The Netherlands is keeping looted Jewish paintings - and more

The Netherlands is a profoundly hypocritical societ, which glibly excuses its attitude to Jews and Jewish property.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld , | updated: 21:42

Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld

In 2013, the Dutch government developed a legal method to avoid returning artwork "expropriated" mainly from Jewish owners during the Holocaust. This issue featured in an article in the Dutch daily NRC in December 2018. It was co-authored by foreign experts Wesley Fisher of the Claims Conference and Anne Webber of the Commission of Looted Art in Europe. These organizations attempt to obtain restitution of art looted by Nazis.

The authors state that a Dutch government “restitution” commission can decide whether it is more important to leave a stolen painting hanging in a Dutch museum than return it to the heirs of the original Jewish owner.

Fisher and Webber wrote, "It shows that if a painting is valuable enough, facts and policy can be adapted so that a museum can keep it. The societal obligation to return such property is put aside." They added: "Through these developments the Netherlands risks becoming a pariah in the restitution of art." They quoted former US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Stuart Eisenstat, as saying that the Netherlands isn’t playing by the internationally accepted rules. He called on the Dutch government to reconsider.

A key art work currently at stake is a painting by Wassily Kandinsky. The commission has decided that this painting should be left hanging  in the Amsterdam Municipal Museum. The heirs of the Lewenstein family who owned the painting are now suing the museum.

The Netherlands is a profoundly hypocritical society. Since only a few foreign correspondents are stationed in the Netherlands, scandalous news items about the country rarely appear in international media. Yet every few months, negative news and scandals around Jewish issues crop up in the Netherlands. They usually are not reported abroad in the general; media.. The legal manipulation of ownership of Holocaust looted paintings is just one example.

An effort at the whitewashing of two Dutch Nazi criminals has taken place in recent months. Isabel Boetzelaer, a descendant from a Dutch noble family, wrote a book titled "War Parents." Her father had been a member of the SD, a criminal Nazi organization. Her grandfather was a member of the German army, the Wehrmacht. He became the commander of a notorious prisoner of war camp. The author claimed that her father and grandfather had been Nazis, but it was fate that had brought them there. She also fabricated a false claim that her grandfather had been involved in the assassination attempt on Hitler.

Her book was well received in the Netherlands. The organization that manages the memorial site in the former Westerbork camp even invited her for a lecture. This camp housed the arrested Dutch Jews before they were sent to their deaths in Eastern Europe.

77-year old Dutch Jewish writer, Chaya Pollak, wrote a book in English titled, "The Man who didn't dislike Jews." She found many distortions in Van Boetzelaers book. She also discovered that a man who would later serve under the criminal Van Boetzelaer had arrested her parents during the war. The daily newspaper Trouw interviewed Pollak and gave equal space to Van Boetzelaer to present her story next to Pollak’s. The paper also published a photo of Pollak's parents. Her father had been murdered in Auschwitz. Next to it, an equal size picture of Van Boetzelaer’s parents was published. Thus those murdered and the criminal were given equal status in the paper.

At the Dam, Amsterdam’s main square, there is a National Monument which memorializes the fallen in the Second World War. Anti-Israeli demonstrations frequently take place on the square. Occasionally these are accompanied by antisemitic expressions. In December 2018, the CIDI organization which fights antisemitism lodged a complaint against an extreme right-wing activist who spoke at a demonstration saying: "The Jews are the enemy of all people."

Together with the CJO, the umbrella body of the Dutch Jewish Organizations, CIDI sent a letter to Amsterdam Mayor, Femke Halsema. They asked her to forbid pro-Palestinian manifestations at the Dam square which mainly propagate hatred, violence and antisemitism. The letter said that in the Netherlands, discrimination and hatred should have been banned after the Second World War.


The Netherlands is one of several countries with a high percentages of respondents who experienced at least one type of antisemitic harassment in the 12 months,
The above are just a few recent examples of the Dutch reality concerning Jews. While events differ from month to month, they generally reflect the same glib Dutch mentality.

In December 2018, the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) published the main findings of its second survey on Jewish people’s experiences and perceptions of hate crime, discrimination and antisemitism. The FRA polled self-defining Jews in twelve EU countries. The Netherlands was one of those where some of the antisemitism-related issues were among the highest. It was one of six countries where almost all respondents -- about 90% -- answered that antisemitism had increased during the past five years.

The Netherlands was also among the countries where the percentage of respondents who consider that expressions of hostility toward Jews in the streets and other public spaces are a “very big” or “fairly big problem.”  It was furthermore one of the three countries where the highest percentage of respondents said that they avoid visiting Jewish events or sites at least occasionally, because, as Jews, they do not feel safe being present at the events or travelling to them.

There are notable differences between EU Member States in terms of the extent of perceived antisemitic harassment. The Netherlands is one of several countries with a high percentages of respondents who experienced at least one type of antisemitic harassment in the 12 months before the survey.

The findings of the study are typical for The Netherlands. It is somewhere in the middle of the pack of European antisemitism. While it is not a leader like France, Germany and Belgium, it does very well on its own.


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