Seven Centuries of Jewish presence in Belgium

Jews in Belgium

An overview

Seven centuries of Jewish presence in Belgium

 

The Middle Ages

The first record of a noteworthy Jewish presence in our
regions dates back to the XIIIth century. Migrating Jews coming from
Rhineland (starting around 1200), England (following the 1290 expulsion)
and France (following the 1306, 1321 and 1394 expulsions) settle mainly
in Brabant but also in Luxembourg and Hainaut. However, the 1309 crusade
as well as the black death epidemy in 1348-1349 decimate the Netherland
“Jeweries”. In the wake of those events, Jews disappear from Hainaut.
Some are mentionned in Luxembourg until 1563.

Most notably, in 1370, those having survived the slaughters scapegoating
Jews as responsible for the Black Death are burnt to the stake
under accusation of communion wafer desacrations. This accusation will
be perpetuated in Brussels by the so called “miracle of the bleeding
wafers”, which will be celebrated during 6 centuries. It will take as
late as the years 1960-1970 for the catholic church to reexamin its
positions. After 1370, Jews are no longer to be found in our regions,
although they have never been officially banished.

During that era, a few dozens of Jewish families used to live mainly
from trade and as pawnbrokers. The latter activity exposing them to
popular anger as well as to competition with Lombards bankers, and other
traders. The Catholic Church’s very active hatefull antijudaism prompts
demonisation of the Jews. Following the decision of the Latran council
in 1215, they must sew the yellow patch on their outer garment. However
sometimes, they gain support from authorities accepting to sell trade
“privileges” for a heavy price, expecting in return economical fallouts.
Even then, they are strangers barely tolerated and their precarious
status fuels the vicious circle of mistrust and grievance against them.
Everywhere they remain outcasts.

During the XVIth and XVIIth centuries

In 1492, the fall of Grenada marks the completion of the Spanish
Reconquista. In the wake of that final victory, the Catholic sovereigns
launch a process of political unification across the kingdoms of
Castilla and Aragon alongside the principles of religious unification
(« cujus regio, ejus religio » – religion of the king is the religion of
his subjects). Jews are given formal notice to make a hard choice :
conversion or emigration leaving all their assests behind them, as the
march 1492 Alhambra decree of expulsion states. In 1497, Portugal
follows the same path. “Conversos” or « news christians » [will] often
keep on practising the faith of their forefathers to various degrees, in
hiding. They will become the main target of civil and religious
authorities’ suspicion, inforced by a zealous inquisition. Those who
refuse conversion flee to Italy, the Ottoman empire and Northern Europe.

Numerous “Marranos” coming from Portugal settle in Antwerp where they
find a more tolerant atmosphere to such an extent that their
«Portuguese Nation » is recognised as a specific status. They contribute to
developping trade and are active in sugar, spices and various other
colonial commodities trade including diamonds, silver and pearls. They
are usually hiding their faith, showing in public a religious practise
relevant to the location, wether it be Catholic in the south, or
Protestant in the northern part of the Netherlands.

Despite maintaining an appropriate outer Christian behavior, many of
those persons practise Judaïsm in private and circulate texts and ideas
in favor of the Lutherian Reform. As time goes by, suspicion will grow
and authorities will percieve them as a threat to the Catholic orthodoxy
leading to a streak of Imperial mesures aiming at driving them out of
cover. In 1549, a decree by Charles V, repeated again the next year,
denies to « new christians » the right of sojourn conceded in 1527 and
1536. Many will flee to Venise, Thessaloniki and Constantinople. The
Dutch revolution and the fall of Antwerp to the Catholic forces,
under Spanish King Felipe II, entails a final emigration out of
Antwerp, mainly to Amsterdam, resulting in a drastic inpoverishment of
the Scheldt metropole.

