from the British magazine : 'T.P.'S Journal of Great Deeds', July 10, 1915
'The Story of Liege
from Personal Investigation'

The Mark of the Beast

German soldiers in Belgium breaking into civilian homes

The writer of this article recently returned from Belgium. His matter is obtained from first-hand evidence; the mere facts of the story speak for the truth of his statement, and will serve as a condemnation for ever of the actions committed by the first German armies to cross the Belgian frontier near Liege.

In the history of Europe there are many grim moments that stand out by virtue of the colour surrounding them - the red colour of riot, massacre, and rapine. Now comes another to join this ignoble band, to transcend them all in horror and awfulness.

On the 17th or 18th of August, says the writer, the soldiers of the 39th Regiment of Reserve were established on University Square, Liege, in the house belonging to the heirs of the late General Londot, in the hall of the Societe Libre d'Emulation, and close by the communal school in the Rue des Croisiers. The building Londot had been vacated by its previous tenants, and there was no one there but the soldiers. At the "Emulation" there were a concierge and his two sons, boys of seventeen and twenty. The communal school was also kept by a concierge.

"What Would You Have?"

As soon as they had taken up these quarters, the soldiers started out to look for wine. The wine cellars of three houses which were unoccupied were at once broken open. These houses belonged to Doctor Renard, Doctor Lenger, and the Baron d'Otreppe de Bouvette. The cellars were completely emptied, and the bottles transported in wagons, under the surveillance of officers, to the three places where the troops were lodging.

"What would you have? " remarked an officer to a spectator who was scandalised by the proceeding. "This is war."

On the 19th, and especially in the evening of August 20th, most of the soldiers were drunk. A captain and a lieutenant were seen leaving the house of Baron d'Otreppe, making vain attempts to get on horseback.

"Something is Going to Happen"

On Thursday, the 20th, at 9 p.m., the soldiers and sub-officers at the school were at table in the room behind. A witness overheard this remark in German, "Something is going to happen to-night."

At the "Emulation" the soldiers were amusing themselves with songs, when suddenly an oberst-leutnant entered and spoke a few words in secret to a sub-officer. Immediately the ninety soldiers received orders to take off their boots and go to sleep in the large hall. A few minutes after a general hubbub broke out, the soldiers drew on their boots and scattered all over the building, breaking and smashing up the furniture. A shot rang out, fired from a first-floor window of the "Emulation" in the direction of the University, which had been turned into a barracks.

It was now 9.3a p.m. At this moment the main building from which the shot was fired was in the exclusive occupation of the soldiers. The concierge and his two sons were in a building at the back.

The Signal

The first shot, which was apparently a signal, was followed by sustained firing. Some quick-firing guns, which during the day had been brought to the "Emulation," were brought out on to the square and directed towards the University. Instantly the square was filled with soldiers, who fired in every direction. The windows and the shutters of the houses were smashed in; the officers entered the doorways shouting, "Women and children must come out; the men must die either by shot or fire."

The Torch Among the Houses

At once the soldiers set fire to the houses, pouring in petrol and setting them alight with torches.

Families had hidden in a cellar, but had heard the order. One of the women came out and implored mercy for some men. "It is useless," the officer replied. "The men must die." This officer left, and another appeared; he was appealed to, and before repeated supplications gave in.

"Make your men come out, and I swear-to you on my honour that no harm shall come to them."

The five men came out, and were taken under escort to the University with their wives and children.

Death by the Statue

In the meantime all the men who could be found in the cellars or elsewhere were seized and brought out on the square close to the statue of Andre Dumont, and at once shot without a word of enquiry or explanation. This first group consisted of nine men, all peaceable, hard-working people. Here is the list of names:

Bronkart; Schepers, Joseph; Corbusier; Deguelon; Oliver, Antcnio; Oliver, Jacques; X., employee of Oliver; Y., employee of Oliver; Z., employee of Oliver.

The five latter vainly pleaded their Spanish nationality. What mattered this to a gang of drunken brutes deprived of all human feeling?

An Orgy of Fire and Murder

These nine victims did not suffice to quell their rage. They must scour more completely the neighbourhood of the University. They rushed now to the Place Cockerill. Similar scenes took place, with the exception of the fires. They again dragged out the men to the same place near the statue; one by one they were thrown on the heap of dead bodies already lying there, whilst a soldier fired at them in the presence of their wives from about three paces. To make sure the fatal work had been done, the bayonet is used, scalping one, cutting the body open of another. Here is the second list of victims:

Carpentier (father), Carpentier (son), Eastre, Schmitz, Foullien, Sprokkel, Fleron.

The corpses were later on carried to the Bourse, where certain enquiries were made by the police; those not recognised were photographed. One of those shot had managed to escape death. Struck by four bullets, he was left for dead an hour and a half; later he recovered his senses, and was taken to hospital in the Rue Hors-Chateau.

Run Amok

All this time the quick-firing guns were firing in the direction of the Rue des Croisiers. The soldiers in the school, nearly all of them drunk, were firing in all directions. In this way a good dozen of their comrades were wounded. They were seen being carried away in the ambulances.

The firemen, who arrived in the place about 10.15, were hustled and terrorised by the soldiers, who forced them to undress. Several of them were robbed of their money. After this bad treatment they were allowed to get to work, but only to put a limit to the fire.

