A new monument in honour of victims of World War II concentration camps and resistance heroes was inaugurated on Sunday at Fort Breendonk, in Willebroek, Antwerp Province.
The “Ode to the Resistance” monument by artist Tom Fransen shows a large boot, symbolizing oppression, under which there are images of women, children, resistance fighters and a man releasing a dove. It stands at the entrance to Fort Breendonk, which the Nazis used as a prison camp during World War II.
Fort Brendonk and Bastogne Barracks served as transit camps for about 3,600 political dissidents, resistance fighters and Jews. Half of them would not survive the war.
The monument was created at the initiative of the Confédération nationale des prisonniers politiques et ayants-droit (CNPPA – National Confederation of Political Prisoners and their Heirs).
Sunday’s ceremony, which was attended by a representative of the King of Belgium, was addressed by Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder, CNPPA President Edmond Eycken and the Chairman of the Board of the War Heritage Institute, Koen Palinckx.
“We have here today people with various titles and functions,” said Ms. Dedonder, “but we are people, above all.”
“For years, attempts were made on this historic site to strip the prisoners of their humanity, but we shall never forget their names,” she stated.
In his book “1942, The year of silence”, historian Herman Van Goethem, rector of Antwerp University and a former director of Kazerne Dossin, the Holocaust and Human Rights Museum in Mechelen, describes events in Antwerp during 1942, where the local administration cooperated with Nazi occupation force.
A gradual and all the more violent segregation process resulted in the deportations of 25,250 Jews and 352 Roma from Belgium, in 26 train transports from former military barracks in Mechelen to the death camp in Auschwitz. The last one was on 31 July 1944, just days before the liberation of Belgium.
The Brussels Times