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WHY BELGIUM FIGHTS 0N|
Perish If Nazis Win
BELGIUM'S surrender to Germany is still a story to be told
in full. Its effects are known, and, indeed, were seen almost immediately, for largely through that surrender France collapsed. Some further light is thrown on the action of the King of the Belgians in yielding to the Germans by M. Spaak, the Belgian Foreign Minister at the time and still Foreign Minister in the Government that has been formed in London. An interview with the Minister is written by Mr. T. A. Raman, an Indian journalist who is the London correspondent of the "Hindustan Times," and also a member of the Indian National Congress.
"TTHE Belgian Government now in Lon-
don was formed in unusual circum- stances. The King had surrendered and was a prisoner of war. The Finance and Colonies Ministers arrived first in London, but the Premier and Foreign Minister fol- lowed the French Government to Vichy They reached Britain only a few weeks before my interview. My first request to M. Spaak, the Foreign Minister, when he received me, was therefore for an account of his stay in France (writes Mr. Ramant.
' He explained that two days after the invasion of Belgium his Government sent to France all men of military age who, for one reason or other, were not already in service. Altogether they totalled 200,000 and the object was to train them in France
A great quantity of material and ma- chinery from factories in areas likely to be occupied was also forwarded in the hope of recommencing war production in Southern France. In those agonising weeks between the fall of Belgium and the capitulation of France the Belgian Government strove to organise this fresh effort from French soil.
Events, however, moved too fast. When the French Government moved to Bor- deaux, the Belgian Ministers prepared to proceed to London if France decided to continue the struggle from Africa. Aftei the French capitulation M. Pierlot and M. Spaak did all they could to alleviate the distress of the thousands of Belgian refugees in French territory. Vichy was polite but impotent, and at the end of August the two Ministers started off on their adventurous journey to Britain.
. * » *
"foi SPAAK preferred not to dis-
cuss either the fall of France or the state of the country when they left it He would only say that the worst of their adventures began when they reached Spain. General Franco's Government informed them that their request for permits to leave the country would be considered. That was the last they heard for several weeks.
The Belgian Premier and Foreign Minister were first moved to Gerona and then to Barcelona. Officially they were visitors waiting for visas, but in effect they were prisoners or Internees. A guard was always with them and they were under close police surveillance.
One day. however, the Ministers left their hotel. They took none of their be- longings and were apparently going out for a walk. But somewhere on the way Uley managed to elude their guards and leave the country under a disguise.
"I am glad, so glad, to be in Britain," said M. Spaak. "It is glorious to be once again in a free country and to carry on the struggle in an atmosphere of resolu- tion and confidence. After weeks or sur- veillance, confusion and defeatism all round, one knows how to value these things.
Leopold, King of the Belgians (top), now a prisoner of war, and M Spaak, Foreign Minister, who tells why Leopold surrendered to the Germans and why Belgium is
WHAT of the King' 1 direct-
ed the attention of the For- eign Minister to reports that he was about to meet Hitler
"We have never admitted,' answered M Spaak, "and never will admit, the charge of treachery against the King which M Reynaud made The King was Commander-in-Chief of the Belgian Army On May 27 the position was The French had been ciushingly defeat- ed at Sedan The Belgian fiont was being hammered by the German Air Force, against which it was defenceless The work of destruction was being com
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I "Belgium Speaks Î I Only From I
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I " A LL that remains of legal and i § *? free Belgium, all that is en- ¡¡ s titled to speak in her name, is in = " London Belgium's fate and Bri- î Z tain's are now linked Only the - î victory of the Allies will restore ? ? independence to my country and = ? freedom to my King and com- ï Z patriots"-M Spaak, Belgian ¿ !} Foreign Minister a
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pleted by German armoured units The line was broken in numerous places There were no reserves AU available men had been thrown in five days be- fore Munitions were running short The King had some days before told both the British and French Commands that he might be compelled to capitulate And so he took this decision m order to avoid the wasteful purposeless suicide of thousands of his men
"King Leopold could indeed have gone to France, but he thought it would be the better and the nobler tiling to surrender with his men, ask- ing for no special terms for himself
"That Is the whole storv," summed up M. Spaak "And," he added slowly,
that action had, I believe, at the time the approval of the great majority of Belgians still in the country."
