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Tongeren 18 August 1914


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Reading Arnold Toynbees "German Terrorism in Belgium" I find that the troops entered the city of Tongeren on the 18th, August but have not been able to find more information as to what hapened in That city. I Quote Toynbee (and translate freely because my copy is in Spanish):

"In the event that the civilian population should shoot their weapons at soldiers of the German Army, one third of the populations would be shot. In Tongeren, on 18 August the Germans put in practice their threat. The population was taken in bulk out of the city and the city was sacked sistematically. 17 civilians at least were murdered (including a 12 years old boy) and a few houses were burnt. A German soldier wrote in his diary: On August 18 we arrived at Tongeren. Here we also found complete destruction. Something unique in our profesion (Toynbee explains this soldier was a glass producer). Another ones writes: Tongeren, August 19. A large nunber of houses have been sacked by our cavalry. A letter wrote by an Army medical doctor and captured by the Belgians explains the pretext used to do all that. 'Belgians are the sole responsible for the devastation of their country. ... In Tongeren we were atacked by the population, in the evening when it was already dark. We exchanged some shots because we were exposed to fire from the four sides. Fortunately we had only one wounded, who died next day. We killed two women and the men were shot next day'. Nothing contradicts here what the Belgians said in regard that the shots were made by the Germans themselves."

I have not been able to find any other reference to Tongeren. Would like to know where can I read some more.

Eduardo

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The title suggests both the problem and the date.

The problem, of course, is that this could all be nothing but the clinically insane and often quite pornographically hysterical Allied hate propaganda from 1914 which made no one pay attention to REAL atrocities in the next war.

Babies spitted on bayonets, nuns raped, "Red Cross" men with weapons etc etc etc all featured prominently in the gutter press of 1914, and were believed as much then as lunatic conspiracies are today.

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As a historian myself I know well that in the heath of the moment and the need for propaganda can make the writters exagerate and even invent - when necesary - these horrible stories of crimes to babies, women, priests and nuns. Ussually they pay good dividends.

Non the less I have to balance the facts. Arnold Toynbee's rigurosity cannot be dismised just arguing "propaganda". In 2007, Jeff Lipkes has published with "Leuven University Press" his book "Rehersals- The German Army in Belgium, August 14.

The review of the book says:

"Lipkes beguins with a chapter on the German ultimatum to Belgium, and the response to it, before mooving on to look at the actual atrocities in great detail... "

"Having established what happened, Lipkes then attemps to explain why it happened, looking at the various reasons given by Germans at the time (mostly concentrating on apparent attaks by Belgian civilians). He also examines the pre-war attitude of the German army, which goes a long way to explain their activities in 1914."

"Finally we get two chapters on the wartime and post-war denials that took place both in Germany and in the vistorious powers. Lipkes clearly traces the series of distortions that passed as evidence amongst atrocity deniers and demolishes them in some detail. Most telling is the difference between wartime German efforts, which focused on justifying the actions of the German army in August 1914, and postwar efforts which began to deny those same actions had even happened."

The complete rewiew is in:

http://www.historyofwar.org/bookpage/lipkes_rehearsals.html

I am not so sure if the propaganda of 1914 was what made nobody pay attention to the "real" atrocities of the next war. It is interesting that exactly 90 years after the publication of Toynbee's "Terrorismo alem?n en Belgica" translation, which I originally mentioned, Jeff Lipkes, with the baking of Leuven University Press, seems to come out with the same results.

Must say, though, that have just ordered Lipkes book and am eagerly waiting its arrival to read it. Probably after reading the book I might be able to have a more proper judgment and correct some of my present day views.

Eduardo

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"German Atrocities: 1914- A History of Denial" by John Horne and Alan Kramer is worth reading.

Many of the stories were true , albeit exaggerated.

The Germans really did shoot 9 month old babies in Belgium. It was not accidentally, but being held in their mothers' arms during "Shrecklickkeit' policy firing squads. The tables within the book demonstrate at least 5,000 civilians were murdered.

After the war there was a quiet cover up of surviving officers, although there were some trials (fascinating reading too I might add). IR 73 apparently were some of the worst offenders. interesting almost NO Guard units were involved.

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Some intresting publications of that time are :

"The Germans at Louvain" by Herv? de Grubben, pr?face by Mgr. Simon Deploige, Hodder & Stoughton, London, New York, Toronto, 1916.

"La voix des Neutres" by Simon Deploige, President de l'Institut Sup?rieur de Philisophie Louvain.;<librairie Plon, Paris; 1918.

By the way, Simon Deploige was borned in Tongeren, His brother Florent lived in that town, The German autorities gived him the order to Leave his house the 15th of december 1917 (Source : Tongeren onder de Duitsche bezetting Jaren 1916-1917, by E.H. ridder P. de Corswarem), so the could instal theire commandatour, the did the same in May 1940 with is widow.

Simon Deploige : Simon Deploige

Florent Deploige : Florent Deploige

Guy

Edited by g_deploige
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Thanks Guy for the interesting reference. I wonder if it mis possible to get copies (even photocopies) of the books mentioned. Otherwise I will have to wait till my next trip to Belgium and that mught be only in a few years. I have cousins living in Tongeren so I could also ask them to search for the book that I am sure could be found at the local library.

