Anne Frank and After: Dutch Holocaust Literature in Historical Perspective

Anne Frank and After: Dutch Holocaust Literature in Historical Perspective

Anne Frank and After: Dutch Holocaust Literature in Historical Perspective

Anne Frank and After: Dutch Holocaust Literature in Historical Perspective

Synopsis

Between 1940 and 1945, 110,000 of the 140,000 Dutch Jews were deported to the death camps in Eastern Europe. 80% never returned. In Anne Frank and After the authors focus on two main questions: how exactly did this happen, and how has Dutch literature come to terms with this appalling event? In the book's final chapter they analyze the relationship between history and the literature of the Holocaust. Does literature add to what we know or does it actually distort historical evidence? Based on the work of leading historians of the period, the book examines literary works from Gerard Durlacher, Anne Frank, W.F. Hermans, Harry Mulisch, Gerard Reve and many others. "With its well-chosen quotations (many appearing for the first time in print), presented in a clear and illuminating historical setting, Anne Frank and After is must reading for all who want to go beyond Anne Frank for a more rounded picture of wartime Holland and its Jews." (Holocaust and Genocide Studies--January 1998)

Excerpt

On the 1st September 1939 the German Army invaded Poland, and the Second World War began. In the spring of 1940, after successfully concluding his campaign in Eastern Europe with the occupation of Poland, Hitler started his offensive in the West. In April he occupied Denmark and Norway, and on 10 May the German armies attacked Holland, Belgium and France at the same time.

It was a rude awakening for a country that had not been involved in a European war since the days of Napoleon and believed implicitly in its policy of neutrality and impartiality. During the First World War it had proved a very advantageous policy as well. This time it was not to be. Queen Wilhelmina and her government fled to London, and on 15 May the Dutch army capitulated. Five long years of occupation by Nazi Germany followed. Those five years have left deep wounds in the lives of many Dutch people. Almost 100,000 fatalities among soldiers, underground resistance fighters and civilians, the hardships of the Japanese prisoner-of- war camps, the forced employment of many men in Germany and the 'hungerwinter' of 1944-1945 are all etched into the collective memory of many Dutch men and women.

But all the hardships suffered in Holland pale in comparison with the fate of the Dutch Jews. In 1965 the Jewish historian Jacques Presser published his extensive study about the persecution ofDutch Jewry, Ondergang (translated into English as Ashes in the Wind; American title: The Destruction of the Dutch Jews). He began his introduction with these telling sentences:

This book tells the history of murder -- of murder on a scale never known before, with malice aforethought and in cold blood. The murderers were Germans, their victims Jews... (Presser, 1969:1)

Unrelated to any wartime or military imperative, the German occupier took the first measures against the Jews of Holland as early as 1940. Step by step they were first identified, isolated and then deported. During 1942 and 1943 virtually all Jews who had been unable to get away or to go into hiding were transported to the concentration camps and the gas chambers in Eastern Europe. More than 100,000 of them never returned.

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