Armchair Historians

Random History of Belgium, Part 1 and The Problem with Hitler

June 02, 2020 Anne Marie Cannon
Armchair Historians
Random History of Belgium, Part 1 and The Problem with Hitler
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Armchair Historians
Random History of Belgium, Part 1 and The Problem with Hitler
Jun 02, 2020
Anne Marie Cannon

In this episode we talk to Manuel, host of the Random History of Belgium podcast. Manuel tells us about his favorite history over time from the Roman Empire to the topic of his podcast, Belgium. We also talk a bit about WWII and my other podcast, Last Train Leaving Belgium.

For our Kid Wisdom segment we talk to 13-year old Emerald about some pretty heavy history about WWII.

Random History of Belgium Website

Episodes mentioned in this episode:

WWII Resistance Episode

Chicory Episode

Support Random History of Belgium, an ad-free independently produced podcast:



More support options can be found here

To Support Armchair Historians:

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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we talk to Manuel, host of the Random History of Belgium podcast. Manuel tells us about his favorite history over time from the Roman Empire to the topic of his podcast, Belgium. We also talk a bit about WWII and my other podcast, Last Train Leaving Belgium.

For our Kid Wisdom segment we talk to 13-year old Emerald about some pretty heavy history about WWII.

Random History of Belgium Website

Episodes mentioned in this episode:

WWII Resistance Episode

Chicory Episode

Support Random History of Belgium, an ad-free independently produced podcast:



More support options can be found here

To Support Armchair Historians:

Patreon

Ko-fi


Speaker 1:

Thank you for joining us today for armchair historians. I'm your host, Ann Marie Cannon . Armchair historians is a Belgian rabbit production. Stay up to date with us through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, wherever you listen to your podcast . That is where you'll find us. You can also find [email protected] also won't you consider becoming a patron of the show in an effort to keep armchair historians commercial free? I have decided to work with Patrion. Now, if you mosey on over to w w w. Dot patrion.com backslash armchair historians, that's historians with an ass. You can find out more about supporting the show and about exclusive Patrion content that you will have access to. You can chip in anywhere from a dollar to $15 a month or just make a onetime donation. You will be helping me to keep the lights on and if you can't make a donation, that's totally cool. I just hope you will continue to listen to our free podcast and stay with us until the end. You don't want to miss our kid wisdom segment where we talk two 13 year old Emerald. About some very weighty history.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible]

Speaker 1:

today we are talking to Manuel, host of random history of Belgium podcast, a history podcast that looks at events, companies, people, and the culture of Belgium. Through his podcast, Manwell informs, educates and entertains his listeners by explaining random parts of history, ranging from playing cards, the Belgium Royal family to food in world war two and much more,

Speaker 3:

man . Well , welcome to the show. Welcome. Glad to be here. Thank you. And Marie , uh , glad to be invited here . So I found you online because I love podcasts. I listened to podcasts and since I've had time on my hands during the pandemic, I have been working on two podcasts myself and one of them is really focused on Belgian history. It's called last train, leaving Belgium. It's about my mother and about her experience with world war two, you know, in the bigger scope, it's about children and being caught in the crossfire of war, specifically in Belgium. So I landed on your podcast. I, the first one I listened to was the one about the resistance because I had an aunt that was actually in the resistance. I interviewed her daughter. Unfortunately , uh , uh, Tom [inaudible] has passed away, but , um, so anyways, so I'm interested , uh , to now , uh , a lot of things, but one of the things we ask in my podcast armchair historians is what's your favorite history? And I have no idea what you're going to say.

Speaker 4:

Whoa. Uh, what's your favorite history? That's actually a tough question. I , um , am interested in, of course, Belgian history. Um, otherwise I wouldn't do a podcast about it. But on the other hand, I came in through this , uh, being interested in the Roman empire actually. And , uh, with an a , I forgetting his name, Mike Duncan , uh, who is a bit of the gold standards of history, podcasting , uh, and he has the , um, the history of Rome. So I started to listen to that. But , uh , in general, I like any history, history with an intriguing story behind it or connections to other parts of history. For example , uh, if you examined , uh, French or Belgian history , uh, you sometimes see that it's interconnected with , uh, with the U S for example, and other things that happens , uh , around the world. So I like those interconnections and I don't actually focus that much on the country or a specific person or a date. I , I, for me, the , the, the meaning behind the story and why it's played out that way is much more important than having , uh , every small detail. Right.

