By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Dutch King Willem-Alexander has unveiled the Holocaust Memorial of Names, more than 75 years after the mass killings of Dutch Jews and others caused an open wound in the Netherlands that has proven difficult to heal.
“It’s still painful for me,” said journalist Phia Baruch. She lost many family members and relatives in the Holocaust, including her mother, who died in death camp Auschwitz, in Nazi-occupied Poland.
“The unveiling of the monument brings back mixed emotions,” she told Worthy News about Sunday’s ceremony.
Some she knew are mentioned at the site listing the names, dates of birth, and ages at death of more than 102 thousand Dutch Holocaust victims, including Jews, as well as Sinti and Roma.
Designed by the Polish-Jewish-American architect Daniel Libeskind, the memorial comprises walls shaped to form four Hebrew letters spelling out a word that translates as “In Memory Of.”
“On the one hand, I am thankful that believers spared my life,” said Baruch, who, as a Jewish child, was saved in a church-backed rescue operation. “But I also realize how important it is still today to find that inner strength not to let yourself put down by those seeking evil.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte echoed that message during the emotionally charged unveiling ceremony. He said the Monument of Names was a tribute to each victim personally. “Each name is a monument in itself, a memorial for every individual, for every life story.”
He added: “This monument says 102,163 times: no, we will not forget you. No, we will not allow your name to be blotted out. No, evil does not have the last word.”
Rutte acknowledged that the Holocaust Memorial of Names also forces “accountability” for the “cold reception given to the small group that did return from hell, a black page in the history of our country.”
He also warned that even today, anti-Semitism is never far away. “This monument says, no screams: be vigilant.”
Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema admitted that the Dutch capital “seriously failed” in protecting and treating the Jewish inhabitants. “As we all know, at the beginning of the occupation, 140,000 Jews lived in the Netherlands. Some 80,000 of them lived in Amsterdam. Only 15,000 survived the Shoah; 65,000 Amsterdam Jews never returned.”
Looking at the monument, she stressed that the “names carved in stone, these walls, stand like a fortress between us and the forgotten.”
The 15-million euro ($17.5 million) monument was financed in part by thousands of people “adopting” a stone for 50 euros each. It is located on Amsterdam’s Weesper street in the former Jewish quarter
Halsema said the memorial ensures that “In our capital, now reside forever the names” of those the Nazis tried to erase along with millions of others. “Here we can visit them. Here we run our fingers; the stones slide, we call their names and remember their lives.”
Separately King Willem Alexander met some of the few survivors still around to share their memories.
Architect Libeskind reportedly said that “the past doesn’t have to obscure the future” as the “future can bring something beautiful if you don’t let the past darkness swallow you up.”
However, his memorial wasn’t without controversy.
Some residents objected to the project, saying it was too large and would cut trees and attract too many crowds.
But after years of legal wrangling, Dutch authorities eventually okayed the memorial, noted Jacques Grishaver of the Auschwitz Committee and initiator of the project.
“It is incredibly important that all these names have not been erased from history with the arrival of this monument,” he said.
It comes amid controversy about legislators comparing Dutch restrictions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic with the years leading up to the Holocaust.
Several Jewish groups urged Parliament on Sunday to object to comparisons between the corona crisis’s limitations and the Holocaust.
Dutch parliamentarians condemned Forum for Democracy party legislator Gideon van Meijeren for saying that a coronavirus vaccination card would give people “a pass again for the first time since the Second World War.”
Electronic and plastic cards will become obligatory to enter, for instance, theaters, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, or festivals.
Jewish critics fear the comparisons to yellow stars Jews had to wear and passes during World War Two risk that “real genocides” will no longer be recognized now and in the future.
Legislators attacking the current coronavirus cards say they only referred to the war-era atmosphere and leadership leading up to one of the darkest chapters in history.