The destruction of Louvain 5

November 19 2014

Such were the rumours that passed current in the German Army; but there is no reference in this officer’s deposition to what really happened at the Station on the night of the 27th-28th. The prisoners arrived there about 7.0 p.m., and were immediately put on board a train. Their numbers had risen by now to between 2,000 and 3,000, and the overcrowding was appalling. The curé of Rotselaer was placed in a truck which had carried troops and was furnished with benches; but even this truck was made to hold 50 people, while the majority were forced into cattle trucks – from 70 to 100 men, women, and children in each, which had never been cleaned, and were knee-deep in dung. They stood in these trucks all night, while the train remained standing in the Station. On August 28th, about 6.0 in the morning, they started for Cologne, but the stoppages and shuntings were interminable, and Cologne was not reached till the afternoon of August 31st. During these four days – from the evening of August 27th to the afternoon of August 31st – the prisoners were given nothing to eat, and were not allowed to get out of the train to relieve themselves when it stopped. “We had nothing to eat,” states one of them, “not even the child one month old.” — “My wife was suckling her child,” states another, “but her milk came to an end. My wife was crying nearly all the time. The baby was dreadfully ill, and nearly died.” — “We had been without food for two days and nights, and had nothing to drink till we got to Cologne except that one of my fellowprisoners had a bottle of water, from which we just wetted our lips.” — “I asked for some water for my child at Aix-la-Chapelle, and it was refused. It was the soldiers that I asked, and they spat at me when they refused the water. The soldiers also took all the money that I had upon me.” — “We had not been allowed to leave the train to obey the calls of nature, till at Cologne we went on our knees and begged the soldiers to allow us to get down.”

The brutality of the soldiers did not stop short of murder. “At Henne,” where the train stopped at 3.30 a.m. on August 29th, “a man got out to satisfy nature. He belonged to the village of Wygmael. He was going towards the side of the line when three German soldiers approached him. One of them caught hold of him and threw him on the ground, and he was bayonetted by one or other of them in his left side. The man cried out; then the German soldier withdrew his bayonet and showed his comrades how far it had gone in. He then wiped the blood off his bayonet by drawing it through his hand. … After the soldier had wiped his bayonet, he and his comrades turned the man over on his face. … A few minutes after he had wiped his bayonet, he put his hand in his pocket and took out some bread, which he ate. …”

Between Louvain and the frontier two men in a passenger-carriage “tried to escape and broke the windows. The German sentinels bayonetted these two men and killed them.”

Two people on the train went mad, and two committed suicide. When the train started again after its halt at Liége, a man from Thildonck was run over, and it was supposed that he had thrown himself under the wheels to put himself out of his misery. When the train was emptied at Cologne, three of the prisoners were taken out dead.

The trucks were chalked with the inscription: “Civilians who shot at the soldiers at Louvain,” and at every place in Germany where the train stopped the prisoners were persecuted by the crowd. “At Aix-la-Chapelle,” states the curé of Rotselaer, “an officer came up to spit on me.” At Aix, too, those destined for the internment camp at Münster had to change trains and were marched through the streets. “As we went,” states one of them, “the German women and children spat at us.” — “We arrived at Aix-la-Chapelle,” states another witness. “There the German people shouted at us. At Dürren, between Aix-la-Chapelle and Cologne, 4,000 German people crowded round. I turned round to the old woman with eight children, and said: ‘Do these people think we are prisoners? Show them one of your little children, at the window.’ This child was a month old, and naked. When the child was shown at the window a hush came over the crowd.”

“When we reached Cologne a crowd came round the trucks, jeering at us, and as we marched out they prodded us with their umbrellas and pelted us and shouted: ‘Shoot them dead! Shoot them dead!’ — and drew their fingers across their throats.”

“At Cologne,” states the curé of Rotselaer, “we had to leave the train and parade – men, women and children – through the streets under the surveillance of the police.” — “On the way,” adds another, “the children in the streets threw stones at us.”

They were herded for the night into an exhibition-ground called the “Luna Park,” and here their first food was served out to them – for every ten persons one loaf of mouldy bread. A certain number found shelter in a “joy-wheel”; the rest spent the night in the open, in the rain. The guards amused themselves by making individuals kneel down in turn and threatening them with execution. Next morning they were marched back to the station, once more under the insults of the crowd, and started to retrace their journey, but not all of them were allowed to return. A batch of 300 men were kept at Cologne for a week, during which time 60 of their number were shot before the eyes of the rest, while the survivors were paraded through the town again and subjected more than once to a sham execution. Others were sent direct from Aix-la-Chapelle to the internment camp at Münster where the Garde Civique of Louvain had been sent before. In this camp the men were separated completely from the women and children – one of them was the man whose baby had nearly died on the way, and for six weeks he was kept in ignorance of what was happening to the baby and to his wife. For the first six weeks they were given no water to wash in, and no soap during the whole period of their imprisonment. They were not allowed to smoke or read or sing. This particular prisoner was allowed by special grace to return to Louvain with his family on December 6th, but the others still remained.

Meanwhile, the main body of the prisoners was being transported back to Belgium. This return journey was almost as painful as the journey out; they were almost as badly crowded and starved; but the delays were less, and they reached Brussels on September 2nd. While they were halted at Brussels, Burgomaster Max managed to serve out to each of them a ration of white bread.

Adolphe Max, mayor of Brussels from 1909 until his death just after the outbreak of the Second World War, was a notable non-collaborator.

They were carried on to Schaerbeek, detrained, and marched in column to Vilvorde. “I was in the last file,” states one of them. “We were made to run quickly, and the soldiers struck us on the back with their rifles and on the arms with their bayonets.” — “On the way to Vilvorde one man sprang into the water, a canal – he was mad by then. The German soldiers threw empty bottles at this man in the water; they were bottles they got from the houses as they passed, and were drinking from on the way.” At Vilvorde they were informed that they were free. They dragged themselves forward towards the Belgian lines, but at Sempst another party of Germans took them prisoner again. “The Germans thrust their bayonets quite close to our chests,” states one of the prisoners; “then four of them prepared to shoot us, but they did not shoot. One of the prisoners went mad; I was made to hold him, and he hurt me very much.” Finally the officer commanding the picket let them go once more. They asked if they might return to Louvain. “If you go back that way we will kill you,” the officer said; “you have to go that way,” and he pointed towards Malines. It was now midnight, and pouring with rain. The prisoners stumbled on again, and made their way, in scattered parties, to the Belgian outposts.

This horrible railway journey to Cologne was the last stroke in the campaign of terrorisation carried out against Louvain after the night of August 25th by the deliberate policy of the German Army Command. A refugee who had returned to the city on August 28th, and had been kept prisoner during the night, was released with her fellow prisoners on the 29th. “We will not hurt you any more,” said the officer in command; “stay in Louvain. All is finished.”

On August 30th the staff of the Hôpital St.-Thomas, who had defied the proclamation of the 27th and remained continuously at their posts, took the task of reconstruction in hand. A committee of notables was formed, and overtures were made to Major von Manteuffel, the German Etappen-Kommandant in the town. On September 1st a proclamation, signed by the provisional municipal government, was posted up, with von Manteuffel’s sanction, in the streets. It communicated a promise from the German Military Authorities that pillage and arson should thenceforth cease, and it invited the inhabitants to come back to Louvain and take up again their normal life. The most pressing task was to clear the ruins, and to find and bury the dead. In Louvain alone, not including the suburban communes, 1,120 houses had been destroyed and 100 civilians had been killed during this week of terror.

“We arrived at Louvain,” writes a German soldier in his diary on August 29th. “The whole place was swarming with troops. Landsturmers of the Halle Battalion came along, dragging things with them – chiefly bottles of wine – and many of them were drunk. A tour round the town with ten bicyclists in search of billets revealed a picture of devastation as bad as any imaginable. Burning and falling houses bordered the streets; only a house here and there remained standing. Our tour led us over broken glass, burning wood-work and rubble. Tram and telephone wires trailed in the streets. Such barracks as were still standing were full up. Back to the Station, where nobody knew what to do next. Detached parties were to enter the streets, but actually the Battalion marched in close order into the town, to break into the first houses and loot – no, of course, only to ‘requisition’ – for wine and other things. Like a wild pack they broke loose, each on their own; officers set a good example by going on ahead. A night in a barracks with many drunk was the end of this day, which aroused in me a contempt I cannot describe.”

Louvain University Library

The ruined library of the Catholic University, August 1914

The German Terror in Belgium, An Historical Record, Hodder & Stoughton, 1917


The destruction of Louvain 4

November 18 2014

These preliminary expulsions on the 26th were followed up by more comprehensive measures on the morning of the 27th. Between 8.0 and 9.0 a.m. German soldiers went round the streets proclaiming from door to door: “Louvain is to be bombarded at noon; everyone is to leave the town immediately.” The people had no time to set their affairs in order or to prepare for the journey. They started out just as they were, fearing that the bombardment would overtake them before they could escape from the town. The exodus was complete. About 40,000 people altogether were in flight, and the majority of them streamed towards the Station Square, where they had been ordered to assemble, and then out by the Boulevard de Tirlemont, along the Tirlemont Road.

The Dominicans from the Monastery in the Rue Juste-Lipse were expelled with the rest. “At the moment when they were leaving the Monastery an old man was brought in seriously wounded in the stomach; it was evident that he had but a few hours to live. A German officer proposed to ‘finish him off,’ but was deterred by the Prior. One of the monks attempted to pick up a paralysed person who had fallen in the street; the soldiers prevented him, striking him with the butt-ends of their muskets. The weeping, terrified population was hurrying towards the Railway Station. …” At the Station the Dominicans were stopped and sent to Germany by train; the rest of the crowd was driven on. There were from 8,000 to 10,000 people in this first column. “Nothing but heads was to be seen – a sea of heads. … The wind was blowing violently, and a remorseless rain scourged us. … The crowd was pressing upon us, suffocating us, and sometimes literally lifting us along like a wave, our feet not touching the ground. We progressed with difficulty, and had to stop every ten metres. Sometimes a German asked us if we had any arms. …” When they arrived at Tirlemont they were kept outside the town till nightfall. The inhabitants did their best for them, but Tirlemont too, had been ravaged by the invasion. The number of the refugees was overwhelming, and there was a dearth of supplies. “My mother and I,” states a Professor of Louvain University, “had to walk about 20 miles on the 27th and the following day before we could find a peasant cart. We had to carry the few belongings we were able to take away, and to walk in the heavy rain. We could find nothing to eat, but other people were yet more unfortunate than we. I saw ladies walking in the same plight, without hats and almost in their night-dresses. Sick persons, too, dragged themselves along or were carried in wheel-barrows. Thousands of people were obliged to sleep in Tirlemont on the church pavements. We found a little room to sleep in. …”

Ecclesiastics were singled out for special maltreatment. This professor, and twelve other priests or monks with him, was stopped by German troops en camped at Lovenjoul. They were informed that they were going to be shot for “having incited the population.” — “A soldier,” states the professor, “called me ‘Black Devil’ and pushed me roughly into a dirty little stable.” — “I was thrust into a pig-stye,” states one of his fellow-victims, “from which a pig had just been removed before my eyes. … There I was compelled to undress completely. German soldiers searched my clothes and took all I had. Thereupon the other ecclesiastics were brought to the stye; two of them were stripped like me; all were searched and robbed of all they had. The soldiers kept everything of value – watches, money and so on – and only returned us trifles. Our breviaries were thrown into the manure. Some of the ecclesiastics were robbed of large sums – one had 6,000 francs on him, another more than 4,000. All were brutally handled and received blows.” They were saved from death by the professor’s mother, who appealed to a German officer with more sense of justice than his colleagues, and they were thankful to rejoin the other refugees.

A second stream of refugees was pouring out of Louvain by the Tervueren Road, towards the south-west. “On the road,” states a professor, “we had to raise our arms each time we met soldiers. An officer in a motor-car levelled his revolver at us. He threatened fiercely a young man walking by himself who only raised one arm – he was carrying a portmanteau in the other hand, which he had to put down in a hurry. At Tervueren we were searched several times over, and then took the electric tram for Brussels. …”

But here the ecclesiastics were singled out once more. One was searched so roughly that his cassock was torn from top to bottom. Another was charged with carrying “cartridges,” which turned out to be a packet of chocolates. One soldier tried to slip a cartridge into a Jesuit’s pocket, but the trick was fortunately seen by another monk standing by. Insults were hurled at them – “Swine”; “Beastly Papists”; “You incite the people to fire on us”; “You will be castrated, you swine!” Then they were driven into a field, and surrounded by a guard with loaded rifles. About 140 ecclesiastics were collected altogether, including Mgr. Ladeuze, the Rector of Louvain University; Canon Cauchie, the Professor of History; Mgr. Becker, the Principal of the American Seminary; and Mgr. Willemsen, formerly President of the American College. [The Seminary and the College are the same thing.] After they had waited an hour, 26 of them were taken and lined up against a fence. Expecting to be shot, they gave one another absolution, but after waiting seven or eight minutes they were marched out of the field and lined up once more with their backs to a wood. As they marched, a soldier muttered that “one of them was going to be shot.” The two Americans showed their passports to an officer, but were violently rebuffed. Then Father Dupierreux, a Jesuit student 23 years old, was led before them under guard, and one of their number was called forward to translate aloud into German a paper that had been found on Father Dupierreux’s person. The paper (it was a manuscript memorandum of half-a-dozen lines) compared the conduct of the Germans at Louvain to the conduct of Genseric and of the Saracens, and the burning of the Library to the burning of the Library at Alexandria. The officer cut the recitation short. Father Dupierreux received absolution, and was then ordered to advance towards the wood. Four soldiers were lined up in front of him, and the 26 prisoners were ordered to face about, in order to witness the execution. Among their number was Father Robert Dupierreux, the twin brother of the condemned. “Father Dupierreux,” states Father Schill, the Jesuit who had been forced to translate the document, “had listened to the reading with complete calm. … He kept his eyes fixed on the crucifix. … The command rang out: ‘Aim! Fire!’ We only heard one report. The Father fell on his back; a last shudder ran through his limbs. Then the spectators were ordered to turn about again, while the officer bent over the body and discharged his pistol into the ear. The bullet came out through the eye.”

The others were then placed in carts, and harangued: “When we pass through a village, if a single shot is fired from any house, the whole village will be burnt. You will be shot and the inhabitants likewise.” They were paraded in these carts through the streets of Brussels and liberated, at 7.0 o’clock in the evening, at eight kilometres’ distance beyond the city.

Meanwhile, the proclamation of the morning had had its effect. Louvain was cleared of its inhabitants, but the bombardment did not follow. Between 11.0 and 12.0 o’clock a few cannon shots were heard in the distance, but that was all. “At Rotselaer,” states an inhabitant of Louvain who was in the party conveyed there on the 27th, “I understood from the prisoners in the church that all the people of Rotselaer were made to leave their houses on the pretext that they were in danger of bombardment, and the Germans stated that they were being placed in the church for security. While all these people were in the church the Germans robbed the houses and then burned the village.” At Louvain the German strategy was the same. The bombardment was only a pretext for the wholesale expulsion of the inhabitants, which was followed by systematic pillage and incendiarism as soon as the ground was clear. The conflagration of two nights before, which had never burnt itself out, was extended deliberately and revived where it was dying out; the plundering, which had been desultory since the Germans first occupied the town, was now conducted under the supervision of officers from house to house.

