Netherlands asks Jews for forgiveness

During the national Holocaust memorial service on Sunday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for the first time officially apologised for his country's behaviour towards the Jews during the Second World War. Officials did too little to protect Jewish citizens from persecution, he said. Dutch media discuss why the apology has only come now.

Open/close all quotes
De Volkskrant (NL) /

A historic admission

De Volkskrant sees Rütte's words as marking a historical turning point:

“For too long, self-victimisation has stood in the way of recognition of collaboration and complicity. ... Whether it's the past of slavery, colonialism or the war in Indonesia: self-questioning always gets off to a slow start and no excuses are given. ... Rutte's words of remorse are also historic against this background: they mark an increasing readiness to recognise mistakes. ... But the fact that the first apology concerns the Shoah is a historical necessity. Of all the catastrophes the Shoah was without doubt the most destructive.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

A country of guilty onlookers

The image that the Dutch have of themselves and their country has changed over time, NRC Handelsblad points out:

“Over the decades, Dutch shame over the Holocaust has grown. Above all after international studies on the persecution of Jews in the 1970s showed that the deportation of the 102,000 Dutch Jews during the Second World War went pretty much without a hitch, the self-image of the Netherlands changed. The image of the Netherlands as a country of resistance was replaced by that of the only Western European country occupied by Nazi Germany in which three-quarters of the Jewish population was murdered. ... The Netherlands became a country of 'guilty onlookers'.”