Rehearsals: The German Army in Belgium, August 1914
Reply to a review in AHR (40.5KB)
Rehearsals is the first book to provide a detailed narrative history of the German invasion of Belgium in August 1914 as it affected civilians. Based on extensive eyewitness testimony, the book chronicles events in and around the towns of Liège, Aarschot, Andenne, Tamines, Dinant, and Leuven, where the worst of the German depredations occurred. Without any legitimate pretext, German soldiers killed nearly 6,000 non-combatants, including women and children (the equivalent of about 230,000 Americans today), and burned some 25,000 homes and other buildings.
Down to the present, accounts of the killing, looting, and arson have been dismissed as "atrocity propaganda," particularly in the U.K. and U.S. Rehearsals examines the "revisionist" campaign that was able to discredit voluminous and compelling testimony about German war crimes.
Recently, the case has been made that the violence, which crescendoed between August 19th and 26th, was the result of a spontaneous outbreak of German paranoia about francs-tireurs (civilian sharpshooters). Rehearsals offers evidence that the executions were in fact part of a deliberate campaign of terrorism ordered by military authorities.
"Rehearsals tells an important story. It's a credible record of the German army's orchestrated campaign of terror in Belgium in 1914, and Lipkes is right to title it 'Rehearsals,' because the Germans were clearly experimenting with methods they hoped would facilitate modern, massive fast-moving warfare. Their supplies and communications had been interrupted--albeit weakly--by guerrillas in 1870-71. The Germans clearly hoped to terrorize conquered populations into complete submission. Belgium was the rehearsal for campaigns to come, in this war and the next."
Journal of Modern History
"In the first days of the Great War, the Prussian army invading Belgium executed over six thousand civilians, burned entire villages, and culminated this campaign against noncombatants by destroying much of the city of Leuven. The author provides a graphic, detailed account of events that, until recently were often dismissed as atrocity propaganda. His vivid descriptions from the victims' perspective illustrates his position that the German terror of 1914 was a deliberate, top-down policy intended to break a conquered people, and in that sense was a 'rehearsal' for the greater crimes of World War II... Events on the ground were all too likely to follow the pattern Lipkes so eloquently describes."
D. E. Showalter
"Lipkes' study of the horrible events in Belgium in August 1914 offers a wealth of valuable material."
Journal of Military History