Dutch offer first apology for WWII persecution of Jews

Dutch offer first apology for World War II persecution of Jews

Prime Minister Mark Rutte (L) and State Secretary Paul Blokhuis (Health, Welfare and Sport) lay a wreath at the Auschwitz Never Again monument during during the National Holocaust Remembrance Day in Amsterdam, on 26 January 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Sunday made the Netherlands' first government apology for the war-time persecution of Jews.

"Now the last survivors are still with us, I apologise today in the name of the government for what the authorities did at that time," Rutte said.

He was giving an address in Amsterdam in memory of victims of the Holocaust on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

Only 38,000 of the 140,000 Jews who lived in the Netherlands survived World War II, but no government apology has been offered for the role the authorities played.

The question of an apology was raised in 2012 when Rutte was also prime minister, but he said not enough information was available about government action during the war and that there was "not broad enough support" for an official apology.

In 2000, then prime minister Wim Kok apologised for the "icy welcome" Nazi camp survivors received on their return to the Netherlands, which the Nazis occupied from 1940-1945.

"Our government institutions did not act as guardians of justice and security," Rutte said Sunday.

"Too many civil servants carried out the orders of the occupiers.

"The bitter consequences of the drawing up of registers (of Jews) and of the expulsions have not been adequately recognised, nor recognised in time" Rutte added.

"On the whole, it was too little too late. Too little protection. Too little help. Too little recognition."

"Seventy-five years after Auschwitz, antisemitism is still amongst us. That's exactly whey we fully recognise what happened and say it out loud," Rutte said.

Holocaust survivors will gather in Auschwitz on Monday to mark 75 years since Soviet troops liberated the camp, while world leaders held a sombre remembrance ceremony in Jerusalem last Thursday.

More than 1.1 million people, mainly Jews, were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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