Sixty-seven years after the end of the Second World War, a 15-year-old boy’s poem has reopened questions about the appropriate way to commemorate the conflict.
A poem by Auke de Leeuw has been scrapped from the 4 May Remembrance Day programme after angry reactions from the Jewish community. The poem, entitled Wrong Choice, is about the boy’s great-uncle Dirk Siebe who was a Nazi. The young poet wanted to show how the war has affected generations of his family.
Each year, Dutch school children take part in a Remembrance Day poetry competition; the winner reads their poem at the memorial service in Amsterdam. Auke de Leeuw is this year’s winner, but the committee that organises the memorial has decided that he will not be allowed to present his poem.
At first, the committee defended the selection of Wrong Choice saying, “The poet illustrates a dilemma within a family that made good and bad choices. Four children in the family were in the resistance and probably saved lives, one left for the Eastern Front.”
Not a victim
But now the committee has decided that Remembrance Day is too important to be overshadowed by this controversy. The Dutch Auschwitz Committee had threatened to boycott the memorial service and a spokesperson for the Israel Information and Documentation Centre (CIDI) said:
“You can remember the perpetrators 364 days of the year, but on 4 May, we remember the victims. This man wasn’t a victim.”
Auke de Leeuw says he understands that some people could be offended by the poem, though it was not his intention to hurt anyone.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide