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View Diary: Ghosts of War, then and now: Artist pays homage to Nazi-occupied Amsterdam (102 comments)

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  •  i fear (7+ / 0-)

    that that isnt quite correct. re: The Dutch. The Nazis were actually pleased about the ease with which they were able to push through the extermination of Jews in the Netherlands. Its true that the Dutch didnt "enthusiastically embrace" it (while some others did); but they also didnt resist it in anything near the effectiveness as happened in some other ocuntries. Example statistics (Netherlands is second from top).

    •  I was thinking specifically of France (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marsanges, 43north, amsterdam, jayden

      where gendarmes aided the SS in the round up and even, at times, rounded up Jews without even having to have any sort of German oversight.
      I would argue anti-Semitism was more pronounced in Germany and France, among other West European nations and the Eastern European nations than it was in Holland at the time, which does have a history of relative religious tolerance

    •  See Verzetsmuseum examples (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marsanges, 43north, jayden

      The Nazi deceptions were quite convincing.  The Verzetsmuseum experience lays out dates and examples of the choices the Nazis presented which gradually corralled the both Jews and sympathizers. The choices seem so benign.

      There were many Dutch citizen who had close relatives in Germany who couldn't fathom a Christian country would not treat civilians with reasonable care. They obviously underestimated the Nazis.

    •  Actually the only openly (12+ / 0-)

      resistance against the treatment against jewish citizens, did take place, in the form of a national strike, in the Netherlands. It is known as the February Strike of 1941. It was violently surpressed.

      I don't have any illusions about any nation's superior heroism. You will find racists, collaborators and heroes everywhere.

      Amsterdam and the Netherlands are different in that we've had freedom of religion since 1589. That encouraged people from all over Europe, who were persecuted for their religious believes, to flee to a city like Amsterdam. Jewish people from the Iberian peninsula, jewish people fleeing pogroms in eastern Europe, huguenots  from France, the pilgrims from England all came to the Netherlands for that reason. Amsterdam grew in population size from 20.000 to 200.000 in a century. It was a true melding pot.

      It is difficult to describe the Dutch mind set towards "others". I don't think it is as liberal as sometimes assigned to us, but rather a disinterest in excluding groups, or in "purity".
      That doesn't mean there weren't people with a personal animosity towards others. Those people obviously thrived during Nazi occupation, but it was definitely not the standard and not more prevelant than in other western European countries.

      I am not a historian, but I can point to some reasons why such a high percentage of Jewish people from the Netherlands died in the holocaust.

      1) One trait we share with our German neighbors is our bureaucratic effectiveness. Every person in the Netherlands was registered with the city or village they lived in. It was very easy for the Nazi's to track down their targets.
      A lot of actions performed by the resistance were targeted towards destruction of these records.

      2) The Nazi's didn't immediately begin with singeling out Jewish citizens. The Netherlands were invaded in May of 1940. The February strike of 1941 was in reaction to the Jewish laws that were implemented during that time.
      People including Jewish people were lulled into believing things may not be that bad.

      3) The Netherlands is a very small densely populated country. In Amsterdam, most of the houses people lived in, were very old and small. Family size were large. It would be almost impossible to hide people without neighbors being aware of that fact.
      Otto Frank did recognize the danger. He moved his family from Germany to Amsterdam in 1933, because he recognized the danger. He planned going into hiding for a long time and he had the finances to support his family for the duration.
      They also had a contact in the resistance, through Miep Gies, whose husband was in the resistance.

      The majority of the Jewish population had been living in relative peace, and integrated within Dutch society for centuries. Many of them were poor and the non jewish people they knew, lived in the same economic circumstances as they did.
      Everything was rationed by the Nazi's. You could only buy supplies with monthly assigned ration coupons, that were distributed to people who could provide an identity card provided by the Nazi's. The alternatives were the black market, which required a lot of money, or through the assistance of the resistance. So people needed contacts within the resistance. Raiding distribution offices, was another frequent activity of the resistance. The ration coupons were dated and only valid for the dates on the coupons.

      Having contacts with the resistance was necessary for people to go into hiding. They found addresses, moved people around, provided money, ration coupons and identity cards.
      Often if one person was caught, an entire network within a resistance group would be rolled up, including people they were hiding.

      Many of the Jewish people, when the deportations began in 1942, either didn't know how to hide their families and some thought it was the safer option to just respond when they were ordered to respond.

      My grandmother mentally never left that period. She would talk incessantly about incidents during that period, without providing a background.

      Not until after her death, when I found some photos, and my aunt told me that two of the photos were portraits of her 2 cousins with their husbands. They were the main characters of her funny annecdotes of the close friendship she shared with them, and the inevitabel ending of the annecdotes " they never came back either". They were half jewish, and their husbands were jewish.

