Although I had got farther on my way than I had dared to expect, my journalist's heart longed for more. If I could get to Li猫ge, which was said to have just been taken! But my passport stated that I was only allowed to go to Vis茅. I thought the matter out, and the longer I thought, the stronger became my desire to go on; and at last I decided to do it.I have mentioned already the reign of terror with which the Germans ruled the wretched townlet ever since they entered it. Something fateful might happen any moment, and actually occurred during the night of August 15th and 16th.I had more trouble with a wretch who, being heavily wounded in both legs, lay on the top of a dune beyond Mariakerke. He was quite alone, and when he discovered me his eyes glistened, full of hope. He told me of his agonies, and beseeched me to take him to a house or an ambulance. However much I should have liked to do that, it was impossible in the circumstances in which I found myself. Nowhere, even in the farthest distance, was a house to be seen, and I tried to explain the position to him. But he turned a deaf ear to all my exhortations, and insisted that I should help him. It was a painful business, for I could not do the impossible. So I promised him, and took my oath that I should warn the first ambulance I met, and see to it that they came and fetched him.
I had a short chat with the wounded men near the various houses, on demand showed my passport to those in authority, and was advised as a friendly Netherlander to return, as it was extremely dangerous on the road. But I did not dream of doing34 this, as long as I was not compelled, and went on towards Li猫ge amidst this maddening thunder."Are you not afraid?""The Netherlands is a generous country. How grateful, how immensely grateful am I to the Netherland people for what they have done for poor refugees. I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude. I have received reports from priests who came back, and I am deeply moved by them. They told me how at Roosendaal the Netherland soldiers gave all their bread to the refugees, knowing well that for some time they themselves would not get any other. No! I can never be sufficiently grateful for such sacrifices. And Catholics and non-Catholics all joined in it. That is beautiful, very, very beautiful."
But the shell-fire of the French overtook them then, as they were retreating, while many others were killed by bombs from French aeroplanes, which were in action in great numbers. The retreat had not stopped before the Germans arrived in Cambray, where the thousands of wounded could at last be put in long trains and sent to Aix-la-Chapelle. A great many bombs from aeroplanes also hit these trains and killed a great many; my own train was everywhere pierced by fragments of those bombs. Within the carriages it was unendurable; the wounded men and their malodorous bandages had occupied them such a long time that the atmosphere was simply insupportable. Happily there was a corridor, where I stood all the time, with the little girl, in the company of some German military men who were sent home, not on account of wounds, but because of internal complaints.Many refugees returned to Louvain that morning simply driven by hunger. I myself lived still on the breakfast I had at Maastricht on the previous day, and badly wanted something to eat, but still more a cup of hot coffee, to warm my chilled body. I was able to get the coffee鈥攚ithout milk or sugar鈥攆rom a peasant along the road, but food was out of the question. Most of the people had nothing left, others saved a piece of bread as hard as a brick for the moment when hunger might drive them to extreme distress. Whatever sums I offered, nothing could be had before I came to Tirlemont, where I was able to buy three eggs.The Germans had flung some more bridges across the river beyond Andenne, which had been used for the occupation of Namur chiefly, and lay idle now guarded by only one sentry. I left by the town-gate without any difficulties; the German soldiers jumped out of the way and stood to atten153tion, as soon as they noticed the Netherland flag flying at the front of the motor. To the right and the left of the gateway they had written in gigantic letters: "Newspapers, please!"
The Red Cross Service was well arranged, the wounded were transported regularly, a large number of motor-cars being used.After this the officer examined my papers carefully one by one, and had to admit that they were in perfect order. Still, he had no authority to take a decision before I had been seen by the commanding officer.It was a fantastic night. Trains arrived out of the foggy darkness, their screeching whistle resounding from the far distance, and when they steamed into the station a storm of noise arose. All these trains brought British prisoners of war, captured by the Germans at St. Quentin, and hundreds of German soldiers escorted the trains, which were all covered over with green branches, and looked like copse-wood sliding along the railroad. As soon as they rumbled into the station the escorts sang loudly their patriotic songs, and "Germany before all other!" ("Deutschland über Alles!") vibrated through the fog.
I noticed the smell of fire already several miles from Louvain. On both sides of the road small mounds indicated the graves of soldiers who fell115 during the brave resistance of the Belgians before Louvain. A small wooden cross and some pieces of accoutrement were the only decorations. Carcases of horses were lying in the fields, from which came a disagreeable smell.Just outside Tongres I met a fleet of Red Cross cars loaded with wounded. Cavalry escorted them. I was stopped and ordered to go back, as they expected the Belgians to attack Tongres.My motor whirled along the gloriously fine road148 to Huy. It is a delicious tour through the beautiful valley of the Meuse, along sloping light-green roads. Had the circumstances not been so sad, I should have enjoyed it better.
