Kuper Reflection

I was struck by the image of German troops singing in Amsterdam in 1940. As the troops stand in the square and sing, passerbys seem to turn their heads in vague acknowledgement of the occupiers; nobody in the picture stops to listen.

The Dutch were very cautious during the Second World War, surrendering quickly to German forces and avoiding antagonizing their Nazi occupiers. Yet, under the veil of docility was a quiet bravery. Though they did not openly rebel against the Nazis, they showed support for liberation. For example, Ajax’s annual report for 1941-1942 contained an implicit show of support for their Jewish members who had been taken away.

This could equally be seen as weakness. Perhaps the Dutch did quietly oppose the Nazis, but they did little to actively repel them or undermine their influence in the Netherlands. And these discreet acts of rebellion weren’t uncommon: Kuper says “Boasting about minor acts of wartime resistance is a Dutch custom” (105).

In my view, the picture says something more about the Dutch perspective. Though they allowed the German troops to sing in their square, not a single Dutchman paid them any heed; though the Germans were allowed to control their country, they were never allowed to dominate the Dutch soul.


2 thoughts on “Kuper Reflection

  1. And some might say that is because the Dutch soul is, in essence, about making money! That’s one critique, actually of the quick surrender and utter complicity in the Holocaust–cause little trouble for the occupiers so we can continue as before, as much as possible. But it didn’t really work out that way, of course. I will say that the Dutch Resistance Museum does an amazing job not only at highlighting daring acts of resistance but at emphasizing the overwhelming evidence of complicity. Some have jokingly called it the Dutch Collaborator Museum. They’re one of the few places working to face down that history.


  2. This was an interesting photo choice and interpretation! I also found this photo to be unique because it presents a juxtaposition between war and civilian life; both seem to remain separate but nevertheless influence each other. When I first looked at this photo, I thought the Dutch were simply ignoring the Germans out of complicity; however, your explanation made me rethink my initial interpretation. Perhaps the Dutch were ignoring the Germans as a form of silent protest. Inaction or silent protest often falls into a grey area because it is hard to determine the individuals’ intentions. Despite this ambiguity, I do agree that many Dutch people did perform silent acts of bravery. For example, Ajax served as an informal support network for Jewish members. In an issue of the club’s post-war journal, Van Praag, a Jewish member, extended his thanks “to all Ajax friends who treated [him] with such friendliness after [his] long period in hiding” (106).

    Although I recognize that many Dutch people actively fought against the Nazis in their own way, I think it is important that we do not spread the misconception that all Dutch people were silently undermining Nazi rule. As Kuper points out, “A few Dutch people were undeniably goed and a few were definitely fout” (117). Thus, we mustn’t make broad assumptions about the people in the photograph. Were all the civilians in the photo anti-Nazi or were they pro-Nazi? Perhaps some individuals were indifferent? Because we have no way of knowing the answer to these questions, we must learn all sides of history—the good, bad, and indifferent.

    While we don’t always know the intentions of people in the past, we can actively analyze the motivations of people protesting today. The idea of silent acts of rebellion is very different from the acts of protest we see currently. Especially with the Black Lives Matter Movement, performative protesting is a big issue. People are posting about racial injustice on Social Media, but many are not taking action in their everyday lives. I wonder how performative protesting will be viewed in the future? Are there any beneficial aspects to it?


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