Over at the Gates of Vienna, Baron Bodissey, posts one of the most thoroughly documented refutations of the charges being made by Little Green Footballs proprietor, Charles Johnson, concerning the use of the Celtic Cross by Belgium’s patriotic, separatist party, the Vlaams Belang.
What has been up until now, a hatchet job of baseless accusations –being leveled at both Filip Dewinter and the party he heads, the Vlaams Belang– shows signs of coming to an end. The Baron sets the stage:
“There are many simple geometric symbols that resonate deeply with the human psyche. Examples include the circle, the sunburst, the swastika, various spirals, the cross, and other radially symmetrical designs. Neuropsychologists have confirmed what Carl Jung intuited a century ago: these basic geometric designs are hard-wired in the human brain, interacting via the visual cortex with symbolic representations buried deep in the regions of the brain where the primal responses to stimuli are rage, awe, and fear.
I mention all this background because the pagan version of the solar cross known as Odin’s Cross, and its Christian successor, the Celtic Cross, have been cited as evidence that the Flemish separatist party Vlaams Belang is a white supremacist organization.
There is no dispute that Odin’s Cross has been used as a white power symbol in Europe. But that usage is a recent and minor development, and is hardly the only purpose to which the solar cross has been put. The design can be found in a wide variety of contexts, both pagan and Christian, throughout Europe.
It is interesting to see how assumptions can lead to baseless accusations when both context and a factual rendering of the historical record is lacking, like the use of the Finnish swastika by the Finnish defense forces during WWII. The Finns incorporated the use of that symbol into their nascent air force way back in 1918 during their civil war against the Finnish Communists. The Swedish count Eric von Rosen gave the Finnish White government its second aircraft with the swastika symbol painted on it for good luck.
But anyways, lets get back to the future. The Baron then turns his pages over to ProFlandria to provide context to the present day use of the Celtic Cross by Flemish nationalists, like the Vlaams Belang.
“I asked a Flemish team headed by ProFlandria to look into the Celtic Cross as it is used by Vlaams Belang and in other contexts in Flanders and the rest of Europe. Here’s what he had to say:”
We’re going to descend into some arcana of World War One lore here, but bear with us — it’s worth it. As a quick note to any who try to follow our breadcrumbs: The text below contains multiple references to the river “Yser”. Today, the modern Dutch spelling is “Ijzer” — but the older spelling is identical to the French one (even now), and all English-language publications will use the older/French spelling. Googlers beware…
We discovered the Flemish WW1 headstone designed by Joe English [shown at right]. The design came about as an initiative from the Flemish nationalists entrenched at the Yser front lines. The intent was to provide a memorial in the soldiers’ own language, as an alternative to the French-only design which was the official Belgian government design. Several variants of the “official” design (black crosses) are visible in the attachment [seen below]; the caption on the photo reads: “ADINKERKE — Cemetery of the Brave Belgians”.
The Joe English design is in the shape of a Celtic Cross. The vertical bar is inscribed “AVV”, the horizontal bar “VVK”. The acronyms stand for “Allen Voor Vlaanderen” (All For Flanders) and “Vlaanderen Voor Kristus” (Flanders For Christ). This was the slogan of the Catholic Flemish students. The tombstone proper has the following inscription: “Hier liggen hun lijken als zaden in ‘t zand / Hoop op den oogst O Vlaanderland” (Here lie their bodies like seeds in the sand / Hope for the harvest O Flanderland). Above the verse is an outline of a seagull, symbol of the Flemish Students’ Movement. On the other hand, the “official” Belgian government designs all included the caption “Mort Pour La Patrie” (Died for the Fatherland).
For the purpose of our original puzzle, however, the important fact is that the Celtic Cross was used here as a Christian symbol. Moreover, any theory that its use by Flemish nationalists at that time implies a “white power” symbolism can be easily refuted by looking at the official government memorials: several of those are also Celtic Crosses. Indeed, it is not the design of the headstone’s Cross that determines the Flemish nationalist “content”, but the inscriptions upon it.
