|Full Name||17 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
ww2dbaseAt 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.
ww2dbaseUnder 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.
ww2dbaseThere 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.
ww2dbaseAllied 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.
ww2dbaseThe 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.
ww2dbaseAfter the war, Belgium became one of the original members of the United Nations.
ww2dbaseKing 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.
Events Taken Place in Belgium
|Invasion of France and the Low Countries||10 May 1940 - 22 Jun 1940|
|Bombing of France and the Low Countries||1 Jul 1940 - 7 May 1945|
|Liberation of Belgium||2 Sep 1944 - 2 Nov 1944|
|Battle of Hürtgen Forest||19 Sep 1944 - 10 Feb 1945|
|Battle of the Scheldt Estuary||2 Oct 1944 - 8 Nov 1944|
|Battle of the Bulge||16 Dec 1944 - 28 Jan 1945|
|Browning Hi-Power Handgun||FN M1910 Handgun|
|Fort Breendonk||Prison Camp|
Belgium in World War II Interactive Map
Visitor Submitted Comments
All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.
- » New website Russian Retrospective (10 Jan 2017)
- » Unexploded WW2-era Bomb Discovered in Augsburg (2 Jan 2017)
- » WW2DB's 12th Anniversary (29 Dec 2016)
- » See all news
- » 975 biographies
- » 322 events
- » 33,440 timeline entries
- » 712 ships
- » 315 aircraft models
- » 179 vehicle models
- » 318 weapon models
- » 95 historical documents
- » 130 facilities
- » 430 book reviews
- » 23,918 photos
- » 274 maps
James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945