AMSTERDAM (JTA) — The Dutch chief rabbi called on the prime minister of the Netherlands to apologize officially for the kingdom’s collaboration with Nazi Germany in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.
Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs said in an interview with JTA last week that following expressions of regret by some army and police units and other institutions, “it is time that the Dutch head of state offer a comprehensive apology.” Holland’s neighbors have all offered such apologies.
The debate over an official apology has polarized the Netherlands.
Some 75 percent of the 140,000 Jews who lived in the Netherlands before the Holocaust were murdered by German Nazis and their local collaborators — the highest death rate in all of Nazi-occupied Western Europe.
The Netherlands under Prime Minister Mark Rutte has resisted calls to apologize, including by the right-wing politician Geert Wilders. Rutte in 2012 cited the absence of “broadly supported counsel from those involved or objective information” that would merit an apology.
A public debate over the issue started with the 2012 publication of “Judging The Netherlands: The Renewed Holocaust Restitution Process,” a book by Manfred Gerstenfeld, a Dutch-Israeli scholar of anti-Semitism.
The Dutch police under Nazi occupation and the national railway company were widely complicit in hunting down Jews and transporting them to death and concentration camps. At the same time, the Netherlands had a strong resistance movement and has the second-largest number of Righteous Among the Nations — the designation reserved for non-Jews who were recognized by Israel for risking their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust — behind Poland.
The large number of Dutch righteous “could simply owe to better documentation of such deeds in the Netherlands compared to elsewhere,” Jacobs said in an interview held ahead of a ceremony this month honoring his 40 years of service of the community.
France, Belgium and Luxembourg have officially apologized for their authorities’ roles in the systemic annihilation of Jews in statements.