Belgians had 'reasons' to collaborate with Nazis: politician
Belgians living under Nazi occupation in World War II had "reasons" if they collaborated with the Germans, a nationalist politician in the country's new coalition government said Sunday.
Bart de Wever, head of the New Flemish Alliance, the largest party in the coalition, said "of course people had reasons to join with the collaboration. There were so many of them."
De Wever, quoted by Belga news agency, was commenting on a controversy stirred up by Interior Minister Jan Jambon, likewise from the New Flemish Alliance, who had earlier said that collaborators "had their reasons."
The remarks have reopened old wounds over the war, a divisive chapter in a country already sharply divided between the richer Flemish north and the poorer Francophone south.
They are also embarrassing Prime Minister Charles Michel, who heads the unlikely coalition of his French-speaking liberals and three Flemish groups, including the nationalists. Another New Flemish Alliance figure, Immigration Minister Theo Francken, was pictured at a 90th birthday celebration for a man convicted of collaboration after the war.
De Wever said collaboration with the Nazis could be understandable.
"You need to see that in the context of the time," he was quoted as saying. Former pope Benedict XVI "belonged to the Hitler Youth, (former French president Francois) Mitterrand was a collaborator. The king of Belgium had coffee with Hitler to ask him if he could take power," the nationalist politician said.
Michel said Tuesday he would not break ranks with Jambon after getting his assurance that he condemned World War II collaboration.
© 2014 AFP