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Meeting for reconciliation

2. Belgian’s Memorial

(Belgenlaan 9)

In terms of its size, the Belgenmonument (Belgians’ Memorial) is the largest monument in the Netherlands and stands on the Amersfoortse Berg. The building work was carried out by the Belgian military to commemorate internment in the Netherlands during the First World War. During this period, many Belgians fled to the neutral Netherlands, particularly during the attack by the German army on Antwerp. It is estimated that around one million citizens fled to the Netherlands and that the Dutch government interned over 30,000 soldiers. This meant that they were disarmed at the border and imprisoned for the purposes of security.

Camps were created in Zeist, where the soldiers were held in terrible conditions. In 1914, an uprising by interned soldiers in Zeist was tackled with violence and resulted in many dead and wounded. The Dutch population were rightly outraged by these actions and the responsible minister was forced to significantly improve conditions in the camps. In October 1916, a committee of interned Belgians in the Netherlands, under the leadership of Omer Buyse, supported by the Flemish camp doctor Dr Reimond De Beir, and the mayor and aldermen of Amersfoort, submitted a proposal to create a memorial as a token of appreciation for the hospitality enjoyed at the time. The council unanimously agreed. Because the relationship between the Dutch and Belgians remained extremely tense in the years that followed, the Belgenmonument was only officially passed to the Municipality of Amersfoort in 1938. Queen Wilhelmina and King Leopold unveiled a commemorative plaque during the ceremony.

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