Léon Joseph Marie Ignace Degrelle ( Bouillon , Belgium , 15 of June of 1906 – Malaga , Spain , 31 March of 1994 ) was a politician Belgian and officer of theWaffen SS , who ended his life in Spain. After founding in the thirties the political movement Christus Rex ( Rexism ), of catholic inspiration and conservative , radicalized its position in the following years, approaching the fascismo.
He fought alongside Axis forces in World War II in the Wallonia Legion , a foreign unit attached to the Waffen SS . Finding himself in Norway when Germany surrendered , he managed to escape to Spain , where the Franco regime would protect him for decades from the death sentence for war crimes pronounced against him. The timely concession of Spanish nationality freed him from being extradited after the end of Francoism , and devoted his last years to writing different works. He was leader of the National Socialists of Spain. In addition, he actively participated in the reorganization of nationalisms in Europe . During his stay in Spain , he lived under the false name of José León Ramírez Reina.
Degrelle was born into a family Catholic bourgeois French origin; His father was a brewer and had emigrated to Belgium a few years earlier to Bouillon six years before Leon’s birth due to the expulsion suffered by the Jesuits and the anti-clerical government of France . He was educated in Catholicism and studied his first studies in a school of the Company of Jesus . The Jesuits would have a notable influence on Degrelle, who defined them as “the best educators in the world.” [ Citation needed ] doctorate in law from the Catholic University of Leuven , where he was influenced by the French thinker Charles Maurras , and worked briefly as a lawyer in that city.
In the early 1930s he joined Catholic Action and began working for a small Catholic publishing house called Christus Rex (in Latin , “Christ is King”), which published a homonymous newspaper. He traveled to Mexico as a correspondent to cover the Cristero War that was fought between the National League for the Defense of Religious Freedom and the Mexican government , which according to the Constitution of 1917 had imposed restrictions on Catholic worship and clergy bans on exercise Of his ministry. The crymaster’s war cry, “Long live Christ the King and Saint Mary of Guadalupe!” Deeply impressed Degrelle, who on his return in 1934 founded Les Editions de Rex and began to mobilize in the Belgian Catholic Party to promote a course Of more militant action. On March 29, 1932, he married Marie-Paule Lemay, with whom he had five children – four women and a man (who died in a motorcycle accident when he was young).
The failure of his actions within the PCB and the frank rejection with which his position was received at a meeting of the political leadership of the party in Kortrijk in 1935 led him to separate from it. [ Citation needed ]
The following year, and denouncing what he considered “corruption” of existing parties – including the Catholic Church of Belgium , backed by the ecclesiastical hierarchy – founded the Rexist Party . Its program was strongly populist and included denouncing the interference of big business and banking in the Belgian economy and politics. From the structure of the communist and socialist parties Degrelle would take the example of the “houses of the people” as a means of mobilizing the masses; Marxists also take an ideology of social equality, but with the same top- down emphasis Fascist Italy -to which deeply admired 1 of Mussolini had applied to the corporate organization of society.
The party had unexpected support in the Walloon region, and soon a Flemish branch , the Vlaamsch Nationaal Verbond under the direction of Paul de Mont , was added. Although its platform included the abolition of the democratic system and the establishment of a corporate organization of the government, the 24 of May of 1936 participated for the first time in the elections, in which it obtained 21 deputies and 12 senators (11,49% of the votes ). The Flemish section would also have representation, after getting 72 000 votes. In 1937 he improved his performance, obtaining 19% of the votes, but the support would decay in the following years and in April of 1939 the legislative elections only yielded 4,43% of the votes, obtaining four deputies and four senators.
Degrelle, trained in journalism and a pen trained in the student magazine XX Siècle , wrote his own political speeches. From this time he dates his close friendship with the famous cartoonist George Remi, known as Hergé , whose comic Tintín illustrated his publications. Degrelle would later say that Hergé had been inspired by him to create Tintin, although the cartoonist always claimed that his model had been his own brother, Paul Remi, then an officer in the Belgian army .
