Historical Background

66,000 Jews were living in Belgium when the country was occupied by the Germans in May 1940. Only 10% of them had Belgian citizenship, the rest were immigrants and refugees. When the deportations to the death camps in the east began in summer 1942 the foreign Jews were deported first, and only a year later were those with Belgian citizenship rounded up. When the fate of the deported Jews became known, there was a certain change from the relative indifference to the German anti-Jewish policy that had prevailed in the early years of occupation. This enabled many Jews to go into hiding. At the same time, like in other countries, there was collaboration and denunciation of hiding Jews. An important role in rescue work was played by the church and the Communist underground, as well as the Jews' organized self-help via the Comité de Défence des Juifs, established in the summer of 1942, which was assisted by non-Jews. 28,000 Jews from Belgium perished in the Holocaust.