(d) Looting, burning, and the wanton destruction of property.
committed in the course of ordinary military
operations which violate the usages of war and the provisions
of The Hague Convention.
This division includes:
(a) Killing of wounded or prisoners;
(b) Firing on hospitals
or on the Red Cross ambulances and
(c) Abuse of the Red Cross or of the white flag.
(a) Killing of Noncombatants.
The killing of civilians in Belgium has been already described sufficiently. Outrages on the civilian population of the invaded districts, the burning of villages, the shooting of innocent inhabitants, and the taking of hostages, pillage, and destruction continued as the German armies passed into France. The diary of the Saxon officer above referred to describes acts of this kind committed by the German soldiers in advancing to the Aisne at the end of August and after they had passed the French frontier, as well as when they were in Belgian territory.
A proclamation, (a specimen of which was produced to the committee,) issued at Rheims and placarded over the town, affords a clear illustration of the methods adopted by the German Higher Command. The population of Rheims is warned that on the slightest disturbance part or the whole of the city will be burned to the ground and all the hostages taken from the city (a long list of whom is given in the proclamation) immediately shot.
The evidence, however, submitted to the committee with regard to the conduct of the German Army in France is not nearly so full as that with regard to Belgium. There is no body of civilian refugees in England, and the French witnesses have generally laid their evidence before their own Government. The evidence forwarded to us consists principally of the statements of British officers and soldiers who took part in the retreat after the battle of Mons and in the subsequent advance, following the Germans from the Marne. The area covered is relatively small, and it is from French reports that any complete account of what occurred in the invaded districts in France as a whole must be obtained.
Naturally, soldiers in a foreign country, with which they were unacquainted, cannot be expected always to give accurately the names of villages through which they passed on their marches, but this does not prevent their evidence from being definite as to what they actually saw in the farms and houses where the German troops had recently been. Many shocking outrages are recorded. Three examples may here suffice; others are given in the appendix. A Sergeant who had been through the retreat from Mons and then taken part in the advance from the Marne, and who had been engaged in driving out some German troops from