Friday, April 6, 2012

A Man of Honor

Here are some reflections on Leopold's surrender to the Nazis from Joseph E. Davies, United States ambassador to Belgium from 1938-1940.
What were all of considerations which led to his decision to capitulate in the face of superior force, I do not know. But there is one thing to which I am sure I could with certainty testify, and that is that the decision which he arrived at, in my opinion, could never have had at its base any ignoble or selfish purpose. Whatever decision he arrived at could never be one other than that which he considered was necessary for the protection of Belgium and the Belgian people, and one consistent with his personal honor. To impute to this man an ignoble purpose in his tragic decision is, in my opinion, to do a violent wrong to a noble man and a very great Christian gentleman.
In this connection, it should not be forgotten that had the King of the Belgians taken an airplane to Paris or to London, leaving his Army to the command of his Chief of Staff in the field, he would have been relieved of the personal criticism from those who have been most bitter in their denunciation. There is no doubt but what King Leopold walked in the Garden of Gethsemane through that night of decision. He made his choice, not by the easiest way. His decision once made, he traveled the rugged path of what he considered to be duty and honor. He elected to travel that path to be with his soldiers and to remain with his people in their trouble.
The verdict of history may be that possibly he erred in judgment. My voice, from such facts as I know, would be raised against that conclusion. Personally, from what I know of his ability, I would place very great reliance upon his accurate assessment of the conditions which he faced, and also upon the quality of good judgment which he would apply thereto. This would be based upon what I personally know to have been the thoroughness with which he approached problems when I was in Belgium and the good judgment and extraordinary ability which he applied thereto.
Be that as it may, however, I am sure that the verdict of history in this situation will be that the personal honor and nobility of Leopold of Belgium was sustained in his time of trial and was clean and high. In my opinion it could not possibly be anything else. (The Belgian Campaign and the Surrender of the Belgian Army: May 10-28, 1940, Belgian American Educational Foundation, Inc., New York, 1941, pp. 78-79).

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