28 January 2005
BRUSSELS – Campaigners are calling on Belgium to accept responsibility for its role in sending 30,000 Jews to Nazi death camps.
On Thursday afternoon, about a dozen campaigners from an association for the restitution of stolen Jewish belongings protested outside the Defence Ministry.
They were calling for the creation of a parliamentary commission to investigate the role of the Belgian state in deporting Jewish people to Auschwitz.
“We’re asking the Belgian state to recognise its responsibilities and to restore goods stolen from Jewish people on Belgian soil,” said protester Eric Picard.
“It’s important to remember that 30,000 of the individuals who were murdered were deported from Belgian soil and that the Belgian authorities contributed to make the deportations possible.”
Picard said the Belgian authorities compiled a register of Jewish citizens and ordered civil servants to create a file for each and every Jewish person over 15 years old.
The authorities then assembled the files of every commune and handed them over to the Nazis.
“In this way the Nazis were able to ring at the right doors to arrest people, to drive them to Malines and then to kill them at Auschwitz,” said Picard.
Picard wants belongings stolen from Belgian Jews by the Nazis restored or compensation given to the individuals.
He said a commission had finally tracked down the profits which the State had put in banks or insurance schemes and the booty was now being held by the National Bank of Belgium.
He said a commission was supposed to be returning the money to relatives, but in practice Jewish descendants were being reimbursed in a “derisory” way.
And he said it was wrong that Jewish individuals were being pitted against Jewish organisations since left-over funds would go to them.
Picard’s members want to see Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt admit Belgium’s role in Auschwitz in the same way that Jacques Chirac has done for France.
On Thursday, Defence Ministry representative Michel Jaupart met the Jewish delegation, promising to examine their demands.
The Jewish association president Betty Schaffel said she hoped the Belgian government would change laws which her members criticise.
However, Jaupart argued that the Belgian authorities had applied laws on war victims to cases involving the Jewish community.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news