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In all over Belgium hundreds of small groups sprang up, mainly in large cities and in the industrial regions of Wallonia. They generally only became linked to national resistance organisations later in the war and sometimes even after it ended. They undertook concrete action with a handful of people from the district or village, or through a familiar, trusted organisation.

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Many people and groups also combined different forms of resistance: sabotage, intelligence work, clandestine press, support for those in hiding, administrative resistance and sometimes attacks. After the war various separate official resistance statutes were created, potentially giving the impression that this resistance activity happened separately in individual organisations. The beginning of the Jewish deportations, with several large round-ups in the summer of , did not lead to a substantial expansion of the resistance.

However the Committee for the Defence of the Jews, which had links with the Independent Front, was founded at this point. Along with many ordinary citizens and religious organisations, this committee organised the rescue of thousands of Jews, including more than 2, children.

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Tens of thousands of families were affected and men went into hiding en masse, becoming dependent on help to survive in secrecy. This breakthrough moment coincided with changing fortunes in the war.

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  4. This signified an enormous boost to the resistance. Among other actions, the Independent Front now threw itself into organising help for those going into hiding, providing false papers and ration cards, material and financial support, in collaboration with the resistance group Socrates, an initiative of the Belgian government in London to support those refusing to work. As more and more people in hiding and resistance fighters were leaving the cities and the resistance networks formed increasingly long chains to remain in touch, rural regions were also integrated.

    But with the changing military fortunes, German repression also increased. There were large waves of arrests from summer until April , and again from early The Belgian government in London was long doubtful about the resistance. Only in did the resistance gain support, and even then only gradually and not without difficulties such as internal tensions between military and government divisions, including the division for state security.

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    The support from London only really got off the ground in Escape routes became more professional and there were various broadcasts from radio operators intended to help intelligence networks and offer material and financial support. In weapons and ammunition were also dropped. More than , Belgians engaged in the resistance.

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    No precise figure is available because post-war recognition procedures were not always reliable and many Belgians who effectively committed acts of resistance were not recognised. In any case the resistance was a matter for a small minority. Around 2. Around 40, resistance fighters were arrested, more than half of them in Almost 15, died in action, by execution or while imprisoned.

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    4. The Belgian resistance was pluralist but fragmented. An overarching national organisation never came together, during the war or afterwards. There were the intelligence services: in Belgium 37 networks were active with 18, officially recognised members. The most inspiring was the armed resistance in total around , known members. The most important organisations were the Secret Army, mentioned above, and the Armed Partisans.

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      By June the Secret Army had around 54, members, supported by a military cadre but recruiting from all levels of society, albeit notably less from the working classes. The right-wing conservative organisation also expanded significantly in Flanders from onwards. From summer it received material and financial support from London. At first they committed small acts of sabotage, but from spring they also began to assassinate collaborators. A majority of the approximately attacks on individuals in Belgium were committed by the Armed Partisans.

      The impact of the group, given its relatively limited support, was significant. Besides this large national organisation there were dozens of specific groups focused on specific areas. The political and moral legacy of the resistance has even been largely forgotten.

      There are various reasons for this. Firstly the resistance is not linked to the traditional Belgian elites. The remembrance of the war arose from the bottom up and in retrospect that has worked out to the disadvantage of the resistance. Memory of the resistance, after all, is fused with the strong remembrance culture established after World War I. That had a predominantly military and ritual tradition that quickly gives the memory of the resistance a rather dated feel and misses connections with the more modern messages of peace and human rights that might appeal to younger generations.

      Secondly, there was the internal division already mentioned between left-wing and right-wing factions which already arose immediately after the liberation. The state did not create a national remembrance. The competition for recognition and the controversial role of King Leopold III the Royal Question widened the rifts in a single national resistance community. September a member of the gay rights movement distributes pamphlets in the concentration camp of Breendonk Flanders , but is ignored by a veteran.

      The photo symbolises how, in the s, part of the traditional patriotic movement in Belgium failed to reach out to young people and new social movements. De Munter. After the battle between left and right, there was opposition between Flanders and French-speaking Belgium, which can be traced back to the significantly weaker implantation of the resistance in Flanders. Approximately This came down to a combination of factors. Left-wing anti-fascism was not as politically strong in Flanders. Belgian patriotism was not as strong in Flanders, in part also as a result of Flemish language demands not being granted after World War I.

      As Flanders and French-speaking Belgium continued to grow apart in the s, this was the deathblow to a resistance remembrance that maintained the idea of an indivisible, unitary Belgium. In Flanders the remembrance of the resistance was thus entirely consigned to oblivion. The weak remembrance of the resistance also made it easy to minimise the real significance of the movement.

      Nevertheless the Belgian resistance was an impressive achievement. Particularly important were the many thousands of documents supplied to Britain, the thousands of men and women they enabled to escape from occupied Belgium and the humanitarian aid that went to tens of thousands of Belgians in hiding and their families, as well as to Russian and Polish prisoners and persecuted Jews.

      From a military perspective, there were acts of sabotage acts per month from September to May , and per month from June to August The help with the liberation itself was more limited, as it happened unexpectedly quickly, but there was still important operational support in the liberation of the port of Antwerp, essential to Allied supplies from November The attacks and especially the strong distribution of clandestine press undoubtedly had an effect in deterring the population from supporting the Germans and the collaboration.

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