Belgian Authorities Destroy Holocaust Records

The Belgian authorities have destroyed archives and records relating to the persecution and deportation of Jews in Belgium in the 1930s and 1940s. Some of this happened as recently as the late 1990s. This was revealed during hearings in the Belgian Senate last Spring. Though the Senate report dates from 4 May the Belgian press has not yet mentioned the affair. [update 3 Sept.: The Brussels Dutch-language newspaper De Morgen published an article on page 6 of its 14 Dec. 2005 edition, under the title: Archives about Persecution of Jews were Intentionally Destroyed] The Senate report says that “documents about the period 1930-1950 have been destroyed on a massive scale.”

The systematic destructions of the records of police and judiciary from the 1930s and ’40s happened chiefly in Brussels and Wallonia, the French-speaking south of Belgium. The Senate report states that in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking north of the country, archives have been saved thanks to conscientious archivists. “This policy – of having competent archivists manage dead archives – contrasts with the disastrous situation at the offices of the public prosecutors in Brussels and Wallonia.”

While the records about the persecution of the Antwerp Jewry have been kept intact, documents about the fate of the Jews in Brussels and in French-speaking cities with large pre-war Jewish communities, such as Charleroi and Liège, were purposely destroyed. In Charleroi all the archives relating to the 1930s and the war years have vanished. In Brussels the judicial archives are present “until the early 1930s, while there is (almost) nothing left of the period thereafter,” the report says, adding that “Reference is often made to the 1944 fire of the Palais de Justice to explain this lack of archives [...] However, there is no doubt that large parts of the Brussels judicial wartime archives were destroyed after 1944.”

The report says that some archives disappeared very recently, during the reform of the Belgian police forces in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Gendarmerie was abolished and the Federal Police was instituted. Crucial parts of the Gendarmerie archives vanished in the process.

In Charleroi the archives of both the municipal police as well as the judicial police were completely destroyed in the late 1970s. Before the war Charleroi had a relatively large Jewish community which was all but exterminated during the war, while in Antwerp a significant proportion of the Jews managed to survive. Yet in Belgium no-one is familiar with the extermination of the Walloon Jewry, while Antwerp is regularly blamed for having been a “center of anti-Semitism.” By destroying paper trails people are made to forget that certain events ever took place.

Hugo Vandenberghe, the leader of the Flemish Christian-Democrats, suggested that the destruction of the archives “may have had a political motive.” Senator Vandenberghe referred to the anti-Semitism of the Belgian authorities in the 1930s. The historian Nico Wouters told the Senators during the hearings that even after the war the Belgian authorities continued to arrest German Jews who had survived the holocaust by going into hiding, under the pretext that they were “citizens of a hostile nation.”

Records relating to the so-called “phantom trains” have also disappeared. The “phantom trains” were convoys of “unpatriotic” Belgians, such as Flemish-Nationalists and Communists, and non-Belgian citizens, most of them Jewish fugitives from Germany and Poland. They were arrested by the Belgian authorities at the beginning of the war and deported to France.

Thousands of Jewish families had fled to Belgium in the late 1930s. They had not been welcome. After the German annexation of Austria in March 1938, Charles du Bus de Warnaffe, the then Belgian Minister of Justice, ordered the Belgian embassy in Vienna to deny visas to Jews. The Minister, a Walloon member of the Catholic Party, opined in the Belgian Parliament (22 Nov. 1938) that the Jews had “for centuries constituted a problem in Europe.” In an article he called them an “extremely unreliable” people; “they have no word of honour and do not keep it.” Charles du Bus de Warnaffe became Minister of Justice again after the war, and gave the death penalty to Flemish-Nationalists who had fought with the Germans on the Eastern Front.

In January 1940 the Belgian King Leopold III, the father of the present King Albert II and an outspoken anti-Semite, told the Belgian government: “The number of Israelites that have entered the country illegally since September 1939 is estimated to be 30,000. Action against them cannot be harsh enough.”

When German troops invaded Belgium on 10 May 1940, the Belgian authorities rounded up thousands of “unpatriotic” Belgians and foreigners, often entire families. Their exact number is unknown, as the records have been been destroyed. In Antwerp alone, however, 3,000 suspects were arrested. The majority of them were Jews; about 400 were (non-Jewish) German citizens and 20 were Flemish-Nationalists. Citizens from allied and neutral countries were arrested as well.

The prisoners were stowed in railway wagons and deported to France. One victim later recalled: “It took our train seven days to get from Brussels to Orléans. Under a torrid heat, locked up with 40 people, including women and children, in a hermetically sealed wagon where we had to stay day and night, we suffered from hunger, a lack of air and especially from thirst. We were left for 43 hours without receiving even a drop of water. [...] Many people died en route.” The exact number of the victims is unknown.

