Skål International History: 1940 - 1945
A letter is received in Zurich, signed by G. Emich with his Heil Hitler! sign off.
It is dated 13 February and is addressed to Fr. Streibel, asking the Skål Club of Zurich to leave the AISC and join the IKT.
Skål outlawed by the Nazis
Denmark and Norway are invaded by Hitler's armies. Skål is declared outlawed by the Nazis and its activity immediately halted. Shortly after, the invasion reaches Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and France. Skål activities cease, AISC President Bill Nieuwenhuys from Skål Amsterdam is arrested for his activities at AISC and the Treasurer, W. H. De Lange from Skål Netherlands, experiences similar problems. Hans Ostelius's office in London is destroyed by a bomb and all AISC files are reduced to ashes. Once released, Nieuwenhuys contacts Roddy Waugh in Bristol and asks him to take over the Presidency until the end of the war. The clubs from Finland, Latvia, Yugoslavia, and Singapore disappear, the same happens with Indonesia. Sweden and Switzerland also halt their Skål activities, due to difficulties in tourism. But the Skål spirit remains within its men, and for the conflict to come to an end is all that is needed for contacts to be reactivated.
It came as a great shock, when we received word of the execution of our dear friend and co-founder George Ithier, who died in France on 23 February 1943. It should be a date to remember in the memory of all Skålleagues around the world. These are not my words;’ this is what was "mandated" by our founder. The members of the Paris Skål Club, who were able, met clandestinely at L'église de la Madeleine upon hearing the news, to pay tribute to Comrade Ithier.
The Second World War.
Skål rises like the phoenix
We learned of the death of our friend Jules Mohr, co-founder of the Paris Skål Club, deported to Buchenwald. It was cruel news, because he was always a devoted friend, and his absence was noticed by all of us who made up the great family of tourism.
“During the painful period of the war, 1941-1944, the clubs of the occupied countries had to cease their activities, despite their wishes, and they destroyed all Skål documents because of the risk involved. The clubs of the allied countries no longer functioned, instead of slowing down. But the idea of Skål was not dead, and at the end of the hostilities we have seen, not only the rebirth of the clubs, but the foundation of new ones”. Words of Florimond Volckaert.
At the end of the conflict, the President of the AISC, Nieuwenhuys, visited Belgium, and as there was no news of the Secretary General, Hans Ostelius, he commissioned Geo Thiry, who was a Press Officer, to be definitively in charge of the General Secretariat, which he did until he resigned, in Vienna, in 1954. The Paris Skål Club is reconstructed. “The first official act was a visit to George Ithier's mausoleum. It was on the anniversary of his death, 23 February, and we were chaired by our President Charles Lacome”. Charles Lacome disappeared in 1946, a victim of duty, after noble and heroic conduct from ‘39 to ‘44.
F. Volckaert, a delegate from Sabena, received the Skål members at his offices on rue de Caumartín, where he met a large group of friends from Skål every Thursday. They subsequently moved to the Hotel St. Petersburg on the same street, and finally, they moved to the QBG, rue des Italiens, without being able to find the independence they sought
We received a letter from Brussels, dated 26 November 1945, from Geo Thiry, the Secretary General, addressed to all Skålleagues:
“Dear friends, I hope that this letter finds you in good health and that the difficulties and sufferings that we and so many innocents across the world have endured have been overcome.
This is the first circular we have sent after five long years. In that time, we have almost abandoned our jobs and been in hiding to avoid the harsh measures of the enemy. Now that the world is free again, we are slowly returning to normal life and the time has come to think about our Skål once again.
You have all been without news since May 1940. At that time, the AISC Steering Committee was composed of, W. H. E. Nieuwenhuys as President, De Lange as Treasurer, both from the Netherlands, Schoevaerts as Vice President, THIRY as Press Officer, from Belgium. Due to the impossibility of meeting, it was agreed that the decisions would be made by these friends. The Secretary General Hans Ostelius was replaced and I, the author of this letter, was appointed for this task, but when hostilities began in Belgium and the Netherlands, this idea was also abandoned. All contacts were suspended to avoid personal risks. We are now able to have these contacts again. I know that those mentioned are well and they have returned to their jobs.
Nieuwenhuys, the President, instructs me to inform you that WAUGH has asked for the presidency that he had assumed during the war to be reinstated, at the request of the Swedes and the Swiss. Meanwhile, the President confirms me as Secretary General until the election of a new Steering Committee. The work will be hard, but I hope to rebuild the AISC with everyone's collaboration.
Given the difficulty of contacting the clubs, since I have the addresses from 1940, please inform me of any details that will help me in the task. I await your news and suggestions that may be useful. As soon as I have more details, I will write to you again to keep you informed. Our contact will be by letter, until conditions improve.
I take this opportunity to wish you and our friends at Skål the best wishes from the President and from myself for 1946. I hope that the new year will see the return of prosperity for all of you and that you are all in good health”.
(Directorate of the General Secretariat 113, Av. Houba, Brussels II, Belgium).