In a Vacuum
Nuns are being registered for their passport. The picture was taken in 1915, the same year in which possessing a valid identification document became compulsory for all citizens older than 15. It was the first Belgian ID, precursor of our current identity card. The aim was to prevent the men to leave the country and enlist in the army, but this form of administrative control would persist after the occupation. The freedom of movement was also upset by the war.
Brussels lived in a vacuum in 1914-1918. Besides from introducing control measures (passports, laissez-passer, curfews etc), the occupier also seized cars, horses and bikes. Life was soon reduced to the size of one’s own district. Mobility as in pre-war days became but a distant memory. Journalists Louis Gilles, Alphonse Ooms and Paul Delandsheere complained on 31 Augustus 1914: “as far as travelling is concerned, in a few days we went back to the early 19th century”.