Page 1, 4th June 1937

4th June 1937
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Page 1, 4th June 1937 — VAN ZEELAND AMNESTY CRISIS OVER Catholic Statesmen Now Safe For American International Talks
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People: M. Van Zeeland
Locations: Washington

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VAN ZEELAND AMNESTY CRISIS OVER Catholic Statesmen Now Safe For American International Talks

Front Our Belgian Correspondent The fate of M. Van Zeeland, Belgian Premier, and one of the world's most notable Catholic statesmen, hung in the balance on Wednesday, pending the reception of the " Amnesty Bill." The Chamber passed the bill by 95 votes to 75, with 16 abstentions.

During the war about 200 Flemings formed a Council of Flanders, or separate Flemish State, under the auspices of the German occupation.

Were they patriotic idealists, as their supporters say, or traitors to their country, as Belgium generally believed? In fact they were deprived of their civic and political rights by the Belgian Courts and some were condemned to death, though the sentence was not carried out.

A Bargain

In order to make for unity, especially in view of the need for a• new Army Bill owing to Belgium's changed status in Europe, M. Van Zeeland, last April, agreed to introduce a Bill granting general amnesty to these Flemings in return for Flemish support to his plans. He offered the Amnesty upon condition of some form of regret on the part of the " traitors," but the Flemish party insists upon an unconditional amnesty.

The proposal has raised a storm of protest, especially among the well organised ex-combatants, and if the Bill, before the House on Wednesday, had been defeated, the Government must have fallen.' Each debate brought the Government nearer to disaster and a series of adjournments alone have saved it. One of the motives put forward for saving the Cabinet, is M. Van 'Zeeland's coming journey to Washington in performance of the international economic mission entrusted to him. It is stressed that this mission of M. Van Zeeland is a great honour for Belgium. It cannot be doubted that the fall of Van Zeeland would be a serious loss for Catholics.

The violence of the agitation over the proposal for amnesty has made it clear that the leaders of the parties--Rex excepted—are keen that the Government remain in; power.

A Talk with a " Traitor".

A talk I have just had with one of the eminent acting members of the Flemish movement has convinced me of the undoubted sincerity of the Flemings.

He severely repudiated the imputation of treason placed on these Flemish idealists." They were right, he insisted.

They were not traitors. Had they suc ceeded, they would have been hailed by Europe as " saviours of their race " and their leader, Dr. Borms—the " archtraitor "—would have been lauded as the Masaryk of Flanders.

It is not easy to understand this state of mind. Yet it was the expression of feeling of a well known Belgian gentleman, a patriot, who stands high in his profession. It will help to form an idea of the task it is for the statesmen of Belgium to conciliate that feeling, and to set up a measure to appease a most important section of the Belgian nation, and thus put an end to the resentment felt ley the Flemish as a whole against the opprobrium cast up on every occasion against the Flemish "traitors"!




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