Leon Degrelle: biography and books
One of the most outstanding figures in the history of the SecondWorld War is Leon Degrelle. Hitler admired him and considered him his only ally in Belgium. Leon played a big role in World War II. For his services he received many medals and orders. Leon Degrelle is a Belgian military leader, politician, who held ultra-right views. He is also known as the leader of the Belgian-based Rexist Party.
Origin and formation of Degrella
Leon Degrelle was born on June 15, 1906. in Bouillon. His father was a deputy of the Belgian parliament and an entrepreneur. Leon Degrelle received his primary and secondary education in a Jesuit college, then continued his studies at the University of Louvain, at the Faculty of Law. There, Degrelle also listened to lectures on art, political economy, philosophy and archeology. Leon traveled to North and Latin America, subsequently visited the Middle East and North Africa.
Edition of the magazine, work as a military correspondent
Degrelle already in his youth adhered to extremeright-wing views in politics. He was fascinated by the ideas of Charles Morras, a French publicist and poet, who advocated monarchy, Christian values and social order. In 1930, Leon began to publish the magazine "King Christ", which had a conservative-Catholic orientation. In the years 1933-34. he went to Mexico, where he watched the civil war as a military correspondent. Degrelle became even more assertive in his political views after the defeat inflicted on the Catholic Church by the revolutionary government.
Founding of the Party of Rexists
Returning to Belgium, Leon, along with hislike-minded people founded a fascist party called the "Popular Front." This name, however, did not stick. Degrelle's movement was described by contemporaries as the Party of the Rex. In modern literature, this name is also accepted. The Party of the Rex, led by Degrelle, proposed the creation of a corporate state based on Catholicism. As an anticommunist, Leon advocated the following social transformations: the elimination of unemployment, state control of the financial sphere, and the reduction of inequality in society. The Rexists did not call for an open dictatorship in Belgium, although Degrelle repeatedly criticized the institution of parliamentarism, which he considered empty politicking.
Popularity of the party
The Party of the Rexists first had a definitesupport, especially the agricultural areas of Wallonia (in Flamandia, another Belgian region, there was already an ultra-right party). At the May 24, 1936 parliamentary elections, she received 11.5% of the vote, taking fourth place. The party yielded to Catholics, Social Democrats and liberals. However, Degrelle soon found itself under the strong ideological influence of Hitler's Germany. The party founded by him turned from fascist into national-socialist. A number of Germanophile and anti-Semitic attitudes were added to the program of the party. However, wide sections of the Belgians did not approve of them. Large parties of the country, from the conservatives to the communists, united against the rexists. Their activities were also condemned by the Catholic Church of Belgium. Gradually, the popularity of the party began to fall. In 1939, in the parliamentary elections, the Rexists gained only about 4.5% of the vote.
Arrest and release of Degrelle
Degrelle after the outbreak of World War IIsupported the decision taken by King Leopold III on the neutrality of the state. However, in the near future, Leon approved the foreign policy pursued by Nazi Germany. He stated that Belgium should become part of the Third Reich. Degrelle and some of his associates, with the onset of German military action against Belgium, were arrested by the police and sent off to France. But France in June 1940 was defeated. It was occupied by German troops. Leon Degrelle was at large.
Leon after liberation began to lead an activepolitical activity. Degrelle became one of the main ideologists of collaborationism. Cooperation with Germany, he justified the need to create a national-socialist order in Europe, as well as the fight against communist ideology and the USSR.
Formation of the "Wallonia" corps, the first awards and titles
After the outbreak of World War II, Leon became onefrom the initiators of the formation of the Volunteer Corps "Wallonia" in the SS. By the way, he decided to fight the rank and file in this building, although the Germans offered Degrellu the rank of lieutenant. Walloon Corps belonged to Army Group "South". Already in the winter of 1941-42. he participated in several major operations, including in the crossing of the Dnieper. Leon was soon made in the ober-feldwebel, and also received the Iron Cross of the second class, his first award. The Walloon Corps in the summer of 1942 participated in the operations of the Wehrmacht, carried out in the south of Russia. Leon received a few more medals and became a lieutenant.
The authority of Degrelle and his new achievements
Leon enjoyed great authority amongpolitical and military leadership of the Third Reich. Hitler himself considered him to be the only Belgian acceptable to the Germans, who must be supported. Degrelle in 1944 abandoned the idea of joining Belgium to Germany. He advocated the founding of the "Great Burgundy", consisting of Wallonia and the northern regions of France.
Walloon Volunteer Corps June 1, 1943 was transferred to the SS troops. It became known as the Walloon Assault Brigade. Leon Degrelle, Hitler's favorite, was promoted to Senior Lieutenant (Obersturmfuhrer). In fact, he became deputy Lucien Lipper, commander of the brigade.
"Wallonia" in November 1943 went to theDnepropetrovsk, where it became part of the SS division "Viking". At that time fierce battles were fought on this sector of the front. Leon showed remarkable courage in these battles. Soon he received a bronze Badge for close combat, as well as the title of captain (Hauptsturmfuhrer).
