Op-Ed: The Orphan's Case: Discrimination Against Survivors
Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards...
“When Dutch Jews returned or came out of hiding after the Second World war, their situation was so dissimilar to normal ones, that they should have been treated differently by authorities. The Jews had undergone a disaster which was radically different from the experiences of the average Dutchman. Of the 140,000 Jews living in the Netherlands before the war, at least 105,000 had been murdered. This percentage was higher than in any other Western European country.”
Isaac Lipschits (1930-2008) taught at the Universities of Amsterdam, Haifa, Jerusalem, Rotterdam and Leiden. In 1971, he became Professor of Contemporary History at Groningen University. He had also published a number of books.
Lipschits’ book "The Small Shoah: Jews in Post-war Netherlands", published in 2001 in the Netherlands, became a bestseller. In it he wrote: “In the liberated Netherlands, the Jews were not endangered physically; but we saw other symptoms of the Shoah return. Verbal anti-Semitism became more pointed. Pillaging of the Jews continued, and the Jewish community was belittled. The deportation and extermination of the Jews ended but the singling out and isolation of the Jews continued. The Shoah was a blaze, In May 1945 the flames were extinguished, but the fire continued to smolder.”
Lipschits says: “The government claimed that while during the war major distinctions were made between Jews and non-Jews, this should no longer be the case. This seemingly egalitarian approach was actually highly discriminatory because during the war, Jews were persecuted as Jews, not as Dutchmen. Other governmental measures were also disadvantageous for the Jews.”
“One major issue was the treatment of Jewish orphans. During the war, it had been even more difficult to find hiding places for adult Jews than for children. An adult had to have an identity card, which a small child didn’t need. A child could always be passed off as a visiting relative.
“One resistance group which found homes to hide Jewish children, was led by Gesina van der Molen and Sander Baracs. Van der Molen was a reformed Christian, convinced that the Jews should recognize Jesus to save their souls. Baracs was an assimilated Jew who proudly wrote how his grandmother celebrated Christmas with her children and grandchildren. He himself married in a Dutch reformed church.
“They said after the war, ‘We took it upon ourselves to find a place for these children; now that they are orphaned we want a say in what will happen to them.’ They even smuggled a draft law to the Dutch government in exile in London with absurd proposals. One was that parents who did not take care of their children for three months should no longer have custody. Had this law been enacted, returnees from Auschwitz would not have been allowed to take their own children back! Had my parents survived – which they didn’t – they would have lost their custody over me.
“The Dutch government did not accept this radical proposal. It should however, have gone further and regarded these people as extremists. Instead, it named Van der Molen as the head of the government committee determining the fate of these children. A new name was coined for them: they were not ‘war-orphans,’ but ‘war foster children.’ Baracs became the director of the committee’s office and also held other key positions in it.
“In the pre-war Netherlands, it had been customary for every religious community to care for members who needed help, such as the aged, orphans, the sick and the mentally disturbed. In Amsterdam alone, there were four Jewish orphanages and several Jewish hospitals. There were many Jewish old age homes in the Netherlands. One important central Jewish institution cared for the mentally ill.
It would have been normal for the Dutch Jewish community to care for the large number of Jewish orphans after the war. The community could have reasonably expected the government to help finance this effort.
“Instead, Van der Molen’s committee, in which the Jews were only a minority, was created to determine the destiny of the remaining Jewish war orphans. Its conscious Jewish members were often out-voted by others, some of whom had a specific anti-Jewish agenda. Several Christians saw this committee as a conduit to convert Jewish children. Van der Molen even accused Jews of being racists by looking for a Jewish solution for this problem.
Most committee members felt that even where Jewish family members had survived, their child should remain with the family with which it had been hiding. They stated this explicitly.
“It would have been normal and ethical to have said: ‘We saved Jewish children during the war and now, after the war, are returning them as Jewish children to their Jewish environment.’” Later, when these children grew up, many started to search for their Jewish roots. Some even occupied important positions in the Jewish community.
This is a shortened version of an interview in Manfred Gerstenfeld’s book, Europe’s Crumbling Myths; The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism. This book can be downloaded for free at: http://www.jcpa.org/indexph.asp#