Joseph Van de Meulebroeck (1876-1958), who was dismissed from his position by the occupier in the summer of 1941, reached the capital in the early hours of the Liberation and was returned to the town hall by local resistance forces.
Joseph Van de Meulebroeck, who became mayor of Brussels in November 1939 – following the death of Adolphe Max – was dismissed from office by the occupier on the basis of the ordinance of 7 March 1941, which imposed an age limit of 60 years for public servants. When he was dismissed, the Van de Meulebroeck had a bill posted that became famous: “I am, I remain, and I will remain the only legal mayor of Brussels”. He was subsequently arrested and imprisoned in Saint-Gilles prison before being placed under house arrest.
Jules Coelst, six years his senior, succeeded him and served as mayor until September 1942. Greater Brussels was then established; all the Brussels municipalities were merged and a mayor close to the New Order and the occupier was placed at its head: Jan Grauls.
Taking advantage of the prevailing confusion on 3 September 1944, Van de Meulebroeck managed to discreetly return to Brussels, as his predecessor Adolphe Max had done in November 1918. He was the one who officially welcomed the British troops arriving in the capital. On the very first day of his return, he posted a proclamation calling on the people of Brussels to put their trust in the municipal authorities and to obey the instructions of the police, the gendarmerie as well as “patriotic” organisations. He ended his appeal with a tribute to the Allies – England, the United States, Russia – as well as to free and independent Belgium, ending with a solemn “Long live the King! ».
With the help of Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles and in partnership with CEGE-SOMA.