Under the watchful eye of German soldiers, a cow crosses Place Sainctelette, in Molenbeek. In the first days following the seizing of Brussels, the population was bound to hand over their cattle and vehicles to the occupying power. For the German Empire, conquered territories were indispensable supply sources. An occupied city was also an exploited city. Municipal treasuries were plundered to pay for the war contributions. Civilians were not spared: horses, copper pieces and wool were continually seized until the end of the conflict. The population was bled dry, and scarcity spread fast.
This shortage had dramatic consequences: death rate rose significantly during the second part of the occupation. The population, already weakened by years of starvation and malnourishment, was severely hit by the shortage of charcoal to bear the harsh winter months. Elder people were the first victims.