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February 20, 2022

Louvain/Leuven - Aftermath Photos of German Reprisal in 1914

Early in the war, the Germans marched through Belgium, violating its neutrality, in an attempt to take France. Although Leuven was in German hands, the occupation was light. However, on August 20, the hastily-mobilized Belgian army tried to capture Leuven. German army units posted outside town were taken by surprised and fled back to Leuven. Germans in the city mistook their comrades for attacking Belgians and killed a few of them.

The Belgians could not sustain the assault and, once the Germans realized there was no serious attack and that they had let themselves be panicked, took their revenge on the people of Leuven. The occupiers went on a rampage between the 25th and 30th of August, setting fire to various buildings, totally destroying the 500-year-old Catholic University library and burning the roof of Saint Peter’s Church. They also destroyed the city theater. Over 200 townspeople were killed, many rounded up as “franc-tiereurs” (snipers, i.e., terrorists) and shot. All but a few were innocent, many unlucky enough to be caught with hunting rifles in their houses.

This was considered the first war crime of WWI. These photos from Carl Guderian were taken by an unknown photographer that show street scenes of Louvain/Leuven after the Germans torched it in 1914.

City Hall and St-Pieterskerk from Naamsestraat, Leuven, August 1914

Big funeral on Naamsestraat, Leuven, August 1914

Block of houses between Naamsestraat and Kortestraat completely destroyed. City Hall is on the left, Leuven, August 1914

City Hall and St-Pieterskerk from Grote Markt side street, Leuven, August 1914

City Hall and St-Pieterskerk from Naamsestraat, Leuven, August 1914

City Hall and university library ruins. City Hall on left, Grote Markt on right, Leuven, August 1914

City Hall from Grote Markt with library rubble in the foreground, Leuven, August 1914

City Hall guarded by Germans, Leuven, August 1914

City Hall view of more destruction, Leuven, August 1914

City Hall view of more destruction, Leuven, August 1914

City Hall view of more destruction, Leuven, August 1914

City Hall view of rubble, Leuven, August 1914

City Hall view toward St-Jozefskerk, Leuven, August 1914

Destruction along Arendstraat to St-Jozefskerk, Leuven, August 1914

Library interior arches, Leuven, August 1914

Library shell, Leuven, August 1914

Library wing before the bombing, Leuven, August 1914

Library wing gutted, Leuven, August 1914

Moonlight tower in background, Leuven, August 1914

Naamsestraat rubble closer to City Hall and St-Pieterskerk, Leuven, August 1914

National Bank (Tafelrond quondam et futuris) gutted, Leuven, August 1914

Oude Markt from Stadhuis, Leuven, August 1914

Rubble behind City Hall, Leuven, August 1914

Rubble behind St-Pieterskerk, Leuven, August 1914

Rubble between City Hall and St-Pieterskerk, Leuven, August 1914

Rubble near twin towers and velocipede shop, Leuven, August 1914

Rubble with twin towers and velocipede shop, Leuven, August 1914

Shrapnel-pocked building interior, Leuven, August 1914

Shrapnel-pocked building interior, Leuven, August 1914

St-Pieterskerk before arson, Leuven, August 1914

St-Pieterskerk bombed corner with holy family, Leuven, August 1914

St-Pieterskerk from Groote Markt with rubble in foreground, Leuven, August 1914

St-Pieterskerk shattered bell, Leuven, August 1914

Theatre ruins, Leuven, August 1914

Theatre ruins, man in basement, Leuven, August 1914




1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this sad yet important piece of history with us, these photos are incredible.

    ReplyDelete



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