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Through the Iron Bars Two Years of German Occupation in Belgium   By: (1878-1953)

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Through the Iron Bars: A Glimpse into the German Occupation in Belgium

Emile Cammaerts' masterful account, Through the Iron Bars, offers readers a poignant and profoundly personal narrative of life during the German occupation in Belgium. This captivating memoir provides a unique perspective, taking readers beyond mere historical records and into the depths of human resilience.

Cammaerts, a Belgian native, chronicles his two years of confinement under German rule during World War I. His relentless spirit shines through every word, revealing unyielding hope even in the darkest of circumstances. Through his detailed recollections, the author brings to life the daily struggles faced by ordinary Belgian citizens, demonstrating the profound impact of war on civilian populations.

One of the most striking aspects of Cammaerts' writing is his ability to evoke genuine emotions. From sorrow and despair to fleeting moments of joy, his vivid descriptions transport readers into the very heart of his experiences. Whether it is the fear of constant surveillance, hunger gnawing at their bellies, or the ever-present anguish caused by separation from loved ones, his words elicit a deep empathy from his readers.

Moreover, Cammaerts' attention to detail is commendable. His keen observations paint a vivid picture of life within the confines of a prison camp. From the scarcity of resources to the brutal treatment by German captors, his account leaves no stone unturned. His encounters with fellow prisoners, many of whom became lifelong friends, offer a glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak environment.

In addition to the personal perspective, Cammaerts provides historical context and insightful analysis of the German occupation. He sheds light on the socio-political dynamics that characterized this period, unriddling the complex power dynamics and offering a glimpse into the strategies adopted by both the occupiers and the occupied.

Through the Iron Bars is more than just a memoir; it is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of resilience. Cammaerts' ability to convey his ordeal in a profoundly raw and honest manner ensures that his readers not only comprehend the historical significance but also gain a renewed appreciation for the fragility of peace.

In conclusion, Through the Iron Bars stands as a remarkable contribution to the body of literature on World War I and the German occupation in Belgium. Emile Cammaerts' ability to intertwine personal experiences, historical analysis, and emotional depth make this book an essential read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the human experience during times of war and adversity.

First Page:


Two years of German occupation in Belgium






I. The Prison Gates

II. The Lowered Flag

III. The Poisoned Wells

IV. The Sacking of Belgium

V. The Modern Slave 1. The Creeping Tide 2. "By the Waters of Babylon"

VI. The Olive Branch

Through the Iron Bars



The English speaking public is generally well informed concerning the part played in the war by the Belgian troops. The resistance of our small field army at Li├Ęge, before Antwerp, and on the Yser has been praised and is still being praised wherever the tale runs. This is easy enough to understand. The fact that those 100,000 men should have been able to hold so long in check the forces of the first military Empire in Europe, and that a great number of them, helped by new contingents of recruits and led by their young King, should still be fighting on their native soil, must appeal strongly to the imagination.

If it be told how the new Belgian army, reorganised and re equipped after the terrible ordeal on the Yser, is at the present moment much stronger than at the beginning of the war, how it has been able lately to extend its front in Flanders, and how some of its units have rendered valuable help to the cause of the Allies in East Africa and even in Galicia, the story sounds like a fairy tale... Continue reading book >>

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