Therefore, we can propose the following reasonable hypothesis. Joe English may or may not have chosen the Celtic Cross specifically because of his Irish background, but the basic shape appears to have been unremarkable in its use as a burial symbol — its use by the Belgian government for one of their official war memorial designs attests to this. However, by adding the Flemish nationalism-inspired inscriptions the complete design became a symbol for the movement.
When the Service for Military Gravestones crushed more than half — over 500 — to build a gravel road in 1925 their symbolic power would only have increased. This link is a general reference to the events; the government agency that destroyed some of the headstones is named on a Dutch-only page. The Yser Tower, designed as a peace monument, was also intended to protect the gravesites. The first Tower was destroyed by “unknown persons” in a bombing in 1946 (likely with Belgian state collusion), but the crypt survived and it still houses some of the headstones and the bodies they marked.
The hypothesis above explains the Celtic Cross as the symbol of Flemish nationalism during and after the First World War. It would be reasonable to suggest that the political inheritors of the original World War One movement would see the plain Celtic Cross as a simplified representative of the Joe English headstone design. The Flemish movement’s adoption of the Celtic Cross predates any later “white power” uses, and it has no relation to it.
Here’s a slightly different account, from another source:
In 1914, when World War I broke out, king Albert I appealed to the pride of the Flemish population to defend the country. ‘People of Flanders,’ he said ‘remember the Battle of the Golden Spurs’. But because he was well aware that Flanders was considered after the French speaking part, he promised Flanders ‘equality in right and fact’… after the war.
Many thousands of Flemish boys were drafted or volunteered. For four long years, they lived, like all soldiers in the misery of mud and danger. In the Westhoek more people fell in battle than there had ever lived before…
In the army, the majority of the soldiers was Flemish, while almost all officers were French speaking. On top of that, the Flemish had to face humiliation and oppression, exactly because they were Flemish.
The protest following this treatment lead to the Front Movement. Its immediate goals were the protection and the stimulation of Flemish consciousness. The movement was prohibited and had to go underground. Then, the Flemish soldiers opened their threefold plan: self-government for Flanders, no more war and peace among all people, no matter their conviction. Nowadays this is translated: freedom, peace, tolerance.
All Belgian soldiers who fell, including the numerous Flemish boys, were given an official tombstone with the French inscription ‘Mort pour la Patrie’. To give the Flemish a Flemish tombstone, in 1916, the ‘Comité voor Heldenhulde’ (committee for hero’s tribute) was founded. With the money they collected among the Flemish soldiers, they created the famous ‘Heldenhuldezerkjes’: a cross with the inscription AVV-VVK (Alles voor Vlaanderen — Vlaanderen voor Kristus: All for Flanders — Flanders for Christ).
This proved to be a thorn in the eyes of some enemies of the Flemish Movement. Even before armistice, a number of tombstones were painted over, and in 1925 more than 500 ‘Heldenhuldezerkjes = Flemish tombstones’ were smashed.
The gist of the whole article is that some Americans (and others elsewhere) have embarked on a roller coaster ride of libel and smearing, –in spite of whatever good intentions that they may have had at the time– that has only served to obfuscate AND BLACKBALL a nationalist movement that has been traditionally hounded by the French speaking Belgian Walloon politicians.
These politicians have every reason in the world to paint the opposition in the worst possible light in order to limit their appeal and political momentum. Being on the receiving end of the gravy train of Flemish productivity, has taught the French Walloon politicians to engage in whatever dirty machinations possible to ensure both their financial and political survival.
It’s highly unfortunate that the conservative blogosphere has been taken in so easily by the Left, the Belgian French speaking Left that is, who are more than willing to provide ample photos of symbols that they KNOW VERY WELL will smear their opposition. That’s the reason for the amazing lack of context surrounding them.
I now hope that the Walloon’s agenda has been exposed enough to allow for the counter-jihad to resume on track. Too much time has been wasted already. My thanks to both the Baron and ProFlanderia for supplying the proper context to the issue of these symbols. *L* KGS