You see some strange things in Brussels - and how many times have I used that line?
I recently came across this interesting scene nearby St Katherine's, the old fish market.
As soon as I started to take photographs I was accosted by security guards demanding that I stop, as "taking photographs is not allowed - it is forbidden!"
"Forbidden by whom?" I asked.
"Forbidden by my boss", came the reply.
"Didn't he die in a bunker in Berlin in 1945?" I asked.
My sense of humour, combined with my total lack of respect for authority have often gotten me into trouble, and this was looking like becoming one of those moments. So I took my pics and faded into the background.
Although I really cannot say it for sure, I believe this was, in fact, a film set. Belgians, however, are very sensitive about Nazi imagery. Its a guilt thing.
Little history lesson: During WW2, a young Catholic politician, Leon Degrelle, realised that the only way Belgium could survive the occupation was to make itself useful to the Germans. He founded what was to become the Waloonian Division of the Waffen SS (although in reality it was no more than a single battalion), and went on to achieve great things on the Russian front.
Adolf Hitler once said of him "if I had a son, I would want him to be like Leon."
I know a bit about this, as many years I wrote a paper on the subject.
So, this leads us to the real reason for Belgian's extreme sensitivity over this chapter in their history.
After the war Degrelle was given sanctuary by Franco in Spain. He was Europe's most wanted man for a while, but he actually offered to give himself up to the Allied authorities, albeit with one condition. He would only surrender himself if he was guaranteed a fair and open trial in Brussels.
Degrelle knew he was on safe ground as the last thing that the Belgian royal family wanted was an open debate on collaboration, and one being led by the man who knew exactly where the bodies were buried. That simply would not be allowed to happen.
It is worth mentioning that fact even today, whilst I can write this in London with impunity, to publish it in Belgium could cause me serious problems.