The erection of the memorial

The National Memorial of the Fortress of Breendonk was created by law in 1947. Although not all Belgian political prisoners were imprisoned in Breendonk during the occupation, the obscure reputation of the former Auffanglager meant that the legislator wanted to make Breendonk a permanent symbol of remembrance for all those who suffered or lost their lives during the war.

On 11 June 1946, the socialist member of parliament Gaston Hoyaux submitted a first bill to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives.  As a former prisoner of Breendonk and of the Buchenwald concentration camp, he expressed the wish to erect, on the remains of the fortress, on this “sacred site”, a “Monument to the memory and recognition”.  This place should become “an active and permanent centre of broad civilian propaganda”.

The bill followed the traditional legislative route: discussion in the Commission of National Defence, discussion of the amendments, approval in the Senate.  On 10 July 1947, the House of Representatives passed the law by an absolute majority (167 votes to 169, two members abstained).

On 19 August 1947, Prince Charles signed the law creating the National Memorial of the Fort of Breendonk.  The Memorial became an autonomous public institution, managed by a board of directors in which former prisoners or their successors were widely represented.

The law clearly defines the dual mission of the Memorial: on the one hand, to “ensure the permanent preservation of the buildings and works of the Fortress” and, on the other hand, to “take all useful measures so that the memory of the Fortress of Breendonk and of the events that took place there remains alive in the spirit of the nation, fosters its citizenship and promotes the patriotic education of young people”.  From the outset, the law laid down the educational mission of the Memorial.

On 16 October 1947, the list with the names of the first trustees of the newly established memorial was published. Among them are the following former prisoners of Breendonk or their successors:

Georges CANIVET (President of the Association of Former Prisoners of Breendonk),

Gaston HOYAUX (author of the bill, former prisoner of Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen),

Jules JODOIGNE (ex-prisoner of Vught and Sachsenhausen)

Paul LEVY (journalist with the national broadcasting company I.N.R.),

Xavier RELECOM (former prisoner of Sachsenhausen),

André SIMONART (professor at the University of Louvain, former prisoner of Buchenwald)

Albert VAN ROY (town clerk of Willebroek)

and

Hilda SEVENS (former prisoner of Ravensbrück and widow of the Antwerp substitute prosecutor Dirk Sevens, who died in the Breendonk camp as a result of severe torture).

After some time, the members of the board of directors were replaced, in view of their age, by non-veterans.

Tot de oprichting van het War Heritage Institute op 1 mei 2017 werd het gedenkteken beheerd door de raad van beheer. De laatste bestuursleden waren:

Voorzitter : Dhr Baudouin SOMERS, Lt-Generaal bd, ere-vleugeladjudant van de Koning

Ondervoorzitter : Dhr Denis HARDY, Generaal-Majoor van het vliegwezen bd

De gouverneur van de provincie Antwerpen : Mevr Cathy BERX
De burgemeester van de gemeente Willebroek : Dhr Eddy BEVERS

De vertegenwoordigers van het Koninklijk Museum van het Leger en de Krijgsgeschiedenis, Mevr Christine VAN EVERBROECK en Dhr Piet DE GRYSE

Een lid benoemd op voordracht van de Franse Gemeenschap, Dhr Joël MATHIEU
Een lid benoemd op voordracht van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, Dhr Martin RUEBENS
Een lid benoemd op voordracht van de Duitstalige Gemeenschap, Dhr Herbert RULAND

Leden benoemd op voordracht van de minister van Landsverdediging:

Dhr Vital CRAENINCKX

Dhr Senator Francis DELPEREE

Dhr Fred ERDMAN

Dhr Jean CARDOEN

Mevr Linda MOREAU-SEVENS

Dhr Franky BOSTYN

Dhr Edmond EYCKEN

De Inspecteur van Financiën bij de minister van Landsverdediging was van rechtswege betrokken bij de werkzaamheden van de Raad van Beheer.

 

The Presidents

Baron André SIMONART
Baron Paul M.G. LEVY
Mevr Linda MOREAU – SEVENS
Prof. em. Roger COEKELBERGS
Lt-gen. bd Baudouin SOMERS
1947 – 1975
1975 – 1997
1997 – 2000
2000 – 2011
2012 – 2017
On 1 May 2017, Mr Piet VELDEMAN was appointed director a.i. Department II, external sites and the daily management came in the hands of Mr Dr Dimitri RODEN who passed the torch to Herbart BEYERS on 1 May.

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