14-18 Brussels on German time : exhibition created by the museums and archives of the city of Brussels, open from 21 August 2014 till 3 May 2015 at the Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles.
For 50 months, far from the front line, the people of Brussels struggled to survive and resist under an oppressive and humiliating occupation. The paralysed economy plunged them into a hand-to-mouth existence, they lived by German time – one or two hours ahead of Belgian time depending on the season – and their days were disrupted by the many orders issued by the occupying powers.
At the same time, in Germany's cities, everything was being done to support the war effort. A country that had withstood invasion now had to be defended. The economy was entirely dedicated to military needs. The men who had gone to war needed to be replaced. Their letters were eagerly awaited and their deaths feared. The British blockade and a food distribution crisis quickly led to serious shortages. The people lacked everything and had to make do.
Military carnage on an unprecedented scale, World War I was, in Europe, as much a people's war as it was a military war. In one way or another, civilians were directly involved and their daily lives were turned upside down and profoundly affected by the conflict. How did they cope with this exceptional situation? How did they feed themselves, clothe themselves and keep warm, and how did they serve their country? These were, on both sides, the main concerns of the people of Brussels and of Germany's cities throughout the four years of the war that would profoundly alter the face of European society.
1917, a Brussels woman: One humiliation we were subjected to: our despots imposed German time on us. We would never adopt it.(...) In Brussels, the public clocks had to show it. This measure inspired a little song that said that in moving the clock ahead, the enemy was merely advancing the hour of our victory!