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January 20, 1984 - Image 32

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-01-20

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32 Friday, January 20, 1984

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

History and Art Are Linked in Dutch Jewish Record

(Continued from Page 1)

Mozes Heiman Gans is
the author of this truly
great work. The Dutch edi-
tion has already been re-
printed five times. Its
English translation in the
WSU Press volume is by
Arnold J. Pomerans. It is 2 1/2
inches thick, has a total of
850 pages and is replete
with some 1,100 illustra-
tion.
The photographs include
reproductions of original art
works and documents.
If it were only for the
photographic record, the
Gans volume would be
rated among the most
important Jewish history
works of the generations
covered in this four-
century compilation. It is
so all-embracing that it
will be thumbed with the
greatest respect and
appreciation for its liter-
ary value as well. The in-
formation provided can
only be judged with
acclaim as an enriching

factor for historians.
The Gans "Memorbook"
is valuable not only as
Jewish history and as a
chapter in European and
world history: it is also to be
treasured as an addendum
to the history of art. From
Rembrandt to the Israels, in
many respects, it is an an-
thology of documented art
works.. The immense vol-
ume will fascinate art lov-
ers.
Because the Dutch
Jewish historical record is
traced until 1940, it should
be indicated that this story
of the Jews of the Nether-
lands concludes with a
supplementary chapter
dealing with the fate of
Dutch Jewry, 1940 to 1945.
It is an important account of
what happened: "the fate in-
flicted upon them by a horde
of murderous savages." It
commences with a quota-
tion of the last entry in the
minute-book of the Jewish
Congregation, Oude-
Pekela, December 1942:

"Now there were only 20
Jewish souls (out of more
than 120), two of whom had
married outside the faith.
There was no minyan. Still,
every Sabbath morning,
people came together and
said their prayers. How long
will this handful be left in
peace? For we are left but a
few of many; we are counted
as sheep for the slaughter;
to be killed nad to perish in
misery and shame."
The accompanying
photographs are deeply
moving. They are an
additional indictment of
the German criminal
acts.
Let it be indicated that
the Netherlands Jewish
population was reduced
from 156,000 in 1940 to the
present 27,000. The experi-
ence under Nazism was
tragic, yet it merited a trib-
ute to the urge for survival,
as well as to the dignity and
human spirit of the House of
Orange. The author makes
this tribute to the House of

