Leon Degrel ( Fr. Léon Degrelle ; June 15, 1906 , Bouillon, Belgium - April 1, 1994 , Malaga, Spain ) - Belgian military leader and ultra-right politician. One of the founders and leader of the Rexist Party of Belgium , commander of the 28th SS volunteer division Wallonia .
|Date of Birth||June 15, 1906|
|Place of Birth||Bouillon , Belgium|
|Date of death||April 1, 1994 (87 years old)|
|Place of death||Malaga , Spain|
|Type of army|| Wehrmacht (1941-1943) |
SS troops (1943-1945)
|Years of service||1941 - 1945|
|Commanded||28th SS Walloon Volunteer Division|
|Battles / wars|
World War II :
|Awards and prizes|
|Retired||publicist, memoirist, public figure|
Born June 15, 1906 in the city of Bouillon in a Walloon family . His father was an entrepreneur and member of the Belgian parliament.
He received primary and secondary education at a Jesuit college, higher education at the Law Faculty of the University of Louvain . There, Leon Degrel also attended lectures on political economy, art, archeology, and philosophy. He traveled to Latin and North America; subsequently traveled to North Africa and the Middle East.
Already in his youth, Degrell formed his extreme right - wing political views. He became interested in the ideas of the French poet and publicist Charles Morras , who advocated the monarchy, social order and Christian values. In 1930, Degrel began publishing the conservative-Catholic magazine Christus Rex (lat. King Christ). In 1933-1934, he, as a war correspondent, directly observed the civil war in Mexico . The defeat of supporters of the Catholic Church from the forces of the anti-clerical revolutionary government of Mexico strengthened Degrel in his political views.
Activities in the Rexist Party
Returning to Belgium, Degrel founded with his like-minded people the fascist party "Popular Front". However, this name did not take root - contemporaries called the Degrell movement the Party of Rexists , as it is commonly called in modern literature.
The Party of Rexists advocated the creation of a corporate state based on Catholicism. In addition, Degrel, being an anti-communist , advocated a series of social transformations - state control over the financial sector of the economy, the elimination of unemployment, and the reduction of social inequality. Rexists, at least in words, did not call for the establishment of an open dictatorship in Belgium (although Degrell repeatedly criticized the institution of parliamentarism, regarding it as empty politicking).
Initially, the Rexist Party enjoyed some support, especially from the agricultural regions of Wallonia (in another region of Belgium, Flemish, there was its own far-right party - the Flemish National Union ). In the parliamentary elections of May 24, 1936, the Degrell party won 11.5% of the vote , taking fourth place after liberals, social democrats and Catholics. However, Degrel soon came under the strong ideological influence of Nazi Germany; his party according to its program from a fascist party turned into a national socialist one . In particular, anti-Semitic and Germanophilic attitudes were added to the program. But they did not find approval among the broad strata of the Belgians. The remaining major political parties of the country (from communists to conservatives) united against the Rexists, and the leadership of the Catholic Church of Belgium condemned their activities. Party popularity began to decline. As a result, in the 1939 parliamentary elections , the Rexists gained less than 4.5% of the vote.
With the outbreak of World War II, Degrell initially supported King Leopold III ’s decision to declare state neutrality, but then openly endorsed Nazi Germany ’s aggressive foreign policy and declared the need for Belgium to join the Third Reich . Therefore, with the outbreak of hostilities of Germany against Belgium, Degrel and a number of his associates were arrested by the Belgian police and escorted to France. However, in June 1940, France was defeated and occupied by German troops , and Degrel was released.
Service in the Wehrmacht
Released, Degrel returned to active political activity. He became one of the leading ideologists of not only Belgian, but also European collaborationism, justifying cooperation with the Germans by the need to create a new, national-socialist order in Europe, as well as the struggle against the USSR and communist ideology.
With the outbreak of World War II, Degrel was one of the initiators of the creation of the Walloon Volunteer Corps as part of the Wehrmacht (initially 860 people joined it). Moreover, Degrel himself decided to fight in their ranks, moreover, as an ordinary, and not as an officer (although the German command offered him the rank of lieutenant after undergoing a little training). The Walloon Corps was attached to Army Group South and in the winter of 1941-1942 took part in a number of major operations, in particular the Germans crossing the Dnieper. Degrell was quickly promoted to general sergeant major and received his first combat award ( Iron Cross of the 2nd class ). In the summer of 1942, the Walloon Corps took part in the new successful Wehrmacht operations in southern Russia, and Degrel was awarded several more German medals and promoted to lieutenant .
Degrell gained quite a great authority among the military and political leadership of the Third Reich. So, Hitler called him "the only acceptable Belgian for us who needs to be supported."
In 1944, Degrel also abandoned his early idea of Belgium becoming part of Germany, advocating the creation of a "Great Burgundy " from Wallonia and the northern French regions.
On June 1, 1943, the Walloon volunteer corps was transferred from the Wehrmacht to the SS troops and became officially called the SS Walloon Assault Brigade . Degrell was promoted to Obersturmfuhrer (senior lieutenant) and actually became deputy commander of the brigade Lucien Lipper .
In November 1943, the Wallonia brigade was transferred to Dnepropetrovsk under the command of the SS Viking Division . There were fierce battles in this sector of the front. Degrell showed extraordinary courage in them and was soon awarded the bronze Badge for close combat and received the title of Hauptsturmfuhrer (captain).
In January-February 1944, the Wallonia brigade, along with a number of other units of the Wehrmacht and the SS, fell into the Cherkassky cauldron during the offensive Korsun-Shevchenkovsky operation of the Soviet troops. During fierce fighting surrounded by many fighters of the brigade, including its commander Lipper. On February 14, Degrel assumed his duties naturally.
