyone into uniform...

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"For such a population, any disposition towards humanity or kindliness would be entirely misplaced; it would even be fraught with danger......I therefore order that during the military operations everyone shall be treated with the greatest suspicion and harshness.

In the first place, I will not allow persons armed, but wearing no uniform, to be taken prisoners.....

In passing through hostile villages hostages....must be taken and kept until the last house has been passed, and THEY MUST BE ALL KILLED if a single shot is fired at the troops..."

Potiorek and the Austrians, yes, but do we imagine the Germans in the west any less sanguine ? (they certainly were'nt in WW2! Do we doubt Lidice, or Ourador? If yes, then I ask why? A Swiss Doctor, commissioned by the Sebs in 1915, reckoned that up to 4,000 civilians were killed or disappeared in those first few weeks........As for Austria, so for Germany I'm afraid.

Hew Strachan (he is certainly not alone) tells us that --

"there was very little---AND POSSIBLY NO--- civilian resistance to the German invasion. But the German army killed 5, 521 civilians in Belgium and 896 in France...."

Shades indeed of the Herero massacres in nowadays Namibia in 1904---same Kaiser, same army, many of the same officers.......

But Hew Strachan is writing history in English, so, presumably, it, and he, is tainted!

Did the correspondent for the Berliner Tageblatt lie, to his own readeing public, when he reported on Herve "razed to the ground....of about five hundred houses at Herve, only nineteen remain. CORPSES are lying all over the place; everywhere there is the smell of burning....the church is a broken heap of ruins...."

Terraine sees an 'orchestrated' suggestion in the quick and ready accusation of Franc-Tireur activity, telling us (in 'The Smoke And The Fire' of the seaman in far away Wilhelmshaven, writing on 5th August, with the war barely 24 hours old, "Terrible reports of atrocities against German citizens, arrived from Belgium, our nation is not at all prepared for war....."

Dear me, the biggest army in the world, of the most militaristic nation in the world at that time, 24 hours into invading a small neutral neighbour (not for the last time) andhe talks of "German citizens" when he means invaders raping a neutral country, and "not prepared for war" ......

Corelli Barnett see's a "Trail of atrocity---burned villages, shot civilians......at Dinant, on 23rd. August von Hausens Saxons shot over 600 men, women, AND CHILDREN..."

Ah! but this is 'English language' history also.....

Did Mr. Brand Whitelock, American ambassador lie when he reported that the military governor of Brussells, General von Luttwitz told him that Louvain was to be destroyed......? Did the First secretary of the American Legation, Mr. Hugh Gibson, with Swedish and Mexican colleagues also lie to his Government when he reported on Louvain that a German officer kept repeating to him In the outraged city (on Aug. 28th.) that "we shall wipe it out, not one stone will stand upon another! Kein stein auf einander! Not one I tell you.

We will teach them to respect Germany"

"Quote---

But if you are looking into this question, and are only working in English, you have little chance of getting anywhere close to the truth."

Well, That statement flabbergasts me Bob, sorry. I shudder to imagine what the history of the 20th. century would read like if Germany had been victorious in WW1---or 2!

All lies, fabrications, propaganda ploys, fallacies, mythology of the most odious kind? Anglo-Saxon oriented 'history' in a peculiarly 'English' way? ------- I think not.

Cheers,

Dave.

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There has been a recent TV foray by our esteemed Niall Ferguson into this realm of German frightfulness : in this case he was talking about the massacre of the Herero tribe in German SW Africa a decade before the invasion of Belgium....but the inferrence is clear.

Several thousand Belgian civilians were killed by the German army in a few weeks in the opening campaign in 1914 : no doubt about that. Included among them were significant numbers of women and children.

Revelations about the conspiracy of silence by the British Government over the torture and killing of Kenyan Mau-Mau suspects in more recent times should prevent us from being too quick to judge.

Phil (PJA)

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No 'judging' Phil---just relating history. We can discuss the 'Mau Mau' if you wish,(or the mythology of British inventing 'concentration camps' et al) but just at present we are discussing German atrocities in Belgium and France, which I see with satisfaction, though not suprise, that you fully concur with.

Indeed, Belgiums record in the 'Congo' was deplorable by ALL standards----but that does not mean we balance that with German invasion---Tit for tat, is not history, though, of course, I know you would not countenance such a balancing act my friend.

Cheers,

Dave.

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Yes, forgive my diversion, Dave.

I wanted to make a point. Perhaps I should not have done so.

There is another attribute of this that needs to be countenanced. Why does Terence Zuber, who writes a very compelling but rather polemical tribute to the fighting prowess of the German army in 1914, shy away from addressing the question of the killing of Belgian civilians at Aarschot and elsewhere ?

He makes a controversial ( some might say outlandish ) assertion that Belgium was fortunate in suffering relatively low military casualties, and that it "...was therefore in Belgium's interest to emphasise German atrocities....to show that Belgium too was suffering at the hands of the Germans."

