‘The Nation’s Sacred Debt’
Chaussée de Wavre, Auderghem: Under the surveillance of a nurse, ten babies pose for the photographer. They were all war orphans, living in the old Valducveld villa, which had been turned into a Cradle Asylum. Children of soldiers who had died in combat were raised there. As declared by a Parliament Member in 1919: “It is the nation’s sacred debt to raise these children”.
The number of orphans had brutally increased with the war. To relieve this situation, along numerous private organizations, the Oeuvre Nationale des Orphelins de Guerre was founded in 1915. This institution financially helped families which had suffered bereavements, or took charge of their children by raising them in establishments. The conflict had changed the relationship towards the youth. Childhood, which until then had been regarded as a strictly private matter, turned into a complete and lawful public intervention field. This change was formalized by the creation of the Oeuvre Nationale de l’Enfance in 1919.