It was Degrell who led the Walloon during a successful breakthrough by the German troops of the encirclement. The Walloons were entrusted with a key role in this operation, in fact they covered the rest of the force. As a result, after exiting the boiler, only 632 troops remained in the ranks of the brigade. Degrel was seriously injured, but continued to lead his unit.
Hitler was delighted with the actions of Degrel, declaring him the main creator of a successful exit from the Cherkassky boiler. Personally rewarding Wallon with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on February 20, 1944, the head of the Third Reich said:
|I do not have a son. But if I had it, I would like it to be the same as you.|
On April 20, Degrel received the rank of Sturmbanfuhrer (major). In August-September, he led his team, fighting in the Baltic states, for which he was awarded several more orders and medals. At the end of 1944, Degrel was proclaimed the head of the collaborationist government of Belgium "Flemish Walloon Committee." Its creation was, rather, a propaganda act, since by that time the whole territory of Belgium had been liberated by British-American troops.
Since January 1945, the Walloon, formally given the status of a full-fledged SS division, fought heavy battles in Pomerania. At the end of March, Degrel, who had by that time become the standartenfuhrer (colonel) of the SS, was again forced to lead the way out of the circle. At the end of April, the remains of the Walloon were transferred to the Western Front, where they surrendered to the Anglo-American authorities. Degrell, promoted to brigadeführer on May 2 by Himmler (major general; formally, this appointment was invalid, since Himmler had been removed from all posts and expelled from the party personally by Hitler), fled to Norway, from where he flew to Spain's San Sebastian. When landing, he had a plane crash, but managed to survive. According to fake documents, the leader of Belgian Rexism managed to transport his whole family (wife, son and four daughters) to Spain .
The Belgian authorities, with the support of the Allies in the anti-Hitler coalition, began to actively seek Spain to extradite Degrel, who was sentenced in absentia by the Belgian court to death for treason in December 1945. Subsequently, Degrel unsuccessfully appealed to the Belgian judicial authorities 12 times with a proposal to conduct a second trial in his case with the participation of the jury.
But the right-wing authoritarian regime in Spain , Francisco Franco, refused to deport Degrell, citing the poor health of the former commander of the SS division, who had recently survived a plane crash. When Degrell’s health got better, the Spaniards arranged for him to escape to Argentina .
Meanwhile, the Degrell family in post-war Belgium was subjected to total persecution: his parents, who were completely not interested in politics, died in captivity in 1947, his wife was sentenced to six years, and their six children, with their changed names, were sent to guardians throughout Europe (later Degrell managed to track them all down and reunite with them).
In 1954, Degrell returned to Spain and received her citizenship under the name Leon Leon de Ramirez Reina. With the help of the Franco-Spanish authorities, he opened a construction company and became a successful businessman, without experiencing any hardship until the end of his life.
Degrel at the same time continued to carry out political and journalistic activities, still speaking from far-right political positions. He strongly justified Hitler’s policies and extolled him as a person, criticized the established socio-political system in Europe and denied the Holocaust , for which he was ultimately fined a large sum by a decision of a Spanish court. In 1973, giving interviews to Belgian journalists and answering the question whether he regrets anything in his life, Degrel answered:
|I regret that I was not able to achieve what was intended, but if I had a chance, I would repeat everything again.|
In addition to journalistic articles, Degrel also wrote his memoirs “Campaign in Russia”.
Degrell died of a heart attack on March 31, 1994 in the Spanish city of Malaga .
02/15/1942 - corporal
02/25/1942 - chief sergeant major
05/01/1942 - lieutenant
06/01/1943 - Obersturmfuhrer SS
01/01/1944 - Hauptsturmfuhrer SS
04/20/1944 - Sturmbannfuhrer SS
01/01/1945 - Obersturmbannfuhrer SS
04/20/1945 - Standartenfuhrer SS
05/02/1945 - SS brigadeführer and SS troops major general
Since November 1943 - Staff Officer of the 5th SS Motorized Infantry Brigade
Since February 1944 - commander of the SS brigade Wallonia.
From February 14 to May 8, 1945 - commander of the 28th SS division of Wallonia .
- Iron Cross 2nd class (03/03/1942)
- 1st Class Iron Cross (05/25/1942)
- Medal "For the Winter Campaign in the East 1941-1942" (08/15/1942)
- Breast assault infantry badge in silver (08.25.1942)
- Melee badge in gold
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (02/20/1944, for a breakthrough from the "Cherkassky Cauldron")
- Sign for the wound in silver (02.20.1944)
- Badge for wounding in gold (03/19/1944)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with oak leaves (08.27.1944)
- German cross in gold (10/09/1944)
- Léon Degrelle Die verlorene Legion. Erlebnisbericht des Kommandeurs der Legion "Wallonie". 1972.
- Walter Held: Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Eine Bibliografie der deutschsprachigen Nachkriegsliteratur. 5 Bände, 1978.
- Rolf Michaelis: Die Panzergrenadier-Divisionen der Waffen-SS. 2. Auflage. Michaelis-Verlag, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-930849-19-4 .
- Leon Degrel . SS Assault Brigade. Triple rout. - M .: Yauza-press, 2012, ISBN 978-5-9955-0393-4
- Leon Degrel . SS Legion of Hitler. Revelations with a noose around his neck. - M .: Yauza, 2012 .-- 288 p. - ISBN 978-5-995-50366-8
- Leon Degrell . Hitler's favorite: the Russian campaign through the eyes of the SS General. - M .: Algorithm , 2013, ISBN 978-5-4438-0403-3
- Leon Degrell . The Second World War. European Look.-M.: Totenburg, 2017.-256s. - ISBN 978-5-00071-838-4