Monday, 16 May 2022 - 15 of Iyyar, 5782

Belgian government and Senate ask for thourough investigation into the role of national railway company in the deportation of Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau

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Out of about 66,000 Jews in Belgium in May 1940, around 28,000 were murdered during the Holocaust. Between August 4, 1942 and July 31, 1944, 28 deportation convoys were organized from the Dossin barracks in Mechelen. 24,906 Jews were deported by train to Auschwitz, along with 351 Gypsies.

 

The Belgian government and the Senate have asked for a thoroughj investigation  to be conducted into the role of the country’s state railway  SNCB in the deportations of Jews and Gypsies to extermination camps during WWII.

On the occasion of the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwiyz-Birkenau concentration camp and International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was marked on Thursday January 27, the president of the Senate Stephanie D’Hose and the Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet announced that they commissioned the Centre for the Study of War and Society (Cegesoma) to conduct a study on the role of the SNCB during the Second World War.

The historical research will focus on how the transport of Jews and Gypsies, among others, was carried out.

In 2007, Cegesoma had already delivered a report that concluded that part of the Belgian authorities actively collaborated in the persecution of national and foreign Jews.

The role of the SNCB as a transporter of deportees to the concentration and extermination camps had then attracted the attention of historian Nico Wouters, who now heads Cegesoma. He noted that “all the direct and indirect elements lead us to the conclusion that it is almost certain that the transport of Jews was carried out by the SNCB on the orders of the Wehrmacht Verkehrs Direktion.

He said: “The key question is whether all 28 transports of Jews were carried out with Belgian material. For lack of tangible documents, it is impossible to determine this with certainty.’’

The new research aims to clarify how the Belgian authorities carried out the orders of the occupying power, which personnel and equipment were used, and the precise role of the railway company’s directors.

Nico Wouters has also proposed to broaden the scope of the historical investigation to include Belgians subjected to compulsory labor and political prisoners transported to the East.

The study will also include the important role played by railway workers in the fight against the occupying forces.

For Senate President Stephanie D’Hose, this study is important to understanding our history so that it does not repeat itself. “I am pleased and proud that these dark pages of our nation’s history are being thoroughly examined. We owe it to the victims and their families to acknowledge their suffering. To get to the bottom of it. We must remain vigilant as a society and never let the past repeat itself,” she added.

Out of about 66,000 Jews in Belgium in May 1940, around 28,000 were murdered during the Holocaust. Between August 4, 1942 and July 31, 1944, 28 deportation convoys were organized from the Dossin barracks in Mechelen. 24,906 Jews were deported by train to Auschwitz, along with 351 Gypsies.

Both the railways companies in France and the Netherlands had already acknowledged the role they played in the deportation of Jews to the Nazi deathn camps.

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