The concerns of Rexism were far from being homogeneous at this time; More committed to the fascist position than to nationalism or ultramontanism , two other strong currents in the party, Degrelle met in August 1936 with Mussolini, and the following month with Adolf Hitler , of whom he was an intimate friend, two of whom Obtained financing for the party. Correspondingly, he incorporated into its platform principles antisemitic , similar to those promoted by the National Socialists . He would find himself in the following with other leaders of the far right , including Corneliu Codreanu , leader of the Romanian Iron Guard , and Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera , founder of the Spanish Falange .
World War II
When the war broke out in 1939, Degrelle’s party supported King Leopold III in his position of neutrality; On 10 May 1940, however, Germany invaded Belgium. Degrelle blamed the war on France and Britain, Freemasonry and Jewish capitalism, and although he generally disapproved of Germany’s warlike behavior, he acknowledged that it had been provoked by the so-called “Allies,” who were kept apart from the Invasion To Finland on the part of the Soviet Union, but they unloaded all kinds of maneuvers to attack Germany in different parts of Europe; Is thus resolved to applaud the invasion of Norway, in view of considering it a successful German reaction to the attempted English invasion. Resistance divided the Rexist Party, but on May 28, 1940, Belgium surrendered and a new government was established. Before that, Degrelle was captured on the 10th with 5000 other people (communists faithful to the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, Jews, anarchists, Flemish nationalists, rexists, etc.) and deported to France by an order of May 10, 1940 issued By Justice Minister Pierre Janson of the Belgian liberal government. Most of his fellow prisoners would be shot without cause on May 20 of that year by French soldiers, 3 in an episode still unexplained; It is possible that the military chief of the locality at that time was the then colonel Charles de Gaulle. He would remain there only briefly, for at the capitulation of France he was released from the Vernet concentration camp on 22 July and returned to Belgium to promote the reconstruction of the movement. Its position of collaboration with the invading regime did not count with the universal approval of all the rexistas; Some, like Theo Simon and Lucien Mayer , organized a clandestine movement of resistance. On 25 August of the same year Degrelle began to publish in the collaborationist newspaper Le Pays Réel .
On January 1, 1941 Degrelle publicly declared the unity of the Rexist movement with National Socialism and fascism. Four days later, he confessed his admiration for Adolf Hitler , whom he called “the greatest man of our time.” [ Citation needed ] The 21 of June of 1941 established an alliance with the Flemish nationalists, one day before the German invasion of the Soviet Union . The unification of the European right in a common front against the Soviet Union would give the opportunity to strengthen the bonds of collaboration. After requesting special permission from Hitler to do, Degrelle founded that same month the Legion Wallonie ( Legion Wallonie ), a contingent of Belgian volunteers who would fight with the army of the Reich .
The Legion, of a thousand people, initially fought with Belgian uniforms and weapons on the eastern front as part of Operation Barbarossa . After suffering serious losses, and in the process of reorganization of the forces destined to the attack of the USSR, it received reinforcements in 1943 when integrating in her all the volunteers of non-German nationality, with what turned into an assault brigade attached to the Waffen-SS . Degrelle had been made out days after his conscription, and Lieutenant for merit in combat after receiving in May 1942 one Iron Cross . When becoming brigade, was emphasized like commander ( Obersturmführer ) to the control of the same one. The Legion participated intensely in the combats; Degrelle was decorated for it with a Nahkampfspange , a distinction given to the active participants in the front. Eventually, through an agreement with the Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler , the Legion would be transformed into the 28th Division of Infantry of the Waffen-SS , although its dimensions and equipment continued to respond to the characteristics of a brigade. In February 1944 he received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross , and in August of the same year the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, a distinction granted to only 883 soldiers throughout the war. In October, he would finally be decorated with the Golden Cross of Germany. Degrelle says that when he was decorated, the Führer told him that “if I had a child, I would like it to be like you.” [ Citation needed ]
On May 2, 1945, when the German defeat was already evident, Himmler named Degrelle Brigadeführer of the SS, although the appointment never had effect, since Himmler had been stripped of his partisan and military responsibilities in April. Degrelle had already left the battlefield to travel to Copenhagen , away from the line of advance of the allies; Three days later it was in Oslo , but a little later the German forces in Norway capitulated. Degrelle escaped to Spain in the airplane Heinkel of the minister Albert Speer ; After crossing the enemy lines the fuel ran out of him and his plane fell to the sea in the bay of San Sebastián to the north of Spain . After rescuing him from the waters, the Franco regime guaranteed political asylum .
