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Mata Hari

A century after her death, Mata Hari is still a household name. She is mainly remembered as a femme fatale, a dangerous double agent who used her sensuality to extract military secrets. Starting 14 October, the Museum of Friesland looks at the woman behind the stereotype. It is no coincidence that a big exhibition on her life is about to open in ...

Cowardice or mental illness?

The hardship, continuous fear and the powerlessness of the individual made life in the trenches a physically, but above all psychologically, horrifying experience. Though not visibly injured, many soldiers suffered nervous breakdowns and were no longer able to function. The British army counted 80,000 cases of shell shock by the end of the ...

St. Nicholas in wartime

In many Western European countries, Sinterklaas (or St. Nicholas) is celebrated around 5 - 6 December. In Belgium and the Netherlands, Sinterklaas is the ultimate children’s festive holiday, much more so than Christmas. St. Nicholas brings tasty treats and presents. This was also true on the eve of The First World War. At the time, it was ...

Tourism in time of war

Immediately before The First World War, a democratisation of tourism took place. Tourism was no longer only reserved for the very wealthiest; the well-off middle class could also afford a trip every now and then too. At the outbreak of the war, tourism in occupied Belgium initially fell completely still. Conveyances such as cars and bicycles were ...

The electrified frontier: the border fence between Belgium and the...

The border region between occupied Belgium and the neutral Netherlands soon became a smuggling paradise. Traffic in letters, military information and foodstuffs was rife. Young men who wanted to join the Belgian army also crossed the border. From the spring of 1915, the German troops decided to call a halt to this. They constructed a barbed wire ...

Play during the occupation

Wartime was sometimes a difficult period for children but this did not discourage them from continuing to play. The war had a great appeal and offered them a great deal of inspiration for fantasy play. They marched along with passing troops, sang satirical songs and tore German ordinances from the walls. They collected souvenirs and began a trade ...

American shops

During The First World War, the Belgian population was dependent on foreign food aid. The Nationaal Hulp- en Voedingscomité played a crucial role in the distribution of the imported foodstuffs. To this end, the committee opened its own sales points, which the population could visit to buy sugar, corn, tinned meat, rice and other staple products. ...

Dogs under the occupation

Because so many horses and donkeys were requisitioned in occupied Belgium, dogs had to provide even more pulling power than before the war. They were harnessed to dogcarts and pulled the milkman's milk, the baker's bread, and the farmer's children. However, the Germans, who were not familiar with the practice, rejected dogcarts as ...

American help for the Belgians

On the eve of the war, Belgium was dependent for a great part of its food supply on imports. Because of the British maritime blockade, imports came to a standstill. As a result, food supplies quickly became problematic, particularly in the cities. In order to feed the population, a gigantic aid programme was set in motion undertaken by two ...

The League of Nations

After 11 November 1918, the cry of 'No war ever again’ sounded out louder than ever before. The countries that negotiated the peace accord were in agreement that the text of the treaty should contain sufficient guarantees to prevent future wars. One of these guarantees was the foundation of a League of Nations that would devote itself to ...

An assassination that set the world alight: the attack on Franz...

On 28 June 1914, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo.   Sarajevo was the capital of the Austrian province of Bosnia. Austria-Hungary was a multi-ethnic state, which was under extreme pressure because of nationalistic tendencies. Part of the Bosnian population supported the neighbouring ...

Through Belgium to Paris: the German invasion of Belgium

In the wake of the attack on the Austrian heir in June 1914, tensions between the European great powers escalated rapidly. However, the Belgians were not all that concerned: their country was neutral and so did not have to be afraid of becoming involved in a potential conflict. But this was without taking account of the German Schlieffen Plan, a ...

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