A Belgian Lawyer's Appeal
One of the great lawyers of Belgium in behalf of the members of the bar
of Brussels, LiÃ©ge, Ghent, Charleroi, Mons, Louvain, and Antwerp,
appeared twice before the German Court of Justice at Brussels and
appealed for more just treatment of the Belgian people. In his first
appeal, he protested against the illegal manner in which the Belgians
were accused of crime, tried, and convicted at the pleasure of German
ls. He concluded with the following eloquent words:
I can understand martial law for armies in the field. It is the
immediate reply to an aggression against the troops, the quick
justice of the commander of the army responsible for his
soldiers. But our armies are far away; we are no longer in the
zone of military operations. Nothing here threatens your troops,
the inhabitants are calm.
The people have taken up work again. You have bidden them do it.
Each one attends to his business--magistrates, judges, officials
of the provinces and cities, the clergy, all are at their posts,
united in one outburst of national interest and brotherhood.
However, this does not mean that they have forgotten. The
Belgian people lived happily in their corner of the earth,
confident in their dream of independence. They saw this dream
dispelled; they saw their country ruined and devastated; its
ancient hospitable soil has been sown with thousands of tombs
where our own sleep; the war has made tears flow which no hand
can dry. No, the murdered soul of Belgium will never forget.
His second appeal will be spoken by school children in Belgium, and
perhaps in America, when the names of the German judges to whom he
spoke are forgotten even in Germany.
We are not annexed. We are not conquered. We are not even
vanquished. Our army is fighting. Our colors float alongside
those of France, England, and Russia. The country subsists. She
is simply unfortunate. More than ever, then, we now owe
ourselves to her, body and soul. To defend her rights is also to
fight for her.
We are living hours now as tragic as any country has ever known.
All is destruction and ruin around us. Everywhere we see
mourning. Our army has lost half of its effective forces. Its
percentage in dead and wounded will never be reached by any of
the belligerents. There remains to us only a corner of ground
over there by the sea. The waters of the Yser flow through an
immense plain peopled by the dead. It is called the Belgian
Cemetery. There sleep our children by the thousands. There they
are sleeping their last sleep. The struggle goes on bitterly and
Your sons, Mr. President, are at the front; mine as well. For
months we have been living in anxiety regarding the morrow.
Why these sacrifices, why this sorrow? Belgium could have
avoided these disasters, saved her existence, her treasures, and
the lives of her children, but she preferred her honor.