Belgium

1 Recognition of the Genocide

1.1 Recognition, official texts

Belgium observes 27 January as the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust (Journée internationale de la commémoration en mémoire des victims de la Shoah).

Belgium has not yet established a memorial day for commemorating the Roma and Sinti genocide.

The decree of 13 March 2009 is the turning point regarding Wallonia's remembrance of the Genocide, enforcing Memory transmission.

1.2 Data (camps locations, Remembrance places, measures etc.)

The Kazerne Dossin became a "Sammellager", an internment camp for Jews and Gypsies. Between July 1942 and September 1944, 25 482 Jews and 352 Gypsies were imprisonned there before being deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and other camps. Two thirds of the deportees were gased upon their arrival. At the Liberation, only 1395 were still alive.

A remembrance place was inaugurated in Dossin barracks on 30 May 1948. Since 1956, a ceremony takes place there every year.

1.3 Specialised institution, commission, research centre etc., dealing with this issue

Belgium has three resource centres but none is specifically dedicated to the Genocide of the Roma: Centre communautaire laïc juif, the Auschwitz Foundation and the National Memorial Fort Breendonk.

1.4 Official initiatives (campaigns, actions, projects, commemoration days, museums)

There is some information in the Jewish Museum of Deportation and resistance in Mechelen / Malines.

The Museum of Kazerne Dossin evokes the Gypsies who were deported there in the permanent exhibition and shows pictures and other elements of them in the Memorial. Their names are called, along with those of all the prisoners of Dossin.

 

2 Teaching about the Genocide of the Roma

2.1 Inclusion of the topic in the school curriculum

In the Wallonia region, the Holocaust is a compulsory topic at upper secondary level. The topic of concentration camps in general and of the Shoah more specifically is part of history teaching. Yet the Genocide of the Roma is not specifically addressed, but it is included in the general history of the Holocaust.

2.2 Inclusion of the topic in the school textbooks

The Holocaust is addressed in manuals. There is no particular information on the Genocide of the Roma.

2.3 Training of teachers and education professionals

The subject is addressed in teacher training initiatives that are prepared in co-operation with Yad Vashem, amongst other organisations. Wallonian teachers also frequently visit memorial sites in Belgium and abroad, whilst Holocaust survivors are often asked to share their experiences with pupils in schools. The Genocide of the Roma is not dealt as a specific topic.

2.4 Particular activities undertaken at the level of education institutions

Belgium also reported that the Kazerne Dossin museum in Mechelen (Malines) plays an important role in Holocaust remembrance, offering visits, seminars and publications in French during school trips to the museum, and co-operating with the Democracy or Barbarism unit (DOB) (Démocratie ou Barbarie) of the Ministry of the Wallonia Brussels Federation.

2.5 Remembrance day

On 27 January, a circular letter was sent by the President-Minister of Wallonia and the Minister of Education to educational institutions calling on them to commemorate the event in classes, and suggesting publications and activities that can be used to do so. On Holocaust Memorial Day, the DOB unit organises various educational initiatives.

3 Official contacts and resource persons

3.1 Responsible person in the Ministry of Education

Joëlle Milquet
Vice-President of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation
Minister of Education and Culture
Place Surlet de Chokier, 15-17
B – 1000 Bruxelles
Telephone: 02 801 78 11

3.2 Resource persons - list of experts and historians

4 Initiatives of the civil society

4.1 Relevant projects having a real impact on the people and/or the wide public

The Belgian NGO Dignité Roms has developed a project called "Research on Roma deportations and Mass Killing Sites during World War II in Eastern Europe", in partnership with the French NGO Yahad In Unum. Since November of 2010, they have worked on collecting testimonies on the massacres that took place on the territories of the Former Soviet Union (Ukraine, Belarus, Russia) by Nazi mobile units as well as the deportations to Transnistria from Romania and Moldova. They also work on the identification of mass execution sites. Village after village, family after family, by cross-referencing survivor testimonies with Romanian, German and Soviet archives, the project has identified 51 execution sites of Roma in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia and interviewed 30 witnesses to the massacres of the Roma in these countries. Five research trips in Romania and one trip in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has enabled the organisations to collect more than 150 testimonies on Roma survivors. To this day, they have collected more than 180 testimonies on the persecutions of Roma in Eastern Europe, including Romania, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

5 Point of view of the Roma community - including survivors' testimonies

Several testimonies collected during the "Research on Roma deportations and Mass Killing Sites during World War II in Eastern Europe" can be watched on Yahad In Unum's website in the Fieldwork section, by selecting the country.