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Other cities. The opposition of the operators and the workmen to my efforts to settle the question of work and to effect the well-being of the population is not justified by the Convention of The Hague. The operators should recognize my efforts to induce the workmen to earn a regular salary see my Decree August 16 and had better demand the protection of the military power to force the recalcitrant men to work.
You may not refer the matter to the Convention of The Hague, for even if the macadam was not used exclusively for the needs of the occupied country, as for instance for the repair of important military roads, or, as an exception, once for the need of the army, this is no reason for refusing to produce it.
For as these products do not serve primarily for military undertakings of war, the workmen do not take part in operations of war against their country. Therefore, I have no guarantee to give that the product of the Lessines Quarries shall not have a military application and I must reject this requirement, which is that the authorities should be subject to control as concerns the use of this macadam.
The application of my Decree of 18th August to the refusal to work at Lessines has received my approval, and the penalties imposed are just because they are not counter to Article 52 of the Hague Convention and the culprits were warned of the penalties they incurred in refusing to work. The extent of the penalty is also justified by reason of the stubborn opposition of the offenders.
You will recollect that Lord Crewe's letter of July 7th, laying down the conditions governing the work of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, contained the following remark:. In reply to this, Baron von der Lancken stated in his letter to Mr. On August 14th and 15th the Governor General of Belgium issued two decrees which were published in the Gesetz und Verordnungsblatt at Brussels on August 22nd. These decrees impose severe punishments on workmen who refuse to give their labour to "works of public interest" or who, being in receipt of either public or private relief, refuse to accept work offered to them.
Similar penalties are imposed on persons, "communes, associations, or other groups" who, "by the distribution of relief or by other means," "favour" such refusal to work. The decree of August 14th is to be enforced by the military tribunals. The decree of August 15th imposes automatically imprisonment for a fortnight to six months on all who, having refused work, become a charge on either public or private relief.
Both these decrees contain a clause exempting from their operation those cases where refusal to work is based on considerations admitted by international law, and I am well aware that the German authorities will claim that this exemption is a sufficient fulfilment of their promise quoted above. Unfortunately, the German authorities cannot expect, in view of their known actions in such matters, that any reliance should be placed on the interpretation to be given to such vague phrases by their military tribunals.
The report recently published by the Belgian Commission of Inquiry 9th Report, August 6th on the methods of coercion applied by the German authorities to the railway workmen at Luttre has revealed the German policy in such matters, and it is alleged on good evidence that, in order to give effect to that policy, the relief committees, communal soup-kitchens, etc. It is, however, unnecessary to rely on such allegations, since, by the decree of August 15th itself, the mere grant of relief to a workman renders that workman liable to imprisonment on the ground that he has in the past refused employment.
It is unnecessary to recapitulate the account given in the report above-mentioned, or to dwell on the measures of deliberate starvation, imprisonment, deportation, and torture to which these workmen have been subjected. This, it must be assumed, is the "law of nations" which is referred to in these German decrees and to which the relief committees are to be subjected, and this is the interpretation to be placed on the "Hague Conventions" and on the phrase "the service of the German Army" in Baron von der Lancken's letter.
If any Belgian workman, knowing the wide extent of the needs of the German army and the manner in which every industry in Germany is already devoted to the task of supplying it, should refuse to work in industries indirectly essential to the maintenance of that army, relief is to be denied to him and starvation and imprisonment await him. I feel that, were this correspondence to be publishedand it will I fear, soon be my duty to ask Your Excellency's consent to its publication if present conditions continue--the people of this country would draw from it the conclusion that no further assistance should be given on their behalf by His Majesty's Government to a relief organisation whose activities are in danger of being so controlled by the enemy.
I sincerely regret to be obliged to trouble Your Excellency further in this matter in view of the efforts already made by Mr. Whitlock to put the whole organisation on a sound basis, but you will, I hope, understand the necessity for a clear understanding on such important matters. In conclusion I must again call attention to what I said in my letter of July 17, that this work could not be based on the strict belligerent rights of either Government.
Your Excellency knows that the Commission is enabled to exist solely by the assistance given to it by His Majesty's Government, and His Majesty's Government having so far gone beyond their duties and renounced their rights, they cannot tolerate that they should be met in this matter by an assertion of rights on the part of those who have renounced their duties. I have sent an identic letter to the Spanish Ambassador, and have furnished the Netherlands Minister with a copy at his request. During the winter of the Germans increased their pressure on Belgian workers, particularly on employees of the railways and railway shops.