On the morning of August 27th, even before the exodus began, a Dutch witness waiting at the Hôtel-de-Ville saw “soldiers streaming in from all sides, laden with huge packages of stolen property – clothes, boxes of cigars, bottles of wine, etc. Many of these men were drunk.” — “I saw the German soldiers taking the wine away from my house and from neighbours’ houses,” states a Belgian witness. “They got into the cellar with a ladder, and brought out the wine and placed it on their waggons.” — “The streets were full of empty wine bottles,” states another. “My factory has been completely plundered,” states a cigar-manufacturer. “Seven million [sic] cigars have disappeared.” The factory itself was set on fire on the 26th, and was only saved by the Germans for fear the flames might spread to the prison. They saved it by an extinguishing apparatus which was as instantaneous in its effect as the apparatus they used for setting houses alight. “The soldiers, led by a non-commissioned officer, went from house to house and broke in the shop fronts and house doors with their rifle butts. A cart or waggon waited for them in the street to carry away the loot.” Carts were also employed in the suburb of Blauwput, on the other side of the railway. “I saw German soldiers break into the houses,” states a witness from Blauwput. “One party consisting of six soldiers had a little cart with them. I saw these break into a store where there were many bottles of champagne and a stock of cigars, etc. They drank a good deal of wine, smoked cigars, and carried off a supply in the cart. I saw many Germans engaged in looting.” This employment of carts became an anxiety to the Higher Command. A type-written order, addressed to the Officers of the 53rd Landwehr Infantry [from Württemberg], lays down that “For the future it is forbidden to use army carts for the transport of things which have nothing whatever to do with the service of the Army. At some period these carts, which travel empty with our Army, will be required for the transport of war material. They are now actually loaded with all sorts of things, none of which have anything to do with military supplies or equipment.”

This systematic pillage went on day after day. “The Station Square,” states a refugee from Louvain who traversed the city again on August 29th, “was transformed into a vast goods-depôt, where bottles of wine were the most prominent feature. Officers and men were eating and drinking in the middle of the ruins, without appearing to be in the least incommoded by the appalling stench of the corpses which still lay in the Boulevard. Along the Boulevard de Diest I saw Landsturm soldiers taking from the houses anything that suited their fancy, and then setting the house alight, and this under their officers’ eyes.” On September 2nd there was a fresh outbreak of plunder and arson in the Rue Léopold and the Rue Marie- Thérèse. As late as September 5th – ten days after the original catastrophe – the Germans were pillaging houses in the Rue de la Station and loading the loot on carts. Householders who returned when all was over found the destruction complete. “I found my parents’ house sacked,” states one. “A great deal of the furniture was smashed, the contents of cupboards and drawers were scattered about the rooms. … In my sister’s house the looking-glasses on the ground floor were broken. On the bedding of the glass the imprint of the rifle-butts was clearly visible.” — “Inside our house,” states another, “everything is upside down. … The floors are strewn with flowers and with silver plate not belonging to our house, the writing room is filled with buckets and basins, in which they had cooled the bottles of champagne. … There was straw everywhere – in short, the place was like a bam. To crown everything, my father was not allowed to sleep in his own house. … When the Germans at last quitted our residence, it was necessary to cleanse and disinfect everything. The lowest stable was cleaner than our bedrooms, where scraps from the gourmandising and pieces of meat lay rotting in every corner amid half-smoked cigars, candle ends, broken plates, and hay brought from I don’t know where.”

But these two houses were, at any rate, not burnt down, and more frequently, when they had finished with a house, the Germans set it on fire. They had begun on the night of August 25th; on August 26th they were proceeding systematically, and the work continued on the 27th and the following days. All varieties of incendiary apparatus were employed – a white powder, an inflammable stick, a projectile fired from a rifle. They introduced these into the house to be burnt by staving in a panel of the front door or breaking a window, and the conflagration was immediate when once the apparatus was inside. This scientific incendiarism was the regular sequel to the organised pillage. The firing by German soldiers also went on. “On August 27th,” states one German witness, “I was fired at from a garden from behind the hedge, without being hit. It was in the afternoon; I could not see the person who had shot.” The identification can be inferred from the experience of the Rector of Louvain University, Mgr. Ladeuze, on the night of August 25th, when he detected two German soldiers firing over the garden wall of the Chemical Institute into the Rue de Namur. Another German witness, a military surgeon in the Neuss Landsturm, who arrived at Louvain in the afternoon of August 27th, testifies that “in the course of the afternoon I heard the noise of firing in the Rue de la Station. … I had the impression that we were being shot at from a house there, in spite of my conspicuous armlet with the Red Cross. We approached the house. A German soldier of another battalion leapt out from the first floor, and in so doing broke the upper part of his thigh. He told me that he had just been pursued and shot at by six civilians in the house.” The surgeon, a young man of twenty-five, a new-comer to Louvain, and unused to the notion of German soldiers firing on one another, repeats this story without seeing that it fails to explain the shots fired from the house and directed against himself, and he takes the presence of the “six civilians” on faith. Was the soldier who escaped punishment by this lie firing into the street from panic? This may have been so, for the German troops were in a state of nervous degeneration, but there is another possible explanation. Two days later, on August 29th, when Mr. Gibson, Secretary of the American Legation at Brussels, visited Louvain to enquire into the catastrophe, his motor-car was fired at in the Rue de la Station from a house, and five or six armed men in civilian costume were dragged out of it by his escort and marched off for execution. But they were not executed, for they were German soldiers disguised to give Mr. Gibson an ocular demonstration that “the civilians had fired.” The German Higher Command had already adopted this as their official thesis, and they were determined to impose it on the world.

After the exodus on the morning of the 27th, Louvain lay empty of inhabitants all day, while the burning and plundering went on. But at dusk a procession of civilians, driven by soldiers, streamed in from the north. They were the fourth batch of prisoners who had been marched out of Louvain on the previous day. They had spent the night in the open, and had been locked up that afternoon in Rotselaer church. But after only an hour’s respite they had been driven forth again, and the whole population of Rotselaer with them, along the road leading back to the city.

“On the way,” states one of the victims, “we rested a moment. The curé of Rotselaer, a man 86 years of age, spoke to the officer in command: ‘Herr Offizier, what you are doing now is a cowardly act. My people did no harm, and, if you want a victim, kill me. …’ The German soldiers then seized the curé by the neck and took him away. Some Germans picked up mud from the ground and threw it in his face. …”

“We entered Louvain,” states the curé himself, “by the Canal and the Rue du Canal. No ruins. We reached the Grand’ Place – what a spectacle! The Church of Saint-Pierre! Rest in front of the Hôtel-de-Ville. Fatigue compelled me to stretch myself on the pavement, while the houses blazed all the time.

“Other prisoners from Louvain and the neighbourhood kept arriving. Soon I saw fresh prisoners arrive from Rotselaer – women, children and old men, among others a blind old man of eighty years, and the wife of the doctor at Rotselaer, dragged from her sick-bed. (She died during the journey to Germany.) …”

“In the Grand’ Place,” states the former witness, “the heat from the burning houses was so great that the prisoners huddled together to get away from it. …”

“After we had remained standing there about an hour,” states a third, “we had to proceed towards the Station along the Rue de la Station. In this same road we saw the German soldiers plundering the houses. They took pleasure in letting us see them doing it. In the city and at Kessel-Loo the conflagration redoubled in intensity.”

“The houses were all burning in the Rue de la Station,” states the first, “and there were even flames in the street which we had to jump across. We were closely guarded by German soldiers, who threatened to kill us if we looked from side to side.”

Yet these victims in their misery were accused of shooting by their tormentors. “On August 27th,” states an officer concerned, “the Third Battalion of the Landwehr Infantry Regiment No. 53 had to take with it on its march from Rotselaer to Louvain a convoy of about 1,000 civilian prisoners. … Among the prisoners were a number of Belgian priests, one of whom especially caught my attention because at every halt he went from one to another of the prisoners and addressed words to them in an excited manner, so that I had to keep him under special observation. In Louvain we made over the prisoners at the Station. … On the following morning it was reported to me … that the above-mentioned priest had shot at one of the men of the guard, but had failed to hit him, and in consequence had himself been shot in the Station Square.”

Execution of Dupierreux

Murder of Father Eugene Dupierreux, via oorlogsdagboekleuven.be; opens in a new window

The German Terror in Belgium, An Historical Record, Hodder & Stoughton, 1917


The destruction of Louvain 3

November 17 2014

It was now the morning of August 26th. At dawn Mgr. Coenraets and Father Parijs, the hostages of the preceding night, were placed under escort and marched round the City once more. If the firing continued the hostages were to be shot. They had to proclaim this themselves to the inhabitants from point to point of the town, and they were kept at this task till far on in the day. The inhabitants, meanwhile, were paying the penalty for the shots which not they but the Germans had already fired.

In one street after another the people were dragged from their houses, and those not slaughtered out of hand were driven by the soldiers to the Station Square. “I only had slippers on,” states one victim, “and no hat or waistcoat. On the way to the Station Square, soldiers kicked me and hit me with the butt-ends of their rifles, and shouted: ‘Oh, you swine! Another who shot at us! You swine!’ My hands were tied behind my back with a cord, and when I cried: ‘Oh, God, you are hurting me,’ a soldier spat on me.” — “We had to go in front of the soldiers,” adds this witness’s wife, “holding our hands above our heads. All the ladies who lived in the Boulevard – invalids or not – were taken prisoners. One of them, an old lady of 85, who could scarcely walk, was dragged from her cellar with her maid.”

When they reached the Station Square the men were herded to one side, the women and children to the other. It was done by an officer with a loaded revolver. “We were separated from our families,” states one of the men; “we were knocked about and blows were rained on us from rifle butts; the women and children and the men were isolated from one another. …”

The men’s pockets were rifled. Purses, keys, penknives and so on were taken from them. One gentleman’s servant had 7,805 francs taken from his bag, and was given a receipt for 7,000 francs in exchange. This was the preliminary to a “trial,” conducted by Captain Albrecht, a staff officer of the Ninth Reserve Corps. “The soldiers,” states a German tradesman who acted as Captain Albrecht’s interpreter, “brought forward the civilians whom they had seized. … In all about 600 persons may have been brought in, the lives of at least 500 of whom were spared, because no clear proof of their guilt seemed to be established at the trial. These persons were set on one side. … Captain Albrecht followed the course – I imagine, by the command of his superiors – of ordering that those among the men brought forward upon whom either a weapon or an identification mark was discovered, or in whose case it was established by at least two witnesses that they had fired upon the German troops, should be shot. It is an utter impossibility, according to my firm conviction, that any innocent man should have lost his life. …”

But was there really “clear proof of guilt” in any of these cases? Not one of these “identification marks” (assumed to establish that the bearer was a member of the Belgian Army) has been brought forward as material evidence by the German Government. And was the other material evidence so clear? One man, for instance, had a German bullet in his pocket which he had picked up in the street. “He was shot down, and two of his comrades had to make a pit and bury him in the place where he was shot.” One priest was shot “because he had purposely enticed the soldiers, according to their testimony, under the fire of the franc-tireurs.” Two other priests were shot “for distributing ammunition to civilians,” but this was only a story heard from General Headquarters at second-hand. The witness who tells it was sent with a squad “to set on fire two hotels in the Station Square and drive out their inmates. The chief culprits found, apparently, a way of escape in good time over the roofs, since only the proprietor of one of the hotels presented himself at 5.0 o’clock in the morning, and very shortly afterwards received the reward he deserved.” But what was the proof that he deserved it? Not any material evidence on his person, or the testimony of two witnesses who had seen him fire, but simply the fact that he was the only Belgian found in a certain building the inmates of which had been condemned, a priori as franc-tireurs. The logic of this proceeding is defended by the tradesman interpreter, who submits that “apart from all evidence, the persons brought to trial must have acted somehow in a suspicious manner – otherwise they would never have been brought to trial at all.”

“It is untrue,” nevertheless he states expressly, “that an arbitrary selection among the persons brought forward was made when the order for execution was issued.” But one of the Belgian women held prisoner in the Station Square describes how “the men were placed in rows of five, and the fifth in each row was taken and shot,” as she affirms, “in my presence. If the fifth man happened to be old, his place was taken by the sixth man if he happened to be younger. This was also witnessed by my grandmother, my uncle and his wife, my cousin and our servant. …”

“The whole day long,” states another Belgian woman, “I saw civilians being shot – twenty to twenty-five of them, including some monks or priests – in the Station Square and the Boulevard de Tirlemont, opposite the warehouse. The victims were bound four together and placed on the pavement in front of the Maison Hamaide [no explanation]. The soldiers who shot them were on the other side of the Boulevard, on the warehouse roof. For that matter, the soldiers were firing everywhere in all directions.”

The executions were also witnessed by the German troops. “On the morning of August 26th,” states a soldier, “I saw many civilians, more than a hundred, among them five priests, shot at the Station Square in Louvain because they had fired on German troops or because weapons were found on their persons.”

This went on all day, and all day the women were compelled to watch it, while the surviving men were marched away in batches, and the houses on either side of the railway continued to burn. When night came the women were confined in the Station. “My aunt,” continues the witness quoted above, “was taken to the Station with her baby and kept there till the morning. It rained all the night, and she wrapped the baby in her skirt. The baby cried for food, and a German soldier gave the child a little water, and took my aunt and the child to an empty railway-carriage. Some other women got into the carriage with her, but during the whole night the Germans fired at the carriage for amusement. …”

The firing by German soldiers had never ceased since the first outbreak at 8.0 o’clock the evening before. An eye-witness records two bursts of it on the 26th – one at 5.0 p.m., and a more serious one at 8.45. This firing was due in part to panic, but was in part of a more deliberate character. “The whole day,” states a Belgian witness, “the soldiers went and came through the streets, saying: ‘Man hat geschossen,’ [sic] but it seems that the shots came from the soldiers themselves. I myself saw a soldier going through the streets shooting peacefully in the air.” There was also killing in cold blood. A café proprietor and his daughter were shot by two German soldiers waiting to be served. The other daughter crept under a table and escaped.

The women held prisoner at the Station were only released at 8.0 o’clock on the morning of the 27th, but they had suffered less during these hours than the men. “Of the men,” as a German witness puts it, “some were shot according to Martial Law. In the case of a large number of others it was, however, impossible to determine whether they had taken part in the shooting. These persons were placed for the moment in the Station; some of them were conveyed elsewhere.”

The first batch of those “not found guilty” was “conveyed” by the Boulevard de Diest round the outskirts of the town, and out along the Malines Road, about 11.0 o’clock in the morning. It consisted of from 70 to 80 men, one of whom at least was 75 years old, while five were neutrals – a Paraguayan priest, [namely] Father Gamarra, the Superior of the Spanish Hostel, [namely] Father Catala, and three of Father Catala’s students. There were doctors, lawyers, and retired officers among the Belgian victims. One prisoner was driven on ahead to warn the country people that all the hostages would be executed if a single shot were fired; the rest were searched, had their hands bound behind their backs, and were marched in column under guard. On the way to Herent they were used as a screen. The village of Herent was burning, and they had to run through the street to avoid being scorched by the flames. “Carbonised corpses were lying in front of the houses.” — “At Herent” states the South American priest, “I saw lying in the nook of a wall the corpse of a girl twelve or thirteen years old, who had been burnt alive.” On the road from Herent to Bueken “everything was devastated.” Beyond Bueken and Campenhout they were made to halt in a field, and were told that they were going to be executed. Squads of soldiers advanced on them from the front and rear, and they were kept many minutes in suspense. Then they were marched on again towards Campenhout surrounded by a company which, they were given to understand, was the “execution company.” Crowds of German troops, bivouacked by the roadside, shouted at them and spat on them as they passed. They reached Campenhout at dusk, and were locked up for the night in the church with the inhabitants of the village. At 4.30 a.m. they were warned to confess, as their execution was imminent. At 5.0 a.m. they were released from the church, and told they were free. But at Bueken they were arrested again with a large number of country people, and were marched back towards Campenhout. One of these countrywomen bore a baby on the road. From the outskirts of Campenhout they were suddenly ordered to make their own way as best they could to the Belgian lines. They arrived at Malines about 11.30 in the morning (of August 27th), about 200 strong. Within four hours of their arrival the German bombardment of Malines began, and they had to march on again to Antwerp.

