|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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
In this atmosphere of beauty and greatness, the last and most
important living witness of World War Two.
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
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
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
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
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
Who was this Degrelle, and what drove him to the side of his
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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!"
- 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."
- 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