Belgium’s banks and government announced that $170 million in restitution would be paid to the Jewish community and families of Holocaust survivors whose property and goods were looted by the Nazis during World War II.
Belgium is facing 5,210 outstanding claims for restitution stemming from the Holocaust. Of those cases, 162 amount to more than $30,000. Of the total payout, $69.8 million will come from the Belgian authorities and $85 million from banks. Most of the remainder will come from insurance companies.
At a ceremony on May 8, 2007, Belgium’s Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt apologized for the role Belgian authorities played in helping to deport Jews to Nazi concentration camps.
There were nearly 50,000 Jews living in Belgium during the 1930s; about half perished in the Holocaust. In 2007, a government-backed report blamed Belgian authorities and the ruling elite for collaborating with the Nazi persecution of Jews. Jewish citizens were forced to be registered, then forced to wear the yellow Star of David on their clothes, and Belgian schools and hospitals were segregated. Raids soon rounded up Jews in Belgian cities and deportations east to the Nazi concentration camps sent thousands to their death.
The Belgian deal was the latest successful effort by Holocaust victims to win compensation that began with a deal with the German government negotiated by the World Jewish Congress in the 1950s.