Ajax Reflection (JV)

After reflecting on this reading, I chose the photo of the annual ceremony to commemorate the  ‘February Strike’ of 1941. When I think of World War II, images of horrific atrocities come to mind; however, Kuper makes the point that this was not the case for most people in Eastern Europe. For example, during the week of the February Strike, Sparta made no mention of this historic event but rather its correspondence revolved around a curse word discrepancy. This neglectful attitude was perfectly illustrated in a quote by Ajax writer Vermeer: “The misery of war remained relatively limited, in the sense that at the end of the occupation there were no deaths to mourn among the Ajax members” (104). As Kuper argues, this quotation minimizes the pain endured by many Jewish Ajax members who were expelled from the club before they died in the concentration camps. By sweeping atrocities under the rug, a large chunk of history is erased.

Kuper highlights this complicit attitude while talking about the leniency extended to many Ajax collaborators. Complicity often falls within a gray area as very few people are completely “goed” or “fout”. It is human nature to try to characterize things into either good or bad; however, much of history lies in the murky grey area. Thus, while this image above depicts a scene commemorating human nature at its best, it fails to show the simultaneous complicity demonstrated by a large part of the same country. It is important that the ‘February Strike’ of 1941 is commemorated and discussed; yet, I argue that it is equally important that the Netherlands’ inaction during this time is also mentioned in this discussion. How many people in the crowd were bystanders to Jewish persecution? Did this one brave strike cement the Netherlands on the “good” side of history? It is easy to commemorate triumph, but it is hard to come to terms with failure. Ultimately, the full history must be told in order to properly commemorate the individuals involved in the ‘February Strike’ of 1941 because they made noise while others stayed quiet.

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4 thoughts on “Ajax Reflection (JV)

  1. Wow–with one question you completely undo that photograph: Who in that crowd was a bystander as their Jewish neighbors were taken away? Exigencies changed things, forced or seemed to force different decisions. We can’t know, but this is a powerful cross-reading of the photo.

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  2. It’s very true what you bring up about how history will be looked at from years on and how it can all become murky and a large grey area. I liked what you said about how humans will always try to characterize moments in time, people, etc., into the categories of good and bad, and yet that line cannot always be distinctly drawn. This is especially applicable in this instance of the Ajax club, their actions, and German forces’ impacts.

    Your choice of photo and your approach to the subject is very interesting, in that it demonstrates just how much things truly were “swept under the rug.” You describe how members disappeared so quickly that it almost made it impossible to mourn the loss of them. I think this parallels an idea I brought up when examining my image, whereas society and the community seemed to ignore the presence of German forces and the decay of their own institutions because they believed that to be the best option — accept and ignore.

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  3. vighettij,

    You made great points regarding the ‘February Strike’ photograph. Although they are commemorating this historic event, it is not clear to me that it is worth celebrating. The ‘February Strike’ was certainly a bold and historic action at the moment. However, 75% of Amsterdam’s Jews were killed and most were led to their death with minimal protest.

    -Zach

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  4. On another post I made a comment in regards to human tendency to overlook disparaging issues in order for one to keep their own life the way they want. I paralleled that with some of the issues humans face in our current times. You made a point I forgot to consider, which is that there will always be outliers whether they are bad or good. So while in the middle you have the people who don’t care as long as it doesn’t affect them, on either side of that you have those who are actively supporting or against the movement. While either may start as a minority, those who aren’t courageous enough to support a movement in the beginning may come around to supporting it later if they see it gaining traction. This can be see in todays society with the Black Lives Matter movement. When the movement began gaining attention in 2015/2016 there was a portion of people who choose not to say anything. I’m not basing this off a statistic, but rather what I saw on social media, etc. But now in 2020, most people I know have at least made a post supporting the movement, if not more. Looking at the human psyche I think it shows the reluctancy of people to get behind a cause until they are sure they are on the right side/winning side. This could explain why protests such as the February Strike weren’t massively popular at their time, despite the hate that existed towards the Nazi party, that would led to the end of their party just 4 years later.

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