De Belgisch-Nederlandse grens onder spanningDe Belgisch-Nederlandse grens onder spanning
Faculty of Arts. Linguistics and Literature
Individual research linguistics
Volkskunde : driemaandelijks tijdschrift voor de studie van de volkscultuur
114(2013):3, p. 293-316
University of Antwerp
The German Army built a three-wired entanglement in order to cut off occupied Belgium from The (free) Netherlands. The wire, as it was called, was impressive (more than 350 km long, from the Belgian coastline in Knokke up to little short of Aachen) and it was deadly (more than 900 victims). The impact of the high-voltage boundary on the locals was radical. The usual contacts between family members and friends were cut off or drastically limited. Neighbours in the Belgian-Dutch double villages (Koewacht, Overslag, Kieldrecht/Nieuw Namen) suddenly became real foreigners because the wires passed through the middle of their village. In many places the new boundary did not coincide with the traditional frontier, which resulted in even more no man's land with trapped inhabitants, unable to move freely into Belgium or into The Netherlands. The Germans' intention was to eliminate any clandestine or subversive operation along the border. The Germans failed: the border inhabitants offered more active resistance than in the rest of occupied Belgium. Smuggling went on and boomed, especially of goods that were scarce in Belgium. Many people risked their life moving freedom fighters or temporarily providing them with shelter. Others specialized in smuggling clandestine letters for the front soldiers, for the underground or for the Allied. During the First World War the Belgian-Dutch frontier looked like a front, with limited freedom of movement, (contra)espionage, trigger-happy border guards - as an extra - deadly high-voltage wires.