Propaganda Poster "Remember Belgium" WWII Adult Apron
The Rape of Belgium (4 August through September 1914) was a series of German war crimes in the opening months of World War I. The neutrality of Belgium had been guaranteed by Prussia in 1839. Germany accepted Prussia's diplomatic obligations and offered additional guarantees in 1871 and at the Hague Conference in 1907. However the German war plan, known as the Schlieffen Plan, called for Germany to violate this neutrality in order to outflank the French Army, concentrated in eastern France. The German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg dismissed the Treaty of London, 1839 as a mere "scrap of paper".
>br/>German troops, fearful of Belgian guerrilla fighters, or francs-tireurs, burned homes and executed civilians throughout eastern and central Belgium, including Aarschot (156 dead), Andenne (211 dead), Tamines (383 dead) and Dinant (665 dead). The victims included women and children. On August 25, 1914 the Germans ravaged the city of Leuven, burning the University's library of 230,000 books, killing 248 residents, and forcing the entire population, 42,000, to evacuate. These actions brought worldwide condemnation. Horn and Kramer give an explanation of these crimes: The source of the collective fantasy of the People’s War and of the harsh reprisals with which the German army (up to its highest level) responded are to be found in the memory of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1, when the German armies indeed faced irregular Republican soldiers (or francs-tireurs), and in the way in which the spectre of civilian involvement in warfare conjured up the worst fears of democratic and revolutionary disorder for a conservative officer corps.
While some civilians may have fired on German troops in the opening days of the war, the German White Book (Die völkererechtswidrige Führung des belgischen Volkskriegs) identified only two by name, both incorrectly. There were no legitimate trials or courts martial. None of the thousands of Belgian civilians deported to Germany was ever charged with any crime. There is good evidence that the German Army sought to terrorize civilians in order to assure a speedy passage through Belgium and to deter sabotage against supply lines. In some places, particularly Liege, Andenne, and Leuven, there is evidence that the violence against civilians was premeditated.