Letter by a Dutch reader on the pro-Allied book Belgium and Germany by Henri Davignon

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Extract from a letter by a Dutch reader on the pro-Allied book Belgium and Germany: texts and documents by Henri Davignon. The Dutch translation of the book enjoyed immense popularity among a Dutch reading public.


The letter was attached to the Dutch chapter of the official general report on British propaganda in the Netherlands, which was sent to Hubert Montgomery at his personal request in 1916. The Dutch part of the report was prepared by S. A. Guest, the officer for the Netherlands at Wellington House, which was the main official British propaganda service that focused on book propaganda. Davignon's book took the form of a testimony of German atrocities committed in Belgium in 1914. It provides a rich collection of photographs, letters, maps, and documents with explanatory comments and an introduction by the author. The book is divided into five parts, presenting: the history of the country; the situation of Germany just before and during the invasion; and the importance and effects of German actions in Belgium. The main aim of the book was to expose the undeserved suffering of Belgium and reveal German crimes. The brutality of the Germans was emphasised to a great extent, with some evidence being fabricated, but this all served to benefit Allied propaganda. The author of the book was a prominent figure in Belgian-French literature; his novels were read widely in Belgium and France. Through his father's connections (his father was the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs), Davignon was able obtain official documents, including the German ultimatum. Once the French version (La Belgique et l'Allemagne) was published, the book was translated into Dutch and English and was circulated among readers in the Netherlands. It was also sent to local Dutch newspapers (Leeuwarder courant, Provinviale Overijsselsche en Zwalsche courant, and Nieuwsbald van het Noorden). Its important historical value was appreciated by many editors. With regards to its red cover, the book was called the red answer to the White Paper (an official German report on the actions of German troops in Belgium).