It is on record that Lloyd George did allude to the fact that Belgium had been depicted as the principal victim of German aggression, but had in fact not sustained great demographic damage. I wonder if this might account for the reluctance to hold Germans to account for these atrocities. For atrocites they were......why is Oradour -sur -Glane so notorious, and Aarschot so little remembered ?

Phil (PJA)

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Hi Phil, and I apologise if I sounded a bit strident just then....

No fan of Terence Zuber here though, nor of the despicable Lloyd-George.

The one over rates the Germans and under rates the BEF----the other tried (happily unsuccessfully), to reduce Britain, her Army, her Generals, and ultimately his government (did he not see that) to a vassal of the french High Command.

Both of those two have an agenda ridden take on history that staggers me. One wrapped up in very convincing data---though superficial, and the other wrapped up in minimising his own huge mis-reading of what war on the grand scale really meant, especially a war against Wilhelmian Germany.

Just my thoughts Phil,

cheers,

Dave.

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First of all, for some strange reasom there was no fighting in Luxembourg and no hostage taking or shooting. Why this was remains a mystery.

Second, the attitude of the Germans was bizarre. They seem to have decided to shoot as many people as possible and then think of an excuse. For example, in one place the mayor was ordered to collect all the weapons in the village. As this was a farming village, not unnaturally many people had shotguns and hunting rifles. He collected them all up and put them in the Mairie (town hall) and was then shot (with others) for stocking weapons for use against the Germans!

At Longuyon in France, the moment that the Germans arrived they demanded hostages (if I remember correctly von Moltke was there) by noon. When they had not arrived he wanted to shoot the entire town. He only relented when an aide pointed out that his watch was on German time, and naturally the French were on French time. Noon meant the next day!

Two days later the village priest was hauled out of the field hospital where he had been documenting German casualties at the doctor's request, taken to the town centre and shot as a spy. Work that one out, if you can.

The stories go on and on. Doubtless some were invented. One Luxembourg farm worker arrived back in the country from a visit to a farm nearby in Arlon and related that the Germans wereshooting everyone (this was on 2 August). The story was taken to be true, but eventually the village priest got the man to admit that he had completely invented it.

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Hi Phil, guys,

Quote--

"......why is Oradour -sur -Glane so notorious, and Aarschot so little remembered ?"

In my opinion Phil, ---I am one who believes in a terrible continuity of German war aims and the methods which are allowed to be used---sanctioned----to achieve those aims---- it comes from the simple fact that almost everyone accepts readily the abobination of Nazism---but believes, because they MUST, it was a unique 'one off' moment in time---an aberration in history, never (in modern times---20th. century) had it been done before.

If it is postulated that the WW1 methods were in no way really different----the scale was different, but the murdering of civilians, the raping of country's infrastructures and wealth, the over-riding belief in the warrior elite supermans rightful place in the world, was exactly the same, with the same irrational hatreds of minority groups like Jews and Catholics in both 'German Wars'---then it is no longer an abberration, no longer a 1930's-40's paradigm, no longer can the blame be falsely laid at the door of Versailles, but an early to mid 20th. century German character trait........Well, that is a percieved horse of a diffent colour...

Well, just my thoughts again,

Dave.

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In my opinion Phil, ---I am one who believes in a terrible continuity of German war aims and the methods which are allowed to be used---sanctioned----to achieve those aims---- it comes from the simple fact that almost everyone accepts readily the abobination of Nazism---but believes, because they MUST, it was a unique 'one off' moment in time---an aberration in history, never (in modern times---20th. century) had it been done before.

I think the very nature of the static front at the end of 1914 stopped it. As I said above... it would have been interesting to see if the trend would have continued if the advance had continued.

Also, after 1914 the Germans had 3 years to prove that they were "soldiers just like us..." so they had put a bit of distance between themselves and the events in 14...

Lastly, the over the top allied propaganda probably led to many folks not REALLY believing that anything happend...

Its like when I buy something for my collection...

Me-Guess what, I just bought a Picklehaube

She- How much ???

Me- EUR 1000

She- ???? !!!!! §%*+?ß !

Me- Only kidding, it was ONLY EUR500!

She- Oh, thats a lot better...

Works every time... once they get over the shock of the exaggeration... the rest does not seem that bad....

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I knew that I should have not poked my stick in this particular hornets' nest. I might add that I am almost as English as I am German. (Amusingly, the two big Nazis in my family were ethnic English, born in England as British subjects.)

First of all, I believe that it is quite against the rules and the spirit of the Forum to go on about WW II atrocities. It hardly casts a reliable light on what happened in Belgium in 1914. In WW II my family lost members at the front and from bombing, but the death rate (number died per month or year) in my family was at least 30 times as high during the six months from the end of the war to the end of 1945 as it was during the six years of the war, at the hands of the victors, the Russians, of course, but not only the Russians. (Relatively speaking, the UK had very clean hands in these matters.)

Also, arguments that the Austrians killed some thousands of Serbs in Serbija, so it may be assumed that the Germans were killing civilians wholesale at the same time, is hardly a convincing argument.

