Encyclopedia

Belgium

declared itself neutral and secured German guarantees of its neutral status in 1937. On May 10, 1040, German forces invaded and on May 28, on the orders of King Leopold III, the Belgian army surrendered.

The king remained in Belgium and cooperated to some extent with the Germans, even meeting with Hitler at one point. As Belgium was put under German military administration, a government-in-exile for a free Belgium was established at the same time in London.

There was an indigenous Belgian fascist party, the Rexists, which collaborated openly with the Germans. However, the majority of the population had no Nazi sympathies and displayed solidarity with the Jews. In September 1944, Brussels and Antwerp were liberated by the Allies. In December 1944, the Germans counterattacked and penetrated into Belgium. After a series of counterattacks (the Battle of the Bulge) the Allies routed the Germans on January 16, 1945.

When the wearing of the yellow star was introduced in May 1942, there were protests among the Belgian people, and the city council of Brussels refused to distribute the badges. Additionally, a number of people showed sympathy for the Jews and expressed their solidarity by wearing similar badges. It is estimated that 70,000 people belonged to the resistance out of a population of 8,000,000. The Belgian resistance movement aided many Jews to go into hiding. At the time of the German invasion the Jewish population of Belgium was 65,696. Of these some 44 percent perished, most deported to Auschwitz. With help, some 25,000 Belgian Jews hid from the Germans.


Sources: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust; Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny; Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews 1933-1945.



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