The idea of deporting Belgians for work in German factories appears to have been first broached at an economic congress of German industrialists and functionaries held at Brussels in June The plan was not put into effect on a large scale until a year later. Letter, C. Regarding the question of attempts by the military occupants to force Belgian workmen to do repair and construction of a military or semi-military nature on the railroads, I have been made acquainted with the details of one case and the general features of two others in this province.
The case to which I should first refer is that at Rochefort in this province. Upon the occasion of a visit there yesterday, I was informed by three of the persons concerned of the facts in the matter. It appears that the three with whom I spokeJosef Francau, Eugene Paquet, and Emil Delhaize had, up to the 7th of February and for four months past enjoyed a chomeur's remittance from the local committees of Secours, of 1. On the 7th of February a summons to these three and to eleven other able-bodied men of Rochefort most of whom were in the like position of chomeur came from the office of the German Kommandantur, commanding the men to present themselves at Jemelle, a village two kilometers away, where railroad repair and construction shops are situated.
Following this demand, the fourteen presented themselves the same day at Jemelle, at these shops as requested. When all had gathered there at A. Further, it seems that certain specific positions, among them locomotive engineer, chief workman, and inspector of material, were offered to individuals who were interrogated and considered by the military to have the necessary qualifications. In any event, the men at that time and later seemed to agree substantially that the work demanded was either directly military as making over cars for the carriage of soldiers and specific munitions or indirectly so as being connected in general with the main purpose of the Germans' use of Belgian railroads.
This request to sign a contract to work and the offer of payment was made in the morning shortly after eight, and was immediately refused by each of the fourteen. Upon such refusal, they were detained at Jemelle until P. There they were individually interrogated, stripped, and searched; and upon another refusal given at the end of this process, at A. February 8th, they were taken off to Dinant, which they reached at A.
In Namur they were first put into prison without examination or interrogatory, and kept there thenceforward on a diet they tell me of bread and water. Finally on February 25 their formal examination and trial was held, at which they were condemned to a month's imprisonment dating from February 8th.
On March 10 they were liberated. Meanwhile, according to our Secours Central Bureau in Namur, the military commanded that the payment of chomage to such of these men as were chomeurs like Francau, Paquet, Delhaize cease. This order was complied with. The first three men with whom I talked are now working in private employ. None of the others has accepted the contract to work for the military, and they are engaged in various occupationssome again enjoying chomage.
It is to be inferred that the Germans raised no objection to paying chomage to these men after their month of prison. A second case, which resulted otherwise, took place about the same time at Jemelle. Nineteen men of that place, after offer made, signed the contract.
But after such signature, they regretted their action and refused to workwhereupon they were, in the same manner, put into prison. The men at Rochefort said yesterday that after six weeks of prison they accepted the contract again, and are now working at Jemelle. The delicacy of entering the German railroad shop at Jemelle and talking to their employees deterred me from making yesterday a more exhaustive investigation, but I expect to have the full facts from a reliable source on Friday, the 31st, and shall immediately advise you.
The third case took place at Namur itself. Twenty-three workmen, most of whom were railroad employees before the war, were approached by the military on or about the 1st of March and asked to work at repairing locomotives and rail-wagons. They refused. The case has been assigned meanwhile for military trial, the sitting to be held Thursday, March 30, Further, the Namur agents of police, acting under orders of the military authorities, are now making visits to the houses of former railroad workmen, demanding of them to take up such work again, and noting any reasons given for refusal.
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I have just had a statement from one of our C. The Deportation of Belgians, October September During the summer of a steadily increasing number of Belgians were forced to accept German employment in Belgium or in Germany. At first there was no technical violation of relief guarantees, but Hoover and the C.
Civil officials and even the Governor-General recognized the soundness of these arguments, and disapproved the policy, but affairs in Germany had reached the stage where the opinions of civil officials carried but little weight. Recognition, at the Great Headquarters to which von Hindenburg and Ludendorff came at the end of August of the inferiority in man power of the Central powers led to drastic action. Strong opposition immediately gathered against this proposal.
Why, it was asked, should such drastic measures be used in Germany until the manpower resources of the conquered territories had been utilized? Great Headquarters had not overlooked the man power of Belgium and Poland and it was determined to make use of it. Belgian deportations, it was clear, would serve the double purpose of releasing more Germans for military service and of meeting one form of political opposition to an extension of German conscription.