A second batch was driven out along the Brussels Road on August 26th between 1.0 and 2.0 o’clock in the afternoon. As they marched through Louvain by the Rue de Bruxelles, the guard fired into the windows of the houses and shot down one of the prisoners, who was panic-stricken and tried to escape. At Herent they were yoked to heavy carts and made to drag them along by-roads for three hours, and another civilian was shot on the way. At 10.0 p.m. they were made to lie down in an open field with their feet tied together, and lay thus in pouring rain till 6.0 o’clock next morning. Then they were marched through Bueken, Thildonck, Wespelaer – still in pouring rain – with their hands bound by a single long cord. They reached Campenhout at noon, and were set to digging trenches. At 7.0 p.m. they were allowed to sit down and rest, but only just behind the batteries bombarding the Antwerp forts, which might have opened retaliation fire on them at any moment. That night they passed in Campenhout church, and at 9.0 o’clock next morning (August 28th) they were marched back again to Louvain, about 1,000 in all – women and children as well as men. “The houses along the road were burning. The principal streets of Louvain itself were burnt out.” That night at Louvain they were crowded into the Cavalry Riding School in the Rue du Manège. Six or seven thousand people were imprisoned there in all. The press was terrible, and the heat from the burning buildings round was so great that the glass of the roof cracked during the night. Two women went out of their minds and two babies died. Next morning a German officer read them a proclamation to the effect that their liberty was given them because Germany had already won the war, and they were marched out again through the streets. They passed corpses left unburied since the night of August 25th. “The German soldiers giggled at the sight.” Once more they were driven round the countryside. At Herent the women and children, and the men over forty, were set free. At Campenhout the curé was added to the company, after being dragged round his parish at the tail of a cart. At Boortmeerbeek the men between twenty and forty were also released at last, and told to go forward to the Belgian lines [why?], under threat of being shot if they turned back. They arrived in front of Fort Waelhem in the dark, at 11.0 p.m. on the 29th, and were fired on by the Belgian outposts; but they managed to make themselves known and came through to safety.

The third batch “conveyed elsewhere” from Louvain on August 26th consisted of the Garde Civique. All members of this body were summoned by proclamation to present themselves at the Hôtel-de-Ville at 2.0 p.m. The 95 men who reported themselves were informed that they were prisoners, taken to the Station, and entrained in two goods-vans. There were 250 other deportees on the train, including the Gardes Civiques of Beyghem and Grimberghen, and about a hundred women and children. They did not reach the internment camp at Münster till the night of the 28th, and on the journey they were almost starved. At Cologne Station a German Red Cross worker refused one of the women, who asked her in German for a little milk to feed her sick baby fourteen months old. In the camp at Münster all the men were crowded promiscuously into a single wooden shed. The floor was strewn with straw (already old), which was never changed. The blankets (also old, and too thin to keep out the cold) were never disinfected or washed. There was no lighting or heating. The food was insufficient and disgusting. The sanitary arrangements were indecent. And the deportees had to live under these conditions for months, in the clothes they stood in, though many had come in slippers and shirt-sleeves – the proclamation having taken them completely by surprise. In neighbouring huts there were the 400 Russian students from Liége [mentioned earlier in the book], 600 or 700 people from Visé, the Gardes Civiques of Hasselt and Tongres, people from Haccourt and from several communes in the Province of Limburg – about 1,700 prisoners in all. On October 4th an article in the Berliner Tageblatt, signed by a German general, admitted that “only two of the prisoners at Münster were under suspicion of having fired”; but none of the prisoners from Louvain were released till October 30th, and then only cripples and men over seventy years of age. The rest were retained, including a man with a wooden leg. …

The fourth batch of prisoners on August 26th started about 3.0 o’clock in the afternoon, also by way of the Boulevard de Diest and the Malines Road. This group seems to have been treated even more brutally than the rest. One man was so violently mishandled that he fainted, and was carried in a waggon the first part of the way. He came to himself in time to see his own house burning and his wife waving him farewell. He was then thrown out of the waggon and made to go on foot. His bonds cut so deeply into his flesh that his arms lost all sensation for three days. The party was marched aimlessly about between Herent, Louvain, Bueken, and Herent again till 11.0 at night, when they had to camp in the open in the rain. They were refused water to drink. At 3.0 a.m. on August 27th they were driven on again, and marched till 3.0 p.m., when they arrived at Rotselaer. At Rotselaer they were shut up in the church – a company of 3,000 men and women, including all the inhabitants of the village. This respite only lasted an hour, and at 4.0 o’clock they started once more along the Louvain Road. They were destined for a still worse torment, which will shortly be described.

The German Terror in Belgium, An Historical Record, Hodder & Stoughton, 1917


The destruction of Louvain 2

November 16 2014

It was in these circumstances that, a few minutes past eight o’clock [on the evening of August 25 1914], the shooting in Louvain broke out.

All parties agree that it broke out in answer to signals. A Belgian witness, living near the Tirlemont Gate, saw a German military motor-car dash up from the Boulevard de Tirlemont, make luminous signals at the Gate, and then dash off again. A fusillade immediately followed. The German troops bivouacked in the Place de la Station saw two rockets, the first green and the second red, rise in quick succession from the centre of the town. They found themselves under fire immediately afterwards. A similar rocket was seen later in the night to rise above the conflagration. It is natural to suppose that the rockets, as well as the lights on the car, were German military signals of the kind commonly used in European armies for signalling in the dark. There had been two false alarms already that afternoon and evening; there is nothing incredible in a third. The German troops in the Place de la Station assumed that the signals were of Belgian origin (and therefore of civilian origin, as the Belgian troops did not after all reach the town), because these signals were followed by firing directed against themselves. They could not believe that the shots were fired in error by their own comrades, yet there is convincing evidence that this was the case.

It is certain that German troops fired on each other in at least two places – in the Rue de la Station and in the Rue de Bruxelles, which leads into the Grand’ Place from the opposite direction.

“We were at supper,” states a Belgian witness, whose house was in the Rue de la Station, “when about 8.15, shots were suddenly fired in the street by German cavalry coming from the Station. The troops who were bivouacked in the square replied, and an automobile on its way to the Station had to stop abruptly opposite my house and reverse, while its occupants fired. Within a few seconds the din of revolver and rifle shots had become terrific. The fusillade was sustained, and spread (north-eastward) towards the Boulevard de Diest. It became so furious that there was even gun-fire. The encounter between the German troops continued as far as the Grand’ Place, where on at least two occasions there was machine-gun fire. The fight lasted for from fifteen to twenty minutes with desperation; it persisted an hour longer after that, but with less violence.”

“At the stroke of eight,” states another witness, “shots were heard by us, coming from the direction of the Place du Peuple, where the German cavalry was concentrated. Part of the baggage-train, which was stationed in the Rue Léopold, turned right about and went off at a gallop towards the Station. I was at my front door and heard the bullets whistling as they came from the Place du Peuple. At this moment a sustained fusillade broke out, and there was a succession of cavalry-charges in the direction of the Station.”

The stampede in the Place du Peuple is described by a German officer who was present. “I heard the clock strike in a tower. … Complete darkness already prevailed. At the same moment I saw a green rocket go up above the houses south-west of the square. … Firing was directed on the German troops in the square. … Whilst riding round the square, I was shot from my horse on the north-eastern side. I distinctly heard the rattling of machine-guns, and the bullets flew in great numbers round about me. … After I had fallen from my horse, I was run over by an artillery transport waggon, the horses of which had been frightened by the firing and stampeded. …”

The shots by which this officer was wounded evidently came from German troops in the Rue Léopold, where they were attacking the house of Professor Verhelst. The Landsturm Company bivouacked in the Station Square was already replying vigorously to what it imagined to be the Belgian fire, coming from the Rue Léopold and the Rue de la Station.

“I stood with my Company,” states the Company Commander, “at about ten minutes to eight in the Station Square. I had stood about five minutes, when suddenly, quite unexpectedly, shots were fired at my Company from the surrounding houses, from the windows, and from the attics. Simultaneously I heard lively firing from the Rue de la Station as well as from all the neighbouring streets.” (Precisely the district in which the newly-arrived troops had taken up their quarters.) “Shots were also fired from the windows of my hotel – straight from my room” (which had doubtless been occupied by some newly-arrived soldier during the afternoon, while the witness was on duty at the Malines Gate). …

“We now knelt down and fired at the opposite houses. … I sought cover with my Company in the entrances of some houses. During the assault five men of my Company were wounded. The fact that so few were wounded is due to the fact that the inhabitants were shooting too high. …

“About an hour later I was summoned to His Excellency General von Boehn, who was standing near by. His Excellency asked for an exact report, and, after I had made it, he said to me: ‘Can you take an oath concerning what you have just reported to me – in particular, that the first shots were fired by the inhabitants from the houses?’ I then answered: ‘Yes, I can swear to that fact.’”

But what evidence had the Lieutenant for the “fact” to which he swore? There was no doubt about the shots, but he gives no proof of the identity of those who fired them, and another witness, who lived in a house looking on to the Station Square, is equally positive that the assailants, too, were German soldiers.

“Just before eight,” he states, “we heard one shot from a rifle, followed immediately after by two others, and then a general fusillade began. I went at once to my garden; the bullets were passing quite close to me; I went back to the house and on to the balcony, and there I saw the Germans, not fighting Belgians, but fighting each other at a distance of 200 or 300 yards. At 8.0 o’clock it begins to be dark, but I am perfectly certain it was Germans fighting Germans. The firing on both sides passed right in front of my house, and from the other side of the railway. I was low down on the balcony, quite flat, and watched it all. They fought hard for about an hour. The officers whistled and shouted out orders; there was terrible confusion until each side found out they were fighting each other, and then the firing ceased. About half an hour after, on the other side of the railway, I heard a machine-gun – I was told afterwards that the Germans were killing civilians with it. It went on certainly for at least five or six minutes, stopping now and then for a few seconds. …”

This fighting near the Station seems to have been the first and fiercest of all, but the panic spread like wildfire through the city. It was spread by the horses that stampeded in the Place du Peuple and elsewhere, and galloped riderless in all directions – across the Station Square, through the suburb of Corbeek-Loo, down the Rue de la Station, and up the Rue de Tirlemont, the Rue de Bruxelles, and the Rue de Malines. The troops infected by the panic either ran amok or took to flight.

“About 8.0 o’clock,” states a witness, “the Rue de la Station was the scene of a stampede of horses and baggage waggons, some of which were overturned. A smart burst of rifle-fire occurred at this moment. This came from the German police-guard in the Rue de la Station who, seeing troops arrive in disorder, thought that it was the enemy. Another proof of their mistake is that later during the same night a group of German soldiers, under the command of an officer, got into a shop belonging to the F.’s and in charge of their nephew B., and told him, pointing their revolvers at him, to hide them in the cellar. A few hours afterwards, hearing troops passing, they compelled him to go and see if it was the French or the Germans, and when they learnt that it was the Germans, they called out: ‘Then we are safe,’ and rejoined their compatriots.”

These new troops hurrying into the town in the midst of the uproar were infected by the panic in their turn and flung themselves into the fighting. “On August 25th,” states one of them in his diary, “we hold ourselves on the alert at Grimde (a sugar refinery); here, too, everything is burnt and destroyed. From Grimde we continue our march upon Louvain; here it is a picture of horror all round; corpses of our men and horses; motor-cars blazing; the water poisoned; we have scarcely reached the outskirts of the town when the fusillade begins again more merrily than ever; naturally we wheel about and sweep the street; then the town is peppered by us thoroughly.”

In the Rue Léopold, leading from the Rue de la Station into the Place du Peuple, “at 8.0 o’clock exactly a violent fusillade broke out.” The newly-arrived troops, who had been under arms since the alarm at 7.0 o’clock, “took to flight as fast as their legs could carry them. From our cellar,” states one of the householders on whom they had been billeted, “we saw them running until they must have been out of breath.”

There was a single shot, followed by a fusillade and machine-gun fire, in the Rue des Joyeuses Entrées. Waggons and motor-cars were flying out of the town down the Rue de Parc, and soldiers on foot down the Rue de Tirlemont. In the Rue des Flamands, which runs at right-angles between these two latter roads, “at ten minutes past eight, a shot was fired quite close to the Institut Supérieur de Philosophie” (now converted into the Hôpital St.-Thomas). “We had scarcely taken note of it,” states one of the workers in the hospital, “when other reports followed. In less than a minute rifle-shots and machine-gun fire mingled in a terrific din. Accompanying the crack of the firearms, we heard the dull thud of galloping hoofs in the Rue de Tirlemont.”

Mgr. Deploige, President of the Institute and Director of the Hospital, reports that “a lively fusillade broke out suddenly at 8.0 o’clock (Belgian time), at different points simultaneously – at the Brussels Gate, at the Tirlemont Gate, in the Rue de la Station, Rue Léopold, Rue Marie-Thérèse, Rue des Joyeuses Entrées, Rue de Tirlemont, etc. It was the German troops firing with rifles and machine-guns. Some houses were literally riddled with bullets, and a number of civilians were killed in their homes.”

Higher up the Rue de Tirlemont, in the direction of the Grand’ Place, there was a Belgian Infantry Barracks, which had been turned into a hospital for slightly incapacitated German soldiers. The patients were in a state of nervous excitement already. “Every man,” states one of them, “had his rifle by his side, also ball-cartridge.” — “About 9.0 o’clock,” states another, “we heard shots. … We had to fall in in the yard. A sergeant-major distributed cartridges among us, whereupon I marched out with about 20 men. In the Rue de Tirlemont a lively fire was directed against us from guns of small bore. … We pushed our way into a restaurant from, which shots had come, and found in the proprietor’s possession about 100 Browning cartridges. He was arrested and shot.” — “We now,” continues the former, “stormed all the houses out of which shots were being fired. … Those who were found with weapons were immediately shot or bayonetted. … I myself, together with a comrade, bayonetted one inhabitant who went for me with his knife. …”

But who would not defend himself with a knife when attacked by an armed man breaking into his house? The witness admits that only five civilians were armed out of the twenty-five dragged out. Were these “armed” with knives? Or if revolver bullets were found in their houses, was it proved that they had not delivered up their revolvers at the time when they had been ordered to do so by the municipal authorities and the German Command? The witness does not claim to have found the revolvers themselves as well as the ammunition, though even if he had that was no proof that his victims had been firing with them, or even that they were theirs. The German Army uses “Brownings” too, and at this stage of the panic many German soldiers had broken into private houses and were firing from the windows as points of vantage. Two German soldiers broke into the house of Professor Verhelst (Rue Léopold, 16), and fired into the street out of the second storey window. Other Germans passing shouted: “They have been shooting here,” and returned the fire. Mgr. Ladeuze, Rector of Louvain University, was looking from the window of his house adjoining the garden of the Chemical Institute, Rue de Namur, and saw two German soldiers hidden among the trees and firing over the wall into the street.

Ladeuze remained rector until his death twenty-five years later, a few weeks before another German invasion.

Moreover, there is definite evidence of Germans firing on one another by mistake in other quarters beside the neighbourhood of the Station.

“I myself know,” declares a Belgian witness, “that the Germans fired on one another on August 25th. On that day, at about 8.0 p.m., I was in the Rue de Bruxelles at Louvain. I was hidden in a house. There was one party of German soldiers at one end of the street firing on another party at the other end. I could see that this happened myself. On the next day I spoke to a German soldier called Hermann Otto – he was a private in a Bavarian regiment. He told me that he himself was in the Rue de Bruxelles the evening before, and that the two parties firing on one another were Bavarians and Poles [Polish conscripts from German-occupied Poland], he being among the Bavarians. …”

The Poles openly blamed the Bavarians for the error. A wounded Polish Catholic, who was brought in during the night to the Dominican Monastery in the Rue Juste-Lipse told the monks that “he had been wounded by a German bullet in an exchange of shots between two groups of German soldiers.” On the Thursday following, a wounded Polish soldier was lying in the hospital of the Sisters of Mary at Wesemael, and, seeing German troops patrolling the road between Wesemael and Louvain, exclaimed to one of the nuns: “These drunken pigs fired on us.”

The casualties inflicted by the Germans on each other do not, however, appear to have been heavy. One German witness saw “two dead transport horses and several dead soldiers” lying in the Place du Peuple. Another saw a soldier lying near the Juste-Lipse Monument who had been killed by a shot through the mouth. But most express astonishment at the lightness of the losses caused by so heavy a fire. “It is really a miracle,” said a German military doctor to a Belgian Professor in the course of the night, “that not one soldier has been wounded by this violent fusillade.” — “A murderous fire,” states the surgeon of the Second Neuss Landsturm Battalion, “was directed against us from Rue de la Station, No. 120. The fact that we or some of us were not killed I can merely explain by the fact that we were going along the same side of the street from which the shots were fired, and that it was night.” — “A tremendous fire,” states Major von Manteuffel, the Etappen-Kommandant, “was opened from the houses surrounding the Grand’ Place, which was now filled with artillery (one battery), and with transport columns, motor-lorries and tanks of benzine. … I believe there were three men wounded, chiefly in the legs.” General von Boehn, commanding the Ninth Reserve Army Corps, estimates that the total loss, in killed, wounded, and missing, of his General Command Staff, which was stationed in the Place du Peuple, “amounts to 5 officers, 2 officials, 23 men, and 95 horses.” — “I note that the inhabitants fired far too high,” states a N.C.O. of the Landsturm Company drawn up in the Station Square. “That was our good luck, because otherwise, considering the fearful fire which was directed against us from all the houses in the Station Square, most German officers and soldiers would have been killed or seriously wounded.”

