The percentage of Jews from the Netherlands and Poland killed in the Holocaust is staggering. Much more than in Belgium! Most of the Gentiles did nothing. There seems only one conclusion possible: they both were Europe’s worst anti-Semites.
However, the Poles and the Dutch have the greatest percentage of Gentiles in Nazi-occupied Europe that resisted the Nazis and especially helped Jews. There seems only one conclusion possible: they both were Europe’s best allies of Jews.
The above statements are both true. That, for some people, is hard to grasp. Let’s then put it like this:
- Most people in Poland and the Netherlands did nothing against the Holocaust.
- However, a small but significant number of Gentiles in both countries fought against the rounding up of Jews, AND
- A small but significant number of Gentiles in both countries collaborated with the Nazis if not outdid them.
- Don’t let anger about the minority of collaborators make you forget the exceptional heroes who risked their own lives to save Jews.
- Don’t let pride about the exceptional heroes make you forget the minority of collaborators who killed Jews as if they were vermin.
- And never forget that most Jews were killed by the majority’s indifference and silence:
A lack of caring enables all evil, including the Holocaust.” (Eli Wiesel). “The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.
- Albert Einstein
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: G-d will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
- Pastor Dietrich Bonhöffer, a rare German church leader who kept speaking out against the Nazi regime
The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference.
- Renowned Holocaust Scholar Sir Ian Kershaw
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transformation was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
- Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Yet, there are still many differences between the Poles and the Dutch:
Anti-Semitism was much more obvious in Poland, which had much more Jews before the War, if only because the Dutch dislike noise and fanaticism.
The Nazis considered the Poles Untermenschen and the Dutch pure Aryans, and killed the former and tried to erase their culture.
The Dutch, after the War, never went out to kill Jews. Their Jew hatred was much more verbal – more sly and confusing but less fatal.
After the War, the Dutch were fond of Israel, as long as it was the underdog, while Poland under Soviet occupation was fed Communist anti-Semitism.
Despite all these differences, the above similarities stand. Try to remember that both peoples disliked Jews, were indifferent about their fate seeing them as foreign nuisances, that there were heroes and collaborators but that the vast majority enabled by doing nothing.
About my vision for the future, see: What do Germans, Poles and Japanese have to do with Arab Palestinians?