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On the Threshold of the Holocaust

Anti-Jewish Riots and Pogroms in Occupied Europe: Warsaw – Paris – The Hague – Amsterdam – Antwerp – Kaunas


Tomasz Szarota

In the early months of the German occupation during WWII, many of Europe’s major cities witnessed anti-Jewish riots, anti-Semitic incidents, and even pogroms carried out by the local population. Who took part in these excesses, and what was their attitude towards the Germans? Were they guided or spontaneous? What part did the Germans play in these events and how did they manipulate them for their own benefit? Delving into the source material for Warsaw, Paris, The Hague, Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Kaunas, this study is the first to take a comparative look at these questions. Looking closely at events many would like to forget, the volume describes various characters and their stories, revealing some striking similarities and telling differences, while raising tantalising questions.
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Chapter 3 The Hague and Amsterdam. Antwerp


The two capital cities of the Netherlands

Attacked by Nazi Germany on 10th May 1940, the Netherlands, with a population of less than nine million, offered resistance for a mere few days. After Queen Wilhelmina left the country, the Government emigrating with her, and the day after the barbaric bombing of Rotterdam on 14th May 1941, with 800–980 killed,233 General Henri Winkelman signed the capitulation. Three days later, Hitler appointed Arthur Seyss-Inquart Civil Commissioner for the Occupied Netherlands – officially: Reichskommissar in den besetzten niederländischen Gebiete. An Austrian by birth, Seyss-Inquart had previously acted as deputy to Hans Frank in the Generalgouvernment.

An astute and cynical politician, Seyss-Inquart enjoyed Hitler’s trust and fondness.234 Assuming his office on 30th May 1940, he delivered a proclamation to the Dutch nation during a ceremony at the Royal Palace in The Hague. He said on that occasion: “We are not willing to apply imperialistic oppression with respect to this country and its population, or superimpose our own political convictions.” He made reference to “observance of the law, respect for the morals and institutions of public life of the Dutch people,” and remarked on their Germanic “blood community.”235 Since the behaviour of the German soldiers and officers in the conquered country was unobjectionable, the earlier news from occupied Poland, emphasising the prevalence of terror, came to be seen as much exaggerated, if not as propagandist lies. This is by no means to say that the Dutch...

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