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Simon Gronowski and Koenraad Tinel awarded for services to humanity

16:36 24/09/2020

Close friends Simon Gronowski and Koenraad Tinel, two Belgians with  remarkable and contrasting war histories, have received honorary doctorates in Humanism at the official opening of the 2020-2021 academic year at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

Presenting the awards at the 22 September ceremony, the VUB’s newly-re-elected rector Caroline Pauwels said the two men with very different backgrounds, one an Auschwitz survivor, and the other brought up by Nazi sympathisers, “have given us a wonderful lesson in humanity”.

“We must offer new generations prospects: show them that it is possible to have a friendly relationship and build a future on the condition that you recognise the mistakes of the past,” Pauwels told students in the auditorium. “It then becomes possible to detach yourself from the life to which the past seems to condemn you.”

Born in Brussels in 1931, Gronowski iwas only 11 when he survived deportation in 1943 by jumping from the 20th convoy, an Auschwitz-bound train carrying Jews and other people caught by the Nazis. Formerly president of the Union of Jewish Deportees in Belgium and also a jazz pianist, he holds a doctorate in law from the ULB and is a lawyer with the Brussels Bar.

Tinel meanwhile was born in Ghent in 1934 to a family who collaborated with the Nazis. After studying at the Ecole de la Cambre, he became a draughtsman and sculptor and taught at the LUCA School of Arts in Brussels.