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The Great War
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German Army's Advance into Belgium
Wolfgang Mommsen
"The invasion of Belgium was considered an essential element of the German war plan, a very speedy defeat of all resistance in the first days seemed to be imperative.

"The most important thing was to conquer Liege as soon as possible. And then something happened which the Germans hadn't expected, namely, that the Belgians put up active resistance. Not very strong, but strong enough to slow down the march of the German armies considerably so. And, that was considered a disaster because all was dependent on a very speedy advance into France before the British Expeditionary Force might be in place. This created a sort of crisis amongst the German military authorities.

"Normally, I avoid the term atrocities. They [the Germans] committed violent crimes against the civil population which they believed to be reprisals against civilian sniper fire (which, in fact, had not been there) which have been largely, if not totally, imagined by the troops themselves.

"What can be shown is that the troops, soldiers, and to some degrees, the officers, sincerely believed that there had been such actions.

"And that created this kind of hysteria that then led to quite a substantial amount of atrocities against the Belgian population.

"I must admit in some cases, I'm quite irritated to find that they have been that large. They stopped once the French border had been reached. It was a phenomenal first weeks, and it has perhaps to do with the fact that the German armies wanted to get as quickly through Belgium as possible, and therefore, got into this sort of hysteria about these matters.

"I don't think it was a deliberate kind of terrorism, as may have been the case in some cases, especially in front of Liege. They had apparently tried to pressure the civilian population into sort of giving up any resistance, or passive resistance, against Germany. But details are still today controversial."

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