The Persecution and Destruction of Dutch Jewry 1940-1945, on J. Presser’s Book
A review of a voluminous book by the historian Jacques (Jacob) Presser, which tackles the surprising discrepancy between the apparent integration of Jews into prewar Dutch society and the extermination of eighty-five percent of its Jewish population — second only to Polish Jews. This book dispels the view that there was little antisemitism in Holland, which also provided a haven for Jewish refugees. The book was launched in 1965 in the presence of many Amsterdam dignitaries and the ceremony was broadcast on television and radio. Over a hundred thousand copies were eagerly bought. The extermination policy of the Germans is indicated by the chapter titles: I Towards Isolation, II From Isolation to Deportation, III The Deportation, IV The State Within the State (the Judenrat), V Living in Hiding, VI The Transit Camps, VII Murder (the Death Camps). Most of the non-Jewish population was passive. Quite a few collaborated with the Germans. The Dutch government-in-exile and the Dutch Red Cross were indifferent to the fate of the Jews. The Joodse Raad, too, is much criticized as are the inmates of the camps who, declares the author, cared for themselves only. Presser, himself, a Jew, showed little interest in prewar Zionist and Jewish affairs, even when the Jews in Germany were being persecuted. In mid-1942 as danger for Jews increased, he and his non-Jewish wife went into hiding. His wife was arrested while trying to visit her parents. His desperate attempts to free her failed. His book is non-objective and egocentric. He, without sufficient evidence, unjustly accuses the Joodse Raad of collaborating and attempting to save only their own skins. Presser has lost sight of the forest for the trees. His book has many important omissions, including his lack of fieldwork to corroborate certain documents and statements.