From the event release:
Baron Van Der Elst is a distinguished diplomat of Belgium, Collector of the Flemish Masters and an authority on their art. The lecture will be illustrated by his remarkable color slides.
Baron Joseph van der Elst, the distinguished Belgian soldier-diplomat, worked behind the scenes in European diplomatic circles from 1924 until 1941, when he was forced to flee to this country. Since then he has been counselor of the Belgian Embassy in New York.
He was Charge d’Affaires of the Belgian diplomatic offices in Vienna, Austria, from 1930 to 1940. Up to the time of the Anschluss he was counselor of the legation, and remained for two years during German dominance of Austria, leaving when the Nazi forces invaded Belgium in May, 1940. He had served during the turbulent regimes of Chancellors Seipel, Dollfuss, and von Schuchnigg and under the Nazi government in Austria. After leaving Vienna he was stationed in Budapest for a year, fleeing again when the Germans took that city. He came to this country via Russia and Japan.
A hero of World War I, Baron van der Elst was decorated for bravery with the Order of the Crown, the Order of Leopold II, the Croix de Guerre, and three army citations. He enlisted in the Belgian army at the age of 16 and was wounded and captured by the enemy. After four successful attempts, he finally escaped across the Holland border and rejoined the Belgian forces, finishing the war as a lieutenant. He was appointed Chief of Cabinet of the Belgian High Commissioner in the Rhenan Territories from February, 1923, to February, 1924.
Because of his “inside” positions on the diplomatic front in recent years, the Baron is splendidly equipped to analyze current happenings in Europe.
The Baron is also widely known as a connoisseur and patron of art and as a lecturer on the art of the Flemish Masters. He is married to an American, the former Allison Roebling, great-grand-daughter of the builder of the Brooklyn Bridge, whom he met in 1937 in Washington.