Thursday, January 15, 2009

King Leopold's Broadcast

Here are excerpts from King Leopold III's broadcast address to the USA, delivered, on October 27, 1939, in the early stages of World War II:

As I am convinced that my country is defending civilization by the attitude it has taken up towards the conflict that has broken out in Europe, I feel that I may limit myself to explaining the attitude which responds fully to the will, the courage, and the honor of the Belgian people. As the Head of State, I am glad to have the opportunity of reviewing the following points:

In 1937, Belgium proclaimed her policy of independence and each of her three big neighbors acknowledged it. They went further, spontaneously gave us formal assurances that they would respect our frontiers, and guarantee the independence of Belgium. The Belgian Government's declaration of neutrality, made at the beginning of the war, was the logical conclusion of our policy ... 

We have no territorial ambitions. We are concerned neither directly, nor indirectly, with the origins of the conflict which divides Europe. 

If Belgium became involved, her land would be turned into a battlefield; owing to her restricted area, her total destruction would follow whatever the result of the war.

Side by side with Holland, Belgium forms an islet of peace in the interest of all. Situated at the crossroads of Western Europe, a neutral Belgium, loyal and strong as she is today, fulfills an essentially peaceful mission; she limits the extension of the battlefront ... She constitutes... a citadel of peace and a means of conciliation which alone can save our civilization from the abyss towards which it would be precipitated by a general war.

We clearly see our duties and our rights; we await the future with a calm conscience; we are ready with all our strength to see that our independence is respected. 

Exactly twenty-five years ago, the Belgian Army, under the command of my father, King Albert, after a hard battle, checked the progress of a cruel invasion.

If we were attacked- and I pray God this may not happen - in violation of the solemn and definite undertakings that were given us in 1937, and were renewed at the outset of the present war, we would not hesitate to fight with the same conviction, but with forces ten times stronger, and, again, the whole country would be behind the Army...

May I venture to hope that the American nation, to whom we are drawn by mutual aspirations and similar institutions, will help us and will support us in our attitude for the good of peace and the service of civilization. 

(Quoted by Roger Keyes in Outrageous Fortune: The Tragedy of Leopold III of the Belgians, Appendix III, p. 483)

I think this speech illustrates clearly Leopold's patriotism, courage, determination, and moral rigor, and his noble conception of Belgium's role in Europe.

4 comments:

Daniel said...

This speech which I'm very fortunate to have an audio copy of, outlines clearly the Belgian policy of Armed Neutrality which was adopted by Belgium after Briton & France failed to take action against Germany when in 1936 the Germans re entered the Rhineland de- militarized zone..

Daniel said...

Thus a little nation of 8 million souls approved expenditures to raise an
Army of twenty infantry divisions, and one Calvary corps and troops for the
fortifications, in all 650,000 men. To form a strong army of 650,000,
Belgium had to mobilize 8% of her entire population or 46 % of the men
between the ages of twenty and forty years of age. It was a tremendous
effort and strain.
Can any historian doubt had the British or French made the same effort
would Hitler have stayed in the Rhineland?

Matterhorn said...

That's great that you have an audio copy of the speech! Thanks for the comments.

Matterhorn said...

And yes, the Belgians were very heroic, NO ONE has the right to treat them with contempt.