Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

Holland and the Holocaust

A few weeks ago I visited Anne Frank’s house and other Jewish sites in Amsterdam. I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently on the Shoah trying to get a fresh angle to connect with a group I’m going to guide on the “March of the Living” (Poland/Israel). The more I read the less I understand. I get angry. I get sad. I get frustrated. I get incredulous. It’s an emotional roller coaster.

Statue of Anne Frank in Amsterdam.                  Photo (c) T. Book, 2022

When one visits synagogues in different countries around the world one notices how similar, yet different, they are. They all incorporate from their surrounding cultures, yet all have the unique Jewish features. They all face Israel/Jerusalem; have an ark, bimah, eternal light etc.

The huge Portuguese Synagogue, also known as the Esnoga, in Amsterdam was making a statement: “We Jews are here!  We have arrived! We are prosperous! We are self-confident enough to build the largest synagogue in Europe (in the seventeenth century) with the finest materials in the most prosperous part of the city!”  Yet most of their decedents were turned into dust and ashes in our grandparents’ lifetimes. The affluent assimilated “More Dutch than the Dutch” Jewish community of Holland was almost totally murdered during the Shoah. Only one out of 16 Amsterdam Jews survived. 104, 000 out of 140,000 murdered for the crime of being Jewish in the wrong time in the wrong place in history. In the pre-War pictures they look so modern and happy.

This is what is written on the official memorial (in Hebrew and Dutch) at the deportation center (formerly a theatre in downtown Amsterdam)

These are the family names of

Fathers and Mothers

Uncles and Aunts

Brothers and sisters


Grandfathers and grandmothers

104, 000 human beings

104, 000 Jews

Mostly from Amsterdam

Send far from Holland

And murdered

I was thinking, as I always do, in places where there was a significant pre-War Jewish community, that as comfortable as they felt and as assimilated as they felt they were always “the other.”

I remember the last time I led a group on the March of the Living. We assembled in front of the blown-up gas chambers at Birkenau after having marched in silence from Auschwitz I to Auschwitz II along the rail line and through the gates. At the ceremony, standing next to the IDF guard of honor was the former Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Lau, himself a survivor, having being rescued by the American troops as a little boy. He started his address with the following statement:

Look around, there are 8000 youth from all over the world. That is half the amount of people who were murdered daily in Auschwitz at its peak killing capacity between June and November of 1944 when Hungary’s Jews (including my grandmother’s entire family) were being murdered.

I don’t really recall much of the rest of his speech, as the opening stunned us. The scale of the site and the scale of the murder and the scale of the evil just overwhelmed me. Seventy-eight years later the soil is still grey with the ashes of the one million Jews who were murdered there. It’s so important to go at least once to Poland to learn about the rich Jewish life before the Shoah. To understand what we lost and to see the evidence of the mass-murder first hand, especially whilst we can still hear it in first person from the last generation of witnesses.

My last March of the Living group reflecting on the \tracks of death” leading into Birkenau.                              Photo (c) T. Book, 2023

Most importantly, after visiting Poland, and other sites in formerly Nazi-occupied Europe, like Anne Frank’s house, we realize just how important it is to be in charge of our own Jewish destiny and not rely on the pity of our host-nations. How important it is to have our own Jewish state and a strong IDF. I am very proud of the small I role I played during my IDF service of ensuring that “never again” really means never again! I get very emotional every time I return home from Poland home to Israel. I’ve seen people weep with gratitude, myself included.

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He was a Senior Editor and Teaching Fellow at the Tikvah Fund. He is a research associate at the Hudson Institute. Tuvia is the author and illustrator the internationally acclaimed Israel education curriculum; "For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Studies" (Fifth edition, Koren 2017), and "Moral Dilemmas of the Modern Israeli Soldier" (Rama, 2011) and has a doctorate in Israel Education. His latest book, "Jewish Journeys, The Second Temple Period to the Bar Kokhba Revolt – 536 BCE-136 CE," was published by Koren this year. To order:
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