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Local Belgenmonument upgraded with backgrounders

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMERSFOORT – Anyone who thinks that providing hospitality to strangers was something unique to World War II, should rethink this idea. Opening homes to strangers during wartime already had a history, but without the severe penalties meted out by the WWII Germans, if caught. It can be argued that WWI was a trial run for WWII hospitality. The Amersfoort folks particularly were reminded of their WWI effort by the recent ‘upgrade’ of the ‘Belgenmonument’ in the city. A local society, devoted to the restoration of the city core, added information panels to the monument, which originally was unveiled in 1918 by grateful Belgians who received refuge in the Netherlands, after fleeing the German invasion and the extremely consuming warfare at home. Up to one million Belgian refugees flooded the Netherlands, where entire areas where turned into refugee camps (Gaasterland, Nunspeet, and Ede were some of the areas). As well, municipalities requisitioned surplus rooms in private homes to house Belgians. Local committees sprung up everywhere to help the poverty stricken among these ‘guests.’ About 100,000 refugees remained in the Netherlands till the end of war.