No Dutch apology for ‘indifference’ to survivors

The Netherlands will not apologize for its perceived indifference to the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.

MARK RUTTE 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
THE HAGUE – The Netherlands will not apologize for its perceived indifference to the murder of Jews during the Holocaust. This decision concluded the reply that Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte gave last week to a parliamentary query on the issue.
There was no “broadly supported counsel from those involved or objective information” that would merit an apology, Rutte wrote in his 88- word reaction. The letter was in response to a question submitted on January 4 by Dutch politician Geert Wilders of the Party for Freedom.
Rutte’s statement was largely understood as a reference to the fact that Holland’s Jewish community never formally asked the government to apologize.
The Dutch queen and government members escaped Germany’s occupation of the country in 1940 by fleeing to London. Queen Wilhelmina devoted five sentences to the fate of her Jewish subjects in five years of radio broadcasts from exile in Britain.
The public debate over the issue started with the recent publication of a book by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Judging The Netherlands: The Renewed Holocaust Restitution Process.
The book quotes two Dutch former ministers who called on Holland to apologize for its “indifference“ to the fate of over 100,000 Dutch Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
“Mr. Rutte’s answer is a caricature,” Dr. Gerstenfeld said.
“Pressure by the Jewish community should in no way be a prerequisite for an apology by the Dutch government for its predecessor’s policies.” Rutte also said in his reply that “no new information had surfaced” since 2000, when the Dutch cabinet last reviewed the issue.
David Barnouw, researcher and spokesman for NIOD, Holland’s foremost research institute on World War II, rejected Rutte’s grounds for not issuing an apology but backed his decision nonetheless.
“Linking an apology to the position of the Jewish community is nonsensical,” Barnouw told The Jerusalem Post. “But I see no grounds for an apology. It is easy to say in retrospect what we should have done. But there was a war and the main objective was winning it.”
Ronny Naftaniel, director of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) said Rutte should set up a committee to delve into the matter before finalizing a decision.
“The Jewish community believes an apology is due, but will not beg for something which should come from the heart,” Naftaniel said. “What Rutte should do is research the issue. Enough time has passed to enable us to accurately analyze the subject.”
Such research, according to Naftaniel, would provide the Netherlands with the correct historical context by comparing it to other countries: “This research into the behavior of the Dutch government in exile, and especially the Queen, should be done with partner research institutions – possibly from Israel, the US and European countries like France and the UK.”