Anne Frank, Mehmet Sahin and Dutch anti-Semitism
The Anne Frank House.
Last week, I joined the never-ending line of pilgrims of memory waiting their turn to walk in Anne’s shoes — if only for a few moments. The teary-eyed 30-something woman in front of me clutched her well-worn copy of Anne’s diary in Korean as we slowly ascended to the attic within whose walls a young Jewish girl penned her inner thoughts as she dared to hope of a bright future that never came.
But if millions flock to Anne’s hiding place to pay homage to one beautiful Jewish girl murdered by the Nazis, too many people in The Netherlands today and across Europe show no such respect for living Jews.
To the contrary:
The Anne Frank Foundation reported severe anti-Semitic acts have increased by more than 50 percent, with 2,700 incidents reported overall in 2011. MDI, a group that tracks Internet hate lists anti-Semitism/Holocaust denial as accounting for 28 percent of online hate in 2012, with sites targeting Muslims (who outnumber Dutch Jews by 20 to 1) at 18 percent.
[Related: The only known video footage of Anne Frank]
On the political front, parliamentarians of the Freedom party, led by Geert Wilders, have proposed legislation to ban shechita, Jewish ritual slaughter.
The Dutch collective memory of their own complicated record during World War II is increasingly wobbly:
*The municipality of the village of Bronckhorst has decided that its official delegation on National Memorial Day on May 4 will also honor fallen soldiers of Nazi Germany who are buried in the village, in addition to the Dutch dead.
* Jews from Amsterdam who survived the Holocaust, either in hiding or in Nazi concentration camps, were later fined for failing to pay taxes during the Nazi occupation. According to the Dutch paper, Het Parool, many Jews had their homes confiscated, ostensibly for failing to pay taxes and those homes were then given to members of the Dutch Nazi Party. For years after WWII, city officials continued trying to collect taxes from the few Jews lucky enough to have survived the Shoah.
*Last year the Dutch Prime Minister reiterated the government’s refusal to apologize for the apathy that the Dutch government-in-exile demonstrated toward the roundup and murder of most of the country’s Jews during the Holocaust. Why? The Jewish community had not asked for one he argued. Almost all other European governments have since apologized or admitted guilt for the conduct of authorities under Germany’s occupation.
As for Israel, there seems to be much “moral clarity”.
Over 38 percent of Dutch respondents to a poll conducted by the respected Ebert Foundation said they believed that Israel intends to carry out a war of extermination against Palestinians, the way the Germans exterminated the Jews!
The Dutch government wants legislation imposing labels on all products from the disputed West Bank. No such law has been proposed for products from Tibet, Turkish-occupied Cyprus, or disputed parts of the Sahara occupied by Morocco.
For a decade now, European polls, including those conducted by the European Commission and the BBC, consistently rank Israel among the top threats to peace in the world. In neighboring Germany, respected authors and media pundits see Israel — not Iran — as a nuclear threat to the world. So in some ways, the Der Stuermer-like cartoon that appeared this week in a prominent Dutch newspaper shouldn’t surprise us. Alongside the nuke-threatening North Korean leader, is the real menace to the world, Israel-depicted as the conniving bald-faced lying, hooked-nosed Chasidic Jew.
While I raised these issues with the Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands, parliamentarians, and the media, the main reason for my visit was to show solidarity with a true Dutch hero — a Muslim, Mehmet Sahin.
A Dutch Muslim doctoral student, Sahin works with youth in the city of Arnhem. A few weeks ago he interviewed a group of Dutch-Turkish youth on Nederlands TV2, during which several declared their unabashed hatred of Jews and open admiration of Hitler. “What Hitler did to the Jews is fine with me,” one said. “Hitler should have killed all the Jews,” said another, adding, “What Hitler said about Jews is that there will be one day when you see that I am right that I killed all the Jews. And that day will come.”
Story continues after the jump.
A shocked Sahin made the mistake of committing on air to do whatever it took to remove the hatred from these teens. The result? Denunciation by his community leaders at Friday prayers at their local mosque for having the audacity to stand up against anti-Semitism, denunciation as a “Jew” by neighbors, and death threats.
The police have done virtually nothing to punish his tormentors, and he and his newlywed wife were literally forced into hiding.
I told Dutch officials that Sahin should be hailed as a role model for the people of the Netherlands, not relegated to the anonymity of a Witness Protection Program.
Recently, Sahin wrote:
“Within a couple of days, I will move to another city of the Netherlands. My personal situation/story is a shame of the European civilization because it is inconceivable that such barbarism can occur in this country. After what happened in the last three weeks, I understood the eternal loneliness and pain of the Jewish population. In the rest of my life, I will tell the whole world that we all must resist this aggression…”
A few days ago I presented Mehmet Sahin with more than 500 messages of solidarity from around the world. I invite you to add yours c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.
What becomes of Mehmet Sahin will inform us about the future course of Dutch society: Will it be true to Anne Frank’s vision of a better world or to the infamy of those Dutch collaborators who sealed her fate.