What do Belgians think of the Dutch?
......Mathias: Why is the relationship between Belgium and Germany with regard to World War II not as strained as that between the Netherlands and Germany - at least when it comes to resentment among the population? Or is it exactly the same - and only Belgium doesn’t notice it ???
...... 1. So, for Belgium as for France, "la grande guerre" is the First World War, the great shock, the war that humiliates and largely destroys the country. It lasted 4 years, 4 years on Belgian soil, in West Flanders there was only mud, rubbish and corpses. The Second World War lasted only 18 days (1940), then there was silence, the Allied offensive in 1944 was also very quick. The only exception: the Battle of the Bulge. In the Bastogne region, memories of WWII are more bitter than in the rest of the country, but Bastogne is somewhere far in the mountains for the average Belgian. The Netherlands' neutrality was respected during World War I, while World War II was the first for the Dutch.
...... 2. The German occupation in Belgium was less brutal than in the Netherlands, the Netherlands was ruled by the SS, Belgium by the Wehrmacht until a few weeks before the arrival of the Allies, Hitler was undecided until the end of '43, what to do with Belgium. The military government was - similar to that in Paris or in northern France - relatively humane. The "Byzantine" organization of the Belgian administration with its hundreds of privileges and responsibilities could not be seen through or used by the Germans. The Belgians have managed well in many places not to allow the Germans to talk too much into them. The Calvinist Dutch administration functioned like clockwork on command, was immediately and 100% deployable for the SS. The Belgians saved 50% of "their" Jews, the Dutch 20%. On the other hand, Belgium took an active part in the war, not least with the uranium supplies for the American atomic bomb (at that time uranium was only known in the Congo).
...... 3. The Dutch see themselves completely as victims of the Germans, it is not so easy for the Belgians. In the First World War they were also only victims and heroic defenders of Ypres. But in the second there was a king willing to collaborate, who stayed in the country, even recognized the occupation to the extent that he organized a pompous royal wedding in 1943, went to Berchtesgaden for private negotiations, etc. was slowed down and practically destroyed by an anti-fascist cardinal and the Flemish nationalist VNV, which - intelligently supported by the Germans - made some progress for the "Flemish cause". In addition there were the two Waffen SS divisions Flanders and Wallonia. In the immediate post-war period, numerous middle-class collaborators were sentenced to death and executed. The Belgians have enough to do with their own entanglement as well as with the apparently quite unjust post-war retaliation action that missed big fish and also quite a few French-speaking collaborators in order to see all the blame on "the Germans".
...... 4. The Dutch think, as good Calvinists, in black and white, good and bad, Belgians as good Catholics in ambiguities both-and-also.
...... 5. Holland has a long open border with Germany, Germany is the only big neighbor, they see their language and culture under constant pressure from the Germans, who think their language is almost like German ... The Belgians have two long open borders with the Netherlands and France, while Germany lies behind the seven mountains. The Flemings are harassed by Francophones and French and by English-speaking Dutch, the Francophones by the Flemish, Germans do not appear there. There are practically no German jokes here because Germans are too boring to be noticed.
(c) Malte Woydt
As an evening course over 9 Tuesday evenings. From October 4, 2005, 8:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., in the rooms of the German School. For KUBI, register there, see www.kubi.be
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