As an orphan of two Dutch Holocaust survivors whose four Jewish parents were gassed and burned to ashes in Auschwitz, I think that I’m more entitled and more obligated to share my opinions about the Holocaust than just random people. I also went through an endless amount of the best psychotherapy available so maybe I can share insights without a need to say things to feel good at the expense of my listeners.
The soon to open Dutch Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam has removed from its exhibition four gruesome pictures from Auschwitz.
Opponents of that move ask rhetorically, If not there, where to show those pictures?
In my opinion, they are both right.
Too many young people have been traumatized under the pretext of education. Some ended up addicted to horror, others ended up horrified enough to start avoiding the subject. Both outcomes are unwanted.
I remember one of my kids coming home from school (in Israel) in tears on Holocaust Remembrance Day. What happened? The teacher said that we had to feel like we were in the concentration camps. That as survivors we were obligated to feel as bad as them to keep their memories alive. I told my small one that that was total nonsense, that the job of a small kid is to feel great and play and that feeling bad cannot be part of an assignment.
In my opinion, these iconic horror pictures should not be part of the general display. Rather, they should be described for those who would like to know about them. This should not be read to them. They should be able to read the descriptions themselves so that they can stop reading whenever they want and skip text whenever they choose.
If after reading part or all of the descriptions, some would like to see them, they should be allowed on condition that they’ll talk about their feelings immediately afterward to a sympathetic listener. If they don’t have such a person, they are banned from seeing them. They are also asked to write about the pictures to the staff of the museum. These writings also can be read by others as preparation.
An important lesson at the museum should be that the Holocaust is important history, but four caveats:
- The Holocaust was more a downfall and disaster of Europe and Christian culture than a downfall of the Jews. Therefore, it’s more important for Gentiles than for Jews to come to terms with this horror.
- There is no reason for and there comes no good from collective guilt. Gentiles should take responsibility to end antisemitism because they want a world without, they don’t want such a stain, not to help Jews.
- It’s great to be a Jew, an inheritor of a great and humane civilization and religion and to be part of a very diverse and amazing people.
- Antisemitism is when Jews feel unsafe and Gentiles do not find it natural to create safety for that minority.
The last point has extra significance since the Netherlands presently is unsafe for Jews. Not I think so. When I recently announced that I want to visit the country of my birth, I as an eleventh generation Dutch Jew, my friends there, Jews and Gentiles, told me: first take off your beard and suit / in the large cities you can’t walk in the street / avoid public transportation — I’ll drive you around / you can’t come — sadly.
Ten years ago, I asked the greatest rabbi of Amsterdam: How do you walk the streets? He said: I don’t; I have a car. I asked: What do you do on Shabbat? He said: Then I run. In the past ten years, no one did a thing about it!
And before Muslims get pointed out as the cause, it’s the Dutch who have not dealt with their racism (slave traders and colonialists for centuries) or with their almost total indifference about the Jews being shipped to their death (Middle Ages, Holocaust). As soon as the Dutch will treat non-Whites with respect and protect Jews, Muslims will follow.
While the national new had the chutzpa to claim that the Dutch had been great at resistance against the Nazis, the sad truth is exactly the opposite. The few WW resistance fighters form a resounding accusation against the vast majority that did nothing — not even cry about it.
The Dutch are a friendly people but too many of them tolerate evil as if it’s natural and unbeatable. Or they still don’t care. Not really.