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Some War Curiosities and the Clandestine Press in Belgium
DESCRIBED BY PROFESSOR CHRISTIAN GAUSS, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY.
PREPARED IN CO-OPERATION WITH THE NATIONAL BOARD FOR HISTORICAL SERVICE.
One of the most important problems which con- means at the enemies' disposal, and which present the fronted the Belgians after the German occupation was situation as unfavorable to us are false.” Such, then, that of keeping in touch with each other, of maintain was the German account for Belgian consumption, of ing their national morale and of establishing some sort the overwhelming defeat of the Germans on the of contact with their government and army. Be- Marne. tween them and this army, their own sons, brothers, One of the most interesting and curious chapters in fathers and friends, stood the impassable barrier of recent Belgian history is therefore the account of the the German lines. The plight of those left behind ingenious ways in which they countered this attempt these lines was desperate. They were, as a result of the Germans and maintained for themselves at of the great catastrophe which had come upon Bel- great peril independent methods of communication, gium, a leaderless people, robbed and outraged, for it is not to be supposed that a brave people who checked at every turn by the powerful army of occu- had dared oppose the German military domination pation. That, in their misfortune, freedom of speech would supinely submit to this intellectual tyranny. should have been left to them by the Teutons was not After the German occupation of Brussels, August to have been expected. Indeed, every attempt was 20, 1914, notice was immediately served upon all the made by the Germans to secure possession of all the Brussels newspapers that they would have to subject means of disseminating information in order that they themselves to the German censorship, or their offices themselves might have a free field for their work of would be closed. To the credit of Belgian journalbeguiling the now supposedly conquered people into ists not one of their papers accepted this proposal at a position of acquiescence and submission. A part the time. Some went so far as to ruin their own of the German plan was to impress upon the Belgian plants. At the time, therefore, no newspapers were population the sense of German invincibility and the available in the capital. A few papers have since hopelessness of the cause of the Allies. Having ob- been revived in Brussels either by the Germans alone, tained control of the telegraph, telephone and mail or with the help of Belgians who have been bribed or service, the Germans conducted their propaganda, forced into co-operation, and who in either case are through agencies which we might designate under four heartily detested by the great majority of their counheads:
trymen. For the time being, however, no news except First. Information furnished gratis by the German from German sources was supposed to be within the authorities and by individuals.
reach of the population. Second. Printed matter of German origin which , The German plan was doomed to failure, for from was allowed to be sold in Belgium.
the first papers did get into Brussels from the outThird. Newspapers and pamphlets announced as
side, from Antwerp, Ghent, and even from the allied
countries. These were brought to within a certain Belgian, but in reality more often German, which were
distance of the German lines hidden in the bottom of subject to the censorship.
baskets of garden truck in the carts of market gardenFourth, Dutch or other foreign newspapers passed
ers. Thus they were brought through, and then unby the censorship. Of these foreign sheets many were
packed in the back room of a café, which, according doubtless under German ownership and control, but
to a prearranged plan, was changed daily, and given even pro-German foreign papers, like the “ Nieuwe
to news peddlers who sold ostensibly post cards, paRotterdamsche Courant," were by no means allowed
triotic placards and authorized journals, which they to enter every day. Sometimes as many as twelve
announced to all customers. If a good Belgian apand fifteen numbers a month were refused permission
proached them they added sotto voce “ La Flandre to enter.
Liberale? ” (of Ghent), or the names of Paris, LonThe Germans doubtless believed that they could in don, or Amsterdam journals. In spite of all the cost this manner see to it that no news was spread among and risks “La Flandre” sold for 75 centimes, as a the Belgians, except such as suited the German pur- general thing. Occasionally the Germans succeeded pose. How gross were their attempts to deceive will in holding up one or some of the gardeners' carts, and be plain from a single instance. On the 15th of Sep- the price then rose to two or three francs. After tember, 1914, a poster was put up throughout the oc- mid-October, however, practically all of the Belgian cupied section which read as follows: "Berlin, 14th papers disappeared, having discontinued publication of September (official): In the Western theatre of altogether, or having removed to London, Havre, or war (France) operations have taken place, the details somewhere else safely beyond the lines. Though the of which cannot yet be published, and which have situation had become much more difficult, blockade brought about a battle which is favorable for us. All running continued through less regularly constituted the news which is being spread in this regard by all channels. Rarely had the Germans succeeded in cap
turing or killing all of the carriers of news, though writing and photography, were also drawn upon. death was occasionally the result of an attempt to Thus, for example, a copy of Raemaekers' cartoons bring in this contraband information. A large paper, had been introduced and circulated from hand to like the London “ Times,” came to command a price hand. The Germans succeeded finally in locating it, as high as 200 francs, and the French papers regu- and it was of course immediately confiscated. Photolarly ran to two and three francs. The mounting graphic copies of its pages had, however, been made risks incident to selling papers in the streets finally became too great, and this has now been discontinued, though not before it had cost the City of Brussels a fine of five million francs.
