A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 153

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GERMAN ATROCITIES


uponher. Germanywasamazedandindignant. But,also,she wasalarmed. Itbecameallthemoreimperativethataknock- outblowshouldbestruckatFrancewiththeleastdelay. Once Britain had time to mobilise, the weight of united French and British forces in the west at so early a date might prove more of an obstacle to her knock-out plan than she could overcome before Russian pressure made itself felt in the east. At all cost Belgiumhadtobesweptasidewithinafewdays. Moreover,in daring to challenge the might of Germany at all she had delivered an offence to the pride of Germany which was not to be lightly forgiven. A stubborn and prolonged Belgian resistance might well throw out of gear all the cherished and perfectly thought out plans of the German high command.* Belgium had to be taught that she could interfere with the mighty schemes of the German empire only at her peril and that any resistance was worse than useless. And so Germany proceed^ to crush Belgium with an iron ruthlessness which became only the mor^ intense as the • Belgium resistance grew more stubborn. The atrocities which accompanied the Prussian march through Belgium, beginning with the sack of Vis^ and culminating in the horrible massacre at Louvain, will remain for all time a blot upon the reputation of a fine nation. And it is indeed difficult^ to understand and quite impossible to condone the terrible bar- l:)arities which Germany inflicted upon that innocent little nation. Isolated and occasional atrocities perpetrated by groups of drunken soldiers temporarily out of hand are to be expected in any war. But systematic•and persistent barbarities perpetrated at the instigation of the commanding staff of an army of occupa- tion are something for which no justification can be found. Itispossiblethatthestoriestoldareexaggerated. This,how- ever, would seem unlikely, and there remains little room for doubt but that the wanton destruction of undefended towns and the looting, pillaging, murder, and worse, of defenceless men, women and children was part of an organized plan to terrify Belgium if not into submission at least into quiescence. success of the German plan depended upon a speedy victory in Belgium ; and it is significant that the worst atrocities perpe- trated at Louvain, Malines, Aerschot and Termonde coincided with a series of dangerous attacks from the Belgian army isolated round Antwerp. While we may discount largely the stoics of conspiracy amongst the civil population of conquered Belgium

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