Belgium was occupied during both the first and second world wars. I know that the Belgian Congo gained land after WW1. And I guess the Belgian Congo had some sort of independence, but I'm not sure about that.

How did Belgium manage to maintain control over their colonies while they were occupied? And did Germany intended to gain control over Belgian colonies like they did to French during WW2?


In both wars, the Belgian government left the country, and continued operating from elsewhere. That was Le Havre in WWI, and London in WWII.

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In WW1 Belgium never surrendered. During WW1 Belgian Congo was under threat by German forces in German East Africa, under command of ltn-col Paul von Lettow-Vorbek. It wasn't a big threat, as the German forces were barely strong enough to defend their own colony.

Though von Lettow-Vorbek fought a highly successful offensive guerrilla campaign, the colony was never going to be occupied. He simply lacked the wherewithal for it. Vorbeck was never defeated, and surrendered after the armistice.

During WW2 Germany was never in a position to even threaten Belgian Congo. King Leopold III surrendered with the army, but the government didn't accept that surrender and fought on from England.

Belgian Congo never had any kind of independence, before they became independent in 1960. It began as the worst governed colony ever, when king Leopold II took it as private property in 1885. He had it exploited ruthlessly. He can easily be placed amongst Stalin, Hitler and Mao as one of the worst genocidal maniacs in history. His motive was simply greed.

King Leopold II of course didn't travel with a machete, a whip and a Belgian flag to the Congo. He had the job done by the famous journalist and explorer Stanley. (The one who found Livingstone.) After international pressure the Belgium government took over the Congo Free State (owned by king Leopold II) from the king as Belgian Congo in 1908.

It's a bit late to add, and somewhat off-topic (that's why I hadn't included it). Leopold II was one of the vilest monarchs who ever lived. He ranks comfortably close with Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. His 'management' of the Congo caused untold millions of Congolese their lives. Because he had them literally worked to death, for his own personal profit.

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    Quite the adventurer Leopold must have been to ruthlessly explore the Belgian Congo. Was he accompanied? – Pieter Geerkens Jul 29 '18 at 2:21
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    @PieterGeerkens - according to BRECHT [1935], there should be at least a cook with him: marxists.org/subject/art/literature/brecht – Luís Henrique Jul 29 '18 at 13:52
  • @PieterGeerkens I suspect this is a typo, and Jos really meant 'exploit'. – Spencer May 12 '19 at 12:52
  • @Spencer, indeed I did, and have corrected it. – Jos May 13 '19 at 0:17

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