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Robby van Eetvelde: The Gestapo in Occupied Belgium: One Country, Two Policies? A Comparison between the German Police in Antwerp and Liège

Wednesday, 13. March 2013, 17:00 - 18:30

Department of Government – University of Vienna, Hohenstaufengasse 9/7, 1010 Wien, Seminarraum, 3. Stock


VWI goes to the Institut für Staatswissenschaften


In entire occupied Europe the Sipo-SD emerged as the perpetrator institution par excellence. From the Partisanenkrieg and massive executions in Eastern Europe, to the administration of deportations and fighting the resistance in occupied Western Europe, a Sipo-SD officer was usually somewhere involved. The German police force and intelligence service, controlled by the SS, is better known under the name of its executive branch, the Gestapo. In occupied Belgium the SS police was confronted with a rather distinctive situation. Institutionally, it was subordinated to the military government in Brussels and had to allow the presence of competing German military police forces. Secondly, important internal differences between the Dutch- and French-speaking parts of the country regarding the background of the collaboration, the intensity of the resistance and the size of the Jewish communities, all directly related to the responsibilities of the Sipo-SD. How did the German police adapt to these differing local circumstances? In the presentation, the largest field offices in Dutch- and French-speaking Belgium, respectively Antwerp and Liège, will be compared. With a Jewish population of 17.000, Antwerp was an important centre of Jewish life. At the same time, the survival-rate of the Jewish population was significantly lower than the Belgian average (65 versus 42 percent). The traditional industrial city of Liège had a smaller community of 3.000 Jews, but was a hotbed of resistance activity. In Antwerp, these activities were less forthcoming and moved quickly to the surrounding countryside. Compared elements are the biographies of German officers and their collaborators, the gathering of information and the activity on the field. Differences in German personnel policy, recruitment of native helpers and dependence on assistance by external Belgian and German forces will be discerned. By using these examples, the paper makes an argument for a local study of the Holocaust, or the German occupational policy in general, rather than a nation-state perspective.


Comments by Walter Manoschek

Robby van Eetvelde is Junior Fellow at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies.
Walter Manoschek is Professor at the Department of Government (University of Vienna).


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