2014-11-12

BELGIUM - In the Netherlands, it has been possible for years: a visit to the Nationaal Archief (National Archive) to find out what your grandfather or grandmother's wartime past was. In Belgium, however, these archives remain closed, for fear that 'certain passions' will flare up. Anoek Nuyens and Lynn Berger on the struggle of historians and archivists for more openness.

The Dutch Collaboration Archives are accessible to citizens; in fact, they are among the most consulted archives in the Nationaal Archief. In Belgium, you can make a request to view the collaboration files, but the chance that they will be honoured is virtually zero. The College of Procurators General, the body that manages the archives, keeps them virtually closed; opening them up could lead to 'disturbance of public order', and reignite 'certain passions'. 

When Dutch citizens were allowed to browse through the files themselves in 2000, it set a lot of things in motion. On an individual level, it meant for descendants of "wrong" Dutch people the start of emotional processing because they could finally find out exactly what was going on. In addition to the perspective of the victim and the resistance hero, society also paid attention to the perspective of the perpetrator. In Belgium, the files of alleged and persecuted collaborators are only accessible to historians who are researching them.

Anoek Nuyens

Anoek Nuyens is a Dutch writer and theatre-maker. She is affiliated with Theater Frascati and Productiehuis Rotterdam.

Lynn Berger

Lynn Berger (1984) is a researcher and journalist. She currently writes for De Correspondent about technology and culture and the interaction between the two. 

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