The atrocities mount

Special to The Great War Project

(15 August) Massacres of civilians are spreading on several fronts:

*Austria-Hungary invades Serbia on 12 August. Men rounded up and shot, children killed, women raped.

*Similar reprisals take place as German troops march through Belgium.

*In the mining town of Dinant, just one example, the Germans shoot 612 men women and children, according to historian Martin Gilbert. One of the victims a three-week-old baby in the arms of its mother.

*In the first week of Germany’s advance into Belgium, 850 civilians killed near Liege and 1,300 buildings burned in reprisal.

*Later in the month at Rossignol, the Germans kill 122 civilians after a battle that costs the French 27,000 soldiers killed (more on this in an upcoming entry).

*German reprisals against civilians are approved “at the highest levels,” writes historian Max Hastings.

*Despite real evidence of German atrocities, newspapers in the US and elsewhere publish exaggerated stories of “German beastliness.”

*In Serbia, Austrian forces meet Serb resistance with a ruthless response, according to historian Hastings. “Thousands of Serb civilians, most of them innocent, were summarily shot or hanged,” he writes.

Serbian women executed, unknown date during World War One

Serbian women executed, unknown date World War One

*The Austrians photograph such activities, maintaining this is evidence of Serb atrocities against them.

*Some Serbs are bayoneted by Austrian soldiers and thrown into earthen graves while still alive, according to Hastings. Some even attempt to climb out of the graves. One Austrian officer witnesses these scenes. “Our men behaved like savages,” he writes. “I could not stand the sight and left them to it.”

*3,500 civilians estimated killed in early weeks of the Serbian campaign.

A Serb victory at great cost

As for military action, this date a century ago proved decisive in the murderous little war in Serbia. Serb irregulars surprise Austrian troops on Mount Cer in Serbia. The Serbs lose 3500 soldiers; the Austrians lose many more.

By the time the battle for Mt. Cer is over, the Austrians suffer 28,000 casualties, many of them cavalry cut down in minutes by withering machine-gun fire.




  2 comments for “A WAR OF SAVAGE REPRISAL

  1. David Norton
    August 15, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    It’s amazing to me that scarcely 10 days into the War, the atrocities against civilians had reached such huge proportions. What is happening today in the Middle East is almost mild by comparison.

    • Christopher Daly
      August 15, 2014 at 5:15 PM

      David, and to think that this was part of “the civilized world.” I’ve never understood the concept of photographing such activity… what’s the mindset that believes such images will be looked upon proudly in the coming years?

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