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Monday 22 December  
Geert Wilders
John Tyler's picture
The Hague, Netherlands
The Hague, Netherlands

Geert Wilders - racist or not?

Published on : 17 September 2009 - 1:31pm | By John Tyler (Photo: RNW)
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Is Geert Wilders a racist? Many people, including respected Dutch opposition leader Alexander Pechtold, think so. So far national political figures have been reluctant to express themselves so bluntly about the far-right Freedom Party leader.

Mr Pechtold's comments came after anti-immigrant politician Wilders had once again used shock tactics during a major political debate in the Dutch parliament.

Tax the scarf
Geert Wilders proposed to tax women who wear the Muslim headscarf. Any Muslim woman who wants to wear a headscarf would have to apply for a licence, and pay a yearly 1000 euros for the privilege. Wilders says the money raised would go toward women's emancipation programmes:

"We're sick and tired of the headscarves. And we'll do everything we can to get rid of them. We've already proposed a law to ban the burqa, and this is a way to get rid of headscarves, which pollute the Dutch landscape. It's not just that they're ugly; they're also a sign of the repression of women. We want to oppose that."

Newsline's Johan van Slooten went to Hilversum to gauge the public's reaction:

Difficult distinction
The rest of the Dutch parliament reacted with disdain and disbelief. One after another, MPs asked Wilders if this was a serious proposal. For instance, would he include other types of head covering in the tax? And how about Orthodox Christian women who wear a headscarf quite similar to the Muslim version?

In reaction, Wilders said he would prefer to ban the headscarf altogether, but that appeared to be legally impossible. So he wanted to leave out the 'Christian' headscarf, but didn't mention how policy would make that distinction.

The Minister for Integration, Eberhard van der Laan, rejected the proposal out of hand:

"I call it a hysterical proposal. The Netherlands is built on freedom of religion and freedom of speech. It's so ridiculous, and it's insulting to those who wear it."

The strongest reaction came from opposition leader Alexander Pechtold. He called the proposal 'out of every order':

"To think that how your clothing is in public, that you should one way or another tax this. It's his xenophobic and racist view of society."

Q: Would you call Mr Wilders racist? 

"Oh yes he's a racist. Yes, I can be as blunt as that. He's a racist."

Other MP don't go so far.

"I think he's anti-Islam, that would be more precise," says Jeroen Dijsselbloem from the governing Social Democrats.

"At least he uses a form of politics that discriminates between Muslims and non-Muslims. You could call that racism," reacts Harry van Bommel from the Socialist Party.

"Well, I'm not into using these big words at all. This proposal he did to tax headscarves, I think it’s rather ridiculous," said Paul de Krom from the liberal VVD. 

Electoral success
Mr Wilders has acquired a reputation for making shocking statements during general debates. Two years ago, he called for the banning of the Muslim holy book, the Quran. Last year, he warned that Muslims were colonising the Netherlands.

These antics have brought electoral success. The Freedom Party was the second-largest party in last spring's elections to the European Parliament. For the last six months, public opinion polls have consistently placed the Freedom Party as the first or second most popular party in the country.

With his latest proposal for a headscarf tax, Wilders has once again succeeded in distancing himself from mainstream politics. But has he finally gone too far, even for his own supporters? Pollsters are hastily trying to find out.

Geert Wilders told Radio Netherlands he was too busy to react to Pechtold's allegations. Another Freedom Party MP, Hero Brinkman, said Wilders is not racist. In fact, continued Brinkman, the proposal to tax headscarves is meant to protect Muslim women.

Listen to an interview with Alexander Pechtold here.



MarkZ 16 October 2014 - 10:12am

Well, when Wilders and his bunch spread hate against Polish workers in Holland, including a racist website, Dutch politicians say it's OK, it's just free speech. Nobody defends the Poles. But when Wilders says something offensive to the Maroccans, there's an outrage and threats of legal prosecution. Way to go, Dutch.:)

Anonymous 25 June 2013 - 11:45am

Racist? Is Islam a race? No.

Is there just one quote from him that could be identified as racism? Not a book full, just one statement. He probably wanted to ban the Quran for it's violent bigotry toward non-Muslims.

Anonymous 7 March 2013 - 4:20am / Australia

Geert Wilders is a pathetic excuse of a human being, His racism is beyong disgusting I cannot believe
Geert Wilders proposed to tax women who wear the Muslim headscarf. He said "We're sick and tired of the headscarves.
It's not just that they're ugly; they're also a sign of the repression of women. We want to oppose that." Are you serious Geert?? what about the Nuns in the church? they wear the same headscarf as the muslim women, are you going to tax them too?? By not allowing women to choose what they want to wear that is Oppression you uneducated fool. And to call these women Ugly because of a headscarf is appalling, do women need to be half naked in order to be accepted into society?? What happened to freedom to choose what you wear?? Geert Wilders i a racist uneducated fool. What a disgrace to the human race you are.

Deniz 23 June 2011 - 10:16pm / Netherlands

I think the Dutch are the only ones in the world who think that Wilders is not racist.

