Belgium / Story
September 1944. As the liberation approached, some 5,000 French-speaking collaborators, including their leader Léon Degrelle, fled to Germany. Taking refuge in the Gau (administrative division) of Hanover, they hoped to return to Belgium at the end of a victorious Wehrmacht counteroffensive.
On 16 December, the Wehrmacht went on the offensive through the snowy Ardennes. On Christmas Even Degrelle, recognised as Volksführer der Wallonen on 23 November, and a few elements of the 28th SS-Division Wallonien headed towards Belgium, following the 6th SS-Panzerarmee of Josef Dietrich. They were convinced that Liège, Huy and Namur had already been taken over by the German troops. At the same time, 200 party leaders met in Gummersbach to divide between them the positions of responsibility in the 'liberated' Brussels.
However, they were soon disappointed: the Wehrmacht had not even reached the Meuse valley, as the Allied resistance was stronger than expected. From then on, Degrelle and his last followers would wander the borders of Luxembourg, from Steinbach to Limerlé, where he settled with his staff on 2 January 1945. They stayed there for eight days. Degrelle did all he could to provide himself with an illusion of power. The leader of the Parti Rexiste (Rexist Party), along with his future ministers, set about drafting a 13-point memorandum affirming the annexation of Wallonia and Flanders to the German Reich. He also ordered the arrest of the mayor of La Roche, Baron Orban de Xivry, for persecuting his people at the liberation. The mayor’s life was spared, but the same cannot be said for the four Léonard brothers, young resistance fighters arrested by the Nazis who Degrelle had promised to take under his protection. They were shot shortly after. What role exactly did the Rexist leader play? The bodies were not found until two months later.
Pressed by the Americans and encumbering the German army with his presence, Degrelle and his troops left the Belgian territory for good in the early morning of 10 January 1945. Belgian justice had already sentenced him to death on 27 December 1944, but he escaped his fate, taking refuge in Franco's Spain.
Nothing remained of the 'government of Limerlé', except the monument to the Léonard brothers raised in Gouvy, two steps from the border of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.