November 5, 2003

Lecturers Give Accounts of The Holocaust

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The story of Anne Frank and her family is well known, but in the Gurelac Room of the A. D White House on Monday, Dienke Hondus and Gordon F. Sanders ’73 told stories of many other German Jews who went into hiding in Holland during World War II. Hondus, author of Holocaust Survivors and Dutch Anti-Semitism, and Sanders, the Risley Guest Suite Artist, collaborated on a presentation of “The Dutch Holocaust: The Frank Family, Holocaust Survivors, and Dutch Anti-Semitism.”

The issues of Dutch anti-Semitism after World War II and the experience of German Jews who, in the words of Sanders, “dived under” during the Nazi occupation of Holland were the focal point of the lecture. Hondus began the lecture with an overview of modern anti-Semitism in Holland, and was followed by Sanders, who helped to illuminate the experiences of German Jews in the Netherlands.

Due to the war in the Middle East, Hondus explained, it is less safe to be a Dutch Jew than it was ten years ago.

“Islam is the second religion in the Netherlands,” Hondus said. As a result, the Jewish minority has come under suspicion from the Islam majority. However, Hondus added that anti-Semitism in the Netherlands “did not just appear” in recent years. She reviewed the treatment of German Jews in the Netherlands in her analysis of modern anti-Semitism, explaining to the audience on Monday that the Netherlands’ “policy of refusing to make a distinction between Jews and non-Jews” after WWII had extremely negative effects on the Jewish population. The Dutch government’s denial of the Jewish survivor’s experience under Nazi rule effectively silenced survivors, Hondus said.

Hondus read many testimonies that observed not only denial, but mistreatment of the “stateless Jews” who had lost their nationality after deportation. Hondus ended her account of the experiences of Jewish survivors in the Netherlands with a plea to her audience to deal with racism that “continues to be so frightfully relevant today.”

“It wasn’t necessary that people hated Jews, it was enough that they were passive during deportation,” Hondus said, pointing out that racism is a subject that can not be ignored. She advocated research on the “see-saw of racism” that is apparent not only in the Netherlands, but throughout the world. Hondus described the “see-saw” as a continuum where racism is always prevalent, but different groups experience shifts in its intensity. “We need to teach ourselves and each other to live with differences,” Hondus said.

Sanders followed Hondus’ presentation with an overview of his project, Diving Under: the Frank Family that Survived. Sanders’ relatives are the surviving Frank family described in the title. He told the story of his mother Dorrit Frank and her family who “dove under,” or went into hiding, in the Netherlands when the Nazi occupation started.

Sanders portrayed the experience of his family and other German Jews in the Netherlands with poignant photos of the Frank family before Hitler’s rise to power — including one of a street where the Frank family spent 1,032 days in hiding. His description of those who survived Nazi persecution strengthened Hondus’ point that research must be done to further understand and correct the “poisonous” element of racism that has afflicted and still afflicts our world.

“I want to end hopeful. There is a lot to do and it can be done,” Hondus said, although both lecturers’ testimonies clearly validated this statement.

Archived article by Sarah Colby