All the material on this site, "Belgium - WWII" is copyright (c) 2006 property.
If you have any material, photos or information on Belgium - WWII and would like to see it reproduced on this site, please contact me.
This is the social history of Belgium under Nazi occupation from 1939 - 1945. The material used in this project has many sources. The majority of this work is based on the testimonies of the citizens of Belgium.
The photographs and documents used on this site have three main sources.
First, I am indebted to Evelyn McCullough who started my interest in Belgium's WWII story. She has supplied me with many up to date photos of Belgium as well as Etienne's story.
Second, many WWII photos were supplied by 6 LAA Battery veterans who took part in the liberation of Belgium.
Third, other photos have been supplied by the citizens of Belgium.
name Belgium can be traced back to the first century BC. That was when the
Romans invaded the area of the present day Belgium. One of the Celtic tribes in
that area was known as the Belgae.
modern State of Belgium was founded in 1830.
One year later, at
the London Conference on 20 January 1831, the five great powers of Austria,
Great Britain, France, Prussia and Russia guaranteed the independence and
neutrality of Belgium.
comprises two social, cultural and linguistic regions, generally called Flanders
and Wallonia. The dividing line between these two regions runs approximately
east-west to the south of Brussels. The Dutch-speaking Flanders is in the north
and the French-speaking Wallonia is in the south.
Belgium is now one of the most densely populated nations in Europe. The present population numbers approximately 10,300,000.
Belgium – WW2
Fortifications The Belgian defence started with the French
fortification called the Maginot Line. This was built in the 1930's. It extended
from Switzerland to Longuyon along the French border facing Germany, Belgium and
Ardennes The hills and forests of the Ardennes presented a natural
obstacle to the German invader, or so the allied military leadership thought.
Fortifications The final obstacle facing the German invaders was the Belgian
Fort Eben-Emael on the
Dutch-Belgian border. This fort became
operational in 1935. The task of the fort was to either defend or destroy the
three main bridges over the Albert Canal.
The German Invasion On 10 May 1940, Germany invaded
Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. As a direct result of this
attack, both the British Expeditionary Force and the French army invaded Belgium
in order to contain the German army on Belgian soil.
The British Defeat The initial German attack was a rouse to draw the French and British armies
into Belgium. As the Allied armies advanced to meet the Germans
the second German army group broke through the Ardennes, moved west
across northern France and then north. This action not only split the Allied
armies but also encircled the northern group on 21 May,
forcing them to retreat to Dunkirk.
The Dutch Defeat While
the French and British troops were cornered in Dunkirk, Luxembourg, the
Netherlands and Belgium had also been under attack.
The Dutch army of 400,000 troops surrendered on 14 May.
Belgian Defeat When the German invasion started, German glider troops landed
within the grounds of Eben-Emael and began a well-rehearsed operation to capture
the fort. They used specially
shaped charges to penetrate the reinforced concrete and flamethrowers to disable
the machine gun posts. Despite the
suddenness of the attack, the Belgian defenders managed to destroy one of the
garrison finally surrendered around noon on the second day, May 11. Over 400
defenders were killed and 1200 were captured. With the line of the River Meuse
and the Albert Canal now under German control, the Belgian troops started to
retreat. King Leopold III of Belgium surrendered unconditionally on May 28. The
Belgian cabinet were in exile in London and opposed the German invaders.
Germans did not attack the Maginot Line until 14 June.
Etienne and Irene Vanhaeren at Fort Eben-Emael
Etienne and Irene Vanhaeren at Fort Eben-Emael 2006
Occupation Belgium then suffered 4.5 years of German occupation.
The atrocities endured by the Belgian people included the disappearance of over
22,000 Belgian Jews into Nazi Death Camps
Liberation The liberation of Europe started at the Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944. Belgium was liberated by British and American troops in early September 1944.
6 LAA Battery Tournai Belgium 1944
The German Counteroffensive (The Battle of the Bulge)
On 16 December 1944, the Germans mounted their last major counteroffensive with the intention of separating the Allied armies. Again they used the Ardennes as the starting point in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. All the main roads in the eastern Ardennes converged on Bastogne. It was there that the 101st Airborne Division made a stand and held up the advance of the German troops until they were relieved by Patton's Third Army on 26 December 1944. The Germans failed to achieve their objectives. Their defeat was also due to a combination of the dogged resistance of the Americans in St Vith as well as the weather and the terrain.
American Memorial Images from Bastogne
Trenches near Foy /US Jeep /Bastogne Museum /Bastogne's
Mardasson (US) Memorial/ Provided by Randi Williams (c) 2006
Trenches near Foy /US Jeep /Bastogne Museum /Bastogne's Mardasson (US) Memorial/ Provided by Randi Williams (c) 2006