The Vlaams Blok of Flanders has become one of the strongest extreme right parties
in Europe. The most serious anti-Semitic incident in 1997 was the attempt to set fire
to the Anderlecht synagogue in Brussels. The Belgian government appointed a commission
to locate property confiscated from Jewish Holocaust victims. The Belgium-based European
Foundation for Free Historical Research is one of the main distributors of Holocaust
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
Some 40,000 Jewish citizens live in Belgium out of a total population of 10 million.
The two main centers of Belgian Jewry are Antwerp (15,000) and Brussels (15,000).
Smaller communities can be found in Liege, Charleroi, Ghent, Ostend and Arlon. The
Comité de Coordination des Organizations Juives de Belgique (Coordinating Committee
of Jewish Organizations in Belgium -- CCOJB) is the community's umbrella organization.
Antwerp is a leading center of ultra-orthodox Jewish life, with about 30 synagogues
and shtiebelach, in addition to schools, yeshivot and other religious institutions.
The Antwerp community publishes a weekly paper called Belgisch Israelitisch Weekblad.
The francophone Jewish citizens living in Brussels identify closely with the culture
of their surroundings. Their leading publication is Regards.
EXTREMIST PARTIES AND HATE GROUPS
Extreme Right-Wing Political Parties
Belgium is divided into three major regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels), and
three linguistic communities (French, Flemish and German; Brussels is bilingual).
The largest neo-fascist party in Belgium is the Vlaams Blok (VB) of Flanders,
established in 1977. Since its electoral success in 1995, the VB, currently headed by
Frank Vanhecke, has become one of the strongest extreme right parties in Europe (see
previous reports). Its political aspiration is for a Flemish state which, after the
dissolution of Belgium, would unify Belgian Flanders, French Flanders and the Netherlands.
Flemish nationalism of the 1930s, Flemish collaboration with Nazi Germany, and glorification
of the Vlaanderen Division of the Waffen SS, are legacies embraced by the party. One
of the most fanatical defenders of these values is VB vice-president Roland Raes.
Although in 1995 VB voted for the law prohibiting denial or minimization of the Holocaust,
members of the VB are known as Holocaust deniers. The party's theory of nationalism
is based on the German volkisch conception. The term race flamande (Flemish
race) is frequently used by VB ideologists.
Currently, although it still cultivates its links with neo-Nazi movements in France
and worldwide, the VB has been trying to present itself as a respectable party. It
has the electoral support of almost 15 percent of the population in the Flemish region,
and in several big cities such as Antwerp it can count on the support of more than
20 percent of the population. In November 1997, during its second national convention
in Antwerp, the VB began its electoral campaign (scheduled for 1999) with slogans
against foreigners and the legal establishment, and for an independent Flanders.
Despite its electoral successes, the francophone extreme right in Belgium is characterized
by internal divisions, financial scandals, and a lack of political programs and organization.
Various groups and factions are fighting over the leadership of the francophone extreme
right in Belgium, principally the Front National Belge (FNB, or Belgian FN),
founded in 1985, and the Front Nouveau de Belgique, founded in 1995. The latter
resulted from severe internal disputes in the FNB which caused it to split into two.
Front Nouveau de Belgique is headed by FNB ex-vice chairman Marguerite Bastien.
Outside the political arena, various neo-Nazi and radical right groups continue to
operate in Belgium. Some, such as Thule Sodalitas, are involved in anti-Semitic
activities (see below). The best organized and the most active is Voorpost
(Outpost), which has strong links to the VB as well as worldwide connections with extreme
right groups (see ASW 1996/7). It is known that members of outlawed militant groups,
such as Vlaamse Militanten Orde (VMO), have created clandestine para-military
cells. In 1997 Diksmuide, where Flemish nationalists have been meeting regularly since
1920 to honor their soldiers who fell in World War II, was again a venue for extreme
rightists throughout Europe.
The most serious anti-Semitic incident in 1997 occurred In February when an attempt
was made to set fire to the Anderlecht synagogue in Brussels. In addition, several
threatening phone calls were received by Jewish institutions in Brussels and a swastika
was drawn on the wall of a Jewish school.
Anti-Semitic propaganda and Holocaust denial are spread by several publications of
the extreme right (see ASW 1996/7) . Frequently, they combine anti-Semitism with hostility
toward Israel. In December 1997, for example, the extreme right publication Europe
nouvelles published an attack on "plutocrats," namely, the Jews, by the Flanders
nationalist Ralf Van den Haute (formerly leader of the Vlaams Jeugd, the youth organization
of former Flemish SS members). Since 1996 Ralf Van den Haute has become the mentor
of Thule Sodalitas, a secret association which defines itself as a combat unit.
The members of this militant group are linked to the NSDAP-AO (Nazi Ausländer Organization --
international Nazi network) and disseminate anti-Semitic propaganda material.
Anti-Semitism is also spread by activists of the francophone extreme right. Several
leaders or sympathizers of the FNB are known for their anti-Semitic positions. Among
them are Alain Escada and Jean-Pierre Hamblenne, editors of the publications Polemique
and Altair, respectively.
Religiously motivated anti-Semitism still exists in Belgium. The most active group
is the Belgian branch of Fraternité Saint-Pie X, a Catholic, nationalistic, religious movement, founded
thirty years ago by Monseigneur Marcel Lefebre. This fraternity is closely linked to
the FNB and to the anti-abortion Pro Vita lobby, led by a former comrade of
Nazi collaborator Leon Degrelle. Pro Vita believes in a Jewish conspiracy against
the Christian West. Anti-Semitic books can be easily acquired in the group's bookshop
ATTITUDES TO THE HOLCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
In 1997 the Belgium government appointed a commission to locate property confiscated
from Jewish Holocaust victims.
The Belgium-based European Foundation for Free Historical Research (Vrij Historisch
Onderzoek -- VHO), headed by Siegfried Verbeke, is one of the main distributors of
Holocaust denial maerial in the world today (see previous reports). This is in spite
of the fact that Belgium passed a law in 1995 making Holocaust denial illegal. VHO
maintains strong links with individuals and organizations in several countries, such
as Radio Islam in Sweden, the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (CODOH) in
California, and the Australian Adelaide Institute. VHO publishes, translates and disseminates
Holocaust denial publications from all over the world, mainly through its widely-linked
website on the Internet. Recently, Verbeke began propagating on his website the quarterly
Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung (Quarterly for Free Historical
Research), a forum for Holocaust denial in German. He distributes books and pamphlets
that are banned in Germany (see Germany). German Holocaust denier Germar Rudolf, who
fled to Spain to avoid serving a prison sentence, is one of Verbeke's favorite authors.
His publications, translated into several languages can be downloaded from the VHO-website.
Publications that present a forum for those who deny Nazi war guilt and the Holocaust,
include Periodiek Contact, issued by Hertog jan van Brabant (HJVB), a group
of former SS-collaborators with close links to the VHO, Forum, edited by the Belgian
Christian League, and Le Cri du Citoyen (Voice of the People), representing
the ideas of the FNB.