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Holocaust in Holland - Why and How
As of 2 May 1942 all Jews were forced to wear the yellow star of David while in public
A valid question often raised is this, "Why did the Jewish people in the Netherlands, or anywhere else for that matter, allow themselves to be forced out of their homes and driven into ghettos and why did they not openly resist deportation? Why did they not rebel against the Nazi oppressor?" A similar question can be raised for the Dutch people, "Why did the Dutch people allow the singling out and persecution of the Jews that had for many decades lived among them?" These and other questions are valid ones for every nation that was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany. Of course, for each country the circumstances were different but not the outcome!
It is a thin line that runs between fear and hope. When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands their armed forces were much more powerful, better trained and better equipped than the Dutch army and Air force were. It only took five days for the aggressor to overrun the Netherlands. Once the land was conquered and the people subdued it was a matter of time before the Nazis could carry out their wicked plan. Constantly introducing new orders with further restrictions they slowly but gradually tightened the noose, depriving especially the Jewish people of more and more liberties. Orders and restrictions increased in severity as time moved on. The occupying forces imposed Nazi rules upon the people and gradually replaced the duly elected government with a puppet regime of Dutch Nazi sympathizers under the leadership of Anton Mussert.
These new rules slowly but surely brought the nation to its knees and prepared the Jewish people for the ultimate. The word extermination was not mentioned. The Nazis referred to the deportations as resettling programs to the East. They made the people believe that the Jews would be engaged in an Arbeitseinsatz - Work Deployment program.
How could this have happened? How was it possible that 75% (104,000 out of 140,000) of the Dutch Jews were exterminated in only a few years time? Anti-Jewish measures, issued by the Sicherheitspolizei - Security Police between 1 July 1940 until 29 September 1943 gradually sealed their doom. The removal of Dutch Jews from every day life and activity took step by step, but with deadly certainty.
One more twist of human weakness and masterly cunning must be noted here. Since 1933 the Dutch government had offered hospitality to thousands of legal German Jewish refugees. An even larger number of illegal refugees also crossed the border between 1933 and 1940. These last mentioned refugees were a thorn in the flesh as far as the Dutch government was concerned. Unemployment was high and illegal refugees were looked upon as parasites. An important factor in the immense drama called Westerbork is the forming of the camp itself.
The initiation of the camp took place on 9 October 1939. The concern of the Dutch government for its illegal Jewish refugees was not based on love for a neighbor in trouble or even compassion. Hence, the refugees were kept segregated from the general population by placing them in refugee camps and Halfway Houses. Twenty six of these places existed before the outbreak of the war. Some were behind barbed wire. Illegal as well as a number of the legal refugees were placed in these camps and for the most part they were ignored by the Dutch Government. Neither were the Dutch Jews overly friendly toward them. In general, because Dutch Jews failed to come to their rescue, this situation may well have been the reason why the relationship between German and Dutch Jews soured. This was to play a devastating role later on when the Nazis rounded up the Dutch Jews for deportation to the East.
The first German Jewish refugees to enter Westerbork had personally experienced anti-Semitism in their homeland. They bore no affection for the Nazis. Following the quick defeat of the Dutch armed forces, German Jews once again found themselves trapped in the treacherous Nazi web. They could expect only the worst from their enemies.
Having been in Westerbork since 1939 the German Jews were able, with the encouragement of the Dutch commandant Schol, to establish a type of self-government. Camp Westerbork would remain under Dutch supervision until 1 July 1942. After that date the German occupation forces could not have found a more suitable place for the execution of their evil plan. They would funnel the Dutch Jewish population through Westerbork which already boasted a German speaking Jewish core group. Very cleverly the Nazis made use of an existing situation and allowed the German Jews to run the internal affairs of the camp which had been greatly enlarged to accommodate the influx of Dutch Jews. It was not meant that the latter would remain in Westerbork. From refugee status the camp was transformed into a Polizeiliches Judendurchgangslager - Police Enforced Transit Camp for Jews.
After December 1943 the Netherlands was considered and declared to be Judenrein - Free of Jews. Over 102.000 Dutch Jews were deported to the extermination centers of Eastern Europe. The Jewish questions for the Netherlands was resolved!