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List of twin towns and sister cities in Belgium

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Map of Belgium.
Map of Belgium.

This is a list of places in Belgium having standing links to local communities in other countries. In most cases, the association, especially when formalised by local government, is known as "town twinning" (though other terms, such as "partner towns" or "sister cities" are sometimes used instead), and while most of the places included are towns, the list also comprises villages, cities, districts, counties, etc. with similar links.

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The Netherlands proclaimed itself to be neutral in World War I and afterwards to maintain its independence policy. Military spending was a low priority for this tiny country relying on allies in case of major conflict. In 1939 when the Nazi regime led by Adolf Hitler invaded Poland and declared war on the British Empire in France, Hitler guaranteed neutrality with the Netherlands by signing an agreement. Hitler's promises and agreements were stall tactics that enabled the German army to build strength and prepare for war. On the morning of May 10th, 1940 without a declaration of war, Hitler's army invaded the Netherlands by way of Belgium and Luxembourg. Hitler had his eye on the strategically placed Dutch airfields on the northern Holland coast. These would be particularly useful to the Luftwaffe launching an air attack on the United Kingdom. The Dutch army was caught unprepared by the invasion. Much of the Dutch weaponry was left over from the first World War over 20 years before. Dutch Resistance was courageous but the strength of the Nazi war machine was overwhelming. During the Rotterdam Blitz relentless bombing destroyed 25,000 homes and killed more than 800 citizens. In only four days the Netherlands was under Nazi control. Nine-year-old Harry Andringa lived north of Amsterdam in the village of Aartswoud when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. Harry lived there with his mother, father and five siblings. Harry, now in his 80s recalls his memory of the war. There wasn't too many explanations given. It was around four or five o'clock in the morning when I heard rumbling that woke me up and lightning and I said oh there's a thunderstorm coming and my father was up too and he told me that no, this isn't thunder and lightning, this is a war starting and I never heard that word before of course war what is what's war. And, all he told me was my father was that you'll find out you will learn and boy, did I ever yeah so that's all the explanation I was given. Officially, the Netherlands surrendered one day after the bombing of Rotterdam on May 15th, 1940. Thousands of civilians and military lives were lost. Dutch citizens gathered to read the proclamation of the Nazi conquerors. From May the 10th to May the 15th there was only 5 days because they were like a steamroller coming in to a small little country so it didn't take long and then yeah I don't know they all of a sudden ever everywhere. Within days Harry's life began to change. The school across the road from Harry's home was taken over by the Germans. There's a 3 room school they ate in one and and they slept in the other one and the third one in the back they used that for a horse stable. They had horses and they put the horses in. So, we had no school so in the summer months when the weather was nice that farm beside the church there are big trees there and we could sit. The desks were put in the field there and underneath and in the shade we had our school there. If the weather was bad you could go to the church. We all had our specific times to go to this church to hand in our homework and get a new homework to do it at home - there was no school. The teachers had to teach us the German language. The soldiers would used to come into class and started talking to us kids in German and we had to answer them in German so they could check on the teachers were doing what they were told to do by how we could communicate in German. Besides German soldiers Harry saw his first prisoners of war who were often used as slaves by the Nazis. Prisoners of war, they had prisoners of war and we were told because they looked different we were told that they were Mongolians. How the Germans got ahold of Mongolian prisoners of war - that's a long way from Holland but they had them. And, they used them as hunting dogs. These poor people, they were at a hunting trip they - were hunting rabbits and they had these poor people stirring up in the in the field in the wheat fields stirring up the rabbits and then to come this way and they were sitting along the dike side and they were sitting there waiting and there were there rabbits were coming towards them and they would shoot them. It was in the fall, it was cold and shivery and wet and these poor people, they weren't dressed for it, they were wearing rags. Some of them didn't have no shoes or anything on their feet. They had their feet wrapped in burlap, burlap bags and they were wet and sopping wet, were terrible and they come up and and they had lunch time and these German soldiers they were sitting in their truck and in their cars and they had a Thermos with nice hot coffee in it and they had cheese, sandwiches and they were sitting there having a great old time having lunch while these poor people didn't get nothing. And then I remember one of them found a beet, the cattle feed beet root lying in a ditch with water and it had been frozen so that beet root that he'd picked up out of the water at the side of the road looked like this glazed. And they were eating off of that and they shared it among one another to get a couple of bites off of that one beet just to get something in their stomach. And when the war was over I'd often heard him say when they were rounded up that I didn't want to do this but orders are orders. That is something I will never understand how one human being can do something like that to another human being. The Germans drafted civilians from conquered countries for forced labor in factories. This included every man