"You must fight for the buildings Nos. 3 and 5," said a German officer to the firemen; "but for those Nos. 2-28 it is no good; they must burn." The buildings 3 and 5 were those in which the soldiers were lodging.

Fears of a General Massacre

Then cannon was set in action; a gun on the Quai des Pecheurs, on the right bank of the Meuse, bombarded the buildings on the left bank, a little to the north of the University. Six shots were fired. The inhabitants of Liege expected a general massacre, and in all quarters shots were heard, fired by frightened German sentries- the Place Maghin, Place du Congres, Rue de Pitteurs, Rue du Plan Incline, Rue Cathddrale, Place Saint-Lambert, where the Hotel Nouveau Monde was ransacked. The sky was everywhere red with fire.


The occasions were propitious for robbery, and the soldiers took full advantage of them. All this was done under the eyes of the officers. The Germans tried to lay the blame on the Russian students at the University. They were accused of firing the first shot which gave cause for these terrible reprisals, which, even if it had been true, could not have justified them.

Nor was Liege yet finished with the devilry of Germany. There was to be horror heaped on horror before the fire of murder and rapine flickered to its close. One morning they will never forget the sad one of Friday, August 21st.

The smell of the places burning in the centre of the town penetrated to the farthest suburbs. Ashes were floating everywhere, and the ground was strewn with smouldering fragments. The sinister faces of the Prussian soldiers, with their pointed helmets, were seen on all sides as they went, revolver in hand, from house to house, ordering the inhabitants to leave their doors open.

Seeking Excuses

Other soldiers were requisitioning on all sides, trying to find excuses for the abominable crimes of the previous nights. The few passers-by who could be seen were either in deep distress or boiling over with suppressed rage, amongst them doctors, with the Red Cross badge on their arms, returning from the Corn Market, where the corpses were laid out. In certain streets there had been a general exodus, the people having been ordered on the instant to leave their houses. They went off, not knowing where, laden with bundles of clothing and bedding.

The German authorities had given orders that the Rue Pierreuse, which runs behind the Palace, must be evacuated, also the Rue de Pitteurs, the Rue Grande Beche, and that other streets on the opposite side of the Meuse, near the University buildings, must be emptied before 3 p.m.

A Grim Rumour

It was rumoured that the whole quarter was to be razed to the ground, in order to place batteries to protect their troops in case of retreat. It was much more probably a step taken to isolate the University buildings, the Germans having already decided to occupy them. The city was in mourning; the tramways, which had commenced to run again the night before, were again stopped.

On August 21st, at 12.30 a.m., in the Cornillon district, some Germans who had been loitering about and drinking fired some shots, a common occurrence every night. This happened close to the level crossing where the Aix-la-Chapelle road ascends towards Robermont. A troop descending from Robermont were bringing along a wounded soldier at that moment, and replied. Upon thatj at Chartreuse, which dominates this quarter on the right, another troop of soldiers fired also. This caused a kind of panic amongst the Germans, which extended as far as Bois de Breux and Beyne-Heusay, hundreds of shots being fired in different directions.

To Cover Themselves

A soldier belonging to the troop that had fired at Cornillon was mortally wounded, and his companions, in order to excuse themselves, pretended that the civilians had fired on them, and that they had simply replied.

In consequence, at four in the morning, the soldiers began to fire upon the houses in the lower part of the Rue de Robermont. The house fronts are still all riddled with bullet holes, and we have counted fifteen holes in one window.


Two natives of Liege, who could not pass the bridge into the town because they arrived after 7 p.m., the hour at which all circulation was stopped, had lodged in one of these houses, and had remained, sitting up all night in a room on the ground floor. The Germans found them, and they were at once shot, without any enquiry. They roused all the people in the Rue de Robermont, giving them no time to dress, ranged them against the walls, arms in the air, and made arrangements to shoot them all. There were seen in the long row people of all ages, amongst others the wife of a Belgian officer in her nightdress; the wife of a journalist with her three babies, five, four, and two years of age, in a dressing-gown and bare feet, arms up, like the rest. The soldiers opposite had their rifles aimed, one of the soldiers saying in an aside, "Poor little ones!"

Then the officers, pretending that the place was not a suitable one, ordered them to take their places against the opposite wall, the unfortunate people expecting their last moments had arrived.

The "Example"

Then they were led away, close to the level crossing. There still lay the bleeding bodies of the two men killed in one of the houses. Close by, the dying German soldier had been placed. They then told the prisoners, " Look, there is your lesson! " And they saw stretched in' a doorway a poor old man dead, his shoulders smashed.

The whole neighbourhood protested vigorously that no one in these houses had fired, and that they had no fire-arms; in fact, the evidence was so overwhelming in their favour that about seven o'clock they were released, after a young man had been shot, simply because he lived in a house high up, called the Panorama.

The bullet was afterwards extracted from the dead soldier, and it proved to be a German one.

Thus, in the simple language of those who were present at these "horrors," the story is told of the incidents in the University Square and at Cornillon. They stand devoid of any embroidery that could for one moment give the German any way out of his bloodguiltiness.

Back to Introduction
Back to Index