Child is King
Children in short pants, their arms loaded with toys, sweets and warm clothes. On 6 December 1914, Ixelles celebrated Saint Nicolas. The war seemed very distant, but nevertheless influenced the tradition: “How could we explain the absence of Saint Nicolas this year? The kids would not understand”, claimed a local magazine. The problem is worse for the less wealthy: “The privileged can cope with it, for them it is Saint Nicolas all year round! But for the others, those whose parents depend on public charity for the happiness of their children?”. The Ixelles section of Les Pauvres honteux (literally “the embarrassed poor”) organized a “Saint Nicolas for the poor”. The children, symbols of innocence trampled by the war, were at the heart of civilian mobilization in 1914-1918.
A large web of charity organisations helped Belgian children during German occupation. The results were astounding. In Brussels, despite general scarcity, child mortality decreased during German occupation, as compared to the years preceding the war. On the long term, these associations gave birth to a new field of intervention: child protection. The era of the child-as-king had begun.