The good, the bad, and the ugly
The good were the 5% that fought the Nazis but were too modest to admit that after the war. The bad were the 90% that stood by, looked away, and never admitted guilt. And the ugly were the 5% who joined the SS, half of them falling in action, all of their families hiding anything had happened.
After years of gründlich preparations, the Dutch reopened the Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam. The giant brown-shirted elephant in the room is that I cannot visit the exhibition without a police escort! As a visible Jew, I cannot safely walk the streets of Amsterdam or use public transportation, for thirty years already. This has two reasons: The autochthone Dutch never told immigrants that Antisemitism is not allowed. (This way, the covert autochthone Jew hatred is obscured, and one could just blame the allochthone, which is such a nice way to perpetuate supremacy and racism.) And secondly, Dutch culture values cowardice more than heroism. If something bad happens, most of the Dutch won’t help. The idea that they could get tired or wounded or their clothes dirty makes it a no-no.
My mother used to say that you can’t blame anyone for not risking their life to fight the Nazi-German occupier, and I tend to agree with her, in her honor. She herself displayed unbelievable heroism, but you can’t demand that. However, I add that what I do resent is that after the war, the silent majority did not repent. The present King has recently admitted that the silence of his great-grandmother, the queen in wartime, sometimes keeps him up at night. That shows more character than in most of the Dutch.
Not caring and silence can kill. “A lack of caring enables all evil, including the Holocaust.” (Eli Wiesel); “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” (Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a rare German church leader who opened his mouth against the Nazi regime); “The road to Auschwitz was not 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.); and “Indifference kills along with hatred.” (President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.)
The terms “resistance hero” and “foul in the war” have been part of the Dutch parlance ever since the war. But the new museum has banned them. Hero is too over-the-top. And “national traitor” is too opinionated. They are too polarizing and moralizing. Not Woke enough. Weren’t armed resistance fighters ‘objectively’ (for the Nazis) terrorists too? Let visitors make up their own mind about who were good and who were bad. Try a nuanced opinion without name-calling. But, this upset many. Rightly so.
Strange, also, a museum that hides the past. Really Woke would be to ask the visitors themselves what they think of the terms “resistance hero” and “foul in the war.” Are these obsolete or unhelpful; or helpful because they clarify that sometimes we need to choose good or we end up doing bad?
Also, the beautiful term de Jodenvervolging (The [only] persecution of Jews [in recent Dutch history]), coined by Prof. Loe de Jong in the early 1960s was overtaken by the hip, international, but wrong term Holocaust.
But the worst problem is not with the bad 5% that aided the Nazis. The real problem is with the silent majority, before, during, and after the war.
The new museum does not educate that in WW II, 90% did nothing. It is also cynically silent about the unbearable Antisemitism today, in the national news broadcasts, the national press reports, and in the street. As a museum, it talks about the past, and the future, but the present is taboo.
In fact, it’s sweet to call a spade a spade. Not vis-à-vis Jews but regarding the silent Dutch majority. How else can they ever hope to repent nationally (as Germany did) when every nastiness must be woked away?
And if the museum is not part of a solution, it’s part of the problem. Sadly.