Stay in Spain
Asylum of the dictatorship
The delivery of Degrelle along with that of Pierre Laval – the head of the French Milice and main collaborator of the Gestapo in the government of Vichy , also refugee in Spain after the fall of the Axis -, was demanded by the Allies in view of the neutrality That had maintained Spain during the war. While Franco delivered Laval, the delicate condition of Degrelle, severely wounded in his forced landing, allowed him to temporarily excuse himself from doing so. During the year of hospitalization, Degrelle began writing his book Campaign in Russia .
He was tried in Belgium in absentia , and on December 29, 1945 Belgian nationality was withdrawn, being condemned to death by collaboration with the German invaders. On August 21, 1946 Franco pretended to yield to international pressure for his surrender, but allowed him to flee and instead delivered to a surly, whose identity was quickly discovered. Jose Finat and Escrivá de Romaní and Jose Maria Martin Hoffmann (Hans Joseph Hoffmann’s identity, who was general honorary consul of Germany in Malaga) a very important member of the Gestapo , creator of the settlement of many National Socialists in Spain and the Ogre Red , Provided money, false documents and support for Degrelle to be hidden. Belgium was unsuccessfully seeking the extradition of Degrelle for 15 years. In 1954, to conceal his identity, he received Spanish nationality, adopting the name of José León Ramírez Reina . With the help of the Spanish Falange , he directed a construction company, which carried out numerous works for the Francoist government. During the 1950s and up to 1963, it was located on the estate “La Carlina”, 4 next to the municipality of Constantina (Seville), where he carried out a construction of a mansion and annexed residences, which still exist today. They reflect his passion for archeology and art.
Conviction by negacionismo
In 1985, Degrelle’s statements published in the journal Tiempo and on television denying the existence of the Holocaust were the subject of a lawsuit by a Romanian Jewish survivor , Violeta Friedman . Although the initial courts ruled in favor of Degrelle, the Constitutional Court concluded that, while the right to freedom of expression also covers the publication of falsehoods or distortions of historical facts, it constitutes a grievance to the dignity of Affected, and sentenced Degrelle to a heavy fine. An open letter to the Pope on Auschwitz , published in 1979 , was the subject of the same measure.
Despite the support of CEDADE and other neo-Nazi groups, the sentence became effective; Degrelle continued, however, appearing in the meetings of the extreme right, and was the guest of honor in the concentration organized to commemorate the centennial of Adolf Hitler in 1989 . A few years later, on March 31, 1994 , Degrelle died at San Antonio Park San Antonio de Málaga , at the age of 87.
Degrelle lived the last years of his life in Benalmádena , tourist resort of the province of Malaga .
The protection of the dictatorship of Franco allowed him to write numerous works of diffusion of the rexist and fascist ideology. In the early 1970s, he was one of the main promoters of CEDADE ; Ediciones Nothung, the organization’s printing press in Barcelona , published several of his books, including A Thousand Years of Hitler and Our Europe . Other titles, including Passionate Spirits , Memoirs of a Fascist and Open Letter to the Pope on Auschwitz were published by Editorial Fuerza Nueva and Editions D.
- Burning souls (or Souls in the bonfire )
- The Russian campaign
- Memories of a fascist
- Hitler, born in Versailles
- Tintin, mon copain
- Open Letter to the Pope on Auschwitz
- My way to Santiago
- The Enigma of Hitler
- Europe will live!
- Majesty, you and me
- Léon Degrelle, signature and rubric
- History of the European Waffen-SS
- Hitler. The march towards the Reich (1918-1933)
- My Wanderings in Mexico .
- Appeal to young Europeans .
- Back to top↑ This is wrong: see El País .
- Back to top↑ “ There was a fragment of a Heinkel 111 ” – article in Diariovasco.com (10/05/09).
- Back to top↑ Martin Conway, Degrelle: Les années de collaboration , Éditions Labor, Bruxelles, 2005, p. 39.
- Back to top↑ http://mural.uv.es/numarda/degrelle.html