Anti-Communist Activism in Belgium, 1930-1944

Rudi Van Doorslaar


Anyone who knows Belgium will not be surprised to learn that our story begins in Antwerp, an international port of vital importance to the Belgian economy and a nerve centre where antagonistic social forces meet. On 10 November 1937, the Italian steamer Boccacio entered Dock No. 53. Louis Schokkaert, one of the dockers taken on to unload the vessel, contrived to leave a small package on board without being noticed. Some ten days later, the Boccacio sank off the coast of Brittany with the loss of one officer. The sabotage was the work of Antwerp-based members of the Wollweber group. Ernst Wollweber, a Communist who had been elected to the Reichstag in 1928, was the head of both Profintern's seamens' section and of the clandestine KPD organisation that smuggled propaganda into Nazi Germany. He had been selected by the Communist international to organise clandestine units to sabotage ships carrying supplies to the Nationalists in Spain. The organisation's European bases were in Germany, the Baltic countries, Scandinavia, Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium. Wollweber had given responsibility for The Netherlands and Belgium to Joop Schaap, who came originally from Rotterdam. His lieutenant in Antwerp was a lorry driver called Alfons Fictels, who succeeded in recruiting a number of dockers to help him in his clandestine work. We will not go into any details about the attempted sabotage in Antwerp when an initial attempt to sabotage a German vessel in September 1937 came to nothing. In November, the action against the Boccacio had the desired result. In June 1938, a third attempt against the Japanese cargo vessel Kasij Maru was also successful: a large explosion occurred in the Channel and the ship was forced to make for the nearest port.

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