He does all the semaring of Islamic people the same way in the country Jews were smeared in 1930s.

What has changed in so many years and after so much suffering?

The Dutch have not learned their lessons.

peace,please 28 July 2011 - 5:39pm

Just wait until you end up like Norway,thanks to such ones...

Ya'akub 27 May 2011 - 10:12pm / USA

For sure, Wilders’ position is rather extreme. Does it contain any truth? For sure, yes. The ongoing immigration of Muslim in Europe and in the Western world in general cannot be compared to the immigration experienced, for instance, by the Italians, Jews and Irish to the USA during the late XIX and starting of the XX centuries, indeed, the Muslim immigration is a well calculated ideological “expansion,” the expansion of the “Ummah” the Muslim Nation. In Europe, Muslims are not new citizens but the new “padroni.”
To be brief, I mention a few instances. On a flight from Istanbul to JFK I was sitting between two Turkish students: the student on my right was a son of a Turkish consul in different countries in Europe. In our conversation he expressed the desire to establish himself in Europe or in the USA. I pointed out that his statement was anti-national as I thought his ought to be living in his “motherland.” This young student pointed out that, according his father, as many Muslims as possible should move to Western countries, because this will enhance the Islamization of the world.

Visiting an old neighborhood in Amsterdam I noticed Arabs from northern Africa playing in the streets, I asked a blond lady standing by her gate about her considerations regarding the changes of her neighborhood. Her answer was “it is sad, they do not accept us.” I witnessed a similar scene in different cities in Italy; visit, for instance, the market of Porta Palazzo in Turin and you will realize on your own.

Muslims “immigrants” take advantage of the democratic rules Western countries imposed on themselves, but in Islamic countries you have to play according the Islamic rules, far from being “democratic.” Ask yourself is it easier for a Muslim to become USA citizen or for a non-Muslim to become citizen of an Islamic country? Is it more likely that a Jew with a yarmulke to be stabbed in Paris or in London, or for a Muslim in Arab traditional garbs? Is it more likely that Jewish and Christian customs being mocked or a page of the Quran being burned? Is it more likely for a Kosher shop to be burned or a Halal shop to be vandalized? Indeed, a Halal eateries are growing in number as fast as the Islamization take place.
I believe we have to reshuffle the rules of the game before it will be too late.

Anonymous 2 March 2011 - 1:52pm / nettherlands

... He brings the racism back.... New apartheid. Hope he will be out soon.

Anonymous 9 September 2010 - 2:08am / canada

free speech does not give you the right to yell fire in a crowded theater! In other words there are limits!

Anonymous 28 August 2010 - 3:26am / Canada

Wilders is a patriot. He dares to say the things that other people are thinking but are too afraid to say. Can you think of another religion that anyone would be afraid of criticizing the same way as Islam? I doubt it. Even the most fundamental Christians in the United States will not threaten you with death if you criticize them. The fact you cannot say the same about Muslims tells you all you need to know. Another thing; it is impossible to be racist against an ideology. It is not the correct term.

Minny Miklos- Driessen 5 January 2010 - 3:54pm / Canada

What has happened to tolerant Holland? Geert Wilders talks like a "Seond Hitler", yet he gets elected.
I used to be so very proud of my Dutch Heritage, but this is a sad page in the history book of the Netherlands.

Anonymous 31 December 2009 - 12:02am / Canada

He thinks headscarves should be banned kuz he thinks they're ugly?

Anonymous 30 December 2009 - 11:59pm / Canada

geert wilders is disgusting. If someone wants to wear a head scarf he wants to put a head tax on them? Why dont u put a tax on people who want to wear flip flops too? idiot. people have freedom of speech but not the freedom to wear what ever they want? hes a rude arrogant uneducated pig.

bet 14 November 2009 - 11:00pm
Wilders a racist ? Absolutely not. He states clearly he is Anti- Islam, citing Koranic texts used by Muslims to justify thier killling of Jews, Americans, women... He says the beliefs of Islam are not compatible with Dutch society today and they are dangerous and he can cite texts from the Hadiths and Sunna that if followed by Islamists put all westerners at risk.
Anonymous 10 September 2010 - 11:47am

You must have read the Koran to believe in Wilders?

Anonymous 10 September 2010 - 11:46am

You must have read the Koran to believe in Wilders?

Anonymous 31 October 2009 - 7:09pm
Geert happens to not to like an extreme religion like the Islam. Does that make him a racist? Let's get it straight folks, there is not much moral about the Islam culture today. We could say the same thing about the Christian culture hundreds of years ago. Woman don't have rights, and are often raped by their husbands, nephews or uncles. Yes we can say that as well about the western culture though, but I believe the Muslim culture generally speaking is more extreme. Imagine most of these Islam people were white, would Geert still be a racist???
Anonymous 30 December 2009 - 11:55pm / Canada

raped by their husbands? do u know what ur saying? LOL

JackWhite 27 September 2010 - 11:23pm / UK

"Raped by husbands"

Actually that is not so absurd. In Islamic law, a women has to be available for sex whenever her husband desires it. So if she is not in the mood, but her husband still wants sex, tough. Because there is no consent therefore that is a legalized form of rape. Women with loving husbands need not worry of course. The same cannot be said for e.g. a girl sold off into arranged marriage with someone who simply uses her as an object. Men are supposed to be kind and respectful to their wives, but the wives "duties" are almost degrading by Western standards, and the relative power of the husband in sh'aria can easily be exploited - particularly since moderate domestic violence ("gentle" wife beating) is also sanctioned by Muhammad.