I again referred to reports coming in of a meeting between Leopold and Hitler
Since his surrender," he explained, King Leopold has been a prisoner in a castle in Belgium He has considered himself just a prisoner of war, and has not acted politically His presence in Belgium has not so far hindered the legal Government now m London in any
Rather has the knowledge that their King is a prisoner in his own country helped the people to oppose German schemes and plans for Belgium We have no information confirming these re- ports of the King s meeting with Hitler, and I consider them extremely unlikely to be true
' It is true as you say, that Hitler can compel tlie King to meet him But con- stitutionally the King has no title to negotiate on behalf of his country with- out the appioval of his Government, and any arrangement or agreement which may be forced on King Leopold, prison- er of war would not bind Belgium legal- ly nor affect in any way the inflexible determination of the Government to carry on the struggle till the end
' Our cause is now indissolubly one with Britain's And to Britain's great and growing strength, Belgium adds her contribution modestly, but without re- serve Today we are recruiting a small army here We are calling up all Bel- gians abroad to join it We have an Air Force already playing its part Since August four Belgian airmen have been killed in action over Britain The great natural lesources of the Belgian Congo are entirely at the service of the Allied cause So, too, is our considerable mer- chant shipping"
Recalling that the Belgian Government had at one time befoie Belgium was in- vaded persistently and hopefully tried to mediate between Britain and Germany, I asked the Foreign Minister whether he saw any possibility, in any circumstances, of a negotiated peace v/ith Hitler
"No," he replied "It has been de- monstrated that there is no limit to German aggression and ambition. Not Europe only, but other continents as well, would be reduced to slavery were the Nazis to conquer. All humanity will be bond slaves to the master Ger- man nation "
'This war is not one between Britain and Germany for political power It is a conflict between two conceptions of life and civilisation between liberty and op- pression humanity and racialism, indi- vidual freedom and state-worship I hoped for long that the war would not so develop into a struggle for elementary human rights Speaking for a Government which tried hard to avoid such a development, I say firmly that there is no room in the world for both civilisation and the Nazi conception of domination One must die No success ever seems to satiate the Nazis, no compromise to satisfy their lust for domination, no promise to bind them Britain will have to triumph over them so that nations may return to a moral and peaceful existence," ,
* * - * -" ?- --
]y[ SPAAK commented on the
* so called Nazi "New Order." "No one has yet told me of what this 'New Order' consists. I only see that it varies remarkably with the political needs of the Reich from day to day.
"One moment it radiates comradeship with Soviet Russia. But presently it takes on the appearance of an entente against the Soviet menace. Then again it strides Europe and Asia in a fervour of regen- eration, seeking to look like a sanctified partnership between catholic France, Italy and Spain under the aegis of the not-so
"Even for the Nazis this is a very hollow propaganda stunt. There can- not be any reorganisation of Europe as long as downtrodden millions pray and plan for deliverance from the oppressor. Only the victory of the forces of free- dom will prepare the ground for a sane and moral international society.
"All the evidence I have proves that the Belgian people are daily more con- fident of British victory. Resentment against the occupation intensifies every day. The steadily increasing severity of German regulations is the best measure of the mood of the people. Our faith in ultimate victory is passionate and our confidence is unshakeable."
' M. Spaak has a reputation for strong views strongly expressed. So I asked him what, concretely, were the bases of his confidence in ultimate victory. This is his reply.
"First, he said "there is the wonderful
spirit, unity and intensity of British re- sistance. To one who went through all the confusion and degradation of the last months on the Continent, this morale and unity is life-giving breath.
"Secondly, the productive force of Britain and the Empire is rising steadily nntl fast and in a 'total' war, Germany, with all her slave States, will not lie
able to maintain her present advantages,
in a not-too-distant future the Allies «111 outmatch Germany in morale, man- power and equipment.
"Thirdly, the great aid of the United States is becoming more and more effec- tive. The fighting in Greece and episodes like Taranto proved that the Allies do not lack initiative or audacity.
"On these grounds," concluded M. Spaak, "and because of the basic fact which the Nazis discount, that the spirit of man revolts against their doctrines and methods, one cannot doubt our ultimate victory."