THE HAGUE (JTA) — The mayor of Brussels has agreed to change the text of an invitation to a Holocaust memorial event after Jewish groups said it contained historical falsehoods.
The office of Mayor Freddy Thielemans last week sent out an invitation to a “ceremony of official recognition of the participation of local authorities appointed by the occupying power during World War II, in the deportation of citizens of Brussels.”
Nicolas Dassonville, Thielemans’ spokesman, told JTA that the text would be changed to “name the deportees as Jewish.”
The event, planned for Sept. 2, will be the first official recognition by a Brussels mayor of the municipality’s complicity in deporting thousands of Jews from Brussels 70 years ago. The city is co-organizing the event with CCOJB, the umbrella group representing Belgium’s French-speaking Jews.
The correction comes after complaints by the Association for the Memory of the Shoah, which noted in a written statement that the deportees were not “Brussels citizens” but Jews from all over Belgium. Dr. Eric Picard, a spokesman for the association, called the text “revisionist,” according to the Belgian news agency Belga.
German occupation during World War II “never appointed the Brussels authorities,” Picard said. “The Germans merely kept the elected authorities in place.”
Joel Rubinfeld, co-chairman of the European Jewish Parliament, a new organization based in Brussels, said the text was “rewriting history.”
“The mayor would have us commemorate people from Brussels deported because of the Nazis. In fact, they were Jews deported by Brussels authorities collaborating with the Nazis,” said Rubinfeld, a former CCJOB chairman.
In a written statement, CCOJB rejected the characterization of the text as “revisionist,” adding that “In fact, it was the mayor who initiated the ceremony to recognize the responsibility of the local authorities for carrying out anti-Jewish orders imposed by the occupier, thereby contributing to their deportation to Auschwitz.”