Leon Degrelle
Hitler, born at Versailles

 A Challenge to Thought Control:
The Historiography of
Leon Degrelle

Robert J. Chapman
Paper Presented to the Sixth International Revisionist Conference
It has been often said that the first casualty of war is truth. Belligerents have always had their own versions of history, particularly with regard to responsibility for wars. And yet certain basic facts and events have not been totally suppressed, if only due to the lack of total media technology and control. Roman statesmen never hid their intense hostility toward Carthage, yet historians have been able to produce rather reliable accounts of the Punic wars. Rome was the absolute military victor, but does not appear completely blameless and righteous in history books. Although Carthage was utterly destroyed by Rome, the feats of Hannibal were duly recorded, his heroism and his integrity were not denied, his character was not assassinated, his genius was not called madness and his motives were understood and respected in the context of his duty to his country.

For four thousand years historians were rather able to keep track of human events. Despite the triumph of victorious nations, the vanquished were not eternally execrated. If the victor was particularly vindictive, honest historians might have to maintain discreet, low profile research for a time but they were eventually able to record the facts without fear of retribution. Defeated nations were not prevented from rendering their versions of history. Historians, like accountants, could gather facts and figures as well as give their own interpretations.

The phenomenon of distorting or suppressing facts from the historical ledger is relatively recent. In conjunction with forced military conscription and absolutist ideology, it first appeared with the advent of the French Revolution.

While the ancien regime tolerated even those who were determined to abolish it, and men such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu were feted in the royal salons, the French revolutionaries stamped out dissent with the guillotine. Suspected opponents of the revolutionary regime were simply put to death.

Historians were among the first victims of this democratic reign of terror. Millions were murdered and historical truth became a casualty. Fortunately for the world, Danton, Marat, and Robespierre did not prevail, but instead fell victim to their own terror.

It proved only a short respite. The virus was out of the bottle. During the nineteenth century, many tyrants and would-be tyrants became infected. Yet truth, or at least diversity of opinion, survived in countries not subjected to ideological tyranny.

Marat's ideological heirs, nurtured by the teachings of Marx and Engels, took control of Russia in 1917. Another major country fell under the absolutist rule of ideological fanatics. Once again historians became victims. Events were erased from memory, "facts" were invented, and whole classes of people were exterminated or classified as non-persons in the rewritten history books produced for the new Soviet man. Recalcitrant historians were quickly liquidated as counter revolutionaries or anti-Semites. (note 1) Nevertheless, the facts about this modern-age tyranny filtered out and Western historians were able to record them. (note 2)

Tyranny took a quantum leap between 1917 and the present. What the French and Marxist revolutions were not able to accomplish -- namely, control of history to perpetuate their own regimes -- has become the norm around the world. The wartime alliance of the Anglo-American Allies and Soviet Russia did not make the Kremlin's rulers more democratic. Instead, the "democratic" Allies accepted the practices of Soviet tyranny.

For the first time in history virtually the entire world found itself subjected to the same tyrannical ideology, including a common version of modern history. Gone were the sanctuaries of countries where dissident historians could take refuge to record history or wait until passions had abated. Even the freedom of historians of the defeated countries to write history from the perspective of the vanquished disappeared. The victorious Second World War alliance stopped the clock of history in 1945, unconditionally and universally.

It is certainly not without irony that the joint triumph of the Soviet Union and the Anglo-American democracies over Germany, all in the name of peace, freedom and democracy, should have ushered in a dark era of intellectual tyranny. An era dawned during which anyone daring to express dissident opinions did so at the risk of his life and livelihood. Never before has absolute dogma been so widely imposed around the globe.

It is this exclusivist historical perspective of Marxism, Capitalism, and Zionism which has kept the world in intellectual darkness during the last forty years. Revisionist historians are hounded around the world by the new grand inquisitors of this intolerant dogma.

More than any other country, Germany remains an occupied and divided land under illegitimate governments with legal prohibitions against even modest challenges to the official dogma.

Since 1945 laws have multiplied in many countries to punish recalcitrant historians. And if legal measures fail, inflammatory and lying propaganda produced by modern media technology are used.

But in spite of murder, arson and persecution of every possible kind, the powerful forces of repression and obscurantism have not completely extinguished the spark of freedom. In fact, forty years of persecution have made its defenders stronger and more determined than ever that truth and freedom shall prevail. The annual revisionist conferences sponsored by the Institute for Historical Review are a manifestation of the indomitable spirit of human freedom.

It is ironic indeed that our persecutors behave in a worse fashion than the "Nazis" they execrate. In fact, they have imposed upon the world all the evils, and then some, that they accuse National Socialist Germany of perpetrating. The roles have been completely reversed: the allegedly persecuted are the real persecutors. The historical truth, of course, is that Germany has been viciously oppressed since the First World War onward, and that those historians who have attempted to set the record straight have likewise been persecuted.

Although historical revisionism is not at all limited to the Second World War era, it has been necessary to emphasize this critical period because the total falsification of modern history was imposed by the Soviets and their wartime democratic Allies. For the past forty years they have controlled historiography to perpetuate their rule through an absolutist worldwide ideology. They operate according to the Orwellian axiom: "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

Today, however, defenders of First Amendment rights and general freedom of speech have joined with historians to battle for the basic right to express oneself without fear of sanctions.

