Belgium has been perceived as a suitable place for exiles over the last few months; having hosted Carles Puigdemont, the former President of the Catalan government since October without being imprisoned by the Belgian authorities. This move is merely part of a long history Belgium has for providing exile for intellectuals and artists over the decades.
1. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Even if you disagree with their political ideas, nobody could deny the large influence Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had in the History. Lenin relied on Marx’s book, Capital and the Communist Manifesto to instigate the Soviet Revolution and run the Soviet Union. Several countries are still inspired by their work, such as North Korea, Cuba or China. Brussels was a significant place in Karl Marx’s life. He was forced to migrate to the Belgian capital in 1845 after being expelled from both Germany and France because of the political ideology he was spreading. From here, he wrote, together with Friedrich Engels, his most famous book, the Communist Manifesto.
2. Victor Hugo
Few years after Karl Marx moved to Brussels, another very well-known writer made the same decision. The author of Les Misérables is indeed one of the most famous authors in French literature. Unlike Karl Marx, Victor Hugo was not expelled from France. But as a defender of democracy, social justice and the abolition of the death penalty, he was a very serious opponent of Napoleon III. That’s why he escaped from France and came to Brussels in 1851, where he stayed seven months at Grand Place. He then returned to Brussels in 1861 to write Les Misérables.
3. Alexandre Dumas
The Three Musketeers. This major French masterpiece, written by Alexandre Dumas, another famous author who lived in Brussels. Mr. Dumas also moved to Brussels in 1851, the same year as his friend, Victor Hugo. Although he pretended he was forced to migrate for political reasons, the truth is a slightly different. He was facing prison in France because of debts, and he had no other option than escaping his home country. Alexandre Dumas lived in Boulevard de Waterloo for two years. After he reached an agreement with his lenders, he came back to Paris in 1853.
4. Albert Einstein
Probably the most influential man of the 20th century: Albert Einstein. Einstein, who was the mind behind major scientific discoveries, lived in Belgium on and off between 1902 and 1933. His last trip to Belgium was of the most significance. In 1933, Adolph Hitler was elected German Chancellor. While the Jews suffered from the first discriminatory measures, Albert Einstein, who was living in California, decided not to come back to Germany. He headed to Belgium, and stayed in Le Coq for six months with his wife, before going back to the USA indefinitely.