Vlaams Nationaal Verbond

The Vlaams Nationaal Verbond (Dutch for "Flemish National Union"), widely known by its acronym VNV, was a Flemish nationalist political party active in Belgium between 1933 and 1945. It became the leading force of political collaboration in Flanders during the German occupation of Belgium in World War II. Authoritarian by inclination, the party advocated the creation of a "Greater Netherlands" (Dietsland) combining Flanders and the Netherlands.

Flemish National Union

Vlaams Nationaal Verbond
LeaderStaf de Clerq (1933–1942)
Hendrik Elias (1942–1944)
Founded1933
Dissolved1944
Preceded byFrontpartij
HeadquartersBrussels, Belgium
NewspaperVolk en Staat
IdeologyFlemish nationalism
Greater Netherlands
Authoritarianism
Populism[1]
Collaborationism
Political positionFar-right[2]
French-speaking counterpartRexist Party[3]
Colours            
SloganAuthority, discipline, and Dietsland
Party flag
Flemish National Union flag

Origins

The Vlaams Nationaal Verbond (VNV) was founded on 8 October 1933. Its origins were in the long-established Frontpartij, a moderate Flemish patriotic party which was taken over by Staf De Clercq and moved to the right in 1932.[4] From the start, the VNV was clearly authoritarian and anti-democratic, being influenced by fascist ideas from elsewhere in Europe.[5] However, it initially included both moderate and radical wings and was not a genuinely fascist organisation per se.[1] Ideologically, the party rejected Belgium and supported the creation of a new polity known as the Greater Netherlands (Dietsland), through the fusion of Belgian Flanders and the Netherlands which would be linguistically and ethnically homogeneous. The party's slogan was: "Authority, discipline, Dietsland".

It shared many ideological elements with Verdinaso, a rival party which had been founded two years earlier, but was slightly less radical. Unlike Verdinaso, the VNV took part in elections and also included a relatively moderate wing.[6] Initially, it also differed from Verdinaso in not being an anti-Semitic movement, but increasingly embraced anti-Semitic elements after 1935, rather out of political calculation than of ideological conviction.[7]

In the Belgian general election of 1936 the VNV received 13.6% of the Flemish vote, corresponding to 7.1% nationwide. After the election, in which the far-right nationalist and Catholic Rexist Party also performed strongly, the two parties concluded an alliance, intended to create a corporatist Belgian state with great autonomy for Flanders. The VNV revoked this agreement after just one year.[3] In the 1939 elections, the VNV moderately increased its share of the Flemish vote to 15% (8.4% nationally) while the Rexist vote collapsed.[6]

Despite cooperating with the Flemish section of the mainstream centre-right Catholic Party on the local level, De Clercq realised that his movement would not be able to take power by democratic means. Instead, he initiated contacts with Nazi Germany, hoping that his project could be realised with German help. He contacted the Abwehr, Germany's military intelligence service, informing them that a part of the Belgian military supported his movement and could be controlled by him in case of Germany declaring war. The Belgian state security gained knowledge of these contacts and arrested some VNV supporters.[6]

Collaboration

HendrikElias
Hendrik Elias who lead the VNV after De Clercq's death, pictured in 1942

When Nazi Germany invaded Belgium in 1940, De Clercq immediately chose to orientate the VNV towards collaborationism, despite his previous declarations that he would not do so. Adolf Hitler chose not to install a civilian government (such as he had done in the Netherlands) but instead installed a military administration headed by General Alexander von Falkenhausen of the Wehrmacht. This, along with the departure of Ward Hermans and René Lagrou to form the Algemeene-SS Vlaanderen,[8] led the VNV out of focus, forcing it to intensify its collaboration in order to gain influence. Hitler and SS-leader Heinrich Himmler made profit from the situation, and increased competition between various groups by founding some more extreme collaborationist groups like the 6th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Langemarck and DeVlag ("German-Flemish Working Group"). Nevertheless, VNV politicians were given the mayor's office in several Flemish towns. VNV-led local administrations participated in the organisation of the deportation of Belgian Jews to Eastern Europe as part of the Holocaust in Belgium. They willingly implemented Nazi policies like the obligation of Jews to wear the yellow badge. VNV activists played a leading role in the anti-Jewish Antwerp pogrom of April 1941.[9]

