WILLEM PAUWELS, alias “WILCHAR” was born in Saint-Gilles on 1 November 1910. His father works for Tramways Bruxellois, his mother is a laundress. At the age of fifteen, he trained as a litographer and took evening classes at the academy of drawing in Saint-Gilles.
Wilchar remained a ‘committed artist’ throughout his life. Between 1935 and 1940, he made more than 70 posters for the Belgian Workers’ Party and the Communist Party. He remains faithful to his left-wing ideals.
In 1940, as a mobilised person, he took part in the Eighteen Days’ Campaign. He succeeded in staying out of the hands of the Germans. As a civil servant at the National Office for Work, he actively participated in the resistance against the occupying forces within this administration. The following year, he founded the artists’ collective “Contact” and published the clandestine magazine “Art et Liberté” within the Communist Party.
His resistance activities led to his arrest in Forest on 2 April 1943. Wilchar stayed in Breendonk until May 27th 1943 as prisoner no 1939. Then he ended up in the citadel of Huy. There he is released on 28 June.
From 1944 onwards he painted his watercolours about Breendonk in secret and, after the liberation, he illustrated Edgard Marbaix’s book ‘Breendonk death’.
In the 1950s, he decided to devote himself to linogravure and the art of painting. He produced several works in which he opposed the consumer society and social injustice.
In 1993, the film-maker Richar took Olivier Wilchar to Breendonk and had him testify. The result of his testimony is the film ‘Black Tears’, a document that soberly sketches a picture of the anarchist with the big heart.
Wilchar died on 28 June 2005 at the age of 95 in Uccle.
With the support of the King Baudouin Foundation, the Memorial succeeded in purchasing 30 paintings in Chinese ink that Wilchar made shortly after his release from the citadel in Huy.
His work: 70 original posters (and 30 designs), 30 paintings on Breendonk, 145 lithographs, 2 canvases measuring 3 metres by 2 metres, 20 paintings on panels measuring 1 metre 20 by 2 metres, etc….
Jacques OCHS was born on 19 February 1883 in Nice. His parents are of German origin. At the time of his birth father Ochs was already living off his earnings. In 1893 the family moves to Liège, where Jacques Ochs enrols at the academy.
In 1915 Ochs enlists as a war-volunteer and becomes a motorcyclist. He later serves as a sub-lieutenant in the artillery and in a reconnaissance squadron. In 1917 he is shot down. He ends the war in a squadron of seaplanes charged with hunting down German submarines.
In 1921, Ochs was appointed professor at the Academy of Liège, where he became director in 1937. In the meantime, he was involved in a serious plane crash. The injuries he sustained put an end to his sporting career. At that time, he collaborates with various newspapers (Pourquoi Pas ?, La Nation Belge, L’action wallonne, le Petit Parisien,…). Ochs takes an irreconcilable stand against the Flemish, incivism and amnesty. He is also an outspoken Germanophobe.
In 1938, Jacques Ochs drew a caricature of Hitler for the satirical magazine “Pourquoi Pas? “a caricature of Hitler with bloody hands (“Emperor Hitler”). A jealous colleague with New Order sympathies reported Ochs to the occupying forces after May 1940. Ochs is arrested on 17 November 1940 at his desk at the Academy of Fine Arts in Liège.
He stayed at the Liège Saint-Léonard prison and at the Gestapo headquarters on Avenue Louise in Brussels, before being transferred to Breendonk on 7 December 1940. In Breendonk he was prisoner no. 56.
Major Schmitt had Ochs work at the “Stubedienst” (cleaning service), later at the “Zeichendienst” (drawing office). The camp commander ordered Ochs to make drawings of the prisoners. The drawings that have been preserved are mainly from July-October 1941. Each evening Ochs had to hand over his work to his chamberlain, who in turn handed it over to the SS. In reality Ochs only hands over copies and hides the originals.
Ochs fell ill and ended up in the military hospital in Antwerp. There, following the intervention of Queen Elisabeth, he was released on 20 February 1942. Upon his release, he is still in possession of the drawings he made in the camp.
In July 1944, Ochs was arrested again and ended up in the Dossin Barracks, the collection camp for Jews from Belgium. The transports to Auschwitz left from Mechelen. Ochs remained there from 5 July until his liberation on 4 September.
In 1947, he published the book “Breendonck, Bagnards et Bourreaux. Textes et dessins par Jacques Ochs”.
Jacques Ochs died on 3 April 1971 at the age of 88.
The Memorial possesses ten drawings and a sketchbook that Ochs managed to smuggle out of the camp illegally. In 1973, the newly founded French and Flemish Communities bought 64 drawings at an auction in Antwerp. Some of these drawings were lent to the Memorial on a long-term basis.
DIDIER GELUK (DILUCK)
After the Second World War, this committed communist made thousands of political caricatures under the pseudonym Diluck. They are published in communist magazines such as “De Roode Vaan” or in “Pourquoi pas? ». After his drawing career, he is in charge of film distribution.
As an illustrator working for the press, Diluck follows the Mechelen trial.
He later donated the drawings of the accused to the Memorial.
The Belarusian artist Idel Iancelevici himself has no historical connection with Breendonk, but is the author of the statue ‘The Defender’, which can be admired on the square in front of the Memorial.
Of Jewish origin, Iancelevici went into hiding during the Second World War in Maransart and Auvelais. He used the pseudonym Adolphe Janssens. Iancelevici refused to obey the summons to report in the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen and thus escaped deportation.
After the war, he worked on the monumental statue ‘The Resistant’ (” squatting but never on his knees “), which after some opposition was finally erected in Breendonk.