The leader of the far-right Vlaams Belang (VB) party refused to apologise for lauding a Flemish neo-nazi at the time of his passing, saying he made the comments before assuming a political mandate.
When infamous neo-nazi figure Bert Eriksson passed away in 2005, VB leader Tom Van Grieken, then a student, wrote a farewell post for the NJSV, a student Flemish-nationalist association, according to Belgian media.
“The NJSV website will be shrouded in mourning colours for a few days as a tribute to this great VMO leader,” Van Grieken wrote, referring to the VMO Order of Flemish Nationalist led by Eriksson.
“In this way, we wish to show our respect to this great man and to express sincere condolences to his family and friends,” Van Grieken’s tribute continued.
Reacting to the resurfaced comments, Van Grieken said he failed to see their “political relevance in 2019,” according to De Morgen.
Prior to taking over the leadership of the VMO, Eriksson was part of the Hitler Youth, which he joined before the end of World War II.
He was a central figure in the formation of the Vlaams Blok, the predecessor to the current VB, which was ordered to disband in 2004 on the grounds of an anti-racism law.
Van Grieken, whose party made significant gains in May’s regional and federal elections, said that while he would not repeat the comments today, he did not think he should back down from them.
“I’m not going to apologise for it. I was a 19-year-old student in right-wing political circles,” he said, before adding: “Eriksson had merit, but he was not without error.”