January 23, 2005


Holland Daze: The Dutch rethink multiculturalism. (Christopher Caldwell, 12/27/2004, Weekly Standard)

[T]he murder of one Dutch filmmaker 911 days after the assassination of Fortuyn is described by people in Holland as having had the same effect on their country as the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 in the World Trade Center towers. Dutch people have the sense that, for the first time in centuries, the thread that connects them to the world of Geert Mak's father, and that world to the world of Erasmus and Spinoza and Rembrandt and William the Silent, is in danger of being snipped. Part of it is the size and the speed of the recent non-European immigration. The Netherlands, with a population of 16 million, has about 2 million foreign-born. By some estimates, a quarter of them do not speak Dutch.

What's more, the public has been told for two decades now that they ain't seen nothing yet, that this is only the first wave of a long era of immigration, which they'd better learn to love. The immigrants the country now hosts have been difficult to manage. Part of the problem is the interaction of high immigration and what was for years a generous, no-questions-asked welfare state: As many as 60 percent of Moroccans and Turks above the age of 40--obviously first-generation immigrants--are unemployed, in the only major economy in Europe that has consistently had unemployment at or below American rates.

Most of these immigrants are Muslims. Muslim immigrants had begun to scare people long before Pim Fortuyn, the charismatic populist, turned himself into the country's most popular politician in the space of a few weeks in 2002, by arguing that the country was already overloaded with newcomers. (Fortuyn was assassinated by an animal-rights activist in May of that year.) Already in the 1990s, there were reports of American-style shootouts in schools, one involving two Turkish students in the town of Veghel. This past October, newspaper readers were riveted by the running saga of a quiet married couple who had been hounded out of the previously livable Amsterdam neighborhood of Diamantbuurt by gangs of Muslim youths. There were incidents of wild rejoicing across Holland in the wake of the September 11 attacks, notably in the eastern city of Ede. The weekly magazine Contrast took a poll showing that just under half the Muslims in the Netherlands were in "complete sympathy" with the September 11 attacks. At least some wish to turn to terrorism. In the wake of the van Gogh murder, Pakistani, Kurdish, and Moroccan terrorist cells were discovered. The Hague-based "Capital Network," out of which van Gogh's killer Mohammed Bouyeri came, had contact with terrorists who carried out bombings in Casablanca in 2003. Perhaps the most alarming revelation was that an Islamist mole was working as a translator in the AIVD, the national investigative service, and tipping off local radicals to impending operations.

The question naturally arises: If immigrants behave this way now, what will happen when they are far more numerous, as all authorities have long promised they will be? It has been estimated that the country's two largest cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, will be "majority minority" very soon (Rotterdam is today at 47 percent), and already 65 percent of primary and secondary students in both cities are of non-Dutch parentage. London's Daily Telegraph, citing immigration experts and government statistics, reported a net outflow of 13,000 people from Holland in the first six months of 2004, the first such deficit in half a century. One must treat this statistic carefully--it could be an artifact of an aging population in which many are retiring to warmer places. But it could also be the beginning of something resembling the American suburban phenomenon of "white flight," occurring at the level of an entire country.

The only surprising thing about the situation is the persistence of the myth of a special Dutch tolerance, Delivered from evil (Simon Kuper, January 21 2005, Financial Times)
Tens of thousands of Danes - politicians, pastors, fishermen, ambulance drivers - helped smuggle 7,300 of the country’s 7,800 Jews into Sweden. Many more helped by not betraying the operation. Only 116 Danish Jews, or 1.5 per cent of the total, died in the Holocaust.

The other extreme in western Europe was the Netherlands. More than 100,000 Dutch Jews - three-quarters of the total - were massacred. This was nearly twice the proportion killed in Belgium, where Jews had far more chance of finding hiding places, and three times as high as in France. Only in Poland were proportionately more Jews murdered. The Dutch had a reputation for wartime heroism, even - until recently - among themselves. But they owe it chiefly to the hiding of Anne Frank. [...]