De Clercq died suddenly in October 1942, and was succeeded by Hendrik Elias, a member of the more moderate side. Elias continued the collaboration but tried to come to terms with the military government to prevent the installation of a civilian government, which would be composed of Nazis. Elias failed, as Hitler installed the new body and declared the annexation of Flanders by Germany in 1944; seven weeks later, Belgium was liberated by the Allies. The VNV was outlawed after the liberation of Belgium. Elias fled to Germany, but was tried after the war and imprisoned until 1959.

Electoral performance

Election Votes Seats Position Government
# % # ±
1936 166,737 7.06
16 / 202
Increase 16 Increase 5th
1939 164,253 8.40
17 / 202
Increase 1 Increase 4th

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b Payne, Stanley G. (1995). A History of Fascism, 1914–1945. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 424.
  2. ^ Witte, Els (2009). Political History of Belgium, from 1830 onwards. ASP. p. 157.
  3. ^ a b Capoccia, Giovanni (2005). Defending Democracy: Reactions to Extremism in Interwar Europe. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 114.
  4. ^ Ishiyama, John T.; Brening, Marijke (1998); p. 1123
  5. ^ B. De Wever, Vlaams Nationaal Verbond (VNV) at Belgium-WWII
  6. ^ a b c De Wever, Bruno (2006). "Belgium". World Fascism: A Historical Encyclopedia. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 86. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Kallis, Aristotle (2009). Genocide and Fascism: The Eliminationist Drive in Fascist Europe. Routledge. p. 278.
  8. ^ Rees (1991). Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right. p. 179.
  9. ^ Kallis, Aristotle (2009). Genocide and Fascism: The Eliminationist Drive in Fascist Europe. Routledge. p. 280.

References

  • Clough, Shepard B. (1946) [1945]. "IX: The Flemish Movement". In Goris, Jan-Albert (ed.). Belgium. The United Nations. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • De Wever, Bruno (1994). Greep naar de Macht: Vlaams-nationalisme en Nieuwe orde, het VNV 1933-1945. Tielt: Lannoo. ISBN 902092267X.
  • Ishiyama, John T.; Breuning, Marijke (1998). Ethnopolitics in the New Europe. Lynne Rienner Publishers. ISBN 978-1555876104.
  • Rees, Philip (1991). Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0130893017.

External links

27th SS Volunteer Division Langemarck

The Flemish Legion (Dutch: Vlaams Legioen) was a collaborationist military formation recruited among Dutch-speaking volunteers from German-occupied Belgium, notably from Flanders. It fought on the Eastern Front during World War II. The Flemish Legion was notionally an independent formation attached to the Waffen SS until May 1943 when it was disbanded and reformed as the SS-Sturmbrigade Langemarck within the Waffen SS itself. It was subsequently reorganised on several occasions and was officially designated as a division in September 1944, though the unit never expanded beyond brigade-strength.

From the outset, the Flemish Legion was closely associated with the Vlaams Nationaal Verbond (VNV), a collaborationist and Flemish nationalist political party in Belgium.

Belgium in World War II

Despite being neutral at the start of World War II, Belgium and its colonial possessions found themselves at war after the country was invaded by German forces on 10 May 1940. After 18 days of fighting in which Belgian forces were pushed back into a small pocket in the north-east of the country, the Belgian military surrendered to the Germans, beginning an occupation that would endure until 1944. The surrender of 28 May was ordered by King Leopold III without the consultation of his government and sparked a political crisis after the war. Despite the capitulation, many Belgians managed to escape to the United Kingdom where they formed a government and army-in-exile on the Allied side.

The Belgian Congo remained loyal to the Belgian government in London and contributed significant material and human resources to the Allied cause. Many Belgians were involved in both armed and passive resistance to German forces, although some chose to collaborate with the German forces. Support from far right political factions and sections of the Belgian population allowed the German army to recruit two divisions of the Waffen-SS from Belgium and also facilitated the Nazi persecution of Belgian Jews in which nearly 25,000 were killed.

