Holocaust. Auschwitz concentration camp
Holocaust. Auschwitz concentration campiStock

The Belgian government has announced it is opening an independent investigation into the use of its railways for deporting Jews and others to death camps during World War II, Politico.eu reported.

The investigation was ordered by Senate President Stéphanie D’Hose and Minister of Mobility and the National Railway Company Georges Gilkinet.

It will look into the actions of the National Railway Company of Belgium (SNCB), which is alleged to have been active in the deportations of Jews during the Holocaust along with the deportation of others, including Roma and resistance fighters.

The mass transfer of victims on the trains to concentration camps took place during the German occupation of Belgium, the ministers said in a Thursday statement made during a ceremony for International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

From 1942 to the end of World War II, SNCB transported over 25,000 Jews Jews and 353 Roma from Mechelen, Belgium to death camps, including Auschwitz.

The SNCB has in the past admitted responsibility for transporting Jews to concentration camps but the transports have never been investigated by researchers.

Nico Wouters of the Study and Documentation Centre for War and Contemporary Society that will be running the investigation told VRT that there the investigation will examine the role of 6,700 resistance members who were employed by the SNCB, and whether they could have sabotaged the convoys.

But when it comes to the decision-making and implementation of the convoys, there are still large knowledge gaps, he added.

“At a time when racism and polarization all too often dominate the public debate, it’s important to shed a light on this dark page of our history,” Gilkinet said. “This duty to remember … prompts us today, and time and again and in spite of everything, to defend our fundamental values of respect, freedom and diversity.”

The Belgian parliament originally called for an investigation in 2019. It is expected to be completed in 2023.