BELGIUM: Freedom!

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Liberated Brussels made liberated Paris seem restrained. Sweaty British Tommies had to push hard to get through the shrieking, kissing, singing throngs. Said one: "This is the first time since D-day that I've been offered a cigaret instead of asked for one."

Hate for the Germans ran strong in Brussels. Said a well-groomed hostess at an impromptu cocktail party: "I wouldn't mind a bit if some German soldiers were brought into my parlor right now and shot. I'd glory in the bloodstains on my carpet." Wrote a correspondent: "It doesn't seem incongruous to come across a grey-haired old lady, laughingly pointing to the body of a dead German soldier." Said a choked-up Brussels merchant: "The swine have overrun us twice in a single generation." For the second time retreating Germans burned the Library of Louvain.*

The Animals. In Antwerp, joyous burghers rounded up remaining Germans and collaborationists, stuck them in empty cages at the zoo—officers in the lion house, Belgian Fascists in the tiger pens, wailing women in the wildcat cages. The day before, a troop of flustered "Mice"—grey-clad German women auxiliaries—had piled their belongings on a truck, which then drove off. The truck was driven by members of Belgium's underground "White Brigade," would never reach the Reich.

Grinning Belgians made a point of sitting at sidewalk cafés to sip beer or lemonade and watch the retreat—tattered, dusty men, walking, piled on horse-drawn carts, or riding bicycles which were sometimes without tires. Madly the Germans tried to exchange rum, margarine and other rations for civilian clothes. Fascist Rexists had waited three days at the railway station for a train that never came, then slunk off to hide as best they could. Said a German officer: "We do not like traitors; we merely use them."

Into delirious Brussels came Premier Hubert Pierlot and the Government in Exile. They found less damage than they had feared, more food than they expected. On Belgium's small, neat farms and in the centers of the liberated towns, people shrugged at K rations, offered fresh food in return. But in the crowded working-class quarters there was hunger.

Said Pierlot: "The Government will direct its efforts to the restoration of the national life, the liberation of Belgium and the King. . . . Elections will be held . . . after voting lists have been revised and prisoners returned."

Premier Pierlot and his Government, in office since before the Germans came, had promised to resign when liberation was a fact. But they needed a king to resign to, and Leopold was a prisoner in Germany. Nervously they talked of a regency.

Few Belgians still blame the King for his 1940 surrender, but many blame him for not encouraging resistance. Still others resent his second marriage after the death (in a car he was driving) of popular, Swedish-born Queen Astrid. To all these Belgians, a regency for Astrid's handsome son, Prince Baudouin, 14, looked good. The next few weeks would tell whether the stewardship of the Government in Exile looked equally good.

* Rebuilt in 1928 by U. S. subscription.