The beginning of the XVIIth century shows an important economic set back
in the southern Netherlands under Catholic Spanish Rule. At the same time,
Italy, England, Amsterdam and even Germany, show a beginning of limited
recognition of Jewish presence in society. In the middle of the century,
Jews from Holland are again trying to settle in our regions. To no
avail, given the pressure of the church notwithstanding economical
interest. Towards the end of the century, however, Jewish religion is
more overtly practised in Antwerp . A flow of Jewish traders from
Amterdam, fleeing their country in war and bringing with them the spirit
of relative religious tolerance they are accustomed to, has probably
helped creating this beginning of openmindedness.

The Austrian era

In the XVIIIth century, especially under the Austrian Regime, Jews are
tolerated in return of a special tax paiement depending on the location
and which, on occasion, will assimilate Jews to animal or merchandise.
However the southern Netherlands, as a crossroad land between the
United Provinces, Rhineland, Palatinate and Lorraine where Jewish
populations are thriving, are attractive for them.

In Brussels, the presence of an organised Jewish community, lead by a
Rabbi from Krakow, is confirmed in the beginning of the XVIIIth century.
In the Principality of Liège (not part of the Austrian Netherlands),
twenty conversions of Jews are mentionned between 1722 and 1787.

In 1756, by decree of general governor Charles of Lorraine, a yearly
capitation tax of three hundred florins is imposed on Jews willing to
settle in the southern Netherlands : only the wealthiest can afford such
a significant sum… This measure, amounting to legal recognition of
wealthy traders of the Jewish Nation, is mentionned as early as 1758.

At that time Jews are frequently reminded that they are not intiteled to
the right of bourgeoisie. The latter, under the condition of belonging
to the Catholic faith, allowed acces to practising a profession or trade
without limitations as well as access to nationality. Exceptions were
rare, but it is worth noting that in Antwerp and Oostende, some Jews
were given acces to that status. Economical expectations were often
in contradiction with religious factors, the latter tending to slow
liberalisation of attitudes. Anti-Jewish prejudices of local powers are
frequently overcome by governemental decisions [tending to use that
situation] to impose centralisation and reforms.

A study in 1756 lists 76 Jewish persons with an established domicile,
mainly in Brussels. Thirty years later, the “provost” of the the same
town deems their population to around a hundred.

The 1781 Edict of Toleration by Joseph II (1781) was first aimed at
guaranteeing civile tolerance only for protestants. But Jews in the
southern Netherlands, few in numbers, benefited from the new measure,
established between 1781 and 1789. It created a new framework of
guaranties for the Jews of the Empire : free practise of their religion,
abolition of certains humiliating discriminations, acces to new fields of
activities until then forbidden, acces to public instruction. Their
Status remains one of being strangers, still not allowed into
bourgeoisie in town and cities, denied right of vote as well as civil
servant office. Despite those restrictions, Joseph II’s law, inspired by
the german Aufklärung’s liberal spirit, amounts to a breakthrough
towards political emancipation. Worth noting that this law is
contemporary to federal civil equality for Jews in the United States
of America.

The French Revolution (1795-1815)

In 1795, the former southern Netherlands, the Principality of Liège,
Stavelot and Malmédy are annexed to the French Republic. Jews in those
territories become Ipso facto full citizens of the latter.

In 1791, the constitutionnal assembly of the young French Republic had
voted in favor of French Jews’ emancipation. This french act is
characterised by promotion of equality of right to individuals
detrimental to belonging to a specific “Jewish Nation”. It replaces and
abrogates the regime of tolerance which considered Jews as part of a
specific group and marks a complete shift in perception from “Jew” to
“French Israelite”. This dazzling evolution will influence the entire
european scene during the XIXth century.

However, three napoleonian decrees on the date of the 17th of march 1808
establish the Israelite religion, falling under the authority of civil
power and organised as groups of synagogues administrated by a
consistory. The 852 Jews or so of the 9 Belgian departments [french
territorial division] fall under the supervisions of the Krefeld
[Northern Rhineland, Germany] and Trèves [Trier in German, in southern
Rhineland along side the border of Luxembourg] Consistories. Like other
Jews of the Empire, they must adapt their name and given name to French
fashion, in order to complete the process of integration, and obtain
licence for trade activities.

