A needle in a haystack in Brussels

This is an episode in “the quest for Jan van Boeckel: From Holland to Bavaria

Brussels – of all the places to search for a needle in a haystack,  especially in this day and age. The entrance to the station is lined with army trucks. And there are groups of soldiers,  armed to the hilt, mingling in the crowds. The sun is hot and the heat is intensified by traffic and concrete. Away from the stations, the city is enjoying summer. There are no machine guns, only people going about thier business. The city is buzzing with life.

FilesI, however, am spending all my time perusing archives. Hours and hours of intense detective work. Old letters, reports, testimonies and orders. Books, articles and papers. In French, German, Flemish and sometimes in Russian (which I cannot decipher). The delicate material at times nearly crumbling in my hands. A search for people, places, descriptions, anything that can contribute to making Jan van Boeckel’s story complete. It feels a bit strange to be in the city where my grandmother grew up, and to be there to search for information about her lost son’s life.

DSC_0033The CEGESOMA- Centre for Historical Research and Documentation on War and Contemporary Society, is an endless treasure trove. I have been able to gather so many more tiny – and sometimes bigger – pieces of information to weave into Jan van Boeckel’s story.

Jan always seems to have been in situations which have been minimally documented. He was a Dutchman in Belgium, in a Maquis group which has never really been included in the documentation about the Belgian resistance. He was transported to an obscure sub camp where he eventually was the only Dutchman. After the war, the Belgians searched for the Belgians and the Dutch focussed their search on places where many Dutchman were deported to from The Netherlands. And so Jan was often overlooked. All the more reason to finish this book.

Now I still have quite some more hours to spend in various archives here in Brussels – I wonder what else I will discover? And then I’m off to write a next chapter of the book about Jan van Boeckel.

This is an episode in “the quest for Jan van Boeckel: From Holland to Bavaria

5 thoughts on “A needle in a haystack in Brussels

    1. It is a beautiful building, but than much of Brussel is worth seeing. At the least it is very interesting if you can look through the exhaust fumes and except the noisy traffic. It is kind of like a smaller version of Paris with a little of Amsterdam thrown in …. Not much greenery though….Great that you are still following me!

      Liked by 1 person

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