Dutch Red Cross apologizes for failing to protect Jews from the Nazis

AMSTERDAM (JTA) – The Dutch Red Cross offered its “deep apologies” for failing to act to protect Jews during World War II following the publication of a research paper on its inaction.

“The war years are undoubtedly a black stain on the pages of our 150-year history,” Inge Brakman, chairwoman of the Dutch Red Cross, told the De Telegraaf daily Wednesday. There was a “lack of courage” on the part of the organization during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, she said.

“We have offered our deep apologies to the victims and their relatives,” she said, adding that the organization “acknowledges the mistakes made during and after the war.” The Dutch Red Cross has apologized previously for its inaction on behalf of Jews.

In a study commissioned by the Dutch Red Cross, the Amsterdam-based NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies found there was “a serious shortfall in the help given to persecuted Jews in the Netherlands.”

“Dutch political prisoners in camps outside the Netherlands also had to go mostly without the help of the Red Cross,” the study concluded. But it also said the Red Cross had mounted considerable efforts for some prisoners, though not Jewish ones.

The results were presented in a book by NIOD historian Regina Grueter that was launched Tuesday in Amsterdam after a four-year investigation.

The organization’s headquarters “made things too easy for the occupiers,” said the current Dutch Red Cross director, Gijs de Vries.

Of about 140,000 Jews known to have lived in the country at the start of World War II, only about 30,000 survived. A total of 107,000 were interned in Camp Westerbork, in the northeast of the country, before being transported to Nazi concentration camps in other countries.

1 Comment

  1. Elly Bollegraaf says

    I was aware of the absence of intervention by the Red Cross to act on behalf of Jews who were put in jails and subsequently sent to Westerbork and Vugt, and subsequently to concentration and death camps in Poland (mainly Auschwitz-Birkenau and Sobibor. The fact that the Nazi occupiers had totally infiltrated and occupied all government and other offices during WWII in The Netherlands made opposition against the occupiers very difficult.

    There is an exception that I know of and it was my long tome friend Vicki Tassie, whom I came to know in Ottawa. I wrote two articles in past years, for the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, in which I detailed her brave activities. Vicki Tassie (maiden name Wilhelmina Hoekstra), a lady who had a deep trust and belief in G-d, had just graduated from Law school from Leiden University, and due to the war just having begun, she got a job with the Red Cross. To show her disgust and disagreement with the Nazi occupiers, to their treatment of Jews (in The Netherlands,) she wore the star on her outer clothing for 3 weeks. This of course was unlawful as she was not a Jew, and she openly dared to show her displeasure with the Nazi discrimination against Jews. This was bold act of bravery on her part. She carried out other brave escapades, but to my knowledge these did not include managing to get the release of any Jews.

    She amassed a fair number of books on what had happened to the Jews in Holland during the war, and many of these were also by Dutch Jews. Vicki treasured these books, as if she was deeply mourning the loss of these people. One of her role models had been Professor Cleveringa of Leiden University who had created a strike in support of the forced Nazi dismissal against the Jewish professors at the University of Leiden.

    Vicki and I stayed in touch for years, until she and her equally elderly husband Jim, were moved by their son, to a seniors residence at the outskirts of Toronto. There my husband and I visited her once. She missed Ottawa and all those people who she knew, only lived for another year at that new residence.
    by : Ellyy Bollegraaf, Otttawa

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