Groupe Mémoire - Groep Herinnering

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Groupe Mémoire - Groep Herinnering (GM-GH) is a Belgian association set up in memory of the Belgian political prisoners of the Second World War.

Purpose[edit]

GM-GH has as its main goal to keep alive the legacy and memory of the Belgian political prisoners and resistance during World War II. The association also favors human rights, and respect for human dignity[1].[a] The activities of the association include lectures, publications, events, press conferences and educational days.

Historical background[edit]

The GM-GH was founded in 1993 by two Belgian resistance fighters and political prisoners of the Second World War,[2][b] . Baron Arthur Haulot,[3] then-chairman of Vriendenkring Dachau together with his friend Baron Paul Halter [fr], then-chairman of the Auschwitz Foundation.[4] The founding of the association coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi extermination camps in 1945. Their successors were (in chronological order): André Wynen [fr][5] (former president of the World Medical Association WMA) [6] Pieter-Paul Baeten [7][c] [8][9] and Yves Louis.[10]

With the death of Philippe Claes and Pieter-Paul Baeten came an end to the era of political prisoners at the helm of the association.[11][d] The 'children of the second generation' felt there was a need to continue the association's existence and continue the memory of the political prisoners of the Second World War.

Activities[edit]

From its inception, the GM-GH has been active in Belgian society at educational and political level.[12]

Educational[edit]

In 1995, the GM-GH partnered with the King Baudouin Foundation to set up "50 years later", a memory project intended for Belgian school-goers, both in the Dutch and French speaking regions of the country. The project was under the auspices of the then GM-GH president Haulot. It consisted of a 5-day educational trip by train from Brussels to Auschwitz organized for European youngsters.

The 'Train de la démocratie et de la liberté - Buchenwald - Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp (Allemagne)' (the Train of Freedom to Buchenwald - Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp (Germany)) was an educational sponsored journey which took place in 2008 for 1000 youngsters (400 Belgians and 600 other Europeans) to meet at and learn about the Buchenwald Nazi camp and what transpired there. From the Belgian side,the trip was organized by the National Institute of War Invalids (l'Institut National des Invalides de Guerre, Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre) and the International Federation of Resistance Fighters. Pieter-Paul Baeten accompanied the youngsters on this trip as president of the Buchenwald association and president of the GM-GH.[13][14][15][e]

Political engagement[edit]

In 2007, Wynen, the second president of the GM-GH, filed a motion before the Senate endorsed by Senator Francis Delpérée stating that in order to be able to stand for democratic elections, all political parties and their candidates must openly declare that their programmes are in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted on 10 December 1948 by the United Nations and that, should this be challenged, they are prepared to answer before the Belgian judicial system (Breendonk Declaration 2007).

In 2014 the Belgian interior minister Jan Jambon, member of the N-VA party, stated that in his view it was a mistake for the Belgians to collaborate with the German army occupier during the Second World War although these citizens had their reasons for so doing. The GM-GH disagreed with minister Jan Jambon's remarks concerning German collaboration in the Second World War in an article published in La Libre Belgique on 14 October 2014 stating that 'Mr Jambon ought not turn his back on history'.[16]

Parliamentary inquiries[edit]

The classification of the cellars of the Gestapo - Avenue Louise, Brussels[edit]

During World War II, after the invasion of Belgium, the German military occupied Brussels. The Gestapo, which was part of the Nazi security organisation, the Sicherheitspolizei-Sicherheitsdienst (Sipo-SD), set up their Brussels headquarters on Avenue Louise. On 9 January 2014 the Brussels government launched a procedure to classify the cellars of the buildings occupied by the Gestapo, during the Second World War, at 347 and 453 Avenue Louise in Brussels. The interested parties requesting to preserve this heritage site included Auschwitz Foundation President Henri Goldberg, Daniel Weyssow from the same Foundation and for the GM-GH, Roger de Taevernier and historian Claire Pahaut. The provisional classification obliged the owners to open their cellar to expert investigation by the "Commission royale des Monuments, Sites et Fouilles". Following the favorable report by the "Commission royale des Monuments, Sites et Fouilles" the cellars in the two buildings were officially classified on 14 January 2016.[17] [18]

Controversial ongoing allocation of pensions to Belgian military collaborators of the Waffen-SS during the Second World War[edit]

Research indicates that a number of Belgians who joined the Waffen-SS during the Second World War received and continue to receive a pension from Germany. At the end of the Second World War, 57,000 Belgians were convicted for collaboration, 30,000 were Flemish and the other 27,000 were Walloons and from the Brussels region[19]. The GM-GH played a pivotal role in lobbying the Belgian government to put an end to German pension payments. The GM-GH voiced concern that former Belgian collaborators were still receiving payments from Germany for their wartime activities.[20] The German government for its part stated in 2012 that it could not confirm the exact number of Belgian ex-collaborators receiving German pensions. They did, however, confirm that 57 Belgians were receiving German BVG ("Bundesversorgungsgesetz") maintenance payments, with no explanation who those Belgians were.[20] Following the work conducted by Alvin de Coninck (son of a resistance fighter) and the GM-GH, deputies from various political parties tabled a motion for a resolution seeking clarification of this issue.[21] As of 2017, 27 people residing in Belgium were receiving this annuity from Germany.[22] A working group will meet under the direction of a representative of the authors of the resolution to submit a proposal to the German authorities.[23] [24] [25] [26] The Belgian parliament's Foreign relations Committee passed a Resolution on 19 February 2019 calling on its government to ask Germany to stop providing this tax-free annuity, whilst emphasizing the injustice of these payments as victims of "Nazism" do not receive comparable allowances.[27][28]

