Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Leon Degrelle was already known as the leader of the anti-Establishment Rexist party in Belgium, and as Europe’s youngest and most dynamic political figure. During the war he became known across the continent for his charismatic leadership and courage in combat on the Eastern Front. Of him Hitler reportedly said: “If I were to have a son, I would want him to be like Degrelle.”
With an awareness that the looming great clash would determine the long-term future of their native countries and of the West, thousands of young men across Europe pledged their lives for a better future in a united Europe, and volunteered for combat against the Soviets.
They joined the ranks of the Waffen SS – the military and ideological shock troops of the new Europe. This first-ever truly European armed force would grow to nearly a million men. About 400,000, a minority of the total, were Germans from the Reich. Most of those who will fill the scores of Waffen SS divisions – including Degrelle and the other Légion Wallonie volunteers from Belgium’s French-speaking region – were Europeans from outside of Germany.