This policy marks a regression compared with the revolutionary
emancipation a few years earlier. It Indeed reintroduce the vision of
Jews belonging to a specific group identified on religious bases, and
makes communities bear the burden of collective responsability of their
individual members. Constantly being carefull to maintain the good will
of the authorities, consistories will tend to see their fellow Jews as
poeple to « regenerate », for instance by banishing usury and fraud
activties in their ranks. This period will very quickly show signs of
social class dividing communities between various types : a wealthy
class, a middle class of emerging bourgeoisie, « honorable » and
of old settlement, and an impoverished and new immigrants class.

Under the Dutch Regime (1815-1830)

By Royal decree, on the 13th of august 1816, the french regime’s way to
organise the Israelite religion is abolished in favor of a system
guaranteing equal protection to all faith. Protected by the state, the
Israelite faith will be neglected and will only receive insignificant
subsidies. With a notable exception : the Israelite primary school of
Brussels, created by Hartog Somerhausen and opened in 1823, will allow
education of young Jewish children coming from families with scarce
resources, up until 1879 when the school will be given away to the
Brussels municipality.

In addition, measures taken by King Wilhelm’s governement, from 1815 and
on, in matters of education, conscription and linguistic unification aim
at “dutchisation” of Jewish populations.

During that period, the records show a substantiel growth of the Jewish
population. In 1816, in the provinces of Limbourg, Maastricht and
Luxembourg, there are 773 Jews ; in the provinces of southern Brabant,
Namur, Hainaut, Antwerp and the two Flanders, 386 are listed. The
overall amounts to 1159 Jews for the entire country. In 1818, 2770 are
listed. In 1827, almost 3600. On the eve of the Belgian independance,
between 3.500 à 4.000 are to be found, territory of Maastricht included
[which will become dutch after Belgian independance]. This important
growth is due to Brussels town’s attractiveness for inner as well as for
outer immigrants. Worth noting that in 1826, the estimated overall
Jewish population of the Netherlands was estimated around 43.000 people.

During that period, the distinction will blur between a Napoleonian
communautarian conception of Judaïsm and the previous emancipation’s
conception of religion as being an individual private matter to such an
extent that this intertwining of principle of the dutch era will
profoundly impact on independant Belgium Judaïsm and establish a sort of
mixed tradition. In this context, Community leaders this time, and not
civil authorities, will use this mix system to elaborate new modalities of
the Israelite faith. Indeed, in the general framework of an almost
complete separation of Religion and State, independant Belgium will
provide freedom of worship instead of imposing a “top down” form of
organisation.

Independant Belgium (1830-1914)

The constitution of the new born independant State makes a break from
past conception by abolishing all reference to religiously defined
minorities or groups. From now on, Jewish identity is defined as coming
within individuals’ privacy’s sphere. For the civil authorities,
the sole public manifestation of Jewish presence is the practise of
their faith. This falls within the responsability of the Central Israelite
Consistory of Belgium, established in 1832. This institution will play a
central part in religious and political matter throughout the XIXth
century. Worth noting, the last legal discrimination against Jews is
lifted in 1836, with the abrogation of the “More Judaïco” oath imposed
on Jews in courts until then.

It is not easy to establish a detailed chart of Jewish population
of the new born State. Communities’ statistics are not always reliable and
the gap between official Jewishness and grassroot Jews broadens.
However, the general trend, between 1815 and 1914, shows a
constant growth of Jewish demographics in Belgium, thanks to, mainly, a
sustained flow of immigration during the XIXth century. The integration
model represented by the Consistory authority will be facing many
challenges especially in Antwerp and Brussels.

The first tide, of limited magnitude, ranges from 1815 to 1914 :
prompted by political events – 1848 revolution, 1870 Franco-Prussian
war –, as well as economical factors, Jews are moving to Belgium coming
from :

– The Netherlands : Starting in the years 1860, impoverishement in the
country side is the main cause of rural flight into cities. Precarious
conditions of Jews and lesser or less older settling makes them more
eager to migration towards Belgium, economically attractive as
the pioneer country in terms of industrialisation on the continent. In
the years 1880, Antwerp attracts diamond cutters from Amsterdam.

