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Belgian resistance during World War II to occupation of Belgium by Nazi Germany took different forms. "The Belgian Resistance" was the common name for the Netwerk van de weerstand - Réseau de Résistance or Resistance Network (RR), a group of partisans fighting Nazi occupation of Belgium. Belgian resistance fighters performed various roles, including sabotaging Nazi installations and helping rescue downed Allied fliers.[1]

Andrée de Jongh organized the Comet Line (Komeet Lijn - Le Reseau Comète) for escaped Allied soldiers. Albert Guérisse organized escape routes for downed Allied pilots under the alias of Patrick Albert "Pat" O'Leary; his escape line was dubbed the Pat Line.

Andree Antoine Dumon helped rescue 27 Allied fliers and worked as a courier for the resistance.[1] Baron Georges Schnek, operating mainly in France and who was Jewish, helped provide false ID papers and ration coupons to fleeing Jewish families.[1]

Georges Schoeters, co-founder and member of the FLQ, worked as a courier towards the end of the war until he was captured by the Nazis.

Contents

Background

Belgium was a neutral country but by November 1939 intelligence reports of an impending German attack reached a peak. The Germans had invaded Poland and France had declared war on Germany. The Germans wanted to remove potential aggressors to their west to avoid fighting on two fronts, a strategy which crippled their abilities in World War I. The German Army needed to push through neutral Belgium in order to attack France. The French and British sent soldiers to aid in the fight against the Germans but despite their efforts, the Germans secured the unconditional surrender of Belgium after 18 days of fighting. The King of Belgium, King Leopold III, went against his cabinet by deciding to surrender the country. King Leopold III was taken as a prisoner of war and was later accused by his countrymen of collaborating with the Germans. Despite this, while imprisoned, in 1942 he sent a letter to Adolf Hitler which has been credited with saving an estimated 500,000 Belgian women and children from deportation to munitions factories in Germany.[2] The members of the cabinet retreated to England, where they set up government. Immediately after the surrender, resistance groups were formed to harass the German Army. Due to Germany's failure to sway the Belgian citizens during the German occupation in World War I, the invading army sought to establish itself as a liberating force from British imperialism. However, many citizens were quick to aid in the fight against the Germans. The situation in Belgium is documented in Roger Motz's book Belgium Unvanquished in which Motz describes the atmosphere of resistance as being "relentless".[3] Due to the large number of Belgian citizens who were willing to aid the resistance fighters, supply lines were established and evasion routes were charted. The Belgian resistance fighters were determined to aid the Allies in any way they could.

Unusually the Belgian resistance would also come to include the Légion Belge, a far right resistance movement led by dissident Rexists who opposed occupation and the National Legion of Paul Hoornaert.[4]

The Independence Front, a mostly communist-led resistance network, was one of the most important in Belgium. It included a specific Austrian communist network, the Österreichische Freiheitsfront.

Downed Airmen

The Germans sent out patrols of men with dogs and motorcycles to search for any Allied soldier who was shot down. The resistance groups were quick to beat the Germans to the downed flyers. Parachutes needed to be immediately buried and pilots were hidden from the Germans. The Comet Line had a series of safe houses throughout Belgium. Allied airmen were given civilian clothes and frequently moved from house to house, staying with Belgian families who supported the resistance.[5] The resistance would aid the airmen by giving them false papers and guiding them to either neutral or Allied occupied territory. German soldiers would fail to recognize that some of the men passing through their checkpoints were actually allied pilots who were being transported out of Belgium. One incident was captured on film where a German soldier was shown lighting the cigarette of an American Navigator who was disguised as a Belgian civilian.[6] Though many airmen were able to escape successfully, many others were caught by the Germans, sometimes after months of successful evasion. Captured soldiers were interrogated by the Gestapo before being imprisoned in Belgium or transported back to German POW camps.

Bridge over the Ambleve River

German troops were moved by train from stations in Belgium. The resistance network monitored these transport trains to determine the patterns of German troop movement. Herman Bodson was a Belgian chemist before the war broke out in Europe. Bodson was heavily involved with the Comet line and worked with allied Special Forces during the war. He also served as a medic during the Battle of the Bulge He worked with several resistance units in and around Brussels. Allied commanders passed on targets to the men, who would carry out the sabotage missions. Bodson had received reports that the German Army was constantly sending trains full of German soldiers throughout Belgium. The resistance network quickly identified when and where troop trains would be traveling. The plan was to destroy a vital bridge between the towns of La Gleize and Stoumont. A group of nearly 40 members of the Belgian Resistance assembled at the bridge and quickly began placing explosives on the bridge's center arch. As a German troop train approached the bridge, the explosives were detonated. The train, unable to stop in time, crashed into the river killing all 600 German soldiers aboard.[7] Belgian saboteurs received much of their supplies, including explosives and arms by stealing them from German munitions dumps and during skirmishes with the German Army. One faction of the resistance, known as Group G carried out numerous successful sabotage missions. The Germans were continuously tested by the resistance groups. Throughout the war Group G caused the Germans to expend 20 million man-hours of labor to repair damages done by the underground.[6]

