Belgium

Full Name Kingdom of Belgium
Alliance Allies - Minor Member Nation or Possession
Entry into WW2 10 May 1940
Population in 1939 8,387,000
Military Deaths in WW2 12,100
Civilian Deaths in WW2 76,000
 - Civ Deaths from Holocaust 24,387

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

At the end of WW1, Belgium emerged on the victorious side, but the country was devastated after years of occupation and war. After receiving Rwanda and Burundi from Germany as war reparations and surviving through a period of prejudice (sometimes violent) prejudice against Germans living in the country, Belgium became a stern neutral nation in the 1930s. When the European War began in Sep 1939, the Belgian government reiterated its neutral stance on 3 Sep 1939. Two months later, on 7 Nov, the King Léopold III of Belgium and the Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands jointly declared their nations' neutrality but the willingness to act as intermediaries for peace negotiations. On 10 May 1940, Germany invaded the Low Countries, which included Belgium, despite Belgian neutrality; the German invasion was quickly followed by the arrival of French troops. The Belgian defense at the Meuse River and Albert Canal region was centered around the mighty fortress of Eben Emael, which was manned by 1,200 troops; German glider troops, however, landed in surprise and disabled the guns of the fortress using shape charges, quickly rendering the fort nearly useless in their intended role of covering the main defense line, KW; the fort was captured on 11 May. Despite this loss, the Belgian forces continued to resistance at the KW line, causing German casualties, surrendering only after all Allied troops in Belgium were encircled in late May. King Léopold III surrendered on 28 May and remained in Belgium as a prisoner, both actions were against the advice of the Belgian government, which eventually fled to Bordeaux, France to act as a government-in-exile, joining the Allies. On 18 Jun, the government-in-exile called for King Léopold III to abdicate.

Under German occupation, the first deportation of Belgian Jews began on 4 Aug 1942, most of whom were sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland. During the war, 25,631 Belgian Jews were deported; of that number, only 1,244 survived the Holocaust. The non-Jewish Belgian population was generally helpful toward the Jews in the country; it was estimated that more than 25,000 Jews were able to escape deportation after being given hidden shelters, often in private homes, by non-Jews.

There were several armed resistance groups operating in occupied Belgium. The Netwerk van de weerstand - Réseau de Résistance and the communist-leaning Independence Front were among the largest. Because many major rail lines travel through Belgium between Germany and France, Belgian Resistance members were able to supply the Allies intelligence on German troop movements, while saboteurs were also able to destroy key railways on many occasions. Among most successful attacks was the destruction of the rail bridge over the Ambleve River, which resulted in a German troop train crashing into the river, killing the entire train load of 600 men. Resistance groups also sheltered downed Allied airmen during the war, utilizing a series of safe houses called the Comet Line to get the Allied airmen to friendly territory. More than 1,000 Belgian Jews were said to have been members of the Belgium Resistance.

Allied troops landed in Western Europe in 1944, reaching Brussels in Sep 1944. The port city of Antwerp and its surrounding areas became a contested region, but by 10 Dec it was firmly in Allied hands. Much of the German Ardennes Offensive, named Battle of the Bulge by the Allies, also took place in Belgium. All the fighting devastated Belgian cities and towns, requiring many years after the war to recover despite Belgium receiving funds from the post-war Marshall Plan recovery program.

The Belgian firm Union Minière du Haut Katanga, operating in the Belgian colony of Congo in Africa, had access to the largest known uranium reserve in the world at the time; the company's leadership provided the United States large quantities of uranium for the Manhattan Project effort to create an atomic weapon.

After the war, Belgium became one of the original members of the United Nations.

King Léopold III's refusal to leave the country in 1940 gathered criticism after the war, with some accusation that he had willingly collaborated with the Germans. As a result, he was unable to return to Belgium after the end of the war (having been moved to Germany in 1944 prior to his country's liberation). He went into exile in Switzerland while his brother Prince Charles was established as the regent. In 1950, he finally returned to Belgium, but the political tension escalated dramatically over his conduct over the war. Although a national referendum held in 1951 resulted in his favor, the margin was so narrow that King Léopold III abdicated to avoid further escalation of the situation. His son assumed the throne as King Baudouin I in Jul 1951.

Source: Wikipedia

People

Bastin, JulesLedoux, PaulVan Lierde, Remy
Jongh, Andrée deLeopold III

Events Taken Place in Belgium

Invasion of France and the Low Countries10 May 1940 - 22 Jun 1940
Bombing of France and the Low Countries1 Jul 1940 - 7 May 1945
Liberation of Belgium2 Sep 1944 - 2 Nov 1944
Battle of Hürtgen Forest19 Sep 1944 - 10 Feb 1945
Battle of the Scheldt Estuary2 Oct 1944 - 8 Nov 1944
Battle of the Bulge16 Dec 1944 - 28 Jan 1945

Weapons

Browning Hi-Power HandgunFN M1910 Handgun

Photographs

American C-47 aircraft flying over Gheel in Belgium on their way to the Netherlands for Operation Market Garden, 17 Sep 1944

Maps

Map of operations at the Battle of Scheldt Estuary






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Belgium in World War II Photo Gallery
American C-47 aircraft flying over Gheel in Belgium on their way to the Netherlands for Operation Market Garden, 17 Sep 1944




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