As Belgium Marks Its Liberation. Prime Minister Speaks out on Racism

Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene has called on his government to take “concrete measures” to prevent and to suppress racist behavior.

Speaking last week at ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Belgium from Nazi occupation, Dehaene said it is the duty of citizens to mobilize against racism and xeno-phobia.

The ceremony, attended by several hundred members of the Jewish community, was one of several commemorations organized last week throughout Belgium to celebrate the liberation of the country by British, Polish, American and Canadian soldiers.

Several Belgian and foreign personalities–including members of the government — were also present at the ceremony, which took place at the National Memorial dedicated to the Jews who were deported to Nazi death camps.

The monument bears the name of the 24,052 names of Jewish victims who were deported from Belgium and died in concentration camps.

Only 1,025 Jews from Belgium survived the Holocaust. More than 5,000 children were deported and gassed at Auschwitz. The Nazis also destroyed all the Jewish communal institutions in Belgium.

In his Sept. 4 speech, Dehaene recalled the fact that the Jewish people were the ones who “most suffered during World War II and the National Socialist barbarism.”

“One-third of the Jewish people disappeared in the framework of the ‘Final Solution,’ ” he said. “Men and women, old people and children were assassinated for the sole reason that they were Jews.”

The Belgian prime minister also paid tribute to the non-Jewish Belgians who saved the lives of Jews by hiding them until the end of the war.

Former Israeli President Chaim Herzog was also present at the ceremony as the head of an Israeli delegation that also included members of the Jewish Brigade. Herzog served in the British army during World War II. As a member of a unit of the Guards Armored Division, he participated in the campaign that led to the liberation of Brussels.

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