Sunday, 25 Feb 2018 - 10 of Adar, 5778

Jews of Antwerp and Brussels disagree over Holocaust memorial street plaques

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ANTWERP—The Jewish community of Antwerp opposes the installation of the so-called ‘’stolpersteinen’’, or stumbling stones, plaques that are installed in the street outside the last residence of Holocaust victims. The plaques, created by German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992, details the first and last names of Holocaust victims, the date of birth, date and place of deportation, and date of death in a Nazi extermination camp.

However, while such memorials have already been installed in more than 60,000 places across Europe, the Jewish community of Antwerp supports a decision by the city’s mayor Bart De Wever, head of the Flemish nationalist party NVA,  and the entire city council, to rather favor the erection of a Holocaust memorial bearing the names of all the Holocaust victims in Antwerp.   The Forum of Jewish organisations, which represents the Jewish community in Belgium’s Flemish region, denounces as ‘’illegal’’ the installation of these plaques, arguing that judaism doesn’t allow trampling on tombstones which is considered disrespectful for the deceased. Moreover, the group says, the area where the Holocaust victims lived is today home of many Muslim immigrants ‘’who might not be sensitive to such commemoration.’’

Some 40 kms south of Antwerp, in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, where the Jewish community is less religious, 200 memorial cobbelstones have already been installed at the initiative of the Association for the memory of the Shoah (AMS).

Last Sunday, the association laid two “solpersteinen’’ without permission in Antwerp. The first, at the Pretoriastraat, in tribute to Emile Zuckerberg, arrested in Izieu (France) and murdered in Auschwitz.

The second, on the Stoomstraat, in honor of Keyla Gitla Szafirstein, a member of a family of Jewish resistance fighters. For the AMS, this was ‘’an act of civil disobedience’’. Antwerp and Munich are the only two cities in Europe hostile to the project, the say.

Moreover, they add, ‘’Antwerp is the only city where police have orchestrated raids against its Jewish population.’’

The association addressed a petition to the mayor of Antwerp that, they say, has collected more than 5,700 signatures, including 1,000 from city residents.

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