As the falsifiers openly admit, their greatest fear is historical revisionism. They have thus also revealed their greatest weakness: the scrutiny of revisionist historians. It is a matter of constant amazement that the historical falsifiers do not rebut revisionism with facts but with abuse, threats or punishment. The normal exchange of scholarly information common to other intellectual disciplines has also been absent.

The challenge to the tyranny of worldwide thought control has been issued. After four decades of lies, we say: Enough. We can be grateful that the United States is still a bastion where freedom of expression has not been legally eradicated, but time is running out. If today historians are muzzled by denial of their First Amendment rights, who may be next? The freedom of us all is at stake.

The imperative of historians to tell the truth is inextricably linked to freedom of speech. It is a dual role and a dual burden which we cannot shirk. At the same time it is a unique and tremendous opportunity to unravel the falsifications that have held the world captive since 1945.

It would have been of benefit to history if the central figure of the Second World War, Adolf Hitler, had been retired like Napoleon, to write his memoirs and answer the questions of history. The contrast between the way Napoleon and Hitler were treated following their defeats is a measure of how far the world has fallen into totalitarian tyranny.

Defeat on the battlefield cost Napoleon his throne, but he kept his life and honor. To this day he is honored as a personality of prominence in the country he once ruled as well as in the world. In contrast, for Hitler military defeat meant annihilation in a war of total destruction. This pitiless hostility began during the First World War and was institutionalized by the Versailles Treaty. The time is gone when the ultimate price a leader had to pay for military defeat was the loss of his power and prestige.

The Soviets and their democratic allies, who introduced the concept of total war, unconditional surrender and unconditional hatred, have institutionalized bigotry and retribution on a macabre and perpetual basis. This fanatical stance has brought historical inquiry to a standstill.

The corrosive legacy of censorship and suppression will only end if there is free debate, inquiry, research, and scrutiny. The perspective of the vanquished must be given -- not by Nuremberg inquisitors -- but by those who actually made history on the other side. The academic world and the general public are entitled to examine both sides of the Hitler era.

More than 200,000 books have been written since 1945 about the Second World War, but have they let us know the authentic story?

For example, only a handful of those who had any personal knowledge of Hitler have written about the man. Unfortunately, their ability to tell the truth has been subordinate to their primary obligation for sheer survival.

The Institute for Historical Review believes that the time has now come to understand the man who was the central figure of the most momentous era of modern history: Adolf Hitler. Unfortunately for historians, Hitler and all his lieutenants can no longer be questioned. All, save one.

In its quest to produce a monumental record of this missing side of history, the Institute has commissioned the last wartime National Socialist leader who is still alive and free to fill the gap: Leon Degrelle, the Catholic leader of the Belgian Rexist movement and wartime leader of the Waffen SS volunteer legion "Wallonie."

Degrelle knew Hitler intimately and was one of his most trusted colleagues. One of the most decorated heroes of the Eastern Front, he may also be uniquely qualified to observe history objectively. He is not a German. Along with the people of Belgium and France, he was brought up in an officially anti-German atmosphere.

In the years before the outbreak of war, Degrelle was a young Belgian intellectual who published a daily newspaper and organized a national political party that won elections and sent representatives to the Belgian parliament. The popular enthusiasm he generated was reflected in the turnout of millions who applauded his message and supported his program.

When Degrelle returned to Brussels after fighting communism for four years on the Eastern Front, he was given the largest mass welcome in Belgian history. [Thousands of] Belgians lined the streets of Brussels to cheer the returning general only two months before the Allies invaded that country.

One of the outstanding writers in the French language, he has published more than forty books and essays ranging from poetry to economics, from architecture to history. He has been acknowledged as a passionate orator and a soldier of rare valor. He joined the ranks of the 600,000 foreign volunteers of the Waffen SS as a private and earned all his stripes at the front. After four continuous years in the inferno of battle, his legion was one of the last to retreat from Russia.

This titanic struggle is described in his famous epic, Campaign in Russia, which earned him renown in Europe as the "Homer of the Twentieth Century." (This book has been recently published in English by the Institute for Historical Review.)

During his final meeting with Adolf Hitler, as bombs rained across Germany, Degrelle recalled that Hitler was calm and composed. They shared a last supper together. Hitler served him, cutting his bread and pouring him a glass of wine. He gazed confidently into Degrelle's eyes: "We will all die, but you, Leon, must live. You must live to tell the world the truth."

In 1945, Degrelle escaped from Germany to Norway where he boarded a single-engine plane and flew over Allied-occupied Europe to crash land on the Spanish border as his craft ran out of fuel. He suffered multiple injuries in the landing including several broken bones. He spent a year in the hospital recuperating, most of it in a plaster cast, unable to move. Typically, as soon as his right arm became free he began writing his masterwork, Campaign in Russia ("The Lost Legion"). It has appeared in two French editions.

The Allies threatened to invade Spain unless Degrelle and wartime French premier Pierre Laval were not immediately turned over for execution. Franco compromised. He turned over Laval but kept Degrelle on the grounds that he could not be physically removed from the hospital.

A year later Degrelle was given refuge in a monastery. Members of his family and many friends and supporters were arrested and tortured to death by the "democratic liberators" of Belgium. His six children were forcibly shipped to detention centers in different parts of Europe after their names were changed. The authorities ordered that they were never to be permitted contact with one another or with their father.

The new Belgian government condemned him to death in absentia on three separate occasions. A special law was passed, the Lex Degrellana, which made it illegal to transfer, possess, or receive any book by or about Degrelle. The IHR's Campaign in Russia is automatically banned in Belgium.