– The German States : political reasons, discriminations,
industrialisation and land reform are the main causes of Jews’ migration.
It will be the case for many Jewish intellectuals after 1848. For instance,
Philosopher Moses Hess, settles in Brussels for a few years. Brussels
University welcomes teachers whose Jewish identity did not allow
academical carrer in Germany.

– France : antijudaïsm, extreme poverty and financial crisis throw Jews
of Alsace on the roads to Belgium, where they maintain door to door selling
as their traditional activity. In addition, political refugees from the 2nd of
december 1851 coup by Napoeon the 3rd up until the end of the Second
Empire, as well as immigrants in the aftermath of the 1870
French-Prussian War, provides unusually educated and intellectual new
recruits for the Jewish community of Belgium.

The second tide, tangible from 1881 and sustained until the first world
war, is massive. Thousands of immigrants, coming from Eastern Europe,
land in Belgium. Flooded by a new complex collective reality, very different
from what they are used to, Belgian Judaïsm, already acclimatized to
surrounding culture, will experience a thourough transformation
by this wave of new immigrants coming from :

– Russia : they are leaving the « Pale of Settlement » where 90% of the
5 millions Russian Jews are confined. From Russian Poland
(Warsaw, Lodz, Lublin and Radom), Lituania, Vilna, Bialystok and Odessa,
Jews are fleeing discriminations and pogroms towards the West. Besides some
cases of political refugees (Jews members of revolutionary movements),
the bulk of this exodus is motivated by escaping misery and violences.
This population shows various sociological profiles of Jewish identity,
ranging from religious orthodoxy to revolutionaries, including urban secular
non assimilated Jewish traders.

– Austrian-Hungarian Empire : starting in the 1890′, and coming
mainly from Galicia (partition of Poland : Krakow, Tarnow, Lemberg,
Brody and Tarnopol mainly), from Bucovine and to a lesser extent
from Hungary, this wave of Jewish immigrants, mostly impoverished
and not at all modernised, is mainly made up of orthodox Jews whose
motivations are escaping antisemitism and economical boycott in a
context of overpopulation due to the Jewish demographic boom.

During the XIXth century, Brussels is the main Jewish center in Belgium.
With this influx of migrants from East, the spreading out of Jewish
population on Belgium’s territory will shift to Antwerp, whose Jewish
population will exceed Brussels’ in the beginning of the XX th century.
Then, the country harbors around 17.000 Jews. Liège numbers more than a
thousand Jewish souls. Other communities, with no more than a few
hundred members, will owe their sustainability to the new arriving immigrants
from Eastern Europe.

The Jewish population’s distribution among cities, as we know them today,
is taking shape in the second half of the century. Those cities are Brussels,
Antwerp, Gent, Liège and Arlon (where the community is recognized since
the independance) and Namur, Oostende and Charleroi (communities
recognized respectively in 1874, 1904 and 1928).

The Brussels’ community, at first concentrated in certain neighbourhoods,
will progressively spread to the entire city, with the surroundings of the
South (train) station remaining an important place of settlement
– especially the Cureghem neighbourhood (mainly populated by Dutch
door to door salesmen). But the Capital city has no Jewish quarter comparable
to the surroundings of the Antwerp central station where the Jewish population
of the town is concentrated. At that time, Brussels’ Jewish craftsmen – taylors,
furriers, cap makers – are low income workers and are seldom organized.

Antwerp numbered around 5000 Jews in 1893. In 1914, they had
multiplied by 4. The main causes of this massive flow are : escaping
the Russian-Japanese war and military obligations that go along
with it and the 1905 Russian Revolution. On their way to America some
of those Russian Jews make a definitive stop in Antwerp’s port instead
of taking the boat to cross the Atlantic. Antwerp will therefore be the
main center of Jewish associations during that period. Among them,
militant Zionism is very active. Youth mouvements and political factions
of various persuasions grow quickly as well as Jewish press. Modernist
Antwerp overtakes liberal Brussels’ role as the center of jewish life in
Belgium.

