The Dutch woman who built a memorial for Jews murdered in the Holocaust

This is the story of a European woman who is showing how private people who care can act and make a change in Europe

By Chami Zemach 


Dr. Alie W. Noorlag lives in Vlagtwedde, a small town on the north of Netherland.

Among the books she wrote is a book that criticise the Netherland people who had put all the guilt after the war on the Nazi main collaborators and their families because it was easy for them to forget that they were all guilty as much. As a nation, as a state, as people.

A big part of Dr. Noorlag''s time is dedicated to improving the way people see Israel in Netherland. She is very much involved in activities to prevent Anti-Semitism and she is the initiator of many activities to preserve the memory of the holocaust.


On October 2011 The Israeli Family Project was hosted to several activities in Northern Netherland by Dr. Noorlag. I had the honour to meet with her and later on, on October 25th to hear her lecture during a remembrance day on the annual ceremony for the deportations of Jewish people from Northern Netherlands.

In her lecture, Dr. Noorlag described how she and other people who care established a memorial for the Jewish people who lived in the city of Stadskanaal in Northern Netherland.


I admire those private people who believe that even today, 70 years after the deportations; they still have an important role in preserving the memory of the holocaust and they act to do so. They were not told to do so. This is what they decided to do, as people. 


Chami Zemach

The Israeli Family Project

Dr. Noorlag speaks in the city of Winscholten


The arise of the monument and the message of the Committee

for Jewish War-monument in Stadskanaal, Northern Netherland


Ladies and Gentlemen

Dear family Zemach,

Dear guests from the city of Leer / Weener, Germany.


Short after the middle of the 18th century the first Jews came to Winschoten to live here in Northern Netherland. Not after too long they formed a Jewish community and initiated their synagogue in 1897 on Langestraat.

The Jewish Community of Winschoten in the 19th century was the second biggest Jewish Community in the Netherlands. Amsterdam was the biggest.

Many of the Jews in Winschoten were very poor but they had better times in the early 20th century.

In 1930 there were about 510 Jews in Winschoten. During the Second World War 454 of them have been taken out of their houses and brought to the concentration camps of Eastern-Europe, where they were murdered. In 1951 there were only 17 Jewish people left in Winschoten.


In Stadskanaal, a village that was formerly a part of the municipality of Onstwedde, the first Jewish community was initiated in the beginning of the 19th century. The first Jewish families  came to this village in 1830. The reason that the synagogue in Stadskanaal was established later than the one in Winschoten was that just in 1756 the canal of Stadskanaal was dug and the village of Stadskanaal was established only during (or after) they digging of the canal.

From the 180 Jews who lived in Stadskanaal at the beginning of the Second World War, only 44 survived the holocaust. In 1951 there were 26 Jewish people in Stadskanaal.


Dr. Noorlag in the annual ceremony near the memorial in the city of Winscholten, Netherland

136 Names are mentioned on the Jewish War-Monument at Navolaan in Stadskanaal.

On the monument a text from the Talmud: ‘Woe those who were lost and are not found back’.


The unveiling of the Jewish War-Monument took place in Stadskanaal on April 16th, 1986 by Rabbi Raphael Evers at presence of Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs.

From that moment there was a place to remember the Jewish fellow-citizens. Their names were written in stone.


The following story will clear how was it that the Stadskanaal monument was unveiled 19 years before the one in Winschoten.


It all started on the spring of 1985 when I read an article on the "Nieuwsblad van het Noorden", where two Jewish citizens of Stadskanaal, Frits Heilbron and Jos Gudema, told that they very much wanted a remembering place or a monument to remember the Jewish inhabitants of Stadskanaal who were brought to the concentration camps and never came back.

There was one sentence in the article what moved me. It was something that Frits Heilbron said: "I do not know how to implement it. We Jewish people do not like to ask for ourselves".


On a sunny Saturday morning on April 1985 I visited Frits Heilbron at Oosterstraat 45.

On that afternoon I did some phone calls and at the end of that remarkable day there was a ‘Committee for Recommendation’ to forming the monument at Stadskanaal.

On the coming few weeks few more people joined the Committee and from that group we formed a little work committee that was titled: ''Comité Joods Oorlogsmonument'' (COJOM): The committee for the Jewish War-Monument.


Inhabitants of Stadskanaal and also others paid some of the amount needed to implement the monument and the municipality of Stadskanaal paid most of it. The municipality also paid for the reception on the day of unveiling. The Monument was made by the firm J.A. Kalk.


Because we wanted to have the names of the Jewish people who were murdered on the Monument, I went to the archives and talked with survivors of the war.

On the Monument are written the names of all the Jewish inhabitants of the village Stadskanaal from the part of Stadskanaal which belonged in those days to the Municipality of Onstwedde and as from the part of Stadskanaal which belonged in those days to the municipality of Wildervank. All the people whose names were written on the Monument were inhabitants of the village of Stadskanaal who lived there when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands on May 10th, 1940.