Les manuscrits non insérés ne sont pas rendus. 21. Mars 1915. A German spy had approached
1 Etudiants allemands. - La vie dans une a newspaper vender, and asked for
Quand le jenne étudiant quitte pour la pri
université allemande d'importance moyenne e m ière fois sa maison et doit apprendre se one of the prohibited journals. The riche en poésie. Les étudiants jouissent d'une chereber soi-mene un chemin dans un vie nous
grande liberté et la mettent à profit pour faire volle, il ressent comme s'il recevait riche cita vender unfortunately gave him one,
de leur temps d'étude une époque de bonheur deat, qu'on nonvern cercle famillal l'adopte, euand the spy forthwith attempted to inoubliable.
quel il se trouve lié par les doucos chaines de Des corporations
l'umite et de la con arrest him. The vender resisted, estudiantines y atteig.
fiance and the spy, who happened to be a nent une grande sig
Dans le travail sciennification. Ce ne sont
titione il developpe son German non-commissioned officer in pas seulement des
intelligence et les insa It
Sociétés disguise, began to strike him. qui rappro
torer motellectuele semiebentos affiliés pour le
blent meurter toute had been understood that the Ger tompa de leurs brudes.
autre considération, Elles lient phimit leurs
mais pour Venuilibre man police were always to wear a Dombros pour toute la
de la vie interioore distinctive sign. As the aggressor vie. Celui qui entru
il est néceveaire que dans corporation
lu coche et le sens had none, two Brussels policemen, tudiantina lui
torent eut rent partient pour toujours
dre lettres fa not knowing that they were in the Quand il quitte l'um
même temps l'individu presence of a spy, defended the versite, il ne délie pas
se trouve gardó contre le lien gai le retient
de novbrousky bennews vender whom they naturally la societe
tatione, que vier and honestly believed to have been i participantes
elitrafne dentro 2013 plos tant la proprit
hozzation comme unjustly attacked by a private citi des corporation to
Teater - etter envoie d e
siiccolomiti zen. For this one of the policemen
moubtes, pat was given five years in prison, the dans
la rosalente mais possible *** to us
mis la formational other three, and the city of Brus kes de decoration
trase des conseils sels fined five million francs. Par l'adoption en
parnir, sen a dos tonde manielque sitte
plos aros als que Fortunately by this time, how som rapport apparen
le bon ancil que nutne e qui font conut
en de milicu houd ever, the Belgians had derised an los autres cation
candic de wings “information service” of their own cuinpto pour list to }
tout incluation de la vie et assure
pourrait la porter sur which has continued ever since. que contienee, mutell
Res yours TETES This information service, if we may es des Securrent
Remarantez elrontre progetto per un
que la notion et call it so, has achieved many amaz nude dos membincan qui s'appellent seras
e rcantuma o ordonna dan onclesia
home ton p t purteantot an d individit reniplie pare propre ing triumphs, for it has not been
a co o n found, pour ainsi dira me Eu Sou asnstitafior diout 0112 devels recon content to publish and circulate scule famillos dar le soin de laquelle chiaren prond m et die bottom . A la tête de cura
umrt us interdu de tou.
oration route diris canto cho merely the newspapers which we Basaleur de la corporation consiste en cochmentbrent soulant Pure cootti
co shall discuss later, but it has
spalle chercherontplacer la naicon paternelle e t la fantates de Podividu printed and circulated, no one knows where, or how, prohibited THE NEWSPAPER EDITED FOR BELGIAN PRISONERS BY THE GERMANS TO FURTHER books, which were frequently large
THE GERMAN PROPAGANDA. and difficult to conceal. One of its greatest successes was the publication of several edi- by one of the first readers, and soon the single confistions of “ King Albert's Book,” translated into cated copy was replaced by an entire photographic French. This particularly exasperated the invaders, edition. Yet this necessarily cumbersome photowho destroyed one printing house and arrested the en graphic edition was not the only means employed to tire force. Yet a week later a new edition of ten disseminate the famous cartoons. Some of them were thousand copies mysteriously emerged and was sold also reproduced in one of the less known clandestine clandestinely for the benefit of "La Soupe,” the papers, very properly named “La Cravache.” “ The name given to the Brussels National Food Committee. Whip,” and others in “ La Libre Belgique.” Several other volumes were printed and distributed, Considering the great risks and difficulties under among others those of Waxweiler, the Bryce Report which the printing and distribution of books must be and “ J'accuse.” The difficulty and risk of maintain carried on, the relatively low prices at which they ing a large printing plant in secrecy was naturally were sold are amazing, and indicate that this work very serious, and other simpler methods, such as type was a work of patriotism, and not conducent in the
PROFESSOR HENRI PIRENNE, HONORARY DOCTOR OF THE UNIVERSITIES OF LEIPZIG AND TUBINGEN, OCCUPYING THE PLACE
OF HONOR IN “MINERVA,” EIGHTEEN MONTHS BEFORE THE DECLARATION OF WAR.
