Page 3, 9th June 1939

9th June 1939
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Page 3, 9th June 1939 — PRETEXT FOR ANNEXATION Flemish Autonomists Offer Opening to Hitler
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PRETEXT FOR ANNEXATION Flemish Autonomists Offer Opening to Hitler

From Our Ow.. Correspondent

ANTWERP.

On Sunday, May 21, the Flemish Nationalist Party held a Landtag, or ancient parliamentary gathering of the clans, at Ghent, at which 15,000 Flemings were present.

In view of the intense German propaganda in Belgium at present, this meeting aroused considerable misgivings, and it was boycotted by many of the more responsible Flemish elements.

A general fear is expressed that Herr Hitler might make Flemish autonomist aspirations a pretext for annexing Flanders as a "Protectorate."

Although the general atmosphere of Belgium is one of quiet optimism, owing partly to the visit of the Queen of Holland, the picturesque opening of the Liege Water Exhibition and to the decisive results of the recent general elections, nevertheless a certain uneasiness is manifesting itself owing to the Landtag.

-The proposal to hold it raised fierce opposition in the Belgian Press, and the Flemish professors of the Flemish University protested in a body against it.

The Burgomaster of Ghent declined on constitutional grounds to veto this expression of political beliefs, but he restricted its scope by forbidding the Wearing of uniforms, the carrying of slogans, and by confining the parade to a small quarter.

• DIVISION IN BELGIUM The alarm and general opposition to this meeting was caused by the fear that Flemish autonomy would bring division into Belgium and thus pave the way to a possible intervention by Herr Hitler. This fear persisted in spite of the resolution passed that the movement does not wish to be an instrument for Flanders to become a Protectorate of Germany, for, even if the members of the party are not conscious of it, their mysticism and way of working run in the spirit that favours Germany.

Although one deputy, M. Leuridan, the Flemish M.P. for West Flanders, swore that he would " never recognise Belgium," this was an exception, the majority wanting only autonomy for both Flemings and Walloons. The leader of the Flemish Nationalist Party, Slat' Declercq, declared that " Belgium had no right to dispose arbitrarily of the existence and future of the Flemish people, who are treated as a minority people."

None the less, the V.N.V., or Flemish Nationalist Party, watchword must be "Neither German nor Flemish."

GERMAN PROPAGANDA I know from personal experience that among the most cultivated and dynamic of the V.N.V. leaders there is a pronounced and sympathetic leaning towards the Nazi regime.

The monster meeting was followed by a parade of some 15,000 Flemings, but beyond a few catcalls whenever the boycott of the Landtag was mentioned the day passed off without incident.

In view of the intense German propaganda and activity in Belgium, it is of vital interest to watch the progress of the Flemish Nationalist Movement.




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