The Coordinating Committee of Belgian Jewish Organisations (CCOJB), the country’s EJC affiliate, has expressed outrage after a brochure honouring Nazi collaborators was published with funding from the Flemish Parliament.
The brochure, which was published as part of a special edition celebrating 50 years of the Flemish Parliament, depicted Nazi collaborators Staf De Clercq and August Borms among figures which have “shaped the emancipation of our language and our people”, as reported by the daily, De Standaard.
De Clercq, one of Belgium’s most notorious collaborators and the leader of the pro-Nazi Flemish National League (VNV), is described in the brochure as “an educator and language border activist”. Borms, who was sentenced to death as a collaborator and refused to denounce the Nazis is described as “a teacher and figurehead of activism during World War I.” The brochure does acknowledge that they were both Nazi collaborators.
“Honouring these collaborators of the Nazi regime is scandalous, at a time where we face growing concerns about our safety and our children being increasingly exposed to unbridled antisemitism”, said CCOJB President Yohan Benizri.
“Hate speech cannot be effectively tackled whilst celebrating a shameful legacy. This double message is totally detrimental to these efforts,” he continued.
“Belgium must shed light on the role of collaborators and accomplices of the Nazi regime during World War II. There are lessons to be learned from this terrible history, which are all the more resonant today in the difficult times that we are facing, and as many of our fellow citizens are looking for simple answers and scapegoats to the current health crisis,” Mr. Benizri added.
“We call on Belgian civil society and academia to wake up and join us in denouncing this type of abuse. Just two weeks before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, on January 27, it would be wise for the Flemish Parliament to work towards sensitising the younger generations to questions of civic responsibility, instead of glorifying former Nazi collaborators”, the statement concluded.
The Flemish Parliament is the legislative entity of Flanders, dealing with competences as a “geographic region” and as a “cultural community”, in Belgium’s federal constitutional arrangement.