On 10 July 2018, Delphine Lauwers gave a paper at the International Society for First World War Studies conference “Recording, Narrating and Archiving the First World War”, held in Melbourne.
Being able to explore new sources on the Great War, a hundred years after it ended is a quite unique and exciting experience for any WWI historian. But the very nature of the documents that we are dealing with in the present case makes it even more thrilling. We are indeed facing hundreds of investigation and prosecution files, produced by both military and civil jurisdictions during and after the Great War in Belgium. These records offer new material for the study of WWI in Belgium, as well as of the history of international criminal law.
But why would such a rich, fascinating collection remain unexploited? All of it was in fact packed together with a vast amount of various documents, and kept more than 2.500 km away from Brussels for 57 years. It seems like the very existence of some of these documents fell into oblivion as time passed. Before diving into these amazing “sleeping beauties”, let us briefly explain why they have traveled that far and have remained largely unheard of until recently.