At the time of independance, Belgium numbered about 3.500 Jews ; in 1892
they are around 12.000; in 1905, more than 25.000 are counted and, on
the eve of the first world war, close to 40.000. This amazing growth
must not hide the fact that the Jewish population of Belgium forms less
than 1% of the overall population of the country.

During the XIXth century, integration of Belgian Jews includes
professional evolution towards higher social status.
– A street vendor opens shop and becomes a retailer. And from then on,
wholesaler and manufacturer.
– Diamonds : The presence of Jewish diamond traders in Antwerp goes
back to the XVIth century. Discovery of new diamond fields in South
Africa reshuffles the market from 1870, prompting modernization of
cutters’ workshops and an influx of capital, making the place very attractive
to new immigrants from Eastern Europe. Their massive arrival after 1880
will be an important factor in making Antwerp the world capital of
diamond cutters.
– Jews in Arlon develop another typical activity of Belgian Jews : horse
and cattle trade.
– Dynasties of bankers will have a profound imprint on the financial
history of the country : the Oppenheim family , the Erreras, the
Bischoffsheims, the Philippsons and the Lamberts.

This process of integration to Belgian society is however not tantamount
to assimilation, as shows the emergence of various community solidarity
groups. For instance, many Belgian Jews cling to the ideals of the Universal
Israelite Alliance, founded in Paris in 1860 and whose purpose is emancipation
of Israelites, including those living in the Mediterranean. Many charity
associations florish. The spectrum of Ideological diversity and pluralism
among Jews broadens thanks to Belgian liberalism. At the same
time, emancipation of Jews helps integration to Belgian society
and identification to the values promoted by that Nation, then.

However, this does not mean that Belgian society as a whole was sympathetic
to Jews. On occasion, public expressions of xenophobia, anti-Judaism
(Christian based) and anti-Semitism (racial based or revolutionary based)
occurred throughout the XIXth century. In its last two decades,
during the Eastern Jews immigrants flow, anti-Semitism rises, reaching
its height with the aftermath of the Dreyfus Affair. The
new workers movement is often strongly anti-Jewish. Edmont Picard, Jules
Destrée, some leaders of the young Belgian workers’ party [Parti Ouvrier
Belge (POB)] are overt anti-Semites. It was a time when themes of
criticism of “Jewish banks” intertwined with religious anti-Judaic
clichés and pseudo scientific racial absurdities. The church, in the
line of its traditional anti-Judaism, pursues « the teaching of contempt»
[described by Jules Isaac in is famous book – l’enseignement du
mépris- published in 1962], permeating the entire Catholic world.
Finally, the ups and downs of some Jewish financial credit institutions
in the country and the massive incoming flow of resourceless Jewish
immigrants tend to arouse mistrust in various social groups.

The Interbellum period

Jewish immigration, except for political refugees cases, is very
specific in the sense that it is self determined (not consecutive to a
manpower need in the country of immigration), definitive (not
seasonal) and goes along its own motivations.

In the aftermath of the first world war, economic stagnation and
antisemitism in restored Poland drive many Jews out of that country.
Numerus clausus imposed on universities again in Poland but also in
Roumania prompts the same effect. Immigration quotas’ policy imposed by
the USA (starting in 1925, followed by South American countries,
Canada, Australia and South Africa) leaves only western Europe –
including prosperous Belgium – as an open destination for candidates to
emigration.

Nazi rule in Germany (starting in 1933) throws 25.000 German and
Austrian Jews on the roads to Belgium, especially after 1938. Given that
out of the 40.000 Jews numbered in 1914 in Belgium, some had moved to
Germany or Netherland in the wake of the first world war, it is
estimated that the country had from 50 to 55.000 Jews in the beginning
of the 1930, and more than 70.000 on the eve of 1940 German occupation.