The Danish historian Therkel Straede writes that the German occupation of Denmark “passed off more mildly than in any other country”. Germany had recognised it as a “sovereign state”. Until 1943 the Danes ran their own domestic affairs, even holding elections. Every day, King Christian X rode his horse through Copenhagen, greeting his subjects as he went, living proof that the Danish establishment continued. Furthermore, the Danes were more homogeneous than the Dutch. You could see it in their paucity of surnames: Hansen, Petersen, Jensen and a few others covered most of the population. The German immigrants who had arrived the previous century, and the few Jews, had integrated to the point of invisibility. Nor did Denmark have great regional divides.

The crucial shared heritage, though, was that almost everyone belonged to the Danish Lutheran church. Not only were there just 7,800 Jews in Denmark, there were hardly any Catholics either, nor many non-Lutheran Protestants. In 1940, although the percentage of churchgoers was perhaps the lowest in Europe, most Danes still used the church for baptisms, weddings and funerals. Pastors remained moral authorities, each year inspecting their local schools.

Danish Lutheranism was a peculiar variant of the German creed. Its founding father, Nikolai Grundtvig, born the son of a country pastor in 1783, took as his key text the Book of Genesis. Grundtvig read the Creation story to mean that human life had value in itself, even before Christianity arrived. His slogan was: “Man first, then a Christian.” This implied that religious differences were secondary, contradicting Luther’s own anti-Semitism, and the usual Protestant obsession with schisms.

Grundtvig drew from the Creation a second conclusion: that the richness of man’s life unfolds on earth, not just in heaven. Man is more than just spirit: he is also dust. Doing the right thing on this earth therefore mattered. Danes (Grundtvig was a patriotic theologian) had to act in this life, but as a group rather than as individuals. They must sacrifice for Danish democracy.

In the autumn of 1940, the pipe-smoking theologian Hal Koch gave a series of lectures on Grundtvig to packed halls around Denmark. Koch’s audiences understood that he was not simply talking about theology. He emphasised “the need for the entire nation to combine politicisation, individual and collective responsibility, knowledge of all facts, and negotiations with the Nazi, as long as that was possible”. Danes must act as a group, Koch said. A year later, he moderated a public debate on the “Jewish question”, itself an astonishing fact, in which he called on Danes to reject any suggestion of discrimination. Other churchmen took a similar line.

Though the Danes collaborated with Hitler on most matters, they always refused to take any measures against Jews. The myth that King Christian X wore a Jewish star to show his solidarity is false, because the star was never imposed in Denmark.

In August 1943, after a wave of Danish strikes and acts of sabotage, the Germans declared martial law. In September, Germany’s Reich plenipotentiary, Werner Best, decided to deport the Danish Jews. His plans were leaked to Danish politicians. It is now believed that Best himself instigated the leak, probably because he thought that deportation would make his rule in Denmark untenable. On the morning of September 29, the day before the Jewish New Year, Denmark’s chief rabbi, Marcus Melchior, alerted his congregation: “You must leave immediately, warn all your friends and relatives and go into hiding.”

On the night of October 1, when German special police units (the Danish police refused to help) knocked on Jewish doors, they found almost nobody home. Only a few hundred Jews opened the front door. The rest had been tipped off. The Jews had no trouble finding hiding places. People pressed their house keys even on Jews they had never met before.

Half of Copenhagen must have known what was going on, yet there were barely any betrayals. Thousands of Jews were installed in hospital beds under gentile names, or disguised as visitors, staff, even funeral mourners. At Copenhagen’s Kommunehospitalet, all 1,000 staff were involved in the rescue. The following Sunday, October 3, Denmark’s pastors read a letter from their pulpits: “Whenever Jews are persecuted... it is the duty of the Christian church to protest against such persecution, because it is in conflict with the sense of justice inherent in the Danish people and inseparable from our Danish Christian culture through the centuries.”