Completely alone, Degrelle went on to rebuild his shattered life from nothing. With the energy and burning spirit that had never left him, he worked as a manual laborer in construction. And just as he had risen from private to general on the battlefield, Degrelle rose to build a major construction company with important contracts. The quality and efficiency of his company became so well known that the United States government commissioned him to build major defense projects, including military airfields, in Spain. Meanwhile his emissaries searched Europe for his kidnapped children. All were found in the most amazing circumstances and returned to their father.

On twelve separate occasions over the last forty years Degrelle has challenged the Belgian government to put him on public trial with a jury. His repeated demands to be tried in a legitimate court of law (as opposed to an inquisitional Nuremberg-style show trial) have been met with embarrassed and guilty silence.

The Institute has commissioned this giant historical figure and first-hand witness and participant to momentous events to write a definitive, fourteen volume revisionist historical account. Degrelle's first-hand experience, as well as his acquaintance with Churchill, Mussolini and every other major figure of the Second World War, makes this a project of tremendous historical significance.

Will these books be biased in favor of Hitler? General Degrelle has already provided the answer in his other published works. He writes without fear or favor. His facts have been cursed by his opponents, but never disproved. It is this approach combined with encyclopedic knowledge that assures a valuable end result.

The first manuscript of 1268 pages is divided into three parts and is entitled: Hitler: Born in Versailles. It is the foundation of the thirteen succeeding books which will average 400 pages each, complete with reproductions of previously unpublished documents and photographs of key personalities. Each volume will deal with a specific aspect of Hitler's legacy. They will be entitled: Hitler the Democrat, Hitler and the Church, Hitler and the Germans, Hitler and the United States, Hitler and Stalin, Hitler and England, Hitler and France, Hitler and the Banks, Hitler and the Communists, Hitler and the Jews, Hitler the Politician, Hitler the Military Strategist, and Hitler and the Third World.

"There would never have been a Hitler without the Versailles Treaty," Degrelle says. The vested interests joined to eviscerate Germany with unprecedented iniquity. Hitler emerged as an unlikely champion from the depths of his nation's misery and despair. He was a graphic artist with a passion for music. His battle uniform was his only worldly possession. He had never been involved in politics. From the abyss of hopelessness and against the combined forces of established power, Hitler created, directed, and lived his revolution from beginning to end. He broke through all prejudices and opposition to the German people, and they responded. He earned every vote he received by tirelessly addressing peoples in town after town and city after city. Hitler was democratically elected. When he proceeded to implement his mandate, the combined forces of Capitalism, Communism, and Zionism once again declared war against Germany.

Degrelle's comprehensive historical survey reviews all the facts in the chain of events that led to Hitler's election and the beginning of the Second World War. He also provides a rare look behind the scenes of the Versailles conference.

Degrelle maintains that Hitler's social reforms will ultimately be remembered even more than his military feats. He reviews Hitler's innovation of paid vacations and profit-sharing for work. The German leader introduced affordable and decent housing for all citizens. Hitler insisted that every German family was entitled to a home with a garden for flowers and vegetables. He required safe and pleasant working conditions. Every factory was to have a sports field, swimming pool, trees, flowers, and a pleasant architectural design. He insisted that working conditions must not impair the physical and spiritual wellbeing of the workers. He organized the mass production of the cheap "People's Car" or Volkswagen for every German family and offered them on low payments to every worker. Hitler constructed modern and beautiful freeways. He abolished usury on the principle that a nation's wealth is in its work force, not its hoard of gold. The state, Hitler emphasized, is the exclusive servant of the people and recognizes no other master. The list of Hitler's social innovations and achievements goes on and on.

In 1933 all this was unheard of. His dynamic social revolution of deed, not rhetoric, infuriated Germany's enemies and united them in hatred.

The Versailles mutilation of Germany and Austria-Hungary parceled out many millions of Germans (including German Austrians), Hungarians, and others like cattle to the hostile rule of alien neighboring countries. General Degrelle surveys the Franco-British intrigues in the affairs of Central Europe, the systematic betrayal of Wilson's Fourteen Points, the secret treaties that doomed Wilson's mission from the start, and the cynical Franco-British dividing up of vast territories without regard to the will of the millions of hapless inhabitants.

Degrelle points out that the history of Hitler and Germany can be understood only within the context of the Versailles Treaty and the harsh subjugation of Germany by implacable enemies. "Whenever I hear the Allied side of history," he adds, "I am often reminded of the reporter sent to report on a brawl. He scrupulously recorded all the blows delivered by one side and none from the other. His story would truthfully bear witness to the aggression of one side and the victimization of the other. But he would be lying by omission. I do not deny anything that Hitler did, but I also point out what the Communists and their Western allies did, and I let the public be the judge." I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to read the first volume of Degrelle's multi-volume survey. I can vouch for its momentous importance. With members of my family I have visited him at his home in Spain. This project will be a milestone of historical writing that will shatter the foundations of the great historical lies of our time. It will be a definitive survey for generations to come. I believe that its magnitude will change the course of human affairs.

