The Brussels Gestapo Headquarters
The subject of the study day organized on Friday 21 October 2011 by Remembrance of Auschwitz and the Auschwitz Foundation at the Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique was “The Brussels Gestapo Headquarters – Recognition and Conservation” and the possibility of having the building’s cellars classified as a national monument.
During the Second World War, the German security services (the Sicherheitspolizei and Sicherheitsdienst, i.e. the Gestapo), requisitioned three buildings situated at 453, 347 and 510 Avenue Louise in Brussels. Nothing about these buildings now attracts the attention of passers-by, except for the memorial dedicated to Jean de Sélys Longchamps and a plaque on the facade of 453 Avenue Louise. (On 20 January 1943, Jean de Sélys Longchamps, a Belgian aviator who had joined the British RAF, machine-gunned the Gestapo buildings from the air, severely damaging them). Yet they are among Belgium’s most important and most symbolic Second World War sites of evil memory, as they were the premises of those who carried out the arrests of so many resistance fighters and organized the deportation of the Jews of Belgium and the north of France. Indeed, many survivors have given testimony on the interrogations and tortures which took place in them.
The morning session dealt with the history of the Brussels Gestapo headquarters and some of its branches and offshoots in Belgium and northern France. The afternoon was devoted to the possibilities for conserving the inscriptions carved on the cellar walls by the Nazis’ victims.
- 23/09/2011 – Article in French by Christian Laporte, “Les caves de la Gestapo, un enjeu de mémoire” [The cellars of the Gestapo, an issue of memory] published in La Libre Belgique
- 20/10/2011 – Report in French on the former cellars of the Brussels Gestapo, broadcast on the RTBF’s television news (click on the list of sequences below or place the cursor at 11'20)
- 21/10/2011 – Audio report in French by Pierre Vandenbulcke accompanying his article “The Gestapo’s Avenue Louise cellars are intact”, co-authored with Delphine Wilputte and published online on the RTBF’s website
- 21/10/2011 – Report in French on “Saving the messages of the Gestapo headquarters”, broadcast on Télé Bruxelles’ news program
- 22-23/10/2011 – Article in French by Marc Metdepenningen, “Preserving the Gestapo cellars” published in Le Soir (pdf)
- 23/10/2011 – Report entitled “Gestapo torture chambers in Brussels revealed”, broadcast on the VRT news program
- 25/10/2011 – Article in French entitled “Avenue Louise 347: the Gestapo’s cellars are intacts”, published online on the website Clint.be (with 7 photos)
- 01/11/2011 – Article in French by Julien Rensonnet, “Preserving the graffiti in the cellars of the Gestapo's Avenue Louise HQ”, published online on the website lavenir.net
- 08/11/2011 – Oral question by Senator André du Bus to the Wallonia-Brussels Federation Minister for Culture, the Audiovisual Sector, Health and Equal Opportunities, Fadila Laanan (in French)
- 17/01/2012 – Request for explanations addressed by Senator Francis Delpérée to Federal Defense Minister Pieter De Crem on “The graffiti in the Gestapo cellars on Avenue Louise” (at the bottom of the page, in the left-hand column) (in French)
- 24/01/2012 – Article in French by Christian Laporte, “Il faut sauver les caves de la Gestapo” published in La Libre Belgique
- 20/06/2012 – Article in Dutch by Jean-Paul Mulders, “De man die de Gestapo te grazen nam. Heldenmoed en doofpotten aan de Louizalaan” published in Knack Weekend, no. 25 (pdf)
- 17/06/2013 – Article in French by Christian Laporte, “Des graffitis à préserver pour l’Histoire” [Graffiti to be preserved for history] published in La Libre Belgique
- 15/08/2013 – Article in Dutch by Jo Govaerts, “Het dramatische oorlogsjaar 1943: Dodelijke landing van Jean de Sélys Longchamps” [The Dramatic Year of War 1943: Deadly Landing of Jean de Sélys Longchamps] published in Brussel Deze Week
- 16/10/2013 – Article in French by Cé. R., “Avenue Louise: exproprier les propriétaires des caves de la Gestapo?” published in l'avenir.net
Daniel Weyssow (ed.), Les Caves de la Gestapo: Reconnaissance et conservation [The Gestapo’s Cellars: Recognition and Preservation], Paris, Kimé (Between History and Memory; no. 6), 2013, 213 p.
Proceedings of the study day (October 21, 2011), Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique
Building numbers 453, 347 and 510 of one of the most beautiful streets of Brussels, Avenue Louise, were requisitioned during the Second World War by the Gestapo. They became true torture centres, the walls of their cellars are still covered with inscriptions and drawings depicting the despair and the last will of the prisoners. However, until now, none of these buildings have received any recognition. This collection is composed of contributions from specialists as well as survivors and have two vocations:
- Raise awareness among government officials and politicians that this forgotten memory must finally be recognized.
- Give the readers a thorough study of scientific significance of these places and of other similar sites (Breendonk, Cologne, Krakow, Fresnes, and Romainville).
Original text: Grégory Célerse (Local historian and researcher at the Museum of Resistance of Bondues), Le siège de la Gestapo de La Madeleine (Lille) (pdf) [The Gestapo headquarters of La Madeleine (Lille)]
Benoît Majerus, “La Sipo-SD en Belgique. Une police faible?”, Vingtième Siècle. Revue d'histoire, no. 119, 2013/3, p. 43-54. [The Sipo-SD in Belgium. A weak police?] (click in the table at the bottom of the page on the link to the PDF file)
The preservation of the cellars of Avenue Louise in question: Daniel Weyssow, La journée d'étude en débats. Table ronde et interpellations parlementaires (pdf) [The study day in discussions. Roundtable and parliamentary questions]
Additional photographs to those presented in the following contributions of the volume:
- Daniel Weyssow, Une évocation par les témoignages du siège de la Gestapo à Bruxelles [An evocation by the testimonies of the Gestapo headquarters in Brussels] (Gallery)
- Daniel Weyssow, Découverte de la cave n° 16 du 453 avenue Louise [Discovery of cave no. 16 of 453 Avenue Louise] (7 galleries) –– Full Legends of the photos of the 7 galleries (pdf)
- Karola Fings, D’une cave d’archives vers un lieu de mémoire d’importance européenne. Les inscriptions murales de la EL-DE Haus et le lieu de mémoire « Prison de la Gestapo » [From a cellar full of archives to a memorial of European importance. The wall inscriptions of the EL-DE Haus and the place of remembrance “Gestapo Prison”] (Gallery)
- Albert Bouckaert, Après « leur » départ. Dans le repaire de la « Gestapo » [After “their” departure. In the hideout of the “Gestapo”] (Gallery with facsimile of pages 6 and 7 of the Soir illustré no. 641 of September 27, 1944, and all of the photos)
- Olivier van der Wilt, Les détenus de la Sipo-SD en Belgique : des caves de l’avenue Louise aux cellules de Breendonk [The Prisoners of the Sipo-SD in Belgium: from the cellars of Avenue Louise to the cells of Breendonk] (pdf)
To obtain further information, contact Daniel Weyssow:
Tel: +32 (0)2 512 79 98 – Fax: +32 (0)2 512 58 84 – Contact by email