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Nazi collaborators in the spotlight

The initiative of the President of the Flemish Parliament is denounced by Jewish organizations in Belgium.

Max HELLEFF

The initiative of the President of the Flemish Parliament is denounced by Jewish organizations in Belgium.

From our correspondent, Max Helleff (Brussels) – The passing of time feeds amnesia. The Flemish Parliament’s wish to celebrate two former collaborators of Nazi Germany did not, however, escape the CCOJB, the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium. Its president, Yohan Benizri, judges that “one cannot effectively fight against hate speech when one celebrates a shameful legacy. This double message is totally deleterious. ” The two men in question are among the most feared collaborators that Belgium has known during the world conflicts.

Staf De Clercq was the leader of the VNV, an anti-democratic and anti-Belgian party which aspired to the union of Flanders and the Netherlands. De Clercq saw in the Third Reich an example to follow. The Second War represented for him the opportunity to carry out his political objectives. However, he was to die of cancer in 1942.

August Borms was sentenced to death for the first time in 1919 for collaboration with the occupier. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Become a true muse of Flemish nationalism during the interwar period, he served Nazi Germany once Belgium was defeated on May 28, 1940. He was executed in 1946.

The honor of these two men owes to the fact that they “contributed to the emancipation of the (Flemish) people and their language”, justifies the president of the Flemish regional parliament Liesbeth Homans (N-VA). This exit is all the more noticed in 2015, its leader, the president of the N-VA Bart De Wever, had distanced himself from the collaboration.

“It is a dark page in history that Flemish nationalism must be able to see and which must never be forgotten. In the history of each individual, there is black and white, and especially a lot of gray. But Nazism and the Shoah were criminal mistakes. No one can deny it, it does not even require nuance, ”said Bart De Wever, who then approached the Jewish community in Antwerp – which was decimated by the Nazis.

Combating hate speech on the internet

The initiative of the President of the Flemish Parliament at the very least raises the question of the sincerity of this distancing. But it also reinforces this fringe of the nationalist electorate which has not drawn a line on the past. The N-VA does not intend to leave it to Vlaams Belang (far right) alone… who was inspired by Staf De Clercq’s VNV when it was created.

This controversy comes as democracies question how to fight against the spread of hate speech on the internet. Hence the request of the president of the CCOJB Yohan Benizri to “shed light on the role of the collaborators and accomplices of the Nazi regime during the Second World War. This terrible story bears lessons, which resonate all the more today as we are living through a difficult period and many citizens are looking for simple answers and scapegoats to the health crisis (…) It would be wise for Flanders to sensitize the younger generations to questions of civic responsibility instead of glorifying former Nazi collaborators. ”

As for the daily By Standaard, he wonders if the Flemish Parliament has not become “masochist”. He recalls that the Flemish Movement has “systematically opposed any reform of the state aimed at granting more autonomy and powers to Flanders”. His servants in fact preferred the authoritarian route as soon as they had the opportunity with the hope of putting down the hated Belgium.


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