Most of the country was liberated by the Allies between September and October 1944, though areas to the far east of the country remained occupied until early 1945. In total, approximately 88,000 Belgians died during the conflict, a figure representing 1.05 percent of the country's pre-war population, and around 8 percent of the country's GDP was destroyed.

Collaboration with the Axis Powers

Within nations occupied by the Axis Powers in World War II, some citizens and organizations, prompted by nationalism, ethnic hatred, anti-communism, antisemitism, opportunism, self-defense, or often a combination, knowingly collaborated with the Axis Powers. Some of these collaborators committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, or atrocities of the Holocaust.Collaboration has been defined as cooperation between elements of the population of a defeated state and representatives of a victorious power. Stanley Hoffmann subdivided collaboration into involuntary (reluctant recognition of necessity) and voluntary (exploitation of necessity). According to Hoffmann, collaborationism can be subdivided into "servile" and "ideological"; the former is deliberate service to an enemy, whereas the latter is deliberate advocacy of cooperation with a foreign force which is seen as a champion of desirable domestic transformations. In contrast, Bertram Gordon uses the terms "collaborator" and "collaborationist", respectively, in reference to non-ideological and ideological collaborations.The term "collaborator" has also been applied to persons, organizations, or countries that were not under occupation by the Axis Powers but that ideologically, financially, or militarily, before or during World War II, supported Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, or World War II-era Imperial Japan.

Committee of Secretaries-General

The Committee of Secretaries-General (French: Comité des Sécretaires-généraux, Dutch: Comité van de secretarissen-generaal) was a Belgian technocratic administrative panel created during World War II. The Committee comprised the head civil servants of most government ministries (who each held the title Secretary-General) and formed a part of the German occupation administration of Belgium between 1940 and 1944, being an integral role in the Belgian policy of "lesser evil" collaboration. From August 1940, the Germans began introducing new members, and by 1941 its composition was almost completely different. Among those promoted were pro-Germans like Victor Leemans and Gérard Romsée, who had been involved in Belgian Fascist movements before the war. They helped to facilitate the more radical administrative reforms demanded by the Germans, although the Committee refused to involve itself in the deportation of Belgian Jews. As the visible face of the German administration, the Committee became more and more unpopular as the war progressed. Following the Allied liberation of Belgium in 1944, several members of the Committee were prosecuted for collaboration but several members, including Leemans, went on to political careers in post-war Belgium.

German occupation of Belgium during World War II

The German occupation of Belgium (French: Occupation allemande, Dutch: Duitse bezetting) during World War II began on 28 May 1940 when the Belgian army surrendered to German forces and lasted until Belgium's liberation by the Western Allies between September 1944 and February 1945. It was the second time that Germany had occupied Belgium in under thirty years.

After the success of the invasion, a military administration was established in Belgium, bringing the territory under the direct rule of the Wehrmacht. Thousands of Belgian soldiers were taken as prisoners of war, and many were not released until 1945. The German administration juggled competing objectives of maintaining order while extracting material from the territory for the war effort. They were assisted by the Belgian civil service, which believed that limited co-operation with the occupiers would result in the least damage to Belgian interests. Belgian Fascist parties in both Flanders and Wallonia, established before the war, collaborated much more actively with the occupiers; they helped recruit Belgians for the German army and were given more power themselves toward the end of the occupation. Food and fuel were tightly rationed, and all official news was closely censored. Belgian civilians living near possible targets such as railway junctions were in danger of Allied aerial bombing.

From 1942, the occupation became more repressive. Jews suffered systematic persecution and deportation to concentration camps, as measures were taken against potential political opposition. Despite vigorous protest, the Germans deported Belgian civilians to work in factories in Germany. Meanwhile, the Belgian Resistance, formed in late 1940, expanded vastly. From 1944, the SS and Nazi Party gained much greater control in Belgium, particularly after the military government was replaced in July by a Nazi civil administration, the Reichskommissariat Belgien-Nordfrankreich. In September 1944, Allied forces arrived in Belgium and quickly moved across the country. That December, the territory was incorporated de jure into the Greater German Reich although its collaborationist leaders were already in exile in Germany and German control in the region was virtually non-existent. Belgium was declared fully liberated in February 1945. In total, 40,690 Belgians, over half of them Jews, were killed during the occupation and the country's pre-war gross domestic product (GDP) was reduced by eight percent.

