Thursday 4 May 2023 – In World War II, 15,000 members of the Belgian resistance were killed. Executed, beheaded, shot in the street and tortured to death. They were ordinary citizens carrying out extraordinary acts against the occupier. Among them were students and staff of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). We remember them on 8 May during a ceremony on the VUB campus, as part of the national 8 May campaign. The organisers of this campaign want to make Victory in Europe Day a holiday in Belgium, as a moment of social cohesion and a shared desire for peace and solidarity.
“We reflect on the importance of the liberation in 1945, the lessons to be learned from that dark period today, and the importance of the university in this,” a statement reads. With this commemorative moment, the VUB community, in the presence of rector Jan Danckaert, will highlight the importance of the 1945 liberation and the fragility and significance of peace and democracy.
“Yesterday’s brutality must be known about in order to defend today’s democracy,” VUB honorary doctor and Holocaust survivor Simon Gronowski wrote in his memoirs. “Democracy is an everyday struggle. Forgetting is dangerous for humanity.”
“In times of increasing intolerance, remembering the excesses that intolerance can lead to constitutes an act of democratic and humanist citizenship,” says Dimo Kavadias, professor of sociology and political science at VUB.
“We must keep the horrors of fascism alive, including for students,” adds history student Brent Huygh. “That’s why a commemorative event like this is essential.”
The programme of the commemoration was drawn up by VUB professors, students, researchers and staff. It includes a testimonial from Simon Gronowski, speeches and poetry by students and staff and musical accompaniment from the VUB choir Café Latte and Lucy Grauman. Students have written an open letter headed “For a free university, against fascism”.
The event is part of VUB’s commitment as an urban engaged university to connect academia with society and enable social engagement to flourish. Alongside VUB, a number of organisations, museums, schools, businesses and public places are organising events on 7 and 8 May.
Would you like to attend?
The commemoration takes place on 8 May, from 12.30 to 13.30 in the green Atrium in front of Building D (Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Elsene). If you wish to attend, please contact [email protected].
- VUB: Linde Moriau | [email protected]