Most years, Holland’s commemoration of Kristallnacht is a low-key affair, drawing a few hundred people at best.
This year, on the commemoration of the 1938 pogrom across Germany and Austria, more than 1,000 people showed up to protest the rise of anti-Semitism in Holland.
The rally passed peacefully except for an incident when three members of the new Dutch branch of the militant Jewish Defense League insisted on participating in the commemoration. The three were arrested for disturbing the peace but were released shortly afterward.
Quite a few participants at the rally have had their own experiences of anti-Semitism recently.
In some parts of Amsterdam — where most Dutch Jews live — Jews are afraid to wear yarmulkes when they go out. Anti-Semitic name calling has become more frequent and Holocaust education in high schools is occasionally sabotaged by students, who sometimes even threaten teachers when they bring up the subject in class.
In a recent European Union poll, 74 percent of Dutch respondents said they considered Israel the greatest threat to world peace — the highest percentage in Europe.
Critics of the poll say the questions were tendentious and misleading, but Dutch Jews nevertheless are concerned that so many people in Holland view Israel so negatively.
The findings were especially shocking considering that Holland once was one of Israel’s staunchest supporters, and Dutch citizens used to display bumper stickers saying they stood behind the Jewish state.
At the rally, Job Cohen, the Jewish mayor of Amsterdam, pledged to “keep the city together” despite ethnic and cultural tensions. It is “shocking and shameful” to have to warn of increasing anti-Semitism in Holland’s leading city, he told the rally.
Unlike the Holocaust, it’s not the government that is threatening Jews’ safety but “incidents in which Jews are insulted and harassed by fellow-citizens, fellow Amsterdamers,” Cohen said.
The situation clearly has been exacerbated by the three-year-old Palestinian intifada, which has inflamed Holland’s mainly poor North African immigrants.
S. Yueksel, a representative of the Muslim community who spoke at the Kristallnacht commemoration, called the behavior of some of Muslim youngsters “unacceptable.”
“We should not take conflicts from other parts of the world and play them out in Holland,” he said.
Yet anti-Israel and anti-Semitic feelings appear to be spreading, even among non-Muslim Dutch.
Hadassah Hirschfeld, vice director of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, said the government wasn’t doing enough to counter anti-Semitism.
As an example, she mentioned a neo-Nazi camp that squatters had set up in former army barracks in Eindhoven, Holland.
“Why don’t the police do anything about that?” Hirschfeld asked.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.