Writing after Hitler: The Work of Jakov Lind

By Andrea Hammel; Silke Hassler et al. | Go to book overview

2
Jewish Refugees in the Netherlands and the
Art of Survival

JOHANNES HOUWINK TEN CATE

IN ‘School for politics’, the second chapter of his autobiography Counting my Steps, Jakov Lind has described his youthful experiences as a refugee in the Netherlands during the Second World War and his personal reactions to the twofold Jewish dilemma under the German occupation. This memoir of political education is a radical and at times shocking account by an author who tends to portray himself as a cynical individualist. It describes how a young socialist Zionist from Vienna managed to survive the Nazi-organized deportations of the Jews. The author stresses his lack of allegiance to orthodox Judaism and even mocks the ‘lambsto-the-slaughter’ mentality of many Dutch Jews, who waited for the police to come to arrest them ‘like any family that waits for the bride of their son’ (CMS 92). By contrast, the young Lind (there is only a brief allusion to the fact that his original name was Landwirth; CMS 54) decided to go underground, assuming the identity of a Dutchman named Jan Gerrit Overbeek and obtaining forged identity papers. Posing as Overbeek, he even became an employee of the Air Ministry of the Third Reich in January 1945 – an act of daring which is probably without parallel.

The prospects for survival for Jews who remained in the Netherlands were extremely poor. More than 76 per cent of the Jews living in that country were deported, compared with a figure of 40 per cent in Belgium and 25 per cent in France (Hirschfeld 1991:165). These figures show how exceptional Lind’s experiences actually were, since less than a quarter of the Jews in the Netherlands survived the German occupation. That he was helped by others is something that Lind certainly acknowledged when he came to write his autobiography twenty-five years later, but his perspective

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