Exit the Cherkassy boiler
In January-February 1944 "Wallonia" together with other parts of the SS and the Wehrmacht was in the Cherkassy cauldron. This happened during the Korsun-Shevchenko offensive operation of Soviet troops. During the fierce battles, many brigade fighters died in the environment, including Lipper, her commander. On February 14, Degrelle began to fulfill his duties. It was he who led the brigade when the Germans broke through the encirclement. His fighters were given a key role during this operation - they covered the troops. After leaving the encirclement, only 632 servicemen remained in the brigade. Leon was seriously wounded, but he continued to direct the unit. Adolf Hitler was delighted with his actions. He declared Degrelly the main creator of the exit from the boiler. The head of the Third Reich on February 20, 1944 personally awarded Leon with the Knight's cross of the Iron Cross.
The creation of a collaborationist government
Degrelle received the rank of Major (Sturmbannfuhrer) 20April of the same year. In August and September, Leon led the brigade during the fighting in the Baltic States. For his actions, he received several more medals and orders. At the end of 1944, Degrelle became the head of the collaborationist government established in Belgium. Its formation was a propaganda act, as the British-American troops had by that time liberated the entire territory of Belgium.
The defeat of "Wallonia", the flight of Degrelle
"Wallonia", which became a full-fledged division of the SS, withJanuary 1945 participated in the heavy battles in Pomerania. Degrelle, who by that time had become a SS colonel (Standartenfuhrer), was again forced to organize an exit from the encirclement at the end of March. Remains of "Wallonia" in late April were transferred to the Western Front. Here they were forced to surrender to the Anglo-American authorities. On May 2, Degrelle was promoted to Major-General (Brigadefuhrer). This appointment, carried out by Himmler, was formally invalid, since Hitler had by that time dismissed Himmler from all posts and personally expelled him from the party. Leon fled to Norway, then flew to San Sebastian (Spain). When landing, Degrelle got into a plane crash (pictured below), but managed to survive. The leader of the Rexism managed to transfer his family to Spain (a wife, four daughters and a son) on forged documents.
How did Degrell avoid the death penalty
The Belgian authorities, with the support of the Allies,to obtain from Spain its extradition. The Belgian court in absentia sentenced Degrelle to death in December 1945 (for treason). Subsequently, Leon unsuccessfully 12 times appealed to the judicial authorities. He suggested that they conduct a second trial with the participation of the jury.
However, the authoritarian Franco regime, establishedat that time in Spain, refused to extradite Degrelle. The authorities motivated their refusal to take care of the health of Leon, who had recently experienced a plane crash. After a while, the Spaniards organized Degrelly escape to Argentina.
The persecution of the Leon family
The family of Leon was persecuted inpost-war Belgium. His parents, not interested in politics, died in 1947 in captivity. Degrelle's wife was sentenced to 6 years. Six of his children were sent out across Europe with changed names. Degrelly later managed to find them and rejoin them.
The life of Degrelle in Spain
Leon in 1954 returned to Spain. He became her citizen and took the name of Leon José de Ramírez-Reina. He founded a construction company with the help of the Spanish authorities. Degrelle became a successful businessman. Until his death, he was not deprived. At the same time, Leon continued to conduct publicistic and political activities, still speaking from the ultra-right positions. He justified the policy pursued by Hitler and extolled him as a person. Degrelle criticized the socio-political system that was established in Europe, denied the Holocaust. For this, the Spanish court fined Leon a large sum. In 1973, in an interview with Belgian reporters, Degrelle admitted that he regretted that he had failed to implement the plan. However, he would repeat all over again if he had a second chance.
Leon Degrelle, whose biography is presented in the article, died on March 31, 1994 from a heart attack in the Spanish city of Malaga. Until the last hour, Degrelle remained true to his idea.
Leon Degrelle: books
Leon wrote a number of journalistic articles. In addition, Leon Degrelle created several memoirs. His books were translated into many languages. Including the Russian. Among the works of this author are Hitler for a Thousand Years, SS Storming Brigade, Hitler's Essen Legion, and others. One of the most famous books that Leon Degrelle wrote is Hitler for a Thousand Years. It analyzes the historical role of Adolf Hitler, as well as national socialism. For a long time in Russia there have not been published books, whose author is Leon Degrelle.
"The Russian Campaign of 1941-1945."
This work was first published abroadback in 1949. It presents the memoirs of Degrelle, who commanded the division Wallonia. For a long time this book remained unknown to the Russian reader, despite the fact that it mainly deals with the war on the Eastern Front. Most recently, in 2012, it was translated into Russian. It is clear why Leon Degrelle was not popular in the USSR. "The Russian Campaign of 1941-1945." is much more famous in Germany. However, at present this book finds more and more readers in our country. After all, Leon Degrelle about the Russians said that this is a great people. He noted that he was not fighting with them, but with communist ideology. Leon Degrelle, whose quotes became popular in our country after the publication of his books, is one of the greatest figures of the Second World War. His view of events, of course, deserves attention.