Belgian Youth Groups: World War II and German Occupation

Figure 1.--The VNV leader Staf de Clercq receives a bouquet of flowes from a DMS girl at a rally in Brussles.

The NAZIs even before World War II drew a clear destinction between the two peoples of Belgium. They were most disposed toward their racial "cousins," the Flemings. They discovered after occupation, however, that the Walloon leader Léon Degrelle was a more willing disciple. The military and para-military formations formed in Belgium by the NAZI authorities were always kept seperated. Likewise the youth groyps, based on the youth movements of collaborationist political partiesm VNV and Rexists were entirely separated.

Belgian Scouts

German policies toward the Belgian Scouts varied greatly. Scout masters were arrested as early as 1940. The movement was totally banned in 1943. Even so the regulations were not always enforced. In many countries the Germans forced the Scouts to disband. There policies, however, varied greatly from country. Policies in Western Europe were generally less harsh than in Eastern Europe. This was especially true of countries with Nordic populations (Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway). The German occupation policies were in Belgium or if there were differing approaches to the more Nordic population in Flanders. They found it especially difficult to enforce regulations when little blond boys were involved--which was the case in Flandrs.

Belgian Occupation Youth Groups

Youth groups have existed in Belgium both before and during World War II. The groups involved, however, did not survive the War, except for the Scouts who acquited themselves with some valor during the war. The nationlist youth groups did not survive the war, primarily because of their cooperation with the Germans. Unfortunalely I have little information on these groups. Belgian historians have generally avoided topics touching on Belgian collaboration with the Germans during occupation. HBU has only limited information on NAZI occupation policies toward youth groups. As para-military formations and presumbably youth groups were organized separately along ehnic lines in the two parts of Belgium, HBC has addressed the topic separately. Readers assessing the Belgian youth organizations should bear in mind the temper of the times. After the German defeat of France in 1940, it looked to most Belgians and Europeans that the War was lost. Many with some reason thought that the Germans were the future and that they would win the war. Thus many collaborated thinking the Germans would control Flanders and Belgium's future. Some just tried to survive. Flemish nationalists colaborated with the NAZIs to achieve Flemish independence. Other were committed Fascists and believed the NAZI racial vitriol. The future, however, looked very different by 1943 after Stalingrad. But by then many had committed thhemselves and were terrified about what would happen after liberation.

Figure 2.--These boys belong to the Youth of Devlag. Their banner reads "Devlag provides Flemish children a 4 week holiday in Germany". Notice the "V". The Germans tried to co-opt the "V" for victory symbol of the Ressistance.


German occupation authorities on May 11, 1941, announced that all "authorized" poltical parties in Flanders be combined under the VNV. The VNV was similar to Dinaso, except that it was devoutly Catholic and included many priests in its membership. The symbol of the VNV was a delta symbol. This symbolized their desire to breakup pre-war Belgium and combine it with the Netherlands to form a Greater Neherlands which would include all the Flemish people from the Netherlands, Flanders, and German Friesland as the area formed the delta between Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt Rivers. The wolf hook was another symbol used. Some of the Flemish nationalists were prepared to go along with, or in some cases actively supported and cooperated with, the occupying power were evidently left to get on with it. Some of these were truly fascist or Nazi; many more (such as some of the less far-right-wing Flemish nationalists) went along with it for reasons of expediency, because to start with at any rate, they thought the Germans would win the war. By the time it was becoming apparent that they had backed the wrong horse, especially from 1942 onwards, it would have been much too late to change sides, as the situation between collaborators and resistance had become completely polarised by then.

Flemish groups

The most important part of the VNV was the uniformed militia--the Dietsche Militie (DM). The youth movement was the DMS. Flemish youth leaders, to stress the goal of union with the Netherlands, had the Dutch colors as part of their cap badge. Flemish boys were exhorted to emulate the exploits of Dutch heroes. This included leaders like the Protestant Prince of Orange--a novel ideal for devoutly Catholic Flemish boys. Hitler was not to favorably disposed toward such a union (which ideally would include German Friesland. Dutch and Flemish NAZIs were forbidden to associate. I have little information on the uniforms worn by the DMS. Some poor quality photographs of the girls showing dark dresses or dark jackers and skirts, white blouses, and white kneesocks. I have no information on the boys uniforms.

Figure 3.--The Flemish Wacht Brigade in April 1944 formed an ancillery formation to guard Luftwaffe instalations in Belgium. The Kadettenkorps, also called the Jongerenkorps, consisted of Flemish youngsters 15-18 years of age. The wore the Hitler Youth winter uniform with the black lion of Flanders on a yellow shield on their left cuff.

Flemish Hitler Youth

Hitler Youth units existed in Belgium even before the German occupation. They were for the children of German residents. These were augmented by 1943 by some families evacuated from Germany bcause of allied air raids. Hitler Youth officials in the summer of 1943 established a Hitler Youth Flanders which Flemish youth could join. Members appeared to have been mostly boys whose parents worked for or with the German Occuation authorities and those with extremely right-wing political affliliations. The Devlag was a pre-war cultural group aimed at fomenting Flemish-German friendship, but developed into a poltical group. It operated a National Socialist (NAZI) school in Antwerp. Many of these boys were in November 1943 handed over to the Hitler Youth Flanders. Their Hitler Youth Flanders uniforms were identical to that of the German Hitler Youth except that they wore a badge on their left cuff-the black lion of Flanders on a yellow shield. In addition, the unit triangle worn by all Hitler Youth formations on the upper left arm had 'Hitlerjugend/Vlaanderen'. In contrast, the German units in Flanders had 'HJ/Flanderen'. The Llion of Flanders and the word Vlaandern was cairred in the upper left corner of the swastica flag. There appears to have been fights between the Belgian DMS or Hitler Youth boys and the Scouts.

