19 April 1943, convoy XX departed from the Mechelen transit camp north of Brussels. The Convoy consisted of 1631 Jewish men, women and children and the destination was Auschwitz in Poland. Just over a kilometer southeast of the station in Boortmeerbeek, three Belgian resistance men managed to waving a lamp to stop the train and open one of the wagons. In the uproar that then arose, seventeen Jews managed to escape. When the turmoil subsided and the train could continue, more than hundred Jews managed to escape, much thanks to the train driver who kept low speed to allow escape. 

In total, as many as 233 Jews managed to escape, but of these, 89 were captured and later put on new transports. 26 people also died after they jumped off the train, either they were shot or died as they jumped of the train. Convoy XX arrived at Auschwitz on April 22 and barely 900 of the Jews were sent directly to the camps’ gas chambers. More than 500 were selected for slave labor and of these, about 150 survived the war. The three who stopped the train fled by bicycle, of which two survived the war while the third was murdered by the Germans in 1944. Convoy XX is said to be the only one attacked like this throughout the war. 

Current status: Monument (2022).

Location: 50°58' 55.32" N 04°34' 21.35" E

Get there: Car.

My comment:

There is a modern monument close to the station. About one kilometre south of the station, along the track, and where the attack took place, there is a small information board about the event. If this really was the only successful attempt can surely be discussed if you think about the number of transports that went all over Europe during the war. It does not in any way deprive or diminish this event and the risk they were exposed to, but we should probably not rule out the possibility that another transport was subjected to similar action by equally courageous people elsewhere in occupied Europe.

Follow up in books: Gilbert, Martin: The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War (1987).