Dutch WW2 Queen ‘thought of Nazi swap for Belgian royals’


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Queen Wilhelmina (C in fur coat) spent the struggle in exile in London earlier than returning as her nation was liberated

As World Struggle Two neared an finish, Dutch Queen Wilhelmina sought a take care of the Nazis to avoid wasting the Belgian royal household, in keeping with the newly revealed diaries of her international minister.

By late March 1945, Belgium and the southern Netherlands had been liberated however Belgium’s King Leopold III was being held captive in Austria.

Leopold’s mom feared that the Nazis would homicide the household.

So Wilhelmina thought of a attainable alternate, a Dutch historian has mentioned.

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She requested her international minister in exile in London, Eelco van Kleffens, to “sound out” through the Vatican whether or not high-ranking Nazis may very well be provided an escape route in return for the Belgian royal household’s launch, says Michael Riemens who has simply revealed the minister’s diaries.

The revelations shed additional gentle on how prime Nazis had been attempting to barter their escape from Europe within the dying days of the struggle. Many high-ranking Nazis had been efficiently spirited away to Latin America, together with Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele and Klaus Barbie.

“Till now now we have by no means heard of the Dutch enjoying a job,” says Mr Riemens, whose ebook, Majesty, You do not know actual life, options the diaries.

What occurred in March 1945?

By this time, Queen Wilhelmina had returned to the liberated a part of the Netherlands and in late March travelled to Brussels to see Belgium’s queen mom, Elisabeth, and the king’s brother, Charles.

Leopold III, who had controversially stayed in Belgium throughout the Nazi occupation, was moved by the Nazis to Austria in 1944 because the allies superior and was detained there together with his second spouse, Lilian, Princess of Réthy, and his kids Joséphine-Charlotte, Baudouin and Albert.

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Leopold was despatched by the Nazis together with his household to Austria and after the struggle they went into exile in Switzerland earlier than returning dwelling years later

His mom advised Wilhelmina she was very fearful the Nazis would kill the king and his kids, Mr Riemens says. As Leopold’s brother had no kids, she would have feared for the way forward for the Belgian royal household.

The historian quotes a letter written by the Dutch queen to Britain’s King George VI, and refers back to the Belgian queen mom mentioning a attainable alternate:

“She volunteered in confidence that the Germans had been approached by way of the Purple Cross about permitting not less than the kids to go to Switzerland. The Germans answered that it might be attainable for the kids and Leopold to go to Switzerland if the Swiss prolonged related amenities to the Nazi chiefs”.

How did George VI reply?

Mr Riemens advised the BBC he discovered the response of the king to the Dutch queen’s letter within the archives of the cupboard of the queen.

26 March 1945

“Expensive cousin Wilhelmina… I’m very to listen to that cousin Elisabeth spoke to you about Leopold and the kids. As you say, we are able to by no means strike that discount with the Germans however I really feel there have to be another means of getting him free.”

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Common Historical past Archive

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King George VI was associated to the Dutch and Belgian royal households

On the identical day, Wilhelmina talks to Eelco van Kleffens and, in keeping with Mr Riemens, on 29 March he speaks to Pope Pius XII’s internuncio to The Hague (ambassador) in London and writes in his diary:

“Within the afternoon the internuncio got here at my request. I had been instructed by her majesty to ask him to share with the Pope that the king of Belgium and his kids had been in peril of being killed except the best Nazi chiefs might get asylum in a secure nation. This info within the hope that the Pope would do one thing.”

Broadcasting with the King’s microphone

What occurred subsequent?

In keeping with Michael Riemens, the Dutch envoy to the Holy See sends a report in April about papal help for the Dutch proposal, and that report is handed on by the Dutch ambassador to London, Michiels van Verduynen.

That report is lacking from the archive, and the historian says the queen was recognized to have destroyed a number of studies.

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A observe dated 21 Might 1945 within the queen’s handwriting does state her particular thanks for the Pope’s motion.

“It means the Pope did act, however there is no proof,” he says.

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Getty Pictures

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Pius XII was Pope from 1939 to 1958

The Vatican has for years come below stress to open up its personal secret archives from the struggle, and the Holy See mentioned final month it might open up the information subsequent yr.

“I believe the royals performed a job by way of this contact with the Pope and rapidly we see a really totally different queen.”

Wilhelmina was extremely regarded by the Dutch throughout the struggle for her morale-boosting radio broadcasts from exile in London. She was not solely recognized to be anti-Nazi however she was additionally thought of extremely anti-Vatican.

“There’s royalty in peril, an enormous risk to the Belgian monarch, and she or he decides to attempt utilizing the Pope,” says Michael Riemens.

1000’s of members of the Nazi SS had been in a position to flee throughout the chaos on the finish of the struggle, together with many top-ranking officers.

However in the end the Dutch queen’s intervention didn’t deliver concerning the Belgian monarch’s launch.

King Leopold was ultimately freed weeks later as US forces superior close to Salzburg. Wilhelmina abdicated in 1948 and died in 1962.

May King George have helped?

Whereas George VI was near Wilhelmina and the Dutch authorities in exile, it appears unlikely that he might have had any affect over this era on the finish of World Struggle Two.

“You possibly can see George pondering, ‘I’ve obtained a really robust relative however what can I fairly do?'” says Andrew Stewart, professor of recent battle historical past at King’s School London.

“The allies had an avowed coverage of unconditional give up. In case you are seen to barter for one determine, then why not for others?”

Queen Wilhelmina had no affect inside allied command and George VI would have needed to undergo Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt for any request to have been made, he says.

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