between the age of 18 and 45 in the Netherlands. Those who refused to work for the Germans were forced into hiding. Getting caught would mean being sent to a concentration camp or death. Hitler in his quest for the final solution ordered the rounding up of Jews. The meticulous record-keeping of the Dutch worked against them making it easy to check ancestry and addresses allowing the deportation of the Jews to be systematic. All Jews were ordered to wear a Star of David badges on their clothing. Many died of disease and starvation or were sent to extermination camps such as Auschwitz. Of the 140,000 Jews who lived in the Netherlands before 1940 only 30,000 survived. Harry's Uncle Cor was instrumental in the hiding of Jews. My Uncle Cor who looked after the Jews in the province of North Holland north of the northern part, he knew where to hide the Jews and knew where they were to safeguard them and he lived in Harlem. And on his bike he pedaled around mostly at night moving Jews around at night in the dark and that's how we got Sonja and Esther living with us. Sonja was the young daughter of Esther. Harry's family decided early to provide a safe place to hide Sonja although there were close calls. The German soldiers didn't knock on the door or anything they just walk in and out of your house. There's no privacy during that time, they just walked in. And there was one time that we were standing in the kitchen and I was facing my mother and my mother went oh and I said, and she started to tremble and I said what's the matter and she pointed and I turned around as a German soldier was standing behind me. And just a couple of weeks before that the Mayor, his house was surrounded and Jews were found in there and taken away in a truck and never to be heard or seen of again and so we thought that was it because little Sonja was with us then and she was what about two and a half, three years old. She was fully aware of what was going on with the German soldier there. So, he asked my mother whose kids are those are my mother said they're my kids and he pointed right at the little Jewish girl and he said what about her? My mother says well, that's my - she's visiting today that's a daughter of my sister. She'll be gone again tomorrow, she's just spending the day here. And he was burst out laughing as if she had insulted his intelligence sort of and that didn't go over too big because he could pick her right out that was a Jewish girl. So he says, yeah right, your sister's daughter. He started to laugh and he turned around and walked out of the house. So we figured that's it, we were waiting for the truck to come and pick us all up never to be heard or seen of again but it didn't happen. And this was around ten in the morning and in the afternoon it still hadn't happened. So I said to my mother I think we're in the clear, they're not coming for us. And I wonder why and my mother figured that maybe that German soldier has a little daughter like that living still in Germany at home. So that's the only explanation we can think of because we had thought our end had come over the end of the line but we survived that. Sonya's mother, Esther worked as a hairdresser in a village about ten kilometres away. Uncle Cor arranged for Esther to secretly visit Sonya. He used to come down on the weekend and he used to pick her up at night and drive her to make sure that she got to our house to visit her daughter for the weekend. He used to bicycle and he used to go ahead in the dark and she would follow at a bit of a distance the thing was that he had a light on the bike but you weren't supposed to shine it so there was just a little slit in the in your head light that is you know it wasn't any good but the tail light, the red tail light, when your bicycle, when you move - the tail light is on, the red tail light. If there was a spot check, the Germans had checks here and there and you had to have your papers ready to stop you and anyway if there was a German checkpoint he would stop then of course to get checked and then if he didn't move the red light came off didn't light up and no one saw so he was quite a distance away she would wait. Now, if you have to move he got checked and he had to move he just put the Dynamo moved it off the wheel, off the front wheel so the bicycle red tail light wouldn't come on then she knew and she turned around and go back. Hiding Jews caused relentless stress and hardship not only for the Jews but also for the Dutch families. For Harry's Uncle Cor the risk was unbearable. He confided to Harry's family an unspeakable crime. I'll never forget the time that he was used to come to our house for an overnight, for a sleep and a bite to eat and just a family visit and I still remember him sitting there in his chair with his head down and he told us I just killed my wife. He said I had to because she couldn't take it she snapped, like an elastic you know that you pull too tight and it snaps he said, because she knew what he was doing and that was dangerous work and when he left the house he nor her would never know if he would come back again. He might in one of his missions he might be taken prisoner and sent to one of the death camps so I never be heard of again some but she couldn't take that anymore. She just started yelling and screaming at the top of her voice about this, that and the other so he says I had to kill her because if I had left and and people would hear and the Germans would hear he says well you can well imagine he says all the Jews that they're under my jurisdiction hidden and the people that hide him they would all be rounded up she would you know blow the whole cover. So, he said he had to kill her and that was the saddest thing ever heard. The Jews that were not fortunate enough to be hidden by families like Harry's were rounded up and sent to transit camps - a holding place until enough Jews were assembled to fill a train to the extermination camp. They had these holding camps I think Amersfoort had one and a place called Vught in Brabant in the southern part of the Netherlands they kept them there until they had a train load and then into the extermination camps. It took a full four years