Did Dutch Jews Really Go Like Lambs to the Slaughter?
Retired General Toine Beukering is a freshman Dutch nationalist senator. He represents the right-wing “Forum for Democracy,” a new party that has become the biggest in the Senate. As such, the Senate’s chair is expected to be chosen from it. Beukering is its candidate.
Beukering explained in an interview that one of the reasons he joined the military was that he read a shelf full of books on the Holocaust as a child. He added: “I’ve always been intrigued by how it was possible, that the Jews — such a courageous, militant nation — were chased like docile lambs into the gas chambers.”
The interviewer asked him whether he understood that people would be shocked when they read his remarks. Beukering answered that he had participated in the Dutch day of the kippah, in order to show solidarity with the Jews. He ultimately apologized for his words.
The former general’s comments were once again an expression of the resistance myth that the Netherlands created about its wartime history after the country was liberated from German occupation in 1945 by the Allies.
The reality is very different.
In May 1940, after a few days of fighting the invading Germans, the Dutch Queen, Wilhelmina of Oranje, without consulting her ministers, fled to London. Most ministers followed her. They left no instructions to the remaining functionaries about how to act during the occupation. The Dutch army capitulated within a few days.
The country’s Supreme Court was among the first to betray the Jews. In 1940, the Germans asked all Dutch officials and teachers to sign a declaration that they were not Jewish. Almost all concerned signed, including the members of the Supreme Court, except its Jewish president. The Germans used this declaration to exclude Jews from official positions. In 2011, the then-president of the Supreme Court said that this signing of the declaration “went against everything which the Supreme Court should have stood for.”
The Jews, who had to wear yellow stars, were increasingly isolated in a nation where the collaboration by far exceeded the membership of the pre-war Dutch national socialist party (NSB). Members of the Dutch police knew that it was their task to arrest only criminals. Yet they greatly assisted the Germans in arresting Jews, including babies and old people. Jews were transported by the Dutch railways to the transit camp Westerbork, where they were guarded by the Dutch military police. From there, more than 100,000 Jews were sent to their deaths in German camps in Poland.
At a recent exhibition on Jews and the Royal House of Oranje, the few sentences Queen Wilhelmina spoke during the war in an offhand manner to the Dutch radio in London about the Jews could be heard. Her impassive speech contrasted with her fiery talk against the mobilization of Dutch men to work in Germany.
A small percentage of the Dutch population helped Jews. It’s been stated that roughly 24,000 Jews went into hiding. Of these, 16,000 survived. Many others were betrayed or caught by unique Dutch volunteer organizations, a civil one and a police one that were rewarded monetarily for every Jew they found.
Jews — who before the war were less than 1.5% of the population — also played a disproportionately large role in the Dutch resistance. This has been under-publicized by the media and historians. A monument near the Amsterdam municipality testifies to the Jewish resistance.