The Destruction of Louvain, 1914

LouvainUnivThis week a hundred years ago, much of the Belgian city of Louvain (also spelled Leuven) was in flames. In part of what was to become known as the Rape of Belgium,

The University of Louvain, founded in 1426, is depicted here in ruins in the September 19, 1914, issue of the New York Sun.  The action in the first days of the war had focused around the town of Liege, and Louvain lay between it and Brussels. After the Belgian army made a sharp attack, the Germans retreated to Louvain, where they later claimed that they had been fired upon by civilians. The Germans embassy in Washington later proclaimed that the German army had destroyed the city to “punish” it.

Before the war ended, the Germans killed some 5521 Belgian civilians. About 300 of those, including the entire police force, were killed in the destruction of Leuven. The destruction of the university library, shown here, resulted in the loss of about 230,000 volumes.

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