They did not leave their sense of duty at words. By one estimate, 90 per cent of Lutheran ministers joined Denmark’s rescue and resistance efforts. Copenhagen’s cantor was lent DKr25,000 (more than his annual salary) by a Lutheran priest named Rasmussen to finance his family’s escape to Sweden. After the war, Rasmussen refused repayment. Five Danish Lutheran priests were killed in the Resistance, others went to prison and concentration camps, and about 100 had to go underground until the liberation. Their influence was enormous. Since the Lutheran clergy were virtually state functionaries, and King Christian was head of the church, the church was in effect the moral arm of government. Perhaps as important, though, was that Denmark’s social democrats had a very similar belief in equality and acting for the collective.

Later, Denmark ensured that the few Jews who had been caught would not be sent to death camps. Instead they were held in the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia, where they received food parcels, and a visit from a Danish delegation (which passed on the king’s regards in a whisper). On April 13 1945, before the war was over, they were released.

The Danes protected the Jews because they considered them part of the homogeneous Danish collective. Bent Melchior, son of the wartime chief rabbi, told me: “This was the result of a development of over 200 years. We had become part of forming this society.” Or as Uffe Ostergard, director of Denmark’s Holocaust and Genocide Studies Centre, says: “The Jews were rescued not because they were Jews but because they were not seen as Jews.”

Denmark had a haven just across the sea, and the Netherlands didn’t. However, the Dutch as a group - as opposed to a few thousand isolated individuals and cells - never even tried to protect the Jews. In the Netherlands, some companies sacked their Jews without waiting for the Germans to tell them to. AVRO, a leading radio broadcaster, did so on May 21 1940, six days after the capitulation. Anti-Semitism lacks explanatory force here: before 1940, there had been no discernible Dutch impetus for measures against Jews.

The Dutch royal family and cabinet had fled to London that May, leaving government to the top civil servants, the secretaries-general, whose instructions were to keep things functioning without anarchy. The secretaries-general aimed not to upset the occupiers. When the Germans asked them to sack a Jewish concert master, they considered objecting, before passing the order on to the orchestra anyway. “Perhaps a middle way can still be found,” they noted in their minutes. When the Germans said they would ban kosher slaughter of meat, the secretaries-general talked about “coming to an agreement”, hoping to impose a Dutch ban before the occupiers acted. The goal was to maintain a semblance of sovereignty.

Measure followed measure, and the Dutch never said no. Amsterdam’s city council produced a helpful chart for the Germans showing where the Jews lived. Later, these people were rounded up by Dutch policemen, who were coerced by the Germans with terrible sanctions: they could lose their Whitsun leave. The rigour of the Dutch police, and of the Dutch state generally, was matched in western Europe not even by Vichy France.

The Holocaust in the Netherlands was a fairly bloodless affair, free of the slaughter of Jews by local people seen in eastern Europe. In the Netherlands, it was a mechanical sorting operation: ringing doorbells, escorting people to trains, impounding their belongings. The Dutch habit of obedience to authority proved fatal under Nazism, a phenomenon they could not fathom.

Dutch morality - and most people were then churchgoers - did not extend to taking risks for neighbours. In any case, with the country divided between squabbling denominations, no one church could lead the nation. But the Dutch churches did not even try to use their moral sway. The Dutch Reformed Church spent most of the war debating arcane theological questions.

Until the 1960s, in most countries the Holocaust was rarely discussed in public. It seemed incomprehensible, and most surviving Jews were fearful of drawing attention to themselves. Many Dutchmen grasped what had happened only in 1965, when the historian Jacques Presser published his account of the Holocaust, Ondergang (Descent). It sold 140,000 copies in eight months. Over the next 20 years, the war and the Holocaust became the central themes of Dutch history. From 1969 to 1988, Lou de Jong, the Dutch state’s official historian of the war, published his The Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Second World War in 27 volumes. Millions of copies were sold, making it one of the best-selling academic histories in history.

