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The German Occupation of Belgium 1940-1944


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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V. The Economic Exploitation of Belgium 191


Chapter Five The Economic Exploitation of Belgium General Observations From the beginning to the end of the occupation the Military Command had one clear priority in its governance of the country (apart from the maintenance of law and order). It hoped to " ... make available and preserve for the war economy of the Reich ... the potential of the so highly developed [Belgian] economy."l To this priority it sought to subordinate all other objectives to whatever degree it was allowed to do so by its superiors and by competing German services and agencies. In order to carry out this task effectively, the Military Administration recruited officials from German business and civil service into its ranks. The importance of economic management was highlighted by the fact that the Economics Division (Gruppe Wirtschaft) included more than half the total professional personnel ofthe Military Administration.2 It has been stated before that from the start the Military Administration sought to enlist the cooperation of Belgian businessmen and government officials. It realized that it would be necessary to appeal to their self-interest and patriotic sentiment in order to create a climate in which economic cooperation could be justified by the expectation of mutual benefits.3 The underlying understanding reached in 1940 with Belgian government and business elites was that Belgium had to produce for the Reich in return for (1) receiving suffi- cient food and other supplies to maintain tolerable living conditions, (2) being able to employ Belgian workers at home 192 The Economic Exploitation of Belgium...

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