Home » News » Occupation and everyday life: a new resource portal on World War II

Occupation and everyday life: a new resource portal on World War II

On June 28, at Wuppertal University, the portal 'Societies under German Occupation. A source edition.' was presented to the public. Realized under the direction of Tatjana Tönsmeyer, professor at Wuppertal University, this portal, based on original and annotated sources, provides a unique insight into the daily lives of millions of inhabitants of Nazi-occupied Europe, including Belgium.

Aimed at researchers and students, the portal provides access to more than six hundred sources from all countries occupied by the German army from 1939 to 1945. For each source, it displays a scan of the original, a transcription in the original language and a translation into English with annotations.

A rich resource palette

The portal offers a variety of sources which make the impact of the occupation on daily life tangible, such as material shortages and show how the various population groups dealt with this new reality. The portal thus takes the perspective of social history. In addition to sources classically used for this type of research such as ego documents, it displays many other resources. For example, there is an unofficial price index showing how quickly the prices of essential food items were rising and also articles from the clandestine press protesting the situation or minutes of interrogations of persons who violated the constantly evolving regulations.

Sources are presented in the original language and in English translation. This not only makes them usable for an international audience, but also facilitates comparison between different occupied territories. The portal is structured so that connections in time and space become immediately apparent. In addition to a module allowing the search for sources, there is also a module' time and space' that allows an immediate view of sources of a given period from different geographical areas.

International scientific cooperation

The portal is partly the result of a longer running project coordinated by Prof. T. Tönsmeyer (University of Wuppertal) and Prof. P. Haslinger (Herder Institut Marburg). A source edition was already published in book form in 2021 by Tatjana Tönsmeyer and Peter Haslinger (eds.), ‘Fighting Hunger, Dealing with Shortage. Everyday Life under Occupation in World War II Europe: A Source Edition’, (History of Warfare vol 133), Boston, Brill, 2021, 2 vols. Incidentally, this publication was awarded "The Best Historical Materials published in 2021 and 2022" by the American Library Association / Best Historical Materials Committee.

The portal was created on the basis of intensive international scholarly cooperation. The sources were collected and annotated by researchers from the different countries covered by the portal. For Belgium, CegeSoma was the project partner. Dirk Luyten served as coordinator and was assisted for a while by Laurence Petrone. As for the other countries, in Belgium too, archival funds from different institutions had to be combined in order to get a good view of the daily life of different population groups during the Occupation. The new administrations and control services specific to the Occupation and Nazism obviously provided numerous sources, but company archives, for example, also proved particularly useful, as did, for Belgium, the final reports of social assistants who carried out their studies during the Occupation, a collection of which is kept in the National Archives.

Discover here the sources in the portal and see exactly what possibilities and functionalities it has to offer.