Anonymous 20 October 2009 - 7:18pm
just like to say that the muslims did not bring about terrorism!!! and ISLAMIC TERRORISM is just a word that has been created...Terrorism has been going on for a long time..and muslims didnt bring about it. And about the headscarf..If Geert Wilders has a right to say what the hell he wants then muslim women have got a right to wear what they want. What muslim women wear and dont wear hs nothing to do with anybody who opposes them! muslims were the first people to let women study in universities..and islam has equal rights on both before anybody starts critising islam they need to know what it teaches!
Hiram 21 October 2009 - 6:50am
"just like to say that the muslims did not bring about terrorism!!! and ISLAMIC TERRORISM is just a word that has been created...Terrorism has been going on for a long time..and muslims didnt bring about it."......Terrorism has been going on for a long time and "ISLAMIC TERRORISM is just a word that has been created" is also correct but why has the expression "ISLAMIC TERRORISM" just been created? Why do you think the expression "Islamic" is associated with the word terrorism? Do you think it might have something to do with the people who bombed a thousand places in the world and then proudly declared the bombings as Jihad? { Also Muslim women should have a right to wear scarves on their heads. In a free society such as the EU and US, women are allowed to do as they please, even have abortions if they so choose, but do western women have a right to go into all Mulim countries and not wear scarves? If Muslim women have equal rights as you stated, why must they wear scarves or burqas? What will happen to them if they refuse to comply? Please post a Sura that "teaches" women's equality? { Wilders is wrong about the scarves. He is trying to use collective punishment for the crimes of terrorism! And, Islam does the same to women. Both have the same mentality.
Hiram 16 October 2009 - 11:00pm
untermensch, those hundreds of strands of Islam of which you wrote are the fabric of Islam's image as seen by the world. Everytime a terrorist commits his/her terrorism in the name of Islam, it reflects a fabric that it is tightly woven by the individual strands. Each strand represents the entire body and the entire body is a representation of all of it's strands. According to Islam, anyone not a Muslim is "untermensch", Jawohl?
untermensch 16 October 2009 - 6:44pm
Wilders is foremost a clear example of pervasive anti-intellectualism within contemporary European politics - reductionist in every sense. First, he has a horse-sighted view on Islam (there are hundreds of strands within Islam), second, he omits from his analysis' the pervasive structure of global capitalism / neo-liberalism itself that forces thousands of poor displaced peoples from poor countries to seek better livelihood opportunities in the EU (weren't the generations of Dutch colonizers in the East Indies doing the same thing?) This all implies that he believes that some people are less equal than others - and that kinda smacks of fascism - if not racist, given that Wilders' own great-grandmother was Indonesian, no?
Anonymous 9 October 2009 - 4:10pm
Adil, I am truly astonished at the remarks Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iranian PM) makes in regard to the holocaust being a myth. His comments are purely to instigate reactions from the Jewish community. Muslims always seem to be outraged when somebody critises Islam. I am yet to see muslim outrage when islamic terrorist's (people which muslims always seem to say represent a minority section of Islam) hijack planes, crash into buildings, set off bombs, commit murder, critisice the west and democracy, or threaten critics (they have had years to give a large scale anti-islamic-terrorist demonstration or even show outrage but haven't, I wonder why...). However, muslims always expect the majority of non-muslim's to be outraged when a minor section criticies them. And they wonder why people don't believe that Islam is a "peaceful and tolerant religion" and oppose them???!!!
Anonymous 9 October 2009 - 3:50pm
I don't think any of you understand what the word 'racism' means (half of you can't even spell it...) Racism is the discrimination or abuse of people from another race. Race itself can simply be defined by differing genetics (eg, slavic peoples look different from Chinese peoples). Muslims are followers of the Islamic Religion - the religion named Islam. As far as I am aware anybody from any race with any type of genetics can be a muslim. The people out there who are claiming that criticising Islam or Muslims are racists are basically saying that all muslims are from the middle eastern areas and have brown skin and black hair - and that no muslims are white or any other colour. Therefore, they are sterotyping that all muslims share similar genitics and look similar - that in my book is racist. Also, just because the majority of muslims do share similar genetics, this does not mean that you can change the definition of racism to suit your arguement. Many black and white people are known to be followers of Christianity, however, any critism of Christians as a whole is never seen as racist. Research what racism means, simply thinking it is just a white person insulting a black person, is both ignorant and stereotypical (and is usually what most white people define as racism). Islam is a religion not a race, if you think any differently then you may as well say that being a black person is being part of the black religion. I think Geert Wilders rising popularity is helped by the fact that his opponents simply think that by calling him and his supporters racist just because they don't agree with a religion and left wing politics, they are going to magically dissapear. For a start they know that they are not racist , and that they will continue to support Mr Wilders because he seems to be the only politician at the moment in the netherlands who is addressing the issue of Islam, an issue which many people are aware of, but many politicans are simply looking away from.
Anonymous 29 September 2009 - 2:09pm
not untill i know ,how he feels about jews
Lester Ness 27 September 2009 - 11:27pm
If he's not racist, he does a good imitation!
Q 25 September 2009 - 11:33am
