[Footnote 1: Copies of typical proclamations have been printed in L’Allemagne et la Belgique, Documents Annexes, xxxvi.]
[Illustration: [map of Belgium]]
This happened on Aug. 2. On the evening of Aug. 3 the German troops crossed the frontier. The storm burst so suddenly that neither party had time to adjust its mind to the situation. The Germans seem to have expected an easy passage. The Belgian population, never dreaming of an attack, were startled and stupefied.
On Aug. 4 the roads converging upon Liege from northeast, east, and south were covered with German Death’s Head Hussars and Uhlans pressing forward to seize the passage over the Meuse. From the very beginning of the operations the civilian population of the villages lying upon the line of the German advance were made to experience the extreme horrors of war. “On the 4th of August,” says one witness, “at Herve,” (a village not far from the frontier,) “I saw at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, near the station, five Uhlans; these were the first German troops I had seen. They were followed by a German officer and some soldiers in a motor car. The men in the car called out to a couple of young fellows who were standing about thirty yards away. The young men, being afraid, ran off and then the Germans fired and killed one of them named D.” The murder of this innocent fugitive civilian was a prelude to the burning and pillage of Herve and of other villages in the neighborhood, to the indiscriminate shooting of civilians of both sexes, and to the organized military execution of batches of selected males. Thus at Herve some fifty men escaping from the burning houses were seized, taken outside the town and shot. At Melen, a hamlet west of Herve, forty men were shot. In one household alone the father and mother (names given) were shot, the daughter died after being repeatedly outraged, and the son was wounded. Nor were children exempt. “About Aug. 4,” says one witness, “near Vottem, we were pursuing some Uhlans. I saw a man, woman, and a girl about nine, who had been killed. They were on the threshold of a house, one on the top of the other, as if they had been shot down, one after the other, as they tried to escape.”
The burning of the villages in this neighborhood and the wholesale slaughter of civilians, such as occurred at Herve, Micheroux, and Soumagne, appear to be connected with the exasperation caused by the resistance of Fort Fleron, whose guns barred the main road from Aix la Chapelle to Liege. Enraged by the losses which they had sustained, suspicious of the temper of the civilian population, and probably thinking that by exceptional severities at the outset they could cow the spirit of the Belgian Nation, the German officers and men speedily accustomed themselves to the slaughter of civilians. How rapidly the process was effected