Eduardo

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Hello Eduardo,

In the book "Antwoord op het Duitse Witboek van 10 mei 1915, part III" ( printed in 1916 by the Belgian Department of Justice and Department of Foreign Affairs) which was an answer on the German " Die v?lkerrechtswidrige F?hrung des Belgischen Volkskriegs" i could read about the event you mentioned. They speak about 12 persons killed and the rest of the civilians were driven out of their homes. Most of the houses were plundered and several were burned down.

I enclosed an attachement. I'm afraid it is written in dutch but since you have cousins in Flanders, i assume you understand a little dutch.

With kind regards,

Jef

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Bear in mind that you are citing CONTEMPORARY wartime publications that were INTENDED FOR PROPAGANDA.

Accuracy---- don't count on it.

Truthfulness---- don't bet on it.

This is the sort of "Barbarian Hun" stuff ( a poster of the Kaiser as a hulking Negroid ape springs to mind) which was completely disinterested in facts, was insanely racist (the Germans were simultaneously cast as The Yellow Peril, Huns, Jews... any Western racial phobia served the hysterical Allied propaganda machinery)-- and which was so pornographically absurd that in the aftermath of the war no one would believe in the "same old stories" the next time around

when they were true.

Julius Streicher had NOTHING on the Allied hate mongers.

I had the good fortune to have gone to a college in the 1970s where propaganda from BOTH sides filled the library. The teaching staff during the Great War were drawn largely from foreign professors from both sides, all eager to push THEIR point of view on neutral Americans. (I still have no idea how the GERMAN stuff got through DURING the war, but it did.)

I spent years reading both sides' vitriolic exhortations to smite and slay the sub-human foe-beast.

Check sources written from the 1930s on-- when the white heat of propaganda had faded, and people who knew better were no longer comfortable with nightmare fairy tales.

Contemporary sources from back then cannot be trusted.

From either side.

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Dear Rick

I'am not agree with you, when I'am citating these two works

"The Germans at Louvain" by Herv? de Grubben, pr?face by Mgr. Simon Deploige, Hodder & Stoughton, London, New York, Toronto, 1916.

"La voix des Neutres" by Simon Deploige, President de l'Institut Sup?rieur de Philisophie Louvain.;<librairie Plon, Paris; 1918.

Simon Deploige was present In Louvain In 1914and Herv? de Grubben was one of his Studens at the University, Simon Deploige was one of the members Nobel men of Louvain when the town consil has left the town.

You have to read "La voix des neutres, Espagne et Belgique"

Simon Left Belgium with de Grubben at the end of 1914 and whented to Rome by order of the Belgian gouvernement to take over the work of the Belgian Ambasador by the Pope untill the half of 1915, He has olso been the precident of the rebulding of the University Library of Louvain.

There works where not propaganda but the reality they lived those days.

You have to read those manifests.

Guy

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You have to weigh WHO said WHAT, WHEN--and most importantly WHY. Wartime propaganda is merely a political indictment, but it is not the evidence of history. Contemporary sources during a war, for the purpose of that war, all come down to Victory At Any Price...

Accuracy and facts, of course, are lied about just as much today as back then. But no combatant's version of events can be accepted as gospel without being checked and verified-- and that takes TIME.

Wartime sources are very very very inaccurate and very very very often DELIBERATELY so.

The Allies howled and raged in print across the globe about "German Red Cross men" with guns and bayonets in combat...

they were, of course, LANDSTURM men, with their distinctive huge Iron--not Red--Cross cap insignia.

Not an embarassed peep about such things AFTER the war.

Seek out sources from well AFTER the war, not DURING it. We know how the war ended-- they did not.

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Of course there is always exageration and propaganda but the parragraph of the exerpt on Jeff Lipkes book mentioned above is meaningfull:

"Finally we get two chapters on the wartime and post-war denials that took place both in Germany and in the vistorious powers. Lipkes clearly traces the series of distortions that passed as evidence amongst atrocity deniers and demolishes them in some detail. Most telling is the difference between wartime German efforts, which focused on justifying the actions of the German army in August 1914, and postwar efforts which began to deny those same actions had even happened."

Lipkes study has been done 90 years of the events and he comes up with a fresh view. Can's say more of his work because I am still waiting for my copy.

Thanks Jeff for the reference. Although my History Thesis was on the Flemish presence in South America, I cannot read Dutch. My languages are in this order: Spanish, English and French. But will send the clipping to a cousin in Tongeren.

Eduardo

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Rick,

I understand your point of view and as a historian I will have to weight all the literature before comming up with final conclusions. As you say propaganda is part of the war itself. My wife is the daughter of a Colombian officer who died at the age of 26 in 1950. "Conservadores" and "Liberales" were the ones bleeding Colombia at the time. He was ambushed, killed and literally choped to pieces. My father in law family were Conservadores while his wife's family was Liberal. I know that the grandmother on the maternal side told my wife at the age of seven that her father used to throw the babies of the Liberales from an helicopter so that his soldiers would receive them in their bayonets. I have never heard worst atrocity and even worst when told by the grandmother to a seven years old girl. Research on the subject finds no evidence of something like that ever occured. I guess they not even had helicopters at the time. So passions are awaken and exagerations are multiplied. I keep this in mind while researching. In my work I am more interested in the fact that the brave Belgians stoped the Germans specially in Liege enough time to let the Allies get into possition.