Historical projects[edit]

Discovery of the Wolvertem Nazi Party Mütterheim[edit]

A GM-GH member discovered Nazi documents in the war archives in Paris referring to a Mütterheim (maternity hospital) in Wolvertem, Belgium. This German establishment in rural Wolvertem in Flemish Brabant situated north-west of Brussels was hitherto kept a secret. This Mütterheim was set up by the Germans as a branch of the Brussels Brugmann hospital, which the Germans used as a war hospital (Kriegslazarett). Formerly known as castle Levedale in Wolvertem, referred to also as Neromhof, was converted into a maternity hospital in August 1942. The first admissions were in November of the same year. The Mütterheim offered a good level of medical care for both mother and child. Spouses of SS officers benefited from the facilities offered by this maternity hospital. The Mütterheim in Wolvertem was by strict definition not a Lebensborn clinic and therefore did not come under the jurisdiction of the SS. A genuine Lebensborn maternity was later established at Wégimont castle near Liège, the Wolvertem clinic just serving as a stepping stone. Nanna Conti, the mother of the SS minister of public health (Reichsgesundheitsführer) Leonardo Conti,[29] oversaw the Mütterheim in Wolvertem. She appointed a Norwegian Lebensborn as head midwife. Dr. Frans Daels, a gynecologist from Ghent University, and his assistant Adèle Vankerckhove, director of the nursing school in Ghent, saw to the appointment of Flemish midwives to the Mütterheim. The clinic was operational for a year before moving its activities to Wégimont castle, a genuine Lebensborn clinic. An estimated 20 to 30 children were born in Wolvertem.[30]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ article 3 of the GM-GH statute (available in French and Dutch)
  2. ^ only available in French
  3. ^ the new GM-GH president; article in La Libre Belgique
  4. ^ article in La Libre Belgique regarding the history of the GM-GH
  5. ^ Article by the then President of French speaking Brussels parliament

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://www.companyweb.be/company/696962123/free-pub/15410389
  2. ^ "Le Groupe Mémoire, écouté avant d'être entendu?". La Libre Belgique.
  3. ^ "Arthur HAULOT: résistant, poète, haut fonctionnaire et artisan de la mémoire". 26 June 2012.
  4. ^ News, Flanders (April 2, 2013). "Auschwitz remembrance pioneer is dead". vrtnws.be.
  5. ^ "André Wynen". January 8, 2018 – via Wikipedia.
  6. ^ Stafford, Ned (15 September 2007). "André Wynen". The Lancet. 370 (9591): 930. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61432-9.
  7. ^ "Un président flamand pour le Groupe Mémoire". La Libre Belgique.
  8. ^ "Le Groupe-Mémoire-Groep Herrinering poursuit son action après le décès de son président". RTL Info.
  9. ^ http://lesresistantsdelamemoire.be/forum/topic-6309+pieter-paul-baeten-etait-entre-en-resistance-a-16-ans.php
  10. ^ "Yves Louis". yveslouis.com.
  11. ^ http://www.yveslouis.com/files/groep/LLB%2016%2002%202018.pdf
  12. ^ "Le Groupe Mémoire poursuit son combat pour la démocratie". La Libre Belgique.
  13. ^ "Le train de la liberté est parti pour Buchenwald". La Libre Belgique.
  14. ^ "10>14 avril 2008 - Train de la Liberté - Buchenwald-Dora (Allemagne) - Province de Luxembourg". province.luxembourg.be.
  15. ^ "Christos Doulkeridis - Le train des Mille vers Buchenwald : la jeunesse européenne sur les rails de la liberté et de la démocratie". doulkeridis.be.
  16. ^ Libre.be, La (October 13, 2014). "Monsieur Jambon, ne tournez pas le dos à l'Histoire !". www.lalibre.be.
  17. ^ "Dans les caves de la Gestapo". La Libre Belgique.
  18. ^ "Fondation Auschwitz - Siège de la Gestapo". Fondation Auschwitz – Mémoire d'Auschwitz ASBL.
  19. ^ "Les anciens SS belges touchent toujours une pension de l'Allemagne". RTBF Info. 10 May 2016.
  20. ^ a b "Belgium ex-Nazis 'get German pensions'". BBC News. 9 June 2016.
  21. ^ "Voorstel van Resolutie / Proposition de Résolution" (PDF). Chamber of Representatives (Belgium).
  22. ^ "Privacy settings". myprivacy.persgroep.net.
  23. ^ http://www.yveslouis.com/files/groep/Le%20Soir%2028%2003%202017.pdf
  24. ^ "27 personnes reçoivent en Belgique une rente allemande après avoir collaboré". Le Soir.
  25. ^ Vergauwen, Eveline. "Een pensioen voor collaborateurs? 'Ze verdienen dat niet'". De Standaard (in Dutch).
  26. ^ [1]
  27. ^ "Le parlement demande à l'Allemagne de cesser de verser des pensions aux collaborateurs belges". RTBF Info. 14 March 2019.
  28. ^ "Germany 'still pays UK and Belgian pensioners who served in SS'". euronews. February 20, 2019.
  29. ^ https://www.auschwitz.be/images/_bulletin_trimestriel/112_louis_verschooris.pdf
  30. ^ "De nazi-materniteit van Wolvertem". Canvas (in Dutch).