This educational guide takes visitors past the 10 stages of genocide shown in the exhibition ‘The Persecution of the Jews in Photographs. The Netherlands 1940-1945’. Could genocide be prevented if people would recognise these stages in time?
The victims of the persecution of Jews from the Netherlands are commemorated at www.joodsmonument.nl
This podcast tells the history of the persecution of the Jews in the light of the ten stages of genocide. In every episode, eyewitnesses tell their stories, and experts give an explanation of the photos in the exhibition. Scroll down.
The persecution of the Jews in ten stages
The persecution of the Jews was not introduced overnight, but through a series of small steps. These steps have been worked out in detail by law professor Gregory Stanton. He calls them ‘the stages of genocide’. In the podcast, we follow these stages through the testimonies from survivors, while experts discuss the history and the photographs from the exhibition.
Before the Second World War, around two per cent of the Dutch population was Jewish. The Jews blended in with society. The Nazis used their own guidelines to determine who was Jewish and who was not, and set people against each other. They used hate propaganda to fuel the flames of anti-Semitism. Jews lost contact with the rest of society and became isolated. In this picture from 1933, all of that still seems far away.
In the next stage, prejudice and anti-Semitic stereotyping are followed by discriminatory legislation. Just a few months after the start of the occupation, the first anti-Jewish measures were introduced, which eventually drove the Jews further and further apart from the rest of society. Because of all the prohibitions, Jews were no longer able to live normal lives. For example, Jews could no longer access the popular Lepelenburg park in Utrecht. With every step it became harder for Jews to resist the new measures, and for others to help.
From May 1942 onwards, all Jews of six years and older had to wear yellow badges. These badges resembled the Star of David, abusing a Jewish religious symbol. They marked the wearers as Jews, for all the world to see. Like these children in Amsterdam, pretending that they are going camping. Jews were treated as a separate group and thus became increasingly isolated.
The persecution of the Jews was conceived, prepared, and carried out by people. The German Nazis received the help of Dutch collaborators, for instance when Dutch civil servants assisted in recording where in Amsterdam Jews lived. These thorough records made it very difficult for Jews to go into hiding.
During the occupation of the Netherlands, everyone with one or more Jewish grandparents fell victim to persecution by the Nazis. Whether someone identified as Jewish was not considered relevant.
The lives of these people were increasingly impacted by the discriminatory laws. Jews often lost their jobs and were forced to work in labour camps. Families were already being pulled apart at this point.
The Nazis considered Jews an inferior race, and they expressed this in their language and in the treatment of Jews. Jewish possessions were stolen and social ties were severed. Entertainment and sports were forbidden for Jews. If perpetrators do not see their victims as human beings, they find it less difficult to kill them. Jews were taken to the death camps in cattle and freight wagons, and the Nazis were not the least bit ashamed; they even recorded the deportations on film.
The deportation of more than 107,000 Jews from the Netherlands required vast preparation and organisation. In Amsterdam, the premises of the Hollandsche Schouwburg were used for 16 months to hold a total of over 46,000 Dutch Jews awaiting deportation. The photographer recognised her classmate among the people in the theatre. The Hollandsche Schouwburg symbolises the turning point from life in restricted freedom to imprisonment. From life to death.
Genocide aims to destroy a group of people. The Nazis set out to exterminate all European Jews. Their actions were not limited to adults; they targeted children as well. Eighteen thousand Jewish children from the Netherlands alone were murdered. The Jewish Crèche in Amsterdam, across the street from the Hollandsche Schouwburg, housed thousands of children awaiting deportation. Almost 600 of them were saved thanks to the collaboration of the Jewish child care workers, members of the Jewish Council, and various resistance groups.
In July 1942, the systematic murder of Dutch Jews in concentration and extermination camps began. Together with Jews from almost all other European countries, they arrived in camps that the Nazis had built, most of them in occupied Poland. Upon their arrival, most of them were selected to be killed straight away, others were designated for forced labour until they died. Almost all of the Hungarian Jews in this photo were murdered in the gas chambers immediately after their arrival.
To this day, there are still people who deny the Holocaust ever happened. During the war, the perpetrators started to erase the traces of their crimes, to avoid being taken to trial afterwards. The gas chambers in Auschwitz, for instance, were blown up by the Nazis themselves. Many survivors consider it their duty to talk about their experiences. Of the children in the photo, the girl in the pale dress, was the only one to survive the Holocaust.
Every testimony, diary, paper, or photograph that documents the steps toward genocide and that illustrates the horrors, will help disprove any denial. Therefore, this type of evidence is vitally important.
Not every prejudice leads to genocide, but every genocide is preceded by prejudice. This is an important lesson to take away from Stanton’s theory. Genocide does not happen overnight, but is conceived, prepared, and carried out by people.
At every stage, it becomes more difficult to resist. That is why we need to stay alert to the precursors of genocide occurring anywhere in the world and to stop them while we still can.
We commemorate the victims of the Holocaust to make sure that they are not forgotten and that we do not forget what discrimination and exclusion can lead to. In 2020, it will be 75 years since the Netherlands was liberated. Every human has the right to live in freedom, to be himself, and to be protected against discrimination. A constitutional state that protects its civilians and freedom can not be taken for granted.