We are driven to the conclusion that the harrying of the villages in the district, the burning of a large part of Louvain, the massacres there, the marching out of the prisoners, and the transport to Cologne, (all done without inquiry as to whether the particular persons seized or killed had committed any wrongful act,) were due to a calculated policy carried out scientifically and deliberately, not merely with the sanction but under the direction of higher military authorities, and were not due to any provocation or resistance by the civilian population.
To understand the depositions describing what happened at Termonde it is necessary to remember that the German Army occupied the town on two occasions, the first, from Friday, Sept. 4, to Sunday, Sept. 6, and again later in the month, about the 16th. The civilians had delivered up their arms a fortnight before the arrival of the Germans.
Early in the month, probably about the 4th, a witness saw two civilians murdered by Uhlans. Another witness saw their dead bodies, which remained in the street for ten days. Two hundred civilians were utilized as a screen by the German troops about this date.
On the 5th the town was partially burned. One witness was taken prisoner in the street by some German soldiers, together with several other civilians. At about 12 o’clock some of the tallest and strongest men among the prisoners were picked out to go around the streets with paraffin. Three or four carts containing paraffin tanks were brought up, and a syringe was used to put paraffin on to the houses, which were then fired. The process of destruction began with the houses of rich people, and afterward the houses of the poorer classes were treated in the same manner. German soldiers had previously told this witness that if the Burgomaster of Termonde, who was out of town, did not return by 12 o’clock that day the town would be set on fire. The firing of the town was in consequence of his failure to return. The prisoners were afterward taken to a factory and searched for weapons. They were subsequently provided with passports enabling them to go anywhere in the town, but not outside. The witness in question managed to effect his escape by swimming across the river.
Another witness describes how the tower of the Church of Termonde St. Gilles was utilized by the Belgian troops for offensive purposes. They had in fact mounted a machine gun there. This witness was subsequently taken prisoner in a cellar in Termonde in which he had taken refuge with other people. All the men were taken from the cellar and the women were left behind. About seventy prisoners in all were taken; one, a brewer who could not walk fast enough, was wounded with a bayonet. He fell down and was compelled to get up and follow the soldiers. The prisoners had to hold up their hands, and if they dropped their hands they were struck on the back with the butt end of rifles. They were taken to Lebbeke, where there were in all 300 prisoners, and there they were locked up in the church for three days and with scarcely any food.