The Governor-General acquiesced and wholesale deportations followed. To Cardinal Mercier's moving protest, von Bissing replied that the deportations were an attempt to save Belgian workers from demoralization by unemployment which was caused by the British blockade. The outcry which followed in neutral and Allied countries and even in Germany was to Ludendorff merely an exhibition of a "very childish judgment on the war.
The German determination to push on with the deportations on a large scale and regardless of consequences left the C. Hoover chose the second alternative and the Allied Governments, recognizing the compelling reasons for this decision, did not carry out the threat implied in the correspondence of the British Foreign Office to cut off their support of relief activities.
You will recollect the communications which I felt obliged to address to you on various occasions regarding the question of forced labour in Belgium. I want to draw your attention to Lord Robert Cecil's recent answer in the House of Commons to a question as to the distribution of foodstuffs in Belgium in connexion with the German labour policy.
Lord Robert laid down in that answer that the Commission worked on the following principles:. The Commission supplies nothing, except bread, to any Belgian who earns enough to feed himself from native supplies. Any workman working for the Germans under coercion must be maintained by the Germans entirely, without any assistance whatever from the Commission. As you know, the Press at the present moment is full of the accounts of the coercion of Belgian workmen and their deportation to the place where the Germans wish them to work.
There are two points in connexion with this that you should bear in mind. First, if deportations take place, it does not matter whether they take place to Germany or to other parts of the occupied territory, since under the third rule set out above you will have no further responsibility for them. If, therefore, deportations take place on any large scale under any general decree of the Governor-General, it will become necessary to consider whether your importations should be proportionately reduced, and as it will be impossible for us here to judge accurately the extent to which any such decrees are being enforced at any given moment, or will be enforced by the time that any one of your shipments reach the ultimate consumer in Belgium, it will become necessary for us, in order to meet the pressure of public opinion here, to make a rough general reduction in your ration probably out of all proportion to the actual number of workmen coerced.
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Secondly, to judge from the Press reportsand indeed from the necessities of the situationall coercion of labor in Belgium is bound to be based upon the criterion that men who fall under your relief owing to unemployment are liable to be coerced. Now, all relief, whether in kind or in cash, given in Belgium arises from your importations and is made on your responsibility. Therefore, this criterion amounts to a statement that a workman renders himself liable to enslavement by the mere fact of accepting relief from you.
This is clearly equivalent to the use of your relief as a means of coercing workmen against their conscience, and therefore constitutes a clear and deliberate violation of the German guarantees. You should be guided by these considerations in dealing with this very serious and dangerous question. Among the undertakings given by His Excellency the Governor General to the Protecting Ministers is one which provides that the German authorities will not make use of the institutions of the relief work for the purpose of compelling the Belgian population to work for the service of the German Army.
Until recently this undertaking has been rigorously lived up to, both as to the wording of the undertaking, and, which is no less important, as to its intention. Recent happenings , however, give grave cause to fear that measures are under way of execution which are in open contradiction to the intention and even to the wording of the undertaking.
It is common knowledge that demands are being made upon unemployed, and even employed men, to work for the German army. The most conspicuous examples of these measures now under way of enforcement are in the Belgian Etappen, but there are in addition specific cases in the territory of the General Government, for example, in the province of Luxembourg and in the region of Tournai in the province of Hainaut. It is, of course, true that the region of Tournai has been, for purpose of military control, recently transferred from the territory of the General Government to that of the French Etappen, but for the purpose of ravitaillement this region is still attached to the General Government and is still provisioned under the general regulations and guarantees established for the territory of the General Government.
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Further orders prevent the men thus thrown out of employment from being employed by private persons. These men are then invited by the German military authorities to work for them. This is a condition which, if not directly, at least indirectly, produces an infraction of the intention of the undertaking with regard to the forcing of labor. Indeed, in connection with the situation in the Luxembourg there have been numerous incidents which contravene the wording of the undertaking.
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In Tournai the situation is even more serious. Direct demands have been made upon large numbers of men to take up work for the military authorities. On the refusal of these demands the men have been interned in camps, practically as prisoners, and put upon a ration of bread and water.
The ration of bread has been fixed by the military authorities at grams per person per day, and it has been ordered that the relief organizations furnish this bread but may not furnish any other part of the regular ration bacon, lard, rice, peas and beans, etc. There have been numerous instances in various parts of Belgium. There have even been arrests and deportations to Germany of the local civil authorities for refusing to give these lists. All together, the incidents and conditions which are apparent today in various parts of Belgium seem to indicate a definite purpose on the part of the military authorities to force parts of the civil population to work in the service of the German Army in contravention of the undertakings given by the Governor-General to the Protecting Ministers.