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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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IV. German Political Activities 125

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Chapter Four German Political Activities General Policies The political activities of the military authorities in occupied Belgium were less far-reaching than those of the occupation regimes in the Netherlands and in Norway because the politi- cal objectives of the military regime in Belgium were more limited. The main priorities, security and economic exploita- tion, were basically nonpolitical. As articulated by Reeder in 1941: "[The Military Administration] ... has in the first place a present task to serve the war economy and not primarily the task to fulfill a Flemish mission."! Therefore, the German military authorities deliberately avoided political pronounce- ments or actions which might fan the spirit of patriotic or ideological opposition. Time and again they warned other German agencies such as the SS against agitation about future political or territorial arrangements which would activate the latent resistance to the German regime. All such issues, it argued, would fall into place naturally after a German victory.2 Over time the Military Administration developed a remark- able degree of sensitivity to popular moods and attitudes. It realized that the Secretaries-General would not easily be induced to make major structural changes which would not be justified as meeting wartime exigencies. It also decided to use great caution and discretion in dealing with the powerful Catholic church.3 In this attempt to avoid arousing unneces- sarily the patriotic and anti-German sentiments of the popula- tion the Military Command tried to overlook certain anti-German activities which occurred during the early years ofthe occupation. It reminded military and...

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