General Governorate of Belgium
|Imperial German General Governorate of Belgium|
|Kaiserliches Deutsches Generalgouvernement Belgien (German)|
|Languages||German, Dutch, French|
|-||1914||Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz|
|-||1914−1917||Moritz von Bissing|
|-||1917−1918||Ludwig von Falkenhausen|
|-||Established||26 August 1914|
|-||Armistice, withdrawal of German forces||11 November 1918|
|Today part of||Belgium|
The Imperial German General Governorate of Belgium (German: Kaiserliches Deutsches Generalgouvernement Belgien)[a] was a German military government established in occupied Belgium during the First World War.
Government and administration
The governorate was set up on 26 August 1914, when Field Marshal Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz was appointed the military governor of Belgium. He was succeeded by General Moritz von Bissing on 27 November 1914.
Soon after Bissing's appointment, the German High Command divided Belgium into three zones. The largest of the zones was the General Governorate, which included the capital Brussels and the surrounding countryside. The second zone, under the control of the German Fourth Army, included the cities of Ghent and Antwerp. The third zone, under the auspices of the German Navy, included all Belgian coastal zones under German occupation.
The German occupation tried to keep the pre-war Belgian administrative system as intact as possible and guide it using a small group of German officers and officials with adequate lingual and administrative skills.
The occupation tested to destruction what few constraints international law imposed on an occupying power. A heavy-handed German military administration sought to regulate every detail of daily life, both on a personal level with travel restraints and collective punishment as on the economical level by harnessing the Belgian industry to the German advantage and by levying repetitive massive indemnities on the Belgian provinces. Among the measures of the German governorate was to shift Belgium from Greenwich Mean Time to Central European Time. Before the War Belgium was the sixth largest economy in the world but the Germans destroyed the Belgian economy thoroughly by dismantling industries and transporting the equipment and machinery to Germany that it never regained its pre-war level. More than 100,000 Belgian workers were forcibly deported to Germany to work in the war industry and to Northern France to build roads and other military facilities to the German military's benefit.
The German High Command hoped to exploit the ethnic tension between the Flemish and Walloons, and envisioned a post-war German protectorate in Flanders, while Wallonia was to be used for industrial materials and labour along with much of northeastern France.
In April 1917 Von Bissing died and he was succeeded by Ludwig von Falkenhausen.
- Thomas, N. (2003), The German Army in World War I, 1914-15 I, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-84176-565-1, p. 9
- Tucker, S. & Roberts, P. M. (2005). World War I: encyclopedia, Vol 1, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1-85109-420-2, p. 209
- Larry Zuckerman, The Rape of Belgium: The Untold Story of World War I, NYU Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0-8147-9704-4