Albert De Vleeschauwer

Albert De Vleeschauwer, later Baron Albert De Vleeschauwer van Braekel, (1 January 1897, Nederbrakel – 24 February 1971, Kortenberg) was a Belgian politician of the Catholic Party.[1]

De Vleeschauwer served as Catholic deputy for the Leuven area from 1932 until 1960. He was Minister of the Colonies from March 1938 to February 1945 (briefly interrupted in 1939). During World War II, he also served as Minister of Justice (October 1940 – October 1942) and Minister of Public Education (October 1942 – September 1944) in addition, as part of the Belgian government in exile. After the war he served as Minister of the Interior from 1949–50 and Minister of Agriculture from 1958–60.

Early career

Albert de Vleeschauwer joined the Belgian Army straight from school in 1916. After the war he took both a law degree and a degree in philosophy at the University of Louvain. He became a lawyer in 1924 and also joined the research department of the Boerenbond, the Catholic Farmers' Union. In 1926 he became its head and in 1928 was appointed lecturer at the University’s Agricultural Department. He served as chef de cabinet to Hendrik Baels, the Minister of Agriculture, in 1929–1930 and began his political career in 1932 when he was elected member of parliament for Leuven. He had an outspoken Christian democrat profile as one of the founders of the Katholieke Vlaamsche Volkspartij in 1936 .[2] In May 1938 he joins Paul-Henri Spaak’s tripartite coalition government, replacing his colleague Edmond Rubens after the latter’s unexpected death.

Second World War

After the German invasion of Belgium in May 1940, the most of the Belgian government fled to Paris and Limoges while the Colonial Ministry went straight to Bordeaux. On June 15 the Belgian cabinet decided to continue the war in Britain but did not carry out its decision. Instead it followed the French government to Bordeaux. In a cabinet meeting on June 18, the three ministers expressed the desire to flee to London to continue the war: Camille Gutt, Albert de Vleeschauwer and Marcel-Henri Jaspar. Jaspar left for London that very day, without the consent of his colleagues and was officially thrown out of the cabinet.

On 18 June 1940, the Belgian government issued a decree that gave de Vleeschauwer full legislative and executive power to manage the Congo as administrator-general.[3] The decree also stated that if the minister was unable to fulfill his office, that power would be passed on to the governor-general, Pierre Ryckmans. De Vleeschauwer was given the title of Administrateur Général des Colonies with the mission, and full powers, to protect the Congo’s interests abroad.

He left for Lisbon on 19 June and met up, unexpectedly, with Fernand Vanlangenhove, Secretary General of Foreign Affairs. Vanlangenhove had refused to return to Brussels and had been given an unspecified mission by Spaak, with the rank of ambassador. On their arrival in Lisbon they send a telegram to all the heads of Belgian Diplomatic Missions and to the Governor-General of the Congo, announcing that a legally mandated member of the government was out of reach of the enemy and that their loyalty remained to the official government. On receipt of this message the Belgian ambassador in London, Emile de Cartier de Marchienne, warned de Vleeschauwer that Jaspar, together with Camille Huysmans, chairman of the Socialist International, was attempting to establish his own "free" government in London. De Vleeschauwer flew to London on July 4, where he was received by Lord Halifax (5 July) and by Winston Churchill (8 July) and offered them the full support of the Belgian Congo, provided they refuse to back Jaspar's initiative. He met with Churchill and declared that he was 'delivering' the Congo to him.[4]

In his capacity as Minister for the Colonies and as Administrator-general of the Belgian Congo, he placed the entire production of all raw materials at the disposition of Great Britain in the war against Nazi Germany.[5]

While accepting, Churchill expresses the wish to see the official Belgian government leave established in London. De Vleeschauwer promised to do the utmost and leaves London on 16 July for Lisbon. Poor communications and French interference cause considerable delay and it is only on August 2 that de Vleeschauwer managed to meet Hubert Pierlot, Paul-Henri Spaak and Camille Gutt on the French–Spanish border at the Col du Perthus. He succeeded in persuading Pierlot and Spaak. Gutt, already intending to leave and already with the required visa, accompanied de Vleeschauwer back to London, where they arrived on 8 August. Pierlot and Spaak return to Vichy to convince their colleagues to resign. After succeeding at a last cabinet meeting (25 August), the two ministers leave France on 27 August. They will reach London only on 22 October after an adventurous escape from their confinement in Barcelona. On 31 October, the four ministers hold their first cabinet meeting in London.

De Vleeschauwer traveled to the Congo in December 1940, returning in March 1941. At this time the decision is taken to commit Congolese troops to the British campaign against the Italians in Abyssinia. They left Congo for the Sudan in March, from where they entered Abyssinia and took the towns of Asosa and Saïo in May. A medical unit also participated in the Madagascan landings and fighting in Burma. In May 1942 De Vleeschauwer made a second trip to Congo. The American government started its Manhattan project also in 1942 and conducted negotiations concerning the supply of uranium from the main Congolese mining company Union Minière du Haut Katanga. These were only finalized on the day the Belgian government returned to Brussels on 8 September 1944.[6]

Post war years

As a staunch monarchist, after leaving the government in February 1945 De Vleeschauwer committed himself to the defence of King Leopold and campaigned vigorously for his return to the throne. When his party gained a majority in the elections of 1949, he entered the first Gaston Eyskens cabinet as Minister of the Interior. The succeeding government led by Jean Duvieusart failed in its attempt to restore the King to his throne and resigned after settling for an abdication in favour of his son Baudouin (August 1950). De Vleeschauwer joins the government one last time (Eyskens II) in June 1958. This cabinet granted independence to Congo in July 1960. The political turmoil that followed became fatal to De Vleeschauwer. A Belgian court case unexpectedly connected him to a Léopoldville bankruptcy dating back to 1956. De Vleeschauwer resigned in November 1960 and had to wait till May 1964 before he was cleared of all the charges brought against him.



  1. Albert de Vleeschauwer; Belgian Information Center (New York, N.Y.) (1943). Belgian colonial policy. The Belgian Information Center. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  2. Bert Govaerts. Ik Alleen. Houteketiet. p. 122. ISBN 978-90-8924-209-9.
  3. Guy Vanthemsche (30 April 2012). Belgium and the Congo, 1885–1980. Cambridge University Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-521-19421-1. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  4. Martin Conway; José Gotovitch (2001). Europe in Exile: European Exile Communities in Britain, 1940–1945. Berghahn Books. p. 49. ISBN 978-1-57181-503-3. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  5. Herman Van der Wee; Monique Verbreyt (2009). A Small Nation in the Turmoil of the Second World War: Money, Finance and Occupation (Belgium, Its Enemies, Its Friends, 1939–1945). Leuven University Press. p. 232. ISBN 978-90-5867-759-4. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  6. J. E. Helmreich (1983). in: Recueil d'Etudes Le Congo Belge durant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale The Uranium Negotiations of 1944. Académie Royale des Sciences d'Outre-Mer Brussels. p. 273.
  7. "ODIS".

Further reading

  • Govaerts, Bert (2012). Ik alleen! Een biografie van Albert De Vleeschauwer (1897–1971). Antwerp: Houtekiet,Linkeroever Uitgevers. ISBN 9789089242099.

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