Strike of the 100,000

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Modern-day view of the Cockerill-Sambre steel works in Seraing where the strike started

The Strike of the 100,000 (French: Grève des 100 000) was an 8-day strike in Belgium which took place from 10–18 May 1941 during the German occupation. It was led by Julien Lahaut, head of the Belgian Communist Party (Parti Communiste de Belgique, PCB). The object of the strike was to demand a wage increase though it was also an act of passive resistance to the German occupation.

The strike originated at the Cockerill steel works in the industrial town of Seraing on 10 May 1941, the first anniversary of the German invasion of Belgium.[1] News spread quickly through the province, and at its height it is estimated that 70,000 workers were on strike.[1] In order to end the strike, the Germans were forced to increase wages substantially (by 8%) and the strike finished.[1] The strike officially ended on 18 May.[2] In the aftermath of the strike, the German authorities worried that a repeat could occur, arrested 400 workers in September 1942 who they believed to be planning a similar action.[1] Further important strikes did, however, take place in Belgium in November 1942 and February 1943.[1]

In the aftermath of the strike and the repression of Communists following the invasion of Russia, Julian Lahaut was deported to a concentration camp in Germany. Many other strikers were also incarcerated in the fortress of Huy.[2]

A similar strike, inspired by the Strike of the 100,000, took place later the same year in the French province of Pas-de-Calais (part of the same German administrative area as Belgium) which was judged by the French newspaper Le Monde in 2001 to have been one of the most spectacular acts of the French resistance.

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  1. ^ a b c d e Gotovitch, José; Aron, Paul, eds. (2008). Dictionnaire de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale en Belgique. Brussels: André Versaille éd. pp. 220–1. ISBN 978-2-87495-001-8. 
  2. ^ a b "Evocation: Julien Lahaut et la grève des 100 000". RTBF Info. 4 May 2010. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 

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