Hendrik Elias

Hendrik Josef Elias (12 June 1902 – 2 February 1973) was a Belgian politician and Flemish nationalist, notable as the leader of the Vlaams Nationaal Verbond between 1942 and 1944.

History of the Jews in Antwerp

The history of the Jews in Antwerp, Belgium goes back at least eight hundred years. Currently, the Jewish community of Antwerp consists of around 18,000.

List of far-right political parties

The following is a list of far-right political parties and movements.

Military Administration in Belgium and Northern France

The Military Administration in Belgium and Northern France (German: Militärverwaltung in Belgien und Nordfrankreich) was an interim occupation authority established during the Second World War by Nazi Germany that included present-day Belgium and the French departments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais. The administration was also responsible for governing the zone interdite, a narrow strip of territory running along the French northern and eastern borders. It remained in existence until July 1944. Plans to transfer Belgium from the military administration to a civilian administration were promoted by the SS, and Hitler had been ready to do so until Autumn 1942, when he put off the plans for the time being. The SS had suggested either Josef Terboven or Ernst Kaltenbrunner as the Reich Commissioner of the civilian administration.

Order of Flemish Militants

The Order of Flemish Militants (Dutch: Vlaamse Militanten Orde or VMO) – originally the Flemish Militants Organisation (Vlaamse Militanten Organisatie) – was a Flemish nationalist activist group in Belgium defending far-right interests by propaganda and political action. Established in 1949, they helped found the People's Union (Dutch: Volksunie or VU) in 1954, a Belgian political party. The links between the extremist VMO and the VU lessened as the party moved towards the centre. In later decades the VMO would become linked to neo-Nazism and a series of paramilitary attacks on immigrants and leftists before disappearing by the late 1980s.

Reimond Tollenaere

Reimond Tollenaere (June 29, 1909 – January 22, 1942) was a member of the Vlaams Nationaal Verbond (VNV), a right-wing Flemish nationalist party in Belgium. He was an active collaborator with Nazi Germany during World War II.

Tollenaere became active in the Flemish nationalist movement during his law studies at the University of Ghent. He was appointed as propaganda leader of the VNV and, in 1936, became a VNV member of parliament. During the German invasion of Belgium in May 1940 he was arrested by the Belgian authorities as a potential subversive and spent some time in prison in France. After being freed following the French defeat, he resumed his political activities in Flanders.

In 1941 after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion in the Soviet Union, Tollenaere was active in encouraging the recruitment of Flemish volunteers for the Eastern Front and eventually joined himself. He was killed by friendly fire from the Spanish Blue Division in January 1942 near Leningrad in the region of Veliky Novgorod.

Rexist Party

The Rexist Party (French: Parti Rexiste), or simply Rex, was a far-right Catholic, nationalist, authoritarian and corporatist political party active in Belgium from 1935 until 1945. The party was founded by a journalist, Léon Degrelle, and, unlike other fascist parties in the Belgium of the time, advocated Belgian unitarism and royalism. Initially the party ran in both Flanders and Wallonia but never achieved much success outside Wallonia and Brussels. Its name was derived from the Roman Catholic journal and publishing company Christus Rex (Latin for Christ the King).

The highest point that the Rexist party had achieved was its success on sending 21 out of 202 deputies (with 11.4% of the vote) and twelve senators in the 1936 election. Never a mass movement, it was on the decline by 1938. During the German occupation of Belgium in World War II, Rex was the largest collaborationist group in French-speaking Belgium, paralleled by the Vlaams Nationaal Verbond (VNV) in Flanders. By the end of the war Rex was widely discredited, and was banned following the liberation.