Eduardo

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And all of us need to strive to keep our personal family histories far away from our understanding of history. They are a part of history and they may help to make history real for us, but they can so easily become just another part of self-serving distorted memory and nationalistic myth-preserving.

In all wars, "atrocities" take place, on all sides., and all sides commit them, really, in shameful abundance (which is why all "patriotism" gets so quickly made dirty and tawdry). It is pall part of the "game" of war. The ones any combatant reports against "the enemy" during the war are usually as false as those their wartime opponents intone about them. The real atrocity stories usually come only after the conlict (reference: WWII) when sources can be checked, though there are some modern exceptions (My Lai, Abu Ghraib, etc.).

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"German Atrocities: 1914- A History of Denial" by John Horne and Alan Kramer is worth reading.

Many of the stories were true , albeit exaggerated.

The Germans really did shoot 9 month old babies in Belgium. It was not accidentally, but being held in their mothers' arms during "Shrecklickkeit' policy firing squads. The tables within the book demonstrate at least 5,000 civilians were murdered.

After the war there was a quiet cover up of surviving officers, although there were some trials (fascinating reading too I might add). IR 73 apparently were some of the worst offenders. interesting almost NO Guard units were involved.

This book is recently published. Winner of a couple of international prizes , including the Economist's History award. It's authors apparently have been nominated for the palm Academiques and a European Community award of some sort as well.

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Hello Rick and all,

I am fully aware the books i mentioned are not very reliable sources. Written by German and Belgian authorities this books are twisting the truth. But what do you think of books written by neutral reporters? For example, the book Fighting in Flanders (jan 1915)by E. Alexander Powell . He was correpondent of the New York World . He apparently drove his car between the fighting armies ( Belgian & German) and was as American (at that time neutral) tolerated.

In that book are pics of German and Belgian soldiers as well as destroyed civilian targets. Altough i understand his preference for the Allied countries, some pics don't lie. It's not always easy to separate propaganda from the truth, and I understand the truth can be used for propaganda.

Kind regards,

Jef

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  • 3 weeks later...

This Monday I finally received Jeff Lipkes' "Rehersals- The German Army in Belgium, August 14." Leuven University Press, 2007. Have been able to read the first two chapters of the 815 pages total. The first chapter deals in detail with the declaration of war and the reactions between the political actors in Brussels. The second one covers the actions in the province of Liege. As I had expected from the book exerpt, it is very detailed and rigurous in its method. I strongly recomend its reading to those interested in the early days of the great war.

Eduardo

PS. In chapter Two: Liege, a detailed account of the incidents at University square are given. Here I enclose a photograph /postcard taaken after the events.

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  • 3 months later...

Dear Gentlemen,

I am working in an article about the Invasion of Belgium in August 1914. I have found some details about the arrival of the German troops in Tongeren on the 18th. Arnorld Toynbee explains that on that day the civilian population was taken out of the city and Tongeren was sacked sistematically. He also mentions that at least 17 civilians, including a 12 years old boy were murdered, and some houses were burned.

I have not been able to find more details nor in Lipke "Rehearsals" nor in Pirenne's "Histoire de la Belgique". Could someone please sugest where I coiuld find more or tell me more about it.

Thanks in advance.

Eduardo

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Dear Eduardo,

Rapports et Documents d'Enqu?te, v. 1, tome 1, published after the war by the Belgian government's Commission d'Enqu?te sur les Violations des R?gles du Droit des Gens, des Lois et des Coutumes de la Guerre, which is pretty reliable, says 12 people were killed on August 18, including two women and a 13 year old child. (p. 272). The German commandant in Leuven sent a letter of apology to the burgomaster 3 days later, which was very unusual, but only for the broken windows and thefts. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be any depositions from residents in the Annexes. You might write to the KLM/MRA to see if the Russians have returned any of the original depositions from Tongeren. (The Germans moved them to Berlin during WWII and they were transferred to Moscow at the end of the war.) The town might possibly be mentioned in the first section of the German White Book, but I'm pretty sure there's no testimony in the Bryce Report or in the reports of the first Commission d'Enqu?te that were published during the war. Good luck with your research.

Cordially,

Jeff Lipkes

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Thanks Jeff,

Will follow your sugestions and have already taken note of the details you give me.

I have been just informed of an article in Flemish written by Brone L. and Gilissen J. published in the Tongerse Koninklijke Kunstkring in 2007, that mentions among other things that on 22 August,1914 General Von Bertrab ordered that the men off the ?burgerwacht? Had to be at 13h. in front of the town-house. 52 men were captured and send to Germany (Muntserlager ? Hannover) They returned after one year.

I hope to have the whole article soon and will have to have it translated at least in the most importante details.

Eduardo

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