Speaker 3:

And that's kind of where I'm coming from with this podcast is talking to people who, you know, like history, who liked to talk about history. They don't have to be historians. Uh, I taught , um , two weeks ago I talked to a YouTube celebrity about their favorite history. So, you know, it's really about the engagement with another person's , and this is perfect. Well, let's focus on Belgian history then, and you know, how you got into that, into your podcast. I'm really curious about your process and how that all came about. I read somewhere that you said, you know, I was just going to do six episodes.

Speaker 4:

Yeah , indeed. Well, I was interested in listening to podcasts. I listened to a lot of them and , uh , of all kinds of different subjects. Um, be it politics , uh , science, whatever. And , uh, at one moment I thought, okay, I want to do something and I write a short stories. And I, I thought, okay, I will write some short stories, make it episodical and do something online with a podcast. That was like five years ago. And I thought, okay, I have to learn that medium first. And okay, let's grab something that's interesting as well, but let's just do six episode about the story. And then I thought, why not Belgian history? Let's take six or five important moments in Belgian history and do a six, six episodes about cat and a , well, I'm 109 episodes further down the road. Um , because yeah, once you dive into something like that, it's , um, it's getting more interesting and interesting. And also I didn't learn that much about Belgium history in Belgium schooling . It's , it's strange maybe, but we learned about Roman empire, about the Greek, about , uh, we , we of course saw something about our own country, but not that much actually.

Speaker 3:

Well, and I think it's , uh , your podcast is such a valuable resource for Belgian history and you cover so many different topics. Uh, one of my favorite , uh, radio shows is fresh air with Terry Gross. I don't know if you've ever listened to her. I don't know if that's well, okay . Well she, I've always really admired her because she can take any guest and make it interesting. And one of the things I think about is this. She did a show on banana blights and it was a researcher that wrote a book of hope , an Anna blights. And it was one of the most fascinating shows I've ever heard of. I have, I've ever heard, I don't care about bananas, I don't care about plights, but it's the way she asked the questions. And you did a show about chicory and it had the same impact on me as the banana lights . And part of it is because my mom used to mix chicory with our coffee and you know, she was Belgian so it could, yeah, she used to cut the , um , the coffee to save money. You know, she's from the , the war and the depression and all that. But so I love that you do, you're so thorough in the topics that you pick and you, you must spend a lot of time researching. Is that true?

Speaker 4:

It depends, of course on the subject. Some subjects are pretty easy to research and really fun. Uh, others are a bit more elaborate and then you have to find some resources that are interesting enough to talk about. Uh , it's a bit longer, but , uh , I like doing that research. Uh , unfortunately in these days we have to , uh, um , do it purely online. But , uh, there are some libraries here where you can request access to microfilm , uh, archives of , uh , newspapers and so on. Uh , that's really interesting and I would love to do that. So actually full time, if I had, if I had the means to do so, I would just do that for fun all the time and

Speaker 3:

do research and do your, so this is just a side gig

Speaker 4:

in this world of trusting . I want to add there that it's , it's a choice for me to not do the podcast with ads or anything like that because I sometimes hear a history podcasting doing that too much and it distracts enormously. And also you are informing people about something and it just doesn't fit for me. But I totally respect people doing it. And I know why because, well it earns some , uh , income. But I really am a fan of people just donating. If they, if they like the show, they can donate. If they don't like the show or don't want to donate, it's fine for me. But of course , um, it's, it's, it's part of the motivation as well. If no one would ever donate and you do on the nine episodes, then , then it's pretty bad. It's actually then it's like, okay, no one in the world even wanting to spend $1 on what I do here. So unfortunately, fortunately enough, that's not the case. But on the other hand , I , I really do this out of motivation for myself. Even if it's a side gig , it's okay for me and , uh , I like to do it. But yeah , if you're in podcasting for the money, you're in the wrong business. Say for a few celebrities. Maybe

Speaker 3:

it's the same thing in writing. So I have said , yeah, yeah, I hear you. So yeah, and I'm grappling with all that right now. I don't really have enough followers at this point to do commercials, but I don't really want to do commercials because you're right. It's like, you know, I have to, I have to sell something that I might not believe in or I don't know. It's fine .