Racist? I do not know, what I am sure is that he is a fascist and that the dutch peopleare happy with it cause it does not require too much thinking or acting... sad and dangerous combination.
sea 24 September 2009 - 5:10pm
Wilders is a racist ! Unwise saying...." ...Muslims were colonising the Netherlands". How about Dutch " Golden age" periode ? Does Wilders realise what his ancestor did to other countries for thousand years ? I think in this age, no need to blow up the past. It's no need to sharpen differences. It's better to unite and build the world. Learn each other.
sandra 24 September 2009 - 8:58am
I fear a pattern of the past is coming back to Holland and the rest of Europe, only this time it is against all non EU people and it´s contant attack on Muslims is much like how it was before the holocaust. Europe has forgotten the blood on their hands from the holocaust. Fellow jews, we must never forget or allow this to happen to other groups of people. Jerusalem Letter / Viewpoints VP:412 3 Elul 5759 / 15 August 1999 WARTIME AND POSTWAR DUTCH ATTITUDES TOWARD THE JEWS: MYTH AND TRUTH Manfred Gerstenfeld Why Were So Many Dutch Jews Killed? / Eichmann's Pleasure / Feeding the Myth: The Anne Frank Story / Coldness and Abuse of Power / A New Museum of Dutch War Failures? / The Postwar Issue Revived / The Commissions of Inquiry / The Scholten Commission's Abuse of Confidence / Twelve Billion Dollars Not Returned? / Dutch Co-responsibility for the Jewish Fate? / Obtaining a Seal of Approval from the Jews / Paying as Little as Possible / An Israeli Aspect The myth that the great majority of the Dutch people had a highly positive attitude toward the Jews during World War II, identified with their suffering, and took risks to help them has gradually been unmasked in The Netherlands itself over the past decades. The historian Nanda van der Zee summed this up in 1997: "The vain national self-image of the most tolerant people on earth, which had assisted its Jewish fellow-citizens so 'charitably,' was corroded in the 1960s when another generation born after the war started to ask questions." Israeli historian Joel Fishman has also refuted a follow-up myth. He has referred to the treatment of the Dutch Jews in the postwar years by the country's democratically chosen government. The internationally known Dutch political scientist Arent Lijphart wrote that Holland "has no minorities that are disfranchised, deprived of their civil liberties, or subject to systematic discrimination." Fishman has retorted that Lijphart's statement could only be true if "the Jews in The Netherlands counted for absolutely nothing, and their history was of no consequence." Internationally, the benign Dutch war image has held on for over fifty years. In its introduction to The Netherlands, the 1999 Jewish Chronicle Travel Guide still writes: "the Germans transported 100,000 [Jews] to death camps in Poland, but the local population tended to behave sympathetically towards their Jewish neighbors, hiding many." Israel, where at least the authorities should know better, is no exception. One former Israeli ambassador to The Netherlands told this author that he regularly corrected draft speeches of visiting high-ranking Israeli politicians, to prevent them from thanking theDutch for their "extraordinary efforts" for the Jews during World War II without mentioning the substantial collaboration with the Nazis. There were no extermination camps in The Netherlands, and the Dutch did not actively participate in the killing of Jews. The mass atrocities, for which Germany and so many other European nations supplied willing executors, did not take place on Dutch soil. Few people, however, would consider this itself a sign of great humanity. Why Were So Many Dutch Jews Killed? The percentage of Jews from The Netherlands murdered by the Germans and their associates in World War II was higher than in any other Western European country. There were approximately 140,000 Jews in The Netherlands at the outbreak of the war, representing 1.6 percent of the Dutch population, though in Amsterdam they comprised as much as 9.5 percent of the city's population. Some 107,000 Jews were deported from The Netherlands, of whom 102,000 were murdered. Most of the remainder went into hiding, were married to non-Jews and thus freed from deportation, or fled abroad. Several explanations have been given for this high percentage of Dutch Jews killed. Before The Netherlands capitulated five days after the German invasion in May 1940, Queen Wilhelmina and most members of the Dutch government fled to England. The Germans had initially intended to install a military government, but in the legal vacuum resulting from the flight, Hitler saw the opportunity to insert a civil Nazi government almost immediately. The head of the Reich's civil government for The Netherlands, the Austrian Nazi leader Dr. A. Seyss-Inquart, reported directly to Hitler. Seyss-Inquart brought with him several other Austrians who later were to show their efficiency, inter alia, in administering the looting and deportation of the Jews. The historian Jozeph Michman, former chairman of the Jerusalem-based Center for Research on Dutch Jewry, suggests that another reason for the high impact of the Holocaust in The Netherlands is that Hitler had special designs on the country and wanted to make it part of the Reich after the war. Eichmann's Pleasure Since The Netherlands was well-administered and well-documented, it was relatively easy to round up the Jews. Orders were given by the occupiers and executed by the Dutch authorities. Yet another reason sometimes given for the high Jewish death-toll is that The Netherlands is a small and flat country in which it is more difficult to hide than in Belgium or France. This is a weak argument since, in the later war years, many hiding places were found for Dutch workers who had been called up for labor service in Germany. After the flight of the Queen and the government, the highest remaining authorities in The Netherlands were the secretaries-general of the ministries, the senior ranking civil servants. These officials--in an inferior position vis-a-vis the German occupiers--were out of their depth, and helped to put the Dutch bureaucratic and institutional apparatus at the disposal of the occupiers. This greatly facilitated the deportation of the Dutch Jews after their property had