Students from thirteen Belgian schools — six Walloon, six Flemish and one European — took off on Thursday at 7:00 AM from the Melsbroek Military Airport on their way to visit the Auschwitz death camp which commemorates the 75th anniversary of its liberation this year.
Defence Minister Philip Goffin and the Director-General of the War Heritage Institute are also part of the delegation.
For over 10 years, students have been invited to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp, where more than one million people were exterminated during the war.
This year, hundreds of Belgian students will participate in the tour which is of a particular and symbolic character since the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation will be celebrated on 27 January.
Auschwitz was not the only death camp to have been created by the Nazis during World War II, but due to its industrialization of death, it has become the symbol of all of the victims of Nazi barbarity, and especially of the martyrdom of the Jewish people.
During World War II, 1.3 million people were deported to this death camp. Approximately 1.1 million people — including one million Jews from all over Europe — were exterminated there, mostly in gas chambers.
A total of 25,835 people were deported from Belgium between 4 August 1942 and 31 July 1944, leavingfrom Mechelen for Auschwitz. At the end of the war, only 1,240 deported Jews returned to Belgium: less than 5%.
On 27 January, an international memorial ceremony will take place around the notorious entrance to Auschwitz, through which hundreds of thousands of people passed to be gassed, and their bodies burned, by the Nazi murder machine. Many Heads of State and Government representatives, including King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, are expected, as well as 200 former survivors, including one Belgian who is part of the Belgian delegation.
More than 6 million Jews were slaughtered during World War II, one million at Auschwitz alone.