Kuper Reflection –– JN

What surprised me most from Kuper’s book was just learning about the “relatively mild[ness]” (70) of WWII in Holland (to everyone but the Jews), compared to the rest of Europe. While we tend to think of Hitler’s influence during WWII, or at least WWII’s influence in general, as global, the close proximity of Holland, yet oblivion, or choice of obliviousness––to what was effecting their Jewish neighbours––is somewhat questionable but mainly just fascinating. Reading what Dutch Jews had to do to avoid being sent to concentration camps, and reading their demise, brings up the same sadness that is the testimonies of the Holocaust. However, what’s fascinating and startling is the normality that Holland tried (and succeeded) in maintaining, in a way to avoid the reality of what was going on during the war. This side of the story is fascinating from a human-nature perspective and, in a way, a red herring of our human tendency to avoid conflict, distract ourselves and maintain a level of comfort––which, for the Dutch, was loyalty to their football club––even if that meant turning a blind-eye.

The benefit of football club culture in Holland during the war, however, was the network it provided for the protection of some Jews. As Kuper explains, “Jews who lived in the Jewish Quarter and played for Jewish football clubs practically knew only Jews. In the war, that mattered. It seems that Ajax––not as a club, but as an informal network––saved people, and Jews were not the only beneficiaries” (107). So while football clubs––especially Ajax––may have kept up the culture and held the main stage for many in Holland during the war, the connections it provided may have saved some Jew’s lives who were previous members of the club.


6 thoughts on “Kuper Reflection –– JN

  1. A lot of thought put into it. I saw it in a similar yet different way. It is hard to see the team you know today participating in such behaviour, hoping it never occurs again. You clearly tried to take a look at the matter in multiple ways, for how can we see such an event as black and white. It’s unfortunate that we live in a world this can happen.


  2. If you’d like to know more–including some of the less mild aspects–neighbors fighting neighbors, reporting each other to the Germans, suffering in silence, dying in rebellion, or for no reason at all–read the novel The Assault, by Harry Mulisch (it’s set in Haarlem, with some side trips to Amsterdam). Haunting.


  3. The point you make about the impact of WWII being mild in this are compared to many other areas of Europe is something I’ve been thinking on too. We often saw th decay of buildings and in my opinion the cloaking of much more propaganda draped across cities — from my examination of Kuper’s works, photos, etc., I too don’t see that kind of drastic effect. Perhaps this plays into the idea that the people of Amsterdam were more complicit than their neighbors, and how German presence found it easier to creep into the society and institutions of Amsterdam communities.

    However, it’s interesting that you bring up how Ajax almost protected vulnerable communities, maybe showing there were groups of people that defended the institutions of people of the city they cherished. It could go on to show the resentment, grit, and fortitude of Ajax, and how they endured WWII and the Germans’ presence.


  4. The comparative stability that Amsterdam experienced during World War II is surprising but not unprecedented. The Dutch fared relatively well in WWI, as Schaaper noted, and were able to cling to some semblance of normalcy through both catastrophic wars. In striking contrast, however, was the city of Rotterdam, obliterated during the war in the German bombing campaign known as the Rotterdam Blitz. The utter destruction of the medieval city center was a tremendous psychological and strategic blow to the Dutch, provoking a surrender soon after. In a way, Rotterdam was an unwilling and unknowing sacrifice, serving to protect other Dutch cities from the same fate only through its own martyrdom. When we say their situation was “relatively mild” or that they “fared relatively well,” the operative word is “relative.” Relative to the millions of Russian civilian casualties or the horrors of the Holocaust, it is true that the Netherlands came out of the war less scathed than other enemies of the Germans. And while the treatment of Dutch Jews appeared non-violent in the cities, once they left the country it was anything but.


  5. Your perspective about the Ajax as a soccer club and as a network is very insightful. Ajax functioning normally as a soccer club at war time is startling because I would not expect people to enjoy sport continually during such horrifying time. Ajax resembles the other Dutch who tired not to be affected by the war and progressed with their life, even though they knew that their Jewish members were going through a terrible time. On the other hand, the network created by members of Ajax made a sharp contrast with what Ajax had presented on the surface. This reminded me of the complex idea of “goet or faut” addressed by Kuper. Ajax seemed to fall into both categories and is hard to say that they could only be identified with one characteristic. Ajax is the bystanders, persecutors, and helpers of the Jewish community at the same time. It made me wonder how should we label and identify Ajax for their contrasting actions during the war.


  6. Your photo choice and interpretation were excellent! When I was taught about World War II, words like “relatively mild” were never included in the discussion. Consequently, I was also surprised to learn that the war did not impact Holland to the same degree as other countries. Perhaps this absence of bloodshed is an explanation for the Dutch’s continued sense of normalcy. Kuper explains the relatively non-violent Jewish persecution in Holland: “[…] it was a mechanical sorting operation: ringing doorbells, escorting people to trains, impounding their belongings afterward” (111). While many Dutch people did not see outright acts of violence, does this justify their inaction?

    Although several Dutch individuals continued to live normally with the help of things like football, this club culture was also in some ways beneficial. For instance, I appreciated how you talked about the influence of football club culture in Holland and how it allowed Ajax to support its Jewish members. Kuper touches on this culture saying, “There must have been vast members of Dutchmen who felt more loyal to club than country” (117). I believe that Ajax would not have been able to save lives if this type of culture were not in place. Normally there is strength in numbers; however, Holland’s surrender forced its citizens to work together in small groups rather than as an entire country. Ajax’s role as an informal network proves the point that every organization and company has the ability to make change.


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