When the German Army invaded Belgium between August and October of 1914, an estimated 1 million Belgian civilians and soldiers fled across the border to the Netherlands, which was neutral during World War I.
Though the vast majority of the exiles returned to Belgium not long after, more than 100,000 refugees stayed in the Netherlands for the duration of the war, and beyond. Those who weren’t able to pay their own way were moved to large refugee camps, where they were housed, fed, and educated by the Dutch state.
When the war was over, an enormous brick monument was built by Belgian soldiers as a gift of gratitude to the Dutch for sheltering the refugees. It was finished in 1919 and erected on the highest hill in the city of Amersfoort, which housed some Belgian 21,000 refugees during the war.
The Belgenmonument (Belgian Monument) is the largest World War I monument in the Netherlands. The main structure is nearly 60 feet wide, and there’s a separate memorial wall and garden with nine flower boxes, one for each of the Belgian provinces. Perched on top of the Amersfoortse Berg, it’s an imposing and powerful sight. Yet over the years, a forest grew up around the monument that hides it from view. Today it is largely forgotten, and unknown even to many Amersfoort locals.
Know Before You Go
Located at the top of Amersfoortse Berg, accessed by a narrow road through the woods. There are many walking paths around the monument so wear comfy shoes.