I did not mean to attack any history written in English. To be more specific, if you are studying what happened in Belgium in 1914, and are doing so by reading material written and published in English during the war, you are, 99% sure, reading material commissioned by the UK and Belgian governments as war-time propaganda. I have my sights on a UK document of the time, having been "tipped off" by a Brit historian, which detailed the commissioning and secret fabrication over 1000 such book-length works, including the system of complete subsidization of the costs of publishing these works by otherwise reputable publishing houses. I was in the UK attempting to obtain a copy of this document in December, but the holidays prevented me from contacting the staff at the UK institution that holds the document in its collection.

I know that several of the discussants work in multiple languages. I also got the strong impression that several other discussants did not work in any of the primary languages of the conflict, they are at a great disadvantage in the study of this matter. In order to get relatively reliable sources, I have made an effort to obtain private communications written by participants, and also written at the time of the events, not in 1915, when the Great Propaganda War had commenced, and also to obtain these communications in manuscript form, like my grand-father's letters from Belgium, and the manuscript diary from a sergeant in my grand-father's army corps. (The sergeant, I am happy to report, was quite disturbed by some of the matters he observed; his reporting of that in my mind enhances the probable overall reliability of his narrative, about 83 large pages, all on Belgium; his hand was shattered by a rifle bullet towards the end of the 1914 fighting in Belgium.)

I will let the dust settle, and then return to discuss my take on some of the more specific points made by others.

Bob

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Hi Bob,

As the main points get bogged down in long posts, here is the core of my question...

"Fact of the matter is, within days of the outbreak of the war, German units were lining up men, women, children, BABIES... and murdering them. Irrespective of whether they had taken up arms or not."

1) Do you believe the above did/did not happen

2) If yes, are you saying its OK

3) Who else did anything like that in the war.

Can all be answered in 10 words or less.

Best

Chris

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Hi bob,

I doubt very much that historical discourse can possibly be "against the rules" ......

How can discussing German atrocities in WW1, then , by analogy, using the never doubted atrocities of WW2 to negate the counter arguments of those who, perhaps like yourself, imagine that it was almost all propaganda in WW1, but find (I imagine) no difficulty with those of that later war be in any way an infraction of either the rules or commonsense----I find that accusation a bit below the belt---sorry, but there you have it.

I discuss history here, as well as my limited abilities allow me----I make no excuses for that---regardless of how often, where called for, I use emotive words like 'atrocities' or 'rape' or any such-----why on earth should I not use such words. Likewise, if the analogy works, I will relate to earlier conflicts, or later ones, with deserved impunity-----this IS history we discuss after all. I make no modern day judgments, why would I.

Also you imply, if I pick you up correctly (please forgive me if I am wrong) that the Russians were a murdering raping horde that descended on Germany at the end-----well, yes, of course they did, but not without reason, and payback is a sod----a terrible thing indeed, but ---I ask this simple question always----who started it? Did Russia invade Germany?

My mentioning Sebia and Austrian atrocities there was followed in my post immediately by numerous comparisons---by modern day English language historians of the first order---with what the Germans were doing in Belgium and France------again, I ask, why assume, and do we dare, that the Germans in the west were any less sanguine than their allies were in the East?

I am of course sorry that your family lost members from bombing in WW2--(families lost in Spain, Poland, Norway, Greece, France and England--to mention just a few) I would simply, though not simplistically, ask you to remember who started the indiscriminate bombing of civilians---in both wars. Payback is a sod, I repeat it here, no mistake. No immorality though, 'war is all hell', and the only immorality would have been to allow Germany to win----in either war.

The fact that I cannot discourse in 'other languages' does not in any way detract from my understanding----I utterly refute such a notion.

Must I read Greek to appreciate the Iliad? Or Old English to study Beowulf, or Latin to read Virgil, or.....well, I am sure you see where I am going with this.

I trust the sources in translation----yes, I may 'lose' some of the real Homeric poetic magic in the Iliad or in the translation of Virgil---but do I lose the essential truth of those masterpieces----of course not. Can I read that German classic of the war in the air in WW1 by Rudolf Stark 'Wings Of War' in translation, or the story of the 'Last Gentleman Of War--The Raider Exploits Of The Cruiser Emden' by R.K. Lochner also in translation---by, respectively, Claud W. Sykes and Thea and Harry Lindauer-----very easily I can, and do. same with 'The Life And Death Of Carthage' by C.C. Picard---I don't read French, but Dominique Collon reads both English and French, and I can read her translation---and do. ' Schliemann's Discoveries Of The Ancient World ' by Carl Schuchardt is accessible to me courtesy of Eugenie Sellers, and my wallett----etc. etc. etc.

A decent proportion of my library are 'Translations'---and very glad indeed I am.

It is quite permissable to claim some deep insight into history without learning half a dozen ancient and/or modern languages----that is what translators do for us.

Cheers,

Dave.

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