Слике страница
PDF
ePub

And the cost of both meals together was less than the cost of the steak alone in Roubaix.

Thriving in Rural Belgium Even in the little village where I hid myself there was no dearth of good food. Sugar was scarce, and the bread was made of brown wholemeal flour. But meat was plentiful, especially cold homebred pork. A typical midday meal here included soup, steak or chops, potatoes, and little sweetcakes; supper was the usual Belgian meal of fried potatoes and bread soaked in boiled milk. So far from starving during my enforced self-concealment, I actually found myself gaining in flesh.

When I add that in Brussels, Antwerp, and other towns the retail shops displayed an abundance of foodstuffs of every sort, and that, according to common knowledge, the German soldiers buy a great deal of food for transmission to their homes, it will be realized that some parts, at any rate, of Belgium are not suffering so severely as most people in England suppose from want of nourishment.

It is not for me to explain these things. I cannot fathom the reasons which may have induced the Germans to refrain from commandeering the Bel. gian supplies of home-produced food. Belgium, of course, has been for years the best exponent of intensive agriculture in Europe. Her food exports to England and France alone before the war were considerable. Just as much food is being produced now as before the war, and, so far as I could discover, the people have plenty to eat.

It is in the invaded territory of France that the spectre of famine walks. It is not sufficiently understood that the German gentleness to the Belgians is only equaled by their bitterness toward the French.

It is not only in respect of food that Belgium is happier than her neighbor I have already mentioned that the civilians of Roubaix were denied the use of the railways. The Belgians are under no such disability. They find some diffi

culty in moving from one to the other of the two areas into which, as I indicated above, Belgium has been partitioned, unless they are armed with special passports. But within either of those zones the natives are allowed to travel without hindrance.

Again, while the occupied portion of France is entirely without postal services, the Belgians have the ordinary facilities for internal communication. They are required to use German stamps heavily marked in black letters with the words “ Belgian Post"; and they are required to pay 8 centimes (three more than usual) for the transmission of a postcard, and 15 centimes (an extra charge of 5 centimes) for a letter. The collections and deliveries, however, are made by the regular Belgian postmen.

Busy Shops and Theatres The policy of the Germans, in short, appears to be to interfere as little as possible with the everyday life of the country. The fruits of this policy are seen in a remarkable degree in Brussels. All day long the main streets of the city are full of bustle and all the outward manifestations of prosperity.

Women in short, fashionable skirts, with high-topped fancy boots, stroll completely at their ease along the pavement, studying the smart things with which the drapers' shop windows are dressed. Jewelers' shops, provision stores, tobacconists, and the rest show every sign of “ business as usual.” I bought at quite a reasonable price a packet of Egyptian cigarettes, bearing the name of a wellknown brand of English manufacture, and I recalled how, not many miles away in harassed France, I had seen rhubarb leaves hanging from upper windows to dry, so that the French smoker might use them instead of the tobacco which he could not buy. Even the sweetstuff shops had well-stocked windows.

The theatres, music halls, cinema palaces, and cafés of Brussels were open and crowded. On the second night of my visit I went with my two French companions to the Théâtre Molière and heard a Belgian company in Paul Hervieu's

their eyes.

play, “ La Course du Flambeau.” The described-were unknown. Their place whole building was packed with Belgians, was filled by military police, who, by thoroughly enjoying the performance. comparison with the gendarmes, were So far as I could tell, the only reminder gentleness itself. that we were in the fallen capital of an I do not profess to know the state of occupied country was the presence in the affairs in parts of Belgium which I did front row of the stalls of two German not visit, but I do know that my narrasoldiers, whose business, so I learned, tive of the conditions of life that came was to see that nothing disrespectful to under my personal inspection has come Germany and her armies was allowed to as a great surprise to many people who creep into the play.

imagine that the whole of Belgium is At another theatre, according to the starving. posters, “ Véronique" was produced, and We in hungry Roubaix looked out on a third bill announced “ The Merry Belgium as the land of promise. The Widow.” At the Théâtre de la Monnaie, Flemish workers who came into the town which has been taken over by the Ger from time to time from Belgium were mans, operas and plays are given for the well fed and prosperous looking, a great benefit of the soldiers and German civil contrast to the French of Roubaix and ians. One afternoon I spent a couple of Lille. The Belgian children that I saw hours in a cinema hall. A continuous were healthy and of good appearance, performance was provided, and people quite unlike the wasted little ones of came and went as they chose, but France, with hollow blue rings round throughout the program the place was well filled. The films shown had no The people of Roubaix, knowing these relation to the war. They were of the facts, are convinced that the Germans ordinary dramatic or comic types, and are endeavoring to lay the foundations I fancy they were of pre-war manu of a vassal State in Belgium. Foiled in facture. Nothing of topical interest was their attempts to capture Calais, the exhibited.

