Kuper (for 24 July)

Hangar 24 Memorial in Rotterdam (disappointingly—though perhaps not surprisingly—difficult to find online!)

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.

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5 thoughts on “Kuper (for 24 July)

  1. Hey Joe,
    I really enjoyed the memorial blocks set into the street. We saw a few while walking threw the city, however, I expected to see more. I thought that they would be much more common than they were, but we only stumbled on two while walking near the Jewish Quarter. I really like that they create a small memorial within the city and not just a large monument or an exhibit in the museum, it places the history throughout the city.

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  2. How in the world did you find that memorial? It took me about an hour to find it in google maps after finally figuring out what it’s called in Dutch (Monument Loods 24) and finding a historic photo of an aerial view of that part of town. We should see it on our walk of Rotterdam. I’m curious about any labeling that might have happened since Kuper’s book. So, what do you all think should be done about Feyenoord fans? And what’s up w/ Ajax claiming to *be* “the Jews”? Is that akin to the Washington Football Team’s name? Or different?

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  3. Hi Joseph! Great post! One of the things you said that really stuck out to me, is that you believe the government and public institutions should take on a greater role of educating the public about local history. One of the things I love about DC is the fact that the Smithsonian Museums are free and easily accessible, which isn’t always the case in other cities or countries. I’m curious how you think the government could improve local efforts to battle antisemitism or prejudice? Here in the USA it seems as though we have laws against hate crimes, etc. yet it still seems that outwardly racist acts in public (especially in the media and politics) have been becoming more common.

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  4. Just like Aidan, I enjoyed your quote and analysis of Chapter 14 of Kuper’s book. It is quite shocking that because of a “association between Amsterdam’s Ajax and Jewish people, Feyenoord fans insult their opponents with anti-Semitic language”. I found it great that Kuper was able to find a group that has taken action in The Netherlands to fight anti-semitism but it is unfortunate that it is still not enough. I enjoyed your connection with Weiner and Kuper. I agree that the memory loss reminds me of what Weiner discussed with slavery in The Netherlands. I do agree also that Weiner would definitely be on abroad and thrilled with the stumbling stones. In your second paragraph you mention this question: “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?”. I think here you could also connect this to Weiner’s piece to make an even more in depth connection with Weiner.

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  5. Hey,

    I like what you’ve written here. Chapter 14 struck me as well and I also thought about accountability. Ignorance of the law is no criminal defense and racism is strongly tied to ignorance. In my home state, which is extremely white, conservative, and poorly educated, non-hate filled people make racist comments constantly seemingly unaware of what they’re saying. This is by no means an excuse and as you say education is critical. And you’re absolutely right about the personalization that occurs as a result of the stepping stones. We cannot imagine 6 million people but we can imagine one and try to connect with that person or family. This is why Anne Franke’s writing is so important and individual case studies continue to be central in educating the public about the Holocaust.

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