Leon Degrelle, before the Second World War was Europe's was the youngest political leader and the founder of the Rexist Party of Belgium. During that cataclysmic confrontation he was one of the greatest heroes on the Eastern Front. Of Leon Degrelle, Hitler said: "If I should have a son I would like him to be like Leon."
As a statesman and a soldier he has known very closely Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill, Franco, Laval, Marshal Petain and all the European leaders during the enormous ideological and military clash that was World War Two. Alone among them, he has survived, remaining the number one witness of that historical period.
The life of Leon Degrelle began in 1906 in Bouillon, a small town in the Belgian Ardennes. His family was of French origin.
He studied at the University of Louvain, where he acquired a doctorate in law. He was-and is-also interested in other aca­demic disciplines, such as political science, art, archeology and Domestic philosophy.
As a student his natural gift of leadership became apparent. By the time he reached twenty he had already published five books and operated his own weekly newspaper. Out of his deep Chris­tian conviction he joined Belgium's Catholic Action Movement and became one of its leaders.
But his passion has always been people.
He wanted to win the crowds, particularly the Marxist ones. He wanted them to share his ideals of social and spiritual change for society. He wanted to lift people up; to forge for them a stable, efficient and responsible state, a state backed by the good sense of people and for the sole benefit of the people.

He addressed more than 2,000 meetings, always controversial. His books and newspapers were read everywhere because they always dealt with the real issues. Although not yet twenty-five, people listened to him avidly.
In a few short years he had won over a large part of the population. On the twenty-forth of May 1936 his Rexist Party won against the established parties a smashing electoral victory: Thirty-four house and senate seats.
The Europe of 1936 was split into little countries, jealous of their pasts and closed to any contact with their neighbors. He addressed more than 2,000 meetings, always controversial. His books and newspaper were read everywhere because they always dealt with the real issues. Although not yet twenty-five, people listened to him avidly.
In a few short years he had won over a large part of the population. On the twenty-fourth of May 1936 his Rexist Party won against the established parties a smashing electoral victory: Thirty-four house and senate seats.
The Europe of 1936 was still split into little countries, jealous of their pasts and closed to any contact with their neighbors.
Leon Degrelle saw further. In his student days he had traveled across Latin America, the United States and Canada. He had visited North Africa, the Middle East and of course all of the European countries. He felt that Europe had a unique destiny and must unite.
Mussolini invited him to Rome. Churchill saw him in London and Hitler received him in Berlin.
Putting his political life on the line, he made desperate efforts to stop the railroading of Europe into another war. But old rival­ries, petty hatreds and suspicion between the French and the German, were cleverly exploited. The established parties and the Communist Party worked on the same side: for war. For the Kremlin it was a unique opportunity to communize Europe after it had been bled white.
Thus, war started. First in Poland, then in Western Europe in 1940. This was to become the Second World War in 1941.
Soon the flag of the Swastika flew from the North Pole to the shores of Greece to the border of Spain.
But the European civil war between England and Germany continued. And the rulers of Communism got ready to move in and pick up the pieces.
But Hitler beat them to it and invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. For Europe it was to be heads or tails; Hitlers wins or Stalin wins.
It was then that from every country in Europe thousands of young men made up their minds that the destiny of their native country was at stake. They would volunteer their lives to fight communism and create a united Europe.
In all, they would grow to be more than 600,000 non-German Europeans fighting on the Eastern Front. They would bring scores of divisions to the Waffen SS.
The Waffen SS were ideological and military shock troops of Europe. The Germans, numbering 400,000 were actually in the minority.
The one million-strong Waffen SS represented the first truly European army to ever exist.
After the war each unit of this army was to provide their people with a political structure free of the petty nationalism of the past. All the SS fought the same struggle. All shared the same world view. All became comrades in arms.
The most important political and military phenomenon of World War Two is also the least known: the phenomenon of the Waffen SS.
Leon Degrelle is one of the most famous Waffen SS soldiers. After joining as a private he earned all stripes from corporal to general for exceptional bravery in combat. He engaged in sev­enty-five hand-to-hand combat actions. He was wounded on nu­merous occasions. He was the recipient of the highest honors: The Ritterkreuz, the Oak-Leaves, the Gold German Cross and nu­merous other decorations for outstanding valor under enemy fire.
One of the last to fight on the Eastern Front, Leon Degrelle escaped unconditional surrender by flying some 1500 miles across Europe toward Spain. He managed to survive constant fire all along the way and crash landed on the beach of San Sebastian in Spain, critically wounded.
Against all odds he survived. Slowly he managed to re-build a new life in exile for himself and his family.
For Degrelle philosophy and politics cannot exist without his­torical knowledge. For him beauty enhances people and people cannot improve their lives without it.
This philosophy is reflected in everything he does. In his Span­ish home art blends gracefully with history.
The work of Leon Degrelle has always been epic and poetic. As he walks in the environment of his home one feels the greatness of Rome with its marbles, its bronzes, its translucent glass; one feels the elegant Arabian architecture, the gravity of the Gothic form and the sumptuousness of Renaissance and Baroque art. One feels the glory of his flags.
In this atmosphere of beauty and greatness, the last and most important living witness of World War Two.

