(1) An analysis and summary of the evidence regarding the conduct of the German troops in Belgium toward the civilian population of that country during the first few weeks of the invasion.
(2) An examination of the evidence relating to breaches of the rules and usages of war and acts of inhumanity, committed by German soldiers or groups of soldiers, during the first four months of the war, whether in Belgium or in France.
This second part has again been subdivided into two sections:
a. Offenses committed
against noncombatant civilians during
the conduct of the war generally.
b. Offenses committed
against combatants, whether in Belgium
or in France.
THE CONDUCT OF THE GERMAN TROOPS IN BELGIUM.
Although the neutrality of Belgium had been guaranteed by a treaty signed in 1839 to which France, Prussia, and Great Britain were parties, and although, apart altogether from any duties imposed by treaty, no belligerent nation has any right to claim a passage for its army across the territory of a neutral State, the position which Belgium held between the German Empire and France had obliged her to consider the possibility that in the event of a war between these two powers her neutrality might not be respected. In 1911 the Belgian Minister at Berlin had requested an assurance from Germany that she would observe the Treaty of 1839; and the Chancellor of the empire had declared that Germany had no intention of violating Belgian neutrality. Again in 1913 the German Secretary of State at a meeting of a Budget Committee of the Reichstag had declared that “Belgian neutrality is provided for by international conventions and Germany is determined to respect those conventions.” Finally, on July 31, 1914, when the danger of war between Germany and France seemed imminent, Herr von Below, the German Minister in Brussels, being interrogated by the Belgian Foreign Department, replied that he knew of the assurances given by the German Chancellor in 1911, and that he “was certain that the sentiments expressed at that time had not changed.” Nevertheless on Aug. 2 the same Minister presented a note to the Belgian Government demanding a passage through Belgium for the German Army on pain of an instant declaration of war. Startled as they were by the suddenness with which this terrific war cloud had risen on the eastern horizon, the leaders of the nation rallied around the King in his resolution to refuse the demand and to prepare for resistance. They were aware of the danger which would confront the civilian population of the country if it were tempted to take part in the work of national defense. Orders were accordingly issued by the Civil Governors of provinces, and by the Burgomasters of towns, that the civilian inhabitants were to take no part in hostilities and to offer no provocation to the invaders. That no excuse might be furnished for severities, the populations of many important towns were instructed to surrender all firearms into the hands of the local officials.