The Rape of Belgium: The Untold Story of World War I

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9780814797044: The Rape of Belgium: The Untold Story of World War I

In August 1914, the German Army invaded the neutral nation of Belgium, violating a treaty that the German chancellor dismissed as a "scrap of paper." The invaders terrorized the Belgians, shooting thousands of civilians and looting and burning scores of towns, including Louvain, which housed the country's preeminent university.

The Rape of Belgium recalls the bloodshed and destruction of the 1914 invasion, and the outrage it inspired abroad. Yet Larry Zuckerman does not stop there, and takes us on a harrowing journey over the next fifty months, vividly documenting Germany's occupation of Belgium. The occupiers plundered the country, looting its rich supply of natural resources; deporting Belgians en masse to Germany and northern France as forced laborers; and jailing thousands on contrived charges, including the failure to inform on family or neighbors. Despite the duration of the siege and the destruction left in its wake, in considering Belgium, neither the Allies nor the history books focused on the occupation, and instead cast their attention almost wholly on the invasion.

Now, The Rape of Belgium draws on a little-known story to remind us of the horrors of war. Further, Zuckerman shows why the Allies refrained from punishing the Germans for the occupation and controversially suggests that had the victors followed through, Europe's reaction to the rise of Nazi Germany might have taken a very different course.

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About the Author:

Larry Zuckerman is the author of The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World, which has been translated into four languages. The British edition was the recipient of the André Simon Special Commendation Award, given annually to a book on culinary arts.


"More than a footnote to history, The Rape of Belgium makes us look afresh at the story of German behavior in occupied Belgium during World War I. We can no longer dismiss the stories-the killing of innocent civilians, the burning of priceless libraries, the plundering of Belgian resources, and the forced deportations of thousands of Belgians to work in Germany-as simply Allied propaganda. Larry Zuckerman argues with passion and meticulous research that both the Allies and the Germans themselves failed to confront the crucial legal and moral questions raised by the occupation."

-Margaret MacMillan,author of Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World

"Belgium's occupation by the Imperial German army between 1914 and 1918, Larry Zuckerman's important new book shows, provided a blueprint for the Nazi occupation of Europe 25 years later. With compelling evidence and compassion, he has drawn our attention back to a moment when total war began, and when everybody came to see that when military hostilities begin, no one-man, woman or child-is safe. Modern war and atrocity are now interchangeable terms; as this book demonstrates, they became inextricably tied together in Belgium a century ago, and the world has never been the same again."

-Jay Winter,Yale University

"Zuckerman has given a clear and informative account of the ways in which the occupation of Belgium had a significance transcending the borders of one small European country. That is a major achievement."

-H-Net Book Review

"Zuckerman has mined Belgium's archives to depict a German occupation that presaged the Nazi era. He illustrates how the falsity of the most lurid atrocity accounts rendered public opinion dubious or indifferent to the real "rape of Belgium," and thus allowed Germany to escape accountability for its crimes."


"A lively and lucid synthesis. Larry Zuckerman's intelligent, well-documented, and eminently readable account of Belgium s maltreatment during World War I highlights war crimes too often dismissed as figments of propaganda. This book deserves to be read very widely indeed.”

-Sophie De Schaepdrijver,Pennsylvania State University

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