Germans believe that Zeebrugge and

Ostend are capable of development as The Appearance of Plenty harbors for aggressive action against All the scenes which I have described England. The French do not doubt that in Brussels were reproduced in Antwerp. the enemy will make a desperate strugThere was a slightly closer supervision gle before giving up Antwerp. over the comings and goings the in The picture I have presented of Belhabitants, but there was the same unreal gium as I saw it is, of course, vastly difatmosphere of contentment and real ap ferent from the outraged Belgium of the pearance of plenty. Though a good first stage of the war. number of officers were in evidence, the

Lest there should arise any misundermilitary arm of Germany was not suf

standing, I complete the picture by ficiently displayed to produce any in

stating my conviction, based on intimate timidation. Perhaps the most obvious

talks with Belgian men and women, that mark, here and in the capital, that all

the population as a whole are keeping was not normal was the complete absence

a firm upper lip, and that attempts by of private motor cars and cabs from the

the Germans to seduce them from their streets.

allegiance by blandishment and bribery In the country districts two things

will fail as surely as the efforts of struck me as unfamiliar after my long

frightfulness. months in France. About Roubaix not a single head of cattle was to be seen; in

Escaping Into Holland. Belgium every farm had its cows. In Mr. Whitaker's account of his escape Belgium the mounted German gendarm into Holland closes thus: erie—the “ green devils " whose infamous When we drew near to the wires, just conduct in the Roubaix district I have before midnight, we lay on the ground

no certainty that the Dutch frontier guards would not hand us back to the Germans. We took no risks, though it meant wading through a stream waist deep. Our troubles were now practically over. By rapid stages we proceeded to Rotterdam.

I was without money. My watch I had given to the Belgian villager in whose cottage I had found refuge. My clothes were shabby from frequent soakings and hard wear. I had shaved only once in Belgium, and a stubby growth of beard did not improve my general appearance.

At Rotterdam I reported myself to the British Consul. I was treated with the utmost kindness. My expenses during the next four or five days, while I waited for a boat, were paid and I was given my fare to Hull. There I was searched by two military police and questioned closely by examining board. My papers were taken and I was told to go to London and apply for them at the Home Office. As I was again practically without means I was given permission to go to my home in Bradford before proceeding to London.

an

and wriggled along until we were within fifty yards of Holland.

There we lay for what seemed to be an interminable time. We saw patrols passing. An officer came along and inspected the sentries. Everything was oppressively quiet.

Each sentry moved to and fro over a distance of a couple of hundred yards. Opposite the place where we lay two of them met. Choosing his opportunity, one of my comrades, who had provided himself with rubber gloves some weeks before for this critical moment, rushed forward to the spot where the two sentries had just met. Scrambling through barbed wire and over an unelectrified wire, he grasped the electrified wires and wriggled between them. We came close on his heels. He held the deadly electrified wires apart with lengths of thick plate glass with which he had come provided while first my other companions and then I crawled through. Before the sentries returned we had run some hundreds of yards into No Man's Land between the electrified wires and the real Dutch frontier.

Only one danger remained. We had

[Spanish Cartoon]

The All-America Team Off for the War

-From Campana de Gracia, Barcelona.

German Crimes in the Somme Retreat Official Report, Summarized by Henry Cheron

Before the French Senate

O*

[Translated for CURRENT HISTORY MAGAZINE from the French text of the Journal Officiel and the Bulletin des Armées. ]

N the morrow of the very day

when the tenacious courage of the French and British soldiers

compelled the enemy to retreat on the Somme-a worthy pendant to his defeat on the Marne-your Commission on War Damages sent a number of its members to visit the reconquered regions and get at the truth of the conditions which you had ordered it to investigate.

Perhaps the commission would have been content simply to file a report of the facts if these had not revealed such violations of the laws and customs of war, such crimes committed by the occupying forces, so profound a contempt for the most elementary rules of public conscience, that it has believed it to be its duty to denounce the outrages without delay. The report, incomplete though it must be, will be a first tribute to truth, right, and justice, realities which no nation, however powerful it may think itself, can violate in our epoch with impunity.

In the beginning we may recall that Germany solemnly indorsed the international convention, passed at The Hague on Oct. 18, 1907, in which the high contracting parties, facing the eventuality of war and animated, as they expressely stated, “ by the desire to serve, in that extreme case, the interests of humanity and the increasing exigencies of civilization," imposed upon any military authority occupying territory in an invaded State certain rules which it is well now to read over again:

Article 46—The honor and the rights of the family, the lives of individuals, and private property, as well as religious convictions and the exercise of the right of worship, must be respected. Private property cannot be confiscated. Article 47–Pillage is formally interdicted. Article 50-No collective punishment, pecuniary or other, can be inflicted on populations

by reason of individual acts for which the community cannot be considered collectively responsible.