been systematically looted. In their preparations for the extermination of the Jews living in The Netherlands, the Germans could count on the assistance of the greater part of the Dutch administrative infrastructure. The occupiers had to employ only a relatively limited number of their own. Dutch policemen rounded up the families to be sent to their deaths in Eastern Europe. Trains of the Dutch railways staffed by Dutch employees transported the Jews to camps in The Netherlands which were transit points to Auschwitz, Sobibor, and other death camps. Van der Zee writes that with respect to Dutch collaboration, Eichmann later said "The transports run so smoothly that it is a pleasure to see." Well before the deportations, the systematic looting of Jewish properties had begun. For instance, on German orders, the Dutch banks sent out forms to Jewish clients enabling the transfer of their deposits to LIRO, the "looting bank" instituted by the Germans to expropriate money from the Jews. Many Amsterdam stock market traders made good profits on the sale of shares and bonds taken from the Jews. Other respectable Dutch citizens just "accommodated" themselves. Jacques Presser, a Jewish historian who wrote the official history of the persecution of Dutch Jewry during World War II, was interviewed shortly before his death in 1970 by filmmaker Philo Bregstein. Presser said that when he was dismissed as a high school teacher during the war, what affected him even more than the dismissal was the name of the person who had signed the dismissal letter: "That was a man who then and years after the war--I believe even justifiably so--had a reputation of total rectitude. I could only relate it to my general situation as a Jew, and was aware that, within the context of the interests at play, I was a dispensable piece of small change." Feeding the Myth: The Anne Frank Story The myth of the exceptionally benign Dutch attitude feeds on several motifs. One is the February 1941 solidarity strike in Amsterdam and a few other cities; the other is the Anne Frank story. Her diary is widely read throughout the world. The house in Amsterdam where she was hidden occupies a respectable place among Europe's most visited museums. The way in which she is remembered focuses on the courage of those who took risks to hide her. Her diary statement that she believed in the good of man is widely quoted. Society prefers to remember noble individuals rather than traitors. The one-sided Dutch "resistance image" was heavily propagated in the postwar period. It conveniently ignored the fact that the vast majority of the nation accommodated itself to circumstances. The traumatized and impoverished remnants of Dutch Jewry were in no political or personal position to fight this distortion of history. They had to start from scratch to build up a new existence and, to keep their sanity, they had to look to the future. Some of the survivors were ill. After the Holocaust, many did not want to identify with the community. Furthermore, those who had been hidden during the war had mainly seen the better side of the Dutch. The majority, who had experienced a more representative truth, were no longer alive. Nor was the Dutch Jewish community in those and later years an equal partner in negotiations with the Dutch government. The country's bureaucracy did not facilitate the fight of this community and its individuals to regain their property. Immoral application of Dutch inheritance tax laws enabled the state to appropriate a substantial part of the assets of those who did not return. Coldness and Abuse of Power The immediate postwar attitude of the Dutch government reflected a coldness and abuse of power against this vulnerable community in many other areas. The remnants also had to fight an uphill battle to return Jewish war orphans to family members or Jewish institutions. The government commission appointed to decide on these cases was stacked not only with Christians, who had their own agenda, but also with baptized and assimilated Jews. In another example of Dutch insensitivity, for several months after the war a number of stateless Jews of German origin were locked up in the same camps as Nazis and their collaborators. Michman told this author two stories which he had heard first-hand from those involved, and which illustrate that Dutch postwar authorities were well aware of discrimination against the Jews. Joop Voet, later Dutch honorary consul in Tel Aviv, worked at the Beheersinstituut, the government body which acted as custodian of the property of enemies as well as of missing persons, nearly all of them Jews. Voet was often told there that "legal restitution to the Jews would be in conflict with the postwar economic reconstruction of The Netherlands." The other story concerns a visit to postwar Dutch Prime Minister Schermerhorn, a member of the Dutch Labor party, by one of his former school colleagues who lived in Mandatory Palestine. Also present was Karel Hartog, then secretary of the executive of the NZB, the Dutch Zionist organization. Hartog later reported on the visit to his organization's executive, of which Michman was a member. The prime minister had told them that they could not expect him as a socialist to help restore money to Jewish capitalists. A New Museum of Dutch War Failures? The time has come to provide a more balanced view of Dutch behavior during World War II. One could imagine the construction of a "Museum of Dutch War Failures" next to the Anne Frank house, to be visited with the same ticket. One major exhibit could be about Anne Frank's belief in man's goodness, in contrast to her latter experiences when one or more Dutch betrayed her and she died in the German concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen. Other exhibits could show pictures of individual Dutch collaborators who betrayed Jews and sent them to their deaths in exchange for a reward which, even if inflation-corrected, comes to less than twenty dollars in today's terms. Yet another exhibit could include pictures of the majority of the members of the Dutch High Court of Justice who, in the early days of the occupation, did not consider the German-imposed removal of non-Aryans, i.e., Jews, from Dutch official life to contradict the country's constitution. With this decision, they supported the removal from office of Court