Belgium History - The German Occupation

Belgium History – The German Occupation


The German movements on the western frontier began in the night of 9 to 10 May 1940. The group of armies commanded by General F. von Bock operated on the German right wing, ie against the Belgian-Dutch territory.

The Belgian staff had deployed two divisions in forward defense, in the Ardennes area; then established a safety line which, starting from the Antwerp area, ran along the Scheldt-Meuse junction canal up to Liège, from which it continued towards the Luxembourg-France border, and three subsequent fortified lines: the first of these, following the Alberto Canal reached Liège, whence it folded along the Meuse as far as the Namur area; the second developed from Namur to Antwerp; the third from Antwerp, via the Schelda-Lys, ended up at the sea and made Antwerp the true Belgian redoubt, leaning on the left at the mouth of the Schelde and on the right to the river defense system of the Schelde itself and its tributaries.

As always, the initial movements of the German infantry were preceded and accompanied by a massive air force action, which acted not only by disrupting the enemy’s preparation, destroying or seriously damaging military installations and lines of communication and terrifying the populations., but it was also suitable for transporting and bringing down large crowds of paratroopers in particularly delicate points of the defensive organism. Fort Eben-Emael, for example, one of the most modern and powerfully armed in Europe, which dominated important passages on the Meuse and on the Canal Alberto, was conquered, in fact, in a short time by a German patrol that dropped inside the fort’s enclosure. using a helicopter or simple parachutes.

Almost simultaneously with the conquest of Fort Eben-Emael, which greatly compromised the defense of Liège, the Albert Canal was also forced by the Germans in the section between Maastricht and Hasselt, also taking advantage of the fact that the Belgians had not promptly taken steps to blow up one of the most important bridges, that of Vroenhoven. On the second day, therefore, German forces were already west of Liège, where they entered on the 13th, although the other forts in the belt still resisted. For Belgium history, please check

Allied troops, meanwhile, had quickly rushed into Belgian territory; on the 12th, the 7th French army, under the command of General Giraud, reached the Termond-Tilburg line and an English army, under the command of Lord Gort, lined up along the Dyle; covering the movements of the French army, the cavalry corps made contact with the Germans.

On days 13 and 14, therefore, the deployment of the allied and Belgian forces, of which the latter had taken command of King Leopold, leaned with the left in Antwerp, descending, along the Dyle, to the other stronghold of Namur, on the Meuse. On the 14th, however, the German command launched a formidable hammer blow against the entire Allied deployment, managing, in the sector of the Meuse medium, to overwhelm the defense of the French 9th army under the command of General Corap, and to force the Meuse in the section between Dinant and Corignan, south-east of the historic town of Sedan, already fatal to the French once again. The fate of Belgium was thus sealed, and furthermore the defensive bulwark from which France felt protected against any renewed attempt of German invasion was to be survived from the north,

On the Dyle line, the allied forces still resisted until the whole of day 16, but on the following day the situation worsened: after two days of bitter battle, the whole stretch in front from Antwerp to Namur was broken through; Namur itself occupied, so that all the allied troops deployed further north were forced to retreat. The cities of Louvain and Malines were also occupied by German rapid columns on the south; other Germanic troops burst into the northern part of the fortress of Antwerp and on the same evening of the 17th Brussels, which had been declared an open city, saw the first German echelons pass by.

The following morning, despite the fact that some forts of Liège, Namur and Antwerp still resisted (and this resistance was to last for a few more days), the troops that entered the fortified belt of Antwerp entered the city. West of Brussels, the German columns reached the Dendre. Between Antwerp and the Dendre, the Franco-Belgian forces then attempted an extreme resistance, with the aim of allowing the bulk of the French and English troops to withdraw, before a threat of envelopment could emerge against them. Instead the Germans were aiming decisively for Arras and Amiens towards the sea, which was reached on the 21st, with the speeding of a column up to Abbeville (see france, in this App.). All the surviving troops of Belgium and the French and British armies who rushed to support them therefore remained enclosed within a vast pocket that went from Abbeville, near the mouth of the Somme, to Arras and the course of the Shoes, Valenciennes and part of the course of the Schelde, on the Dutch border. In this situation, the king of Belgium asked for an armistice (see above § History); in this way the Belgian army, still strong of four or five hundred thousand men, capitulated and the whole north flank of the allied array was left uncovered.

Belgium History - The German Occupation