      One annecdote stands out for me.
      They were all sitting around the kitchen table, complaining and joking about the Nazi's. They talked about deportation. My grandmother's cousins and there husbands, said they were probably going to report. They thought they would have to work in the Polish salt mines, but they were young and healthy, so they'd be fine. My chinese grandfather, who didn't speak dutch very well, suddenly said to one of the husbands in broken dutch "you buy shooter, if Nazi come, you shoot and run". According to my grandmother, they all burst out in laughter. My grandfather's "barbaric" ideas, were inconceivable to them. This was modern civilized Netherlands, not some archaïc village in China.

      I just recently was able to track down what happened to them. They were killed with at least one small child, in Sobibor, the same day they arrived.

      I am haunted with the image of another annecdote which I suspect is about the 5 year old son of one of her cousins.

      This little boy who said to my grandmother "Hennie, Hennie look at my new suit" as he was parading proudly in front of my grandmother. My grandmother was smiling as if she was looking at him right then and there. And the inevitable ending whispered and turned inward " he never came back either".

      •  Your poor grandmother. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        amsterdam, createpeace, jayden

        What horrors she lived through.  I am sorry for your family's huge loses.

        "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

        by Most Awesome Nana on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 08:45:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks (4+ / 0-)

          I didn't know I had relatives who were murdered by the Nazi's until a couple of years ago. What my immediate family experienced was horrific, but can't be compared with the horrors Jewish, Roma, Sinti and homosexual people experienced.

          But it is a reminder everytime people are treated the way the Nazis did, we are all touched one way or another.

          My grandmother was a difficult person to be around, not until much later did I understand that she lived in some kind of unending loop, where the people from the past seemed much more a reality than the people in her present.

          •  Your story is a reminder that no one is safe. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            amsterdam, createpeace, jayden

            "I didn't protest when they came for the Jews, because I wasn't a Jew."

            I cannot imagine losing one of my grandchildren.  My only plans are for what will happen when I die.  

            My mother lost her brothers in WWII and for the next 45 years they came up in every conversation about family.  She even managed to weave them into discussions about current family.  She didn't do that with other family members who died because of more 'natural' reasons.  I suppose she had never really learned to cope with their deaths; they were still alive in her mind.    

            "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

            by Most Awesome Nana on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 09:44:02 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I am sorry about your mom (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Most Awesome Nana, jayden

              It must have been very difficult saying goodbye to young healthy men and waiting for them to return. There was so much death and pain during those years, there probably wasn't much space and time to really mourn the individual loss until much later.

              •  Thank you. I am not sure she felt she could (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                amsterdam, jayden

                mourn - because they "died for a good reason."  You were supposed to be strong and accept the sacrifice - and be proud.  

                My peers died in Viet Nam.  I hated the reason they were there, never felt it was "good," and never had trouble mourning the loss.  Whole different mindset.

                "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

                by Most Awesome Nana on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 10:50:01 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  This is the better sense of balance (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        amsterdam, marsanges

        with respect to national cultural attitudes and behaviors when contrasting tendencies to inclusion and exclusion, tolerance and bigotry or discrimination and integration.

        To be LBGT, black, North-African, Islamic, Jewish or even simply a foreigner of any sort can evoke an uglier side in any national group - American, French, Norwegian or Dutch ... as but several easy examples in the contemporary Western world.

        Even today in the Netherlands, the custom of Zwarte Piet is becoming a matter of both national and international concern while many countrymen and women have difficulty associating a cherished tradition with something clearly founded in racism and subservience.

        My lesson is to limit, if possible, impulses to say that certain people are more guilty or innocent of [............] than others.  National cultural characteristics are always much more complicated than that and trying to draw accurate, but inevitably nuanced, distinctions takes deeper knowledge and experience than a quick swipe typically permits.

        •  Yes (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          marsanges, ancblu

          I agree about Zwarte Piet. It is true he is cherished character. As a child I found Zwarte Piet a much more relatable figure than Sint Nicolaas. But as an adult, it became very obvious to me that this figure is portrayed in a racist way. It is the adults clinging to a childhood memory. But that should not be an excuse for any black child to receive the message it is sending.

        •  quite right (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          amsterdam, ancblu, jayden

          not that I wanted to say anything else; I just corrected the factually wrong suggestion of the original comment (by entlord). He may have thought about the Danish instead of the Dutch. -- As, there actually are examples where people both individually and as "a people" achieve heroic feats of resistance - and the Danish protection of their jews is one such. Nothing bad should be said about the Dutch, but the distinction to the truly inspiring examples that also can be found in history shouldnt be neglected.  

      •  Indeed (0+ / 0-)

        Very well said.
        There are a LOT of reasons that help us explain why so many Jews were taken away from the Netherlands, the attitude amongst the average Dutch person is one that had a very very small impact on these figures.

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