Orange and to the Jewish
will to live:
"There were a few more
years of reflection and re
newal, and then, between
1940 and 1945, Dutch
Jewry was torn out of the
body of the Dutch nation
and the fate of hundreds o f
thousands merged with that
of the Six Million, a people
without a country, without
a government, delivered
over to barbarians.
"After the war, the Dutch
Prime Minister confessed,
in answer to a question, that
the Dutch government-in-
exile had never discussed
the question of rendering
special aid to its Jews. This
was not due to wickedness
"Jacob Blessing Joseph's Sons," a painting by
or anti-Semitism on their Rembrandt.
part, but simply to ignor-
ance and a failure to grasp generation after genera- ences; there, a teacher
tion, with unfailing cour- flew in the face of the
what had taken place.
tesy
and consideration.
`spirit of time' and tried to
"Thousands were
"A few years ago, as infuse his pupils with at
saved by their non-
Jewish compatriots, Queen Juliana was address- least a modicum of
often at the risk of their ing a large group of Dutch understanding of the
own lives and with com- students, she repeated an beautiful Hebrew lan-
plete unselfishness. old Hasidic tale, the tale of guage and of Jewish his-
Many tens of thousands Rabbi Zusia, who had said: tory.
"All labored to preserve
more looked for help in `When I appear before the
vain. They fell victim to Almighty, I am not afraid to the identity of the Jewish
criminals whose vileness be asked: `Reb Zusia, why people and of their faith,
was beyond anything the have you not been like the and so well did they and
raphic nature of similar normal human could Patriarch Abraham, or like their brethren succeed that
German and French prod- conceive, and this is a our great teacher, Moses?' the Jewish people after
ucts. It is true that anti- fact all of us must bear in The question I fear is: `Reb 2,000 years of exile can once
Semitism was not unknown mind when judging the Zusia, have you truly been more lead an independent
national existence, drawing
in the Netherlands, that shortcomings of the Reb Zusia?'
"Yes, the ability to be and on the intellectual and
Jews remained second-class Dutch authorities and of-
citizens until 1795, and that ficials, and of the ire-V&A to remain true to ourselves spiritual reservoir of great
ties us Dutch Jews insepar- and small Jewish com-
they continued to suffer Council as well.
ably to the two communities munities throughout the
from it, but it is equally true
"Then came 1945. For
to which we belong by birth. world — not least on 3 1/2
that this small country was many of the survivors, the
Having scanned decades of centuries of Dutch Jewish
also very magnanimous. return home was a disap-
Both aspects are recorded pointment. Their Dutch Jewish newspapers for life."
* * *
here.
compatriots had suffered material to use in this book,
Early Dutch
The Netherlands has sur- and were grieving for their I have come to one main
conclusion, namely that
Jewish History
vived the war, but not so the dead, but their sacrifices
majority of Dutch Jews, the had not been in vain and the being true to themselves
Commencing with the
great proletariat of Dutch people had survived faced Dutch Jews with one earliest times of Jewish set-
Amsterdam, the peddlers of the war. The suffering of of their hardest problems.
tlement in the Netherlands,
the countryside, the par- Jews and non-Jews had not
"Here, a congregation in the eras when persecu-
nassim, the rebbes and rab- been the same. And suffer- reduced to five families tions in other lands drove
bonim, the lawyers and the ing that is not shared helps labored to maintain their them through many coun-
doctors, the host of poor to divide people. .
old synagogue; there, a tries, the author points out
diamond cutters and the
"The Jews were strangers handful of charitable that in 1200 there was no
handful of rich diamond once again. The old Jewish men made great sac- evidence ofJews residing in
merchants, all of whom con- sages had never taught that rifices to run an orphan- Holland. In the coming cen-
stituted the species hollan- the past contains the pre- age of which the commu- turies, when JeWs began to
dica judaica, the typical sent, and the present the fu- nity could rightly be make it their home,- the
Dutch-Jewish strain.
ture, but rather that the proud; here, the spokes- prejudices elsewhere did not
This book is made up of fate of the parents was a men of the community affect this land whose
a series of snapshots of portent for the children. were doing their utmost toleration and grants of
these people in a country That had been the lesson of to persuade the gover- freedom to Jews is widely
where they felt safe as in Jewish history. And, after ment of the need to make commended.
no other — until chaster 1948, the great achieve- official representation
Interestingly, the earliest
struck. Let the reader ments ofJews in the Jewish against the persecution reference to Jews in the
take these glimpses for state proved that this lesson of Jews in foreign coun- Netherlands is in a quoted
what they are, transfixed had been truly learned.
tries or to champion -the letter dated 1295.
moments, but also preci-
"The world at last cause of the oppressed
At the outset, on Papal
ous memories: an • al- realized that Jews would no minority at world confer-
(Continued on Page 80)
bum, a Memorbook, a longer allow themselves to
Book of Remembrance in be slaughtered, that they
modern form.
were becoming a normal
Though this book is as people. The Dutch re-
honest as the author could covered their old feeling of
make it, it is neither neutral kinship with the Jews, their
nor objective. It cannot be. spiritual bond with the
The men and women filling people of the Bible, whose
its pages were people among history had inspired their
whom my ancestors lived struggle for freedom in the
and struggled, in whose 17th Century and who were
company my ,brothers and I even now re-enacting that
grew up, as did my wife, her s truggle in the Holy Land.
parents, her young sister
"It is only fitting that I
and all our friends. And my should conclude this
brothers and her sister, my book with a tribute to the
mother and her parents, House of Orange, the first
shared the fate of those family in the Netherlands
friends and acquaintances, f or 31/2 centuries. To the
of those whose faces we best of my knowledge,
knew, whose place in our t hey are the only family
little world we could have o f such standing in all
pointed out, even if we did E urope to have treated
"Moses With the Two Tablets," a painting by Re-
not know their names.
heir Jewish subjects, mbrandt, 1659.

Waiting for the Messiah

(Continued from Page 1)
of Remembrance were writ-
ten to recall the names of
those who had perished lik'
dushat hashem, for the
sanctification of God's
name; sometimes all that
could be recorded was the
name of a whole commu-
nity. Today we have long
lists of those who were mur-
dered between 1940 and
1945, and already their
names sound unfamiliar to
our children.

Prof. Presser's book,
"Ashes in the Wind," a re-
cord of the destruction of
what we used to know as
Dutch Jewry, opens with
the words: "This book tells
the story of murder." That is
why I begin with the words:
"This is the story of Jewish
life." The murder of more
than 100,000 men, women
and children has been re-
called time and again, and
that is only right. But Jews
did not only die, they also
lived, for better or worse,
remaining for more than
three centuries in the
Netherlands, where, ac-
cording to Prof. Monnich, it
was "pleasant to wait for re-
demption."
Jewish historians have
always bestowed a great
deal of well-deserved
praise on the Nether-

AO"

lands. In the 17th Cen-
tury, Amsterdam styled
herself the capital of
Europe. Amsterdam
ruled the world. And the
Jews of Amsterdam
called their city "Little
Jerusalem." "Little
Jerusalem" it may have
been, indeed, but let it not
be forgotten that
Amsterdam never was or
could have been the real
Jerusalem. Even so, it
was undoubtedly
Amsterdam hamehulala,
Amsterdam the
praiseworthy; Mokum,
the city.
The conditions of Jews in
the Netherlands were less
ideal than has often been
suggested, but they cer-
tainly fared better than
most Jews elsewhere. This
fact is reflected throughout
this book, but one anticipat-
ory remark is called for:
neither in the illustrations,
nor in the legends, nor in
the literature written be-
tween 1600 — when Hol-
land gained her indepen-
dence — and the Hitler
period, was there ever any
hint of incitement to mur-
der, or any call to expel the
Jews from this country.
Moreover, what few carica-
tures ofJews there were did
not have the virulent anti-
Semitic and often pornog-

40

"Jews Walking in the Street," a drawing by Re-
mbrandt.

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