* 24.12.1921 Kumtich in Flandern/Belgien
+ 27.07.2006 Hagen/Westfalen
Awarded Knights Cross: 21.09.1944
as: Sturmmann Richtschütze 2./SS-Freiw.SturmBrig 6 "Langemarck
Remi Schrijnen 24 December 1921 – 27 July 2006) was a Belgian volunteer in the German army. He was a Flemish Nationalist and the only Flemish volunteer in the SS Flandern to have been awarded the German Knight's cross. He is also one of only a handful of privates to have received the Knights Cross.
Born in Kumtich on 24 December 1921, Schrijnen was a fervent Flemish Nationalist and joined the Vlaams Nationaal Verbond or VNV before the war. He later claimed to have fought violent fights with supporters of Verdinaso. This originally fascist Flemish group led by Joris Van Severen had slowly been turning to Belgian nationalism after the accession of Adolf Hitler, seeing in German Nazism a threat to the culture and language of the Flemish and other inhabitants of the Low Countries. Meanwhile, the VNV became increasingly fascist in nature, and many members believed in collaboration with Nazi Germany to further the Flemish cause.
After Germany occupied Belgium, the VNV had to compete with ever more radically pro-German groups to find favour with the German administration. After the first failures of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Germany addressed its allies for soldiers to make up its losses in manpower. In order not to be abandoned in favour of more radical groups and of French speaking Rex, the VNV sanctioned the creation of a "Flemish Legion" to operate as part of the German Army.
When first applying as a volunteer to the Flemish legion, Remi Schrijnen was refused because he was too small. Other volunteers called him the "Strumpf-Deutscher." But he showed his courage in the Battle of Leningrad in February 1943. He served as an anti-tank grenadier and was promoted to Unterscharführer in the 4th SS Volunteer Panzer Grenadier Brigade Nederland.
During the Battle of Narva on 3 March 1944, he single-handedly destroyed eleven enemy tanks with a 7.5 cm Pak 40 He was found unconscious and close to death the following day and brought to Swinemünde and eventually Berlin, where he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and a congratulatory telegram from VNV leader Hendrik Elias. However, the only Wehrmacht Sondermeldung about Schrijnen's action only claimed 7 destroyed tanks ("In der Kämpfen der letzten Tage bei Narwa hat sich der flämische SS-Sturmmann Remi Schrijnen in der SS-freiwilligen Panzergrenadier Brigade "Nederland" durch Abschuss von sieben Panzern besonders hervorgetan").
SS-Unterscharführer Schrijnen also received the Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd class, the Infantry Assault Badge and the Wound Badge in Gold.
After the war, the highly decorated warrior returned to Belgium, where he was arrested, tried and symbolically convicted to death. This was immediately commuted to lifelong imprisonment. He was released in 1950 on condition of good behaviour. However, he participated in so called "amnesty marches" (demanding amnesty for those comrades and heroes who had fought on the Eastern Front) which often ended in brawls and scuffles with the police. Flemish volunteers were terrorized by the people of Belgium, beaten, spit upon and degraded. They had had enough and started to defend themselves politically and physically. After one such brawl, in 1953, he was arrested and held in prison for almost two years.
"Back in Flanders, 200 Flemish volunteers were executed on the spot. We weren't even granted the rights of POW's, people could do with us as they wished and they did. Not only was I attacked by angry citizens but by police also."
In 1962, he emigrated to the Federal Republic of Germany and took German nationality. Flemish patriots and national socialists continued to revere him as "The Last Knight of Flanders" (which was also the title of a renowned book by Allen Brandt on Flemish soldiers in the SS legions).
Controversially, Remi Schrijnen also received a Rex Honour badge, but it is not known when. SS-Unterscharführer Remy Schrijnen died in Hagen, North Rhine-Westphalia on 27 July 2006.
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Signed Postwar photo measuring 4” x 5 1/2” plus signed card
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