Leon Degrelle
and the Crusade for Europe

The Russians came at dawn, the better part of two regiments, men and tanks silhouetted against the blood-red sun as they moved forward across the steppe. Huddled among the peasants' 'huts of Gromovaya-Balka, the men of the Wallonian Legion awaited them, silently cursing the frozen earth, which had of­fered implacable resistance to their entrenching tools.
Against the oncoming Soviet troops-4,000 of them—and the 14 tanks which accompanied them, the 500 Belgian volunteers who held the village disposed of no weapons heavier than machine guns. Their only hope was to hold on until the German command, hard pressed all along the Samara front, could rush them rein­forcements badly needed in other sectors.
Corporal Leon Degrelle crouched behind the frozen carcass of a horse, sighting down the barrel of his MG34. He gave no heed to the bitter cold or to his injured foot, painfully broken two weeks before.
The Russian artillery shells were already landing in the village, inflicting terrible casualties when they were on target. Now the Soviet infantry broke into a run, their blood-curdling battle cry, -Ourrah pobiecla!, " -Hurrah for victory!," ringing in the ears of the French-speaking Walloons, drowning out the cries of the wounded and dying. Degrelle and his comrades began to fire, tearing big gaps in the ranks of the advancing Russians.
Still they surged forward. They had reached the outskirts of the village now and were fighting at close quarters with the Walloons. In the absence of anti-tank artillery or rockets, the Soviet T-34 tanks prowled freely among the huts, gunning down and rolling over any defenders in their paths.
Suddenly Degrelle was struck in the face by a piece of rico­cheting shrapnel. Blood streamed down his cheeks, but he held his position, raking the Red infantry with machine-gun bullets as they darted forward from hut to hut.
The Walloons, gave ground grudgingly, but the more numerous Russians pushed them back inexorably. As his fellow soldiers retreated to the other end of the village, Degrelle, his face a bloody mask, continued to fire.
At length the barrel of Degrelle's machine gun began to over­heat, and the tide of Russian attackers threatened to swamp him. Without hesitating, Corporal Henri Berkmans, Degrelle's armorer, grasped his wounded companion by the waist and dragged him across the ice to the cover of a peasant's hut already crammed with their fellow Walloons.
It was a brief respite. The crew of a Soviet tank had spotted them. Roaring up beside their temporary haven, the massive T-34 fired point-blank at the flimsy structure. The first shell blasted through the hut without hitting the Walloons, who clawed fran­tically to tear a hole in the rear wall. Two more rounds roared through the hut before Degrelle and his comrades got out, mirac­ulously unscathed.
As the remaining Walloons formed a last defensive perimeter, the Soviet forces regrouped for the decisive assault, eager to apply the coup de grace to these bothersome accomplices of the hated Germans. The Russians began to advance once more, and the Walloons, hunched behind whatever cover they could find, awaited them grimly, determined to hold off the Russian assail­ants and their unseen ally, death, yet a while longer.
All at once the air was pierced by screaming sirens and the ever-louder roar of airplane engines: Stukas! The shrieking Ger­man dive bombers swooped down on the swarming Reds as pitilessly and murderously as hawks pursuing field mice. Tank after tank was hit by exploding bombs sown with unerring preci­sion. The bomb blasts tossed tank crewmen and foot soldiers high in the air, as if they were scarecrows.
Clouds of oily, black smoke billowed from the Russian mon­sters, now reduced to burning hulks. With a mighty shout, the men of the Wallonian Legion rushed forward and drove the Russians from the village.
Twice more that day, 28 February 1942, the Russians attacked, and twice more the Belgians, now reinforced by German infantry and armor, threw them back. When evening fell on Gromovaya­Balka, 700 Russian soldiers lay dead in its ruins.
The Wallonian defenders had paid a heavy price. Seventy of them had been killed, among them the gallant Berkmans. Nearly 200 more had been wounded, reducing the unit's combat strength by half. Shortly thereafter, their valor would be recognized by the German high command: 34 soldiers of the Wallonian Legion, including Leon Degrelle, received the Iron Cross for their defense of Gromovaya-Balka.
Who was this Degrelle, and what drove him to the side of his country's conquerors?
Leon Degrelle
was born in 1906 at Bouillon, a small town near the French border, surrounded by the oak forests of the Ardennes and dominated by the castle of Godfrey de Bouillon, a leader of the First Crusade. There his father owned a prosperous brewery.
After attending the Jesuit college at Namur, Degrelle entered the University of Louvain in 1925. He left his studies after several years to work for Rex (from Christus Rex, Christ the King), a Catholic publishing house, of which he became director in 1931.
Under Degrelle, Rex churned out a flood of Catholic literature and propaganda. He himself edited two newspapers, Rex and Vlan, in which he analyzed the Belgian scene. Soon his writing raised eyebrows in the Catholic hierarchy.
Life in modern Belgium offered a depressing contrast to the political and cultural flowering of earlier ages, Degrelle pointed out. The land which had been an integral part of Charles the Bold's Burgundy and the empire of the Habsburgs, which had produced Charlemagne and Charles V, Brueghel and Rubens, Orlando de Lassus and Francois Cuvillies, had become a Euro­pean backwater, a pawn of international finance and balance of power politics.
Degrelle was disgusted by the venality and opportunism which characterized Belgian politics. The three major parties—the Catholics, the Liberals, and the Socialists—had come to be noth­ing more than the tools of powerful interests, whether the church hierarchy or big business or big labor. In his publications Degrelle flayed the party politicians and the establishment they fronted for mercilessly.
In 1935 Degrelle, calling for a national renewal at the expense of the established interests, founded the Rexist movement. His tireless campaigning and spellbinding oratory led his group to a stunning success in the national election of 1936. The new party rolled up 270,000 votes, 11.5 per cent of the total, and elected 12 senators and 21 deputies.
Confronted by the Rexist challenge, the established parties closed ranks. Their collusion excluded Rexist deputies from im­portant parliamentary committees. The controlled news media directed drumfire of criticism against Degrelle's "extremism" and alleged lust for power.

