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The martyrdom of Belgium: official report of massacres of peaceable citizens, women and children by the German army

Official Belgian commission of inquiry,   pp. [5]-19 PDF (6.7 MB)


Page 8


THE MARTYRDOM OF BELGIUM.
About 5 o'clock on 21st August, the Germans carried the bridge
of Tamines, crossed the River Sambre, and began defiling in mass
through the streets of the village. About 8 o'clock the movement
of troops stopped, and the soldiers penetrated into the houses,
drove out the inhabitants, set themselves to sack the place, and then
burnt it. The unfortunate peasants who stopped in the village
were shot; the rest fled from their houses. The greater part of
them were arrested either on the night of the 21st of August or on
the following morning. Pillage and burning continued all next day
(22nd).
On the evening of the 22nd (Saturday) a group of between 400
and 450 men was collected in front of the Church, not far from the
bank of the Sambre. A German detachment opened fire on them,
but as the shooting was a slow business the officers ordered up a
machine gun, which soon swept off all the unhappy peasants still
left standing. Many of them were only wounded and, hoping to
save their lives, got with difficulty on their feet again. They were
immediately shot down. Many wounded still lay among the corpses.
Groans of pain and cries for help were heard in the bleeding heap.
On several occasions soldiers walked up to such unhappy individuals
and stopped their groans with a bayonet thrust. At night some
who still survived succeeded in crawling away. Others put an end
to their own pain by rolling themselves into the neighboring river.
All these facts have been established by depositions made by
wounded men who succeeded in escaping. About 100 bodies were
found in the river.
Next day, Sunday, the 23rd, about 6 o'clock in the morning, an-
other party consisting of prisoners made in the village and the
neighborhood were brought into the Square. One of them makes
the following deposition :-
"On reaching the Square the first thing that we saw was a mass
of bodies of civilians extending over at least 40 yards in length by
6 yards in depth. They had evidently been drawn up in rank to
be shot. We were placed before this range of corpses, and were
convinced that we too were to be shot.
"An officer then came forward and asked for volunteers to dig
trenches to bury these corpses. I and my brother-in-law and cer-
tain others offered ourselves. We were conducted to a neighbour-
ing field at the side of the Square, where they made us dig a trench
15 yards long by 10 broad and 2 deep. Each received a spade.
While we were digging the trenches soldiers with fixed bayonets
gave us our orders. As I was much fatigued through not being ac-
customed to digging, and being faint from hunger, a soldier then
brought me a lighter spade, and afterwards filled a bucket of water
for us to drink. I asked him if he knew what they were going to


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