Speaker 4:

Sorry , you switched to a well saying how wonderful dog cookies are or whatever. It's , it doesn't always fit. If it's a good product, maybe, maybe if it's really a good product that fits what you're talking about in the history podcast , then you might do it. Let's say , um, some publisher says, okay, we have a series of books on Belgian history. We want you to promote that, that fits. And no one will complain about that, I think. But in general,

Speaker 3:

I'm with you. I'm with you. I'm new to this, but I'm with you. So I'm trying to figure it all out. It would be nice to be able to support the show through, you know , Patriot or whatever. I noticed that you do Patrion you do just donations. You do buy me a cup of coffee and that whole thing. I'll put all that information up too , because it's definitely a worthwhile , uh , show and product and I support it. So there's that. And , um , I , I'm curious to know how you choose the topics. Like are you already planning your next show? How are you choosing a chap topic? What's your next topic? I was listening to the last episode, which had to do with, and I'm going to say it wrong, something like the white, the white Mark . Yeah. And I have no frame of reference for that. And I was cooking dinner and I thought, I can't listen to this unless I have access to a commute computer because I don't understand a lot of the references. And, you know , I want to know all the stories and you know what it's about. But , um , I mean, it's fascinating.

Speaker 4:

Okay. So , um , about, first of all about the title of that episode, I thought about that , uh, to just name it the true case because that's what it's actually about. Um, but that would attract the wrong kind of attention I think. Um , because I don't want to put a flashy title with that person's name on it because, well, one of our famous killers , um, and um, and one of the biggest cases we ever had here in Belgium. So, but I wanted to do an episode on that. I just finished the , the followup episode and it's maybe , uh , like you say, the frame of reference, if you, if you miss that , um, then you need the computer actually to search for that. But that's my bad . I sometimes am rather chaotic in telling stories and that's the way I am and that's why it's also the random history of Belgium and not the chronological history DMS anyway, if I do it chronologically or not I that I want to tell so many things at the same time and I really have to compartmentalize it and bring these by these and choosing a title, choosing the next subject. It's a very strange process. Actually. I have a list of over 300 subjects and I just pick one that I feel like, okay, this is what I can do now. It's also depending on what I have access to. So for example, if there's a, if there's an interesting work that I come across and I can take some data from there and I can cross reference it with other things. Sometimes it just falls on your lap. Otherwise it's just like, okay, I'm just going to do something about let's say a painter's Adrianne Broward , which I think is one of the best painters , sort of works on her are really beautiful. So, okay, I just dive in there and I see what I can get and, and some episodes just don't make it because the subject is not interesting enough or the , uh, sources dry up or whatever. So , um, yeah, it's uh , and there are also episodes that are taking a very, very long time to prepare. Just to give you an example, I have a follow up episode on the , the resistance movements and I wanted to do the other side of that. So the collaboration with the Germans and uh , fascinating. You open a box of Pandora certainly in Belgium because you have different kinds of collaboration . It's a mess. Um, and uh, I'm working together with some guys who do the Germany podcast , the history of Germany podcasts to look at it from their side as well being also have opera sources. So, but that takes, of course more than a month to put together. Uh, so it's, it will take time , uh, and well, it's not, it's not like doing something about Belgium price, for example, where you can just find resources enough and put it together quite easily.

Speaker 3:

That's fascinating. I was, I didn't realize I listened to your , um, is there one episode about the resistance

Speaker 4:

in Roberto there ? There's only one because yeah, there, there was not that much time to put that one together actually. But uh , uh, I wanted to do second one on the resistance specifically on the sabotage actions and that's still stranded. I have too much resources .

Speaker 3:

Interesting. And I respect that you're looking from both sides and um, I I didn't realize all the nuance and the resistance period.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. Um, th what's often forgotten there is that the, the communists were actually the backbone of that. Um, that's often overlooked because they , they were not realized that much , uh , further down the road. Um, or they gained too much power when something in between probably. Um , but the Belgium only itself as a country has so many nuances and certainly during the two world Wars. Okay . Let me tell you this, there is this , uh, the Flemish movements for example, where there is the democratic party and the list of democratic party . I don't want to approach history. Like I have an opinion on any of those guys personally. I have. And uh , I can tell you I don't like the undemocratic guys, but that's me as a person. Me as the author of the podcast, I really don't care. I want to know those stories and I will talk to people who are really on that side and I want to know, okay, what's the newest, because that's part of our history, but it's subtitle , it's, it's in Belgium. It's, it's really difficult to map all that because they immediately think that you have a political motive to , to do that. And that's the tricky part here. Interesting. Wow.

