1929-1940 1945-1949

German stamp issued on the occasion of the annexion of Eupen-Malmedy into Germany.
In 1945 it was reintegrated into Belgium.

Belgium in World War II, 1940-1945

World War II broke out on September 1st 1939, with the German invasion of Poland. Belgium continued to regard itself neutral. Until May 10th 1940, despite Germany and France being at war with each other, there was no fighting on the western front (the DROLE DU GUERRE, PHONEY WAR or SITZKRIEG). Then the German armies again disrespected the neutrality of their western neighbours, invading the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and France on May 10th. On May 27th, King Leopold III., without consulting the government, requested an armistice. Belgium was occupied; the king remained in the country. Belgian representatives assembled in Limoges (France) condemn the royal action; a Belgian government-in-exile was established at Bordeaux (France, June 18th), demanding the king to abdicate. When France was occupied, Belgian political leaders (SPAAK, PIERLOT) flee to London.
King Leopold III. met Adolf Hitler in Nov. 1940 in Berchtesgaden; he achieved the release of 50,000 Belgian P.O.W.s and an improved food supply for occupied Belgium. Both the western Allies and large segments of the Belgian population regarded him a collaborator.
The German administration attempted to win followers for the new order. In addition to the king and fascist groups, politician Hendrik de Man accepted the new order and dissolved the Belgian Workers Party in June 1940. The Germans organized a Flemish and a Wallonian "legion of volunteers against Bolzhevism" to fight for Germany in the east, with little success. The plan was to 'germanize' the Wallonians, mainly through assimilation, as they were regarded "racially of Nordic stock". In fall 1940 the registration of Belgian Jews began, a first step in the Holocaust of Belgium's ca. 20.000 Jews; the deportation began in 1942. The Germans operated a concentration camp at BREENDONK, a transition camp as the inmates were to be transported to the annihilation camps in the east..
1941 the Belgian and Luxemburgian Franc were replaced by the German Reichsmark; with the liberation of Belgium in 1944, the Franc was reintroduced. Belgium also was subject to allied (British/US air raids); the air raid on the Erla factory at Mortsel (April 5 1943), where Messerschmidt planes were maintained, caused 936 dead and 1.342 injured, most of them civilians living nearby.
There were a number of resistance organizations with different political background, communist as well as Flemish (Witte Brigade, trsl. White Brigade), royalist (National Royal Movement), Christian Democrat (Liberation Army), socialist. Several hundred of their members were executed; others spent several years in concentration camp.
In London a Belgian GOVERNMENT IN EXILE (Spaak, Pierlot) had been established. In 1942 the BELGIAN LEGION was established to organize the resistance against the Germans.
On Sept. 4th, Brussels was liberated by Belgian troops (the government-in-exile had continued to rule over the BELGIAN CONGO and RUANDA-URUNDI, and had recruited Belgians in exile). Late in 1944, most of Belgium was liberated. The retreating German troops took King Leopold III. with them; he was liberated in Austria. Many Belgians resenting him, he stayed in Switzerland until a 1950 plebiscite approved his return to Belgium.

Belgian stamps issued on the occasion of victory, 1945
The two stamps on the left were printed in London

Belgium : History, from infoplease, encyclopedic, scroll down
Leopold III, King of Belgium, from Famous Belgians, encyclopedic; from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis, in Dutch
Biography of Paul Henri Spaak, from NATO, from Famous Belgians, from Website of Belgium's Prime Minister
Biography of Hubert Pierlot, from Website of Belgium's Prime Minister
The Mechelen Museum of Deportation and Resistance
The Second World War, from History of the 2nd Belgian Grenadiers
Breendonk Concentration Camp, from Royal British Legion Antwerp; another file on Breendonk from Jewish Genealogy
Leon Degrelle 1941-1945. Walloon Military Collaboration WW II, by E. de Bruyne
Brigade Piron, Free Belgian military unit
Belgian Badges and Insignia 1940-1946, by Jean-Marie Van Wijnsberghe
Dutch language World War II timeline, many details on Belgium 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, posted anonymously
Erlawerk Mortsel 1940-1944, from Historiek van Mortsel
Aan Tafel in Oorlogstijd (at the table in war time), from Historia Belgica, Dutch language site, has cookbook, ration cards, winter aid (winterhulp) memorabilia & comment
Verplichte tewerkstelling in Duitsland. (Belgian Forced Labour in Germany), by Jaspar Geryl, diss. Gent 2003, in Dutch
CEGE / SOMA, Website on Belgian Resistance in WW II
Belgium in World War II, from World War II Multimedia Database
DOCUMENTS Nazi Occupation Coins issued for Belgium; Belgian coin on US War Cent, from Joel's Coins, images and comment, from a commercial site; scroll down
Hubert's Story : the Liberation of Belgium, from Stories from the 1940's
Raymond's Story : A Canadian Officer in Belgium, from Stories from the 1940's
Belgian banknotes, from Ron Wise's World Paper Money
Photo : Belgian refugees on the road, 1940, from Histoire du monde de 1er siecle a nos jours
Images on the Legion Wallonie, 1941-1945, posted by E. de Bruyne
Belgium During the War. Documents of the Archives of the Centre for Historical Research and Documentation on War and Contemporary Society, at Ceges/Soma
1944 - Ardennes Offensive, from World War II Database
Belgium, list of civilians executed during the invasion (May 10-28 1940), from Genealogische Site van de Familie Praats - Praets - Praetz
Belgium, list of civilians executed during the occupation (1940-1944), from Genealogische Site van de Familie Praats - Praets - Praetz
Belgian woman sentenced to three years in prison for having given food to runaway Russian P.O.W. (forced to work in a coal mine), from Archief Limburgs Mozaiek, in Dutch; scroll down for 1943
1940-1945, from Het 2de Jagers te Paard, richly illustrated regimental history, text in Dutch
Dagboek van S.O.E.-agent Marc Becquaert (Diary of Special Operations Executive M.B.), book announcement posted by Historia Belgica, in Dutch
Breakdown of Anglo-Belgian relations 1942, released file, from UK National Archives
REFERENCE Jean Dillen, ERLAWERK VII Antwerpen-Mortsel 1940-1944
United States Holocaust Museum, Historical Atlas of the Holocaust, NY : MacMillan 1996 [G]; pp.116-126 on Belgium
Article : Belgium, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1944 pp.106-107, 1945 pp.103-104 [G]
Article : Belgium, in : Americana Annual 1940 pp.67-69, 1943 pp.97-98, 1944 pp.88-89, 1945 pp.90-91 [G]
Article : Belgium, in : New International Year Book Events of 1940 pp.63-67, 1941 pp.59-61, 1942 pp.68-71, 1943 pp.60-63, 1944 pp.66-68, 1945 pp.64-68 [G]
Article : Belgium, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1940 pp.58-61, 1941 pp.60-63, 1942 pp.58-60, 1943 pp.64-66, 1944 pp.48-50 [G]
Article : Belgium, in : Statesman's Year Book 1943 pp.713-724 [G]
Llewellyn Woodward, British Foreign Policy in the Second World War, London : HMSO 1962 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 3rd 2008

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