Thursday, May 15, 2008

Louvain: The Library of Louvain University, burnt in 1914.

The burning of the University of Louvain in August 1914 was one of the most infamous events of the First World War, and although debate raged over who was responsible (German soldiers, or retreating Allied forces, depending on which side you asked), the Library became a propaganda symbol of the excesses of German "incendiarism". Many books and pamphlets were published denouncing the crime: this image of the burnt-out shell of part of the library is from a small booklet published in 1915 by Paul Delannoy, a professor and librarian at the University of Louvain. His book, L’Université de Louvain: Conferences données au College de France en février 1915 (Paris: 1915) is an anti-German polemic, and he calls the destruction of the library, burnt during the German advance through Belgium in 1914, an "eternal stigma" to German militarism, and hopes that the rebuilding of the library will represent the triumph of "right over force, of civilisation over barbarism".

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