Interior minister Jan Jambon aroused criticism yesterday for his remarks on hiding. In an interview last Saturday (9 April) in the Flemish channel VTM he compared giving persecuted Jews a place to hide during the Nazi occupation with sheltering wanted terrorists today. Jan Jambon from the Flemish party N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) also serves as deputy prime minister in the Belgian government. He was asked about the prospects of terrorists to remain hidden in the heart of Brussels despite police searches.
“Someone who’s hiding and receives the support of the local population can remain hidden for a long time,” he said.
He continued that “I often make a comparison with the Jews during the Second World War. There were Jews (especially children, The Brussels Times) who remained hidden during four years, and yet a horrible regime was constantly searching them. Fortunately they weren’t found.”
In fact there were Jews who were caught after informers disclosed their hiding places to the Nazis.
After a former Belgian MP posted Jambon’s remarks on social media, the reaction was harsh. The leading Israeli opposition newspaper Haaretz published an article about the incident on Thursday (14 April) and reminded the readers that Jambon in October 2014 had expressed understanding for Nazi collaborators:
“Collaboration was a mistake,” he said then in an interview, “but the people had reasons for doing it at the time.”
Following the negative reaction to his latest remarks, Jan Jambon’s spokesperson explained on Tuesday in Het Laatste Nieuws what he had meant:
“Jambon had no intention of offending the Belgian Jews, on the contrary. He isn’t comparing Jews and terrorists; he was only referring to a factual element of Belgian history: that providing a refuge, hiding people, was something positive, but what is happening today in Brussels is not.”
According to the spokesperson, Jambon’s statement refers only to “the technical aspect of finding the refuge.”