ACQUISITION – Archives of the Witte Brigade
An Essential Collection for the History of the Resistance in Flanders
The Witte Brigade (Fidelio) is the only resistance movement of a national dimension founded in Flanders. Its archives have recently been donated to our institution. They are all the more precious because they cover not only the post-war but also the occupation period. Furthermore, a detailed inventory has been made which greatly facilitates accessibility.
Meeting of the Borgerhout section of the Witte Brigade, without a doubt shortly after the Liberation
The Witte Brigade was founded on 23 July 1940 during a meeting which brought together a number of friends of teacher and reserve officer Marcel Louette (1907-1978). They were members of the Jonge Geuzenwacht, an organization presided by Louette. Recruiting was first done among the acquaintances of the founders, but was rapidly extended to the administrations of the city, the port and the police. In 1940, the movement was only present in Antwerp and its immediate surrounding areas, but from 1941 onwards it gained members in the rest of Flanders, in particular the provinces of Antwerp, Brabant and East Flanders. There were also a few groups in Brussels and Wallonia.
A Multifaceted Resistance , a Late but Ferocious Repression
The organization mostly engaged in non-violent actions, such as the printing and distribution of clandestine press, the gathering and circulation of intelligence, the creation of escape lines for allied airmen, the aid to Jews and to persons trying to avoid forced labour in Germany. Its armed activities were limited to small sabotage actions and a few attacks on collaborators. The repression which hit the organisation particularly hard from November 1943 and which resulted in the arrest of 700 members, including Marcel Louette in May 1944, prevented that the organization played a significant role during the Liberation.
Recognition Procedures, Patriotic and Social Action
In the immediate post-war period, the organization tried to obtain recognition for its members as armed resistance fighters. This recognition was given to 3,305 persons. Via the recognition procedure of the Witte Brigade, some 900 members of the Kempisch Legioen were also acknowledged. This organisation was mostly active in the Kempen and Limburg, and only received a national and thus autonomous status in 1961. In April 1946, the non-profit organization Witte Brigade (Fidelio) was created to uphold the spirit of patriotism dear to the movement and to defend the moral- and material interests of the members. Finally, in June 1953, the private limited liability company Marcel Louette was founded to provide a holiday location for the members of the movement and their children.
Meeting of an association of former resistance fighters in the immediate after-war period. The speaker is probably Hubert Halin; at his left another major figure of the after-war patriotic world, Luc Somerhausen.
The inventory made by our former colleague Jan Laplasse gives a good overview of the contents of the collection, and also greatly facilitates accessibility. However, two important points must be made. First, two boxes of photographs and slides are not included in the inventory. Second, the personal files of the members of the Witte Brigade (Fidelio) are temporarily kept at the seat of the Witte Brigade (Fidelio) in Antwerp. The collection consists of some twenty linear meters, and is divided in four sub-sections (AA 2495 to AA 2498). For the study of the resistance in occupied Belgium one can use the documents dating from the period itself (AA 2495/656-846) as well as the personal files of the members of the Kempisch Legioen (AA 2495/4745-5627). The thousands of other files are a rich testimony to the place of the resistance in Flemish society after September 1944.
1. Jan Laplasse, Inventarissen van de archieven van de gewapende verzetsgroep Witte Brigade (Fidelio), de vzw Witte Brigade (Fidelio), de pvba home Marcel Louette en het persoonlijk archief Marcel Louette, Antwerpen, 2001 (CEGES BA L 4.7.FID/1).