The Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (NAZ) responded to the statements uttered in the Duma, the Russian Assembly under the Czar, that the “enemy armies had destroyed and occupied Belgium, Serbia, Montenegro, and parts of France, Russia and Romania.” If Nikolai Pokrovsky, who held the title of Minister of Foreign Affairs, had simply used the word “occupied,” there would be no reason to dwell on his remarks, but he did not limit himself to the word “occupied” because therein lies recognition of our tremendous military achievements. Thus, he added the word “destruction” to his statement. This description must certainly be refuted.
Neither in Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro, nor in France, Russia, or Romania, have we “destroyed” the country in the sense of a purposeless and aimless pillaging.
Belgium today, apart from the few villages that have been destroyed through military operations, and naturally apart from the actual battlefield, is a thriving country. The agricultural economy is thriving just like in peacetime; it is actually due to the insistence of the German administration that every piece of arable land is cultivated. As a result, there is now more arable land under cultivation than in peacetime. Houses are only destroyed in those areas where fighting rages on or actual shelling must have taken place. For example, one case is that of Leuven, a Belgian city where small German contingent groups in the middle of enemy territory defended themselves against an insidious raid by the civilian population. Everything else that was destroyed in the Belgian areas of Mechelen, Antwerp, and Namur and the French areas of Lille and Maubeuge was a result of artillery and street fights; therefore, it cannot be interpreted as “devastation” as Pokrovsky describes it. In contrast, the “devastation” and ransaking of numerous houses, such as in Leuven and neighboring villages, is not attributed to the German soldiers, but rather to the Belgian population itself. This happened there during the last days of fighting and before the intervention of the German administration, events very similar to those happening now in Romania. As was the case in Romania, the Belgian population “destroyed” and ransacked the abandoned castles, houses, and villages before the German troops invaded. They did this expecting that the German soldiers would be blamed for it. Both in Belgium and in occupied French territory, the German administration has ensured that fields continued to be cultivated, factories continued to run in the cities, and the coal mines continued to produce fuel.
In Montenegro and Serbia, the Austria-Hungarian administration endeavored to rebuild the badly war-stricken land. We have “destroyed” the land there no more than in Romania where, after our army was expelled, this business was directed by the militia or the inhabitants.
Finally, it will be difficult for Pokrovsky to prove what we supposedly “destroyed” in the Russian territories of Poland, Lithuania, and Courlan. On the contrary, all of the villages there, which insofar still lie in ruins today, were destroyed by the Russians themselves. Systematically, the Russians burnt down one village after the next. The seeds in the fields were wiped out, and the machinery in factories were rendered unusable or hauled away. This is how the Germans discovered the country, and they had to start from the ground up to do what was necessary for the prosperity of the land. We restored the land and eliminated the damages to the best of our ability, but there was nothing that we “destroyed.”
This is what the land that was allegedly “destroyed” by the Germans looks like. We have admittedly conquered and occupied the territories with the help of our allies, and this came after difficult battles of which we are proud. Naturally, Pokrovsky cannot conceal the actuality of the conquest. He attempts to obfuscate the achievements of a heroically-waged battle through false allegations, but to no avail. Even he will not be able to prevent the truth from coming to light, despite all slander.
Contributors: John C., Monona M., Calli R., Preston S.