Sunday, October 09, 2011

Dutch Courage

Kudos to Anonymous for urging me to visit the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam, which I probably would have ignored without his advice. It's a remarkable collection of documents and artifacts, made the more remarkable by its evenhandedness in addressing not merely resistance but also collaboration and the art of just getting along.   Say what you like about the Dutch (and they're not perfect), you've got to admire people who are willing to address their own past so clear-sightedly (or translated: where the right political forces can engineer a project of this sort in the teeth of inevitable opposition).

One item that is notably absent from the enterprise at hand: Anne Frank, whose own hideout across town has probably done at least as much for Dutch tourism as sex and drugs.  She gets no more than an incidental mention here.  I think this is as it should be.  Hers is an extraordinary story (and I have not the slightest doubt that the canonical version is in large measure true).  But she was only one of some 110,000 who went to the camps; one of only perhaps 25,000 who hid out.   It would be impudent to let her dominate here as well.

And there is another angle, although I am not quite sure how it plays out.  My guess is that the respectable Dutch have--well, I wouldn't say "gloried in her demise," but certainly profited from her affecting narrative, because it does so much to cast the whole story of Hollanders under the Nazis in  a sympathetic light.  There were indeed many brave Dutch people who shielded and otherwise protected Jews from the Nazis, and otherwise worked to resist the occupation.  But as you might expect from any country under such unspeakable stress, there were others who did not acquit themselves so well. The messier version of the story is, well, messier. But it does more honor to the truth, and thereby to history itself.

1 comment:

dilbert dogbert said...

Met two people with interesting stories of survival in WW2. One was a young Dutch boy during the war. His family survived because they were tobacconists before the war and had a supply of good leaf that they extended with poorer Dutch weed. They could barter weed for food and other needs. In the late stages of the war the Germans were confiscating anything with wheels. Soldiers saw the boy on his bicycle and chased him home. The house had a secret hiding place that he took to. The Germans did not find him but shot up the house.
The other guy was a German citizen trapped in Manila when the Japanese occupied it. The Japanese did not know what to do with him but they would not let him restart his business. Mostly they ignored him so he went back to his shop and moved the merchandise to another location and sold on the black market.
A friend, Philippine/American, mom a Philippina and dad an American. The dad died in prison camp and the friend and his mom hid with family staying one step ahead of the Japanese that were searching for them. Lots of stories out there that will never be told or remembered.