King Willem-Alexander offers moving words at Dutch National Remembrance Day speech - World Jewish Congress

King Willem-Alexander offers moving words at Dutch National Remembrance Day speech

King Willem-Alexander offers moving words at Dutch National Remembrance Day speech

Amsterdam

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands offered moving words Monday at a ceremony for the Dutch National Remembrance Day, recounting the testimony of a Holocaust survivor, and encouraging the audience to never forget the impact of the Holocaust. The crowd was limited due to the coronavirus outbreak, with the Mayor of Amsterdam and the President of the National Committee in attendance. 

King Alexander and Queen Máxima arrived at the Dam Square shortly before 8PM, where they laid wreaths. A two-minute moment of silence was held across the country, followed by King Alexander’s speech at the nearly empty Dam Square. 

In his remarks, King Alexander spoke of Holocaust survivor and Dutch historian, Jules Schelvis, describing him as “fragile but unbroken.”

“Jules Schelvis went through hell and somehow managed to make something of his life as a free person. Much more than that...If he could do that, then so can we. We can do it, and do it together. In freedom.” King Alexander added

Alexander also called for Netherlandians to never forget the horrors of the Holocaust, adding that it is crucial to “not look away. Not justify. Not erase. Not brush aside. Not make something ‘normal’ that is not. And: nurture and defend our free, democratic constitution. Because only that is what will protect us from terror and insanity.

In January, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologized for Holland’s complicity with the Nazis, saying, “the bitter consequences of the drawing up of registers [of Jews] and of the expulsions have not been adequately recognized. Seventy-five years after Auschwitz, antisemitism is still among us. That’s exactly why we fully recognize what happened and say it out loud.” Rutte, who has been in office since 2010, had previously resisted calls for the Netherlands to acknowledge withe Nazis, arguing that there was not enough “objective information” to make a definitive conclusion. 

In an op-ed reacting to the statement, Ruben Vis, the general secretary of the WJC- affiliated Dutch-Israelite Church, wrote while the apology should have occurred earlier, it nevertheless “not too late...[and will be the] starting point of the relationship between the Dutch authorities and the Jewish communities.”

In June 2019, the state-run Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), announced plans to offer financial compensation to the survivors and relatives of Holocaust victims who were transported via Dutch rail to Nazi concentration camps during World War II . WJC President Ronald S. Lauder welcomed the decision, calling it an “important step in ensuring that Holocaust memory and its legacy always remain on the side of the victims.”