How often had I to hear as a small child from my caring overprotective mother "don't be afraid. This can never happen again" I can't remember, but they were countless times. What exactly I should not be afraid of, I actually did not know and was not actually told. Recently it became clear to me that my dear parents did tell their grandchildren what they had been through and what I, their father, should not be afraid of.
This experience of mine, as a post-war generation and a child of survivors, is not unique. We, the 'post-war' generation, were raised in the shadow of our parents' suffering. Everything with us was 'before the war and after the war'.
But was my dear overprotective mother right? Do I indeed not need to be afraid? Can it indeed not happen again?
Prof. Presser writes in his famous book "Ondergang" (Downfall) that only 5% of the Dutch people were really wrong, 5% really good and 90% let it happen and went along with the mass that went the wrong way.
Last night I was in contact with the mayor of Urk. No doubt you heard about the horrible scene that took place on Urk. A bunch of young people thought they had to play "Nazi". The mayor was upset and offered his sincere apologies on behalf of the Community. Urk, the most pro-Israel municipality of our country. That this could happen there! Of course the reactions erupted immediately. I heard people calling for criminal prosecution.
How could such a thing happen, I wondered. And how do we prevent such disgusting scenes? Did the young people realize what they were doing? Or is there an element of ignorance at work here? From their statement in which they deeply regret their misbehavior, I feel that there were no evil intentions behind their unacceptable behavior. In retrospect, they realized that their game was unacceptable and hurtful.
When the previous Chief Rabbi of Israel was asked when he expects peace in the Middle East, he replied, As long as hatred against Israel and against Jews is cultivated in millions of school textbooks, there can be no peace.
Education and education! Education and education! Education and education!
It was with horror that I followed the protests against the arrival of refugees from Afghanistan. I thought back to the years before the occupation. Thousands of Jews tried to cross the border from Germany into the then non-occupied Netherlands. The Netherlands closed its borders. What happened to the refugees is anyone's guess. We should always help a fellow human being in need. Of course we have to filter for potential terrorists. But after that has happened, what then? The three B's: Bread, Bed and Bath. Humanitarian aid is provided. But something essential is missing here: the B of Basic Standards. A very large percentage of these refugees are notorious anti-Semites, and respect for women's rights is not very high on their agenda. Are they guilty of this? I think not, because that is how they were raised. But if we, the Netherlands, do not pay attention to this, our hospitality may have catastrophic consequences for our near future.
And that is why our being together in the presence of the youth is essential. The victims of the raid are disappearing more and more from our thoughts. Only a few still know them. But what happened then can happen again!
Ten righteous people were needed
to prevent the destruction of Sedom.
But to turn the whole world upside down
one criminal fanatic is enough!
(Reb Menachem Mendel of Kotzk)
This commemoration must not disappear. Out of respect for the innocents who were brutally snatched from life, but also as a warning, as an educational project. Not as a detached history lesson, but to prevent. Because anti-Semitism is once again salonfähig and visible in the streets. It only takes one criminal madman to stand up and the 90% will follow willingly. The roundup then came suddenly and unexpectedly. History repeats itself, the only question is when that repetition will come.
"Don't be afraid. This can never happen again," I hear my mother say. I am not afraid, but extreme alertness is called for.
Binyomin Jacobs, Sept. 14, 2021