Survey reveals ‘disturbing’ lack of Holocaust consciousness within the Netherlands

The story of teenage diarist Anne Frank is understood the world over. However a brand new survey suggests a “disturbing” lack of expertise concerning the Holocaust within the Netherlands, the place she and her household hid for years earlier than being found and deported to a Nazi focus camp.

A Dutch Holocaust survivor and Jewish cultural leaders have expressed dismay on the survey, which was launched Wednesday and suggests greater than half of residents weren’t conscious of the deportation and homicide of Jews from the nation throughout World Struggle Two.

The survey, performed and launched by the New York-based nonprofit Claims Convention forward of Worldwide Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday, discovered that 53% of respondents couldn’t establish the Netherlands as a rustic the place the occasions of the Holocaust occurred — rising to 60% amongst millennial and Gen Z respondents, that means these beneath 40.

Historians estimate greater than 70% of the Netherlands’ pre-war Jewish inhabitants was killed throughout the Holocaust, greater than 100,000 in complete. Frank hid in a secret room in Amsterdam along with her household from 1942 to 1944 earlier than she died on the Bergen-Belsen focus camp weeks earlier than its liberation.

Regardless of extensively accessible complete proof of the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews, 12% of these surveyed advised researchers both that the Holocaust was a fable or that the variety of deaths was vastly exaggerated — the very best determine for any of the six nations surveyed lately. For the Netherlands, this rises to 23% of individuals beneath 40.

Earlier Claims Convention analysis discovered that 15% of younger Individuals additionally doubted the historic report of the Holocaust.

Ravenous prisoners at Bergen-Belsen focus camp in 1945. Keystone / Getty Pictures

“Survey after survey, we proceed to witness a decline in Holocaust information and consciousness. Equally disturbing is the development towards Holocaust denial and distortion,” mentioned Claims Convention President Gideon Taylor, in a press launch accompanying the survey, which was printed Wednesday.

“It was disturbing to see numerous my countrymen, from no matter faith they’re, have no idea sufficient concerning the Holocaust. A few of them, a small half, don’t even know concerning the Holocaust,” Dutch Holocaust survivor Max Arpels Lezer, 86, advised NBC Information by video name from his dwelling in Amsterdam.

After Jews started to be deported from the Netherlands, Lezer was despatched from Amsterdam on the age of six to stay with a foster household within the rural area of Friesland within the nation’s north. He lived there with Ype and Boukje Wetterauw for six years and was by no means betrayed by the folks of the village, the place he stood out together with his black hair and weird title. The Wetterauws’ solely baby had beforehand died in infancy.

At the moment Lezer has heat recollections of an in any other case darkish time. He remained near the Wetterauws till they died and was named of their will. “I actually was their son,” he mentioned.

A picket horse and cart that he performed with alongside his foster brother, Gerrit, is now in america Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Lezer spent years looking for his foster sister, Joke, who briefly lived with the household, with out success.

Many different kids who went into hiding, equivalent to Anne Frank, weren’t so lucky, as he has advised numerous courses of youngsters over time.

Annelies Anne Marie Frank, circa 1942.
Anne Frank in 1942. Alamy Inventory Picture

“Once you sit in entrance of a category and you’ve got college students sitting on their stools, they hear there’s a man coming in speaking concerning the Holocaust and all people does this and begins loud night breathing,” he mentioned, slumping again in his chair and shutting his eyes.

“Once you lived by the Holocaust, it takes a variety of braveness to proceed this sort of work. Perhaps in different nations this angle is completely different, however I occur to stay right here.”

A ‘pink flag’ for training

Emile Schrijver, basic director of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam, advised NBC Information the survey outcomes ought to act as a “pink flag” for the way colleges take care of the Holocaust.

“{That a} third of younger folks really feel that this will likely by no means have occurred, that the numbers are improper, that’s surprising. The reply is obvious, there is just one sensible response: training, training and training,” he mentioned.

Schrijver identified that in protests towards the Netherlands’ strict social gathering guidelines throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, some protestors wore yellow stars to imitate the badges Jews had been compelled to put on in Nazi-occupied nations, in an try to illustrate state persecution.

“Now we have a society during which conspiracy theories are thought-about regular, during which folks wore yellow stars throughout Covid protests, which lots of people appeared to not object to. The beautiful reality isn’t that individuals do this, there’ll at all times be idiots, it’s that individuals didn’t object to it,” mentioned Schrijver, who’s engaged on the brand new Nationwide Holocaust Museum, resulting from open in Amsterdam in September.

Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema did condemn the protesters sporting yellow stars, Schrijver factors out, however he mentioned nationwide politicians had been a lot slower.

A memorial at the Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands, where Dutch Jews were kept before being sent to concentration camps.
A memorial on the Westerbork transit camp within the Netherlands, the place Dutch Jews had been stored earlier than being despatched to focus camps. Klaus Rose / DPA through Getty Pictures file

The Netherlands performs a comparatively small function in Holocaust historical past, however one which’s vital in understanding the total story, mentioned historian Anna Hájková, from the College of Warwick in England.

“Within the context of Western Europe disproportionately many Dutch Jews had been caught and deported. On high of that disproportionately many Jews from the Netherlands who had been deported died,” she mentioned.

Hájková’s work has proven that about 70% of the Netherlands’ Jews, 100,657 folks, had been deported from the Netherlands, between July 1942 and September 1944 — 57,552 of whom had been despatched to Auschwitz. Solely 854 returned, a really low survival fee in comparison with different nations.

“So the Netherlands, for a traditional one who reads the newspaper, they may not know why the Netherlands is particular. However for us as Holocaust historians, while you take note of the element, it’s outstanding,” Hájková mentioned. 

The prospect of terror was by no means too far-off. 

A person — the daddy of a pal, who was a Nazi collaborator — confronted Lezer as he and his mates walked to the seaside. 

Max Arpels Lezer in 2019.
Max Arpels Lezer in 2019. Courtesy Max Arpels Lezer

“It wasn’t an actual uniform however one thing prefer it anyway, with black shining boots,” Lezer remembered of what the person was sporting. “He checked out each baby and he mentioned to me: ‘I do know you’re a Jew-boy, we are going to come to get you.’ And he pointed his finger at my chest and I used to be so afraid I fell backwards onto the ground. My garments turned dark-blue between my legs.”

Lezer’s mom died at Auschwitz however he was reunited together with his father in 1948. Lezer thought at first that his stepmother was his beginning mom, however later realized the reality from a member of Amsterdam’s Jewish congregation. He says he suffered bodily and emotional abuse by the hands of his stepmother, recollections which can be nonetheless exhausting to relive in spite of everything this time, and thrice ran away again to be with the Wetterauws, as soon as biking for 12 hours to get there.

In 1961 Lezer married Sofia, 86, one other Jewish baby hidden by a Dutch household throughout the struggle.

Having lived by and survived such horror, Lezer is little question of the crucial that the story of the Holocaust ought to by no means be allowed to fade from reminiscence.

“As a result of should you don’t know sufficient concerning the Holocaust and also you have no idea that so many individuals died due to the Nazi persecution,” he mentioned, “you then have no idea sufficient to be sensible concerning the future.”

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