Thus the German troops in Louvain seem not merely to have fired on one another, but to have exaggerated hysterically the amount of danger each incurred from the other’s mistake. And the legend grew with time. The deposition last quoted was taken down on September 17th, 1914, less than a month after the event. But when examined again, on November 19th, the same witness deposed that “Many of us were wounded, and some of us even received mortal wounds. … I fully maintain my evidence of September 17th,” he naively adds in conclusion. [The two statements are surely not incompatible.]

On the night of August 25th these German soldiers were distraught beyond all restraints of reason and justice. They blindly assumed that it was the civilians, and not their comrades, who had fired, and when they discovered their error they accused the civilians, deliberately, to save their own reputation.

The Director and the Chief Surgeon of the Hôpital St.-Thomas went out into the street after the first fusillade was over. Three soldiers with fixed bayonets rushed at them shouting: “You fired! Die!” – and it was only with difficulty that they persuaded them to spare their lives. When the firing began again a sergeant broke into the hospital shouting: “Who fired here?” – and placed the hospital staff under guard. This was the effect of panic, but there were cases in which the firing was imputed to civilians, and punishment meted out for it, by means of criminal trickery. It was realised that the material evidence would be damning to the German Army. The empty cartridge cases were all German which were picked up in the streets, and it is stated that every bullet extracted from the bodies of wounded German soldiers was found to be of German origin. The Germans, convicted by these proofs, shrank from no fraud which might enable them to transfer the guilt on to the heads of Belgian victims.

“The Germans took the horses out of a Belgian Red Cross car,” states a Belgian witness living in the Station Square, “frightened them so that they ran down the street, and then shot three of them. Two fell quite close to my house. They then took a Belgian artillery helmet and put it on the ground, so as to prepare a mise-en-scène to pretend that the Belgians had been fighting in the street.”

At a late hour of the night a detachment of German soldiers was passing one of the professors’ houses, when a shot rang out, followed by a volley from the soldiers through the windows of the house. The soldiers then broke in and accused the inmates of having fired the first shot. They were mad with fury, and the professor and his family barely escaped with their lives. A sergeant pointed to his boot, with the implication that the shot had struck him there; but a witness in another house actually saw this sergeant fire the original shot himself, and make the same gesture after it to incite his comrades.

A staff-surgeon billeted on a curé in the suburb of Blauwput pretended he had been wounded by civilians when he had really fallen from a wall. On the morning of the 26th the officer in local command arrested fifty-seven men at Blauwput, this curé included, in order to decimate them [kill every tenth man] in reprisal for wounds which the surgeon and two other soldiers had received. The curé was exempted by the lot, when the surgeon came up with a handful of revolver-cartridges which he professed to have discovered in the curé’s house. The officer answered: “Go away. I have searched this house myself,” and the surgeon slunk off. The curé was not added to the victims, but every tenth man was shot all the same.

That “the civilians had fired” was already an official dogma with the German military authorities in Louvain. Mgr. Coenraets, Vice-Rector of the University, was serving that day as a hostage at the Hôtel-de-Ville. A Dominican monk, Father Parijs, was there at the moment the firing broke out, in quest of a pass for remaining out-of-doors at night on ambulance service. He was now retained as well, and Alderman Schmit was fetched from his house. Von Boehn, the General Commanding the Ninth Reserve Corps, harangued these hostages on his arrival from the Malines front, and von Manteuffel, the Etappen-Kommandant, then conducted them, with a guard of soldiers, round the town. Baron Orban de Xivry was dragged out of his house to join them on the way. The procession halted at intervals in the streets, and the four hostages were compelled to proclaim to their fellow-citizens, in Flemish and in French, that, unless the firing ceased, the hostages themselves would be shot, the town would have to pay an indemnity of 20,000,000 francs, the houses from which shots were fired would be burnt, and artillery-fire would be directed upon Louvain as a whole.

But “reprisals” against the civil population had already begun. The firing from German soldiers in the houses upon German soldiers in the street was answered by a general assault of the latter upon all houses within their reach. “They broke the house-doors,” states a Belgian woman, “with the butt-ends of their rifles. … They shot through the gratings of the cellars.” — “In the Hôtel-de-Ville,” states von Manteuffel, “I saw the Company stationed there on the ground floor, standing at the windows and answering the fire of the inhabitants. In front of the Hôtel-de-Ville, on the entrance steps, I also saw soldiers firing in reply to the inhabitants’ fire in the direction of their houses.” — “Personally I was under the distinct impression,” states a staff officer, “that we were fired at from the Hotel Maria Theresa with machine-guns.” (This is quite probable, and merely proves that those who fired were German soldiers.) “The fire from machine-guns lasted from four to five minutes, and was immediately answered by our troops, who finally stormed the house and set it on fire.” — “The order was passed up from the rear that we should fire into the houses,” states an infantryman who had just detrained and was marching with his unit into the town. “Thereupon we shot into the house-fronts on either side of us. To what extent the fire was answered I cannot say, the noise and confusion were too great.” — “We now dispersed towards both sides,” states a lance-corporal in the same battalion, “and fired into the upper windows. … How long the firing lasted I cannot say. … We now began shooting into the ground-floor windows too, as well as tearing down a certain number of the shutters. I made my way into the house from which the shot had come, with a few others who had forced open the door. We could find no one in the house. In the room from which the shot had come there was, however, a petroleum lamp, lying overturned on the table and still smouldering. …”

These assaults on houses passed over inevitably into wholesale incendiarism. “The German troops,” as the Editors of the German White Book remark in their summarising report on the events at Louvain, “had to resort to energetic counter-measures. In accordance with the threats, the inhabitants who had taken part in the attack were shot, and the houses from which shots had been fired were set on fire. The spreading of the fire to other houses also and the destruction of some streets could not be avoided. In this way the Cathedral” (i. e., the Collegiate Church of St. Pierre) “also caught fire. …”

When war broke out in August 1914, each of the combatants rushed to publish diplomatic sources purporting to show how it had begun. Britain published a Blue Book (as it was called), France a Yellow Book, Russia an Orange Book, the Germans a White Book.

There is a map in the German White Book which shows the quarters burnt down. The incendiarism started in the Station Square, and spread along the Boulevard de Tirlemont as far as the Tirlemont Gate. It was renewed across the railway and devastated the suburbs to the east. Then it was extended up the Rue de la Station into the heart of the town, and here the Church of St. Pierre was destroyed, and the University Halles with the priceless University Library – not by mischance, as the German Report alleges, but by the deliberate work of German troops, employing the same incendiary apparatus as had been used already at Visé, Liége and elsewhere.

The burning was directed by a German officer from the Vieux Marché, a large open space near the centre of the town, and by another group of officers stationed in the Place du Peuple. The burning here is described by a German officer (whose evidence on other points has been quoted above). “The Company,” he states, “continued to fire into the houses. The fire of the inhabitants (sic) gradually died down. Thereupon the German soldiers broke in the doors of the houses and set the houses on fire, flinging burning petroleum lamps into the houses or striking off the gas-taps, setting light to the gas which rushed out and throwing table-cloths and curtains into the flames. Here and there benzine was also employed as a means of ignition. The order to set fire to the houses was given out by Colonel von Stubenrauch, whose voice I distinguished. …”

In the Rue de la Station the Germans set the houses on fire with incendiary bombs. This was seen by a Belgian witness, and is confirmed by the German officer just cited, who, in the Place du Peuple, “heard repeatedly the detonation of what appeared to be heavy guns” round about him. “I supposed,” he proceeds, “that artillery was firing; but since there was none present, there is only one explanation for this – that the inhabitants (sic) also threw hand-grenades.”

In the Rue de Manège, another Belgian witness saw a soldier pouring inflammable liquid over a house from a bucket, and this though a German military surgeon, present on the spot, admitted that in that house there had been nobody firing. Soldiers are also stated to have been seen with a complete incendiary equipment (syringe, hatchet, etc.), and with “Gott mit Uns” and “Company of Incendiaries” blazoned on their belts. The Germans deny that the Church of St. Pierre was deliberately burnt, and allege that the fire spread to it from private houses; but a Dutch witness saw it burning while the adjoining houses were still intact. There is less evidence for the deliberate burning of the University Halles, containing the Library, but it is significant that the building was completely consumed in one night (a result hardly possible without artificial means), and at 11.o p.m., in the middle of the burning, an officer answered a Belgian monk, who protested, that it was “By Order.” The manuscripts and early printed books in the Library were one of the treasures of Europe. The whole collection of 250,000 volumes was the intellectual capital of the University, without which it could not carry on its work. Every volume and manuscript was destroyed. The Germans pride themselves on saving the Hôtel-de-Ville, but they saved it because it was the seat of the German Kommandantur, and this only suggests that, had they desired, they could have prevented the destruction of the other buildings as well.

As the houses took fire the inhabitants met their fate. Some were asphyxiated in the cellars where they had taken refuge from the shooting, or were burnt alive as they attempted to escape from their homes. Others were shot down by the German troops as they ran out into the street, or while they were fighting the flames. “The franc-tireurs [free shooters],” as they are called by the German officer in the Place du Peuple, “were without exception evil-looking figures, such as I have never seen elsewhere in all my life. They were shot down by the German posts stationed below. …”

Others, again, tried to save themselves by climbing garden walls. “I, my mother and my servants,” states one of these, “took refuge at A.’s, whose cellars are vaulted and therefore afforded us a better protection than mine. A little later we withdrew to A.’s stables, where about 30 people, who had got there by climbing the garden walls, were to be found. Some of these poor wretches had had to climb 20 walls. A ring came at the bell. We opened the door. Several civilians flung themselves under the porch. The Germans were firing upon them from the street.”

“When we were crossing a particularly high wall,” states another victim, “my wife was on the top of the wall and I was helping her to get down, when a party of 15 Germans came up with rifles and revolvers. They told us to come down. My wife did not follow as quickly as they wished. One of them made a lunge at her with his bayonet. I seized the blade of the bayonet and stopped the lunge. The German soldier then tried to stab me in the face with his bayonet. …

“They kept hitting us with the butt-ends of their rifles – the women and children as well as the men. They struck us on the elbows because they said our arms were not raised high enough. …

“We were driven in this way through a burning house to the Place de la Station. There were a number of prisoners already there. In front of the station entrance there were the corpses of three civilians killed by rifle fire. The women and the children were separated. The women were put on one side and the men on the other. One of the German soldiers pushed my wife with the butt-end of his rifle, so that she was compelled to walk on the three corpses. Her shoes were full of blood. …

“Other prisoners were being continually brought in. I saw one prisoner with a bayonet-wound behind his ear. A boy of fifteen had a bayonet-wound in his throat in front. … The priests were treated more brutally than the rest. I saw one belaboured with the butt-ends of rifles. Some German soldiers came up to me sniggering, and said that all the women were going to be raped. … They explained themselves by gestures. … The streets were full of empty wine bottles. …

“An officer told me that he was merely executing orders, and that he himself would be shot if he did not execute them. …”

The battue of civilians through the streets was the final horror of that night. The massacre began with the murder of M. David-Fischbach. He was a man of property, a benefactor of the University and the town. Since the outbreak of war he had given 10,000 francs to the Red Cross. Since the German occupation he had entertained German officers in his house, which stood in the Rue de la Station opposite the Statue of Juste-Lipse, and about 9.0 o’clock that evening he had gone to bed.

“Close to the Monument Square,” states Dr. Berghausen, the German military surgeon who was responsible for M. David-Fischbach’s death, “I saw a German soldier lying dead on the ground. … His comrades told me that the shot had been fired from the comer house belonging to David-Fischbach. Thereupon I myself, with my servant, broke in the door of the house and met first the owner of the house, old David-Fischbach. I challenged him concerning the soldier who had been murdered. … Old David-Fischbach declared he knew nothing about it. Thereupon his son, young Fischbach, came downstairs from the first floor, and from the porter’s lodge appeared an old servant. I immediately took father, son, and servant with me into the street. At that moment a tumult arose in the street, because a fearful fusillade had opened from a few houses on the same side of the street against the soldiers standing by the Monument and against myself. In the darkness I then lost sight of David-Fischbach, with his son and servant. …”

The soldiers set the old man with his back against the statue. Standing with his arms raised, he had to watch his house set on fire. Then he was bayonetted and finally shot to death. His son was shot, too. His house was burnt to the ground, and a servant asphyxiated in the cellar.

“Later,” adds Dr. Berghausen, “I met Major von Manteuffel with the hostages, and all four or five of us saw the dead soldier lying in front of the monument and, a few steps further on, old David-Fischbach. I assumed that the comrades of the soldier who had been killed … had at once inflicted punishment on, the owner of the house. …”

The corpse was also seen by a professor’s wife who made her way to the Hôpital St.-Thomas – the old man’s white beard was stained with blood.

The massacre spread. Six workmen returning from their work were shot down from behind. A woman was shot as she was beating for admittance on a door. A man had his hands tied behind his back, and was shot as he ran down the street. Another witness saw 20 men shot. One saw 19 corpses, and corpses were also seen with their hands tied behind their backs, like the victim mentioned above. There was the body of a woman cut in two, with a child still alive beside her. Other children had been murdered, and were lying dead. There was the body of another murdered woman, and a girl of fourteen who had been wounded and was being carried to hospital. A German soldier beckoned a Dutch witness into a shop, and showed him the shop-keeper’s body in the backroom, in a night-shirt, with a bullet-wound through the head.

These were the “evil-looking franc-tireurs” whom the German soldiers shot down at sight. Inhabitants of Louvain dragged as prisoners through the streets recognised the corpses of people they knew. Here a bootmaker lay, here a hairdresser, here a professor. The corpse of Professor Lenertz was lying in front of his house in the Boulevard de Tirlemont. It was recognised by Dr. Noyons, one of his colleagues (though a Dutchman by nationality), who was serving in the Hôpital St.-Thomas and so escaped himself. “On the 27th,” states a Belgian lady, “M. Lenertz’ body was still lying on the Boulevard. When his wife and children were evicted by the Germans and came out of their house, members of the family had to stand in front of the body to hide it from Madame Lenertz’ sight.”

The dead were lying in every quarter of the town. In the Boulevard de Tirlemont there were six or seven more. There was one at the end of the Rue du Manège. But the greatest number were in the Station Square, where they were seen by all the civilian prisoners herded thither this night and the following day. Their murder is described by a German sergeant-major who was fighting in the neighbourhood of the Station. “Various civilians,” he remarks, “were led off by my men, and after judgment had been given against them by the Commandant, they were shot in the Square in front of the Station. In accordance with orders, I myself helped to set fire to various houses, after having in every case previously convinced myself that no one was left in them. Towards midnight the work was done, and the Company returned to the station buildings, before which were lying shot about 15 inhabitants of the town.”

The slaughter itself increased the thirst for blood. A Dutch witness met a German column marching in from Aerschot. “The soldiers were beside themselves with rage at the sight of the corpses, and cried: ‘Schweinhunde! Schweinhunde!’ They regarded me with threatening eyes. I passed on my way. …”

The soldiers in their frenzy respected no one. The Hostel for Spanish students in the Rue de la Station was burnt down, though it was protected by the Spanish flag. Father Catala, the Superior of the Hostel and formerly Vice-Consul of Spain, barely escaped with his life. There was no mercy either for the old or the sick. A retired barrister, bedridden with paralysis, had his house burnt over his head, and was brought to the Hôpital St.-Thomas to die. Another old man, more than eighty years old and in his last illness, was cast out by the soldiers into the street, and died in the Hôpital St.-Thomas next day. An aged concierge was cast alive into the blazing ruins of the house it was his duty to guard. So it went on till dawn, when the havoc was completed by salvoes of artillery. “At four o’clock in the morning,” states an officer of the Ninth German Reserve Corps Staff, “the Army Corps moved out to battle. We did not enter the main streets, but advanced along an avenue. … As the road carrying our lines of communication was continuously fired on, the order was given to clear the town by force. Two guns were sent with 150 shells. The two guns, firing from the Railway Station, swept the streets with shells. Thus at least the quarter surrounding the Railway Station was secured, and this made it possible to conduct the supply-columns through the town. …”

Louvain 1914

Map based on one in the German White Book; opens in a new window

German and Belgian soldiers, 1915

German and Belgian soldiers, both wounded, 1915; Flickr source: Nationaal Archief, Spaarnestad Photo SFA022802554

Photographer unknown. Why in the Dutch archive? Where was this taken? A million refugees fled Belgium into neutral Holland. Were these deserters?

