File of ‘La Libre Belgique’ Now in New York

The daring, revolutionary, and anti-authoritarian Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique [The Free Belgium] was published during World War I — its authors and location a state of almost complete mystery.

As this 1918 article details:

“Since the beginning of 1915 this small four-page sheet has been published, almost weekly, ‘somewhere in Belgium,’ in defiance of the Germans and despite their vigorous and persistent efforts to suppress it. Its publishers have not been caught, though hundreds of arrests have been made ‘on suspicion.’ Huge fines have been imposed and long terms in jail endured by those apprehended with it in their possession, but the source of its being, the presses from which it emanates, the ‘cave automobile’ in which it is published, and the daring spirits who first gave it life and who have maintained it under ever-increasing danger are still as free as when the enterprise began in February, 1915.”

The paper was published 56 times in 1915, 48 times in 1916, and 11 times in the first three months of 1917, for a total of 115. A copy of every issue during that entire run was snuck out and brought to America by the Catholic priest Father Jean Baptiste De Ville while in Belgium, at great risk to his own life.

Their operating creed was laid out through a piece published in the publication’s very first issue:

“La Libre Belgique will live in a cave, and propagate, like Catholicism, in the catacombs. It will live in spite of persecution and official censure because it shall tell the truth, and because there is something stronger than might, stronger than Kultur [culture], something stronger than the Germans — the truth! And Belgium is the soil of truth and liberty.”

What happened to this newspaper? It ultimately published 171 issues during the war (115 by the time of this article), and still lives on today with a 35,500 daily print circulation in Belgium, plus more than 1 million online visitors.

File of “La Libre Belgique” Now in New York: Banker Has Bought It from a Priest Whom the German Invaders Could Not Prevent from Collecting Copies of Secretly Issued Newspaper

Published Sunday, March 10, 1918

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