# Laws changing day-to-day life!

If today's Europeans home live according to Schengen, the euro and the growing regulatory standardization, as the Germans moved into Belgium for four years, the borders represented much more than they do now in 2014. Even in Western Europe, considerable differences remained in how people lived their daily lives from one country to the next. Also, wartime imposed a series of special measures that turned old habits upside down. These included measures that everyone had to take, notably in an effort to do with the shortages, but also the measures imposed by the new authorities. Everyone remembers the arrival of German time, one hour ahead relative to Greenwich time that had been used up until that point. Or, perhaps, the introduction of identity documents. Very useful for keeping controls of civilians during wartime, the idea will nevertheless be retained until the present. However, the governors general imposed a great deal of other laws…

The arrival of the Germans

When war breaks out, the Moniteur belge (official gazette publishing the laws and other regulatory text of the Belgian state) is still used by the Belgian government for a few days, with the last issue being published on 19 August 1914, in which the set-up of a military court was notably described. The new legislative publication of the Germans will be the "Bulletin officiel des lois et arrêtés pour le territoire belge occupé" (Official gazette of the laws and decrees of the occupied Belgian territory). Its first publication on 2 September will contain a proclamation from governor general von der Goltz, but it will be used to convey directives to the population only starting in October. The first provisions in October were primarily military, such as the obligation to accept the German mark in Belgian businesses, or a ban on the use of carrier pigeons or of the radio (which was in its infancy at the time). But efforts are also quickly made to stifle any opposition, with the establishment of censorship on October 13th.

The bulletin almost entirely takes over the role of the Moniteur belge and includes both very local provisions such as the appointment of civil servants, as well as much more extensive regulations. For example, to combat the increasing scarcity of flour and to reserve its use for nutritional bread, the production of pastries is prohibited (i.e. any preparation based on flour and another ingredient such as honey, eggs, chocolate or almonds) on days other than Wednesdays and Saturdays. In fact, this prohibition would become total in July 1917. It is also used to call for a war tax benefiting the German army and payable by the Belgian provinces that, for the most part, on each occasion will refuse to vote for the approval of this measure until this power is taken away from them in 1917 and passed to a (German) civilian governor. The communities will also be targetted by the Germans as they seek to clear their names for past actions: they set up special courts in charge of deciding on the liability of the communities with regard to the events of August 1914.

the production of pastries is prohibited on days other than Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Vanishing freedoms

Civilian see their freedoms gradually restricted, starting with the ban, on 21 January 1915, an open-air assemblies of any kind, or even indoor assemblies if the discussion relates to political subjects. All clubs with a political inclination are forced to close their doors. In the summer of 1916, this ban is strengthened with the prohibition of assemblies but also of any clamour, calling out or hurling of abuse on the public roadways. And to avoid even "silent actions" of this type, concerted demonstrations such as insignia, matching colour outfits and so on are also banned from the streets.

The morality police are set up in February 1915 in Brussels, then extended to all cities in the Kingdom. The objective of this police was primarily to control prostitutes – a profession that had grown in scope since the arrival of the troops – who can serve as a vector for certain venereal diseases that, according to the general staff, could potentially sap the strength of the German army.

In the summer of 1915, fearing departures for the front, "Meldeamt" offices are set up in the major cities and communities. These offices were tasked with monitoring all men in the community between the ages of 15 and 30 years. These men are obliged to check in regularly in order to confirm their presence. The communal authorities are given responsibility for their men, and should any of them fail to check in, the community has to pay a fine. At the end of 1915, this monitoring is extended to all men up to a maximum of 50 years of age, and no further relocations are authorised.

After the freedom of movement, the freedom of work will next be restricted. In that same summer of 1915, men are forced to accept (barring a sufficient reason) any public interest work assigned by the German authorities. Any refusal can result in imprisonment for up to one year.

The punishment for such passive resistance will grow increasingly harsh. In January 1916, a broad order "on the repression of acts threatening public safety" reiterates the list of actions that can be cause for the death penalty. This list includes, amongst other things, premeditated arson or flooding, aggravated or armed attacks against the representatives of the armed forces or delegates of the German civilian or military authorities, as well as any resistance with violence or armed resistance. Alongside these offences resulting in the death penalty, a series of other violations are created, for which the penalty consists of a minimum of 5 years of imprisonment: circulating false rumours on the movements or victories of the forces opposing Germany, helping prisoners to escape, or inciting insubordination amongst the German soldiers.

Concerted demonstrations such as insignia, matching colour outfits and so on are also banned from the streets.

Requisitions and goods

Upon arriving in Belgium, the Germans quickly implement export restrictions on a great range of goods: first of all food, in order to prevent merchants from finding better prices elsewhere and therefore worsening the shortages in Belgium, but also all materials and products that could be useful for the war efforts of England or France and therefore harmful to Germany. In February 1915, after having regulated the exports of each type of merchandise one by one, the German government purely and simply prohibits all exports.

In addition to these restrictions, requisitions will affect countless domains. The Germans begin by requisitioning materials that are directly useful for the war, such as gasoline and its derivatives, as well as tyres and plants relating to the railways, etc. But gradually, this is extended to very different types of companies, such as gas and electricity companies, soap companies, hotels in Brussels, banks, mines, blacksmith shops, and even distilleries. Very few businesses will remain that are not operating directly for the German army. In addition to entire companies, restrictions will also be applied to civilians and their possessions. Soldiers are sent to gather all useful metals from private homes, such as copper for shells. Such measures will even include cutting down private trees for which the trunks are large enough to help consolidate the trenches. Quite quickly, finally, farmers are required to declare their harvests, which are irretrievably seized by the occupier. In addition to feeding its army, the aim is also to ensure compliance with the prices imposed on retailers who are profiting from the increasing scarcity of foodstuffs. Obviously, most farmers under-declare their harvests and hold back a certain amount of their produce in order to sell it on the much more lucrative black market.

Soldiers are sent to gather all useful metals from private homes, such as copper for shells.

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