Young collaborators during World War II (Belgium, 1944-1947)

By Aurore François

During World War II and the occupation of Belgium by Germany, several thousand young Belgians engaged in pro-German activities, mainly via collaborationist youth movements, leading some of them to commit serious acts of treason or denunciation. Shortly after the Liberation, when the Belgian State took up the delicate question of the repression of collaboration, the fate of young collaborators was mainly settled by the juvenile courts, who assumed this new mission in coherence with their mission of treatment and rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents. Combining political declarations, speeches by experts and court cases, this contribution shows how the juvenile courts privileged an option of rehabilitation with respect to those young offenders, in agreement with the project of reforming adults and sometimes despite the incomprehension the project caused in the population. The antipatriotic engagement of those young people, often following in their parents’ footsteps, was seldom interrogated and their parents’ pro-German ideas were not seen as a major educational obstacle, but rather as a momentary and surmountable deficiency.

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