During a dinner given by the European Jewish Association (EJA) in Krakow on Monday, Jan Jambon described the help provided by the Belgian and Flemish authorities at the time of the deportations during the Second World War as a “disgrace in our History.”
In his speech given during the dinner, the Flemish minister-president referred to the more than 25,000 people, mainly Jews who were deported from Mechelen to Auschwitz-Birkenau, fewer than 5% of whom survived. “What happened during the Second World War must never be forgotten,” he declared.
It also came down to the sensitive issue of collaboration. “We cannot forget the part we played: the Belgian and Flemish authorities voluntarily took part in the deportation and murder of their own citizens. It is a disgrace in our History, a History we must have the courage to look in the face,” Jambon continued.
He also emphasised the importance of education to this memory, at a time in 2020 when antisemitism has still not disappeared.
“We are living in an age when slogans I hoped never to hear again are suddenly resonating in our streets. Antisemitism and hate in its many guises are being preached in Europe. In our towns, people are once more being murdered because they do not belong to the right religion,” Jambon stated, notably making reference to the attack on the Belgian Jewish Museum on May 24 2014 that cost four people their lives.
Jambon will visit the concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau to mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation.