Report on Aerschot.
Antwerp, Aug. 28, 1914.
The commission of inquiry on violation of the laws of nations and the laws and customs of warfare, after an impartial and careful investigation, can make the following report of its findings:
It appears from precise and concurring testimony that in the entire region of Aerschot the Germans have committed veritable atrocities. The majority of the population fled in terror. On their passage the German troops set fire to farms and houses and furniture, shooting inoffensive citizens whom they found along the road or who were working in the field.
At Hersselt, north of Aerschot, thirty-two houses of the village were set on fire; the miller and his son, who fled, and about twenty-one other persons were killed; and all this while no Belgian troops were visible.
The German troops penetrated into Aerschot, a town of 8,000 inhabitants, on Wednesday, Aug. 19, in the morning. No Belgian forces remained behind. No sooner did the Germans enter the town than they shot five or six inhabitants whom they caused to leave their houses. In the evening, pretending that a superior German officer had been killed on the Grand Place by the son of the Burgomaster, or, according to another version of the story, that a conspiracy had been hatched against the superior commandant by the Burgomaster and his family, the Germans took every man who was inside of Aerschot; they led them, fifty at a time, some distance from the town, grouped them in lines of four men, and, making them run ahead of them, shot them and killed them afterward with their bayonets. More than forty men were found thus massacred.
They gave up the town to be pillaged, taking from private residences all they could take, breaking furniture, and forcing safes. The following day they lined up, three by three, the villagers whom they had arrested the day before, taking one man out of each line. These they led to a distance of about 100 meters from the town, taking with them the Burgomaster of the town, Mr. Tielmans, and his son, aged 151/2 years, and his brother, and shot them.
Later on they forced the remaining villagers to dig holes to bury their victims.
For three whole days they continued to pillage and set fire to everything in sight.
About 150 inhabitants of Aerschot are supposed to have been thus massacred.
The largest part of the city is totally destroyed. Five times the Germans tried to set fire to the large church, the interior of which has been sacked. The records of the town have been carried away.
The ambulance attendants, although wearing the Red Cross badge, were not respected. One of them reports that German troops fired upon him while he was collecting his wounded, and that they continued to fire even though he displayed his Red Cross armband. Moreover, during the entire day of the 19th, while he was engaged in hospital service, he was threatened and ill-used. A German officer, among others, took him by the head, thrusting against his forehead the butt of a revolver. A collector, wearing the insignia of the Red Cross, was killed in the Rue de l’Hospital on the evening of Aug. 19 by Germans.