'La Belgique Heroique et Martyre'
a Catalogue of German Atrocites in Belgium
War propaganda took on many forms. Even after the Armistice many books and articles were published that were hardly distinguishable from that of the war years. In fact, in France and Belgium it might be argued that if anything, now that the war was over and won, the intensity of hatred and the urge to exact revenge and payement from the Germans for the suffering and destruction visited upon these countries, was intensified.
The multi volume histories which began appearing in the 1920s were somewhat milder in tone than some of the popular booklets and magazines which were intended for the working classes. This Belgian book for instance, 'La Belgique Héroique et Martyre', sets to print a long catalogue of offences and outrages commited by the Germans in Belgium during the course of the war. The gist of the accusations is historically correct, for it is estimated and now accepted that some 5500 Belgian civilians were killed as a result of unwarranted actions by German forces in Belgium.
However it is interesting to note the tone set in this book and especially to note the drawings that were profusely used to illustrate these points. The drawings are very effective in portraying the perceived beastliness and inhumanity of the enemy. They are crude at times, repetitious in the themes they illustrate : rape, murder of civilians, children, women and priests, desecration of churches, wanton destruction and burning of homes and villages, deportation of civlilians. But they are effective and very horrendous nonetheless. Not only in what they show, but in the almost gloating and accusatory maner in which they are used in print.
It is also interesting to note that the almost exclusive catalogue of outrages is portrayed as having taken place in the French speaking regions of Belgium. Long lists of outrages in the provinces of Luxemburg, Namur and Liege are given, but only very sporadic mention is made of similar events in the Flemish speaking areas. This can be construed as an attempt to 'prove' that the Flemish population of Belgium was less than patrioticaly inspired during the war and therefore less deserving of political consideration and priviliges afterwards.
'La Belgique Héroique et Martyr' was a weekly publication, much akin in spirit if not in appearance to the large and impressive serial histories of the war published in France, Great Britain and Germany. Printed in Antwerp, it was probably first published immediately after the Armistace in late 1918 when interest in the events of the Great War was still running high, especially in most of Belgium which had been deprived of uncensored news during the occupation years. The awful paper quality also indicates that the magazine was published when shortages of all manner of materials was still prevalent. Just as there is no indication of when publication started, there is none when it ended either, though it would be remaining in concert with other publications that after the Peace Treaty celebrations of July 1919 and certainly after Christmas of 1919 that interest in the events of the war wanned and that publication ceased to be profitable.
Some 70 odd cover pages and line drawings can be accessed in the following links.
* see also the section on other drawings from 'La Belgique Héroique et Martyre'
Galleries of Cover Illustrations
Galleries of Line Drawings
a later publication by the same publisher
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