| Camille Gutt |
At the Bretton Woods Conference, 1944
November 14, 1884
|Died||June 7, 1971 (Age 86)|
|Alma mater||Université Libre de Bruxelles|
|Parents|| • Max Guttenstein|
• Marie-Paule Schweitzer
First Managing Director of the IMF
Camille Gutt (born Camille Guttenstein) was a Belgian economist and politician.
He was born the son of Max Guttenstein and Marie-Paule Schweitzer. Father Guttenstein (Gutštejn) had Austro-Hungarian nationality and was from Neu Zedlisch (Nové Sedliště) in the present-day Czech Republic. He came to Belgium in 1877 and acquired Belgian nationality in 1886. His mother Marie-Paule came from Bischwiller in Alsace.
During World War I Camille Gutt worked for Georges Theunis. After the war, he was secretary-general of the Belgian delegation to the Commission for Reparations in Paris and private secretary to Prime Minister Georges Theunis.
He was extra-parliamentary Minister of Finance in 1934-1935 (Theunis government) and 1939-1945 (Pierlot government).
During the Second World War
In 1940, Gutt was one of the few ministers who wanted to fight on the side of the English after the French defeat. He fled to London in early August 1940 and, together with the Colonial Secretary, Albert de Vleeschauwer, formed a provisional government in exile, which was expanded at the end of October 1940 to include Hubert Pierlot and Paul-Henri Spaak.
Gutt made choices to keep the London government afloat. For example, he chose to force the Belgian Congo to grant loans, while in London he had most of the National Bank's gold at his disposal. He preferred to put the latter at the disposal of the British.
In the war cabinet Gutt was Minister of Finance, National Defence, Economic Affairs and Transport in 1940-1942, of Finance and Economic Affairs in 1942-1943 and of Finance in 1943-1944. He was a strong supporter of a Belgian combat unit in England and to that end he introduced compulsory military service.
In his private correspondence with Georges Theunis, among others, Gutt expressed his dissatisfaction with King Leopold III. He felt that Belgium should do everything to make its "shameful" behavior in May 1940 (that is, with the capitulation of the Belgian Army) forgotten. From 1943 he started preparing the financial organization of Belgium after the liberation.
After the war
After the war, he was responsible for the money restructuring implemented in Belgium. This currency restructuring operation was aimed at contracting the money supply and stabilizing prices. Money was withdrawn from circulation and bank deposits, current and term accounts were blocked. The temporarily unavailable funds were released in 1949, while the definitively blocked amounts were returned in tranches from the 1950s. This coin restructuring operation came to be known as Operation Gutt.
In 1945 he was appointed Minister of State and later became an associate director of Bank Lambert. In 1946 he became the first President General of the International Monetary Fund.
In 1971 he published his war memories: La Belgique au carrefour (1940-1944) He anecdotally describes his experiences between 10 May and 9 August 1940, his negotiations with the British and Americans about Belgian gold and uranium (New York 1941 and 1943), his role in the creation of the Benelux (1945), and of course in devising Operation Gutt (1945).
Guttenstein married Claire Frick in 1906, who later became the world record holder in swimming 100 m freestyle and in 1912 became the first Belgian woman to participate in the Olympic Games.
Between 1940 and 1944 he was forced to live separately from his wife, who had stayed behind in Brussels. Two sons did not survive the war. Jean-Max Gutt died in an accident in 1941 while training as a war pilot in England. François Gutt was killed in action in 1944 in the invasion of Normandy. Only Etienne Gutt lived on, and after serving as an Air Force officer in the war, he became a professor at the ULB and ended his career as President of the Constitutional Court. He passed away in 2011.
Gutt harbored irreconcilable anti-German feelings after the war, fueled in part by the way the war had ravaged his family.