Cadet Corps

The VNV (NAZI approved Flemish collaboranist party) was pressured by the Germans to play a more active role on the defense of Flanders as the Allied approached in 1944. The VNV decide to allow teenage boys to join the Vlaamsche Wacht. The Kadettenkorps (Cadet Corps) was created in April 1944, as the junior unit of the Vlaamsche Wacht. The Vlaamsche Wacht was a Flemish Guard unit, created by the Germans in May 1942 to help the Gendarmerie (police) keep internal order. The Kadettenkorps, also called the Jongerenkorps, consisted of Flemish youngsters 15-18 years of age. The Kadettenkorps boys wore the Hitler Youth winter uniform with the black lion of Flanders on a yellow shield on their left cuff, a slightly different design than that worn by Hitler Youth Flanders. As a cap badge they wore a version of the Vlaamsche Fabriekwacht cap badge--a sea mew holding the VNV triangle-in-a-circle emblem in its claws. The Kadettenkorps became the Flemish equivalent of the Hitler Youth Flak helpers. They served on Luftwaffe airbases throughout Flanders. Their duties included manning anti-aircraft guns, search lights, and a variety of other assignments.


After liberation, Belgium was more severe with its collaborationists than any other country except Norway. About 4,170 death sentences were passed for military collaboration, but only 230 were carried out. Less clear was what happened to the boys joining the collaborationist youth organizations. These boys were not procecuted, but they and their families must have had a hard time after liberation. There were no doubt scores to be settled.

Figure 4.--This boy wears the summer uniform of Les Serments de la Jeunesse Rexiste. Notice the organization's cloth badge worn on the left breast pocket. It consists of a double-headed eagle on a white shield, white burgandy cross, on green background. Note the Scout-like kerchief and the Hitler Youth-like leather shoulder belt.


The Rexist Organization collaborated with the Germans and thus was supported by German occupation authorities. The NAZIs in May 1941 declared the waning Rexist Party to be the only authorized political party in Wallonie, just as at the same time they declared the VNV to be the only authorized political movement in Flanders. The Rexists in Wallonie, despite their greater political success, was much more of a one-man show than the VNV in Flanders. The much narroer political base was probably because the Waloons had no political greviences and desire for autonomy as was the case in Flanders. Perhaps because of their small numbers, the Rexists maintained a grandiose facade. Initially to stress their Roman Cathloic affiliation the Rexists took as their symbol the cross and crown conbined with the word "Rex". During the occupation, they adopted a new device--the cross of Burgandy colored red. This is the ragged twigs or branches in the form of a St. Andrew's cross. This emblem had been that of Charles V, Duke of Burgandy and Holy Roman Emperor, who like Hitler had dominated central Europe in his day.

Les Serments de la Jeunesse Rexiste

Les Serments de la Jeunesse Rexiste, (The Youth Branch) of the Rexist Party, was a voluntary movement for boys and girls 6-18 years of age. At age 18, boys were expected to join the Rexist Formations de Combat. The Rexists claimed that the Serments had 3,000 members, but their rallies never mustered more tham 1,000 boys and girls. The group were a green-shirted uniform. Officers and boys wore on the upper left arm a small shield with the arms of their province. Above this they wore a shoulder flash with the name of the actual location of their unit. This was preceeded by the letters "J.S." (Jeunesse Serments) or in the case of the older boys "S." (Serments). A unit located in the Brussels suburn of Laeken, for example, would wear in red letters, "J.S. LAEKEN". Both boys and girls wore shoulder straps, green forvboys and black for girls. Young boys belonging to Jeunesse Serments could after passing a 3 months probation program wear on their right breast pocket the "rune of honor". These devices were based on the aincient Nordic writing. (Runic letters were all made up of straight lines which could be easily carved.) The letters could be white or red according to the nature of their enlistments. The older boys (Chevaliers) wore on their left breast pocket the Burgundian Cross, in white or black--again depending on enlistment. The text of their orders are not known, but white appears to have been a less regular form of enlistment than red. Boys were to wear silver and gold stars abive their right breast pocket for long service, but the organization did not last long enough for this. The Prévôt (Leader) and founder of Les Serments de la Jeunesse Rexiste was John Hagemans. He was a former Dinaso youth leader. (Dinaso was a pre-War Fascist party.) Hageman volunteered for military service with the Walloon Legion and was killed in action on the Eastern Front. He was replaced by Roger Dutherme.

Jeunesse Légionnaire

The Rexists disolved the Serments in March 1943 and replaced it with a more broadly based organization, the Jeunesse Légionnaire which embraced the youth movement of not only the Rex, but also of Agra and CWW. (These were fanatical pro-German factions that were created after the 1941 edict establishing the Rexist Party as the sole permitted party. Agra and the CWW kept up a fiction that they were cultural groups.) The children did not need to be connected to the Rexist Party, as had been the case of the Serments de la Jeunesse Rexiste. In theory the Jeunesse Légionnaire was non political. In practice it was purely Rexist. The boys' summer uniform consisted of the same green shirt worn by Les Serments de la Jeunesse Rexiste. They wore a cloth badge on their left breast pocket. The badge consists of a double-headed eagle on a white shield, white burgandy cross, on green background. The same badge, in colored emamel, was worn as lapel badge with civilian clothes. The summer uniform presumably consisted of short pants, but I'm not sure what color. The boys' winter uniform looked similar to the Hitler Youth long pants winter uniform, but worn with the Jeunesse Légionnaire pocket badge. Girls wore a white shirt with green neckerchiefs and green skirts.


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Created: April 22, 2000
Last updated: 11:21 PM 5/9/2014