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Press release
from the representatives of the Jewish community of Belgium
following their meeting this Monday, May 23, 2011
with Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck

This May 23, 2011, representatives of the Jewish community of Belgium met with Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerk in his office.

On Thursday, May 12, Senator Bart Laeremans of the Flemish party Vlaams Belang submitted a bill aimed at “erasing in the future the effects of the court rulings and sanctions handed down for uncivic acts allegedly committed between May 10, 1940, and May 8, 1945, and instituting a commission to indemnify the victims of post-war repression or their descendents for the damages sustained following said rulings and sanctions.”  A majority of the Senate accepted to examine the bill, contrary to the decisions in previous years.

It is clear that such a law will not have practical consequences.  All the perpetrators of uncivic acts who requested the benefits of the Vermeylen Act and complied with the conditions laid down by it have effectively already recovered their full rights.  Even the unrepentant still have the possibility of benefiting from this law.  The aim of the bill is thus without a doubt merely to excuse and to render such collaboration commonplace.

The Jewish community is shocked by the facts that

(a)   certain senators belonging to Dutch-speaking democratic parties agreed to vote in favor of deliberating on this bill;

(b)  some people are turning this problem into a dispute between the Dutch- and French-speaking communities; and

(c)   the Justice Minister stated on television, “[W]e must be able to deal with this problem as adults and we must be able to forget.”

It is morally and effectively unacceptable for the victims of the Holocaust and their descendents to trivialize the absolute evil perpetrated by the Nazi regime and its acolytes in Belgium by relativizing the past.

The Jewish community takes note of the Justice Minister’s declarations to the press and Parliament, in which he nuanced his earlier remarks and stated his determination to keep the memory of war crimes and crimes against humanity alive.

The delegation asked the minister most insistently that

(a)   the amnesty bill be rejected;

(b)  the report presented by the CEGES on the contributions of Belgian politicians and the Belgian administration during the war be followed by government declarations and actual measures; and

(c)   measures be taken so that all the victims of Nazism will finally be put on equal footing and be eligible for the same benefits.

The minister agreed to the points that the community requested.  He stated that he wanted to defuse the amnesty issue but rejected all attempts to forget past actions.  As for the CEGES report, the minister formally committed himself to taking it out again and submitting it to the Prime Minister and President of the Senate.  With regard to discrimination against certain victims, Minister De Clerck promised to strive to find a solution after studying the matter.  He also stressed his total support for the educational project about Remembrance.

Finally, the delegation reiterated its commitment to a Belgian society of rights and freedoms based in particular on the duty of remembering and learning the lessons of the past.

For information:

CCOJB:  Dr. Maurice Sosnowski, +32 (0)475 428997

Jewish Central Consistory of Belgium:  Prof. Julien Klener, +32 (0)477 387003

Forum der Joodse Organisaties: Diane Keyser, +32 (0)494 545040

CEGES:  Geopolitical and Strategic Studies Center.  The study was commissioned by the Belgian Senate for the Federal Government and published in 2007.