Unarmed civilians were killed in masses at other places near the prison. About ninety bodies were seen lying on the top of one another in a grass square opposite the convent. They included many relatives of a witness whose deposition will be found in the appendix. This witness asked a German officer why her husband had been shot, and he told her that it was because two of her sons had been in the civil guard and had shot at the Germans. As a matter of fact one of her sons was at that time in Liege and the other in Brussels. It is stated that, besides the ninety corpses referred to above, sixty corpses of civilians were recovered from a hole in the brewery yard and that forty-eight bodies of women and children were found in a garden. The town was systematically set on fire by hand grenades.
Another witness saw a little girl of seven, one of whose legs was broken and the other injured by a bayonet.
We have no reason to believe that the civilian population of Dinant gave any provocation, or that any other defense can be put forward to justify the treatment inflicted upon its citizens.
As regards this town and the advance of the German Army from Dinant to Rethel on the Aisne, a graphic account is given in the diary of a Saxon officer. This diary confirms what is clear from the evidence as a whole, both as regards these and other districts, that civilians were constantly taken as prisoners, often dragged from their homes, and shot under the direction of the authorities without any charge being made against them. An event of the kind is thus referred to in a diary entry:
men were shot. There must have been some
innocent men among them. In future we shall have to hold an
inquiry as to their guilt instead of shooting them.”
[Footnote 1: A copy of this diary was given by the French military authorities to the British Headquarters Staff in France, and the latter have communicated it to the committee. It will be found in Appendix B after the German diaries shown to us by the British War Office.]
The shooting of inhabitants, women and children as well as men, went on after the Germans had passed Dinant on their way into France. The houses and villages were pillaged and property wantonly destroyed.
About Aug. 9 a powerful screen of cavalry masking the general advance of the First and Second German Armies was thrown forward into the provinces of Brabant and Limburg. The progress of the invaders was contested at several points, probably near Tirlemont on the Louvain road, and at Diest, Haelen, and Schaffen, on the Aerschot road, by detachments of the main Belgian Army, which was drawn up upon the line of the Dyle. In their preliminary skirmishes the Belgians more than once gained advantages, but after the fall on