Comparative Countries

Jewish museum in Amsterdam

In 2004 my wife and I toured Spain, and when I returned, I wrote an op-ed piece about the subtle signs of anti-Semitism that I detected. A newspaper published my op-ed (which I can e-mail a copy but can no longer link to).

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I toured Holland and Belgium and I found the attitude toward Jews a lot different. Amsterdam, in particular, has memorialized the Jews who were shipped off to German death camps. There is, of course, the Anne Frank house, a Jewish historical museum, art by Jews, even a sign in a park that says, in Dutch, Auschwitz No More.

Unlike in Spain where I encountered doubletalk about the country’s history with Jews, Dutch tour guides do not talk in coded language about what happened in Holland. Of course, the Dutch were not willing collaborators with the Nazis and even assumed that the country would be respected as a neutral during World War II. Instead, the Nazis overran the country.

One tour guide did speak about how the Jews and Protestants got along well but then noted that the Jews did not trust the Catholics. The tour guide cited the Spanish Inquisition as the reason that Jews were never comfortable with Catholics in Holland. Catholic Spain did everything it could to drive out Jews. Thus, all Catholics were suspect.

As I reflected on the way the two countries talk about their history with Jews, I realized that while there were memorials to Jews in Holland, there was no such thing in Spain. Eleven years ago I urged the Spaniards to make sure they were not guided by subtle historical events that kept them trapped in an anti-Semitic attitude. I hope they’ve made some progress in reversing that.

No comments:

Post a Comment