New probe into rail company’s role in WW2 deportations

The Belgian government and the senate have commissioned historical research into the role played by the state rail company NMBS during the deportation of Jews and Roma people from Belgium during the Second World War.

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. 

The research will look into how people deported were transported in general and the role of the NMBS in particular.  During the war over 25,000 Jews and Romas were put on NMBS goods trains at the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen.  The death camps were their destination.

“The exact role played by the state company has never been clearly established” says Nico Wouters of War and Society research centre CegeSoma.

That the NMBS and Belgian drivers played a role in the deportation of Jews was known, but there are many holes in our knowledge.  Who decided what, what were the exact requests of the Germans? We don’t know so much about that”.

Did rail company staff ever protest? Were there any attempts at sabotage?  How did the system work and was there any opportunity for sabotage?  These are all questions that remain unanswered.

“After the liberation 6,700 NMBS staff were officially recognised as members of the resistance. The rail company was also a business where organised resistance was strong, but we don’t know what the exact impact of this resistance was on the implementation of the transportations” says Wouters.

The results of the study should be made public in mid-2023.

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