Why Did So Many Jews in Antwerp Perish in the Holocaust? Review of Lieven Saerens, Vreemdelingen in een wereldstad. Een geschiedenis van Antwerpen en zijn joodse bevolking 1880–1944, Tielt: Lannoo, 2000, 847 pp.
Lieven Saerens’s book on the history of Antwerp and its Jews 1880-1944 focuses on “the uniqueness of the Antwerp case” during the German occupation. Whereas 35-42 percent of all Jews registered in Brussels, Luik/Liège, and Charleroi were deported, the proportion in Antwerp was at least 65 percent. The author examines the identities of collaborators and the historical background to the willingness to help the Germans in Antwerp. Physical attacks on Jews began in 1933, culminating in anti-Jewish riots on August 25-26, 1939. The Germans felt free to embark on anti-Jewish activity at an early phase of the occupation, given their broad local support in Antwerp. The author also discusses acts of assistance to Jews, but emphasizes the limited scale of these activities here as compared to other places. Despite a number of methodological and narration problems, Saerens has produced an important contribution to the genre of professional local scholarly studies on the Holocaust and to the study of the Holocaust in Belgium.