The German Terror in Belgium, An Historical Record, Hodder & Stoughton, 1917


The destruction of Louvain 1

November 15 2014

The Germans invaded Belgium on August 4 1914.

[They] entered Louvain [Leuven] on August 19th. The Belgian troops did not attempt to hold the town, and the civil authorities had prepared for the Germans’ arrival. They had called in all arms in private possession and deposited them in the Hôtel-de-Ville. This had been done a fortnight before the German occupation, and was repeated, for security, on the morning of the 19th itself. The municipal commissary of police remarked the exaggerated conscientiousness with which the order was obeyed. “Antiquarian pieces, flint-locks and even razors were handed in.” The people of Louvain were indeed terrified. They had heard what had happened in the villages round Liége, at Tongres and at St. Trond, and on the evening (August 18th) before the Germans arrived the refugees from Tirlemont had come pouring through the town. The Burgomaster, like his colleagues in other Belgian towns, had posted placards on August 18th, enjoining confidence and calm.

The German entry on the 19th took place without disturbance. Large requisitions were at once made on the town by the German Command. The troops were billeted on the inhabitants. In one house an officer demanded quarters for 50 men. “Revolver in hand, he inspected every bedroom minutely. ‘If anything goes wrong, you are all kaput.’ That was how he finished the business.” It was vacation time, and the lodgings of the University students were empty. Many houses were shut up altogether, and these were broken into and pillaged by the German soldiers. They pillaged enormous quantities of wine, without interference on the part of their officers. “The soldiers did not scruple to drain in the street the contents of stolen bottles, and drunken soldiers were common objects.” There was also a great deal of wanton destruction — “furniture destroyed, mirrors and picture-frames smashed, carpets spoilt and so on.” The house of Professor van Gehuchten, a scientist of international eminence, was treated with especial malice. This is testified by a number of people, including the Professor’s son. “They destroyed, tore up and threw into the street my father’s manuscripts and books (which were very numerous), and completely wrecked his library and its contents. They also destroyed the manuscript of an important work of my late father’s which was in the hands of the printer.” — “This misdemeanour made a scandal,” states another witness. “It was brought to the knowledge of the German general, who seemed much put out, but took no measures of protection.” The pillage was even systematic. A servant, left by an [the?] absent professor in charge of his house, found on August 20th that the Germans “had five motor-vans outside the premises. I saw them removing from my master’s house wine, blankets, books, etc., and placing them in the vans. They stripped the whole place of everything of value, including the furniture. … I saw them smashing glass and crockery and the windows.” On August 20th there were already acts of violence in the outskirts of the town. At Corbeek-Loo a girl of sixteen was violated by six soldiers and bayonetted in five places for offering resistance. Her parents were kept off with rifles. By noon on August 20th the town itself “was like a stable. Streets, pavements, public squares and trampled flower beds had disappeared under a layer of manure.”

On August 20th the German military authorities covered the walls with proclamations: “Atrocities have been committed by (Belgian) franc-tireurs.” — “If anything happens to the German troops, le total sera responsable” (an attempt to render in French the Prussian doctrine of collective responsibility). Doors must be left open at night. Windows fronting the street must be lighted up. Inhabitants must be within doors between 8.0 p.m. and 7.0 a.m. Most of these placards were ready-made in German, French and Russian. There were no placards in Flemish till after the events of August 25th. Yet Flemish was the only language spoken and understood by at least half the population of Louvain.

Hostages were also taken by the German authorities. The Burgomaster, a City Councillor and a Senator were confined under guard in the Hôtel-de-Ville on the first day of occupation. From August 21st onwards they were replaced successively by other notables, including the Rector and Vice-Rector of the University. On August 21st there was another German proclamation, in which the inhabitants were called upon (for the third time) to deliver up their arms. Requisitions and acts of pillage by individual officers and soldiers continued, and on the evening of August 24th the Burgomaster was dragged to the Railway Station and threatened with a revolver by a German officer, who had arrived with 250 men by train and demanded a hot meal and mattresses for them at once. Major von Manteuffel, the Etappen-Kommandant in the city, was called in and the Burgomaster was released, but without reparation. On that day, too, the German wounded were removed from Louvain – an ominous precaution – and in the course of the following day there were spoken warnings.

The mayor, or burgomaster, was Leo Colins. Alfred Nerincx, professor of international law at the university, took over on August 29. Colins came back at the end of the war.

On the morning of this day, Tuesday, August 25th, Madame Roomans, a notary’s wife, is said to have been warned by the German officers billeted on her to leave the town. In the afternoon, about 5.0 o’clock, another lady reported how an officer, billeted on her and taking his leave, had added: “I hope you will be spared, for now it is going to begin.” At supper time, when the first shots were fired and the alarm was sounded, officers billeted on various households are said to have exclaimed “Poor people!” – or to have wept.

On the morning of August 25th there were few German troops in Louvain. The greater part of those that had entered the town since the 19th had passed on to the front in the direction of Malines [Mechelen], and were now engaged in resisting the Belgian sortie from Antwerp, which was made this day. As the Belgian offensive made progress, the sound of the cannon became louder and louder in Louvain, and the German garrison grew increasingly uneasy. Despatch riders from the front kept arriving at the Kommandantur; at 4.0 o’clock a general alarm was sounded; the troops in the town assembled and marched out towards the north-western suburbs; military waggons drove in from the northwest in disorder, “their drivers grasping revolvers and looking very much excited.” At the same time, [German] reinforcements began to detrain at the Station, which stands at the eastern extremity of the town, and is connected with the central Grand’ Place and with the University buildings by the broad, straight line of the Rue de la Station, flanked with the private houses of the wealthier inhabitants. These fresh troops were billeted hastily by their officers in the quarters nearest the Station. The cavalry were concentrated in the Place du Peuple, a large square lying a short distance to the left of the Rue de la Station, about half-way towards the Grand’ Place. The square was already crowded with the transport that had been sent back during the day from the front. As the reinforcements kept on detraining, and the quarters near the Station filled up, the later arrivals went on to the Grand’ Place and the Hôtel-de-Ville, which was the seat of the Kommandantur.

During all this time the agitation increased. About 7.0 o’clock a company of Landsturm which had marched out in the afternoon to the north-western outskirts of the town, were ordered back by their battalion commander to the Place de la Station – the extensive square in front of the station buildings, out of which the Rue de la Station leads into the middle of the city. The military police pickets in the centre of the city were on the alert. Between 7.0 and 7.30 the alarm was sounded again, and the troops who had arrived that afternoon assembled from their billets and stood to arms. The tension among them was extreme. They had been travelling hard all day; they had entered the town at dusk; it was now dark, and they did not know their way about the streets, nor from what quarter to expect the enemy [Belgian] forces, which were supposed to be on the point of making their appearance.

Belgium

The German Terror in Belgium, An Historical Record, Hodder & Stoughton, 1917


A rainy day in Piccadilly

November 14 2014

Piccadilly

All the major bus advertisers on one photograph (and some others). Left to right:

Nestlé’s Milk.

Ridge’s Food (Best for Infants).

Fry’s Cocoa.

Kodak Film Cameras.

Cadbury’s Cocoa.

Nestlé again.

Mellin’s (oval sign on the stairs). More infant formula.

Oakey’s Wellington Knife Polish. A staple below stairs.

Pears Soap. Soap and Empire. Male grooming.

Hotel in South Hackney, probably the Queen’s Hotel.

The Edinburgh Scotch Whisky Stores, Milford Lane, Strand.

Infant formula, cocoa, cameras, polish, soap, whisky. Are the hangings on the building Jubilee decorations?

According to Wikipedia, Route 3 didn’t start operation until 1908 and then not on this route. In any case, this looks earlier. What are the words above Putney on the side of that bus?

London General Omnibus Company. The sign that appears to say C&SH must be where you dropped the fare, so when did bus conductors come in?

Probably Piccadilly.


The martyrdom of the Moriscos

November 13 2014

Educated Osmanlis are aware that the Spanish-speaking Jews who are so prominent in the principal cities of the Levant, are descended from the Jews of Spain, who were expelled by the Spanish and given asylum by the Ottoman Government at the close of the fifteenth century. Following up this clue, they have studied the martyrdom of the “Moriscos,” the Moslem population of the Moorish states in the Peninsula reconquered by the Christians. They have read in Western histories how this civilised and industrious Middle Eastern people was forcibly converted, driven by oppression into desperate revolts, and then massacred, despoiled, and evicted by its Western conquerors, at the very time when in the Near East the Osmanlis were allowing conquered non-Moslems to retain their cultural autonomy and were organising Orthodox, Armenian, and Jewish millets as official departments of a Moslem state. I have heard Turks express ironical regret that they did not Westernise in the fifteenth century after Christ. If they had followed our example then, they would have had no minorities to bother them to-day!

The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922


Redemptions

November 12 2014

Augustus and his successors had made good civil servants out of predatory Roman business men of the “equestrian” class; Han Liu Pang [the first Han emperor] and his successors had made them out of predatory feudal gentry bred by the contending Sinic parochial states; Cornwallis and his successors had made them out of predatory commercial agents of the British East India Company.

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954


Limewood and sandstone

November 11 2014

Wooden means stiff, unyielding. But “lime”, the wood in which Riemenschneider and other German Renaissance sculptors carved, comes from the Old English lind or linde and Proto-Germanic lendā, which are related to the Latin lentus, flexible, and the Sanskrit latā. “Lithe” and the German lind, lenient, yielding, are from the same root.

Neither the name nor the tree is related to the citrus fruit.

Lime trees, tilia, are long-lived. In the courtyard of the Imperial Castle at Nuremberg, until 1934, stood a lime which, according to tradition, had been planted by the Empress Cunigunde, the wife of the last Ottonian Emperor, Henry II.

___

A better musical pendant to MacGregor’s Germany: Memories of a Nation than Strauss’s oboe concerto might be Hindemith’s 1962-63 organ concerto, a great piece of modern music from the country of Riemenschneider, the Holbeins, Grünewald, Dürer and Luther.

Martin Haselböck, organ of the Grossen Konzerthaussaal (what is the organ in the still?), Wiener Symphoniker, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos:

I. Crescendo, moderato maestoso
II. Allegro assai

III. Canzonetta in triads and two ritornelli, moderato

IV. Fantasy on Veni Creator Spiritus, ie I suppose on the Gregorian chant normally associated with it

___

Adam Brust

Sandstone, the equivalent of limewood: from Riemenschneider’s carvings of Adam and Eve, Würzburger Marienkapelle, 1491-93, Mainfränkisches Museum Würzburg, photo credit: Ulrich Kneise, Eisenach


Memories of a nation

November 10 2014

It’s hard to see what MacGregor could have done better in that series and within its time constraints. I’d have been sorry if he had not had programmes on Riemenschneider and Kollwitz. There isn’t much on music, but perhaps we all know about that; and his starting points were “objects, art, landmarks and literature”. The series is all the better for the omission. There perhaps could be more on the Thirty Years’ War.

Recent post here about the best-selling German novel of the First World War, The Wanderer between the Two Worlds.

November 2014: immigration and the German Willkommenskultur.

One day, I should write something personal about Germany.

To redress the balance on music, here is that astonishing musical document of the fin-de-guerre, the oboe concerto by the octogenarian Richard Strauss, 150 this year.

An American soldier, Lieutenant Milton Weiss, knocked on the door of his villa in Garmisch on April 30 1945. The man who descended the staircase announced: “I am Richard Strauss, the composer of Rosenkavalier and Salome.”

What a collision of worlds. Strauss invited the commanding officer, a Major Kramer, and seven of his officers to lunch. His cook, Anni, prepared a venison stew. Bottles of wine were brought up from the cellar. The requisitioning soldiers left, having mounted a sign at the front gate warning “Off limits”.

That afternoon, Hitler committed suicide. In the evening, German radio broadcast the news that “our Führer, Adolf Hitler, fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism, fell for Germany this afternoon in his operational command post in the Reich Chancellery”. This was immediately followed by recordings, conducted by Furtwängler, of the Adagio from Bruckner’s seventh symphony and the funeral music from Götterdämmerung.

Strauss wrote in his diary:

“Germany: 1945: Thus is the body dead, but the spirit is life.

Luther.

“On 12 March the glorious Vienna Opera became one more victim of the bombs. But from 1 May onwards the most terrible period of human history came to an end, the twelve-year reign of bestiality, ignorance and anti-culture under the greatest criminals, during which Germany’s 2,000 years of cultural evolution met its doom and irreplaceable monuments of architecture and works of art were destroyed by a criminal rabble of soldiers. Accursed be technology!”

Three days earlier, 7,000 prisoners, mostly Jews, had been forced to begin a death march from Dachau to Tegernsee, a little to the northeast of Garmisch, where the SS had built defences against American forces advancing from Bad Tölz.

One of the soldiers whom Strauss got to know in the coming days, John de Lancie, was an oboist. De Lancie asked the composer whether whether he had ever thought of writing an oboe concerto and got a simple “No”. But he had planted a seed.

“Memories of a nation”: the whole German musical past shines through these late works. Manfred Clement, Staatskapelle Dresden, Kempe:

With thanks to Matthew Boyden, Richard Strauss, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999.


Germany: Memories of a Nation

November 9 2014

Neil MacGregor’s Germany: Memories of a Nation, which completed its BBC Radio 4 run on the eve of 25 years of “Germany”, was as good as his A History of the World in 100 Objects (old post). This time, thirty 15-minute episodes, not quite chronological, “using objects, art, landmarks and literature”.

