General Government of Belgium

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Imperial German General Government of Belgium

Kaiserliches Deutsches Generalgouvernement Belgien  (German)
Map of the whole area under German occupation, c.1916 of which the General Government was part.
Map of the whole area under German occupation, c.1916 of which the General Government was part.
Common languagesGerman, Dutch, French
GovernmentOccupation authority
Military Governor 
• 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
ISO 3166 codeBE
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Today part of Belgium

The Imperial German General Government of Belgium (German: Kaiserliches Deutsches Generalgouvernement Belgien)[a] was a German military government and one of three different occupation administrations established in German-occupied Belgium during the First World War.

Government and administration[edit]

The administration was set up on 26 August 1914, when Field Marshal Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz was appointed as military governor of Belgium.[1] He was succeeded by General Moritz von Bissing on 27 November 1914.[1]

Soon after Bissing's appointment, the German High Command divided Belgium into three administratively-distinct zones.[2] The largest of the zones was the General Government, which included the capital Brussels and the surrounding countryside.[2] The second zone, under the control of the German Fourth Army, included the cities of Ghent and Antwerp and was known as the Etappengebiet.[2] The third zone, under the auspices of the German Navy, included all Belgian coastal zones under German occupation and the areas closest to the front-line was called the Operationsgebied.[2]

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 linguistic and administrative skills.[2]

The occupation pushed to the breaking point what few constraints international law then 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 administration 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 so 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.[3]

The German High Command hoped to exploit the ethnic tension between the Flemings 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.[2]

In April 1917 Von Bissing died and he was succeeded by Ludwig von Falkenhausen.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In the national languages of Belgium, Dutch: Keizerlijke Duitse Generaal Gouvernement van België or French: Gouvernorat général allemand impérial de Belgique.


  1. ^ a b Thomas, N. (2003), The German Army in World War I, 1914-15 I, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-84176-565-1, p. 9
  2. ^ a b c d e f Tucker, S. & Roberts, P. M. (2005). World War I: encyclopedia, Vol 1, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1-85109-420-2, p. 209
  3. ^ Larry Zuckerman, The Rape of Belgium: The Untold Story of World War I, NYU Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0-8147-9704-4

External links[edit]