Speaker 3:

See, I feel like I could talk to you for hours and I know that we only have a little bit of time left, but maybe we can schedule another time.

Speaker 4:

Of course . I really, I like to talk a really long time about different subjects. It's all okay. Certainly if it's history, but I have a question also for you. It's interesting to , to , uh, to see your podcast is about , um, the last , uh , train from Belgium. Um, so it's, it's how the children, the impact on the children and how we are treated. And all your tools on to this political ongoings at that moment. And , uh , what can we expect

Speaker 3:

really specifically about my mother and my, my aunt and other members of my family who were children when the war broke out. But , uh, my mother was born in Belgium. She was seven years old when the Germans invaded. But part of telling that story is, I have to reflect back to world war one where her family was massacred in NAF , you know, nav . And I don't know if you are familiar with the aqueduct massacre and NAF in world war one.

Speaker 4:

I know there was a message, well , more massacres, but that was one of the biggest ones , uh , because they took revenge for , um ,

Speaker 3:

yeah , it was not a good thing, but the reason, so the reason why , uh , that story is important is because my mother , uh , lived, they lived in palace soul . Her father had to go and , um, to France, he was in the French military. And so she had to go live with her grandmother who lived in right in front of that aqueduct. And there, there's a monument in front of that AcaDec that her, it was her aunt who had erected and her, her aunt , uh, Adele [inaudible] , her family was, she was in her basement with my third grade grandfather and the rest of her family was in the aqueduct and she lost half of her family in that massacre. So this has been a narrative in the family history and I believe wholeheartedly that we carry our histories, whether they're known or are unknown, whether , I don't know if it's a genetic thing or if it's that we carry it through the subtlety of behavior, you know, passed down from parents to parents. And that's a whole other topic. But , uh , so my mother would go to visit her grandmother and this legend family legend was deep in her psyche and then she had to go live with her grandmother. The Germans are coming again. She's already scared of the Germans. Um , and it's that story. So I just sum it up by saying , uh, children caught in the crossfires of war because I have to have like a one sentence kind of , um, elevator speech. And so that's, that's where that is from.

Speaker 4:

Wow. That's actually a story to follow. You have many facets to it. Yeah .

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it does. And I guess what I realized when I went back to, I went to Belgium with my mother in 2012 and we went to all the places I filmed her. So a lot of the footage is from her, but also my grandfather was a photographer. He was always on the cutting edge of a film and he would make these little family silent films, like just like Charlie Chaplin film. So I have all that footage, which is really valuable and it's adding a lot of dimension to the story. But we went back there and I guess what I, I had an epiphany when I was at the monument there in front of the aqueduct in that was the psyche of not just my mother who was not alive during world war one, but all the people that were alive during world war one. And Oh my God, here they come again. And what that did to them and why so many people clogged up the streets. And the Germans were able to use that as a kind of a weapon against what we would call the allied forces. Uh, so yeah, there's a lot of dimension. There's a lot of nuance. And also I want to utilize my platform in last train, leaving Belgium as an opportunity to shine light. I think of my mother as she was a refugee of war, she was a child and there's a lot of , uh , children today that are still impacted by that. So I'm partnering with some charities. A war child is one of them. And I'm going to utilize that platform to, you know , shine a light on, you know, this is happening in the world. I'm also learning a lot from these organizations because it's helping me to understand who my mother was and why she was the way she was. She was a tough, she was a tough woman, but she survived a lot too. So that's that story. Thanks for asking.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, it's fascinating because when you say the, the , the roads were , uh , at that moment blocked with, because so many people all started to flee at the same time. And that was partially because what they remembered or their parents remembered about world war one and what happens there. And DD fear of the Germans was also known on the other side. They knew like, okay, we have to treat them more humanly this time because otherwise everyone will start fighting us. Even normal citizens who would stirrup stuff and they, they explicitly did. Uh, well not that they were kind, but it was not on the level of world war one when they , uh, when they invaded Belgium specifically for that reason.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, there was, I interviewed a guy named Jeff [inaudible] . He wrote a book rehearsals and it really was a combination of people's experiences. And my aunt Adele, my great aunt, she was actually, her account was in that book and that's how I found him. He's , he said he wanted to set the record straight because there's still people today who believe that it wasn't what happened wasn't as bad as they said it was. They said it was propaganda, the rape of Belgium was preppy , all that stuff. And so he had, he was a professor and he came across all this material. And he wrote this book and I recommend it, but he was a guest on my show. He talks about that. He talks about the military. The German military was told to watch what you do and to not repeat what happened in world war one . But having said that, the psychological impact I think was already you know, fostered inside of people and so it was, it was kind of a weapon. And you know we do talk about there is a lot of gray areas. There is a story in the documentary I'm talking to you .

