The former Delwaidedok in the port of Antwerp should be renamed Bevrijdingsdok (Liberation Dock), the city council has advised the Port Authority. The decision was made to change the name of the dock after controversy over the wartime activities of the man after whom it was named – Leo Delwaide, mayor of the city from December 1940 to January 1944.
Delwaide was a Christian democrat, and as the city was at the time occupied by the Nazis, was never officially sworn in as mayor. According to a new book by Herman Van Goethem, Delwaide played a more active role than previously thought in the rounding up and deportation of Antwerp’s Jews up to 1942, when he was de facto in office.
Van Goethem is rector of Antwerp univeristy, where he previously lectured in political history. He was also from 2009 to 2012 director of the Holocaust Museum in Mechelen, housed by the Dossin Barracks from where Jews and others were transported from Belgium and northern France to the death camps.
Groen raised the question as to whether it was appropriate, in the light of the new information, for the dock to continue to carry Delwaide’s name. Current mayor Bart De Wever agreed that a change of name was up for discussion.
Antwerp has already set up a scientific committee to examine the city’s wartime past and how it should inform public policy today. The decision to rename the dock, however, is not part of the committee’s deliberations, which are continuing.
The desire expressed by De Wever at the outset, that the matter of renaming the dock be kept apart from party political considerations, appears to have been respected. Given the city’s large Jewish population, no politician would be likely to raise an objection. The final decision on the renaming lies officially with the Port Authority. However since that body is controlled by the city, the approval of the council’s decision is a formality.