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Q: The Republic of Flanders in German-occupied Belgium 1917 ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: The Republic of Flanders in German-occupied Belgium 1917
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: wolvies-ga
List Price: $12.00
Posted: 21 Jun 2003 13:55 PDT
Expires: 21 Jul 2003 13:55 PDT
Question ID: 220162

"Flanders, Republic of- The Flemish homeland of Flanders seceded from
Belgium in November of 1917 under German protection. When the Germans
surrendered in 1918, the Flemish government collapsed and its leaders
were hung for treason."

I've never heard of this before - was it envisaged as a step on the
way towards incorporating Flanders within the German Empire as a
sovereign state (whilst to incorporate a republic in an empire seems
odd, the Free Cities were more or less mini republics)

Or was it intended to keep Flanders as a vassal/ally ?

Or was there no long-term planning behind this, and it was just an
administrative trick ?

Does anyone have any information on these Flemish leaders who were
hanged ?

Would appreciate information on :-
- intention
- responsibilities
- leaders
- events
- etc


wolvies, lol
Subject: Re: The Republic of Flanders in German-occupied Belgium 1917
Answered By: scriptor-ga on 21 Jun 2003 16:14 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear wolvies,

Here is all I could find out about the Independent State of Flanders,

When Imperial Germany occupied all of Belgium in 1914, the country
experienced an internal conflict and the kingdom was deeply split.
Slightly less that half of the Belgians, living in the southern part
of the country were Francophone Wallonians who also complied with
French culture. But the majority were Dutch-speaking Flemish, who felt
more appendant to Dutch culture. But since the Wallonians were
dominant in politics for various reasons, French was the official
language used in schools, universities, offices, etc. During the 19th
century, a "Flemish Movement" slowly developed, representing the cause
of the opressed Flemish majority. But they had only minor success,
most of their claims had no chance of realization because the
influential Wallonians blocked them. Nevertheless, the Flemish
Movement grew as the anger of the Flemish increased.

One of the followers of the Flemish Movement was Dr. August Borms. (b.
in Sint-Niklaas, 14 April 1878 - d. in Etterbeek, 12 April 1946). At
the outbreak of World War I, Borms was still on the side of those
Flemish who wanted to see Belgium united in its fight against the
German invaders, with the goal to demand more rights for Flanders
after the war. But over the war years, Borms' views became more
radical. He became the co-leader of a new Flemish movement, the
so-called "Activists". They saw nothing wrong in collaboration with
the Germans, who were after all related closer to the Flemish than the
Wallonians. Their goal was to get from the German occupants what the
Belgium government would not grant them, and the Germans considered
them useful for their politics. It was one of the German plans for the
time after a victory in the West to split up Belgium: The southern
third of the country, to the Maas River, was to be annexed directly to
the German Empire, the rest should become the "Tribute-State
Flanders-Wallonia". For such plans, a strong Flemish people that owed
much to Germany, was regarded more than desirable.
Borms and his Activists had some successes due to German assistance.
For example, the important university of Gent was converted from
French to Dutch as official language. In 1917, Dr. Borms co-founded
the "Council of Flanders" together with Activists Pieter Tack (b. 1870
- d. 1943) and Willem de Vreese (b. 1869 - d. 1938), an institution
that claimed to represent the Flemish population and operated with
German aid.
After the Germans had already split Belgium in two administrative
regions , Flanders and Wallonia, to prepare their post-war plans (21
March 1917), the Flemish Council declared Flemish independence on 22
December of the same year at Germany's urging, after a plebescite with
only about 50,000 participants. This was planned long before: Borms
and Pieter Tack have been in Berlin in early March 1917 and talked to
the German Reich Chancellor Georg von Hertling about the issue of
Flemish autonomy.
On 8 January 1918, Belgian police (Belgium's administration was still
existing, though under German supervision) arrested August Borms for
his activities. But before the trial actually began, he was released
again on German orders. Borms became Commissioner of National Defense
of Flanders. Pieter Tack became President of the Commission of
Plenipotentiaries. President of the Council of Flanders and thus head
of state was Willem de Vreese. A state, however, that had neither any
real future perspective nor the smallest scope. In fact, it was rather
non-existant. How powerless it was became obvious on 25 July 1918: On
that day, the Germans occupation authorities simply terminated Flemish
autonomy after it had proven less useful and more problematic than
they had expected.
After World War I had ended with the defeat of Germany, Dr. Borms did
not take flight as several other Activists and members of the Council
of Flanders. He was arrested by Belgian authorities and sentenced to
death. However, this was changed to lifelong prison. Pieter Tack
experienced the same, and Willem de Vreese was not punished at all.

While he was imprisoned, Borms became a popular figure among Flemish
nationalists. He was offered release in 1921, should he promise not to
become active in Flemish politics again, but Dr. Borms declined this
offer. In December 1928, when he was still in prison, Borms was
parliament candidate for the Flemish Nationalist Front Party in
Antwerp - and he won. The election was declared invalid. Finally,
Borms was released in January 1929 as part of an amnesty for all
Activists. During World War II, he collaborated again with the Germans
who had occupied Belgium one more time. He was finally sentenced to
death and executed on 12 April 1946.


Vlaams Blok: Introduction (In German!)

Profiel van een Bevrijdingsbeweging - Het activisme, by Filip van
Laenen (in Flemish!)

Voor 't eten van uw drek. Conceptie en receptie van Elsschots
Bormsgedicht, by Lieven Vandelanotte (in Flemish!)

The History of Flemish Nationalism: Past, Present and the Future, by
Peter Engholm

Nieuwe Encyclopedie van de Vlaamse Beweging: 22 december 1917 (in

Belgian Workers' Party: La question flamande, by Danny Vandenbroucke
and Mohammed Ali Hassan (in French!)

Deutsches Historisches Museum: Chronik 1917 (in German!) Belgium - Regions and communities

Leiden University: Biography of Willem Vreese

Atlas zur Universalgeschichte, published by List, 1980. ISBN

Search terms used:
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"Pieter Tack " flanders
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"Willem de Vreese"

Hope this was interesting and useful!
Best regards,
wolvies-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
Excellent answer - I guess the fact that even the Germans didn't find
them useful is why it is an 'entity' hardly at all heard of, even by
emminent historians. Thanks !

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