Flemish leader sparks Belgian row over Nazi collaboration
The leader of the Flemish nationalist party opened a wartime wound on Wednesday, accusing Belgium's French-speaking region of historical amnesia over its collaboration with Nazis.
Smack in the middle of tense coalition talks with French-speaking parties, Bart De Wever sparked a row by charging in a Flemish newspaper column that research on francophone collaboration during World War II was "particularly brief."
The head of the N-VA party pointed to the lack of attention given to what he described as the anti-Semitism and fascist leanings of legendary comic book writer Herge, the creator of Tintin, during the 1940s.
Contrary to French-speaking Wallonia, De Wever wrote, Flanders had owned up to its collaborationist past, making it impossible for the Flemish region to "sweep under the rug the 'New Order' temptation as if it had just been a fling.
"It is better to shed light on a society's past without hiding reality," he wrote in a column in De Standaard daily entitled "Flemish Nazis."
He accused Walloons of "judging by virtue of a moral superiority that is out of place and based on collective ignorance."
The leading francophone daily, Le Soir, condemned De Wever's column in its own editorial on Wednesday, under the headline: "The Unhealthy Game of the Most Collaborationist Belgian."
De Wever's grandfather was a member of a collaborationist party during World War II. The Flemish leader has himself been accused by francophones of having fascist sympathies.
Many people in Flanders believe that the purge that followed the liberation of Belgium mainly targeted Flemish collaborators while prosecutions were more rare in Wallonia.
Belgium has been without a new government since the June legislative elections when De Wever's party came out on top in Flanders.
Marathon seven-party negotiations have so far failed to produce an agreement on Flemish demands for greater autonomy.
© 2010 AFP