Degrelle Léon - Campaign in Russia

Author : Degrelle Léon
Title : Campaign in Russia The Waffen SS On the Eastern Front
Year : 1985

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INTRODUCTION. With this translation of Leon Degrelle's Front de rest one of the great men of this or any century begins to tell his story in English, For the first time the majority of English speakers in America, Great Britain, and other English-speaking countries will have the chance to make up their own minds about a public figure who for over fifty years has been in his native country, Belgium, and abroad, one of the most admired as well as one of the most reviled and traduced figures of the century. Publicist, political leader, soldier, Catholic, man of the West, Leon Degrelle compels our attention: long slandered by distortion or omission by the powers which seek to control our thought, now he speaks to us in our own language. In Campaign in Russia Degrelle deals almost exclusively with his service on the German Eastern Front in the great European crusade against Communism in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic states, and the other territories which then languished, and still languish, under the despotic rule of the masters of the Soviet Empire. A master stylist in French, the author of more than twenty books, with an incomparable breadth of life experience and culture," Degrelle as actor and chronicler of the anti-Soviet epic needs little assistance or elucidation from any chair-bound academic or editor. Yet a few preliminary remarks are necessary to set the stage for the great drama of the Wallonian heroes \n the East. Degrelle's life story is little known in England and America, and the General is often not disposed to enlighten us on many salient details. It was not for nothing that his fellow Walloon volunteers jokingly referred to him as "Modest the First, Duke of JBurgundy," on the front. Furthermore, both American and English readers of the present-day have little feel for, or knowledge of, the essentials of Continental history so important for understanding Degrelle and his movement, notwithstanding a vast influx of refugee scholars to American and British universities in consequence of national revolutionary developments throughout the Europe of the 1930's and 1940's. Leon Degrelle was born on 15 June 1906 at Bouillon, on the French border, in the Belgian province of Luxembourg. His father, Edouard Degrelle, was a prosperous brewer who had immigrated to Belgium from France five years earlier, provoked by a French "anti-clerical" governments^ expulsion of the Jesuit order. (So many of the Degrelles had become Jesuit priests that a friend of the family described the Degrelles as "Jesuits from father to son," ironic indeed in view of Degrelle's future troubles with the Catholic hierarchy of Belgium.) Degrelle the boy grew up along the banks of the Semois, overshadowed by the great castle of Godfrey de Bouillon, leader of the First Crusade and King of Jerusalem, enjoying a relatively untroubled youth despite four years of German occupation during the First World War. In 1921 he entered the Jesuit college of Notre Dame de la Paix at Namur. His grades were average, for the young Degrelle had, from the age of fifteen, commenced an ambitious extra-curricular work of reading and writing. At that age he published his first newspaper article; many more were to follow. When a friend fell seriously ill, young Leon wrote to Cardinal Mercier, the primate of Belgium, to ask him to administer personally the last rites of the Church. Mercier did so, and entered into a correspondence with the teenager. At seventeen, Degrelle published an article on social justice in Les cahiers de la jeunesse catholique (Notebooks of Catholic Youth) which so impressed the socialist leader Emile Vandervelde that he published it in his paper Le Peuple (The People) with the regret that the young writer was not a socialist. (These details and much other fascinating material can be found in Jean- Michel Etienne's LeMouvement rexistejusqu 'en 1940, a relatively balanced account of Degrelle and his political activity before the war, published as Number 165 of the Cahiers de la fondation nationale des sciences politiques, Paris.) In 1924 Degrelle left the college to continue his studies at the Catholic faculty at Namur. During that time, and even before, Degrelle had fallen under the sway of the French writer Charles Maurras, founder and leader of Action Francaise, who, together with his close collaborator Leon Daudet, expounded brilliantly on French culture and politics in the newspaper that bore the name of their movement. It is difficult today to convey the impact and influence Maurras exercized over French youth (and French-speaking youth in Belgium and Switzerland). Profoundly conservative, with a sweep of classical culture which easily encompassed Hellas and Rome as well as the French cultural and political achievement, which Maurras, a monarch- ) ist, saw as chiefly the work of "forty kings in a thousand years," Maurras played a leading role in the controversies of the day. Reading Action Francaise in Paris was de rigueur for French intellectuals of all political shades, from Proust and Gide to Bourget and Mauriac. Like many 19th and 20th-century intellectuals on the side of authority and the West, Maurras was not a believing Christian, although he valued" the Catholic Church's historical role and traditions highly. At first this didn't blunt his support among young Catholics, including Degrelle. ...

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