Most records relating to the “phantom trains” have disappeared, but one case, involving 79 prisoners, is well-known because it included a prominent Flemish politician, Joris van Severen, the leader of a fervently pro-Belgian Fascist party. The group was made up of 21 Belgians (including an agent of the British Intelligence Service) and 58 non-Belgians: 19 Jews, 15 non-Jewish Germans, 9 Italians (including at least 4 Communist opponents of Mussolini), 6 Dutchmen (including an 18-year-old girl with her mother and grandmother), 3 Luxemburgians, 2 citizens of neutral Switzerland, a Spaniard, a Dane, a Frenchman and an English-speaking Canadian. French soldiers gone berserk massacred 21 of them at the French town of Abbeville. The victims included the Canadian, the Dutch grandmother, a German Catholic monk, a Hungarian Jew, a Czech Jew, a Communist Brussels town councillor and Joris van Severen and his deputy.

Thousands of civilians deported by the Belgians on the “phantom trains” were released by the Wehrmacht, the German army, after the surrender of France. Their number included many Jews. They were the only Jews ever liberated by Hitler’s army. The Wehrmacht allowed them to return to Belgium. However, 3,537 Jews holding German and Austrian passports were kept imprisoned. This group later ended up in Auschwitz, where they were murdered. They were the only Auschwitz victims who had been arrested at the order of a Western goverment. Leo Frenssen, an Antwerp Flemish-Nationalist and pacifist member of the Belgian Parliament, who had also been imprisoned in the South of France, tried in vain to get his Jewish co-prisoners released.

In July 1940 General Eggert Reeder, the head of the Wehrmacht in Brussels, had Robert De Foy, the boss of the Belgian secret police, arrested for the deportations. The SS, however, immediately ordered that De Foy be released. Reeder received this order personally by telephone from Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the German State Security, the Reichssicherheidshauptamt (RSHA), in Berlin. In a 1943 letter to Heinrich Himmler Reeder explained that it emerged that “De Foy had in the months preceding the invasion closely collaborated with the RSHA and with Heydrich himself, to whom he had provided important material.”

After the war Robert De Foy resumed his position as head of the Belgian secret police. No wonder no-one ever investigated how and on whose orders the Belgian secret service had assisted Heydrich before the war. Nor did Belgium ever pay damages to the “phantom train” victims. On the contrary, it even refused to repatriate the bodies of the 21 victims in Abbeville.

Regarding "right" and "left"

While I understand the meaning of what is inferred when saying someone is "right" or "left", I am afraid that those terms do not have much true value any longer.  When you have a supposed conservative or "right" leaning person like GW Bush spend like no tomorrow on this "War on Terror", have social policies that make Ted Kennedy blush, is an open borders and illegal immigrant advocate etc, what exactly does "right" mean and what are we trying to "conserve"?    

Pat Buchanan is still an old time conservative, yet even he is unwilling to go the distance and state what is at stake.

Hear Hear!

Even the political compass which divides politics into quadrants along a values and size of government axis is too simplistic. It puts individualism as being a right value and communitarianism as a left value (the extent and nature determined by economics - gov't size).

However, traditional conservatives are far more communitarian in nature than classical liberals. But perhaps the compass is the best visual representation we have...

Islamofascism is worse than any other type

The hate and bile filled in quran goes like this:

Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. - 2:216

Fight those who believe neither in God nor the Last Day, nor what has been forbidden by God and his messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, even if they are People of the Book, until they pay the tribute and have been humbled. - 9:29 (another source: )

The unbelievers are impure and their abode is hell. (another source: ) Humiliate the non-Muslims to such an extent that they surrender and pay tribute."

"When the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. - 9:5

Believers! Know that idolators are unclean. - 9:28"

BUSH IS RIGHT. aFTER NAZI-ISM AND COMMUNISM, ISLAMOFASCISM IS THE CURRENT BLIGHT FOR THE WHOLE WORLD, especially those of the most advanced ancient culture of India.

how big

aaah.. so muxch to say/wont say hardly nothin. complicated. painful for lot of people but painful also for a people who shouldnt be victims of the past on all sides. maybe scandal will force whatever change neccesary for what to an uneduczated Proud (damn proud.. thats for you kapetein buddy) American is an interesting thing to watch. i know how it would play out here/
\. how big will this be in belgium>?


I'm afraid that your reply makes less sense than the Quran. Well, you're obviously drunk or something; I wonder what Muhammad's excuse was?


Your comment is a shortcut to thinking...have a look at this:

Godwin's Law

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one 

There is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically "lost" whatever debate was in progress. This principle is itself frequently (though perhaps incorrectly) referred to as Godwin's Law.


