World War I


World War I
   Germany violated the neutrality of Belgium on 4 August 1914. Belgian troops had been mobilized on 3 August, and troops of the first and second regiments of grenadiers left the Prince Albert barracks on the rue des Petits Carmes. On 17 August the royal family fled Brussels. On 19 August Karl von Bülow notified Burgomaster Adolphe Max of the imminent arrival of German troops of the Second Army. On 20 August Max negotiated with emissaries at the Baudouin military barracks on the place Dailly. Requisition orders were given to city authorities. At 14:30 hours on 21 August the bulk of German troops entered Brussels along the chaussée de Louvain.
   The occupiers would deal with only the burgomaster of Brussels, forcing area municipal authorities to coordinate relief efforts and administrative tasks. Max was arrested five weeks later and other officials followed—Maurice Lemmonier in May 1917 for nondelivery of barbed wire; Émile Jacqmain for refusing to close the schools; Louis Steens for willful resistance. Steens fought pro-Flemish policies; on 26 January 1918 occupation authorities prepared to hoist imperial German banners on the balconies of the Hôtel de Ville and the Maison du Roi to celebrate Kaiser Wilhelm II's birthday when Steens delivered to them the flag poles that had been broken.
   Provisioning residents proved a major concern. Grain stocks were requisitioned and distributed to bakers and an intercommunal cooperative agency established communal stores to supply basic foodstuffs. The agency later worked with the Comité national de Secours et d'Alimentation, which funneled provisions from the Commission for Relief in Belgium, the agency headed by Herbert Hoover that largely saved Belgium from starvation. Soup kitchens fed 60,000 residents. Still, malnutrition and tuberculosis were rampant.
   Fines levied by the Germans burdened the city with debt. Resistance was ongoing—clandestinely with the appearance of underground newspapers and acts of sabotage, and openly with defiance by city authorities of German orders. In April 1915, city officials refused to pay for repairs on national and provincial roads; in November 1916, they balked at delivery of lists of the unemployed, used to secure forced labor in Germany. Patriotic demonstrations on 15 November 1915 at the collegiate church of Saints-Michel-et-Gudule and the church of Saint-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg were met with closure of public establishments and a curfew.
   All construction projects were stopped. Private autos, motorcycles, and bicycles were prohibited and pigeon fanciers were compelled to keep the birds caged. Officials who were arrested or dismissed were replaced by German appointees. The division of the country into north and south in 1917, with Brussels as the capital of the Dutch-speaking north, led to administrative paralysis—high-level officials resigned and French-speaking authorities refused to move to Namur, the capital of the southern region.
   On 22 November 1918, King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth were met at the porte de Flandre by Adolphe Max, who had returned from Germany on the 17th. Belgian troops entered the city to wild acclaim.
   See also Baucq, Philippe; Cavell, Edith; Petit, Gabrielle; Villalobar, Rodrigo; Whitlock, Brand.

Historical Dictionary of Brussels. .

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