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 denial today.
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 Comitï¿½ 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
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
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
Auslï¿½nder Organization -- international Nazi network) and disseminate anti-Semitic
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 Fraternitï¿½ 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 in Brussels.
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
fï¿½r freie Geschichtsforschung (Quarterly for Free Historical Research), a forum for
Holocaust denial in German. He distributes books and pamphlets that are banned in 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.