Two new inventories were published recently by CegeSoma, related to archives about closely related associations.
Les Invalides Prévoyants, Oeuvre royale d’Assistance aux Eprouvés de la Guerre (1920-2003) was founded after the First World War as a philanthropical circle of disabled veterans from Brussels that mainly provided financial aid to needy disabled, veterans, war widows and orphans, and former political prisoners. During the Second World War, the association provided free lunches for children of fallen soldiers, executed or political prisoners. During the occupation, the non-profit organisation delivered meals for some two million Belgian francs and provided about one million francs of assistance in kind.
After the war, the “Invalides Prévoyants” decided to continue their philanthropic work for war orphans in a more structural manner. To this end, a new non-profit organisation was established in 1949: Enfants de la Patrie” (Fonds pour l’Education des) or in short Les Enfants de la Patrie / De Kinderen van het Vaderland (1949-2017). As a subdivision of Les Invalides Prévoyants, the association tasked itself with contributing to the professional training of war orphans by taking over study costs providing limited student loans. Its philanthropy was considered as an addition and even a correction of parastatal institutions such as the National Office for War Orphans: Les Enfants de la Patrie/De Kinderen van het Vaderland helped out where (semi-)governmental agencies could not. As years went by, the support was quite naturally extended to children of former war orphans.
The founder and omnipresent chairman of both associations was Jean-Joseph Michel (1890-1974), owner of a bodywork company and disabled veteran of the First World War. For decades, ‘papa’ Michel was the soul and face of Les Invalides Prévoyants en Les Enfants de la Patrie/De Kinderen van het Vaderland. In his honour, the municipal school no. 6 in Saint-Gilles/Sint-Gillis (Brussels) was named after him in 1976.
The archives of these associations (former ref. AA2218 and AA2487) are indissociable. Beside standard records series (minutes, statutes, accounting etc.) they also contain a number of unique documents. For example, both associations kept a Livre d’Or to honour generous donors. The archives of Les Enfants de la Patrie/De Kinderen van het Vaderland contain some thirty photo albums, many dozens of photographs and even some films about meetings, internal activities and fundraising campaigns led by both associations – ranging from the most mundane to the most lavish events. The series of individual files kept by Les Enfants de la Patrie/De Kinderen van het Vaderland is in fact the richest source: more than 650 files from the period 1945-1994 classified by family name testify of the help that the association provided.
The archives of Les Invalides Prévoyants counts 43 items. (0,6 linear metres) and can be accessed freely. Access to the archives of Les Enfants de la Patrie/De Kinderen van het Vaderland (849 items, 15 linear metres) is subject to the authorisation of the National Archivist or his/her delegate, and the signing of a research declaration. The iconographic materials will be systematically digitised and the corresponding originals are no longer accessible.