Léon Degrelle

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Léon Degrelle during WW2.

Léon Joseph Marie Ignace Degrelle (15 June 1906 – 31 March 1994) was a Walloon Belgian nationalist, foreign volunteer of the Waffen-SS, and a postwar creator of a major construction company and a writer on topics such as the Waffen-SS, Hitler, and Holocaust revisionism.

Before the war

A young Degrelle
Leon Degrelle in rexist uniform.

After studying at a Jesuit college and studying for a law doctorate at the Université catholique de Louvain, He became attracted to the ideas of Charles Maurras and French Integralism. Degrelle founded the Rexist Party in 1935, a Catholic and nationalist party, after he left a mainstream Catholic Party that he found too moderate. The name refers to Christ the King ("Rex" in Latin).

The party soon established contacts with and became influenced by fascist (broad sense) movements around Europe. During this time, Degrelle became acquainted with the cartoonist Hergé.

During the war

Degrelle during an exhibition in 1943
SS-Sturmbannführer Léon Degrelle and SS-Gruppenführer Richard Jungclaus ((Higher SS and Police Leader/HSSPF in Belgium and Northern France)

Degrelle was a volunteer for the Waffen-SS and helped form the 28th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Wallonien.

"Turning down an invitation to begin as a officer in the newly formed combat unit, he instead chose to start as a private, sharing all the burdens of his comrades. When he left his homeland in August 1941 to begin military service at the age of 35, he had never fired a gun. Nevertheless, he rose through the ranks to become commander of the unit that finally came to be known as the 28th SS Division “Wallonia.”
As a result of the extraordinary courage and leadership he showed on the Narva front in Estonia, he became the first non-German to be awarded the coveted Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. Hitler personally bestowed the honor on August 27, 1944.
Of the first 800 Walloon volunteers who left for the Eastern Front, only three survived the war, one of them Degrelle, who was wounded seven times during the course of his three and a half years of combat.[1]
"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. Two million Belgians lined the streets of Brussels to cheer the returning general only two months before the Allies invaded that country."[2]

The revisionist Mark Weber has stated that there have been many lies about Degrelle, such as being responsible for deporting Jews from Belgium.[1]

After the war

The wreckage of the Heinkel He 111 in which Degrelle escaped to Spain, May 1945.

After the surrender of Berlin and death of Hitler, Degrelle moved to the still German-occupied Denmark and eventually Norway, where he commandeered a small aircraft. After a 1,500-mile flight over portions of Allied-occupied Europe to Franco's Spain, he was severely injured in a crash after running out of fuel.

While in hospital, he began writing Campaign in Russia.[2]

"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."[2]

Degrelle started working as a manual laborer in construction, eventually creating a major construction company with important contracts, even building military airfields for the United States in Spain. "Meanwhile his emissaries searched Europe for his kidnapped children. All were found in the most amazing circumstances and returned to their father."[2]

He did not hide himself, maintained a high standard of living, and would frequently appear in public and in private meetings in a uniform featuring his German decorations, while expressing his pride over his earlier career. He continued to live undisturbed when Spain became democratic after the death of Franco.

He continued publishing and voicing his support for nationalism and Holocaust revisionism. He became active in the Spanish National Socialist group Círculo Español de Amigos de Europa (CEDADE), and led its printing press in Barcelona, where he published a large portion of his own writings.

Less politically correct topics in his writings included Hitler and the Waffen-SS, notably based on his own experiences. He published forty books and essays ranging from poetry to economics, from architecture to history.

Quotes (excerpt)

  • "German racialism has been deliberately distorted. It never was an anti-"other race" racialism. It was a pro-German racialism. It was concerned with making the German race strong and healthy in every way. Hitler was not interested in having millions of degenerates, if it was in his power not to have them. Today one finds rampant alcohol and drug addiction everywhere. Hitler cared that the German families be healthy, cared that they raise healthy children for the renewal of a healthy nation. German racialism meant re-discovering the creative values of their own race, re-discovering their culture. It was a search for excellence, a noble idea. National Socialist racialism was not against the other races, it was for its own race. It aimed at defending and improving its race, and wished that all other races did the same for themselves." — Léon Degrelle, in: "Epic – The Story of the Waffen SS"

Military record

  • Degrelle, Léon Joseph Marie
  • SS-Standartenführer d. R. der Waffen-SS
  • Born: 15.6.1906 in Bouillon, Belgium.
  • Died: 31.3.1994 in San-Antonio-Park Hospital, Málaga, Spain.
  • NSDAP-Nr.: [Not a member]
  • SS-Nr.: [None – Walloon Waffen-SS volunteer]

Promotions

Awards und decorations[3]

  • The Walloon Honor Rexist Badge (Blood Order)[4]
  • 13.3.1942 1939 Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse
  • 21.5.1942 1939 Eisernes Kreuz I. Klasse
  • 25.8.1942 Infanterie-Sturmabzeichen in Silber
  • 15.8.1942 Medaille “Winterschlacht im Osten 1941/42” (Ostmedaille)
  • 30.11.1943 Nahkampfspange I. Stufe (Bronze) (other documents indicate 23.12.1943 and 20 .02. 1944)
  • 20.2.1944 Verwundetenabzeichen, 1939 in Silber (another document indicates 23.12.1943)
  • 19.3.1944 Verwundetenabzeichen, 1939 in Gold
  • 19.3.1944 Nahkampfspange II. Stufe (Silber)
  • 22.8.1944 Mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht
  • 14.9.1944 Nahkampfspange III. Stufe (Gold)
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
    • 20.2.1944 Knight's Cross as SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer d. R., and Führer SS-Sturmbrigade “Wallonien” / 8.Armee / Heeresgruppe Süd, Eastern Front
    • 27.8.1944 Oak Leaves to Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross as SS-Sturmbannführer d. R. and Kdr. 5.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzer-Brigade “Wallonien” / Kampfgruppe Wagner / Armee-Abteilung Narwa / Heeresgruppe Nord, Northeastern Front
  • 9.10.1944 Deutsches Kreuz in Gold as SS-Sturmbannführer d. R. and Kdr. 5.SS-Freiwilligen-Sturmbrigade “Wallonien” / 5.SS-Panzer-Division “Wiking” / III.(germanische) SS-Panzer-Korps / Armee-Abteilung Grasser / Heeresgruppe Nord, Northeastern Front

Further reading

  • The Burning Souls (2020) by Léon Degrelle
  • Léon Degrelle in Exile, 1945-1994 (2022) by José Luís Jerez Riesco

External links

Writings in English

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Leon Degrelle https://codoh.com/library/document/2510/?lang=en
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 A Challenge to Thought Control: The Historiography of Leon Degrelle https://codoh.com/library/document/2120/?lang=en
  3. Based on: Mike Miller, Axis Biographical Research, http://www.geocities.com/~orion47, June 10 2005
  4. The Walloon Honor Rexist Badge, known as the Blood Order, was instituted in 1941. In November 1944, RFSS H. Himmler authorized the award to be worn on German uniform when the Walloon Army formation was transfered to the Waffen-SS. The bronze badge has the Walloon Bergundy Cross with a sword crossing it surrounded by a circle. The French inscription reads Bravery, Honor and Loyalty. Two Gold Rexist badges were issued, one to Leon Degrelle and another to a Walloon chaplain. Also a Gold Rexist badge with Diamonds was issued to Victor Matthys who took over the leadership of the Rexist movement while Degrelle was in combat in the Eastern Front.