King and queen visit Buchenwald concentration camp

King Filip and Queen Mathilde have visited the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, near Weimar. They paid tribute to the victims of World War II and were informed about the fate of the Belgians who were staying in the camp at the time.  

The visit took place under a threatening sky, with some rain drops falling now and then. The king and queen laid a wreath together with the head of Belgium's German language community, Oliver Paasch, to commemorate the victims. 

Buchenwald held about 4,200 Belgian prisoners between 1940 and 1945 during the Second World War. Most Belgians were political prisoners, Belgian Jews or homosexuals. The biggest groups arrived after May 1944, when German intelligence services stepped up repression measures in Brussels. Most of them were sent to forced labour camps. 

Among those Belgian prisoners was André-Manuel Simonart, who survived the horror. The professor at Leuven University had kept his prison clothes and these have now been handed over to the Buchenwald Foundation by his grandson, for the occasion of the royal visit.

"Since his return from Buchenwald our family carried the burden of the war, first my grandfather's generation but later also the next generations, when we heard his stories", the grandson told press agency Belga. "Now there is a new generation coming and we decided to reduce this burden by symbolically giving back these clothes."