This week, right-wing Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders asked the Dutch government to apologize for the WWII era government’s behavior towards Jews and their deportation to Nazi death camps in Germany and Poland.
Wilders’ request comes on the heels of book written by Manfred Gerstenfeld, a Jew who hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam. Gerstenfeld’s book, entitled “Judging the Netherlands”, was published in October 2010 and largely condemns the Dutch government for not protecting the nearly 140,000 Jews who lived in the Netherlands and were murdered in Nazi death camps. The written request to Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that “The least appropriate thing to do is an apology offered by the government.
In an interview aired this week, Wilders said his request for a formal apology came in the wake of reading Gerstenfeld’s book. In the book, several ministers admitted to the fact that Jews were mistreated and should be compensated. In addition, former Health Minister Els Borst said the government would have done more if the Nazis were deporting Christians. Former Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm said he would publicly support a national apology if a Jewish umbrella organization were to raise the issue.
Previous requests for apologies for the treatment of Jews largely went unheeded until the 1990s as most people assumed that the Dutch populace protected the Jews similar to how the Danish behaved when occupied by Nazi Germany. That assumption was due to the Anne Frank diary.
However, in the 1990s, reports emerged that the Dutch populace together with banks and the government had in fact profited from selling the property of Jews who were deported and murdered. Consequently, Borst negotiated a deal with the Jewish community to repay $180 million dollars to Dutch Jews and their descendants. At the time, the government declared regret over post-war treatment, but not treatment during the war itself.
Wilders is known for his strong pro-Israel and anti-Islam views and as such his stance on the Holocaust is unsurprising.The Dutch government has not discussed the issue although the government spokesperson, Chris Breedveld, said the government would consider the request. The Dutch Jewish Community has stated that it has not officially called for an apology but would welcome one.