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Camille Huysmans

Jean Joseph Camille Huysmans (26 May 1871 in Bilzen - 23 February 1968 in Antwerp, born as Camiel Hansen) was a Flemish-Belgian politician.

Huymans studied German philology at the University of Liege. He was a teacher from 1893 until 1897. In between these years he studied for his doctorate in German philology.

Huysmans joined the Belgische Werkliedenpartij (BWP), the predecessor of the Belgische Socialistische Partij (BSP) at a young age. He became a journalist for many socialist periodicals until 1904 and was thereafter active in the labor 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.

He was a fighter for the flemish movement and fought for using Dutch at the University of Ghent. As Minister of Arts and Education he could pave the way for the Dutch language. In 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 would become a Flemish university in 1930.

In World War II he fled to London. He regained the function as secretary between 1939 and 1944, also as acting chairman. After WWII (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.

He remained very popular until old age. The national tribute for his 80th birthday attracted 100,000 visitors. At the age of 83 he became chairman of the Chamber of Representatives (lower house). He was a freemason, and a member of the lodge Les Amis Philanthropes of the Grand Orient of Belgium in Brussels.

Huysmans is considered a friend of the Jewish people and the Zionist movement. Some streets and neighbourhoods in Israel bear his name.


  • councillor in Brussels (1908-1921)
  • education Schepen of Antwerp (1921-1933)
  • mayor of Antwerp (1933-1940 and 1944-1946)
  • councillor in Antwerp (1946-1968)
  • member of the lower house (1910-1965)
  • chairman of the lower house (1936-1939 and 1954-1958)
  • Minister of Arts and Education (1925-1927)
  • Prime Minister (1946-1947)
  • Minister of Education (1947-1949)

Correspondence with Lenin

In his first term as secretary of the Second International he corresponded with Lenin between 1905 and 1914. The letters were published in 1963.

Political offices
Preceded by
Achille Van Acker
Prime Minister of Belgium
Succeeded by
Paul-Henri Spaak
Preceded by
Frans Van Cauwelaert
Mayor of Antwerp
Succeeded by
Leo Delwaide
Preceded by
Emile Van Put
Mayor of Antwerp
Succeeded by
Willem Eekelers


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