A quiet residential area, a large square, a nature reserve project and what else to describe Zedelgem, a village of 22,000 inhabitants, near Bruges, in Belgium? There is indeed this strange monument built by the municipality in memory of former SS, in general indifference, in 2018. Called De Letse Bijenkorf (“the Latvian beehive”), the work was discovered two years later by former resistance fighters, Jewish organizations and The Belgians Remember Them, an association celebrating the memory of British aviators of the Second World War.
The “Beehive” is, it seems, populated by as many bees – “Workers and peaceful beings as long as they are not threatened”,specified the initiators of the project – that of Latvians lodged in the neighboring camp of Vloethemveld, at the end of the war. This British prisoner of war camp accommodated up to 100,000 detainees, including 12,000 citizens of Latvia. But not just any: members of the 15ex and 19e divisions of the Waffen SS, the “racial and political” army of the Hitler regime, created in 1939 by Heinrich Himmler.
In the eyes of the town hall, long held by the Christian Democratic Party CD & V, these men were apparently not soldiers of the Reich (the Waffen SS totaled up to 1 million), but “Freedom fighters”. Hear from opponents of Bolshevism and Joseph Stalin. Released without trial after a few months of detention, all of them have also decided to live in the West, now incarnating themselves as opponents of the communist regime which had taken over their country. And all affirmed, without being really controlled, that they had been forcibly recruited by Nazi Germany, which had invaded Latvia in the summer of 1941.
A plate removed
Their version of the story was relayed by the city councilors of Zedelgem, but widely contested by many historians, as well as by Jewish organizations. For months, demonstrations and protest actions have been organized on the outskirts of the “Hive”, the dismantling of which has been demanded. Until now, they have only resulted in the removal of a plaque which presented, in three languages, the town as “Above all patriotic”, condemning nazism but desirous of honor “Universal freedom”.
Not enough to convince, in particular, the Simon-Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem which judges ” insupportable “ the presence in a European country of a monument seen as an insult to the victims of the Hitler regime and an encouragement to revisionism. Its experts point out that while letters were indeed forcibly recruited into the SS Legion from the winter of 1943, the massacres of Jews in the country began two years earlier.
And that, in any case, there was a way to flee the constituency or to enlist instead in the compulsory labor service.
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