In March 1937 Degrelle decided to contest a by-election in Brussels, which quickly took on the nature of a plebiscite.
The Belgian establishment pulled out all the stops against his candidacy. The prime minister, Paul Van Zeeland, opposed Degrelle for the seat, backed by all three parties. The Catholic primate of Belgium condemned Degrelle and Rexism. The Brus­sels newspapers supplied the usual one-sided editorials and re­portage.
The outcome was a foregone conclusion. From that point on, the movement's fortunes declined sharply, although Degrelle did win a later election. By 1939 only Degrelle and three other Rexists from the party list sat in parliament. The disillusioned leader turned his thoughts more and more from the present pettiness of Belgium to the vision of a reborn Burgundy, stretching from Frisia to the Rhone, of which Wallonia would be the pivot.
The onset of the Second World War forced the Belgian estab­lishment to chose between the old order and the new. By making Belgium party to the anglo-French effort to stifle the European resurgence led by Hitler and Mussolini, the country's politicians invited the German invasion of 1940.
The Germans knifed through Belgium with relentless efficien­cy. After 18 days of hopeless struggle, the Belgian army was battered into submission. Meanwhile, the Belgian politicians, af­ter providently appropriating Belgium's gold reserves and the plates used to print the nation's money, fled across the channel to England. There they reconstituted themselves as Belgium's "legit­imate" government and whiled away their exile in luxury and petty intrigues.
No sooner had the German armies crossed the frontier than Leon Degrelle was seized at his home by the Belgian authorities, in flagrant violation of his parliamentary immunity. In the fol­lowing weeks he endured a brutal odyssey through Belgian and French jails.
During his captivity Degrelle lost 30 pounds. Several of his teeth were broken, and he was deafened in one ear by a particu­larly brutal beating administered in his cell at Caen. At last, thanks to German intervention, Degrelle, who had been given up for lost by his family and followers, was freed from the French concentration camp at Vernet, which had been commanded by a Jew named Bernheim.
Upon his return to Belgium, Degrelle found the political pros­pects of the Rexist movement and the Wallonian people anything but auspicious. The Germans naturally favored their Flemish cousins, and there was little accord between Belgium's Flemings and Walloons. Furthermore, Degrelle had had little previous contact with Hitler and National Socialism.

Degrelle considered that any hope of realizing his dream of a new Great Burgundy depended on the good will of Adolf Hitler. The Wallonian leader was sure he knew the way to win the former combat soldier's favor: on the field of battle, fighting side by side with Germany against a common foe.
Thus, when Germany went to war against the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, Degrelle was ready. Within two months he had raised a force of 1,000 Wallonian volunteers to join the crusade against Bolshevism.
On 8 August 1941, the Wallonian volunteers departed for Ger­many. As they paraded through the Brussels streets enroute to the railway station, they received an enthusiastic sendoff from their fellow Rexists. The excitement was heightened by Leon Degrelle's presence in their ranks. His decision to enlist, made public only the day before, had stunned his friends and enemies alike.
Married and the father of two young daughters, Degrelle, at 35, was an unlikely infantryman. His ingenuous, almost cherubic face seemed to belie his athlete's frame. Despite his political accomplishments, something of the enfant terrible still clung to him. Besides, he had never undergone military training, had never so much as fired a gun. Degrelle's enemies smirked and whispered that the leader of the Rexists would depart the train at the first stop after Brussels.
The short but arduous apprenticeship in the skills of the com­bat infantryman which Degrelle received at Regenwurm, near the Polish border, more than compensated for his previous lack of military training. By November 1941 Degrelle found himself lug­ging 65 pounds of machine gun and ammunition near Karabinov­ska, midway between Dnepropetrovsk and the Donets basin.
In late autumn of 1941 the German advance, after nearly five months of uninterrupted success, had bogged down in the black, oozing, sucking mud of Russia. Roads became impassable for heavy vehicles, and horses and men sank to their thighs in the mire. The Russians took advantage of the Germans' immobility by stepping up hit-and-run attacks by partisan guerrillas.
It was against these irregulars that the men of the Wallonian Legion saw their first action. There were no pitched battles, only short, running engagements between small units. Nevertheless, they took their toll. In late November the first legionaries fell on the cold soil of the eastern Ukraine, far from their Belgian homes.
Shortly after their arrival in Russia, the Belgians were con­fronted by an even more ferocious enemy than the Red guerrillas. The Russian winter of 1941-1942 fell with a fury unmatched in a century and a half. Temperatures in the Wallonian Legion's zone of operations dropped to 40 degrees below zero, and the snow piled up to heights of over six feet.