Dr. Beckers, Government veterinary surgeon at Veldwezelt, had also been taken to Bilsen as a hostage. The Germans asserted that the Belgians in Lanaeken had taken prisoner a German military veterinary surgeon who looked after the horses, and now intended to keep Dr. Beckers until the Belgians191 should have released the German military veterinary surgeon.When De Tijd sent me to Belgium as its correspondent, I had not the faintest notion practically how to perform my duties, for the simple reason that I could not apprehend at all how a modern war might be conducted. But I was destined to receive my first impressions when still on Netherland territory and after my arrival at Maastricht."Don't you know then whether there are Belgian military in Vroenhoven?"
As we left through the Gate-of-Bruges towards242 Thourout we were approached by a small military group, a few German soldiers who escorted about a dozen French and Belgian prisoners of war. Until that moment the street had been relatively quiet, but the inhabitants had scarcely heard that the "boys" came, when each ran into the street, forgetting all fear of the "Duuts," and, breaking through the escort, they gave their "boys" an apple, or a pear, or a packet of cigarettes; so we saw a huge round of white bread fly through the air and land in the hands of one of the "boys." Such a thing touches one always, and even the escorting Germans, who at first were very indignant on account of the sudden and unexpected intrusion, left the citizens alone with a generous gesture, as to say: "Well, have your way."The dear lady rapped it out in such a decided tone of voice that I desisted. I told my trouble to the proprietor of a caf茅 where I took a glass of beer; he, examining my papers, placed confidence in me, and got me a rickety thing, for which I paid twenty-two francs.The bridge-command at the pontoon-bridge near Lixhe allowed me to cross, after requesting me very pressingly to make very clear what swine these Belgians were, who fired so treacherously at unsuspecting soldiers, put out the eyes of the wounded, cut off their hands and genitals. When I asked where all these things had happened, the answer was: "Everywhere!" Of course, I promised them to do everything they wanted.
After reaching the main road they turned to the right towards Vis茅, probably in order to try to cross the Meuse near Lixhe and then proceed to Tongres along the above-mentioned road. It would not be an easy undertaking, for the forts refused to keep silent, and already many a wounded man was carried on a comrade's horse.Two soldiers now took everything I had in my pockets, even my watch and my purse. This brought also to light a German map of Belgium, with a stamp "For military use only." I was told in a gruff voice that this was a highly suspicious thing, and that they could not understand how it got into my possession. I replied quite coolly that I had bought the thing in Aix-la-Chapelle for one mark, where it could be had in many shops, and that the words "For the military only" merely revealed the shrewd German commercial instinct, which knows that people always like to possess things which are not meant for them."Berlin, November 10th. (W. B.) Official.鈥擳he Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung writes: 'The daily newspaper, De Tijd, issued at Amsterdam, published on October 16th a report from a war correspondent at Maastricht, in which he asserted that on October 9th a train in which more than two thousand wounded were transported, arrived at the station at Landen in Belgium between Tirlemont and Waremme. Here it was said that a stop had taken place of forty minutes in which to provide the wounded with food. Walking up and down the platform the reporter pretends to have seen two to three hundred German soldiers, slightly wounded men and men of the garrison of Landen, furiously abuse three seriously wounded British, who were lying in one of the last carriages of the train. They showed mugs full of steaming soup to the hungry British, whom they left lying there miserable from starvation. They were also said to have aimed their rifles at them, laughing roughly, and to have spit on them.
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"Last night a shooting affray took place. There is no evidence that the inhabitants of the towns had any arms in their houses, nor is there evidence that the people took part in the shooting; on the contrary, it seems that the soldiers were under the influence of alcohol, and began to shoot in a senseless fear of a hostile attack.As soon as the Reverend Head, Dr. Frits Goffin, saw me he burst out sobbing, and, taking me by the hand, speechless, he pressed it a long time. I myself also was quite dumb. At length he muttered:Next day I was already back in Li猫ge, where much was changed after my last visit. The Germans went on terrorising the inhabitants, and these, being extremely frightened, looked with suspicion at every stranger. In the streets was the smoke of burning houses, especially from Outre-Meuse.
It was stated later on that the German authorities punished the culprits and had them executed at Aix-la-Chapelle; De Tijd of August 31st, 1914, also reported it. But the action of these soldiers was not worse than that of generals who had entire cities destroyed and civilians killed by the hundred, but were always screened by the German Government.CHAPTER XIIThe foregoing record of my experiences in Louvain will make it sufficiently clear to the unprejudiced reader that the destruction and wholesale murders were nothing but wanton crimes committed by the German troops stationed there, crimes which it is impossible to justify on any ground.详情
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