Remembering the Dutch War through Soccer

Westervelt, Eric. “Stumbling Upon Mini Memorials To Holocaust Victims.” NPR. NPR, 31 May 2012. Web. 24 July 2019.

I found myself a little perplexed by Kuper’s writing and the contradictory nature of the Dutch response to WWII. From what I understand, soccer clubs play a central role in the lives of most Dutch people. Kuper goes so far as to say that, “everyone agreed that betraying one’s country was a bad thing. However, to paraphrase E.M. Forster, many people thought it better than betraying one’s soccer club. There must have been vast numbers of Dutchmen who felt more loyal to club than country” (121). Kuper explains that prior to the war many Jewish members belonged to Ajax, during the war, however, during the war the team disassociated with the Jewish community and banned Jews from playing in and enjoying Ajax games. In my opinion, for an organization to do nothing to help members, shows that they took a stance by choosing to abandon their Jewish members. Their inaction reveals just as much about their community during this time as others’ action. Furthermore, it seems as though the inaction during the war has carried over to present day – where it seems as though mum is the word among the Ajax community with regards to Ajax’s stance during WWII. I do love the stumbling stones laid throughout the city as a possible solution, to keep the memories alive today. These stones serve as a constant reminder of the horrors of WWII and allow people easy access to information about the history of where they stand.   

Nevertheless, Kuper points out that things weren’t so black and white. During the war, Kuper contends, people acted either goed (good) or fout (wrong), but there were also undoubtably unspoken blurred lines. Kuper uses the example of a Hollandsche Schouwburg guard, Joop Pelser, who was branded as fout for becoming a guard during the war. Consequently, Pelser was also goed because he tipped off a Jewish friend of an impending raid by the Nazis, and hid the friend in his house for months. Kuper uses stories and information collected from the Ajax club to reveal the everyday experiences of the Dutch during the war. Rather than looking at museum artifacts from the war and destruction, Kuper focuses on the everyday life and how people fared during these years. In light of the Weiner reading, I think it Kuper takes a hands-on approach and fully engages with the community to conduct his research and open up discussion.     

One of the things that stuck out to me what in the Kupper reading, is Kuper’s discussion of The Purge Committee and Jaap Hordijk. Hordijk was temporarily banned from Ajax (they lifted the ban shortly after issuing it) because he chose to play soccer for a German club while living in Germany, and chose to salute Hitler with the rest of the team before games. Kuper explains, “[Hordijk] did not have to play soccer. Nobody did” (117). Some people quit playing when they became obliged to salute Hitler. This intersection of politics and sports culture reminds me of Kaeperick’s spotlight in the news today.


4 thoughts on “Remembering the Dutch War through Soccer

  1. I was also a little confused with role the soccer clubs appeared to play in WWII. I understand that the story isn’t black and white, but rather a mess of complex stories. But, the Dutch overall were very accepting so the way Kuper wrote made the teams seem more against the war than the country itself, at least in my view.


  2. Hi Cheney! The idea of the soccer clubs as identity groups that were almost more important than a national identity was also very interesting to me from Kuper. The fact that so many of the soccer clubs turned on their Jewish members during the war made me wonder whether or not they were really “part of the family” to begin with, or whether they were always considered an out-group. In the Netherlands at large, I also wondered, when the Dutch think about Dutch Jews, which part of that identity is considered more important to them. Do people in the Netherlands think of the Jewish population that was killed during the war as a loss of Dutch nationals, or as a loss of a different “other” community?


  3. I also found that Kuper’s readings revealed that “mum is the word among the Ajax community with regards to Ajax’s stance during WWII”. I agree with your comment regarding that their inaction elicits just as much about their community doing this time as others’ action. I also found that Kuper utilized stories and information gathered from the Ajax club to share the everyday experiences of the Dutch during the war. This is the one of the main elements of Kuper’s writing that I enjoyed. I thought your comparison with Weiner and Kuper was accurate, but I would have liked more of a connection as to how their readings connected through context. I enjoyed your connection with Kuper discussion of sports ad politics and with Kaeperick’s politics and sports that he writes for the news today. I would love to hear more about that.


  4. Hi,

    It is interesting (and sad) that many folks felt more loyal to their soccer club than to their country. Kuper does list a few examples of Ajax and its members defending jews, but generally speaking they towed the Nazi line. I think it’s hard to cast too much blame on them, however, because they were under occupation. I do think that those trying to cover this up today do deserve a great deal of blame. Kuper encountered a lot of pushback while trying to research his book and I think there is no excuse for this. People need to present the facts as they are and simply accept past mistakes. It’s human nature to defend oneself or ones group so I do understand this pushback, but the irony is that the cover up is more damning in my eyes than the crime itself considering they were forced to exclude jews and are not being forced to cover that up.


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