The test with a series like this is: would the other side wince if they heard it? I hope not in this case, even in the tenth programme. BBC descriptions are slightly edited here. Links to podcasts:

  1. The View from the Gate. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, begins his series examining 600 years of German history through objects with a reflection on Germany’s floating frontiers. Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Neil visits the Brandenburg Gate.
  2. Divided Heaven. Neil MacGregor examines the story of the two Germanys, East and West, created in 1949, through objects including a wet suit used in an escape attempt from the East in 1987, which was later used as a training device by the Stasi, the East German secret police.
  3. Kafka, Kant and Lost Capitals. Neil MacGregor visits Kaliningrad, now in Russia, but formerly the German city Königsberg, home of the philosopher Kant, and also visits Prague, birthplace of writer Franz Kafka.
  4. Strasbourg – Floating City. Neil MacGregor visits Strasbourg, now in France, but once also a key city in German history, culture and precision engineering, as revealed by model of the astonishing cathedral clock.
  5. Fragments of Power. Neil MacGregor discovers how coins reveal the range and diversity of the Holy Roman Empire, with around 200 different currencies struck in the various territories of Germany.
  6. Luther and a Language for All Germans. Neil MacGregor focuses on the things which bind Germans together. He begins with the story of how Luther created the modern German language, by translating the Bible.
  7. Fairy Tales and Forests. Neil MacGregor examines how the tales of the Grimms and the art of Caspar David Friedrich re-established an identity for the German-speaking people, after their defeat by Napoleon.
  8. One Nation under Goethe. Neil MacGregor focuses on Goethe, arguing that he is the greatest of all German poets, and a unifying force, so that the Germans are one nation under Goethe.
  9. The Walhalla: Hall of Heroes. Neil MacGregor visits the Walhalla, one of the most idiosyncratic expressions of national identity in 19th century Europe, a temple to German-ness, modelled on the Parthenon.
  10. One People, Many Sausages. Neil MacGregor focuses on two great emblems of Germany’s national diet: beer and sausages. He finds out how regional specialities represent centuries of regional history.
  11. The Battle for Charlemagne. Neil MacGregor visits Aachen cathedral to examine the legacy of Charlemagne (c 747-c 814) – was he a great French ruler, or was he Charles the Great, a German? And what is the significance of a very fine replica of the Imperial Crown?
  12. Riemenschneider: Sculpting the Spirit. Neil MacGregor focuses on the religious sculptures of Tilman Riemenschneider (c 1460-1531), whose reputation as an artist has steadily risen. He is seen as a supreme sculptor, working in a peculiarly German medium, limewood, but articulating the sensibilities of a continent. And Neil MacGregor reveals why, as the war came to an end in 1945, the Nobel Prize-winning writer Thomas Mann identified Riemenschneider as a moral and political hero.
  13. Holbein and the Hansa. Neil MacGregor charts the rise and fall of the Hansa, or Hanseatic League, a great trading alliance of 90 cities, and the role of the painter Hans Holbein the Younger.
  14. Iron Nation. Neil MacGregor charts the role of iron in 19th century Prussia, an everyday metal whose uses included patriotic jewellery and the Iron Cross, a military decoration to honour all ranks.
  15. 1848: The People’s Flag and Karl Marx. Neil MacGregor reflects on the events of 1848, when black, red and gold became the colours of the flag for a united Germany, and Marx and Engels published The Communist Manifesto.
  16. Gutenberg: In the Beginning was the Printer. Neil MacGregor examines how Johannes Gutenberg’s inventions led to the birth of the book as we know it. For many, it is the moment at which the modern world began.
  17. Dürer: An Artist for All Germans. Neil MacGregor focuses on the work of Dürer (1471-1528), arguing that he is the defining artist of Germany, his image – and his self-image – known to all Germans.
  18. Porcelain: The White Gold of Saxony. Neil MacGregor focuses on how 18th century German chemists discovered the secrets of Chinese porcelain, known then as “white gold” – translucent, fine-glazed, and much-coveted.
  19. From Clock to Car: Masters of Metal. Neil MacGregor focuses on the long tradition of German metalwork, from finely-engineered clocks and scientific instruments to the Volkswagen Beetle.
  20. Bauhaus: Cradle of the Modern. Neil MacGregor focuses on the Bauhaus school of art and design, founded in 1919. Its emphasis on functional elegance is visible in our houses, furniture and typography today.
  21. Bismarck the Blacksmith. Neil MacGregor charts the career of Otto von Bismarck (1815-98), known as the Iron Chancellor: he argued that the great questions of the day should be decided by “iron and blood”.
  22. Käthe Kollwitz: Suffering Witness. Neil MacGregor focuses on the art of Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), who expresses the loss and suffering of war, especially after the death of her younger son Peter at the front in 1914. Neil MacGregor argues that she is one of the greatest German artists. Like no other artist of the time, Kollwitz gave voice to the overwhelming sense of personal loss felt by ordinary Germans – the loss of a whole generation, the loss of political stability and of individual dignity.
  23. Notgeld. Neil MacGregor examines the emergency money – Notgeld – created during World War One and its aftermath. Small denomination coins began to disappear because their metal was worth more than their face value. People hoarded them or melted them down. Paper notes replaced coins, but as cities produced their own money, there was also currency made from porcelain, linen, silk, leather, wood, coal, cotton and playing cards. He also focuses on the crisis of hyperinflation in the early 1920s. At its peak, prices doubled every three and a half days, and in 1923 a 500 million mark note might buy a loaf of bread.
  24. Degenerate Art. Neil MacGregor examines how the Nazis attacked art they viewed as “entartet” – degenerate. He charts how Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, led a process designed to purify all German culture, including books, music, paintings and pottery. The programme focuses on a vase created by Grete Marks, with an evident debt to Chinese ceramics, and a loose brush-splashed glaze suggestive of modernist painting. Goebbels condemned this vase in his newspaper Der Angriff – The Attack. Grete Marks, who was Jewish and had trained at the Bauhaus, left Germany for England.
  25. Buchenwald. Neil MacGregor visits Buchenwald, one of the earliest and largest concentration camps.
  26. The Germans Expelled. Neil MacGregor focuses on a small hand-cart to tell the story of how more than 12 million Germans fled or were forced out of Central and Eastern Europe after 1945.
  27. Out of the Rubble. Neil MacGregor talks to a Trümmerfrau, a woman who cleared rubble from the Berlin streets in 1945, and focuses on a sculpture by Max Lachnit made from hundreds of pieces of rubble.
  28. The New German Jews. Germany today has the fastest-growing Jewish population in Western Europe. Neil MacGregor visits a synagogue in Offenbach, near Frankfurt, which was inaugurated in 1956.
  29. Barlach’s Angel. Neil MacGregor focuses on Ernst Barlach’s sculpture Hovering Angel, a unique war memorial, commissioned in 1926 to hang in the cathedral in Güstrow.
  30. Reichstag. Neil MacGregor ends his journey through 600 years of German history at the Reichstag, seat of the German Parliament.

Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein

Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, Goethe in der Campagna (1787), Wikipedia


One hundred years ago

November 9 2014

“For one throb of the Artery,
While on that old grey stone I sat
Under the old wind-broken tree,
I knew that One is animate
Mankind inanimate phantasy.”

___

Yeats, A Meditation in Time of War (whole poem). November 9 1914.


Justin Martyr

November 8 2014

“You cannot fail to see that our having our heads cut off or being crucified or being thrown to the beasts or into bondage or to the flames or being subjected to all the other forms of torture does not make us abandon our profession of faith. On the contrary, the more of these martyrdoms that there are, the more we increase in numbers through the excess of conversions over martyrdoms.” – Justin: Dialogus, chap. 110 (Migne, J.-P.: Patrologia Graeca, vol. vi, col. 729).

Christian martyrs were not murderers.

Wikipedia on persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire.

A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939 (footnote)


Young and old

November 8 2014

“When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but, when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands and another shall gird thee and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.” [Footnote: John xxi. 18.]

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954


Your Aunt Nellie and I

November 7 2014

In December 1906, [the writer] had been staying with a pair of distinguished scholars in the persons of his uncle Paget Toynbee (vivebat A.D. 1855-1932), the author of A Dictionary of Proper names [sic] and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante [footnote: Oxford 1898, Clarendon Press.] and his aunt Helen Toynbee (vivebat A.D. 1868-1910), [footnote: Née Helen Wrigley, of Bury, Lancs.] the editor of Horace Walpole’s letters. At the close of an agreeable and stimulating visit, in which the boy had unselfconsciously disclosed historical interests embracing the Assyrians, the Fourth Crusade, and whatnot, he was chilled by a piece of parting advice which his uncle gave him out of the kindness of his heart. “Your Aunt Nellie and I”, the Dante scholar had announced, “have come to the conclusion that you have been dispersing your interests too widely, and our advice to you is to make your choice of some single subject and to concentrate hereafter on that.” In A.D. 1952 the writer had a still freshly vivid recollection of his own instantaneous conviction that this advice was bad, and of his likewise instantaneous decision not to follow it; and his uncle subsequently gave him reason in retrospect by amiably sacrificing his own pernicious intellectual principles on the altar of personal affection when his wife’s literary work was cut short by her premature death. From that day onwards, her loving survivor took her Walpole, as well as his Alighieri, under his wing in order to complete her edition of the letters as a labour of love. [Footnote: Paget Toynbee was handsomely rewarded for an unprofessional human piety that had taken for its counsellor an unerring heart instead of a fallible head. For one thing, he became almost as highly distinguished in the field of scholarship bequeathed to him by his wife as he had long since been in his own field. But his most gratifying reward was that, when he had made room in his quiver for Horace Walpole’s works beside Dante’s, he found himself armed with an unfailing store of apt quotations. It was hardly possible for there to be any event in the news which a scholar who had thus made himself a double hāfiz could not illustrate by a passage from one or other of the two authors whose works this intellectual archer now knew by heart. On the slightest provocation he would shoot a letter, containing a quotation from either Walpole or Dante, at the editor of The Times; and, as the quotation was always attractively felicitous and the covering letter always discreetly short, the literary arrow usually went home and, in the course of years, the deft archer scored a prodigious tale of hits. Thus, thanks to his unprofessional addition of a second string to his academic bow, Paget Toynbee succeeded in lodging in the columns of The Times a quantity of letters [1908-31] that can hardly have been equalled by any of his contemporaries.]

If Arnold Toynbee had been less inclined towards family piety, one might find something condescending in the last sentence, though not, of course, in the term “unprofessional”, which was entirely one of approbation. DNB, CM Ady, rev. Diego Zancani, quoting an obituary in The Oxford Magazine: “For Toynbee, Dante was a ‘treasure house full of obscurities and difficulties which needed elucidation and solution, and he spared no pains to provide them’. Although he confined himself to the accumulation and elucidation of facts, making no attempt at literary appreciation, his exhaustive memory and tireless energy won him a worldwide reputation as a Dantist [...].”

“After his wife’s death in 1910 Toynbee took up her unfinished task of editing Walpole’s letters, and Horace Walpole, to whom Dante was ‘extravagant, absurd, disgusting, in short a Methodist parson in Bedlam’ (letter to William Mason, 1782), from then on shared Dante’s place in his activities, which resulted in three supplementary volumes of Letters (1918-25) and the Correspondence of Gray, Walpole, West and Ashton (2 vols., 1915). Toynbee was described as being both physically and mentally ‘ponderous and forceful’ in later life, as if ‘he intentionally limited his field of activity in order to probe deeper into it’ (Oxford Magazine, 722). After 1910 Toynbee, who had no children, and who suffered the consequences of typhoid fever, lived the life of a recluse at Fiveways, the house which he built at Burnham, Buckinghamshire, in 1907.”

Where was he living in 1906?

In two letters to The Times he manages to mention both Dante and Walpole.

July 20 1923:

Paget Toynbee, July 20 1923

January 13 1928:

Paget Toynbee, January 13 1928

His last letter, August 15 1931:

Paget Toynbee, August 15 1931

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Religion in Africa

November 6 2014

… A rough geography

What is sub-Saharan Africa? According to the UN, everything except Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt – and Sudan, too, though it is south of all these. But the statistics of UN institutions do normally count Sudan as sub-Saharan.

So Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad are considered sub-Saharan. If you add Sudan, they form another chain from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. They contain most of the Sahel.

All these countries are Muslim (or Moslem, as we used to say), but two of them, Egypt and Chad, have substantial Christian minorities.

Further south, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Djibouti, Somalia are Muslim. Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso are predominantly Muslim, but have substantial Christian minorities of various denominations.

More evenly balanced are Guinea-Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Benin, Nigeria. Guinea-Bissau is half-Muslim, 10% Christian and the rest animist or traditional – but when we talk about traditional, we are sometimes including localised versions of Islam and Christianity, and when people declare as Muslims or Christians, they may still bring in elements of a local religion: figures or estimates for one country are not necessarily comparable with figures for another. Côte d’Ivoire is half-Muslim, half-Christian, apart from a small traditional element. Togo is 30% Christian, 20% Muslim, with the rest traditional. Benin is 43% Christian, 25% Muslim. Nigeria is roughly half-Muslim, half-Christian, with the Muslims in the north.

Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, both Congos, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland have large Christian majorities. (Malawi, in this group, has the largest Islamic minority. [Postscript: See comment below.])

Eritrea, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique have smaller Christian majorities. Eritrea has a large Islamic minority. South Sudan has a large traditional minority and a small Islamic one. Ethiopia and Tanzania have large Islamic minorities. Mozambique has a smaller Islamic minority, but still only a small Christian majority, according to official figures, with many undeclared. (Madagascar is half-Christian, with the rest mainly traditional; there is a small Islamic minority.)

Most African Islam is Sunni, but there are Shiite communities in Egypt, Senegal and Nigeria and Ismaili Shia communities, established by immigrants from South Asia, in East and Central Africa and in South Africa. Cairo, of course, though the population is overwhelmingly Sunni, was an Ismaili Shiite foundation.

The dominant churches in Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia are Oriental Orthodox. The Christians in Chad are Catholic and Protestant.

Christians outnumber Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa (including Sudan?) by two to one. Under half are Catholic. Many are renewalists (Pentecostals and Charismatics), Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses.


Leviathan

November 5 2014

An idolization of Man by Man himself, which is patently ridiculous when the idol is some individual mannikin, may be more specious when the blasphemous worship is paid to some collective Leviathan. Yet the state-worship that a post-Christian Western Society commended as “patriotism” and the church-worship that it denigrated as “fanaticism” both turn as bitter on the palate as the hero-worship of an Alexander, Hitler, Caesar, or Napoleon.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


The tailor’s soul

November 4 2014

Muqaddamāt, de Slane’s translation (Paris 1863-8, Imprimerie Impériale, 3 vols.), vol ii, pp. 366-7; chapter headed: “He who possesses the capacity for practising some particular art very rarely manages to acquire another art perfectly [...]”:

“A tailor, for instance, who possesses a capacity for sewing, who uses it with the greatest skill, who is really a master of his art, and who has made it part and parcel of himself, will be unable afterwards to acquire, to perfection, the art of being a cabinet-maker or a mason. If he did achieve this, that would mean that he did not yet possess, to perfection, the former capacity; it would mean that the dye of that capacity in him had not yet taken fast. Here is the explanation: it is that the capacities – being attributes of the Soul or colours which the Soul is apt to take – cannot overlay one another on the Soul and can only settle on the Soul one at a time. In order to acquire a capacity easily, and to be in a favourable condition for the reception of it, the Soul must be in the primitive state of its nature. Afterwards, when it takes the colour of this or that capacity, it departs from its primitive state; and, since the tincture which has now just been imparted to it is bound to have weakened in the Soul its aptitude for receiving another tincture, the Soul no longer has as much strength as before for acquiring a second faculty.”

A Study of History, Vol V, OUP, 1939 (footnote)


Moroni’s tailor

November 3 2014

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Il Tagliapanni

Giovanni Battista Moroni painted his noble tailor c 1565-70 in his native Albino. He worked only there and in Trent and Bergamo. An Ingres three centuries earlier.

Some have suggested that the tailor really was a nobleman. The greenish tinge to the face is in the original. He is wearing the very full, loose breeches known in English as galligaskins, which must have been ribbed or stuffed, and an undyed jacket.

National Gallery, London. Moroni at the RA, to January 25.

Vasari doesn’t mention Moroni in his Lives. Nor does Reynolds in his RA lectures. My great-grandfather, George Clausen, a Victorian who, like Reynolds, never mentioned Caravaggio, does mention him in his RA lectures. Moroni (like Velasquez, Lorenzo Lotto, Veronese, Frans Hals) followed the fine middle course which he himself tried to follow, between “the realism of externals” (bad painting in Clausen’s time) and “the realism of expression or character” (brought to a high level in their late works by Titian, Tintoretto, Rembrandt).

Below, Clausen’s portrait of Thomas Okey, Master of the Art Workers Guild in 1914, where one can perhaps see what he is aiming at. As in most of Moroni’s portraits, the background is grey. It has a fine sobriety. Clausen painted good portraits of craftsmen and family members (and, earlier, of rural workers) and a few dull ones of officials. Okey was from the East End and was helped by Toynbee Hall. He worked for thirty years not as a tailor, but as a basket-maker in Spitalfields, and rose to become, in 1919, when there was more social mobility than now, the first Professor of Italian at Cambridge.

Excuse cropping: best image I have.

George Clausen, Thomas Okey colour 2


Broken lights 2

November 2 2014

The spiritual weapons, plucked from an Hellenic charnel house, with which Modern Western Man had brought to the ground the Hildebrandine Respublica Christiana had been as destructive as the material weapons with which Cromwell’s soldiers had once shattered the west window of Winchester Cathedral.

“When ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, standing where it ought not (let him that readeth understand), then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains.” [Footnote: Mark xiii. 14; cp. Matt. xxiv. 15-16.]

