The German advance into Belgium in the spring of 1940 was swift and decisive. Belgium was militarily unprepared for war – as late as November 7, 1939, the Belgian government had called for an end to hostilities – and even if its military had been prepared, it was massively outgunned by the Nazi war machine. The invasion of Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg began on May 10, 1940.
By May 17, the Belgian capital of Brussels had fallen to the German advance, and deciding that the Allied cause was lost, King Leopold III surrendered to the Germans against the advice of his government on May 28, 1940. He would spend the rest of the war as a prisoner of the Nazis, while the majority of his government went into exile (primarily in Britain) and continued to lead Free Belgian Forces in the fight. Belgium was eventually liberated in 1944, although it was not until the end of the German Ardennes Offensive in 1945 that fighting on Belgian soil concluded.
The Congo Free State was founded by King Leopold II, basically transforming the entirety of this territory (encompassing all the land now claimed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo) into one huge raw material extraction area.
This being the 1880’s in colonial Africa, the extraction was performed by native slave labour under the aegis of the Association internationale africaine – a company of which Leopold was both the chairman and the sole shareholder. For 23 years, it was a private fief of the King, and the site of terrifying cruelties and deaths so numerous that they could reasonably be considered a genocide.
With the end of Leopold’s rule in 1908, the territory became known as Belgian Congo, a colonial territory held by the Belgian government until 1960. Humanitarian policies gradually gained in importance over the five decades of Belgian rule, although the rule of the Belgians remained exploitative and frequently brutal.