An account of a murder by an officer at Campenhout is given in a later part of this report, and depositions relating to Rotselaer, Tremeloo, and Wespelaer will be found in the appendix.
The committee is specially impressed by the character of the outrages committed in the smaller villages. Many of these are exceptionally shocking and cannot be regarded as contemplated or prescribed by the responsible commanders of the troops by whom they were committed. The inference, however, which we draw from these occurrences is that when once troops have been encouraged in a career of terrorism the more savage and brutal natures, of whom there are some in every large army, are liable to run to wild excess, more particularly in those regions where they are least subject to observation and control.
AERSCHOT AND DISTRICT.
Period II., (Aug. 25.)
Immediately after the battle of Malines, which resulted in the evacuation by the Germans of the district of Malines, Sempst, Hofstade, and Eppeghem, a long series of murders were committed either just before or during the retreat of the army. Many of the inhabitants who were unarmed, including women and young children, were killed—some of them under revolting circumstances.
Evidence given goes to show that the death of these villagers was due not to accident, but to deliberate purpose. The wounds were generally stabs or cuts, and for the most part appear to have been inflicted with the bayonet.
In Malines itself many bodies were seen. One witness saw a German soldier cut a woman’s breasts after he had murdered her, and saw many other dead bodies of women in the streets.
In Hofstade a number of houses had been set on fire and many corpses were seen, some in houses, some in back yards, and some in the streets.
Several examples are given below.
Two witnesses speak to having seen the body of a young man pierced by bayonet thrusts with the wrists cut also.
On a side road the corpse of a civilian was seen on his doorstep with a bayonet wound in his stomach, and by his side the dead body of a boy of 5 or 6 with his hands nearly severed.
The corpses of a woman and boy were seen at the blacksmith’s. They had been killed with the bayonet.
In a cafe a young man, also killed with the bayonet, was holding his hands together as if in the attitude of supplication.
Two young women were lying in the back yard of the house. One had her breasts cut off, the other had been stabbed.
A young man had been hacked with the bayonet until his entrails protruded. He also had his hands joined in the attitude of prayer.
In the garden of a house in the main street bodies of two women were observed, and in another house the body of a boy of 16 with two bayonet wounds in the chest.