Casualties

Resistance fighters were constantly working to overthrow the occupying Germans. Their missions often went unseen but any resistance fighters captured by the Germans would either be imprisoned or shot. Losses were felt hard in the resistance community. Members were always at risk of being captured or betrayed. The Germans had special agents working against the resistance forces. The agents were told to make connections within the underground communities in order to gather intelligence. Escape routes were sometimes traps and many downed airmen, as well as resistance fighters, were captured this way. German soldiers, working within the resistance groups were responsible for the arrests of hundreds of Belgian citizens, Allied soldiers and resistance fighters.[8]

Achievements

One of the objectives of the resistance was to provide an evasion route for Allied pilots who had been shot down over areas occupied by the Germans. Many of the resistance fighters sought to harass the German Army into withdrawing from Belgian territories.

Resistance fighters were also credited with stopping a train which was transporting Jewish prisoners to Auschwitz. This train was labeled the Twentieth convoy.[9]

The use of sabotage as an effective weapon was not heavily utilized until World War II. The German Army lost thousands of trains during the war due to acts of sabotage. German units were spread throughout Europe and many smaller units were targeted by resistance fighters. Ambushes were a common tactic used. Rail lines were very often targeted to disrupt the flow of materials and men for the German Army. Stretches of track were rigged with explosive charges and would be set to explode as the train passes over them. The resistance groups costs the German Army millions of dollars worth of equipment and had a large psychological effect on the German soldiers. By stalling and delaying the German forces, the Belgian Resistance group prevented the Axis from ever establishing a stable base of operations in occupied Belgium.[10]

Popular culture

A 1977 film, Secret Agents, dealt with the Belgian Resistance.

A BBC series, Secret Army, was filmed during the late 1970s based on Comète Line

An American documentary in 2006 called "Last Best Hope" premiered in Brussels for Prince Phillipe, the Belgian Army, and diplomats from five countries. Film makers David Grosvenor, Mat Hames, Ramona Kelly, and Walter Verstraeten presented the film to surviving Belgian Resistance members Andrée de Jongh, Raymond Itterbeek, Michou and Nadine Dumon and others. An edited version aired in the U.S. on PBS in 2006 and 2007 and on European television in 2007.

A History Channel documentary called Nazi Ghost Train was released in 2000 and interviews members of the Belgian Resistance at a reunion. Surviving Allied pilots also attend to pay respect to the men and women who risked their lives to keep them from falling into German hands.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Remembering The Resistance, Belgium's Freedom Fighters Aided Allies - CBS News
  2. ^ Leopold III. (2009). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved February 12, 2009, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online:
  3. ^ Motz, Roger. Belgium unvanquished (Europe under the Nazis). Great Britain: L. Drummond, 1942.
  4. ^ R.J.B. Bosworth, The Oxford Handbook of Fascism, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 482
  5. ^ Clinch, John. Comete Line. http://www.belgiumww2.info.
  6. ^ a b Miller, Russell. The Resistance:WWII Time Life Education. 1979.
  7. ^ Bodson, Herman "Agent for the Resistance" Pages 150-153 Texas A&M Press. 1994
  8. ^ Bodson, Herman "Agent for the Resistance" Pages 190-192 Texas A&M Press. 1994
  9. ^ William Herskovic <http://articles.latimes.com/2006/mar/07/local/me-herskovic7>.
  10. ^ European Resistance Movements, 1939-1945: A Complete History. Meckler Publishing. 1981

4.José GOTOVITCH. Du Rouge au tricolore : les communistes belges de 1939 à 1944 : un aspect de l’histoire de la Résistance en Belgique. Bruxelles : Éd. Labor, 1992. (Archives du futur – Histoire). 609 p.

