Dutch Pride in WWII

By Aaron Schwartz

One of the things that I learned from Ajax was that there was a strike organized by the communist party in the Netherlands that protested the forced deportation of Dutch Jewry into labor and death camps. Kuper notes that this is one of the few things that the Dutch look back on with pride during World War II. This plays into the idea that the Dutch might feel as if they had done enough without needing to revisit their past sins. the pride they feel for this brief uprising may explain why the Dutch brush aside other past events. Doing research into this rebellion, you can find many statues. Notably, these statues and markers are well documented and are easily identifiable due to having plaques that describe the event. Whether consciously or not, the Dutch have pushed memorials to the lost Jews into limbo while celebrating their own “success”. One monument to the strike was made only six years after the war’s conclusion. The Dutch pride themselves on leading the only strike in Europe that protested the treatment of the Jews. However, this does not or rather should not allow them to ignore their past ignorance of the Jewish people after the strike was put down. While I cannot blame Dutch for saving themselves by allowing the Nazis to do what they did, I do find something wrong in the fact that each year a grand remembrance ceremony is held at one memorial for the uprising. I doubt similar remembrance ceremonies are held at memorials which aren’t named or even recognizable by the average Dutch citizen. I am hesitant to paint a broad brush of the Dutch using only literature as my guide, but feel based on what I have read that their sense of pride is somewhat misguided.


Memorial: De Dokwerker , Amsterdam


One thought on “Dutch Pride in WWII

  1. Right–you’re picking up on Kuper’s important method of reading existing monuments in the context of the rest of the history. How do you think current visitors read that dockworker’s monument in the context, say the Anne Frank House museum? It will be interesting especially to see how the Dutch Resistance Museum handles these questions. The old Jewish quarter is now a major tourist area and has been highlighted for its Jewish cultural heritage, despite the near complete destruction of that Jewish community during World War Two. How does a city memorialize that act and its critically enabling role in it–e.g., the Amsterdam mayor’s explicitly Nazi ideology but also the everyday acquiescence of everyday citizens? What do these monuments today say to present-day Amsterdammers?


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