Two members of the National Union of Veterans, together with a councillor for Boortmeerbeek in Flemish Brabant, have received fines for failing to respect the rules on social distancing, after they took part in a memorial to a convoy of Jews who were deported to Auschwitz.
The Twentieth Convoy, also known as Transport XX, left the Dossin Barracks transit camp in Mechelen on 19 April 1943 carrying 1,631 Jewish men, women and children destined for Auschwitz.
Along the way, the train was stopped by three young men armed with only a pistol and a home-made warning lantern between Boortmeerbeek and neighbouring Haacht. They managed to open one wagon and free 17 of the prisoners. As the train continued slowly forward, other prisoners were able to free themselves.
In all, 233 people got off the train; 89 were recaptured and 26 were killed, but 118 managed to remain free.
The National Union of Veterans (FNC-NSB) is an association of former soldiers dating back to 1919. The three members, led by Boortmeerbeek local councillor and NSB president Michel Baert, laid a wreath at the memorial to the Twentieth Convoy in Boortmeerbeek, which also pays tribute to the 25,483 Jews and 351 Roma who made the journey over the same track from Mechelen to Auschwitz, only 1,276 of whom survived to the end of the war.
“We laid the wreath, held a minute’s silence and then went home,” Baert told the VRT. “We remained at a safe distance from each other the whole time. Aside from that, nobody else was present. So I was very surprised a couple of days later when all three of us found a fine notice from the police in our letterboxes.”
He says he intends to contest the fine, which cites the men for an illegal gathering and a non-essential journey.
“I’ve got the time to do it until the end of the month, and I’ll certainly contest it. And what’s more, I would do it all over again.”