Prior to the war, there had been very little anti-Jewish feeling expressed in either Brussels or Antwerp. Although Antwerp was a hotbed of the Flemish nationalist movement, the focus of this nationalism before 1930 was almost entirely anti-French. With the rise of Nazism in Germany through the 1930s and the onset of the Depression, however, there was a rise in Flemish “New Order” parties in Antwerp that did not occur in Brussels–most notably the Vlaamsch Nationaal Verbond (V N V, Flemish National League) founded in 1933. These parties adopted much of the Nazi credo and turned their nationalist fervour against Belgian Jews. …The V N V and their supporters accused Antwerp’s Jews of supporting “denationalization” (Frenchification) by overwhelmingly sending their children to French-speaking schools. In 1937, Antwerp also saw the founding of the explicitly anti-Semitic and violent organization Volksverwering with its paramilitary wing, Actie Groep (Action Group). Even before the German army set foot in Belgium, Actie Groep began a campaign to expel Jews from Antwerp’s public parks. It was these extremist Flemish nationalists who, along with Algemeene SS-Vlaanderen (the Flemish arm of the SS) became a brutal collaborationisht force unleashed against Antwerp’s Jewish population…

Mark Webber and Naomi Azrieli, Introduction to E/96: Fate Undecided, by Paul-Henri Rips (Azrieli Foundation, 2009)

The insecurity of nationalist sentiment


About brucelarochelle

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