Sunday, November 15, 2015

Brussels Liberated (September 1944)

1. Museum of the City of Brussels (La Maison du Roi)
Grand’ Place, Brussels, Belgium
The city’s principal museum in the heart of the city
2. Memorials to the Belgian resistants of September 1944
[Gifts of the 4th Battalion of Fusiliers in September 1969]
3. Model of the ‘Mannequin Pis’ / ‘Manneken Pis’
[Dressed in the uniform of the Welsh Guards]
It is found in the Museum of the City of Brussels 
4. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Brussels
[Situated at the base of the Congress Column]
This is Belgium’s national monument
For additional information click on ‘Comments’ below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information
German Occupation and Belgian Resistance

Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, was occupied during both the World Wars of the 20th Century by German invaders. The first occupation lasted between 1914 and 1918 and again between 1940 and 1944.

In the heart of the city centre of Brussels is its central square, the Grand’ Place surrounded by opulent guildhalls, the City Hall and the ‘Breadhouse’, known in Flemish as ‘Broodhuis’ and in French as the ‘Maison du Roi’ (“The King’s House) although no king or queen has ever lived here. This latter building was built in the 16th Century for the Duke of Brabant and today houses the Museum of the City of Brussels [Photograph No. 1].

The square featured in several episodes of ‘Secret Army’, the fictional BBC T.V. series about the German Occupation, the Belgian Resistance and the escape and evasion lines of WW2. It was filmed in the late 1970s. ‘Lifeline’, the fictional escape and evasion line at the centre of the series, was loosely based on the real life ‘Comet Line’ headed by Andrée De Jongh (1916 – 2007). Much of the action of ‘Secret Army’ centred round a fictional café, ‘Le Candide’, in the Grand’ Place. The real café used for the outdoor scenes in the series is now Maxim’s restaurant.

Following the Belgian military surrender by King Leopold III on 28 May 1940, many Belgians refused to accept it, while others collaborated with the occupying forces. Many of those who refused to accept defeat escaped to Britain to fight for the ultimately successful Allied cause. Others stood up to the Germans during the occupation by both passive and active resistance.

Among the Belgians who supported the German occupation and the Nazi cause were some who volunteered for the Waffen-SS. Two divisions of Belgians fought on the Eastern Front for the Nazi cause against the Soviet Union. A German ‘Military Administration’ based in Brussels controlled most of pre-war Belgium and two northern French departments (‘Nord’ and ‘Pas de Calais’) while Belgium predominantly German-speaking East Cantons (Eupen-Malmedy) were annexed into the Greater German Reich.

As with the rest of Nazi occupied Europe, the Nazi occupiers persecuted the Jewish population of Belgium. There was a significant resistance by the Belgians to the maltreatment and deportation of the Jews, such as sheltering them in safe houses and in one instance, the 20th rail convoy to Auschwitz on 19 April 1943, there was an armed attack by three lightly armed but determined members of the Belgian resistance. While not successful in freeing everyone from the transport it did enable many of the deportees to escape and survive the war.

For those who were deported the chances of survival were not good. Of the 25,437 Jews deported to the concentration camps of the east only 1,207 survived the war (i.e. less than 5%).

While the day of deliverance came too late for many Bruxellois, that day did arrive. The day of deliverance arrived in early September 1944.

Sunday, 15 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Brussels liberated

Tuesday 6 June 1944, D-Day: The Allies land on the beaches of Normandy. It is the beginning of the end of the Nazi Occupation of N.W. Europe.

Paris, the capital of France is liberated on 25 August. The Germans continue to withdraw eastwards with the Allies in pursuit.

The Allies reach the Franco-Belgian frontier on 1 September 1944. General Brian Horrocks, in command of the British XXX Corps, orders the British Second Army with the largely Belgian ‘Piron Brigade’ added to its strength, to dash forward from Arras and into Belgium.

On Saturday 2 September 1944, the Nazis decide to transport about 1,500 political prisoners to Germany and are taken to the Gare du Midi. However, the Belgian resistance makes a call to arms and successfully sabotages this transport and the convoy is halted.

In the reception area of the Museum of the City of Brussels are two commemorative plaques commemorating the many young Belgians who voluntarily came forward in September 1944 to and contributed to the final victory over the Nazis [Photograph No. 2]. The two plaques, in French and Flemish, were unveiled in September 1969 (the 25th anniversary) and gifted by the 4th Battalion of Fusiliers.

Early on the morning of Sunday 3 September 1944, five years to the day after the French and British declare war on Germany, the Germans leave Brussels setting fire to the Palais de Justice (Law Courts) in an attempt to destroy documents stored there. However, by forming a human chain the civilians of Brussels manged to save many of the building’s contents.

The 2nd Battalion of the Welsh Guards, which were at Douai in northern France on 2 September, advanced the hundred miles or so towards Brussels. There was relatively little opposition by the enemy to hold back their advance. Thus, the 2nd Welsh Guards achieved Brussels at 07:00 h on Sunday 3 September 1944. The first tank to arrive was commanded Lieutenant J.A.W. Dent of Number Three Troops, Number one Squadron.

In commemoration of the contribution of the Welsh Guards, a suitably sized uniform to clothe the city’s famous ‘Mannekin Pis’ sculpture has been donated to the city of Brussels. This can normally be found displayed on a replica of the ‘mannekin’ in the Museum of the City of Brussels [Photograph No. 3]. However, most years in early September the uniform is used to dress the celebrated mannekin at the corner of the Rue de Chêne and the Rue de l'Étuve.

The following day, Monday 4 September 1944, the ‘Piron Brigade’ (the Belgian 1st Infantry Brigade) commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Baptiste Piron arrives at Brussels. This was a defining moment in the history of Brussels and Belgium. It had been a long, hard road to make it this far and there was an even tougher road to take towards Berlin.

Amid the joyous scenes during these early days of liberation there was a solemn visit to rekindle the eternal flame at the Belgian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is located at the base of the Congress Column (in French the ‘Colonne du Congrès’ and in Flemish the ‘Congreskolom’) [Photograph No. 4].

Belgium’s Unknown Soldier was laid to rest at the base of the Congress Column on 11 November 1922 to remember the dead of the 1914 – 1918 war. At the end of the Second World War a second tablet was unveiled to remember the dead of that war and in 1998 a third tablet was unveiled to remember Belgian’s service men and women who have given their lives in the service of peace since 1945.

Sunday, 15 November, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Further information

For further information and to see newsreel footage of the liberation of Brussels in September 1944, click on the following links.

(1) Click on the following link to access the English language web page about the liberation of the Museum of the City of Brussels, with some newsreel footage towards the bottom of the page:
1944, the Liberation of Brussels

(2) Click on the following link to view the contemporary newsreel report by British Pathé which has the on-the-spot report by BBC war correspondent Chester Wilmott and shows the visit to the Belgian Tomb of the Unknown Warrior:
Brussels Liberated (Pathé news report)

Sunday, 15 November, 2015  

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