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Belgian Railways and deportations in WWII (2022-2023)

A German officer in a Belgian office at Mons railway station. The Wehrmacht Verkehrs Direktion aggressively takes over large parts of SNCB's strategic and operational business management. Source: private collection Paul Pastiels.

On 8 December 2023, Nico Wouters presented in the Senate the report on the role of the National Belgian Railways Society (NMBS/SNCB) in deportations carried out during the Second World War in Belgium. CegeSoma conducted this research from January 2022 to November 2023, commissioned by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet and the Senate. Researcher Florence Matteazzi collected some of the source material between August 2022 and May 2023. The members of the scientific guidance committee were: Michaël Amara (Head of Service of the General State Archives in Brussels), Grégory Célerse (Researcher Musée de la Résistance, Bondues & Rails et histoire, Paris), Frédéric Crahay (Director Auschwitz Foundation), Dirk Luyten (Head of Research CegeSoma/Rijksarchief), Hinke Piersma (Head of Research Netherlands Institute for War and Genocide Studies (NIOD), Amsterdam), Laurence Schram (researcher Kazerne Dossin), Veerle Vanden Daelen (curator and coordinator of collections and research Kazerne Dossin), Bart Van der Herten (researcher railroad and transport history, independent consultant and coach) and Paul Van Heesvelde (researcher railroad and transport history).

The integral report is available online in French and Dutch via the Senate website.

A more comprehensive book for the general public has come out on 9 December : Bezet bedrijf. De oorlogsgeschiedenis van de NMBS (Lannoo Publishers). The French-language version will appear in March 2024.
The final report and book answer the questions: did the NMBS/SNCB run these deportation trains and, if so, did it receive financial compensation for those services? But the study also places the Belgian Railways in the broader historical context.

The results of the report received wide coverage in the national media. As a direct consequence of this report, Minister Gilkinet decided on December 8 to establish a Council of Sages to reflect on possible follow-up measures.