after the German invasion of the Netherlands for the Allies to be strong enough to land in Normandy, France on June 6th, 1944. Canadian soldiers landed on Juno Beach. The Allies advanced rapidly towards the Dutch border. A risky plan called Operation Market Garden meant to end the war quickly ultimately failed. Nonetheless, substantial regions in the southern Netherlands were liberated. Northern Netherlands would need to wait another 11 months. The winter of 1944- 45 was unusually harsh and became known as the Hunger Winter or Dutch famine. The Germans cut off all food and fuel shipments to the western provinces where four and a half million Dutch lived. People from the city ventured into the country looking for food. Severe malnutrition and starvation led to the death of 18,000 Dutch. People from the cities used to come with their handcarts and it was winter and it was a terrible winter snow and all that and they got stuck in the snow. We had people sometimes we have people sleeping all over the floor because they couldn't move anywhere and we shared the food with them, the little bit we had we shared with them. We had our own garden but with people from the city coming in we make a pot of soup and you share it with the people and then they go on further again because that when nightfall came in the winter they're looking for a place to sleep and a bite to eat. But hunger is an awful thing. It's painful. The children and elderly suffered the most. It's a tradition in Holland that for a funeral the church bells would ring and the Hunger Winter they didn't allow the church bells to ring for the funeral anymore because it would be going all day. There were so many people dying of starvation they cut that out, no more bells ringing. People from the city ventured into the country searching for food to take back to their families. Entry into Amsterdam or Harlem was by ferry. The Germans stopped people at the checkpoints confiscating food. Because you had to go by boat, a ferryboat to get into Amsterdam and Harlem and they used to stop there after all that walking and all the suffering they had a little bit of food for the family at home if they were still alive. And, it was taken away at the ferry boat. There was this teenage boy and he had to push the handcart down to the ferry and had a tarp over the handcart and a German soldier, he says what's underneath there underneath the tarp. He said, oh my father, he couldn't walk any more he was so tired so I told him to go lie down underneath one of the tarps and I'll push him home the rest of the way. So, they lifted the tarp and his father was there all right, but rigormortis had already set in and he had died. After searching for food he brought his dead father home. Oh, there is some horror stories really. Food was scarce and things that were once considered inedible were now eaten to stay alive. Was finished, there was no food, nothing at all. We would well tulip bulbs - there's something in a tulip bulb that's poisonous. I don't know which part of it is but it had to be taken out before used for food. Nettles, we ate nettles like a kind of a spinach but we were told that if you eat nettles you get strong because there is a lot of iron in them and that sort of stuff. If you eat dog meat you know not that canned stuff, you ate dogs actually dogs and cats that were killed. You wouldn't let your cat out at night on its own because somebody will grab it and have it for supper. To survive during the Hunger Winter we had to pretty well steal everything. There wasn't any food anymore. It was gone. There's no fuel either. Hydro was cut. There's no hydro. To keep the place warm, try to anyway the wood trim, the base boards and the door trim and all that is wood. We used to rip that all off in the house and chop it up and use that for kindling to heat the house. We had to cut down trees and steal them and bring them home that nobody knew we had him and yet somebody reported to the police that we had stolen a tree. So, the police officer came down and he says it has been reported that you stole a tree. We had a lean-to in the back of the house with a flat roof on it and that's where the tree went. And he says, seeing I'm a very busy man he says, I don't have time right now, he says but tomorrow afternoon sometime I'll stop by and investigate the theft of this tree. And when I come and do that I don't want to see what I'm seeing right now. And he looked up at a flat roof and he was seeing the tree up there so, that tree was disappeared by the next day and he came around. That's how we survived. We helped one another. The village was essentially shut off from the outside world. One of the best ways to learn about the war was listening to a shortwave radio however, it was forbidden by the Germans. Violators were sent to concentration camps. We weren't allowed to have a radio or short wave radio because some people had it to pick up the news from the BBC in England from London. And, if you were caught you were gone. Because the Germans controlled the radio stations in Holland. And there was Hilversum 1 and Hilversum 2. One was religious and the other wasn't. It was funny though because they were losing the war and their version of it was on the radio was that we pulled back according to plan. That was a big joke you know, according to plan - you were wiped out. Humanitarian aid by the allies started in the final days of the war in the form of massive food air drops to the starving Dutch. The Allied operation Manna and the American operation Chowhound dropped food between April 29th and May 8, 1945. In the end of the war we got food dropped, air dropped. They weren't allowed to bring it in and the plane wasn't allowed to land or anything to get rid of the food. We had soup kitchens at the time the soup was just something to fill your stomach because there was no food value in it at all, it is like bloody dishwater. But you went and got it because that's all you get. When the Canadians came, eventually, they shared their army rations with us. They had cans... there's a whole meal in a can like the stew, hot dogs in cans, wieners in cans. And, they had these things there, I think you