On 13 July 1944, the military administration which had been in place since 28 May 1940 and headed by General von Falkenhausen was replaced by a civilian administration under the authority of the SS. This change came about at the behest of the Führer, who considered the military administration too lax in its fight against the resistance.
Josef Grohé (1902-1987) was the new strong man of the occupation apparatus. He was a convinced Nazi who joined the NSDAP in 1921. His appointment as head of the civil administration in July 1944 was the high point of his career. Of course, this appointment came in a particular context, a little more than a month after the Normandy landings. During his induction, he spoke of the military evolution of the conflict while, of course, affirming his confidence in Germany’s final victory thanks to new weapons to come and the genius of the Führer: “We know that whatever happens Adolf Hitler will be able to overcome the most serious crises of this war”.
At the same time, the resistance was becoming increasingly reckless in occupied Belgium. Number of attacks were on the rise and some regions were on the brink of civil war. In practice, Grohé had little time to implement a new policy even though 65 hostages were executed in less than two months (there had been 240 such executions under the military administration, which had been in power for four years).
In September 1944, Grohé fled the capital and took part in the defence of Aachen. In 1946, he was arrested by the British. Extradited to Belgium, he did not appear before any war crimes tribunal. Belgium sent him back to Germany where a court sentenced him to just four and a half years’ imprisonment for his major role in the Nazi party’s crimes. Grohé would remain faithful to his convictions until his death in 1987.
With the help of Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles and in partnership with CEGE-SOMA.
On 2 September 1944 allied troops crossed the Belgian border at diverse places. The process of liberation went fast: in ten days a large majority of the country was liberated. But it did not put an end to the German occupation. Two months later Hitler surprised the Allies with his last offensive: the Battle of the Bulge.
The fire at the Palais de Justice on 3 September 1944 remains one of the key moments of the Liberation of Brussels. In collective memory, this arson further fueled hatred for the occupier. Was the fire the final, desperate act of an occupying regime wildly lashing out in its death throes or was it a symbol of Belgium’s regained liberty?
On Sunday 3 September 1944, shortly before 20:00, the British Second Army entered Brussels by the Avenue de Tervuren. On the Boulevard de Waterloo, the liberators were welcomed by jubilant crowds of Belgians, celebrating the liberation of the capital city from the German occupation.
The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History, located in the Jubelpark (Jubileepark) in Brussels, presents thousands of unique and amazing objects, stemming from ten ages of military history. Not only uniforms and prestigious distinctions, but also works of art, musical instruments and an exceptional collection of planes, guns and tanks. One gallery is dedicated to the Second World War.