Foreign News: S.O.S.

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In Belgium last week the crisis came to a head. Ever since his return from exile, Belgium's Communists have attacked Premier Hubert Pierlot. They have criticized his Government's courageous but unpopular deflation program (TIME, Nov. 6), its slowness in purging collaborators, its handling of food rationing and crippled communications. When Premier Pierlot last week ordered Belgian Resistance groups (40,000 strong) to disarm and disband, his three leftist ministers (two Communists and one Resistance) resigned in noisy protest.

Before the Premier's office in Brussels unarmed Resistance men & women shouted: "Resign!" Before the Parliament Buildings, guarded by gendarmes with fixed bayonets, marched noisy hecklers. Despite the ban on mass rallies, excited crowds assembled in the Cirque Royal, tumultuously cheered the Communist ex-ministers, denounced the Government measures against the Resistance movement.

Premier Pierlot did not budge. His Government set a deadline for surrender of Resistance weapons, on pain of "legal proceedings." He said: "We want liberty with order." Said Britain's Major General G. W. E. J. Erskine, head of the Allied Military Mission in Belgium: "Allied forces will assist the Government with the view of insuring respect for law and order because both are essential for the conduct of military operations."

At week's end the Communist ex-ministers beat a tactical retreat, told their followers: "Personal arms must be surrendered. . . . The Resistance must do everything in its power to maintain order . . . avoid any conflict with Allied armies." But 15,000 Belgians with Hammer-&-Sickle flags marched through Brussels streets and continued to shout: "A bas Pierlot!" (Down with Pierlot!).

The Allied high command announced that it would soon ship in enough food through Antwerp to insure Belgians a ration of 2,000 calories a day (present ration: a little more than 1,500 calories). By February, Belgians were also promised, raw materials will begin to flow through Antwerp at the rate of at least 5,000 tons a day to start Belgium's idle factories turning out supplies for the Allied armies.

Crisis in The Netherlands. In the narrow sectors of liberated Holland the crisis was less acute, but the Maastricht appendix was inflamed. And over all liberated Holland the fear of hunger washed like the sea through the Nazi-blasted dikes. For it was chiefly the most industrialized sections of Holland that had been liberated. There was no meat, scarcely any bread. It was believed that reserves of fuel (and hence electric power) could not last out the month. Hordes of refugees from the flooded regions had swarmed into the cities, further complicating the food crisis.

In the Maastricht district the Government clashed with the Resistance forces. The Resistance groups resented the removal of the mayors they had installed in various towns, the restoration of Queen Wilhelmina's prewar officials. They talked loudly of "petticoat government" and the need for "economic democracy." "We took up arms against the Germans," they muttered, "and we can do it again."

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