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Anti-jewish Laws Abolished in Belgium; Many Jews Survived in Antwerp and Brussels

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All anti-Jewish laws in Belgium, introduced during the years of German occupation, have been officially abolished, it was reported here today from Brussels.

Mayor Van Demeulebrough of Brussels issued a proclamation expressing the sympathy of the Belgian population with the Jews. The proclamation assures Jewish widows and orphans whose husbands and parents were killed by the Germans that the crimes committed by Nazis against the Jews of Belgium will not be forgotten or remain unpunished.

It has been established that of the 90,000 Jews who lived in Belgium before the outbreak of the war, about one-half succeeded in reaching havens in the democratic countries during and after the German invasion. Of the remaining Jews, approximately 27,000 were deported by the Germans. There are today about 1,800 Jews in Antwerp. The number of Jews who survived in Brussels has not yet been established. The Brussels Jewish Community carried on its activities during the entire German occupation without any break. In Antwerp the Jewish community was liquidated.

The majority of the surviving Jews in Antwerp were given shelter by non-Jewish friends when the Nazis started deporting Jews from the city. Many of them joined the Belgian underground. A Yiddish underground newspaper was published in Brussels under the very nose of the Gestapo.

Many of the surviving Jews in Brussels were saved due to the intervention of Queen Mother Elizabeth who wrote a personal letter to Hitler demanding equal treatment for the Jewish population of occupied Belgium. Hitler answered that the Jews would not be harmed. He broke his promise in September, 1943 when raids on Jews started, followed by deportations to extermination camps in Poland. The Queen then sent a copy of Hitler’s letter to the city’s Chief Rabbi, while the Belgian Minister of Justice presented another copy of the same letter to the German Governor. This brought about a relaxation in the drive on Jews for a short while and helped some Jews to escape deportation.

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