Paul-Henri Spaak


portrait of Paul-Henri SpaakPaul-Henri Spaak (1899-1972) was a Belgian statesman and socialist leader. His mother was Belgium's first woman senator and from her he inherited his interest in socialism. During the first World War he was captures by the Germans and imprisoned for two years.


After the war he studied jurisprudence at Brussels University, became a barrister and later took an active part in politics. In 1932 he was elected member of parliament for Brussels for the Socialist Party.


Shortly after he became minister of Transportation and PTT (1935), minister for Foreign Affairs (1936) and Prime Minister (1938-1939). At the outbreak of World War II he was again called on to become Foreign Minister. Before the war he was a delegate to the Assembly of the League of Nations five times.


Paul-Henri Spaak addressing the UN General AssemblyAfter the German invasion of his country he was interned for a time in France and Spain, but later reached England and resumed his duties as Foreign Minister with the Belgian Government In London in October 1940.


In national politics after the war, he was again Prime Minister two times (1946 and 1947-1949) and Foreign Minister (1954-1957 and 1961-1966). Spaak was also president of the Royal Belgian Academy of French Language and Literature.


Spaak also had a distinguished international career. He was head of the Belgian delegation to the San Francisco Conference and to the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations. He was elected vice-chairman of this Commission. On 16 January 1946 he was elected first President of the General Assembly of the United Nations.


In 1949 he was chairman of the first session of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe and from 1954 to 1953 president of the General Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community. In 1956 he was chosen by the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to succeed Lord Ismay as Secretary-General.


Paul-Henri Spaak decorated by John F. Kennedy, 21 February 1961On 21 February 1961 US president John F. Kennedy decorated Spaak with the Medal of Freedom.


At the United Nations, Paul-Henri Spaak is remembered for addressing the delegation of the Soviet Union during the third General Assembly in Paris with the words: "Messieurs, nous avons peur de vous" (Sirs, we are afraid of you).



Stamp catalogue


Belgium                               18 March 1978









Up - Home



last revised: 28 March 2010