ANTWERP, Belgium (JTA) — A representative of Flemish Jews asked a deputy prime minister of Belgium to clarify statements in which he appeared to condone the actions of Nazi collaborators.
Jan Jambon, who is also Belgium’s interior minister, made the statements during an interview published last week in the La Libre Belgique newspaper.
During the interview Jambon, who is a member of the New Flemish Alliance party, was asked about his participation in 2001 at a rally organized by the far-right association Sint-Maartenfonds, whose mission statement is to support Flemish Belgians who fought on Nazi Germany’s side in World War II.
Commenting about these veterans, he said, “The people who collaborated with the Germans, they had their reasons. I did not live in those times.”
After the Oct. 13 publication of the interview, Jambon rejected any interpretation of his words as condoning Nazism or collaboration with Nazi Germany and apologized to anyone who was offended by them.
But Raphael Werner of the Flemish Forum of Jewish Organizations told the Antwerp-based Joods Actueel newspaper that the forum wants to meet with Jambon and discuss the issue more thoroughly.
“Then we could hear for ourselves what are the positions of the minister, not only about collaboration but also about the sensitive questions connected to it,” he said, according to an article published Oct. 14.
Several Belgian parties called for the resignation of Jambon, who was appointed to his position last week following months of political deliberations that led to the formation of a coalition five months after the elections.
More than one-third of Belgium’s Jewish population of approximately 66,000 was sent to the Auschwitz death camp, according to Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.
Belgium, a federal binational state, comprises three autonomous regions: the Dutch-speaking Flemish region; the French-speaking Walloon region; and the central Brussels region.