External links

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Belgian resistance during World War II to the occupation of Belgium by Nazi Germany took different forms. "The Belgian Resistance" was the common name for the Netwerk van de weerstand - Réseau de Résistance or Resistance Network (RR), a group of partisans fighting the Nazis. Belgian resistance fighters performed various roles, including sabotaging Nazi installations and helping rescue downed Allied fliers.[1] As much of the rail traffic between northern Germany and France passes through Belgium, another role played by networks with radios was to provide the Allies with intelligence on movements of troops and materiel.

Andrée de Jongh organized the Comet Line (Komeet Lijn - Le Reseau Comète) for escaped Allied soldiers. Albert Guérisse organized escape routes for downed Allied pilots under the alias of Patrick Albert "Pat" O'Leary; his escape line was dubbed the Pat Line.

Andree Antoine Dumon helped rescue 27 Allied fliers and worked as a courier for the resistance.[1] Baron Georges Schnek, operating mainly in France and who was Jewish, helped provide false ID papers and ration coupons to fleeing Jewish families.[1]

Georges Schoeters, co-founder and member of the FLQ, worked as a courier towards the end of the war until he was captured by the Nazis.

Contents

Background

Belgium was a neutral country but by November 1939 intelligence reports of an impending German attack reached a peak. The Germans had invaded Poland and France had declared war on Germany. The Germans wanted to remove potential aggressors to their west to avoid fighting on two fronts, a strategy which crippled their abilities in World War I. The German Army needed to push through neutral Belgium in order to attack France. The French and British sent soldiers to aid in the fight against the Germans but despite their efforts, the Germans secured the unconditional surrender of Belgium after 18 days of fighting. The King of Belgium, King Leopold III, went against his cabinet by deciding to surrender the country. King Leopold III was taken as a prisoner of war and was later accused by his countrymen of collaborating with the Germans. Despite this, while imprisoned, in 1942 he sent a letter to Adolf Hitler which has been credited with saving an estimated 500,000 Belgian women and children from deportation to munitions factories in Germany.[2] The members of the cabinet retreated to England, where they set up government. Immediately after the surrender, resistance groups were formed to harass the German Army. Due to Germany's failure to sway the Belgian citizens during the German occupation in World War I, the invading army sought to establish itself as a liberating force from British imperialism. However, many citizens were quick to aid in the fight against the Germans. The situation in Belgium is documented in Roger Motz's book Belgium Unvanquished in which Motz describes the atmosphere of resistance as being "relentless".[3] Due to the large number of Belgian citizens who were willing to aid the resistance fighters, supply lines were established and evasion routes were charted. The Belgian resistance fighters were determined to aid the Allies in any way they could.

Unusually the Belgian resistance would also come to include the Légion Belge, a far right resistance movement led by dissident Rexists who opposed occupation and the National Legion of Paul Hoornaert.[4]

The Independence Front, a mostly communist-led resistance network, was one of the most important in Belgium. It included a specific Austrian communist network, the Österreichische Freiheitsfront.

Downed Airmen

The Germans sent out patrols of men with dogs and motorcycles to search for any Allied airman who was shot down. The resistance groups were quick to beat the Germans to the downed flyers. Parachutes needed to be immediately buried and pilots were hidden from the Germans. The Comet Line had a series of safe houses throughout Belgium. Allied airmen were given civilian clothes and frequently moved from house to house, staying with Belgian families who supported the resistance.[5] The resistance would aid the airmen by giving them false papers and guiding them to either neutral or Allied occupied territory. German soldiers would fail to recognize that some of the men passing through their checkpoints were actually allied pilots who were being transported out of Belgium. One incident was captured on film where a German soldier was shown lighting the cigarette of an American Navigator who was disguised as a Belgian civilian.[6] Though many airmen were able to escape successfully, many others were caught by the Germans, sometimes after months of successful evasion. Captured airmen were interrogated by the Gestapo before being imprisoned in Belgium or transported back to German POW camps.

Bridge over the Ambleve River

German troops were moved by train from stations in Belgium. The resistance network monitored these transport trains to determine the patterns of German troop movement. Herman Bodson was a Belgian chemist before the war broke out in Europe. Bodson was heavily involved with the Comet line and worked with allied Special Forces during the war. He also served as a medic during the Battle of the Bulge He worked with several resistance units in and around Brussels. Allied commanders passed on targets to the men, who would carry out the sabotage missions. Bodson had received reports that the German Army was constantly sending trains full of German soldiers throughout Belgium. The resistance network quickly identified when and where troop trains would be traveling. The plan was to destroy a vital bridge between the towns of La Gleize and Stoumont. A group of nearly 40 members of the Belgian Resistance assembled at the bridge and quickly began placing explosives on the bridge's center arch. As a German troop train approached the bridge, the explosives were detonated. The train, unable to stop in time, crashed into the river killing all 600 German soldiers aboard.[7] Belgian saboteurs received much of their supplies, including explosives and arms by stealing them from German munitions dumps and during skirmishes with the German Army. One faction of the resistance, known as Group G carried out numerous successful sabotage missions. The Germans were continuously tested by the resistance groups. Throughout the war Group G caused the Germans to expend 20 million man-hours of labor to repair damages done by the underground.[6]

