Just as in other countries, Jews also left traces (and still are leaving traces) in Belgium: The oldest trace is a gravestone in the Flemish city Tienen (French: Tirlemont) of a girl who was known as Rebecca, daughter of Mozes. She passed away in the Jewish year 5016 which corresponds with the Gregorian calendar as 1255-1256.
Other traces of Jewish life are to be found in:
documents: from the Middle Ages through the French Revolution up until now, documents by occupiers of the country (decrees and edicts for the general population or against the Jews specifically), documents by resistance fighters, documents by Governments, documents by the Jewish communities, etc.
chronicles like ‘Maagel Tov’ (see http://hebrewbooks.org/21838) by Rabbi Chaim Joseph David Azulai who was also known as the Chida (1724 – 1 March 1806) , whose travels took him also to Belgium
I found it exciting to read about a project by some academics and the Belgian State Archives who have been working for some months on the compilation of a Guide to Archives related to Judaism and the Jewish population in Belgium in the 19th-20th century. The makers of the guide intend to Continue reading Belgian Jewish Life in the different Belgian archives→
I received an invitation from the village of Philippeville which is in the southern part of Belgium to the inauguration of a monument in the memory of 49 Jews who were put into forced labor in quarries in Merlemont (Merlemont is part of Philippeville). The monument was erected last Sunday (16 December 2012) on the grounds of one of the quarries in Merlemont; the “S.A. Dolomies” which is nowadays part of the Lhoist Group (www.lhoist.com). I went with my brother Raffi.
Preceding to the inauguration a few speeches were given after which the national anthem of Belgium was played. Afterwards the monument was inaugurated which was followed by the inauguration and more speeches.
Finally we were all invited to the local school’s canteen in the Centre of Merlemont to have a chat, drink and snack.
The project which led to the inauguration of the monument, started when during a research on Merlemont a local city guide of the village, Marie-Noëlle Philippart, came across the Internet a phrase in a book (van Doorslaer Rudi, Schreiber Jean-Philippe, ‘De curatoren van het getto.”, Lannoo Uitgeverij, 2004, 411 p.) which indicated that during the Second World War there had been Jewish forced laborers in quarries in the village of Merlemont. After checking old records from the personnel, she found a list of fifteen names which then became the kickoff of her research which took two years and a half. She has discovered that in May 1942 a German ordinance stipulated that 60 Jews be put to work in quarries of Merlemont to mine limestone (dolomite). Of these 60 summoned, 21 workers and their families arrived during the summer of 1942 until March 1943 and lived in Merlemont. We find among them five armed partisans, hidden children, four moms who were arrested and deported on convoy XX of which at least one escaped. From late April 1945 to mid-May, there were still 28 Jewish registered incomes from Jewish workers in Merlemont, however only a few traces of their history could be found.
The project culminated also with the publishing of a book which is titled “Eté 1942 – Des étoiles jaunes à la Dolomie”. In her book the author elaborates about her findings and her communication with the witnesses she interviewed.
I had the pleasure to meet the author and other persons such as Mr. Christian Malburny from the organization Archéophil (http://users.swing.be/archeophil) who took an important role in bringing this book to fruition.
I mentioned in another article the fact that Belgian Jews exiled to Cuba during WWII. My relatives also stayed in Cuba. Many of the Jews who lived in Cuba during the War, were Belgian refugees. For more on this topic you may read Jews from Antwerp in Cuba.
Cuba and some of my relatives:
I found in the book “Jewish Community of Cuba – The Golden Years 1906-1958” by Mr. Jay Levinson (ISBN 78-0977620708) a paragraph on page 133 with a reference to the copy of La Voz de Betar:
“Not all the Belgian Jews, however, confined all of their activity to their own closely-knit society. J. Dorf lectured to Betar on Jewish History; Ringler spoke to the meeting of Betar about geography of the Holy Land.”
I found in that copy of La Voz de Betar (Cuba) which appeared in September 1944 (this file is known at the Jabotinsky Institute archives as file 3/239 bet), some names of people belonging to the Dorf family (my great-grandmother Liebe Dorf was married to my great-grandfather Gerschon Lehrer):