Thursday, November 17, 2005

An apology. Wait, after 62 years?


I have wanted to write about this story approximately a month ago when the Dutchman and I took the picture [see below] of a slogan campaign run by the Dutch Railways, the NS [Nationale Spoorwegen], in 29 September 2005. Since I didn’t have enough time to research on the background of the said campaign and I prefer writing something that I am well informed about, I had the story plan sit at the back burner of my thoughts. But, here it is now…

The Dutch had been known to the outside world as distinguished heroes during the WWII due to the acclaimed moving and thorough diary of Anne Frank and her family’s tiny secret safe house in Amsterdam, which is now a museum since 1960. The Anne Frank museum has drawn hundreds of thousands of curious visitors in Amsterdam each year.


There is also another famous Jewish secret hiding place in Haarlem, 15 minutes from Amsterdam, the Corrie ten Boom house, now too a museum.


I am quite sure there are many other secret rooms; private places where the ill-fated Jews hid, away from the cruel grasp of the Nazi’s, protected by the unsung noble hearted and courageous Dutch. EXCEPT THAT, these are the selected events in Dutch history that people want to hear and remember again and again.


And what about the rest, well...?

A poster in Maastricht train station, NS anti-racist slogan campaign in bold letters, “Vroeger vertrok hier de trein naar Auschwitz.” [The train to Auschwitz once left here]. And in small letters beneath, “Wanneer wordt de wereld wijzer?” [When will the world become wiser?]

In 29 September 1943, the Dutch Railways, NS, transported 107,000 Jews to a Dutch incarceration camp in Westerbroek before they were sent on to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobibor and the many other concentration and death camps the Nazi’s have organized. The unsuspecting perhaps baffled Jews didn’t know that it was their last one-way ticket slow train ride to death. Only about 5,000 survived the holocaust and made their way back to Holland. These people lived to tell the whole world about their horrifying experiences.

The role of the NS: They collaborated with the German Nazi’s. This claim had been argued furtively that the NS management had no choice since the Netherlands was occupied and under control by the resolute and powerful Nazi’s. Well here’s the stamp of history, the German Nazi’s received their equitable share of world condemnation and for years, Germany has suffered much ado and criticism of this shameful past. On the other hand, the NS Company of the Netherlands, kept mum, away from the glaring limelight. Surprisingly, no one seems to want to talk about it. Everyone kept their mouths sealed. But must the accountability be exclusively held by the Nazi’s?

Fast forward 2005.

62 years later, the NS made a public apology in a ceremony in Amsterdam, on the same day, 29 September and in the same station, Muiderpoort, where the last train full of unfortunate Jews left for their final train ride. The event was followed after with a launching of an anti-racist slogan campaign. These posters are hanged in 66 stations in the Netherlands. I think these slogan posters are still hanged up to now.

Right, 62 years later. 62 YEARS LATER.

It’s an acknowledgement we had a role,” a NS spokesman told the Times. “We’ve never acknowledged it before… it’s always been a difficult subject, inside the company and outside the company.

Check this out, straight from the NS press, from their website in Dutch, a public apology and admittance of the NS in taking part of the WWII unspeakable atrocities.

I have never seen war in my life, so perhaps I am the least of all individuals to make a critic on this poignant event in man’s history. But don’t you think 62 years was damn too long? Wouldn’t it be best if the public apology was made earlier, like 20 years later, or 30 years, well even 45 years? Didn’t West and East Germany kissed and made up after 44 years of division?

While I am not a psychiatrist to start with albeit I had an almost perfect score in my Psychology 101 subject in college *brags*; I am fully aware that deep seated wounds and trauma do not heal in haste, and considering the magnitude of this horrendous incident, the gash, the pain and the shock may stay alive, generation after generation.

So with this NS case, shall we assume that the management before chose to ignore or forget? Or could it be that they were riddled with guilt and shame since the company was an alleged accomplice to the heinous crime? And based in an old article I read on the NS website, some people from the company said, “If only I could have done something.


But what do we hear instead? Answer: S-I-L-E-N-C-E. 62 years of disregard in the assistance of killing 107,000 people.

I believe this is also an on-going issue with Japan on their role in the WWII.

Some things in life take time acknowledging. I don’t know if that’s upsetting or depressing.

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