Article 55—The occupying power shall consider itself only the administrator and controller of the usufruct of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural enterprises belonging to the enemy State and located in the occupied territory; it must safeguard the funds of these properties and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct.

Article 56-Property belonging to municipalities, to religious, charitable and educational institutions, or to institutions devoted to the arts and sciences, even though connected with the State, shall be treated as private property. All seizure, destruction, or intentional injury of such establishments, of historic monuments, of works of art and science is forbidden and shall be cause for legal redress.

In the preamble of this convention of 1907, which was solemnly ratified a second time by the German Empire, it was provided that,

In cases not included in the rules adopted by the powers the people remain under the safeguard and dominion of the principles of international law derived from the established usages of civilized nations, from the laws of humanity, and from the demands of the public conscience.

Finally, Article 1 of Convention 4, adopted Oct. 18, 1907, said:

The contracting powers will give to their armed land forces instructions that will conform with the regulations in regard to the laws and customs of war on land, annexed to the present convention.

Another Scrap of Paper To this the German Empire affixed its signature. The principle underlying this convention was that war should be carried on between armies and not between noncombatants, and that everything should be done to save the inhabitants from horrors whose indirect effects in any case would bear down upon them all too cruelly.

What account did the Germans take of this international treaty? For them it was nothing but a scrap of paper, like all the others. They have trampled upon

and race that undertook to saddle their domination upon other peoples, and impose on them a culture already practiced in all countries by notorious highway

men.

[ocr errors]

it to such a degree that one must go back to primitive times, to the most savage epochs of ancient history, to find acts of vandalism and bestial savagery worse than those of which we have obtained proofs.

The commission visited all the reconquered districts. While Paul Doumer and a certain number of colleagues went to Chauny and the region northeast of Soissons, we, with Messrs. Hervey, Reynald, Eugène Mir, Mougeot, Galup, Servant, and Magny, traversed the regions of Noyon, Guiscard, Ham, Lassigny, Roye, Nesle, and Péronne.

We visited in detail these cities and about fifty villages. We wished to compare our facts with the earlier reports that had been made in the name of the Government, whether by the commission headed by George Payelle, first President of the Court of Accounts, or by the Director of Military Justice, who was sent out by the Minister of War. Today we bring you the first elements of a report which is as exact as possible, and from which, whatever our legitimate anger against the Germans, we have carefully excluded all passion susceptible of altering the truth. Besides, the truth is so horrible that it needed no amplification. Everywhere we were the anguished witnesses of the same spectacle: pillage, systematic destruction, acts of barbarism committed without the least excuse of military necessity.

We have made a clear distinction, it is scarcely necessary to say, between damages due to war and damages voluntarily inflicted by the enemy.

We have set aside all the effects of battle-of a battle at times so fierce, so terrible, that it has demolished, destroyed, effaced

everything, even to the smallest stone in the smallest house. What we have retained are the acts of violence committed in cold blood among unarmed civilians; the evil done for the sake of evil, the pillage and destruction of private property and public edifices; the attacks on the life, liberty, and honor of private individuals; all those acts which call for denunciation before the whole world, if only to blast and dishonor forever the cursed Government

Banks in Noyon Plundered Let us come to the facts. From Ribecourt to Noyon the farms are everywhere destroyed. Noyon appears to be little damaged externally, although the barbarians blew up a certain number of houses and destroyed some factories. But, on closer examination, what odious pillage! Everywhere the furniture has been carried off. What has not been carried away has been smashed; the mirrors have been shattered by revolver shots. In a room of the Hôtel du Nord we found, amid all sorts of débris, a steel safe gutted with a crowbar. It was in this hotel that the Kommandantur had been located.

They robbed the stores from the beginning. On March 6, 7, and 8, 1915, in the presence of the Deputy Mayor of Noyon, and despite his energetic protests, they broke open the door of the safe belonging to the Société Génerale. For this purpose they use blowpipes. The chief officer of the Kommandantur directed this brigandage in person. The safe was then closed with a seal, but later they broke the seal. Before leaving Noyon they carried off everything from the safes.

On Feb. 24, 1917, an officer calling himself a representative of the Treasury at Berlin presented himself at the house of M. Brière, a Noyon banker, 72 years old. He ordered the banker to open his safety deposit vaults. M. Brière refused. Then, with the aid of a blowpipe, the soldiers proceeded to force open the safe dcors. The depositors

present. Their protests were in vain. The Germans carried away everything that was in the bank-cash, deeds, bonds, business and official papers, jewels, silverware, negotiable papers, and archives. When the banker observed to the German officer that the archives would be of no use to him, he replied, drily: "I have been ordered to empty the boxes, and I am emptying them.”

The same thing was done on Feb. 27, 1917, at the Cheneau & Barbier Bank,

were

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ПретходнаНастави »