Faces of people deported from the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen
BELGA/VERGULT

Brussels honours WW2 heroes who stopped a deportation train

The Brussels parliament has decided to erect a monument to commemorate the acts of heroism of three young Brusselers during the Second World War.  The three resistance fighters helped 17 Jews to escape from a train that was taking them to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

The three young men stopped a train that was deporting Jews from the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen (Antwerp Province) in April 1943. The German occupier was using the former army barracks as a transit camp for Jews.  Robert Maistreau (then aged 22), Youra Livchitz (25) and Jean Franklemon (25) stopped the so called XXth train transport carrying 1,636.  Their story is related in historian Marc De Geest’s tome “Het XXste transport naar Auschwitz”.

The three youngsters hid in bushes along the line the train was taking in Boortbeerbeek (Flemish Brabant) and used an oil lamp on the tracks to stop the train.  Their only weapon was a small calibre firearm. 

Youra distracted attention while firing on Nazi police accompanying the train allowing Robert to force open one of the doors in the middle of the transport.  He urged the passengers to flee.  17 Jews jumped out and were each handed a 50 franc note allowing them to return to Brussels the following day. 

Seven of the 17 were later detained and were sent to Auschwitz, but ten people survived the war thanks to the three lads’ heroism.

All three were later detained. Youra was one of the many resistance fighters executed at the shooting range behind the present VRT building.  Robert ended up in a concentration camp but survived the war as did Jean, who went to live in the GDR and worked as a musician in a philharmonic orchestra.   

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