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The German Occupation of Belgium 1940-1944

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Werner Warmbrunn

The study of German occupation policies during the Second World War and of the relation of the people in the occupied territories to these policies provides valuable insight into the political dynamics of World War II. This book describes the structure and activities of the German military administration in Belgium 1940-1944 against the background of the previous occupation of the country during the Second World War, and in comparison with German policies in neighboring Holland. It provides the reader with a precise description and analysis of German policies, draws comparisons between military and civilian (party) occupation regimes, and examines the moral issues faced by German commanders without sympathy for Nazi ideology and actions based on that ideology.

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II. Survey of the Main Periods of the Occupation 53

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Chapter Two Survey of the Main Periods of the Occupation The German occupation of Belgium in the Second World War can be divided into four periods. The first ofthese lasted from June to the end of September of 1940. It may be called the "honeymoon of the occupation." During this period almost everybody, the German conquerors as well as the population of the occupied territory, believed that Germany had won the war and would control the European continent for the fore- seeable future. In early June the Germans set up their system of governance for Belgium, a military government headed by a 61-year-old Prussian general Alexander von Falkenhausen who claimed that he wanted to govern Belgium in such a way as to avoid the mistakes of German rule during the First World War. During this period, the German military was able to admin- ister the occupied territory with only a minimum of interfer- ence from other German government and party agencies. During the summer of 1940 the Germans could perform functions that were perceived as being helpful by the Belgian population: they facilitated the return of Belgian refugees from France, they repaired much of the physical damage caused by the war and encouraged the resumption of normal life. The Germans treated the king with courtesy and announced the release of the Flemish prisoners of war. Thus they could appeal for cooperation with a reasonably impres- sive record of accomplishments, especially since German dominance over Western Europe seemed unchallengeable and permanent....

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