Stefan De Clerck, a Flemish Christian Democrat, has polarised Belgium, fuelling the country's one year political crisis, by supporting a blanket amnesty for the 56,000 Belgians who were convicted of collaborating with the Nazis after the war.European Jewish Press adds:
"Perhaps we should be willing to forget, because it is the past. At some point one has to be adult and be willing to talk about. perhaps to forget, because this is the past," he said at the weekend.
The Simon Wiesenthal centre has sent a letter to Yves Leterme, the Belgian Prime Minister, accusing the minister of a "betrayal of history, his obfuscation of its lessons and his contempt for the very concept of justice."
Around 25,000 Belgian Jews were deported to Auschwitz from the Mechelen army barracks, north of Brussels, after being rounded up by authorities that often enthusiastically collaborated with the Nazis despite strong resistance from Belgium's people.
Only 1,207 survived and in 2007 the Belgian state he Belgian state apologised for "a collaboration unworthy of a democracy with a policy that was disastrous for the Jewish population".
The Flemish minister has insisted that his comments were misinterpreted but the row has further poisoned already tense relations between Dutch and French-speaking politicians.
The sensitive issue has reignited after the Belgian Senate accepted draft legislation from the far-right Flemish Vlaams Belang party that would grant amnesty to all those who collaborated with the Nazis during the war.
The Belgian Jewish community said it was “scandalized” by De Clerck’s comments.GIYUS has a list of places to write to call for his removal from office.
"We cannot forget that Belgian collaborators have contributed, often with zeal, to the stalking of men, women and children doomed to deportation by the Nazis. It is those non repentant Nazi and Fascist Belgians that the Justice Minister seeks to absolve through amnesty," said CCOJB, the umbrella group of Belgian Jewish organizations, in a joint statement with CCLJ, the Jewish Secular Center in Brussels.
On Monday, the minister issued a statement saying that he "didn’t intend to minimize" the acts of collaboration perpetrated during WWII.
It is also notable that the Vlaams Belang party is pushing that legislation.