interest of profit. “J'accuse” was sold for five Book and the Yellow Book, the Manifesto of ninetyfrancs, Waxweiler's “ La Belgique Neutre et Loyale" three German Professors, with a dozen replies, the for three and a half francs. “King Albert's Book " was letter of Romain Rolland to Hauptmann, and the latat first also sold for five francs, but the eager demand ter's reply, poetry by Rostand and Verhaeren, Carfor it sent up the price, and later copies found pur- dinal Mercier's Pastoral Letter, and speeches of the chasers for as high as twenty francs, though it should Belgian minister, Lloyd George, and Maurice Maeterbe remembered that the proceeds from the sale of this linck. book were all devoted to charity. Works printed out- In addition to providing such news and encourageside of Belgium, whose sale was prohibited, likewise ment, it fulfilled another, perhaps even more imshowed but slight appreciation in the selling price, portant, function by exposing the falsehoods of the and well known pamphlets like those of Bédier on numerous German journals and pamphlets of propa“ The German Crimes,” of Weiss on the “ Violation ganda, which were scattered throughout Belgium. of the Neutrality of Belgium and Luxemburg,” which Nothing illustrates better the amazing faith of the were sold in France for fifty centimes, were dis- Germans in the efficacy of their own propaganda than tributed by hundreds in Belgium at seventy-five. In their brazen attempt to prove to the martyred Beladdition to the regularly printed books and prohibited gians themselves that Germany had treated them only books from outside and the printed clandestine news
with kindness and justice. To this end they had dispapers, there are also typewritten sheets, mimeo
tributed in Belgium countless pamphlets in French,
Flemish and German, justifying their conduct during graphed or manifolded, of which large editions are
and after the invasion. The falsehoods here were so circulated. The most important of these is “La
gioss and direct contradictory evidence so easily Soupe,” which sends out every week about fifty type
available that the task of “La Soupe" and its “eswritten pages, which are equivalent in content to more teemed contemporaries” was not a difficult one, and than one hundred pages of an ordinary octavo volume. the value of a German document is probably disAmong other things it printed the Report of the Bel- counted more severely in Belgium than in any other gian Commission of Inquiry, extracts from the Blue country.
Perhaps it was because of their lack of success with “Oh!” returned the King, “ you were afraid, were the ordinary methods of propaganda which were so you?” And lifting his heavy stick he beat the man, easily exposed that the Germans, noticing the effect repeating with every blow, “ You must love me, you of the clandestine Belgian press, decided to go and do must love me.” likewise. They themselves therefore published a lit- The psychology of Frederick William is paralleled tle sheet resembling in form the more famous of the by that of the present German officials. After having Belgian papers, which they called “Le Fouet.” It failed in the use of force, they resorted to cajolery. was distributed with affected secrecy, and treated by We can give but two instances which resulted in what the Germans who published it, as the work of conspir- may very properly be called curiosities of the war. ators. It usually opened with ponderous raillery of As manifest proof of their kind intentions toward the some German worthy like von Bethmann-Hollweg, Belgians, they attempted to establish a Flemish Uniwhile the rest of the paper was devoted to sowing dis- versity at Ghent, and they printed two newspapers sension among the Belgians. Their methods were so for Belgian prisoners, “Onze Taal ” and “Le Camp gross and coarse, however, that it deceived but few, de Göttingen,” the latter of which is reproduced on and it served only as a German testimony to the im- another page. portance of the clandestine Belgian press.
“Onze Taal ” and “ Le Camp de Göttingen ” were There is an amusing story told by Lavisse in his unique newspapers for Belgian prisoners. In the “Youth of Frederick the Great,” of how one day prison camps of Germany, newspapers of somewhat Frederick William, King of Prussia, was walking this appearance are, to be sure, published, but they “Unter Den Linden." Nearby some men were play- are edited by the prisoners themselves. At the Camp ing bowls. On the approach of Frederick William, of Göttingen the newspapers are published for the they all fled, but the King ran after them, caught one prisoners by the Germans! They are edited by Proof them, and holding him by the collar asked him fessor Karl Stange, of the University of Göttingen. furiously, “Why did you run away when you saw the Why is it that the Germans are so solicitous about the King?"
recreation of the Belgian prisoners ? For political “Sire,” replied the poor man, “I was afraid.” reasons only. They are so blinded by the desire for