This trumendous demographic growth will profoundly affect Belgian
Judaïsm. The immigrants tend to recreate in their new country, the ways
of life known in their countries of origin – professional traditions,
social and mental environnement and inhabits, cultural life. They settle
in specific quarters (near train stations), in the vicinity of a
synagogue and in close contacts with other Jews. The very first
immigrants reaching Belgium, will be able to establish small family
business, but the 1929 economical crisis will force most of them,
after having had a taste of coal mining and steel factories, to go back
to traditional Jewish crafts (home manufacturers, assembler
seamster/seamstress). Professional over representation is noted in areas
as small shops, retail, tailoring and diamond, luxury leather goods, and
door to door salesmanship. In 1929, 1.500 out of 2.000 Belgian leather goods
workers were Jews.

Throughout the XIXth century, Jusaïsm was defined top-down by
communities organised under the umbrella of the consistory. It is now a
de facto grassroot community, from bottom to top oriented, composed by
dozens of charity, religious, cultural, professional and political
associations as well as unions of all kinds of persuasions (sionists
from extreme left to extreme right, marxists, bundists or communists…).
Between 1930 and 1940, more than 100 periodical publications florish
(including 6 daily newspapers in Yiddish). This time is indeed one of
hectic Jewish life but also showing a community cut off from the outside
world, in permanent evolution, subject of multiple tensions and forces,
and therefore not ready to adress the nazi agression with a coherent and
unified response.

Under the Ancien Régime, Jews were cut off from surrounding society.
Emancipation and Belgian liberalism of the XIXth century helped to a broad
extent their integration to the nation. The immigration tide of the last
quarter of the century, contemporaneous with antisemitism upsurge,
weakened this pattern. Even more in the case of the second tide going
from 1925 to the second world war, contemporaneous with the great
depression and the worst threat that Jews’ hatred had ever placed on
them in two millenium time. At the end of the 1930′, 95 % of Jews in
Belgium were foreigners. The lively social reality born with the
incoming flow of Jewish masses showed few signs of integration of the
newcomers to Belgian society. The place and image of Jews in Belgian
society changed for the worst. Even though they were subjects to an
unprecedented trend of secularism, whether under national, marxist or
liberal doctrine. Paradoxically, it is however worth noting, that the
new conception of Jewish condition created by Zionism, which slowly
permeated the Belgian Jewish community, constituted a factor of integration.

Regarding the holocaust, see below.

Post War

World War II and its horrors profoundly affected the Belgium Jewish
community as well as its image among Belgian society. Besides scarce
migration from Poland and Hungary in the 1950′, again from Poland in
1968 and from Zaïre (Congo) later on, Jewish emigration to Belgium has
almost completely ceased to exist. The only part of the Jewish community
which has seen a rise in its ranks due to immigration since the second
world war is the tiny Sefarad Community. Coming from the Ottoman Empire
and Thessaloniki since the end of the XIXth century, the small Sefarad
community witnessed a growth with the arrival of Egyptian Jews expelled
in the aftermath of the Suez War (1956) followed by a flow of Jews from
Rhodos Island, having settled in Congo and leaving this country in the
wake of decolonisation.

The birth of the state of Israël in 1948 will draw strong solidarity
from most of the Belgian Jewish community. An emigration tide from
Belgium towards Israël, limited but substantiel, is also worth noting
for that period.

The latter is defined by cultural and professional integration of Jews,
alongside with vivid community life. But higher social status and better
upward mobility in society led to moving out of traditional immigrants
neighbourhoods and therefore leading to dispersed housing. Jews are
still characterised by strong proportion of University degrees and
practising learned professions. The word “immigrants” does not apply to
Jews in Belgium anymore. Besides classical orthodox Jews in Antwerp,
Jews’s integration to the metropolis is now a reality.

Abreged from :
Jean-Philippe SCHREIBER, « Les Juifs en Belgique : une présence continue
depuis le XIIIe siècle », dans Les Cahiers de la Mémoire contemporaine –
Bijdragen tot de eigentijdse Herinnering, n° 2 (2000), pp. 13-37.

