Georges Livchitz (1917–1944)
During the German occupation of Belgium, Jews played an active role in the Belgian resistance movement. In 1942, the Jewish Defense Committee (Comité de Défense des Juifs; CDJ) was established as part of the Belgian underground to aid and rescue the nation’s Jews. The CDJ hid thousands of children with non-Jewish families and religious organizations, published clandestine anti-Nazi newspapers, and created false identification papers for Jews in hiding. In addition, they tried to sabotage the German war machine by setting fire to factories and derailing trains. They especially were active against those persons and organizations that they believed were providing useful information to the Nazis.
In the summer of 1942, these resisters carried out several attacks against the Association des Juifs en Belgique (AJB). On one such occasion, Jewish fighters broke into the AJB’s office in Brussels and set fire to the files containing the names and addresses of Jews in Belgium, which the Gestapo used to round up individuals for deportation. The CDJ also developed a vast network for hiding Jews, which succeeded in aiding some 3,000 to 4,000 children and about 10,000 adults.
In the spring of 1943, the CDJ conceived a bold plan to halt a deportation train to Auschwitz. Having learned the exact date and time of an impending deportation from the Mechelen (Malines) transit camp, the resistance planned for action. Tools from the camp’s workshops were smuggled into the train cars so that the doors and floorboards could be forced open to aid escape. On the night of April 19, 1943, as the train began its journey to Auschwitz, three members of a resistance unit (Groupement Général de Sabotage or Group G) sprang into action. Under the command of a young Jewish physician, Georges Livchitz, the group forced the train to stop by signaling it with a red lantern. Livchitz held the engineer at bay with a small caliber revolver, while his comrades, Robert Maistriau and Jean Franklemon, forced open the doors of several cars. Under a hail of gunfire from the German guards, the resistance group and some prisoners escaped. By the time the train reached the German border, others had forced their way out of the cars. Of the 1,631 Jews on the deportation train, 231 succeeded in escaping that night.
Eluding capture for weeks, Livchitz was arrested, escaped the next day, and was arrested a second time on June 2, 1943. The report of his trial described his actions:
“He was the leader of a band of terrorists and participated in the attack [sic] of 19 April 1943 against the Jewish deportation train. The accused admits that after his flight he shot at the soldiers who pursued him. He was arrested for the first time on 14 May 1943 but succeeded in seizing the revolver of a guard in the cellar of a local police office. He grievously wounded the guard and managed to escape. On his subsequent arrest he was sent to Breedonck [a concentration camp in Belgium].”
Georges Livchitz was executed in February 1944 by a German firing squad.