Dutch Judge Passes Sentence on Rotterdam Soccer Fans Who Created Antisemitic Mural
A judge in the Netherlands has sentenced two men found guilty of creating an antisemitic mural in the city of Rotterdam to 60 hours of community service and a mandatory visit to a memorial to the Nazi Holocaust in Amsterdam.
The pair, supporters of Rotterdam soccer team Feyenoord, unveiled the mural last July after one of the club’s top midfielders, Stephen Berghuis, signed for rival Amsterdam side Ajax. The mural portrayed Berghuis with an outlandishly large “Jewish” nose, wearing a kippah and a striped concentration camp uniform marked with a “Judenstern,” or “Jews’ Star.”
A slogan alongside the drawing stated, “Jews always run away.”
The references to the Holocaust stem from the depiction of Ajax as a “Jewish” club in the folklore of Dutch soccer. While Ajax has no formal ties to the Dutch Jewish community, some of the “ultra” fans who follow the club style themselves as “Joden” — “Jews” — and wave Israeli flags at matches. Ajax matches have frequently been disrupted by the antisemitic chants of opposing fans, including “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.”
Passing sentence on the two fans, who have not been named, the judge highlighted their delighted conversations on a WhatsApp group after the mural was unveiled. Comments included compliments about the “pajamas” in which Berghuis was dressed — a reference to the concentration camp uniform — and a joke that “if we get reported, we’ll get a free trip to Auschwitz with CIDI [a Dutch Jewish organization]. Then they can all get typhus.”
The judge declared: “You do not understand what this means for survivors of the Holocaust and the bereaved. This will continue for generations to come.”
At the same time, he reassured the convicted men that he saw them “as artists, as Feyernoord supporters.”
While offensive speech was permissible in a democracy, the judge continued, “insulting the Holocaust is always punishable.” However, he then ended his reflections with a joke of his own: “I’m sending you to Amsterdam, that’s a punishment in itself.”
A representative of Rotterdam’s Jewish community expressed satisfaction that the two fans would be visiting the National Memorial to the Holocaust. “We hope this will contribute to a greater awareness of the impact of antisemitism,” Leopold Hertzberger, the community’s chair, told a local news outlet.
“We think it’s a creative, wise and real punishment. It’s better than sixty hours of gardening,” Hertzberger said. “We should encourage the imposition of these kinds of educational punishments more often.”
Separately, Eddo Verdoner, the Dutch government’s National Coordinator for Combating Antisemitism, argued that the case had underlined the anxiety among Dutch Jews over rising antisemitism.
“For these men it is probably a game, but many Jews in the Netherlands have to deal with antisemitism on a daily basis, in the workplace, in the classroom, in canteens, on social media,” Verdoner told news outlet NRC. “I often hear from Jews that they do not dare to express their religious identity. That for fear of remarks they don’t wear a yarmulke, don’t wear a Star of David. When stereotyping of Jews is approved — as in such a mural — you make antisemitism salonfähig [socially acceptable].”