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Collection description :
In March 2007, the Archives section began prospecting for the "Idée belge et anti-séparatisme". Hoping to highlight the archival heritage of movements and associations that have worked for the country's unity since the Second World War, the project has achieved results that have exceeded the initial expectations.
The year 2007 was certainly marked by the difficult formation of a government after the elections of June 10. This institutional crisis has given rise to concerns about the future of the country, which has resulted in a series of initiatives aimed at expressing this anguish of separatism and at defending the solidarity between the two parts of the country.
In fact, such demonstrations have occurred in every major community conflict, particularly in the 1960s or in the 1975-1995 period, following multiple state reforms. Sometimes born out of individual initiatives, they most often come from a network of organizations claiming to be apolitical but whose aim is to defend the country's unity.
Wishing to shed light on the story of this little-known actor, the Centre launched the project "Idée belge et anti-séparatisme". This intentionally broad title has made it possible to explore the full diversity of pro-Belgian sentiments (Unitarianism; union federalism; provincial federalism; patriotism; attachment to the monarchy; colonialism; nationalism...). In total, some fifteen archival and documentation collections have been acquired to date as part of this prospecting.
Most of them are personal archives of members or leaders of these organizations [Jean Marie Dewulf (AA 2052); Pierre Houart (AA 2067); Olivier Coene (AA 2073); Frank Ödberg (AA 2075); Jean Solé (AA 2078); Luc Rijckaert (AA 2086); Michel Breydel de Groeninghe (AA 2101); Jean-Pierre de Crayencour (AA 2102)]. The papers of these people highlight the continuity of their action through various parties or associations since the 1950s, as well as their involvement in cultural circles and think tanks. They also make it possible to observe the influences of other contemporary ideological trends (pacifism, antifascism, anti-communism, ecologism, third world...) on pro-Belgian movements and their conceptions of the nation.
Other collections have reached us directly from organizations concerned with preserving their archives. This was the case for Pro Belgica (AA 2088), a patriotic and monarchist association created in 1975 by Prince François de Mérode and then successively chaired by Generals Emile Janssens and Jules Everaert, then by Princess Rosalie de Mérode. We have also received the archives of the Flame Committee (AA 2104) which, since its creation in 1951, has been managing all demonstrations at the “Monument du Soldat inconnu” (Unknown Soldier Monument). These two associations of remembrance offer a very complete archive, which indicates the importance of sites of memory for these movements.
Finally, let us emphasize the place of veterans' associations in the anti-separatist movement. The experience of the war period and the aspirations for a liberated Belgium have created a particular image of the country in their minds. Their archives show in particular how the fraternities have mobilized for the recognition and improvement of the status of their members through an exceptionally patriotic discourse (National Union of War Escapees (AA 2063); United Belgians (AA 2074)).
Now, the content of these archives can be linked to other related collections, already kept at CegeSoma, and will make it possible to better understand this heterogeneous movement and more generally the Belgian associative network of the second half of the 20th century. We also hope that this momentum will inspire other individuals and organizations to entrust our institution with their archives.
For more information :
- Cahier d'Histoire du Temps Présent, n°3, Bruxelles, Soma-Ceges, 1997.
- Francis Balace, Gaston Braive et Alain Colignon [et alii], De l'avant à l'après-guerre. L'extrême droite en Belgique francophone, Bruxelles, De Boeck, Collection Politique et Histoire, 1993.