Hidden Belgium: A secret hiding place in the European Quarter

Hidden Belgium: A secret hiding place in the European Quarter

Not many people know about the artist’s house in the heart of Brussels’ European Quarter. It’s one of the last town houses in a district of shiny office buildings. It’s a small miracle it has survived.

The Brussels artist Marcel Hastir lived in this house at 51 Rue du Commerce up until his death in 2011. Born in 1906, he bought the house in an elegant district where wealthy families lived. During the Second World War, he used his home to shelter Jews, explaining to the German soldiers that he was running an art school.

The house has hardly changed since Hastir lived here. The stairs creak. The plaster is crumbling. A vintage Roneo machine dates from the war. Hastir used it to forge identity documents from people trying to escape the Germans.

The house could easily have been sold to a developer. But no. A group of admirers set up the Marcel Hastir Foundation to save the house. They use the rooms for concerts, exhibitions and talks. It is an evocative spot to spend an evening, surrounded by Hastir’s paintings.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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