Initially modelled on Italian Fascism and Spanish Falangism, it later drew closer to German Nazism. The Party espoused a "right-wing revolution" and the dominance of the Catholic Church in Belgium, but its ideology came to be vigorously opposed by the leader of the Belgian Church Cardinal van Roey, who called Rexism a "danger to the church and to the country".

The Holocaust in Belgium

The Holocaust in German-occupied Belgium refers to the persecution and attempted extermination of Jews and Roma between 1940 and 1944 during World War II.

At the start of the war, the population of Belgium was overwhelmingly Catholic. Jews made up the largest non-Christian population in the country, numbering between 70–75,000 out of a population of 8 million. Most lived in the cities of Antwerp, Brussels, Charleroi and Liège. The vast majority were recent immigrants to Belgium who had fled persecution in Germany and Eastern Europe, and, as a result, only a small minority actually possessed Belgian citizenship.

Shortly after the invasion of Belgium, the Military Government passed a series of anti-Jewish laws in October 1940. The Belgian Committee of Secretary-Generals refused from the start to co-operate on passing any anti-Jewish measures and the Military Government seemed unwilling to pass further legislation. The German government began to seize Jewish-owned businesses and forced Jews out of positions in the civil service. In April 1941, without orders from the German authorities, Flemish collaborators pillaged two synagogues in Antwerp and burned the house of the chief rabbi of the town in the Antwerp Pogrom. The Germans created a Judenrat in the country, the Association des Juifs en Belgique (AJB; "Association of Jews in Belgium"), which all Jews were required to join. As part of the Final Solution from 1942, the persecution of Belgian Jews escalated. From May 1942, Jews were forced to wear yellow Star of David badges to mark them out in public. Using the registers compiled by the AJB, the Germans began deporting Jews to concentration camps in the General Government (the occupied portion of Poland). Jews chosen from the registration lists were required to turn up at the newly established Mechelen transit camp; they were then deported by train to concentration camps, mostly to Auschwitz. Between August 1942 and July 1944, around 25,000 Jews and 350 Roma were deported from Belgium; more than 24,000 were killed before the camps were liberated by the Allies.

From 1942, opposition among the general population to the treatment of the Jews in Belgium grew. By the end of the occupation, more than 40 per cent of all Jews in Belgium were in hiding; many of them were hidden by Gentiles, particularly by Catholic priests and nuns. Some were helped by the organized resistance, such as the Comité de Défense des Juifs (CDJ; "Committee of Jewish Defense"), which provided food and refuge to hiding Jews. Many of the Jews in hiding joined the armed resistance. In April 1943, members of the CDJ attacked the twentieth rail convoy to Auschwitz and succeeded in rescuing some of those being deported.

Theo Francken

Theo Francken (born 7 February 1978 in Lubbeek, Flemish Brabant) is a Belgian politician and is affiliated to N-VA. He was elected as a member of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives in 2010.He is mayor of Lubbeek since January 2013.

He was Secretary of State for Asylum, Migration and Administrative Simplification in the Michel Government from October 2014 to December 2018.

Volk en Staat

Volk en Staat (Dutch; "People and State") was a Flemish daily newspaper between 1936 and 1944, linked to the Fascist Vlaams Nationaal Verbond (VNV) party. It was founded on 15 November 1936 and banned shortly after the liberation of Belgium from German control in 1944.

Volk en Staat had a circulation which peaked at between 40,000 and 50,000 copies sold each day.

Walloon Legion

The Walloon Legion (French: Légion Wallonie) was a collaborationist military formation recruited among French-speaking volunteers from German-occupied Belgium, notably from Brussels and Wallonia, during World War II. Created in July 1941 shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the unit was supported by the Rexist Party as a demonstration of its loyalty towards Nazi Germany. It served on the Eastern Front, initially as a unit of the Wehrmacht and, after June 1943, in the Waffen-SS. Though sustaining heavy casualties, the unit increased from battalion to brigade and eventually division-size before surrendering to the British in April 1945.

Fascism in Belgium to 1945
Political parties and collaborationist groups
People
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