by Roland Binet (De Panne, Belgium)
Before my initial Defending History article last March on the monument to the Latvian Hitlerist Waffen SS on Belgian soil, there had only been one Belgian trying, from December 2020 onward, to get attention to what he deemed an infamy. Wilfred Burie, president and founder of the “Belgians Remember Them” association, alone compiled a list of names of more than 4,000 personnel of Britain’s Royal Air Force, whose planes were shot down in Belgium and, for each person, what became of them. There had been a parliamentary question to the Federal Belgian Minister of Justice to no avail, and, also, some articles published in minor French-speaking newspapers as well as outcries from Belgian Jewish organizations, also without consequences. On April 28, an article of mine was published in the French-speaking newspaper “La Libre Belgique” under the title “Why This Monument in Honor of the Waffen SS in Zedelgem?” with quotes from Lev Golinkin’s pioneering study on Nazi monuments around the world, published in New York’s Forward.
Then, on May 20 of this year, Michel Bouffioux from the weekly Paris Match Belgium, published his well-documented “Latvian Waffen SS celebrated in Flanders” including interviews with Dr. Efraim Zuroff (Simon Wiesenthal Center) and Dr. Leanid Kazyrytski (University of Gerona in Spain). He subsequently published sequels to his initial article with among other international reactions comments from Lev Golinkin.
Unfortunately, all reactions to that point had been only in the French-speaking part of Belgium. Then, on May 31, the website Apache.be, a Dutch-speaking media outlet, published a well-informed article with the flamboyant title “Great Damage for Zedelgem’s Image from the Latvian Waffen SS Monument,” with interviews of established Flemish historians. And finally, Jan Vanriet, a well-known Flemish painter, son of a Resistance fighter, who had previously been featured in a film about the resistance in Belgium, whom I had contacted on that matter, alerted Flemish-speaking media, and two articles were simultaneously published in Flanders on June 25, in Het Nieuwsblad (“A Sudden Realization: This is a Nazi Monument!”) and De Standaard (“Zedelgem Hhonors 12,000 Latvian Collaborators”).
But the town council of Zedelgem refuses to demolish or remove the monument, saying repeatedly that it is a monument to peace and assuring that a plaque will be added to it, explaining that “there shall be added an extended text in accordance with historical specialists, in order to avoid all susceptibilities” (Het Nieuwsblad, 25 June, 2021).