Dr. Noorlag with Oksana Zemach and her daughters: Gali, Tamar and Michal of The Israeli Family Project with the memorial in Stadskanaal, 2011


Exactly one year after the foundation of the COJOM on April 16th, 1986 the monument was unveiled in the presence of 400 Jewish and non-Jewish guests.

Since that year, the COJOM is organising a remembrance ceremony on every May 4th, on the national Remembrance Day. We started very simple with one speech and laying the flowers. Now it is a bigger ceremony with many attendants. Later on the COJOM organised a ‘silent walk’ from the town hall to the Jewish War-Monument on Navolaan.


On the 90s'', another committee: The 40-45 Committee, started a Remembrance ceremony to remember the people who fought on the Resistance at the monument in the Juliana Park and a ceremony at the Polish Monument to remember the Polish Liberators who did not survive. They initiated a ‘silent walk’ from the Juliana Park to the Polish Monument of General Maczekplein.


On the last few years both committees started to work together and now there is a common ‘silent walk’ passes through all the three monuments.

The COJOM is responsible for the Ceremony at the Jewish War-Monument. For the COJOM it is important that it will stay as a Jewish ceremony.

Important parts in the program are the Jewish prayers, El-Male-Rachamim, and the Yizkor, the remembering prayer for those who died. All the names which are on the Monument are being read on the ceremony. Usually we ask the mayors or one of the aldermen, to make a short speech. Flowers and wreaths are laid in front of the monument. The ''Wilhelmus'' (Netherland''s anthem) and the ''Hatikvah'' are played, or the people sing it.


Our special guest in 2008 was Rabbi Daniël Alter from Oldenburg, Germany. In 2010 our guest was his Excellency Harry Kney-Tal, the Israeli Ambassador in the Netherlands.  

Two members of the COJOM accompany the Ceremony. One is making a welcome speech, makes the announcements and closes the Ceremony. The other one is making a speech.

On our speeches, we try: ‘to take the people with us to the past, the present and the future’.


In 2008, one of the COJOM members, Danny Klompsma, talked about the past where, at the beginning of the 20th century, the families Goudsmit, Levitus, Stoppelman, Jozep were citizens of Stadskanaal. They worked and lived their lives among all the other people.

Danny Klompsma said: "6 Million Jewish people were murdered, 6 millions! How was it possible? How was it possible that all those people were systematically were taken out of their houses, were separated from the society and were killed while the world was watching? Why was there a matrix to let this happen? How could it happen in Stadskanaal?"


His Excellency Harry Kney-Tal said in his speech in 2010: "Today there is a new anti-Semitism over the whole world, a political anti-Semitism against Israel: ‘The collective Jew amongst the nations’. A radical change took place in the character of the political conflict between Israel and her Arabic neighbours."

Nowadays, when the president of Iran declares - in public - that "The Holocaust is a myth" and that Israel must be taken off the map, and when Hamas and Hezbollah, both terroristic organisations, officially promise to exchange Israel; even than you can find people who say that it is not serious, that there is nothing to worry about. The Holocaust started because of words and could continue by the crimes of carelessness.


I cite out of my welcome speech in 2007:

"The Second World War did have much impact on the Dutch people, perhaps because they felt guilty. Only a few heroes - that fortunately were also found in Stadskanaal, have tried to save their fellow-citizens. The Second World War showed that a human being, with the exception of the heroes, is not good or bad, there is no black or white, but the human being is grey. Things happen like they happen and only a few people had the courage to do something. Perhaps it was because of ‘feeling guilty’ that in the war and after the war the guilt was consistency given to the ''others''. Those ‘others’ were the ‘scapegoat’. "

A lot of us were born after the Second World War. It would be too easy to say that we would have been heroes. We have to realize that it was not so easy to go into the resistance during the Second World War. But we can also understand that the people who joined the resistance risked their lives and the lives of their family members.

The anti-Semitism, that is the hate against Jews, in Israel and in the other countries, did never disappear. Always and again people have the idea that Jews are responsible for the abuses in the world. The hate against Jews is not only ''something from the Second World War,. It started much before.

Perhaps is it still possible that we will learn the mistakes of the past so we will not get wrong again. We must remember that the words are the last step before the action: Anti-Semitism brought the holocaust. We must take responsibility and we cannot hide behind others. We must realize that every individual has to take responsibility. Not only responsibility for what he or she does, but also to take responsibility for what he or she is leaving behind.

Thank you for your attention.

Dr. Alie W. Noorlag.

The speech was originally given in Dutch and was translated later by the speaker and edited by Chami Zemach of The Israeli Family Project especially for the Jerusalem Post.