Antwerp, Belgium (Aug. 15)
A severe split has occurred in the ranks of the Belgian newspapers on the Jewish question. Many papers have been publishing special articles on the Jewish question in general as well as detailed reports of Jewish persecution. And many of these articles have been anything but friendly to the Jews. Although the general attitude is one of condemnation of the harsh methods of the Hitler Government, a strong tendency to try to justify the Nazis can be observed in the bourgeois press.
Various papers have been trying to blame the Jews. While some condemn them for having exercised too great an influence in the social and cultural life of Germany, and for not having assimilated, others, like the Antwerp Niewe Gazet, a liberal paper with a large number of Jewish readers, blame Zionism and say that it is impossible for a Jew to remain a 100 percent Jew and at the same time claim all the privileges of citizenship in the country he lives in.
Not to mention the anti-Semitic Vingtieme Siecle, which attacks the Belgian State Commissioner for Unemployment, Max Gotschalk, a Jew, for being a Jewish Nationalist, this tendency is especially pronounced in the reactionary Catholic press, which accuses the Jews of supporting the persecution of the Christian religion in Mexico, Spain and Russia.
STRINGENT CITIZENSHIP LAW
Even a speaker at an inter-party protest meeting, the Catholic Senator le Bon, said in the course of his speech that the Jews had suppressed the Christians in Russia, where they were in power, and that the process had now merely been reversed. Of course he added that as a Catholic he protested against the present persecution of the Jews in Germany.
Most significant for this attitude, however, is an article recently published in the most important liberal paper in Belgium, Le Soir, advocating greater stringency in the application of the naturalization laws. The Belgian Jewish community is very young, and the vast majority of it consists of more or less recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, most of whom have not yet acquired Belgian citizenship. Lately an increased desire to become naturalized has become evident, and whereas till now only about 400 naturalization certificates were granted every year, there have been 4,000 application this year alone. If we include the wives and children of the applicants, this means a body of some 20,000 people is waiting for naturalization.
Le Soir expresses its fears about this new element in the Belgian state, which already consists of two nations speaking two different languages. “These people are strangers to us, both as regards their language and their customs. They want to become Belgian citizens for purely practical reasons.” The paper goes on to suggest that the conditions of naturalization be made more difficult, that the fees be raised and that a greater degree of assimilation be demanded.
The Socialist and the other Liberal newspapers, on the other hand, are wholehearted in their condemnation of the “unjustified and inhuman treatment of their own nationals” by the Nazis. The well-known Socialist leader, Jules Destre, even suggests that the League of Nations should consider the possibility of an international boycott of Germany in the event of Germany committing a breach of the Treaty of Versailles, and points to the importance of the Jewish boycott of Germany.
The attitude of the Flemish Nationalist Party is of particular interest. This party was very pro-German, even during the war, and its leader was sentenced to death by the Belgian Government during the war for treason. And now one of its leaders, J. Timermans, on behalf of the party, expressed “sincere and hearty sympathy with the Jewish people, who are united to the Flemish people by a bond of common suffering and a common desire for a national home of their own.” “No regime,” M. Timermans went on to say, “that is not based on justice can continue to exist. We join in this protest as human beings, for humanity is being trodden on in Germany, we protest as Democrats and as Flemings.”
Under the present distribution of seats in the Belgian Parliament, the suggestion of the Soir is not likely to be accepted. But there is no doubt that German events have to a certain extent influenced the general Belgian attitude towards the Jews, and that a certain prejudice against Jews has become noticeable.