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August 4, 1914 - Invasion of Belgium

A summary by Micheline Gutmann
Translation into English by David Presburger-Hauser and Gaby Laws

In France:

As of August 3, 1914:
President of the Republic: Raymond Poincaré
Prime minister: René Viviani
Foreign Affairs: Gaston Doumergue
Minister of War: Adolphe Messimy
Generalissimo of French Armies: Marshal Joseph Joffre

August 2, 1914: Decisions in England

General mobilization in France
After consulting with the French and German governments about their intentions regarding an invasion of Belgium and the answer from Germany, Sir Edward Grey tells the Commons he intends to proceed with the mobilization already started and declares:

    1 The English fleet guarantees France’s security against the German fleet
    2. England strongly suports the neutrality of Belgium

August 3, 1914: Germany adresses an ultimatum to Belgium then invades

The Minister from Germany, after learning that the French army was approaching the Belgian border, sends an ultimatum to Belgium asking permission to cross its territory to facilitate their operations.
As Belgium refuses, the Germans invade in the night, aided by three airships flying over Brussels.
German ultimatum to France Meanwhile, 100,000 Germans march through Luxembourg in order to gather along the French border.
Declaration of war from Germany to France.

On August 4, 1914, Britain enters the war

Immediate consequence: England which does not accept the violation of Belgian neutrality, declares war This automatically results in most countries of the Commonwealth and colonies of the British Empire entering the war.
King Albert I takes command of the Belgian Army.
Grand Duke Nicolas Nikolayevich appointed Chief of the armed forces of Russia
Italy notifies France of its neutrality


 GenAmi-généalogie juive Affiche belge  GenAmi-généalogie Affiches anglaises  GenAmi-généalogie Affiches anglaises


Belgian poster


English posters


English posters

Tortured civilians, destroyed cities in Belgium

Since July 29, following worrying diplomatic maneuvers deployed in the recent weeks, the military has been put "on a strenghtened peace footing". However, it was poorly equipped and the reorganization plan was to be fully achieved by 1918 only.
Since the German invasion started, troops massacred some 6,500 unarmed Belgians. Many cities were destroyed. As the resistance of the Belgian army served as a protective screen in front of the French, German reprisals raged: expulsion from homes, humans used as shields, executions ...In excess of a million Belgians fleed to France, the Netherlands, or Britain.
Liège with its cordon of 12 forts resisted for 12 days, which allowed the French army time to regroup. The brave Belgian army, with the help of the French in Namur and the British in Mons, stopped the Germans. But they were exhausted. The King ordered retreat to the fort of Antwerp on August 18.

 GenAmi-généalogie juive Affiche belge

Photo Antwerp 1911 (Collection Gutmann)

 GenAmi-généalogie Affiches anglaises

Portrait of King Albert I (Wikipedia)

This is when General Louis Bernheim made a great impression (see historical and genealogical details in GenAmi #25).
But the city fell on October 10 and much of the military retreated barely in time, some destroyed the weapons and ammunition, but many were taken prisoners in the Netherlands. At Dinant, 700 civilians were massacred.
Fighting raged in the region of the Yser from October 17 to 31.
The flooding ot the plain ended the battle by stopping the enemy.
During four years of strength, bravery and suffering, the Begian people held the enemy... (to be continued)

We strongly recommend readers interested to learn more to check : http://www.sambre-marne-yser.be/ This website is organized both with detailed historical information and many images.

The Belgian government finds refuge at Sainte-Adresse

Its representatives were able to operate legally there and with complete authority, according to French authorities.
On October 13, 1914, two vessels sailed from Ostend with government members, their families, administrations, gendarmes and a diplomatic contingent, totaling over 1,000 people. In this Normandy resort, the Belgians had their own post office and telegraph, a car repair shop, a school and even a weapons factory.
King Albert I never came in person to Sainte-Adresse. As he did not want to leave Belgian territory, he stayed in De Panne. The Prime Minister was therefore commuting between Sainte-Adresse and the Belgian coast for the proper management of the country.
Among those arriving on October 13, were Paul Hymans, who would later become Belgian foreign minister, accompanied by his wife Thérèse Goldschmidt, aunt of Marcel, the father of our friend Michel.
Here is what Claude Geudevert has to say about him. We’ll discuss his family soon.

    GenAmi-généalogie juive  Paul Hymans

    Portrait Wikipedia: Hymans Paul

    HYMANS Paul Louis Adrien ° 03.23.1865 Brussels (Ixelles) + 03.08.1941 Nice (06) x 04.14.1898 Thérèse Hélène Goldschmidt ° 04.02.873 Berlin + 03.13.1963 Brussels Liberal politician; Doctor of Law and professor at the university he represented in Brussels from 1900 to 1941; appointed to a Cabinet position in 1906, he held several ministerial posts: Economic Affairs (1917-1918) Foreign Affairs (1918-20, 24-25, 1927-34) justice (1926-1927) and Foreign Affairs/Foreign Trade (1934-1935). He was a member of the Cabinet from 1935 to 1936.

    He developed an important diplomatic and international activity: first Belgian plenipotentiary envoy at the Paris Peace conference in Versailles (1919) he presided over the first meeting of the League of Nations (1920).
    He published books on political and parliamentary History.

    Marcel Goldschmidt, participated in the fighting himself:

 GenAmi-généalogie juive  GenAmi-généalogie


Mobilization booklet and photo of Marcel Goldschmidt horseback riding (Documents Michel Goldschsmidt)


                                    To be continued...