It is considered poor form to arbitrarily raise such a comparison with the motive of ending the thread.


@ Kapitein Andre

For years the political left have used the Nazi/Hitler argument against the political right. It is becoming clear now that the political left is in fact using fascist methods, excluding, stigmatising and persecuting people who have a different view.

And suddenly this argument is not allowed anymore? Because the argument is true and it doesn't suit them? Or this argument is just to be used by the left?

A plague on both your houses...

I don't believe in either "side" pulling the Hitler card, be it on Bush, Usama, or Ahmadinejad.

As there are not many leftists on this blog, I tend to direct my criticism at those on the right who use it...

@ Kapitein Andre

Kapitein Andre, my original post did not mention the word "Nazi" but rather to tyranny in general. And considering that the point of the article is about the destruction of shameful Nazi records, I don't think discussing Nazism is particularly unreasonable.

Incidentally, I did not mean to suggest that Belgiums were Nazis, but rather Europeans are setting up the necessary conditions (appeasement, pacifism, self-denial, etc) for fascism to once again take hold.

in het Nederlands

Here is the Senate report in Dutch.

A quote for our Flemish readers: Door het catastrofale archiefbeheer in dit land kan deze studie [over de Jodenvervolging en -deportatie in België] dus onmogelijk al haar doelstellingen bereiken. In het algemeen zorgen deze decennia van verwaarlozing voor een ernstige tekortkoming in de goede werking van een moderne en democratische Staat. [...] De heer Van Doorslaer [directeur SOMA, Studie- en Documentatiecentrum Oorlog en Hedendaagse Maatschappij] beklemtoont dat de eventuele onvolledigheid van de bronnen het eindresultaat van het onderzoek onvermijdelijk zal beïnvloeden. [...] De medewerking van de Antwerpse gemeentepolitie [aan de jodenvervolging] kan maar op evenwichtige en correcte wijze worden beoordeeld door ze te vergelijken met het optreden van politiediensten in andere regio's en steden. Dat veronderstelt dat overal hetzelfde type bronnenmateriaal aanwezig is dat even volledig is. Daar knelt echter dikwijls het schoentje.

[...] De voorzitter [van de Senaat], mevrouw Lizin, stelt voor hiervan [een volwaardig archiefbeleid] werk te maken. De door het SOMA vastgestelde wantoestanden zijn een rechtsstaat onwaardig en wijzen op een acuut gebrek aan historisch besef. 

The part about the phantoms trains, with the relevant footnotes, can be found in my book "A Throne in Brussels."

Short and limited memories...

Europeans have always regarded Jews with suspicion for religious, ethnic, and socio-economic reasons, since the Teutonic successor states of what would become Christendom emerged from the collapsed Western Roman Empire...

Until very recently, European civilization consisted of small nation-states which competed for military and economic power. These struggled not only to gain and maintain their sovereignty, but to conquer their neighbours, and God help those peoples without states, such as the Jews and Roma, and to some extent the Irish, Welsh, Scotch, Poles, Ukrainians, etc., etc. Naturally this competition encouraged Europeans to "mobilize" external human and natural resources - colonialism.

I apologize for the history lesson, however, I don't see why Jews are such a "special case" or why anti-Semitism is only the legacy of the National Socialists. In the chaos of war, groups settle scores. Period. National Socialism involved the most extreme anti-Semitism, however, it was, and to some extent is rampant.

Quite frankly, I would be more concerned if I was a Muslim than if I was a Jew in Europe. I bet Europe pulls out its "breaking a few eggs to make an omelette" card on Muslims in under 10 years. Of course, the Muslims seem to truly want to earn what's coming to them.

Instead of trying to link European anti-Semitism with Islamic fundamentalism, perhaps someone should write an article on the conditions of the Roma, who continue to be villified and oppressed, and indeed suffered more complete extermination than the Jews.

Your reports grow darker and darker


What will you be charged with for telling this story? The inclusive dates are proof that anti-Semitism is alive and well at the transnational headquarters of the world...and there is no room for the Jews even now.

I fear for you and your family.

Perhaps Peaktalk can translate this into Dutch?

I must admit, while I enjoy

I must admit, while I enjoy your blog in the back of my mind I was very sceptical of your point of view.

But after hearing about shameful records being destroyed for obvious reasons, my doubts are disappearing.

Fascism is once again seducing Europe. The scape-goats have been identified. And the pacifists and politically correct mainstream are eager to embrace tyranny.

I don't think it has reached the point of no return, but if people don't start appreciating the concept of defending liberty, Europe's best days are behind them.

This should be headline news

I wish this article could be translated into Dutch. We Flemish people are often stereotyped by the Walloons as extremely racist... well well well, it turns out it's the other way around.