Speaker 2:

I don't want to be talking to you.

Speaker 3:

We're going to stop here for today, but be sure to join us next week for part two of the interview. Be sure to stay with us for our kid wisdom segment where we talk to 13 year old Emerald from Idaho Springs, Colorado. I'm going to share a small clip of the interview that I had with Emerald last week, but I've decided it was such a powerful interview in a couple of weeks. I will release it in full as a headline interview for an episode of armchair historians. So what is your favorite history?

Speaker 5:

Um, I think my favorite history to learn and talk about would be world war II. That's most interesting to me. And I just, I just like to learn about it.

Speaker 3:

So what is it about world war two that draws you in? Like what is it that you find most interesting?

Speaker 5:

I think it's interesting that Hitler just thought that those ideas were good and that all of that just happened because of one person and his ideas and how it , it destroyed so many lives and families and what it did to the history and how people look at like Germany and how people judge.

Speaker 3:

So w you said , uh, how Hitler could do just do those things. Could you be more specific about those things?

Speaker 5:

Um , yeah. Like hate on the Jews and how , um, how he had such an impact. Like how all the Nazis, they took Jews, they took people with and they just, they killed them for them being them just because they were choose just because they had disabilities. They thought that everything had to be perfect and so they would kill and destroy the things that weren't , um, or weren't the way that they, that they had it. So his, the things he did were like, he just took people and thought the thought that they were just, just things them as things, not people.

Speaker 3:

Right, right. That's pretty heavy. Emerald. I feel like crying while I'm listening to you just, and there's two reasons for that. And one is because of what you're talking about, it's really painful.

Speaker 6:

Right ?

Speaker 3:

And just because you are thinking about these things and they matter to you and that you've given thought to them. So I'm really impressed with that. And it's heavy. It's emotionally heavy.

Speaker 5:

Yeah. I, I don't, I don't really know too much about world war two, but it's still, it still affects me because I still hear about it. I still learn about it. And even though it happened so many years ago, it's still a part of people's lives. So I , I think it's pretty interesting how it's still in people's heads about what happened and why that happened.

Speaker 3:

Do you think it could happen again?

Speaker 5:

I don't think that exactly could happen again, but I do think some people in this world still have ideas like that and maybe at some point somewhere in the world, those ideas are, are going through their head and it's maybe happening.

Speaker 3:

So like ideas, I'm making an assumption, but I'm going to clarify with you. Uh , people who are, for instance, racist, who believed that somehow they're , um , better because they're a certain skin color. Um, people who believe that , uh , certain types of people, you know, like gay and lesbians , that type of thing, like they're wrong and they shouldn't exist and that they're sinning. And , um , that type, is that what you're talking about?

Speaker 5:

Yeah. Yeah. And there's so many people out there now that are queer , um , LGBTQ plus. And there's, there's also so many people who think that it's super and that there should be something done about it. But, and , and those ideas, they could be going through somebody's head and they could actually occur and some places, and they have,

Speaker 7:

yeah ,

Speaker 5:

it's still going through people's heads with the same ideas as Hitler. But Hitler is just way bigger and it affected the whole world.

Speaker 1:

We're going to stop there. That was really heavy. It's a very small portion of the interview that I did with Emerald, and I feel like I owe it to her and to everybody who listens to my podcast to share the whole interview with you. So be looking for that in a few weeks. Be sure to join us next week when we talk to the host of random history of Belgium Manuel for part two of that interview. I'll leave information about that podcast in the episode notes. Also, remember to check out our Patrion page as well as keep up to date with the latest armchair historians , news on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Speaker 8:

[inaudible] [inaudible] .