President L.E. Visser, who was Jewish. The number of Dutch Nazi collaborators during World War II exceeded the number of those active in the resistance, even if one does not include in the first category the unknown number of those who stole Jewish property. Many cases are known of Jews who hid their possessions during the war with non-Jewish acquaintances and neighbors, who then denied any knowledge of this when the Jews returned after the war. It is also not widely known that--relative to its population--The Netherlands had the highest number of Waffen SS volunteers in Western Europe. Giving these facts as much attention as the hiding of Anne Frank would help to balance the international perception of Dutch attitudes during World War II. The Postwar Issue Revived In postwar Netherlands, considerable attention has been given to documenting the war's history. After the war a special institute was established for this purpose and continues to carry out research, known today as NIOD, The Netherlands Institute of War Documentation. However, the attention paid to the immediate postwar period was very limited. Throughout the decades, only a few writers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, have mentioned that, overall, the returning Jews were less than welcome in many places in The Netherlands, that Jews had been discriminated against in postwar restitution cases, and that there were expressions of anti-Semitism both by the Dutch government and in Dutch society. Yet a change is now taking place. In recent years, there has been an intensified international debate on the fate of Jewish property during and after the war. This debate has also touched The Netherlands, where some new facts have been discovered that have helped bring this issue into the limelight. One involves Dutch government employees in charge of the restitution of looted Jewish property who, in 1968, auctioned off some remnants of it among themselves at ridiculously low prices. Another involves the accidental discovery of part of the LIRO archive in an Amsterdam building which once belonged to the Ministry of Finance. The previous Dutch government realized that major damage to the country's image could occur if fragments of negative information on Dutch behavior during and after the war kept being exposed in the international media. The excessively positive image of the Dutch during World War II could rapidly switch to a negative one. The recent Swiss experience has shown how individual pieces of bad news can rekindle a publicity storm time after time. In one ironic twist of fate, until recently, a painting from a "contested" prewar Jewish collection was found to have been hanging, until recently, in the Dutch ambassador's residence in Israel. After the Dutch authorities had already ordered it to be removed, the story was published in Israeli newspapers. The more the investigations continue, the more negative information will be revealed. Books and newspaper articles continue to report additional stories which further erode the myth of Dutch behavior during the war. In the recently published book Dienaren van het Gezag (Servants of Authority), historian Guus Meershoek analyzes the attitude of the Amsterdam police during the war. Among many examples of misbehavior, he mentions how on one occasion Dutch policemen entered a Jewish cafe, searched the people there, took away the jewels they found which the Jews--according to German orders--should have handed over to LIRO, noted them in the police records as found objects, and then distributed them among themselves. The Commissions of Inquiry The Dutch government thus decided that it should become pro-active on this issue. In 1997 it instituted four commissions of inquiry to investigate the looting of Jewish property during the war and restitution afterwards. Furthermore, a body called SOTO, headed by historian Conny Kristel, a NIOD employee, was established to assess the postwar treatment of returnees. Although SOTO does not deal exclusively with Jews, they are its main concern. Some commission reports have already been published. The Kordes Commission, which dealt with the LIRO bank, demonstrated in its final report an understanding of how cold the treatment of the remaining Jews by Dutch postwar governments had been, and recommended that payments now be made to the Jews for several wrongs. One of these involved the fact that the Dutch government did not return most of the taxes taken, without the knowledge of the owners, from looted Jewish accounts during World War II by Dutch tax authorities, including for years after the account owners had been gassed. One major objection to the Kordes Commission's conclusions concerns their opinion that it was correct to apply the Dutch inheritance tax laws to the fortunes of the murdered Jews. This subject could become an academic case study. It is a paradigm of how a normal law in a democratic country can become a perverse tool if applied in an extreme situation, particularly against a politically weak community. The Dutch government instituted its inheritance tax laws for a normal society in which the vast majority of people die a natural death. It then used these laws to appropriate money from the estates of a community which it had been unable to protect, 75 percent of whom were murdered over a two- to three-year period. The Scholten Commission's Abuse of Confidence Another government commission of inquiry, the Scholten Commission, has come under major criticism. Most of the commission members are former board members of banks or insurance companies; thus they can hardly be considered impartial and fit to supervise an independent inquiry into institutions from which they have received money in the past. The report of this government-appointed commission was paid for by the institutions it investigated, which undermines its value. Only a minority of the institutions approached agreed to cooperate with the commission's researchers. Thus, the first report from the Scholten Commission was methodologically flawed, as has been pointed out in reactions to it. Detailed critical comments on this report were also made by the CJO, the central Jewish consultation body which encompasses the main organizations of the Dutch Jewish community. It charged the Scholten Commission with "abuse of their confidence," a particularly