At the end of November Degrelle and his comrades marched across the frozen earth to the Donets basin, a center of mining and industry, where they made their winter quarters. The march across the winter hell between Karabinovska and Cherbinovka was 50 miles of torture. Men and animals slipped and slid on vast expanses of ice. Many fell victims to frostbite. By 10 December the Wallonian Legion, at last firmly established in Cherbinovka, had lost 150 men to the cold and to disease.
Through all the rigors of that terrible winter Degrelle was an inspiration to his fellow soldiers. He shared in all their trials; indeed, he bore them with a cheerfulness palatable even to the chronic grumblers. His poltical authority as chief of Rex was greatly augmented by his fellowship in arms.
Degrelle's own outlook was being profoundly affected by his experiences at the front. Any tendency to the egoism which bedevils the average politician was swept away by a thousand lowly tasks and duties, performed side by side with men of humble origins who had once shouted their adulation for him at the cavernous Sports Palace in Brussels. In the friendly jibing of his fellow infantrymen, Degrelle became "Modest the First, Duke of Burgundy."
The constant threat of death brought with it a heightened consciousness and, in the best of men, an increased dedication. Degrelle wrote, "Before we may have led a banal existence, marked by concessions to everyday life. The front taught us to love renunciation. We felt neither hatred nor desire. We had overcome our bodies and destroyed our ambition. Thus purified, we could devote ourselves to the cause. And death frightened us no more."
In February 1941 the Walloons got a chance to show their mettle in heavy combat. The Red Army attempted to exploit a number of overextended and exposed sectors along the German front. The Wallonian Legion was in the thick of the fighting, which featured a sharp contest over the village Rosa Luxemberg and the heroic defense of Gromovaya-Balka.
The February fighting was costly for the Walloons. By the 2nd of March only two of the unit's 22 officers were fit for duty, and the Wallonian Legion had been reduced to a third of its original strength.
Reinforced by a new contingent of volunteers from Belgium, the Legion joined the renewed German offensive in July. The goal was the rich oil fields of Transcaucasia, vital to refuel the mighty German war machine.
The march south across the Don and the Kuban steppe pro­ceeded at a rapid pace. In the space of a month the Legion advanced 700 miles to the foothills of the snow-capped Caucasus, marching in a summer heat that often exceeded 105 degrees.

The Russians offered little resistance until the German forces reached the passes which lead over the Caucasus to Transcaucasia. There the Reds battled furiously to deny the enemy their oil.
The Wallonian Legion fought its way up the valley of the Pschich River, driving toward Sochi, a Black Sea port. Degrelle, who had been promoted to lieutenant after Gromovaya-Balka, now proved his ability to lead men in combat as well as in electoral campaigns. His notions of tactics were hazy, but his unflinching courage in the face of enemy fire carried one objec­tive after another in the fierce mountain warfare.
At Pruskaya on 19 August, Degrelle led an attack up a hill bristling with Russian defenders. At the summit he came face to face with the Red commander. Both men fired simultaneously. The Russian fell dead at Degrelle's feet. The Legion continued its advance.
Three days later the Walloons captured the village of Cheryakov. Degrelle led a sally which blunted the first Red counter­attack. Over the next five days the Wallonian Legion beat off wave after wave of Russian attackers, until they were relieved.
The German advance stalled once again that autumn. Overex­tended and running precariously short of supplies and ammuni­tion, the German armies were forced to retreat. At the onset of winter the Wallonian Legion withdrew across the strait of Kerch and up the Crimean peninsula. As they fell back the Russians were already springing the trap at Stalingrad.
The Legion's outstanding performance had meanwhile at­tracted the interest and admiration of the officers of the elite Waffen SS. After protracted negotiations between Degrelle and Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the SS, the Wallonian Legion was inducted into the Waffen SS. The move was popular among the men. The combat prowess and prestige of the SS were unmatched and the veterans of Gromovaya-Balka and Cheryakov felt hon­ored to share it. Furthermore, membership in the SS, a supra­national Aryan order, would afford Degrelle an important voice in postwar Europe, provided Germany and her allies were victor­ious.
In the spring of 1943 the Walloons were dispersed to various SS training camps. The intangible SS spirit and the all-too-tangible aches and pains of the most difficult training they had ever experienced elevated even the battle-tested men of the Wallonian Legion to an undreamed-of level of endurance, vigilance, and hardness. When, in November 1943, the Legion was reorganized as the 5th SS Stormbrigade Wallonia, with Major Lucien Lippert its commander and Degrelle the chief of staff, there was no more formidable infantry unit in the world.

