The ‘Antwerp specificity’. Differences in deportation numbers

Antwerp is a unique case within the context of the Holocaust in Belgium. Harbouring the largest part of the Jewish population at the end of 1940 (52,94 % of all Jews registered in Belgium), Lieven Saerens’ research on the persecution of Jews in Antwerp led to the coining of the term 'the Antwerp specificity' as he had calculated that 65 to 67 percent of Antwerp's Jewish population was deported in comparison to the Belgian average of 45 percent. This contribution revisits these findings, and determines the impact of Holocaust related events specific to the Antwerp case to explain the revised numbers. While the deportation number for Antwerp is now estimated at 56 percent, it still lies significantly higher than the Belgian average and therefore, the ‘Antwerp specificity’ remains. Crucial factors include the forced resettlement of Jews to the province of Limburg between December 1940 and February 1941, as well as Antwerp being the Belgian city with the highest number of Jewish men being claimed for forced labour by Organisation Todt in Northern France in the Summer of 1942. Together with other events specifically tied to Antwerp - such as a local pogrom in April 1941 and four large raids in the summer of 1942 (in contrast to one in Brussels) - and a setting of cooperation of local authorities and collaborators with the occupier, these elements help explain the ‘Antwerp specificity’ and the city’s high deportation numbers while continuous research remains in order to enhance our knowledge and understanding on this topic.