One of the first crimes committed by the German army, in western Europe, took place in Belgium villages of Vinkt and Meighem, near Ghent, between 26–28 May 1940 during the Battle of the Lys.. The atrocity was perpetrated by the Wehrmacht, not the SS.
The Vinkt bridge crossing the Schipdonk Canal was being guarded by the 1st Belgian Division of Chasseurs Ardennais
As the German 225th Divison approached the Vinkt bridge they discovered it blocked by refugees fleeing south. The Wehrmacht soldiers then took a number of refugees and used then as human shields.
On Sunday, May 26th, the Germans took hostages at the Meigem and Vinkt church, and at a number of farms in the area. Some hostages were killed immediately, but the a worse event occurred at Meigem church, where an explosion killed 27 hostages.
The following day, Monday May 27th, Adolf Hitler, demanded Belgium’s immediate and unconditional surrender. Belgium’s King Leopold III announced to his government that he would as Commander-in-Chief, use his authority lay down arms.
Meanwhile, the Chasseurs ardennais, were not aware of these developments, and were still holding and defending the bridge against vastly superior odds. For unclear reasons, the German 225th Division started to execute their hostages, and taking new ones, executing them on the spot. Refugees were taken out at random from the endless columns on the trek south and executed immediately. One priest managed to escape, being buried under two dead colleagues. He was one of four such victims who managed to escape.
The victims were all unarmed civilians who had posed no threat, nor were they likely to pose any future threats. They were killed for no reason whatsoever.
On May 28 the Belgian army capitulated.
As news of the carnage spread, German press sources denied it or excused it, claiming that Belgian civilians had dressed up as soldiers. The British press who knew the facts of the atrocity refused to report for fears they’d be accused of war propaganda, Which had happened during WWI after reporting ‘the rape of Belgium’
After WWII the Wehrmacht officers Kühner and Lohmann were sentenced to 20 years of forced labour in Belgium, however after 5 years they were extradited to Germany.
86 innocent civilians were massacred. Additionally to that another 27 killed by the explosion more then likely caused by German grenades.
Memorial to the victims of the massacre
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Vinkt Mei 1940