Shortly thereafter the Wallonian Brigade returned to the front, which the ever-waxing might of the Red Army had pushed to the west bank of the Dnieper. The Walloons were posted to a sector near Cherkassy, which gave its name to a vast salient, some 10,000 square miles, held by the German 8th Army.
In January 1944 disaster struck. On the 27th two Soviet armies, Zhukov's in the north and Koniev's in the south, began a drive around the Cherkassy sector which culminated in their junction at Zvenigorodka, far behind the German lines. The Cherkassy salient had become the Cherkassy pocket.
The German command laid plans for a breakout in force to the west. They concentrated the bulk of their forces near Steblyov, with the SS Regiment Germania as the spearhead. The Wallonian Brigade was assigned the vital mission of guarding the rear.
The operation, to which the sober strategists of the Wehrmacht staff had assigned a five per cent chance of success, put the Walloons to their greatest test. The Soviets, scenting victory, hammered at the German flanks, but they drove hardest from the rear, straining for the breakthrough which would allow them to roll up the retreating army from behind.
On 5 February, at the village of Starosselye, the thin Wallonian line nearly buckled. After repelling wave after wave the Wal­loons panicked and fled in the face of yet another massive Soviet assault. The Russian breakthrough was at hand.
At that point Degrelle rode up. Standing on his mud-spattered staff car as Russian bullets whined past his ears, he exhorted his men to be worthy of their Burgundian ancestors. Then Degrelle leaped from the car, seized his rifle, and shouted, "Burgundians, rally to my luck! You'll see how much the Russians fear me! About face! Forward! Follow me!"
Degrelle's counterattack drove the Russians from Starosselye. Reinforced that afternoon by two tanks, the Wallonian Brigade clung to the key strongpoint for four blood-drenched days. On the 8th they fell back to the Ross canal, and then to Novo Buda, where an apocalyptic struggle unfolded.
Infuriated by the prospect of their prey's escaping, the Rus­sians stormed Novo Buda with redoubled fanaticism. The town was raked by murderous artillery and mortar barrages. House­to-house fighting of an intensity not witnessed since Stalingrad turned shops and houses into abattoirs dripping with gore.
German generals fought and died side by side with privates. Lucien Lippert, the Wallonian Brigade's brave commander was shot dead outside a mouzhik's hovel. Men's minds snapped, over­whelmed by horror and exhaustion.
If the saying be true that fortune favors the brave, Degrelle proved it amply in the Cherkassy pocket. Always in the thick of the fighting, he seemed unkillable. Russian bullets nicked him twice at Starosselye. At Novo Buda a spent mortar fragment lodged between his coat and his chest, barely breaking the skin. The Reds were thrown back at Novo Buda. On 18 February 1944, 40,000 German soldiers streamed through the Russian ring near Lisyanka, due in large measure to the incredible tenacity of the Wallonian volunteers. Such heroism did not come cheap. Of the more than 2,000 Walloons who had arrived at the front the previous November, only 632 came through the hell of Cherkassy.
A few days later Degrelle was summoned to Adolf Hitler's headquarters, near Rastenburg in East Prussia. The hero from the trenches of the First World War pressed the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross into Degrelle's hand. In a voice husky with emo­tion, Hitler told the Wallonian leader, "If I had a son, I would want him to be like you."
Against the Fuehrer's wishes, Degrelle returned to combat. The Wallonian Brigade, which had been decimated at Cherkassy, was reinforced and expanded to become the nucleus of the 28th SS Wallonian Division. Transferred to the Baltic front, Degrelle and his brave Walloons waged an unending succession of des­perate holding actions against overwhelming odds. Across the marshlands of Estonia and the flat lake country of East Prussia the men of the Wallonian Division, in ever-diminishing numbers, fought on grimly until there was no more hope.
Nor did they fight alone. There fought beside them half-a-mil­lion other volunteers, from thirty different European peoples, bound by Nibelungen fealty to the German Siegfried until the bitter end. They joined from every walk of life, even to the last days of the war: peasants and aristocrats, craftsmen and schol­ars, workers from the mines and mills and workshops of all Europe.
And many of them died, on the vast and lonely Russian steppe, in the rubble-strewn alleys of Budapest and Berlin, in a thousand other places unmarked and forgotten, not sweetly, not decorous­ly, but excruciatingly: shot, stabbed, frozen, crushed, heads sliced off by whirling shell fragments, limbs blasted from their torsos, entrails gushing from their bellies, in every way their fragile bodies could be riven from their mighty hearts.
Should we ask why, a few have tried to tell. Degrelle, a man of culture, wrote that it was for Europe, "the Europe of Vergil and Ronsard, the Europe of Erasmus and Nietzsche, of Raphael and Duerer, the Europe of Ignatius and Saint Theresa, of Frederick the Great and Napoleon."
Few of the others could have put their reasons into words. Like the simpler Westerners who came before them, the men who fought and fell at Tours and Liegnitz, at Acre and Lepanto, the European volunteers, though driven by the deepest loves and longings, cherished most the fragments of the Whole: the sunlight playing on a little girl's blond hair, a favorite spot beneath the willows by the brook, the fellowship by evening in the village tavern, the fields their fathers plowed before them, hearth and family, blood and soil. And though today the bodies of so many of them lie commingled with the European soil, see to it, White reader, that their spirit shall not perish from this earth!
Shortly after the Anglo-American armies overran Belgium, the Belgian government in exile returned to Brussels, the breasts of its ministers glittering with the medals and orders for "resis­tance" which they so freely bestowed on one another. One of the first acts of Belgium's restoration government was to condemn to death their old enemy, Leon Degrelle, for defiance to the state.
But Degrelle was able to elude their grasp. Granted political asylum by the Franco regime, he has lived since the war in Madrid. He managed to save his medals, which by the war's end included the Knights Cross and Oak Leaf. He has saved as well the silken banners of the Wallonian Division. Some day, Degrelle hopes, they will be exhibited at the Belgium War Museum.
Not long ago a visiting Belgian journalist asked him if he had any regrets about the war years. Leon Degrelle thought for a moment, and then gave his reply: "Only that we lost!"


  1. For example, the intrepid Roman Catholic scholar J.B. Pranaitis, a formidable Hebraist, was executed in 1917 by the Cheka (Soviet secret police) for "thought crimes."
  2. Cf. Robert Conquest, The Great Terror, Stefan Possony, Lenin The Compulsive Revolutionary; Raymond Arthur Davies, Odyssey Through Hell and Jean Fontenoy, Frontier Rouge-Frontier d'Enfer


Bibliographic information
Chapman, Robert
A Challenge to Thought Control: The Historiography of Leon Degrelle
The Journal for Historical Review (http://www.ihr.org)
Summer 1986
Volume 6 number 2
Page 221
Attribution: "Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, PO Box 2739, Newport Beach, CA 92659, USA. Domestic subscriptions $40 per year; foreign subscriptions $60 per year."
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