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What was life in Belgium like in the 1930's?
I'm writing a short story for a contest that involves a couple who loses a child during this time period and the woman is from Belgium, so they go back there for awhile. Any information could help, thanks.
- ?Lv 68 years agoFavorite Answer
Belgium in the thirties was, like all European nations in trouble. The recession hit the country hard and the government refused to save the prestigious Belgian car manufacturing. Companies, like Minerva and Imperia, that had been building the pride of a wealthy man's garage all over the world bit in the dust and the government, adhering to the then prevalent liberal notion of non-intervention, let these companies bite in the dust. The Belgian economy had received severe blows because of the recession, but also because of the War. The First World War had seen the almost absolute demolition of the economy. Hunger and shortages had stalked the population and with it's solid base shaken up the Belgian Frank, that had been stable and valuable before the war, fluctuated after the war, yet it never regained it's prewar reliablilty. It plummeted during the recession, to calm the population down a new (theoretical) currency was introduced that had a higher and "more comforting" rate: the Belga.
The Germans had failed (as was expected by visionaries) to keep up with it's payments, the continueous money printing to solve the problem caused a rapid hyperinflation. The French, with whom Belgium was in an alliance grew weary and occupied the Ruhr, the industrial hub of Germany, this caused a rapid acceleration of the inflation, the Germans started to hate the French even more and the Belgian public opinion grew weary of the alliance, which due to French recklessness would drag Belgium in another conflict. The people wanted to sail an isolationist course again.
Belgium was also no exception on a socio-cultural side. The thirties saw a swing to the right. Fascism was also in Belgium inicially popular: first "Rex" appeared, a national, Belgicist, Royalist, Catholic party that swayed over the course of time closer and closer to fascism. A number of Flemish nationalist parties emerged, many of which were rightwing. The 30s were shaken up by the election (as major of Antwerp) of August Borms, a Flemish nationalist who had collaborated strongly with the Germans during WWI, had lost his civil rights and was sentenced to a life imprisonment. The Belgian establishment came to the realization that the repression after WWI, which had been highly controlled by the state and therefore within reasonable bounds, had been too soft.
Fascist movements in Belgium quickly lost their national elan, the Flemish parties focused on the Dutch speaking part, Rex lost all importance in Flanders and would henceforth only be active in Wallonia. The traditional parties, the Belgian Workers Party (Dutch: Belgische Werklieden Partij BWP, French: Partie Ouvrier Belge POB), the Catholic Party of Belgium (Dutch: Katholiek Verbond van België KVB- French: Union Catholique Belge UCB), the Catholics were traditionally the strongest in Belgium and the Liberal (or libertarian for the Americans) Party of Belgium (Liberale Partij -Parti Liberal) was the oldest but also the smallest traditional party of Belgium, the thirties weren't their moment. Despite their seize they were very involved in government to keep Communists and Fascists out of the government.
The governments of the 30s were unstable and short lived because of the economical turmoil. The Communist Party of Belgium was member of parliament, but the communists were, in preparation of the People's revolution, sabotaging the structures of the state and army.
In 1934 Belgium's most popular monarch, Albert I, who was known as the soldier-king and one of the victors of WWI, died in an mountaineering accident. He had done an effort to keep the army up to date. After his death, the policies shifted to the creation of new fortresses and defensive lines that were supposed to be manned by the Belgian, British and French armies when the time came. In the meanwhile the structures needed to deter. Belgium also spend a lot of money on the army, making them by 1939 the best prepared army on the allied side. Plans were made and (on a population of 8 million) when the mobilization bell rang Belgium drafted 600 000 active men and another 400 000 reserves who were to be trained.Source(s): This is a short overview of Belgium. But it can only serve as a step up, to the other more detailed information hidden in books and on the Web