NEW YORK (Feb. 2)
The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith has located and interviewed two victims of Belgian Nazi war criminal Robert Jean Verbelen — who the agency revealed in December was employed by U.S. Army Counter Intelligence (CIC) after World War II.
The two, former U.S. Army Air Corps pilot Eugene Dingledine, now 64, of Washington, III. and ex-Belgian resistance fighter Jean Meysman, now 76, of Asse, Belgium, were interviewed in Illinois and in Belgium by ADL staff. They described how a group of Belgian Nazis captured and bear them — and a second American military officer — after storming their Belgian farmhouse hideout in August, 1944. The two Americans were then incarcerated in Nazi prison camps. Verbelen was convicted three years later by a Belgian court of 67 war crimes charges, including those stemming from the incident.
Justin Finger, director of ADL’s civil rights division, said ADL has turned over the information gathered from Dingledine and Meysman to the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations which is looking into the Verbelen case.
ADL’s documentation that American authorities had hired the Nazi war criminal was given to the Justice Department in December. Those materials were obtained by ADL from U.S. government documents under the Freedom of Information Act, from trial records of the Belgian government and from other sources.
In calling for an investigation of Verbelen’s recruitment, his nine-year employment (1947-56) in Vienna by the CIC, and how he escaped from Belgium to Austria and wasiable to obtain Austrian citizenship, ADL described Verbelen’s employment by the U.S. as “a second Klaus Barbie case.” The Justice Department confirmed last August that Barbie, the “butcher of Lyons” who sent thousands to their deaths in World War II, had been employed by American authorities.
DESCRIBES BRUTAL BEATINGS
According to ADL, Dingledine and the other American, Lt. D’Nuncio Streett, were shot down over Belgium, May 1, 1944, while on a mission to bomb railroad yards in Metz, France. Finger said ADL has also obtained a letter written by Streett in 1945 describing the beatings he had received. Verbelen was sentenced to death in absentia by the Belgian court in 1947 for crimes involving mass murders, the killing of Jews, betrayal of Belgian resistance fighters, as well as torturing the two Americans. Now 72, Verbelen resides in Vienna.
Dingledine told ADL that he and his crew, including Streett, had parachuted to safety after their B-17 Flying Fortress was shot down. They buried their chutes and obtained civilian clothing from Belgians who came to their assistance. Moving from place to place to evade, capture, they took shelter with different Belgian families for approximately three weeks at a time.
During the summer of 1944, Dingledine and Streett hid with Meysman, who was an activist in the Belgian resistance, for two months before being captured.
In his 1945 letter, Streett said that they were seized after a “short-lived struggle” and were “terribly beaten following the siege.” He further wrote that “horrible and indescribable beatings were given to Jean Meysman. Before our very eyes, he was brutally beaten and so many guns fired promiscuously that we left Jan Meysman for dead. We met him … beaten to a pulp … Later I received somewhat the same treatment, but certainly not half as much as that given to Jean.”
Dingledine told ADL that he and Streett were interrogated in a separate room from Meysman. There, he said, they were “kicked and hit with a revolver.”
After their incarceration in a prison for Belgian resistance fighters, Dingledine and Streett were sent to a series of prison camps and eventually received POW treatment towards the end of the war. Dingledine said he and his comrade were “forced marched” approximately 120 miles from a camp at Nuremburg to one at Moosberg, from which they were liberated by Allied forces in April, 1945.
In November of that year, Streett was discharged from the Air Corps and wrote the letter dated November 29, 1945, describing his wartime experiences. Addressed to a Belgian official, the letter urged that Meysman be formally commended for “the services he gave so willingly and so bravely to the Allied cause.” In his interview with AD L, Meysman displayed a letter of gratitude from President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Verbelen was a leader during World War II of the Flemish Nazi group Der Vlag (The Flag). The records show that he was hired in 1955 as an agent of Austria’s state police and four years later was granted Austrian citizenship.
In 1965, he was tried and acquitted by an Austrian court on war crimes charges, on grounds that he was simply following orders promulgated by the German occupation government. This triggered sharp protests in Belgium as well as in other nations. Finger noted that neither Dingledine nor Meysman was called to testify at the trial.