More than 60 years after Communist leader Julien Lahaut was assassinated, Belgium has re-opened the case to find out exactly what happened.
The story goes that Lahaut was assassinated in August 1950 two weeks after Prince Baudouin took the oath to succeed his father, where the Communist leader yelled, “Long live the Republic!”
MSN News reports that two men showed up at Lahaut’s door and shot him four times with a Colt 45 revolver at point blank range. The killers were never caught.
The August 1950 slaying had all the markings of a political assassination, but it is a murder mystery that was swallowed up by Cold War politics. But 62 years later, the Belgian government has approved funds to solve the crime, convinced that the implications of it are still showing today.
The probe will be part of a historical reckoning in which the country is revisiting several unsolved crimes, because of a “duty to remember.” It will be up to historian Emmanuel Gerard to solve the case.
The Washington Post notes that Gerard has pored over papers from the archive of a former interior minister. One paper is from a shadowy informer named Andre Moyen, who write to the former minister to discuss the “execution” of Lahaut. Moyen appeared to dismiss the killing, saying that Julien Lahaut was “after all, an agent of the USSR.”
While the missive doesn’t prove anything about what happened to the former leader, it does indicate that Belgian authorities may have known something about his death, but chose to keep quiet.
For Gerard, the quest is not as much about who exactly killed Lahaut, it is more about discovering who ordered the killing and why the investigation never uncovered any leads. Socialist senator Philippe Mahoux, who helped push for the new inquiry, stated:
“It is not an issue of going after the culprits, they must be dead. But to know what really happened, that is fundamental. There must have been resistance in those days to let the truth emerge. We have to know whether there were dark forces behind this … If there is no solution it feels like a cover-up.”
While there are certainly political overtones in Julien Lahaut’s assassination, historian Emmanuel Gerard is just happy to dig for the truth.