I loved Kuper’s book—I think sports and the culture that surrounds them always give us a unique insight into the broader culture in which they’re set, and in the Netherlands, these soccer clubs can show us how World War II and the Holocaust have been remembered and treated over the years. I think what stuck with me the most was Chapter 14, which discussed the anti-Semitic chants and songs coming out of Rotterdam’s Feyenoord. Because of the decades-old association between Amsterdam’s Ajax and Jewish people, Feyenoord fans insult their opponents with anti-Semitic language. Kuper writes about action taken in the early 1980s by a group called Stiba that fights anti-Semitism in the Netherlands:
“The club said the fans were too stupid to know what they were chanting. The Stiba replied that ‘the law is broken by both stupid and clever people.’” (p. 222)
I think this raises some great questions about accountability, education, and historical memory; whose responsibility is it to make sure that everyone understands the objective Holocaust, and whose job is it to call people out when something like this happens? Another example that illustrates this is the sculpture in Hangar 24 Square in Rotterdam, which is a monument to the city’s murdered Jewish population. Kuper writes that it’s barely labeled and not too many locals even know what it was designed for; he writes that the monument “demonstrates (presumably unintentionally) that the city’s Jews are not just dead but also forgotten” (p. 234). This is exactly the kind of thing that makes me feel even more strongly that governments and public institutions—the example Kuper gives is the city council in Rotterdam, but the same thought applies everywhere else—should take on more effort to continue education on history like this. It shouldn’t just fall on an organization like Stiba to try to get people to understand the meaning of their chants at a soccer game, Feyenoord and Rotterdam need to step up too.
I think the stumbling stones are actually a great solution. They’re set into the street in such a way that people have to be constantly reminded of the Holocaust, and the fact that they’re centered on the actual people who were killed gets rid of a lot of the abstraction of history. Six million is a huge and difficult number to comprehend; a name of a person on a street is impossible to miss. Kuper writes about how many in places like Rotterdam never think of the city’s lost Jewish population, or think that Jews never lived there at all, and a project like this would permanently preserve the memory.
This sort of memory loss reminds me of what Weiner talked about with textbooks glossing over the slavery narrative in the Netherlands, and I think she’d be completely on board with a project like the stumbling stones to try and rectify that. The idea of the stones also works well with Beasley’s all-hands-on-deck memory project of city-as-museum, where everyone is a participation in collective memory. I think Hansen-Glucklich, like Beasley, is in favor of non-traditional exhibitions like this, and would support that human element.