When I was at school in the Dutch town of Leiden in the 1970s and 1980s, however, the orthodox version of the war was still being taught. I learned from teachers, neighbours and Resistance tales like Soldier of Orange (nominated for a foreign-film Oscar in 1979) that the Dutch had been “good”. I gathered that nobody shopped in the stores of those who had been “wrong” in the war, and that De Telegraaf, a newspaper that had been wrong, was still universally loathed (although, mysteriously, it was the country’s bestselling daily). I learned that the average Dutchman had spent the war delivering his illegal newspapers after feeding his hidden Jews.

Even in the 1980s, the Dutch still needed the myth of resistance. Many of the wartime generation were still alive, and it would have been too painful to admit that only about 1 per cent of Dutch people had actively resisted. Furthermore, former resistants and exiles had a disproportionate role in Dutch life: many underground newspapers had transformed after the war into regular dailies that still exist today, while De Jong, many politicians and the royals had returned untainted from exile to form the new establishment.

Nor was there much need to delve deeply: whereas the world was accusing the Germans, and even the French, few foreigners knew much about the Dutch war. Only Anne Frank’s story had penetrated abroad. She became shorthand for a people that had bravely sheltered the Jews, even though the end of her story could be read as symbolising Dutch betrayal.

In Denmark, too, a Resistance myth arose after the war: that all Danes had passively resisted the Germans, opposing Nazism in their hearts. This myth did, to be sure, skate over Denmark’s years of collaboration. But it also played down heroism - that of the active resistants, the saboteurs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2005 9:21 AM

Noting the first half of this posting -- is there anything more stupefying that statist socialism? Where every jackass notion some beaureacrat manages to get enacted as policy becomes not just policy, but frikkin' moral imperative?

So you get a tiny country like Holland taking in millions of immigrants who aren't even close to sharing the same culture, and then exacerbate the situation by going out of your way not to assimilate them . . . and have the gov't tell you to expect millions more, because that's just what's going to happen. Goodbye, Dutch!!

I know it's been said before, but now & again circumstances just rub it in you face: european socialism is just one long, drawn out, slow motion agony of a death wish.

Posted by: Twn at January 23, 2005 10:57 AM

TWN believes that "statist socialism/european socialism" explains the problems the Dutch are having with Muslim immigration. It is certainly true that the Dutch as well as other European countries face enormous difficulties--financial and cultural--in dealing with an underclass of heavily Muslim immigrants; immigrants we should note, that were deliberately imported to do the distasteful work that Europeans did not want to do. But immigration policy is a divisive issue for this country as well as for Europeans even though we do not face security issues that are nearly as serious. And I hardly think the Bush administration could be accused of presiding over a "statist socialist" government. In the US as in Holland, immigration policy has never been the creation of malevolent bureacrats, but the result of hard-fought political battles that often have taken place across party lines.
What is most discouraging about this comment, however, is that it seems to represent the view of millions of Americans who know little or nothing about Europe other than what they read in right-wing blog sites. I've lived in Europe for nearly three years over the last quarter century and I sometimes think that Americans have been sprinkled with idiot dust when it comes to their knowledge of Europe. No system is perfect, but it is maddening to see know-nothing Americans ignore the positive aspects of European social democracies and the Common Market while parroting meaningless stereotypes about "statist socialism." As the preceding article in the London Financial Times by Simon Kuper shows, even within Europe there are significant cultural differences. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Danes and the Dutch seemed to have essentially the same political system/outlook on politics, but they reacted quite differently when faced with the moral challenge of the holocaust. In fact--along with the influential role of the Danish Lutheran Church--the most important factor in the Danes resistance to the Holocaust was their commitment to a social compact (what TWN might call their "statist socialism") that made them unwilling to abandon their fellow countrymen and women. What is ultimately critical in a society is not whether its citizens favor a European style social democracy or some version of our dog-eat-dog-the-devil-take-the-hindmost American economy: it is their shared commitment to the protection and well-being of all its citizens.

Posted by: Daniel at January 30, 2005 2:55 PM


Yes, now they don't have any of that religion left, so they're despicable too.

Posted by: oj at January 30, 2005 3:28 PM