The Speaker of Belgium’s Chamber of Representatives, Patrick Dewael, urged Belgium, and Europe as a whole, to fight against the proliferation of hatred in Europe.
Dewael made the call at a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Shoah during World War II.
“Each day, we learn that people have been victims of intolerance, whether because of their origin, ideology or sexual orientation,” Dewael said. “Distressing and frightening, that’s how I describe the growing discrimination against migrants and LGBTI communities in many member States of the European Union,” he added.
“And even in a country such as ours, imbued with a long democratic tradition, Internet forums are full of racist obscenities. Jewish people and Muslims are insulted publicly, and gay people are beaten up,” the Speaker said. “It’s our duty to fight against this harmful development that seems to feed into itself.”
Wednesday’s session in the Belgian Chamber was attended by representatives of the Jewish community along with various public, academic and political personalities.
A survivor of the Auschwitz extermination camp, Marie Pinhas-Lipstadt, also took the floor at Wednesday’s commemoration. Born in 1931, she recalled how she and her parents were deported in 1944. Although just 14 years old at the time, she escaped the gas chambers because of her strong constitution. “I made acquaintance with the evil ones, those who respect no one and nothing,” she explained.
It took Belgium a long time to acknowledge its role in the deportation of Jewish people to the death camps, whereas, in both Flanders and Wallonia, many authorities actively took part, as the rector of the University of Antwerp, Herman Van Goethem, recalled.
It took a speech by then-Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo in September 2012, at the Inauguration of the Museum of the Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen, followed by a resolution of the Senate in January 2013, for Belgium to recognise its role.