Forget Nazi collaborators, says minister

By Michel Zlotowski, May 19, 2011

Belgian Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck has provoked a storm by arguing that some Belgians' collaboration with the Nazis should be forgotten.

Mr De Clerck said this week on the state-run television channel RTBF: "At a given point, one should act in an adult way and be ready to discuss the issue and even to forget it, because all this is past. This is necessary to restore a

Facing criticism even from within his own party, Mr De Clerk later backtracked, saying he "regretted" the controversy due to what he called a "misinterpretation" of what he said on TV.

"It is not about forgetting or minimising the facts. We should, however, be able to give a proper interpretation of this past and raise the issue in a reasoned way," said Mr De Clerck.

More than Mr De Clerck's statement, the Jewish community in Belgium was outraged by the fact that all the Flemish political parties, including the Socialists, agreed to introduce a draft law in favour of a pardon for those who collaborated.

"This is not the first time," explained Maurice Sosnowski, President of the CCOJB, the representative body of Belgian Jews.

"Back in 1998, extremist Flemish parties introduced a similar amendment to pardon collaborators. Jewish organisations and the former Resistance movements had the amendment repelled within a year," Mr Sosnowski said.

"This time, even the Socialists joined the extremists. This is serious. We asked to meet Mr De Clerck over the issue but we haven't had an answer yet."

In a letter to Belgium's Acting Prime Minister, Yves Leterme, Simon Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations Shimon Samuels wrote: "No wonder antisemitism and other hate crimes grow unchecked in Brussels - 'The Capital of Europe' - and across Belgium, when your chief lawman allegedly advocates on national television 'to forget Nazi crimes as they lie in the past'".

Mr Samuels added that Mr De Clerck "must be promptly removed from his ministry and his party, and shunned in the political arena".

Last updated: 3:31pm, May 19 2011