In the Netherlands, “historic” apologies to the Jewish community victim of the Shoah

Mark Rutte was speaking in Amsterdam on Sunday at a national tribute to Holocaust survivors on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.

This is a page dark history of his country that, perhaps, he finally wanted to turn: the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, presented, Sunday, January 26, an unexpected apology, on behalf of his government, for the persecution of the Jews of the Netherlands during World War II. “Now that the last survivors are still with us, I apologize today (…) for the action of the authorities at the time” , he said declared before representatives of the Jewish community and Holocaust survivors, during a tribute session in Amsterdam, on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.

The remark is striking, coming from an official who, in 2009, while he was president of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), proposed – without success – to decriminalize negationism. In 2012, pushed behind the back by populist leader Geert Wilders, very close to Israel, whom he describes as a bulwark against the emergence of radical Islamism, Mr. Rutte clumsily estimated that one “Lacked information” and that the support of the population was not sufficient to issue a formal apology. The Prime Minister also took refuge behind the fact that in 2000, one of his predecessors, Labor Wim Kok, had already officially deplored “the heartless welcome” reserved for the survivors of the camps when they returned to the Netherlands. Before that, Queen Beatrix had, in a speech to the Knesset, in 1995, indicated that her fellow citizens had not helped the Jews enough.

“Overall, it was too much little “

On Sunday, Mr. Rutte explained that he was acting, this time being ” aware that it is impossible to put words to something as big and horrible as the Holocaust . Our government institutions did not act as guardians of justice and security ”, he said, lamenting that “ too many Dutch officials had executed the occupier’s orders ”. The head of government continued: “The bitter consequences of the development of [Jewish] registers and expulsions were not sufficiently recognized, nor recognized in time . Overall, it was too little. Too little protection. Too little help. Too little recognition. “

Some 140,000 Jews lived in the Netherlands at the start of the conflict with Nazi Germany. Five years later, only 38,000 were still alive. An impressive figure to put in relation to what happened in neighboring Denmark, where almost all the Jews were protected and survived.