The Forgotten Ones brussels, Belgium



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The Forgotten Ones

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BRUSSELS, Belgium An exhibit in a Belgian museum seeks to clarify the role of colonial troops during the 1914-1918 conflict known initially as the Great War, then as World War I (WWI). The exhibit spotlights the contributions of these forgotten soldiers. It also examines the unfair treatment they received, including empty promises of freedom.

Recently, on the 90th anniversary of the end of WWI, the BELvue Museum in Brussels, Belgium, opened an exhibit called "Man, Culture and War." The display surveys the efforts of the colonial soldiers who assisted the ultimately victorious Allied powers. The Allied powers consisted of troops from France, Britain, Belgium, Australia, Canada, and the United States.

During WWI, many European countries still ruled colonies in Africa and Asia. More than one million African and Asian volunteers answered the call to aid the Allied infantry. Many of the colonial soldiers fought along the Western Front. This battle line zigzagged primarily across France and Belgium, from the North Sea to Switzerland. The colonial soldiers served as auxiliaries. Often, they dug trenches along the front. They also cleared unexploded bombs. Others fought alongside Allied troops. The French, for example, armed 140 battalions from West Africa and Madagascar and sent them into warfare. Entire divisions of North Africans also took part in combat. The North Africans were mainly Moroccans, Algerians, and Tunisians.

Nearly 100,000 colonial soldiers died on the Western Front. Their sacrifice, however, was long overlooked by the governments that sent them into battle. Even history textbooks have done little to remember their efforts.

"Asian and African units played an immensely important role on the Allied side throughout the war," said Piet Chielens. Chielens is head of the In Flanders Fields Museum, which assisted the BELvue Museum in assembling its exhibit. "But very quickly after the war their contribution was reduced to a footnote in history."

The exhibit doesn't only highlight the colonial troops' contributions. It also details the discrimination suffered by these soldiers. The French, the exhibit shows, allowed colonial soldiers to rise at best to the rank of captain. In the British and Belgian armies, non-Europeans could rise no higher than sergeant.

The colonial soldiers were also treated extremely poorly. They were inadequately trained and equipped. Discipline was harsh. According to exhibition captions, the ruling countries were reluctant to arm and train black African troops. The countries were afraid that the troops would turn their skills against their colonial masters once they returned home.

In return for their voluntary participation in the war, the exhibit explains, the colonial soldiers had been promised freedom for their homelands in Africa and Asia. Like their contributions to the war, however, these promises were soon forgotten. After the war, a young Vietnamese man named Ho Chi Minh, for example, petitioned the leaders of the victorious Allied powers. He asked them to support independence for his country. The appeal went unheeded. A South African writer named Solomon Plaatje experienced similar defeat of his attempts to gain freedom for his people.

The anger and resentment created by the discrimination and poor treatment of colonial soldiers were compounded by the betrayal of promises of freedom that were not honored. All these fueled liberation movements that ultimately brought an end to the colonial empires. Many colonial soldiers were the very people who went on to lead the fight for decolonization, although several years-and another world war-would pass before they would succeed. The movement led by Ho Chi Minh, for example, eventually led to Vietnam's liberation from French colonial rule. Plaatje became one of the founders of the African National Congress. In the 1990s, this group successfully brought an end to apartheid rule in South Africa.

"The worldwide surge of decolonization which came after World War II had its origins in the disappointments and humiliations suffered by colonial troops during and after the Great War," said Piet Chielens.




Dictionary

apartheid (noun) in South Africa, the practice of keeping people of different races apart

caption (noun) a short written description or title accompanying a display or a printed illustration

humiliation (noun) something that damages one's pride or dignity

infantry (noun) a unit or branch of soldiers trained to fight on foot
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Multiple Choice: Circle the letter of the choice the best completes the statement. (2 points each)



  1. According to the article, what fueled the liberation movements that ultimately brought an end to the colonial empires?

  1. The anger and resentment created by the discrimination and poor treatment of colonial soldiers

  2. The fact that in the British and Belgian armies, non-Europeans were forced to become sergeants

  3. The fact that at the BELvue Museum, an exhibit honored the colonial soldiers' efforts in a footnote

  4. The exhibit in a Belgian museum that represents the role of colonial troops during the WWI conflict

2. Which is the closest synonym for the word humiliation?

  1. Eternity

  2. Embarrassment

  3. Eruption

  4. Enthusiasm

3. The author probably wrote this article in order to __________.

  1. Praise the In Flanders Fields Museum for assisting the BELvue Museum in assembling its exhibit

  2. Criticize the textbook publishers who have done little to remember the colonial soldiers who fought in WWI

  3. Spotlight the contributions and unfair treatment of the forgotten colonial soldiers who served in WWI

  4. Spotlight the fact that many colonial soldiers fought near and died at the Western Front during WWI

4. Which of these should not be included in a summary of this article?

  1. Piet Chielens is the head of the In Flanders Fields Museum located in Belgium.

  2. The exhibit portrays colonial soldiers' contributions and the discrimination they suffered.

  3. The colonial soldiers' sacrifices were overlooked by the rulers that sent them into battle.

  4. Many European countries still ruled colonies in Africa and Asia at the time of WWI.

5. Which of these is a statement of opinion?

  1. The African National Congress successfully brought an end to apartheid rule in South Africa during the 1990s.

  2. Ho Chi Minh asked that the leaders of the victorious Allied powers support independence for his country.

  3. The movement led by Ho Chi Minh eventually led to Vietnam's liberation from French colonial rule.

  4. Colonial soldiers were justified in feeling resentful about the discrimination and poor treatment they received.

6. Which information is not in the article?

  1. The number of African and Asian volunteers that answered the call to aid the Allies

  2. The name of the museum that assisted the BELvue Museum in assembling its exhibit

  3. The name of the BELvue Museum exhibit that spotlights colonial soldiers' role in WWI

  4. The number of North African divisions that fought alongside the Allied troops

7. The article states: They were inadequately trained and equipped, and discipline was harsh. Which would be the closest synonym for the word inadequately?

  1. Impressively

  2. Indefinitely

  3. Immortally

  4. Insufficiently

8. What is this article mainly about?



  1. An exhibit that highlights the contributions and poor treatment of colonial soldiers in World War I

  2. A history textbook that explains why ruling countries refused to arm and train black African troops in WWI




  1. A WWI battle line called the Western Front that zigzagged primarily across France and Belgium

  2. An exhibit that was updated to show the role of Asian and African units in Morocco, Algiers, and Tunisia.


Opinion Question: Now that you have read the article, indicate whether you agree or disagree with this statement. In your opinion, which was the greater injustice regarding the service of colonial soldiers during WWI?

  • They were poorly treated and were discriminated against.

  • The promises of freedom for their homelands were not honored.


Thought Question: History books barely acknowledge the colonial soldiers who fought in World War I. Write a page about them for a history book. Be sure to include the colonial soldiers' background, their actions during the war, and the treatment they received. Use details from the article and your own ideas in your writing. (5 points)


Math- World War I lasted about four years. World War II lasted about six years. How much longer did World War II last than World War I?

  1. 20% longer

  2. 75% longer

  3. 40% longer

  4. 50% longer




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