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Belgium from 1914 to 1918


Belgium during world war I
Belgium during world war I

On August 4, 1914, one week after World War I began, German troops crossed the frontier into Belgium, ignoring its neutral status. The government resisted invasion and appealed to France, Britain, and Russia for aid. The Belgian army put up a heroic defense against overpowering forces; for four years its troops held on to a sliver of Belgian territory between the Yser River and the French border. The Germans, meanwhile, carried on a ruthless occupation of Belgium, confiscating property and deporting civilians. Although they attempted to capitalize on language divisions by establishing separate Flemish and Walloon administrations, only a small minority of Flemings collaborated with the invaders.

A million Belgians fled the country. As the war dragged on, more than 80,000 soldiers and civilians died.

The major Allied offensive that began on September 28, 1918, liberated the entire Belgian coast and led the Germans to agree to an armistice and to withdrawal on the Allies’ terms. The shooting war was finally over. Under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany ceded Eupen-et-Malmédy, and Moresnet to Belgium, adding 989.3 sq km (382 sq mi) and some 64,500 inhabitants to the kingdom.

After the war Belgium was faced with the task of rebuilding the devastated areas. Although the damage was enormous, the country made a remarkable recovery.

Another consequence of World War I for Belgium was the discrediting of the policy of neutrality. Belgium effectively renounced its neutrality in 1920 by signing a military alliance with France. In 1925 it became a party to the Locarno treaties, in which Britain, France, Germany, and Italy guaranteed the boundaries of Belgium and affirmed its right to form defensive treaties. Ruanda-Urundi was created from part of a former German colony in East Africa in 1923 and placed under Belgian control by the League of Nations. "Belgium" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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