Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt faced frail men in dark fedoras and children in bright skullcaps Tuesday and apologized for Belgian authorities' involvement in the deportation of Jews to Nazi extermination camps during World War II.
"Only by recognizing the responsibility of the authorities at the time, can we build a future where this will never happen again," he told a gathering of Jewish and government officials before unveiling a plaque to commemorate Belgians who saved Jews from the Holocaust.
The apology came on the day that the government-backed report "Submissive Belgium" was published. It lays bare the responsibility of high-ranking officials and municipalities in collaborating with the Nazi persecution of the Jews.
"We have to remember that a number - a big number of official people everywhere in Europe in the public administration have collaborated, have worked together with the Nazi regime in the deportation of Jewish people," he told The Associated Press. "We have to recognize that and say sorry. Otherwise it is impossible to go forward."