October 22, 2019

Antwerp mayor announces new monument naming city’s Shoah victims

The mayor of Antwerp announced plans to build a monument to commemorate every Antwerp Jew murdered in the Holocaust.

“It is unacceptable that unlike other European cities, the municipality of Antwerp has never erected a single monument in memory of the history” of the Holocaust, Mayor Patrick Janssens said on Wednseday.

The city’s only monument to the Holocaust was the initiative of the Forum of Jewish Organizations, which represents Flemish Jews, Janssens said.

Speaking at a commemoration ceremony at city hall, Janssens announced plans to erect a monument and engrave into it the name of every Antwerp Jew known to have been murdered in the Holocaust.

He was speaking to about 100 people at a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the first deportation of Antwerp’s Jews.

In addition, he said, the municipality will soon unveil a memorial plaque at city hall. The proposed text for the plaque acknowledges the complicity of Antwerp’s municipal authorities in the deportation of the city’s Jews.

The transports were “organized by the Nazis in close cooperation with the municipal authorities [which were] in charge of the police. Dozens of policemen were involved. Most cooperated obediently, some exercised violence. A few policemen resisted, and sabotaged the Aug. 27 transport. Others tried to save Jews,” the proposed text reads.

The text also says that more than 10,000 Jews from Antwerp were deported, and that the police was involved in the detention of more than 3,000. “Almost all of the deportees perished in Auschwitz-Birkenau,” it reads.

Eli Ringer, honorary chairman of the Forum of Jewish Organizations, called the ceremony “impressive”.She added: “Complicity of local authorities was a complex issue. On the one hand, there was wide-spread cooperation on the part of Leo Delwaide, who was mayor then. On the other, we have testimonies that he personally helped some Jews save themselves.”