A stationary train with French prisoners on 14 September 1914 at Rue du Sel in Cureghem. Warned by rumours, the population gathered to see these prisoners from Maubeuge on their way to Germany. It was whispered that the Allies had cut the railways, preventing the train from moving either forward or backwards. As the German guards showed no hostility, some people climbed the slope to hand food to the prisoners. After a few hours the train departed, accompanied by a dense crowd shouting “Vive la France!”. Less than three years later, prisoners from Brussels would also be deported to Germany.
As from 1916, the Germans started “hunting the idle” all over Belgium in order to support the war effort. In January 1917, 1,350 unemployed were forced to leave Brussels and work in Germany. Half of them came from Anderlecht, a very industrialized area of Brussels. The deportation of these workers took place in very difficult conditions. Comparing this with Negro slavery, drawings of those days denounce ”white slave traffic”.