Nevertheless, there is a bow in the cloud. [Footnote: Gen. ix. 12-17.] At Winchester, on the morrow of the Puritan iconoclast’s deed, it must have looked as if a mighty work of Medieval Christian art had been utterly destroyed; and in truth it had been damaged beyond all possibility of reinstatement in its inimitable medieval pattern. Yet the broken and scattered fragments were pieced together again, by the piety of a later generation, in a labour of love that – sheer disorder though it might have suggested to the eye of the original artificer – was in truth a new pattern, [footnote: See Bergson’s exposition of the relativity of the concept of disorder in [...] L’Evolution Créatrice, 24th ed. (Paris 1921, Alcan), pp. 239-55 [...].] fraught with unpremeditated beauty and letting in unforeseen light in the sight of eyes open to the self-revelation of a God who makes all things new. [Footnote: Rev. xxi. 5.] A boy once watched, spell-bound, while this miracle of creation conjured out of destruction was being lit up by the level radiance of a setting summer sun; and a man could catch a glimpse of the spiritual meaning of this visual allegory as he recalled it in his mind’s eye in after-life, in the light of his generation’s experience of a forty years’ wandering in the wilderness. If the same sunlight could thus shine again through the same glass in a new pattern offering a fresh vision, might not the eternal and unchanging incorporeal light of the Beatific Vision again illuminate men’s souls in a society that had been broken and remade by the sufferings of a Time of Troubles?

Winchester west window

Flickr credit: Steven Vacher

“A composition of 64 images, combined in Photoshop. The cathedral’s huge west window is made up of fragments of medieval glass put together randomly, in a manner something like pique assiette mosaic work. The original panes were deliberately destroyed by Cromwell’s forces following the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642. Soon after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the broken glass was gathered up and used again.”

Was this done with any windows destroyed by bombs in the Second World War?

St Mary the Virgin, Isleworth

Religio lignarii (not the piece’s name): St Joseph the carpenter, St Mary the Virgin, Isleworth, north chapel east window, single light, by Thomas Derrick (my grandfather), 1954, made by Lowndes & Drury; St Mary designed by HS Goodhart Rendel and built 1952-54; he had used TD in other churches

Flickr credit: Peter Moore (do not reuse)

A lost art.

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954


Broken lights

November 2 2014

… or, Religio historici 4.

Why do people study History? Why, to put the question ad hominem, had the writer of the present work been studying History since he was a child and been spending thirty years on this book which he was now finishing? Is an historian born or made? Every historian will have his own answer to this question, because he will be speaking from his own experience. Quot homines; tot sententiae: [footnote: Terence: Phormio, Act II, scene iv, line 14 (= line 454 of the play).] each must speak for himself. The present writer’s personal answer was that an historian, like anyone else who has had the happiness of having an aim in life, has found his vocation in a call from God to “feel after Him and find Him”. [Footnote: Acts xvii. 27.]

If this personal answer finds any favour with the reader, it may help us also to answer a second question that is implicit in the one from which we have started. In beginning by asking ourselves why we study History we have begged the question: What do we mean by History? And the writer, continuing to speak simply for himself from his personal experience, would reply that he meant by History a vision – dim and partial, yet (he believed) true to reality as far as it went – of God revealing Himself in action to souls that were sincerely seeking Him. Since “no man hath seen God at any time” [footnote: John i. 18; 1 John iv. 12.] and our clearest visions are but “broken lights” of Him, [footnote: Tennyson: In Memoriam, Invocation, stanza 5, line 3.] there are as many angles of vision as there are vocations, and the historian’s angle is only one among a number of diverse angles from which souls with diverse gifts and diverse experiences obtain diverse partial visions of God seen through diverse fractions of His “inconceivably mighty works”. [Footnote: “Die unbegreiflich hohen Werke” – Goethe: Faust, l. 249 [...].] Besides the historian’s angle there is the astronomer’s, the physicist’s, the mathematician’s, the poet’s, the mystic’s, the prophet’s, the priest’s, the administrator’s, the lawyer’s, the soldier’s, the sailor’s, the fisherman’s, the hunter’s, the shepherd’s, the husbandman’s, the artisan’s, the engineer’s, the physician’s – and this roll-call could be extended over many pages, since human vocations are as numerous and as various as the glimpse of God that each of them gives is narrow and feeble. Among these innumerable angles the historian’s angle is only one; but, like the others, it makes a distinctive contribution of its own to Mankind’s piecemeal vision of reality. History’s contribution is to give us a vision of God’s creative activity on the move in a frame which, in our human experience of it, displays six dimensions. The historical angle of vision shows us the physical cosmos moving centrifugally in a four-dimensional frame of Space-Time; it shows us Life on our own planet moving evolutionarily in a five-dimensional frame of Life-Time-Space; and it shows us human souls raised to a sixth dimension by the gift of the Spirit, moving, through a fateful exercise of their spiritual freedom, either towards their Creator or away from Him.

A plumber has a religion. Religion is your angle on the universe, nothing more or less.

Old posts:

Religio historici

Religio historici 2

Religio historici 3

The Chinese nurse

Curiosity.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


The hubris of Innocent III

November 2 2014

This shepherd of souls who was unduly soft and credulous in accepting at their face value the specious protestations of princes, showed himself unduly cold and cautious when he had to appraise the sainthood that shone like the Sun through Francis’ countenance; and here it is difficult to draw the line between obtuseness and ὕβρις. Was Innocent unaware of Francis’ greatness or indifferent to it? Did his aloofness from the deepest spiritual movement of his age reflect the pre-occupation of a man of affairs or the superciliousness of an aristocrat? Even if we give Innocent the benefit of the doubt and acquit him, as Francis himself would have hastened to acquit him, of ὕβρις on Francis’ account, at any rate we must count it for righteousness to Innocent’s great-nephew Ugolino de’ Conti that the future Pope Gregory IX was more sensitive than his relative and predecessor to Francis’ sainthood, though he too was an aristocrat and a man of the world. And there is another count against Innocent III on which the charge of ὕβρις cannot be rebutted. A Pope whose predecessors had been content to style themselves “Vicar of Peter” assumed the style of “Vicar of Christ”. This was an ominous departure from the humility of a Gregory the Great, who had taken the title of Servus Servorum Dei when his colleague John the Faster at Constantinople had proclaimed himself “Oecumenical” Patriarch. In the year of Innocent’s death John’s “Oecumenical” successor was a refugee at Nicaea from a Patriarchal See that was under the heel of Innocent’s truant crusaders. The omen was unfavourable to the successors of the first Roman “Vicar of Christ”. “Woe unto when all men shall speak well of you” [footnote: Luke vi. 26.] is Innocent’s epitaph.

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939


II n’y a plus de Pyrénées

November 1 2014

1700-92 and 1814-30.

“II n’y a plus de Pyrénées” was Louis XIV’s [unjustified] comment on the accession of his grandson to the throne of Spain in A.D. 1700 according to Voltaire, Le Siècle de Louis Quatorze, chap. 28.

It’s actually in chapter 26.

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote)


Tales from the India Office

November 1 2014

As well as India, the East India Company (1600-1858, dissolution 1874) and then the India Office (1858-1947) administered the Gulf as far west as Aden.

The Qatar Foundation paid the British Library £8.7m to digitise nearly half a million documents relating to the Gulf. Many of them have now gone online at the Qatar National Library’s digital portal.

What about north of Aden? The Foreign Office administered the Hejaz during and after the First World War, where it promoted the Hashemites, Sharifs of the Holy Places of Mecca and Medina, who had sided with the British against the Hejazis’ Turkish masters. It placed junior members of the family on thrones in Transjordan and Iraq. The Kingdom of Hejaz lasted from 1916 to 1925.

The India Office looked to the Sultanate of Nejd and its ruler, Ibn Saud. Here the family was aligned to a puritanical Islamic sect, the Wahhabis. The India Office won the contest. Ibn Saud ousted the Hashemites from Mecca and Medina in 1925 and formed the Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz, which became the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

The officials of the India Office, had they been driven into a corner by infuriated British tax-payers, might have represented with some plausibility that in purchasing Ibn Saʿud’s benevolent neutrality at £5,000 sterling a month they had made a better bargain than their colleagues at the Foreign Office who had contracted to pay £200,000 a month of the tax-payers’ money for Husayn’s military co-operation.

Survey of International Affairs, 1925, Vol I of III, OUP, Under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1927


The prisoners of Ezra

October 31 2014

The scribe and prophet Ezra was born in Babylon, but under the Persians c 480 BC after the exile was over. He moved to Jerusalem, where the Temple had been rebuilt, and reintroduced the Torah there.

In their attitude towards gentiles, Jews today are still the prisoners of the masterful Babylonian Jewish reformer Ezra. His objective was to make the Jews obey the Torah; and, as a necessary means to this end, he took drastic steps to segregate them from their gentile neighbours. “The general result of his policy was to draw a sharp line of division between Jew and gentile, and to make for the Jewish community a sort of enclosure in the midst of the gentile world.” This was an inevitable effect of enforcing the observance of the Torah as Ezra understood it. But the observance of the Torah as understood by Ezra and by his successors the Pharisees is not an inevitable accompaniment of the religion of Deutero-Isaiah [the exilic “second Isaiah”]. Ezra raised an issue. He did not settle it. And the debate that he started has been continuing in Jewish hearts and minds ever since.

The quotation is from R Travers Herford, Judaism in the New Testament Period, Lindsey Press, 1928. The passage also refers to his The Pharisees, Allen & Unwin, 1924.