radical statement for the very prudent representatives of Dutch Jewry. The historian Isaac Lipschits, one of the first authors to draw attention, decades ago, to postwar discrimination against Dutch Jews, told this author of yet another shortcoming of the commission's researchers. He visited one of the banks that was willing to cooperate, where he was very well received by its archivist and given a detailed file on the safe-deposit boxes of Jews which had been broken open--on German orders--during the war. The archivist told Lipschits that the researchers of the Scholten Commission had been told about these files but had shown no interest in them. Twelve Billion Dollars Not Returned? It remains unclear how much was looted from Dutch Jews during the war and what percentage was restored afterwards. The Van Kemenade inquiry commission is expected to publish an estimate at the end of 1999. The local branch of the international KPMG auditing firm was hired to develop these figures. In Spring 1999, the historian Gerard Aalders, a NIOD employee, published the book Roof (Looting), on the expropriation of Dutch Jewish property during World War II. The numbers he suggests remain the subject of debate. Lipschits believes Aalders' estimates are far too low, and that the amount may be close to 2.5 billion guilders at that time, of which less than 50 percent was returned after the war. Based on Lipschits' rough estimates, and multiplying what was not returned by a factor of at least 20, to compensate for inflation and interest over 50 years, one reaches a figure of about 25 billion guilders, or twelve billion dollars at 1999 values. The Dutch government is obviously responsible for what happened with regard to the restitution of Jewish property after World War II. Aalders, who gave a lecture at an international symposium organized by the Center for Research on Dutch Jewry in November 1998 in Jerusalem, was heavily criticized by the public for focusing on the question of whether the postwar restitution laws were correctly applied, rather than emphasizing their morally doubtful character. Aalders published an article quite similar to his lecture in the main Netherlands daily NRC Handelsblad in which he described what had occurred after World War II: "For the robbed Jews who had been harder hit than any other group, no extra provisions were made. A public discussion as to whether that was desirable or not has never been held." Dutch Co-responsibility for the Jewish Fate? A more complex matter is the extent of Dutch government responsibility for what happened to the Dutch Jews during the war. One aspect of this concerns the flight of the government and the Queen to London and its constitutional impact. Another is the quality of the contingency plans left behind. Nor did the government in exile give clear instructions as to how the Dutch civil servants should behave when the Jews were isolated, looted, and transported to their death, while they did so on the occasion of other deportations. Queen Wilhelmina mentioned the suffering of her Jewish subjects only three times in her radio speeches to the Dutch people during five years of exile. The issue is not that the Dutch officials under the occupation served the Germans and few of them were heroes. The issue is much more that the present Dutch government cannot claim that its wartime predecessors in exile did their utmost to provide clear instructions to the Dutch authorities under occupation as to how to behave on matters of discrimination against the Jews, making possible the accusation of their co-responsibility for the fate of the Dutch Jews in the war. For example, the Dutch police was a body meant to arrest criminals. However, it also systematically arrested innocent Jewish citizens on German orders. Can later Dutch governments be exempt from legal responsibility for those actions? In 1998, Avraham Roet, an Israeli businessman of Dutch origin, founded the Israel Institute for Research on Dutch Jewish Assets Lost during the Holocaust, which has become a source of information for those seeking documentation in this field. Roet recently made public a letter sent to him by a well-known Amsterdam law firm in which one of the senior partners writes: "certainly morally, and arguably legally, the Kingdom is responsible for what happened to its subjects that it could not protect during the Nazi occupation." Today, the Dutch government has a difficult task before it: it must manage a politically hot issue with both financial and image risks. One of its goals must be to avoid trouble with the world Jewish community. It has seen how the Swiss state and its institutions have experienced worldwide criticism from the media, boycotts by some American institutions, and problems with the American justice system. The Dutch government is well aware that similar actions could be taken against major Dutch banking interests in the United States. For instance, the financial damage that class action suits could cause might far exceed the amounts the Dutch government intends to pay the Jewish community. The Dutch government is clearly aware of the dangers. According to the Volkskrant daily, in a highly unusual step, the Dutch government has paid over $100,000 to Hill & Knowlton, a leading American public relations firm, to deal with issues concerning its restitution policies in the American media. The Dutch government justified its decision by stating that there had been reports in the media that the Dutch had not been diligent enough after the war in returning looted art, brought back from Germany, to its rightful owners. Obtaining a Seal of Approval from the Jews One of the Dutch government's major political goals, in its quest for damage-control, is to obtain recognition that, while its predecessors may have failed, it is now acting reasonably under the circumstances. The only people who can give this seal of approval--we might call it "a kashrut stamp"--are the Jews. From the Dutch government's point of view, it is unfortunate that there are so many potential Jewish counterparts. From the Jewish side, this may be an advantage. If the results of the negotiations are not satisfactory, there will be so much criticism of the negotiators from other Dutch Jewish interests that any such approval would become ineffectual. Ideally, the present Dutch government would