BRUSSELS (JTA) — The mayor of Brussels apologized to the Jewish community for the municipality’s Holocaust-era "role" in deporting Jews, but added he would "not pass judgment."
Speaking to a crowd of a few hundred people on Sunday at a ceremony at Brussels City Hall, Mayor Freddy Thielemans said, "I want to officially extend apologies in the name of the City of Brussels to the Jewish community."
He also said, "It is not my place to pass judgment but I of course acknowledge the role the municipality and political and administrative authorities in the City of Brussels played in the deportation of Jews."
If not for the registration of Jews by the Belgian city, the deportation of Jews from Brussels in 1942 "would have never had the same impact," Thielemans said. Complicit municipal authorities were therefore "partially responsible" for the result, he added.
Eli Ringer, the honorary chairman of the Forum of Jewish Organizations, which represents Flemish Belgian Jews, told JTA that this was the first formal recognition of complicity by a Brussels mayor.
Last month, Thielemans revised the invitation to the ceremony after Jewish leaders accused him of "rewriting history."
The invitation spoke of a ceremony in memory of "citizens of Brussels" who had been deported with "the participation of local authorities appointed by the occupying power during World War II."
The Association for the Memory of the Shoah complained to the media that the deportees were not "Brussels citizens" but Jews from all over Belgium, and that the authorities had been elected and not appointed by the Nazis, who merely kept the authorities in place after the German army invaded Belgium in 1940.
Dr. Eric Picard, a spokesman for the association, called the text "revisionist," according to the Belgian news agency Belga.
Joel Rubinfeld, co-chairman of the European Jewish Parliament, a new organization based in Brussels, told JTA that the mayor was "rewriting history."