During the Second World War, the Netherlands was run by a Nazi ‘Reichskommissar’
Today is the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, and as part of this commemoration, various events and acts of remembrance are taking place across the world. In the Netherlands, there are several initiatives of remembrance, including the ‘Levenslight’ project in more than 150 municipalities, and the reading aloud of the names of 102,000 Dutch- Jewish, Roma, and Sinti people that were deported and murdered.
On Sunday, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte made a speech in Amsterdam, apologising to the Jewish community in the Netherlands for the acts of the Dutch government and its institutions during the war. In recent years it has become evident that Dutch companies such as the NS (the national train company) were paid by the Nazi regime to transport Dutch citizens to death camps in Germany and Nazi-occupied Poland.
Though the democratically-elected Dutch government fled to London, the puppet regime led by Arthur Seyss-Inquart (an Austrian Nazi administrator) still employed and was supported by large numbers of Dutch people, with some of the population actively aiding the Nazi administration.
In the years after the Second World War, the role of the Netherlands was modified in the public conscience, with significant emphasis placed upon the work of hundreds of Dutch freedom-fighters, who resisted the occupation and in many cases also helped Dutch Jews. The role of active collaborators was suppressed.
It is the first time that the Dutch government has apologised for helping the Nazi regime in the persecution of the Jews. Rutte said: “now that the last survivors are still among us, I apologise today on behalf of the government for the government’s actions back then. I realise that no words can sum-up something as enormously horrific as the Holocaust”.
“Relevant and meaningful”
Gerdien Verschoor, director of Remembrance Center Camp Westerbork, said: “I was sitting at the table with a number of relatives and they were very happy with the Rutte’s words. It is very relevant and meaningful that they have been spoken. That was also how it was experienced yesterday. They are very big words: three quarters of the Jewish population was taken from The Netherlands and almost all Roma and Sinti were murdered. Some say ‘it is too late’, but here yesterday dominated the feeling that it is important that those apologies are finally made”, as reported by RTV Drenthe.
According to Verschoor, the image of the Dutch role during the Second World War has been completely reversed in recent decades. “For a long time there has been the idea in our country that we were just a people of resistance heroes, but research has shown that the opposite was the case. Hopefully we will become aware of that role and our current role. We can never just be a bystander When it comes to anti-Semitism, you have to keep taking a position. “
Image via WikiUser Gouwenaar