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 also met with Mr. Guy Pegoretti who Continue reading Inauguration of a memorial stone in memory of the Jewish forced laborers in quarries in Merlemont