The company Belgian railway National Society of Belgian Railways (SNCB) received Nazi payments by deportation of jewsgypsies, resistance fighters and forced laborers during World War II, according to a study presented this Friday.
It is the conclusion of a investigation on the role of the SNCB in railway deportation convoys, presented this Friday to the Belgian Senate by the historian Nico Woutersdirector of the Center for the Study of War and Society (Cegesoma) of Belgium.
Between 1942 and 1944, the SNCB organized 28 convoys trains from the Mechelen detention center to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
Of the 189,542 Belgian forced laborers, 25,490 were Jews, 16,081 were political prisoners and 353 were gypsies.
Of the 189,542 workers Belgian forced prisoners taken on those trips, 25,490 were Jews, 16,081 political prisoners and 353 gypsies, and only 5% survived. These transports were invoiced to the occupant and around 50.7 million Belgian francs were paid at that time, according to the study data.
“There is no doubt that these payments allowed, among other things, reimburse deportation trains,” explained Wouters when presenting his report to the Senate, according to Belgian media.
Most of the deportations took place in the so-called special trains Sonderzüge, which circulated outside normal hours and were controlled by Nazi soldiers.
The report indicates that no formal decision was made within the SNCB itself and that, according to the sources analyzed, there were practically no protests from the staff against these deportations.
Belgian participation is, according to the study, the result of tacit submission to German pressure and control
German instructions stipulated that only Belgian personnel could be used for deportations “absolutely reliable”. This participation is, according to the study, the result of a tacit submission to the pressure and German control.
According to Wouters, the decision of the board of directors in June 1940, a month after the German invasion, to relaunch the SNCB and collaborate with the occupation forces was a decision considered inevitable to guarantee the supply from Belgium.
This is a reflection of the doctrine of the lesser evil, then applied in Belgium, also known as the Galopin doctrine. The board of directors itself admitted that it was “factually impossible for the railway company to refuse.”
The report also notes that the Belgian railways carried out military transport for the occupation forces and, from that moment on, a process of increase and standardization of the practice took place.
For example, German equipment was repaired in Belgian workshops in June 1941, after the first German defeats at the hands of the Soviet Union.
The report also notes that Belgian railways carried out military transport for the occupation forces
According to the report, the railway company considered these “services provided” to the occupation forces as a necessary price to maintain transport and food supply in Belgium. “For the SNCB, deportation trains represented only a small part of these services,” Wouters explained.
“When deportation trains were introduced in 1941 and intensified in 1942, they were not seen as something new: they were simply a continuation than had been accepted for a long time,” added the historian.
In his report, the investigator did not comment on a political, legal or even moral point of view, nor on the issue of compensation for the families of the victims. Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet proposed creating a “council of wise men” to consider next steps.
“Remember our history It is the best way to understand it, to prevent us from reliving its darkest pages. “This is even more true at a time when anti-Semitism, overt racism and hatred are on the rise again,” he stated.
This study responds to questions that were raised in 2007 following the publication of a 1,100-page report dedicated to ‘docile Belgium’. But, even then, it was suggested that it was necessary to delve deeper to understand the extent to which the railway company, and more broadly the Belgian authorities, had participated in the transport of Jews to the Nazi extermination camps.