Commentary Magazine


The Gallant Dutch

To the Editor:

Mr. David Bernstein’s article in your August issue [“Europe's Jews: Summer, 1947”] does less than justice to the magnificent role played by the Dutch underground movement. A great part of the Jewish survivors owe their lives to Dutch resistance fighters, who provided them with hiding places and false cards and ration books. Thousands of Dutch Christians risked freedom and life for their Jewish compatriots, often for persons with whom they had not been acquainted before. A considerable number of Dutchmen—like the poet Jan Campert—died in concentration camps for having given aid to Jews. The number of traitors and collaborators was small; and it is only fair to mention that even a few Jews cooperated with the Germans and took part in the organization of deportations to Poland. Certainly, there were also “neighbors who stood by wordless when the Gestapo came.” Not everybody is a hero, and defenseless civilians could not be expected to fight against the heavily armed SS guards in broad daylight.

It is quite true that the empty houses in the Jewish district of Amsterdam were stripped of wood during the hunger-winter 1944-45. The same thing took place in the Hague in a non-Jewish quarter, which had been evacuated by the Germans. It is senseless to blame these facts on the starving, shivering population; they only wanted a little wood to warm their icy rooms and cook a tiny bit of food. They didn’t care whether these empty houses were Jewish or non-Jewish property, they just wanted to survive. . . .

As I owe my life entirely to the Dutch underground movement, I consider it my duty to make these supplements to Mr. Bernstein’s article. With deep affection I remember those valiant people who resisted the invader.

Walter B. Maass
New York City

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