 

Sequence of a Genocide.

Emerging in the wake of the first world war, ending in defeat for
Imperial Germany, the national-socialist ideology gives an
interpretation of world history as being a permanent biological war or
“race struggle” (on the model of marxist “class struggle”) where the
biologically superior “Aryan Race” must triumph over the inferior
“Semite Race” defined as a biological threat, responsible for
degeneration of Western world.

As Adolf Hitler reached power, on January the 30th 1933, this ideology
became the central pillar of a terrorist political regime enforcing it
with all the might and resources of a modern and dynamic state aiming at
the complete elimination of Jews. First by isolating them from society
in order to have it “pure” through discriminatory laws, rendering the
formers powerless, stigmatising them and forcing them to
exile. Then, during the second world war, by mean of sheer physical
extermination. The Wansee conference (Berlin, january the 20th 1942)
starts the application of the “final solution of the Jewish question”
and marks the beginning of the genocidal endeavour.

Emplementing a well prepared strategy, the Nazis, only a few months
after the invasion of Belgium (may 10th 1940), are going to carefully
stigmatise Jews, isolate them within Belgian population and destroy
slowly their financial ressources. Decrees are following one another,
marking step by step, the stages of a process of strangulation towards
always more precarious condition of living, leading to physical destruction.

October the 23rd 1940 :

Banning ritual slaughter of Kosher animals (Shkhitah)

October the 28th 1940 :

Administrative definition of Jews.

Ban on return for Jews having left Belgium.

Establishement of an mandatory official record for every Jew above 15 years old.

Professional exclusion of Jews (civil servants, lawyers, journalists, teachers).

May the 31st 1941 :

Mandatory labeling “Jewish Entreprise” [” Entreprise juive –
Joodsche onderneming – Jüdische Unternehmung”]

Mandatory declaration of real estate ownership for Jews.

Ban on possession of a radio.

August th 29th 1941 :

Ban on settlement elsewhere than Brussels, Antwerp, Charleroi and Liège.

Curfew between 8 pm and 7 am.

November the 25th 1941 :

Establishement of the Association of Jews in Belgium [Association des
Juifs en Belgique (AJB) – Vereniging der Joden in België (VJB).]
in order to facilitate deportation

December the 1st 1941 :

Jewish children not falling under compulsory school age are banned from official schools.

March the 11th and May the 8th 1942 :

Jewish workers not entitled anymore to bonuses, paid leaves, paid sick leaves.

They are to be isolated from other workers.

April the 22th 1942 :

Jews having fled Germany are striped of their German nationality.

May the 8th 1942 :

Forced labor imposed on Jews (Arbeitseinsatz).

May the 27th 1942 :

Mandatory yellow star badge on outer garment for Jews above 6 years old.

June the 1st 1942 :

Ban of Jewish doctors, veterinarians, dentists and nurses to practise.

Freedom of movement (re-locations…) stricly limited for Jews.

 

In this degraded and insecure situation, Jews are exposed to individual arrests, or
collective roundups. Vicitms are sent to the Dossin garrison house in
Malines (Mechelen), where a carefully fine-tuned propaganda keeps them in
the illusion that they are going to “be sent to the East for work”.

From there, on August the 4th 1942, goes off the first of 26 convois,
running until July the 31st 1944, bringing 24.906 Jews of Belgium to
Auschwitz.

15.621 of them will be gazed at their arrival, 8.091 assassinated
through extreme conditions of forced labor. Only 1.194 of them were
still alive on May the 6th 1945, amounting to 5% of all deportees.

In addition, 5.034 Jews with an address in Belgium to the date of May
the 10th 1940 were deported from the Drancy camp (France). 317 of them
were brought back after liberation.

The Nazi mass murder was organised to eliminate men, women and children,
young and old, rich and poor, intellectuals and ignorants. Everyone
was presumed guilty and condemned to death. Not for what they had done
but just for what they were : Jews.