Camille Huysmans


Portrait of Camille HuysmansJean Joseph Camille Huysmans (1871-1968, born as Camiel Hansen) was a Belgian socialist politician.


Huysmans studied German philology at the University of Liege. He was a teacher from 1893 until 1897. During this time he studied for his doctorate in German philology. He joined the Belgische Werkliedenpartij (BWP, Belgian Worker's Party), the predecessor of the Belgische Socialistische Partij (BSP, Belgian Socialist Party) at a young age. He became a journalist for many socialist periodicals until 1904 en was thereafter active in the labour unions.


Between 1905 and 1922 Huysmans was secretary of the Second International. In that function he had many contacts with Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the first Chinese revolution, in 1911. His main task was creating an active peace function. At the Socialist Conference in Stockholm in 1917 he pleaded against continuing the war.


As secretary he corresponded with Lenin from 1905 to 1914. These letters were published in 1963.


Huysmans in Stockholm 1917He was a fighter for the Flemish movement and fought for using Dutch at the University of Ghent. As Minister of Arts and Education (1925-1927) he could pave the way for the Dutch language. As early as 1911 he proposed a bill, drafted by Lodewijk De Raet, together with the Roman Catholic Frans Van Cauwelaert and the liberal Louis Franck for the usage of Flemish at the University of Ghent. However, due to World War I, the University of Ghent didn't become a Flemish university until 1930.


His political career started as a councillor in Brussels (1908-1921). He then became schepen (alderman) in Antwerp (1921-1933), mayor of Antwerp (1933-1940 and 1944-1946) and councillor there (1946-1968). At the same time he was a member of the Lower House of Parliament (1910-1965) and two times its chairman (1936-1939 and 1954-1958), the last time at the age of 83.


In World War II he fled to London. He regained the function as secretary of the Socialist International between 1939 and 1944, also as acting chairman. After WWII (in 1945, at age 75) he became Prime Minister and led a government of socialists, liberals and communists. With an insufficient majority, this government lasted not long. In the next government, he was Minister of Education.


As minister of Education he led the Belgian delegations to the UNESCO conferences in Mexico (November 1947) and Beirut (November 1948). In Beirut Huysmans was also chairman of the Credentials Committee.


He remained very popular until old age. The national tribute for his 80th birthday attracted 100.000 visitors. Huysmans was a freemason, and a member of the lodge "Les Amis Philanthropes" of the Grand Orient of Belgium in Brussels.



Stamp catalogue


Belgium                               14 November 1970









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last revised: 1 March 2010