like to receive testimony of good conduct from the representatives of all Dutch Jews around the world. This is impossible. The government will thus, at best, have to make do with certification by the leading bodies of Dutch Jewry and Jews in Israel of Dutch origin. In The Netherlands, the main Jewish body involved in these matters is the CJO, though its claim to exclusive representation is contested by some smaller organizations. In Israel the various organizations of Jews of Dutch origin have created an umbrella body, "Platform Israel." However, the thousands of Dutch Jews who emigrated to North America after World War II are not organized. Another aim of the Dutch government must be to reach a generally accepted historical truth about the systematic looting of Dutch Jewry during World War II and the question of restitution thereafter. From the government's point of view, the best solution would be if the Dutch Jewish community would accept the validity of the conclusions reached by the government inquiry commissions. After what has been published so far by the Kordes and particularly the Scholten Commissions, however, this would be a major historical and political mistake. The Jewish representatives should focus on the financial side of the negotiations, and leave the political and historical aspects to be judged by future generations. At least some of the Dutch Jewish leaders are aware of this. One said to this author, "We have to avoid falsifying history in exchange for money." Paying as Little as Possible There are indications that the Dutch government has at least one more aim: to pay as little money as possible to the Dutch Jewish community. The negotiations potentially could become very one-sided. The government is very powerful with a huge infrastructure and almost unlimited means. The CJO and Platform Israel represent small communities with limited organizational structures and few human resources. On the other hand, the Jewish representatives have a few cards to play. The Dutch government must wish to avoid the involvement in the negotiations of international Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress. These organizations are not dependent on the Dutch government, their financial claims will exceed those of the Dutch Jewish community, and they may even desire some additional international media exposure. These are excellent reasons for the Dutch government to try to keep world Jewry out of the negotiations. Against this background, statements appear in the Dutch media which remind one of anti-Semitic stereotypes, for example, that Jews are money hungry. Some Dutch officials claim that the Jewish community should primarily aim "for recognition and not for money." This led Hans Vuijsje, director of JMW, the Dutch Organization for Jewish Social Work, to write to one of these officials: "The statement that we should not talk about money but about 'recognition' is seen in our circles as chutzpah, cheek. It is the opposite of the facts. It is not the Jews talking all the time about money, but Dutch society. The question about 'recognition' is: for what? Not recognition as war victims, that has already been given [but]...recognition that the possessions of the Jews have been handled in a careless way." An Israeli Aspect One specifically Israeli aspect of the debate is that The Netherlands has heavily criticized Israeli policies on many occasions over the past decades, mainly within the framework of the European Union. These one-sided criticisms have often been dressed in the cloak of morality. It is obvious that they have been highly politically motivated, because there has been much less European criticism of murderous Arab dictatorships. The studies of the Dutch government's own commissions of inquiry strengthen what was known before, that democratically elected Dutch governments and several major institutions behaved immorally toward the Dutch Jews when this was profitable. The further research of the inquiry commissions will demonstrate consistent moral failures of a series of Dutch governments. These can be used as a powerful argument against the Dutch government when the European Union tries to put pressure on Israel in the forthcoming peace negotiations. A nation that has frequently exercised discrimination against a weak minority should concentrate, in the future, on its own shortcomings before criticizing other nations. The debate on this issue will undoubtedly heat up in the near future when further commission reports are published and negotiations begin with the Dutch government on what will be returned to the Jews. At present it seems quite probable that the work of the commissions of inquiry and SOTO will not accomplish what the Dutch government wants. They will not mark the end of the investigations of how the Dutch government and society treated the Jews in the postwar years, but rather may well signify their beginning. * * * Manfred Gerstenfeld is a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and is an international consultant specializing in business and environmental strategy to the senior ranks of multinational corporations. His books include Israel's New Future: Interviews (JCPA and Rubin Mass, 1994), and Judaism, Environmentalism and the Environment (Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and Rubin Mass, 1998). An abbreviated version of this Jerusalem Letter/Viewpoints was presented at a symposium on Dutch Jewish War Claims organized by Platform Israel in July 1999 in Tel Aviv.
Rob 22 September 2009 - 6:11pm
Free speech is absolute which means you can say whatever you want from silly things to offensive things to outrageous things. Anything else is censorship. People love to be control freak and tell other people what they can or cannot do. Typically evidence of a not so free society. There is no such thing as racism or anit-semitism or anti gay etc. there is only free speech. as long as you don't physically attack someone you can say whatever you want. When you can't you know you live in a not so free country. Geert Wilders has a high entertainment value and no matter what anyone thinks of him he is free to speak his mind and to say what he wants. All that matters are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. Governments are always the problem

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