In World War I (1914 - 1918), 99 percent of Belgium was overrun, occupied, and ruled by the German Empire.

World War I

When World War I began, Germany invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg as part of the Schlieffen Plan, trying to take Paris quickly and catch the French off guard by invading through neutral countries. It was this action that technically caused the British to enter the war, as they were still bound by the 1839 agreement to protect Belgium in the event of a war. To this day, the Belgians are remembered for their stubborn resistance during the early days of the war, with the army - around a tenth the size of the Germany Army - holding up the German offensive for nearly a month, giving the French and British forces time to prepare for the Marne counteroffensive later in the year.

The German invaders treated any resistance—such as sabotaging rail lines—as illegal and immoral, and shot the offenders and burned buildings in retaliation. The German army executed over 6,500 French and Belgian civilians between August and November 1914, usually in near-random large-scale shootings of civilians ordered by junior German officers.[24]

The Germans were stopped by the Allies at the front-line along the Yser, the Battle of the Yser. King Albert I stayed in Belgium with his troops to lead the army while the government withdrew to Le Havre, France. The Germans governed the occupied areas of Belgium through a General Governorate of Belgium, while a small area of the country remained unoccupied by the Germans.

Flanders saw some of the greatest losses of life of the First World War including the first and second battles of Ypres. Due to the hundreds of thousands of casualties, the poppies that sprang up from the battlefield and that were immortalized in the poem In Flanders Fields, have become an emblem of human life lost in war. It is perfectly normal for poppies to invade disturbed arable ground. The suffering of Flanders is still remembered by Flemish organizations during the yearly Yser pilgrimage and Wake of the Yser (the latter associated with Right wing extremists) in Diksmuide at the monument of The Yser tower.

Rape of Belgium

The Rape of Belgium is a wartime propaganda term describing the 1914 German invasion of Belgium. The term initially had a figurative meaning, referring to the violation of Belgian neutrality, but embellished reports of German atrocities soon gave it a literal significance.[1] One modern author uses it more narrowly to describe a series of German war crimes in the opening months of the War (4 August through September 1914).[2]
The neutrality of Belgium had been guaranteed by the Treaty of London (1839) which had been signed by Prussia. The Treaty of London was confirmedin 1871[3] and at the Hague Conference in 1907[dubious ] by the German Empire, which largely inherited and reaffirmed Prussia's diplomatic obligations.

However the German Schlieffen Plan required that German [[#|armed forces]] violate Belgium's neutrality in order to outflank the French Army, concentrated in eastern France. The German [[#|Chancellor]] Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg dismissed the treaty of 1839 as a "scrap of paper".[4] Throughout the beginning of the war the German army engaged in numerous atrocities against the civilian population of Belgium, and destruction of civilian property; 6,000 Belgians were killed, 25,000 homes and other buildings in 837 communities destroyed. 1,500,000 Belgians fled from the invading German army (20% of the entire Belgian population). (read more)

World War I, US propaganda poster

Belgium WWI photo2.jpg
The German camp at Vise a few miles northeast of Liege. In the hollow on the right is a group of Belgian soldiers captured in the Vise fight. Beneath and beyond the trees are the soldiers' camps and wagon trains.

The Battle of Liège was the opening engagement of the German invasion of Belgium, and the first battle of World War I[1]. The attack on the city began on 5 August 1914[2] and lasted until the 16th when the last Belgian fort finally surrendered. The invasion of Belgium was the event that triggered the United Kingdom's entry into the war; the unexpected vigor of the city's defense allowed more time for the western Allies to organize and prepare their defense of France. (read more)

Belgium WWI photo.jpg
Street scene in Ghent, Belgium following German occupation 1919

WWII in Belgium

external image 500px-Wacht_am_Rhein_map_%28Opaque%29.svg.png

The Battle of the Bulge (also known as the Ardennes Offensive and the Von Rundstedt Offensive to the Germans) (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was a major German offensive (die Ardennenoffensive), launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium, and France and Luxembourg on the Western Front. TheWehrmacht's code name for the offensive was Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein ("Operation Watch on the Rhine"), after the German patriotic hymn Die Wacht am Rhein. The French name for the operation is Bataille des Ardennes.

There are several American names for this battle. The first was the description given to the way the Allied front line bulged inward on wartime news maps, which was reported in the contemporary press as the Battle of the Bulge.[19][h][20] The battle was militarily defined as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, which included the German drive and the American effort to contain and later defeat it. Following the war, the U.S. Army issued a campaign citation for its units fighting in northwest Europe at the time. This was called the Ardennes-Alsace campaign and included the Ardennes sector (of the Ardennes Counteroffensive fighting) and units further south in the Alsace sector. The latter units were not involved except for elements sent northward as reinforcements. While the Ardennes Counteroffensive is correct military parlance, because the official Ardennes-Alsace campaign covers much more than the Ardennes battle region, the most popular description remains simply the Battle of the Bulge.

The German offensive was supported by several subordinate operations known as Unternehmen Bodenplatte, Greif, and Währung.Germany's goal for these operations was to split the British and American Allied line in half, capturing Antwerp and then proceed toencircle and destroy four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis Powers' favour.[21] Once accomplished, Hitler could fully concentrate on the eastern theatre of war.

The offensive was planned with the utmost secrecy, minimizing radio traffic and moving troops and equipment under cover of darkness. Although Ultra suggested a possible attack and the Third U.S. Army's intelligence staff predicted a major German offensive, the Allies were still caught by surprise. This was achieved by a combination of Allied overconfidence, preoccupation with their own offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance.

Near-complete surprise against a weakly defended section of the Allied line was achieved during heavy overcast weather, which grounded the Allies' overwhelmingly superior air forces. Fierce resistance, particularly around the key town of Bastogne, and terrain favouring the defenders threw the German timetable behind schedule. Allied reinforcements, including General George S. Patton's Third Army, and improving weather conditions, which permitted air attacks on German forces and supply lines, sealed the failure of the offensive.

In the wake of the defeat, many experienced German units were left severely depleted of men and equipment as survivors retreated to the defenses of the Siegfried Line. For the Americans, with about 610,000 men[2] committed and some 89,000 casualties,[12] including 19,000 killed,[12][16] the Battle of the Bulge was the largest and bloodiest battle that they fought in World War II. (read more...)