After four years of occupation, Belgium emerged ruined at the end of World War I. The king returned from Yser, the piece of territory he controlled throughout the war, leading the victorious army and acclaimed by the population. In contrast, the government and the exiles came back discreetly. Many saw themselves as victims of the occupation and sought revenge.
Belgium had been desolated by four years of fighting on its territory, 2,400 miles of railway lines had been destroyed and only 81 operable locomotives remained, out of the 3,470 available in 1914. 46 of 51 steel mills were damaged, with 26 destroyed totally. More than 100,000 houses had been destroyed, as well as and more than 300,000 acres of farmland.
Waves of popular violence accompanied liberation in November and December 1918 and the government responded through the judiciary punishment of collaboration with the enemy conducted between 1919 and 1921. Shop windows were broken and houses sacked, men were harassed, and women's heads were shaved. Manufacturers who had closed their businesses sought the severe repression of those who had pursued their activities. Journalists who had boycotted and stopped writing called for harsh treatment of the newspapers that submitted to German censorship. Many people stigmatized profiteers and demanded justice. Thus in 1918, Belgium was already confronted with the problems associated with occupation that most European countries only discovered at the end of World War II.
However, despite the status quo, Belgium recovered surprisingly quickly. The first postwar Olympic Games were held in Antwerp in 1920. In 1921, Luxembourg formed a customs union with Belgium.
Read more about this topic: History Of Belgium
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