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Leon Degrelle, 87; Nazis' Top Belgian Collaborator

April 03, 1994|From Times Wire Services

MALAGA, Spain — Leon Degrelle, Belgium's foremost Nazi collaborator and the man Adolf Hitler once praised as "the ideal son," has died.

He died Thursday in Spain, almost 40 years after his native country sentenced him to death. He was 87.

Degrelle, who founded a fascist party and rode it to electoral success in the 1930s, headed the Walloon Legion, a Belgian unit in the German army during the war.

Degrelle was condemned to death for collaboration in 1944, but escaped to Spain and the protection of right-wing leader Gen. Francisco Franco. Belgium tried to kidnap him a year later but failed.

Degrelle was naturalized in 1954 and his new Spanish citizenship effectively ruled out his extradition to Belgium.

He denied the existence of the Holocaust, in which more than 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis before and during World War II.

After Hitler's army invaded Belgium in May, 1940, Degrelle actively collaborated with the Nazis and founded the Walloon Legion in 1941, which fought the Soviet Communists on the Eastern Front. The legion was integrated into the Waffen SS in 1943.

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