History is a powerful force, one that needs to be approached with respect, humility and patience. No chapter can be read with certainty, no episode can be known in its totality. And that is why history is such a fascinating subject. In today’s day and age, where instant gratification is sought at every opportunity, many fail to take the time to truly try to understand history. Instead, many buy into over simplified summaries, simple one liners or are ignorant all together. This is especially true when politicians try to wield history to their advantage. Politicians should stick to politics, and if they do choose to comment on historic episodes then they should really only do so after devoting much time and effort in understanding said moment in time. But most politicians fail to do this. Day in and day out, it appears that somebody somewhere spouts inaccurate and offensive nonsense about historical events. One such individual, Toine Beukering, is a Dutch politician that decided to make gross and inappropriate comments about how Jews behaved during the Holocaust. Not only were his comments out of line, they also highlight the dangers of how people totally misconstrue and misunderstand what happened in Europe over 70 years ago.
Toine Beukering, stated that Jews were led to the gas chambers ‘like meek little lambs’ during World War Two. This oft repeated comment raises many hackles, mine included. This notion that Jews simply marched into furnaces without fighting back is a deeply held notion that must be combated. While the images of masses of people being rounded up, shot or led off train cars are frequently used in illustrating what transpired during the war, the whole story is not so simple. We were not the helpless victims many assume we were. Not everyone marched silently into the flames. Many people resisted, and we must preserve the memories of these heroic fighters. We must never forget Abba Kovner and his United Partisans, a group of brave fighters that operated within the Vilna Ghetto. We must never forget the Bielski brothers and their followers, a group of courageous individuals that not only resisted the Nazi occupation of Belarus, but also actively sought to rescue any Jews they could find. Nor can we ever forget the iconic Morechai Anielewicz, whose partisan group humiliated the arrogant Nazi forces ravaging Warsaw. These and countless other examples of resistance are parts of the Holocaust narrative that many people overlook. This notion of the defenseless Jew has done considerable damage to the history of the Holocaust. While the Shoah is one of the most horrific and devastating moments in our history, the chapter also possess within its pages many examples of heroic bravery that needs to be remembered, celebrated and taught around the world.
Toine Beukering should not speak so lackadaisically about the Holocaust. It is worth noting that Holland bent the knee to Nazi Germany after only five days of fighting. The brave Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto were able to withstand the German assault for over four weeks. Perhaps someone should inform Mr. Beukering of this fact. The so called ‘meek little lambs’ of Warsaw were able to resist the Germans with only a handful of fighters and weapons, whereas the entire Dutch nation collapsed after a few days. A sobering fact, no? Let this gaff be a warning to those that wish to make foolhardy comments on history. Sure, you can make off colored statements. And yes, you can say this or that to try and bolster your political party or personal image. But history is vast, complex and multilayered. It is something that should be respected, not something to be oversimplified and abused.