Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Whose suffering is the worst?

In an Editorial of an Israeli quality newspaper, I read the following two paragraphs:

“However, the uniqueness of Polish suffering is inseparable from the unique suffering of Poland’s Jews, who made up 10% of the total population, or around 3.5 million, at the start of the war. By the end of the war, only around 100,000 Polish Jews remained alive. Well over half of all Poles who were killed during the war were Jewish.”

“So while the entire Polish people were the victims of both Nazi and Soviet barbarism (the two countries split Poland between them on October 6, 1939) their suffering pales in comparison to the atrocities committed against the Jews.”

So it says “their suffering pales in comparison to the atrocities committed against the Jews.”

Let me tell you a story that shows how wrong this idea is.


My parents survived the Second World War in the largest Dutch concentration camp, Westerbork, from where 75% of all Dutch Jews were sent to their speedy death in camps in Poland. They were almost sole survivors of large Jewish families.

After the war, my mother told a Gentile woman her story as survivor. The woman then explain: We also suffered tremendously.

My mother asked her how.

She told her. At the end of the war, there was one more firefight close to our home. A stray bullet entered our house and went through our linen-cupboard. There was not one piece of linen without at least one bullet hole.

That was her tragedy. My mother understood. For herself, who lost almost all her family, her friends, her colleagues, this was silly. But for this woman it was a disaster.

My mother, whenever she told this story, then added her mild and empathic conclusion: Everyone feels their own sorrow the most.


And therefore you can’t say “We suffered far more – your suffering doesn’t count.” Besides, the Polish People also suffered ethnic cleansing by the Nazis. Million of Poles were not accidentally killed in the war but purposely murdered. They were not targeted like the Jews for extermination but the Nazis considered them Untermenschen (sub-human creatures, not worthy of life) and their Slave culture also inferior which should be destroyed. That is not nothing! Do not speak disparagingly about ethnic cleansing! This is much worse than the above mentioned linen with holes in them.

On top of that, the Dutch and the Poles had record numbers of Gentiles who hid, protected, fed and supported Jews against the Nazis, with danger to their own lives and the lives of their families. Record numbers. Don’t slight this!

The other side of the coin is that before, during and after WW II, anti-Semitism in Poland was rampant. Poles murdered Jews before, during and after WW II. The Nazi death camps were largely on Polish soil enabled by the anti-Semitic atmosphere in Poland. Don’t deny that either.


Don’t say that the Poles didn’t suffer.

Don’t say that their suffering was not so bad.

Don’t deny the exceptional Polish courage to save many Jewish lives.

Don’t deny the centuries of Jew hatred and murder in Poland.

Don’t pretend that situating Nazi death camps in Poland was accidental.


The Jewish death toll does not undo the Slave death toll.

The Slave suffering and resistance do not undo Polish Nazi collaboration.

Shame about Nazi sympathy in Poland doesn’t substitute for repentance.


The real issue here is not if the death camps were Polish. Rather, the question is if Poles are ready to face their centuries of Jew hatred – as can be read and heard still today from Poles.

Germany shows and models that pride does not need denial of a monstrous past. Rather, true pride can only come from acknowledging a monstrous past and rejecting it – with pride.

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. To see other blog posts by him, a second blog - under construction - can be found by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture.
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