1940-1945 1949-1969

Belgium after the War, 1945-1949

Domestic Policy : While the Battle of the Bulge was fought in January 1945, most of Belgium had already been liberated. Soon a civilian administration would again be formed. One of the first tasks was to secure sufficient food supply, another one to prevent infectious diseases from spreading, a third to secure sufficient fuel for the winter, then to provide sufficient housing and repair the damaged houses. A tribunal dealt with war criminals (Breendonk Concentration Camp etc.), which included Belgian collaborators; until October 1946, 4.357 were sentenced to death; only 111 death sentences were executed. King Leopold III., criticized for having stayed in the country and collaberated with the German forces of occupation, went into exile to Switzerland. In his place, his brother Charles ruled as regent. Collaborators were deprived of their right to vote; 322,000 Belgians were affected.
In the 1946 elections, the Christian Democrats emerged as the strongest party, with 45 % of the votes.

Foreign Policy : Belgium joined the United ations in 1945. Having learned the lessons of two World Wars, governments of Belgium and the Netherlands signed an agreement on military cooperation (1948). In 1949, Belgium joined NATO.
Relations with Spain were poor because Rexist leader Leon Degrelle, whose extradition Belgium demanded, had been granted refuge by Spain, and when Belgium pressed for extradition, was allowed to flee the country.
International cooperation now went below state level, and Brussels became a center for European meetings. In 1946 the liberal parties of a number of European states signed a common document, the Declaration of Brussels.

The Economy : In 1946, the government froze wages and imposed a 10 % reduction in prices, measures intended to curb inflation. Ratiioning continued as many items were scarce. In 1947 and 1948, conditions rapidly improved. However, in 1947-1948 Belgium saw a number of demonstrations and strikes by disgruntled groups who felt betrayed by the state bureaucracy's delay in granting expected aid (to former P.O.W.s) or by the sudden increase in price for coal.
The governments of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg in 1947 formed a Customs Union called BeNeLux. Wartime regulations managing scarce supplies and obstructing trade were lifted in 1946, and economic growth began immediately, then fueled by Marshall Plan aid setting in. Between 1948 and 1952, Belgium (with Luxemburg) received 559.3 million US $ in Marshall Plan aid. In 1946, Belgium was already able to give food aid to areas economically worse affected, such as Vienna/Austria. The UN Commission for Relief in Belgium ceased operation in 1947.

Culture : In 1948 Belgian athletes competed in the summer Olympic Games at London. Universal Womanhood Suffrage was introduced in 1948.

Belgium : History, from infoplease, encyclopedic, scroll down
Leopold III, King of Belgium, from Famous Belgians, encyclopedic.
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
Biography of Achille van Acker, from Federal Govt., Belgium
List of Belgian Kings, Prime Ministers, from Ben Cahoon
List of Belgian Prime Ministers, portfolio ministers, party leaders since 1945, information on party history, from ZPC
Liste des gouvernements 1944-1999, with downloadable files 'composition', 'declaration', from CRISP (in French, on Belgium)
Belgian food aid for Vienna, 1946, from Vienna CC
History of German P.O.W. labour in Belgium, from Kriegsgefangen.de; from same site Table of Deaths among German P.O.W.s held in Belgium, Map & List of Camps, Drawings from Various Camps
Belgium contracting immigrant labour from Italy, from lautresite.com, illustrated, in French
DOCUMENTS Table on Marshall Plan aid received by country, from The Marshall Plan 1947-1997 A German View by Susan Stern
Treaty of Economic, Social, and Cultural Collaboration and Collective Self-defense (Brussels Treaty), March 17, 1948, from Avalon Project at Yale Law School
North Atlantic Treaty; April 4, 1949, from Avalon Project at Yale Law School
Sister of Charity distributes UNRRA food, Belgium, 1946, from UN Pictorial History
The exhibition Latvians in Exile. Photography of Latvian soldiers at Zedelghem POW's camp in Belgium, 1946, from Latvian War Museum
Declaration of Brussels (1946), from Liberal, Democratic and Reformers Group
Banknote : Belgium 20 Franks 1948, from Ron Wise's World Paper Money
Image : 24 Gestapo men accused as War Criminals, 1946, from Een Eeuw in Beeld (A Century in Images), posted by Gazette van Antwerpen, comment in Flemish
REFERENCE Article : Belgium, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1946 pp.117-118, 1947 pp.122-123, 1948 pp.116-118, 1949 pp.98-99 [G]
Article : Belgium, in : Americana Annual 1946 pp.96-97, 1947 pp.75-77 [G]
Article : Belgium, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1946 pp.69-71 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on March 12th 2007

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