A Study of History, Vol XII: Reconsiderations, OUP, 1961


~~~

October 9 2014

Back October 31.


Historians of the Ilkhanate

October 8 2014

One of the incidental and undesigned effects of the overthrow of the ʿAbbasids and devastation of ʿIrāq was, as we have noticed already in an earlier context, the birth, in a ci-devant Syriac World’s now derelict north-eastern provinces, of an Iranic Muslim Civilization, affiliated to the Syriac, in which, for most purposes other than the exposition of Islamic theology, a New Persian language and literature were to supplant the Arabic language and literature that had been dominant in all provinces of Dār-al-Islām during the six centuries intervening between the overthrow of the Sasanids by the Primitive Muslim Arab ghāzis and the overthrow of the ʿAbbasids by the pagan Mongols. When a previously oecumenical Arabic culture retreated westwards before the face of the oncoming Mongols into a fastness in Egypt with a glacis in Syria and an eastern frontier at the western elbow of the River Euphrates, a New Persian literature that, by this time, had been on the rise for some three hundred years now at last came fully into its own; and this was perhaps the only creative cultural activity in the conquered and devastated half of Dār-al-Islām that benefited from the disaster on the very morrow of it. During the lifetime of the survivors of a generation in Dār-al-Islām that was old enough to have completed its education in a classical Arabic language and literature before the catastrophe of A.D. 1258, the cultivation of the New Persian language and literature was already relieved of the incubus of the cultural ascendancy of Arabic without being yet impoverished by being cut off from the living sources of Arabic literary inspiration. The period of Mongol domination in Iran and ʿIrāq (currebat A.D. 1258-1337) was an age in which the leading Persian men of letters were still bilingual in the full sense of still being able not merely to read Arabic but also to write in it, as well as in their native Persian tongue; [footnote] and it was also an age which produced incomparably eminent Persian historians, in contrast to both the previous and the subsequent age, in which the brightest stars in the firmament of a New Persian literature were, not historians, but poets. [Footnote.]

[First footnote in last paragraph: This point is made by Browne in op. cit. [Browne, E. G.: A Literary History of Persia [...] (Cambridge 1928, University Press)], vol. iii, pp. 62-65. The historian Rashīd-ad-Dīn (vivebat circa A.D. 1247-1318), for example, made it his practice to arrange for the translation of his Persian works into Arabic and the translation of his Arabic works into Persian. Rashīd-ad-Dīn’s own account of these arrangements of his is quoted verbatim, from man. arabe No. 356, foll. 1 et seqq. in the Bibliothèque Nationale [ci-devant Royale] in Paris, by E. M. Quatremère in his life of Rashīd-ad-Dīn prefixed to his edition of part of Rashīd-ad-Dīn’s Jāmiʿ-al-Tawārīkh (“A Comprehensive Collection of Histories”), Histoire des Mongols de la Perse, vol. i (Paris 1836, Imprimerie Royale), pp. cxxxiv-cxxxvi. A student of History will be reminded of the cultural situation in Italy under an Ostrogoth domination (durabat A.D. 493-535), when the leading Italian men of letters were still conversant with Greek as well as with their native Latin.]

[Second footnote: The pre-Mongol age of New Persian literary history had been made illustrious by Firdawsī (vivebat circa A.D. 932-1020/1) and by Saʿdi (vivebat circa A.D. 1184-1292); the post-Mongol [Timurid] age was to be made illustrious by Hāfiz (obiit A.D. 1389) and by Jāmi (vivebat A.D. 1414-92). [...]]

Saadi was probably born a little later than Toynbee states and was surely not pre-Mongol: “the unsettled conditions following the Mongol invasion of Khwarezm and Iran led him to wander for thirty years abroad through Anatolia, Syria, Egypt and Iraq” (Wikipedia). And if he mentions Saadi, why not his contemporary Rumi, the most famous of all Persian poets in the West, who settled in Anatolia?

Later in the same volume he calls a Time of Troubles “an historian’s golden age”.

The ascendancy of the historians in the intervening Il-Khānī Age is significant; and it is no less significant that the two greatest members of this pleiad – ʿAlā-ad-Dīn ʿAtā Malik-i-Juwaynī (vivebat A.D. 1226-83) and Rashīd-ad-Dīn Fadlallāh Tabīb al-Hamadāni (vivebat circa A.D. 1247-1318) – were also eminent civil servants in the Mongol Il-Khāns’ service, and that two of the lesser lights, Wassāf-i-Hadrat ʿAbdallāh b. Fadlallāh of Shirāz and Hamdallāh Mustawfī of Qazwīn, both of whom were protégés of Rashīd-ad-Dīn’s, were officials of the Il-Khānī Government’s Internal Revenue Department.

The pagan barbarian conquerors of Iran and ʿIrāq, who held out for thirty-seven years (A.D. 1258-95) after their conquest of Baghdad before succumbing to Islam themselves, had found themselves from the outset unable to dispense with the services of their newly acquired Muslim subjects; for the conquerors’ purpose in invading Dār-al-Islām and overthrowing the Caliphate had been to step into the Caliph’s shoes; and the only means by which these interloping barbarians could ensure that, after they had extinguished the Caliphate, the Caliph’s government should be carried on for their benefit was by drawing upon an existing panel of native Persian Muslim professional administrators. The historian ʿAlā-ad-Dīn ʿAtā Malik-i-Juwaynī’s brother, Shams-ad-Dīn Muhammad Juwaynī, managed the administration of Hūlāgū’s appanage for the conqueror and for his first two successors during twenty-one years (A.D. 1263-84) of the Il-Khānī regime as their sāhib-dīwān, and the two brothers were the sons of a mustawfi’l-mamālik (minister of finance) and the grandsons of a prime minister of a by then already fainéant ʿAbbasid Caliphate’s Khwārizmian successor-state in the north-eastern marches of Dār-al-Islām, over against the Eurasian Steppe, on which the Mongol storm had broken in its full fury in A.D. 1220 at the fiat of a world-conquering Chingis.

A discussion of Rashid-al-Din and Juvayni follows.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Treitschke on the Turks

October 7 2014

“A near future will, it is to be hoped, blot out the scandal that such heathendom should ever have established itself on European soil. What has this Turkish Empire done in three entire centuries? It has done nothing but destroy.”

TREITSCHKE.

The same front matter page in the same pamphlet quotes Gladstone.

The title page has

“THE LIBERATION OF THE PEOPLES WHO NOW LIE BENEATH THE MURDEROUS TYRANNY OF THE TURKS”; and “THE EXPULSION FROM EUROPE OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE WHICH HAS PROVED ITSELF SO RADICALLY ALIEN TO WESTERN CIVILIZATION.”

Joint Note of the Allied Governments in answer to President Wilson.

Which the body of the text clarifies thus:

President Wilson, in his note to all the belligerent governments, called upon both parties to state in the full light of day the aims they have set themselves in prosecuting the War. The Allied Nations, in their joint response made public on January 11th, 1917, explain that they find no difficulty in meeting this request, and make good their words by stating a series of definite conditions. Among them are:

The liberation of the peoples who now lie beneath the murderous tyranny of the Turks; and

The expulsion from Europe of the Ottoman Empire, which has proved itself so radically alien to Western Civilisation.”

The plan of the Allies for the settlement of Turkey is thus communicated to the world without reserve, and it is worth examining what it involves, and why it is right.

No source is given for the Treitschke. Treitschke’s main historical work is Deutsche Geschichte im neunzehnten Jahrhundert (up to 1848), Leipzig, Hirzel, five volumes, 1879-94:

Bis zum zweiten Pariser Frieden

Bis zu den Karlsbader Beschlüssen

Bis zur Juli-Revolution

Bis zum Tode König Friedrich Wilhelms III

Bis zur März-Revolution.

The propagandist (old post).

“The Murderous Tyranny of the Turks”, with a Preface by Viscount Bryce, Hodder & Soughton, 1917


Rat pie

October 6 2014

[The writer] could remember [...] how in March 1897, on a visit to some friends of his family’s towards the end of his eighth year, he had broken out into exclamations of dissentient surprise when one of the grown-up people present had begun to expatiate on the goodness, abundance, and variety of the fare on a Transatlantic voyage from which he had just landed. The listening child could not accept a statement that was irreconcilable with what he had heard, time and again, straight from the mouth of his own great-uncle Harry [old post], who was then still alive and who surely must be regarded as a greater authority, considering that he had been, not just a passenger on his own ship, but her captain. The child was never tired of hearing the old man telling how the mouldy taste of ship’s biscuit was welcomely relieved by the sharp taste of a weevil when the eater’s teeth happened to bite through one of the biscuit’s living occupants, and how, when captain and crew from time to time lost patience with their fellow-travellers the rats, they would entertain themselves by organizing a rat hunt which would bring them in tasty rat-pie to supplement for the next few days their dull normal fare of salt beef and plum duff. These, the child knew for certain, were the facts, so this talk of high feeding on board ship could be nothing but a mendaciously spun traveller’s yarn; and it was a revelation to him when the present traveller, just ashore from one of the Cunard or White Star liners of the day, explained good-humouredly, to the child who had been calling his veracity in question, that there had been a good deal of change in the conditions of sea-travel during the thirty-one years that had gone by since Captain Henry Toynbee’s retirement from the sea in A.D. 1866. Thanks to this convincing explanation of the discrepancy which had startled the child’s mind, it dawned upon it for the first time that human affairs were on the move, and that this movement might run so fast as to produce sensational changes within the span of a single lifetime.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Confrontations in Hong Kong

October 5 2014

1925-26 Canton-Hong Kong strike

1941:

1949:

1956 riots

1966 riots

1967 riots

1981 riots

1997- July 1 marches

2003 protests against Basic Law article 23

2005 protest for democracy

2009-10 Hong Kong Express Rail Link controversy

2011 Free Ai Weiwei street art campaign

2011-12 Occupy Central

Early 2012 protests

2013 dock strike

2014 class boycott

2014 Occupy Central

Occupy Central with Love and Peace (anti-Beijing)

Silent Majority for Hong Kong (pro-Beijing)

Alliance for Peace and Democracy (pro-Beijing)

___

Tiananmen Square memorials

Goddess of Democracy replicas

Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary protests:

1999

2009

2010

2013

2014

I was in Hong Kong straight after Tiananmen Square. The city was in a state of shock and almost empty. The most unsettling moment for Hong Kong after that was probably the SARS crisis of early 2003.

___

Old posts:

Hong Kong 1949

Confrontations in Singapore.


Three monsters

October 5 2014

Qunfuz. Yassin al-Haj Saleh: “Three monsters are treading on Syria’s exhausted body.”

And here.


Eisenstein filmography

October 4 2014

1923 Дневник Глумова (Glumov’s Diary) (short)

1925 Стачка (Strike), set in 1903

1925 Броненосец Потемкин (The Battleship Potemkin)

1927 Октябрь «Десять дней, которые потрясли мир» (October: Ten Days That Shook the World)

1929 Старое и новое «Генеральная линия» (The General Line, or Old And New)

1930 Romance sentimentale (France, with Grigori Aleksandrov)

1932 Да здравствует Мексика! (¡Que viva México!, released in 1979)

1937 Бежин луг (Bezhin Meadow)

1938 Александр Невский (Alexander Nevsky), score by Prokofiev

1944 Иван Грозный 1-я серия (Ivan The Terrible, Part I), score by Prokofiev

1945 Иван Грозный 2-я серия (Ivan The Terrible, Part II), score by Prokofiev

Not complete.


1905

October 4 2014

Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, made in 1925, is about a mutiny that occurred during the 1905 revolution.

Fiftieth anniversary edition with a Shostakovich soundtrack, mainly the fifth symphony (which opens and closes the film), but there are also passages from 4, 8, 10 and 11 (analysis here):

In hi res here with a different soundtrack (not sure by whom, but here is information on all its soundtracks).

Shostakovich’s eleventh symphony, The Year 1905, was premiered October 30 1957, close to the fortieth anniversary of the October revolution, by the USSR Symphony Orchestra under Natan Rakhlin.

Adagio (The Palace Square)Allegro (The 9th of January) (Julian calendar), Adagio (Eternal Memory)Allegro non troppo (Tocsin).

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Royal Albert Hall, August 16 2005:

1905 (other post).


Октябрь

October 3 2014

Eisenstein’s October: Ten Days That Shook the World, made in 1927, with the soundtrack composed by Shostakovich in 1966 for the fiftieth anniversary of the revolution:

Shostakovich made a tone poem, October, from the soundtrack in 1967; Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Järvi:

Shostakovich’s second symphony, To October, was produced for the tenth anniversary of the revolution, like Eisenstein’s film. Shostakovich described the second of its four sections in a letter to Boleslav Yavorsky as the “death of a child” killed on the Nevsky Prospekt. It has a choral finale by Alexander Bezymensky praising Lenin and the revolution. London Philharmonic, Bernard Haitink:

Shostakovich’s purely orchestral twelfth symphony, composed in 1961 and not one of his best, is called The Year 1917, but doesn’t seem to cover both revolutions.

The first movement describes revolutionary Petrograd, the second Lenin’s headquarters at Razliv outside the city. The third movement is called Aurora, after the battleship that fired at the Winter Palace. The last, The Dawn of Humanity, describes Soviet life under the guidance of Lenin.

This is the premiere, October 1 1961 (YouTube says 1960), Leningrad Philharmonic, Yevgeny Mravinsky:

The Julian or Old Style October 25 1917, the date of the armed insurrection in Petrograd, corresponds to November 7 in the Gregorian or New Style calendar. On January 24 1918 the Council of People’s Commissars decreed that Wednesday January 31 was to be followed by Thursday February 14.

The rather moving last October revolution parade on November 7 1990, two days before the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall; the USSR was dissolved on December 26 1991; there had been no parade that year, the year of the attempted coup (the vodka coup):

On June 12 1991, before the attempted coup, Yeltsin was elected by popular vote to the newly-created post of President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, one of the fifteen constituent republics of the USSR. He had previously been Chairman of the Presidium of its Supreme Soviet.

On the resignation of Gorbachev and the dissolution of the USSR, Yeltsin remained in office as the President of the Russian Federation, one of the USSR’s successor states. Putin succeeded him in 2000.


English composers and women

October 2 2014

Twentieth-century English composers were to an above-average degree interested in, or inspired or motivated in their work by, women.

Think Bax, Delius, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Walton.


Still lifes

October 1 2014

Would anyone go to a blockbuster still life exhibition? I would, even if by the end I longed to escape and hungered for a landscape or figure. It’s hard to find a book on still life, but it might be soothing to indulge oneself in something so limited. Still life, or it could equally be Roman Britain, the history of Australia, French tapestries or the Palliser novels.

Small differences would become important. And there’s a lost language of allegory and symbols to learn.

And seventeenth-century lemons, pomegranates, loaves and fish have more DNA, more layers of reality, than their etiolated supermarket descendants.

We rarely see a butcher (or butchery, as they call them in Africa), never mind abattoir. In the middle east, even urban families are about to start slaughtering animals in their own bathrooms for Eid al-Adha.

Joachim Beuckelaer, Kitchen scene with Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary

Joachim Beuckelaer (1533-75), Kitchen Scene with Jesus in the House of Martha and Mary (1566)

Jacopo da Empoli, Still Life

Jacopo da Empoli (1551-1640), Still Life (c 1625)

Luis Meléndez, Still Life with Apples, Grapes, Melons, Bread, Jug and Bottle

Luis Meléndez (1716-80), Still Life with Apples, Grapes, Melons, Bread, Jug and Bottle

Odilon Redon, Flowers

Odilon Redon (1840-1916), Flowers (1903)

George Clausen, Michaelmas Daisies and Cornflowers in a Jug

George Clausen (1852-1944), Michaelmas Daisies and Cornflowers in a Jug (1940), exuberant piece painted at the age of 88

The Chinese Pot (still life by Clausen, old post).


The abomination of desolation

September 30 2014

An Englishman of the generation that has lived through the General War of 1914-18 may remind himself [...] of an incident which struck him, at the time, as painfully symbolic. As the War, in its ever-increasing intensity, made wider and wider demands upon the lives of the belligerent nations – like some great river that has burst its bounds in flood and is engulfing field after field and sweeping away village after village – a moment came in England when the offices of the Board of Education [1899-1944] in Whitehall were commandeered for the use of a new department of the War Office [1684-1964] which had been improvised in order to make an intensive study of trench warfare. The ejected Board of Education found asylum in the Victoria and Albert Museum, where it survived on sufferance as though it had been some curious relic of a vanished past. And thus, for several years before the Armistice of the 11th November, 1918, an education for slaughter was being promoted, in the heart of our Western World, within the walls of a public building which had been erected in order to assist in promoting an education for life. As the writer of this Study was walking down Whitehall one day in the spring of that year 1918, he found himself repeating a passage from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew:

“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) … then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the World to this time … And, except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved …” [Footnote: Matt. xxiv. 15 and 21-2.]

No reader can fail to understand that when the Ministry of Education of a great Western country is given over to the study of the art of war, the improvement in our Western military technique which is purchased at such a price is synonymous with the destruction of our Western Civilization.

The War Office building was completed in 1906. In 1964, the Admiralty, War Office, Air Ministry, Ministry of Aviation (not the same) and the earlier MOD were merged into the Ministry of Defence, which retained it, though not as its main headquarters. In 2013 it was decided to sell it on the open market. So first war expelled education (presumably from another building: which?), and now business is taking over from war.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934


Order of professions

September 30 2014

Top three: teacher, architect, doctor.


Antitypes of cosmic dawns

September 29 2014

The joy of dawn is the emotional charge in some of the most famous scenes in Western history – the Latin Christian warriors’ shout of “Deus le volt” in response to Pope Urban II’s preaching of the First Crusade, the ministry of Saint Francis of Assisi seen through Giotto’s and through Saint Thomas of Celano’s eyes, the landfalls of the Pinta [footnote: Though the first member of Columbus’s first expedition to sight land was a sailor on board the Pinta, this vessel’s name had not won equal renown with the Santa Maria, which was the Admiral’s flagship.] and the Mayflower, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the taking of the Tennis Court Oath – and the poetry in some, at least, of these historic events has been uttered in lines that speak more eloquently than volumes. The poetry in the American Revolutionary War has been distilled by Emerson into one quatrain:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the World.

[Footnote: Emerson: Concord Hymn, stanza 1.]

The poetry in the French Revolution has been distilled by Wordsworth into two lines:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven.

[Footnote: Wordsworth: The Prelude, Book XI, ll. 108-9, incorporating The French Revolution as it appeared to Enthusiasts at its Commencement.]

It is no wonder that, in these rejoicings at a dawn, the historians should have had to let the poets be their spokesmen; for the joy awakened by the dawn of a new era of History is the Soul’s response to an epiphany that is something more than a merely temporal event. The dawns that awaken such joy as this are irruptions into Time out of Eternity. What has happened on these historic occasions likewise happens at the birth of every child:

“A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but, as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the World.”

[Footnote: John xvi. 21.]

In a mother’s joy the Soul hails an incarnation; and, since “alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis”, [footnote: Goethe: Faust, ll. 12104-5.] the dawns of mundane eras that have this poetry in them are antitypes of cosmic dawns in which a Divine Light breaks into This World. A radiance which shines in upon us through Botticelli’s picture, in the National Gallery in London, of the birth in the stable at Bethlehem is likewise manifest in the enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, in the descent of the Dove at the baptism in Jordan, in the transfiguration on the mountain, in the vision on the road to Damascus, and in the imprinting of the stigmata in the wilderness; and, as Milton’s voice strikes up in a Franciscan ode on the morning of Christ’s nativity, Gibbon’s voice dies away.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Revelation

September 28 2014

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken,
Or like stout Cortez when, with eagle eyes,
He stared at the Pacific, and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise,
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Keats, of course. From On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer. A Petrarchan sonnet written in iambic pentameters.

The planet was Uranus, identified by Hershel in 1781, the year of the Iron Bridge, before Keats was born, and the first to be added to the list since antiquity. It is visible to the naked eye, but had been thought to be a star.

The discovery of four moons of Jupiter by Galileo, and of five of Saturn, one by Huygens, four by Cassini, preceded Hershel’s discovery. Jupiter’s Ganymede and Callisto may just be visible with the naked eye.

Herschel went on, after a few years, to discover two Uranian moons, followed by two more of Saturn.

The first four asteroids were discovered during Keats’s boyhood. Three of them are at the extreme margin of visibility with the naked eye. The first was observed on the first day of the nineteenth century.

The first Europeans to see the east coast of the Pacific were members of Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s expedition. Wikipedia: “Keats had been reading William Robertson’s History of America and [...] conflated two scenes there described: Balboa’s finding of the Pacific [1513] and Cortés’s first view of the Valley of Mexico [1519]. The Balboa passage: ‘At length the Indians assured them, that from the top of the next mountain they should discover the ocean which was the object of their wishes. When, with infinite toil, they had climbed up the greater part of the steep ascent, Balboa commanded his men to halt, and advanced alone to the summit, that he might be the first who should enjoy a spectacle which he had so long desired. As soon as he beheld the South Sea [Mar del Sur] stretching in endless prospect below him, he fell on his knees, and lifting up his hands to Heaven, returned thanks to God, who had conducted him to a discovery so beneficial to his country, and so honourable to himself. His followers, observing his transports of joy, rushed forward to join in his wonder, exultation, and gratitude’ (Vol. III).”

Wikipedia:

“Keats’ generation was familiar enough with the polished literary translations of John Dryden and Alexander Pope, which gave Homer an urbane gloss similar to Virgil, but expressed in blank verse or heroic couplets. Chapman’s vigorous and earthy paraphrase (1616) was put before Keats by Charles Cowden Clarke, a friend from his days as a pupil at a boarding school in Enfield Town. They sat up together till daylight to read it: ‘Keats shouting with delight as some passage of especial energy struck his imagination. At ten o’clock the next morning, Mr. Clarke found the sonnet on his breakfast-table.’” No source given for the quotation.

The earlier lines:

“Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:”

Landscapes (old post).

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Insatiability

September 27 2014

[The] Faustian insatiability of inquiring Western minds [...]. The impetus of a curiosity that had pressed on from an exploration of a physical ocean in the fifteenth century of the Christian Era to the sounding of the psychic abyss of the Subconscious in the twentieth century [...].

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


The good things about Gregory

September 26 2014

Gibbon’s treatment of Gregory the Great is a monument of the historian’s virtuosity in the unamiable art of bestowing praise in terms that are more devastating than a candid censure:

“The pontificate of Gregory the Great … is one of the most edifying periods of the history of the Church. His virtues, and even his faults, a singular mixture of simplicity and cunning, of pride and humility, of sense and superstition, were happily suited to his station and to the temper of the times. …

“Experience had shown him the efficacy of these pompous rites … and he readily forgave their tendency to promote the reign of priesthood and superstition. …

“The most abject ideas must be entertained of their [the sixth-century Italians’] [bracket in original] taste and learning, since the epistles of Gregory, his sermons, and his dialogues are the work of a man who was second in erudition to none of his contemporaries.”

These are three fair samples of the laudatory arrows with which Gibbon has nailed his mighty victim to his sarcastic page in the forty-fifth chapter of his work.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954 (footnote)