Casualties

Resistance fighters were constantly working to overthrow the occupying Germans. Their missions often went unseen but any resistance fighters captured by the Germans would either be imprisoned or shot. Losses were felt hard in the resistance community. Members were always at risk of being captured or betrayed. The Germans had special agents working against the resistance forces. The agents were told to make connections within the underground communities in order to gather intelligence. Escape routes were sometimes traps and many downed airmen, as well as resistance fighters, were captured this way. German soldiers, working within the resistance groups were responsible for the arrests of hundreds of Belgian citizens, Allied soldiers and resistance fighters.[8]

Achievements

One of the objectives of the resistance was to provide an evasion route for Allied pilots who had been shot down over areas occupied by the Germans. Many of the resistance fighters sought to harass the German Army into withdrawing from Belgian territories.

Resistance fighters were also credited with stopping a train which was transporting Jewish prisoners to Auschwitz. This train was labeled the Twentieth convoy.[9]

The use of sabotage as an effective weapon was not heavily utilized until World War II. The German Army lost thousands of trains during the war due to acts of sabotage. German units were spread throughout Europe and many smaller units were targeted by resistance fighters. Ambushes were a common tactic used. Rail lines were very often targeted to disrupt the flow of materials and men for the German Army. Stretches of track were rigged with explosive charges and would be set to explode as the train passes over them. The resistance groups costs the German Army millions of dollars worth of equipment and had a large psychological effect on the German soldiers. By stalling and delaying the German forces, the Belgian Resistance group prevented the Axis from ever establishing a stable base of operations in occupied Belgium.[10]

Popular culture

  • A 1977 film, Secret Agents, dealt with the Belgian Resistance.[citation needed]
  • A BBC series, Secret Army, was filmed during the late 1970s based on Comète Line
  • An American documentary in 2006 called "Last Best Hope" premiered in Brussels for Prince Phillipe, the Belgian Army, and diplomats from five countries. Film makers David Grosvenor, Mat Hames, Ramona Kelly, and Walter Verstraeten presented the film to surviving Belgian Resistance members Andrée de Jongh, Raymond Itterbeek, Michou and Nadine Dumon and others. An edited version aired in the U.S. on PBS in 2006 and 2007 and on European television in 2007.
  • A History Channel documentary called Nazi Ghost Train was released in 2000 and interviews members of the Belgian Resistance at a reunion. Surviving Allied pilots also attend to pay respect to the men and women who risked their lives to keep them from falling into German hands.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Remembering The Resistance, Belgium's Freedom Fighters Aided Allies - CBS News
  2. ^ Leopold III. (2009). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved February 12, 2009, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online:
  3. ^ Motz, Roger. Belgium unvanquished (Europe under the Nazis). Great Britain: L. Drummond, 1942.
  4. ^ R.J.B. Bosworth, The Oxford Handbook of Fascism, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 482
  5. ^ John Clinch (2004). "Escape Line Research and Remembrance". 6. Comète Line. http://www.belgiumww2.info. Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Miller, Russell. The Resistance: WWII Time Life Education. 1979.
  7. ^ Bodson, Herman "Agent for the Resistance" Pages 150-153 Texas A&M Press. 1994
  8. ^ Bodson, Herman "Agent for the Resistance" Pages 190-192 Texas A&M Press. 1994
  9. ^ Valerie J. Nelson, Times Staff Writer (March 7, 2006). "William Herskovic, 91; Bel Air Camera Founder Escaped Auschwitz, Fueled Belgian Resistance". LA Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2006/mar/07/local/me-herskovic7. Retrieved 18 September 2010. 
  10. ^ European Resistance Movements, 1939-1945: A Complete History. Meckler Publishing. 1981
  • José Gotovitch, "Du Rouge au tricolore: les communistes belges de 1939 à 1944 : un aspect de l’histoire de la Résistance en Belgique". Bruxelles: Éd. Labor, 1992. (Archives du futur – Histoire). 609 p.

External links


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