- Max, Adolphe Eugène Jean-Henri
- (1869-1939)The burgomaster of Brussels during World War I whose resistance to the German occupation inspired the nation, Adolphe Max was born in Brussels on rue des Urselines on 30 December 1869. His father was a well-known physician. Max studied at the Athenée in Brussels and Ixelles and, in 1891, he earned a law degree at the Université libre de Bruxelles. He then practiced at the bar while writing articles for various political journals. A staunch Liberal Party member, he was elected a provincial councillor in 1896 and reelected in 1900 and 1908. On 18 October 1903, he was elected to the communal council and had just been chosen alderman for public instruction when, on the death of Émile Du Mot in November 1909, King Leopold II named him as the city's 10th burgomaster.He gave up his other offices and set about eliminating a city deficit by instituting new taxes and cutting spending. Within a year, the city accounts registered a surplus. He worked to enlarge the city territorially and preserve its autonomy while also establishing cooperative working relationships with surrounding communes. Known for his tact, honesty, and love of local folklore, Max was an adroit administrator who proved accommodating on secondary matters but brooked no opposition on core principles.Following the outbreak of World War I and the arrival of German troops on 21 August 1914, Max issued an appeal for citizens to remain calm. He secured a working agreement with the occupying authorities, handled grievances lodged by residents, organized help for refugees, implemented procedures for provisioning the city, and enforced police measures to prevent untoward incidents. He aroused the hostility of German officials in refusing to carry out various orders, and, after he issued an order suspending payment of an indemnity levied on the city, Max was arrested on 26 September 1914.He spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner in Germany, where his attitude of dignified courage heartened city residents, who sent letters and parcels. Following liberation, he met a hero's reception on 17 November 1918 at his home on rue Joseph II.After the war, Max worked to restore city finances, which were in deficit, and reorganize the administration. He worked to secure an increase in territory through acquisition of Laeken, Neder-over-Heembeek, and Haren (30 March 1921), fought construction of a central city railway station, and opposed national language legislation in 1932, believing it infringed on communal sovereignty and violated the rights of the individual. He was a principal backer of the World's Fair of 1935.Against his will, Max was elected to the Chamber of Representatives on 16 November 1919. From 1923 to 1925 he contributed articles under the name "Gorgibus" to L'Indépendence belge, of which he was part owner.A lifelong bachelor, Max served as burgomaster until his death on 6 November 1939. A major city boulevard is named for him.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.