can still get them here, but we didn't know what it was. They were like biscuits and you could eat them. Because the instructions on the packaging we couldn't read because it's all in English and we didn't speak English. So, we got these biscuits and we started eating the biscuits and then word got out hey, you can't do that because you're supposed to put it in a bowl and put water or milk on it if you had milk and then it would expand and become a whole meal, one little biscuit. There's people there because your stomach has shrunk over time. It didn't take as much food anymore. Your stomach was smaller yet you ate that biscuit and then you got thirsty and started drinking. People had died from a ruptured stomach because I mean they're so hungry and we didn't know how to eat that stuff. Every little kid had his own soldier, his own Canadian soldier. Canadian soldier would carry him on his arm or hold by the hand and walk down the street with him. Canadians never changed either - they loved their kids and and we loved them back of course. After the liberation of Holland started the Allies kept advancing towards Germany to end the war. Harry recalls the Allied missions flying on bombing raids of Germany. They used to from England fly over Holland to bomb Germany, they used to come over in the morning around nine o'clock in a constant drone of planes. They used to come back around 2:00 in the afternoon and have this this thing that I've seen them flying in formations of 36 planes. There is three groups of 12 and they would fly over as far as the eye could see there were planes coming. There must have been not just hundreds, there must have been thousands of planes flying over and near the end they run them at night too. We were not allowed to have lights on at night because they could from the air they could see where they were you know orient themselves. We are over here, we were over there, so there was total darkness. We had black paper that we had to hang in front of the windows anyway. We didn't have no more electricity anymore anyway, they took it out. You had these little candles. Harry's new little sister Sonya eventually had a stepfather named Sam. Sam and his first family were one of the many Jewish families rounded up by the Germans and sent to Auschwitz - the infamous death camp in Poland. Sam was there with his wife and kids and Sam's job at the camp was to, well when they put them into the gas chambers to be gassed when they were all gone dead and then they opened the doors and the bodies had to be moved from the gas chamber to the incinerators that was Sam's job. He'd take the bodies out on carts and wheel them down to the incinerator to be burned and Sam says that when they took his wife and his children into the gas chamber they forced him to look at it when they drove his wife and kids into the gas chamber to be gassed. And he said when I put my head down the rifle butted me. Look! He had to look. He had to witness it and he said they tied me to a post and I had to make sure that I was seeing them go in there and and then he had the honour, hmm, the honour, of taking the bodies out his wife and his kids and all that to put them on carts and bring them to the incinerator. There again, the incinerators when the bodies were burned - the smoke, he was told that when the smoke came out of the chimney he was told to wave at the smoke because some of that smoke are your wife and kids. Can you imagine? Auschwitz was liberated in January 1945 by the Russians before the war officially ended in May. After liberation Sam alone, was determined to return home. And Sam walked and Auschwitz is in Poland. Sam walked from there all the way to Amsterdam from January and it wasn't until the fall, September October or something that he finally arrived in Amsterdam. He said he walked at night and slept and hid during the day until May because the Germans were still at war in January yet, not until May. So he had to hide because there was a Jew running back home and that's how he met up with Sonya and Auntie Esther. There aren't many left anymore but the veterans that liberated Holland they go every five years and have a parade in Apeldoorn. And in Flinton where I live now and retired there is one veteran that landed on the 6th of June in Normandy on the beach and he's still with us today. He's 93 years old now. And he told me that when he goes there he said they treat you like royalty over there and I said that's the least we can do because you guys have done more for us than royalty would ever be able to do. Yeah, because we appreciate and it is a very strong bond between Holland and Canada and rightfully so. Ottawa still gets 70 years later still every year gets a load of tulip bulbs to put in the parks to remind the Canadians what they have done for us. Now before I get all choked up I will have to change the subject. My life before I came here being liberated by Canadians after five years of Nazi brutality, coming here being very fortunate with my work to be able to do the things I enjoy doing - having a family having friends and neighbors because when I retired from Toronto I asked some of my friends there come and visit me because I don't know anybody where I'm living, where I'm moving to. And they told me all of them told me, you won't be alone by yourself, you'll make friends like lickety-split sort of so and they were right, yeah. I live in a beautiful town, nice, peaceful and quiet and I enjoy life thoroughly with what I've got so far and I thank Canada for that. My life, my life then, my life now yeah, well I'm very grateful for what I've got. I'm glad I came here.

Twin towns and sister cities
























  • United Kingdom Kilmarnock, United Kingdom (1977)[18]


Houffalize is a founding member of the Douzelage, a town twinning association of 23 towns across the European Union. This active town twinning began in 1991 and there are regular events, such as a produce market from each of the other countries and festivals.[19][20]
















Tongeren (Romanic Sister Cities)




  • France Rambouillet, France[25]
  • Japan Nagakute, Japan[26]



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