Jewish leaders outraged that German ambassador to Netherlands to visit graves of Nazis
Germany’s ambassador to the Netherlands is slated to attend a commemoration at a cemetery where many SS soldiers are buried, causing outrage in the Jewish community.
Ambassador Franz Josef Kremp is supposed to attend the commemoration on November 16 at the Ysselsteyn cemetery near Eindhoven in the eastern Netherlands, a cemetery for victims of World War II. He is, according to a Wednesday report by the Dutch De Telegraaf daily, aware that it contains the remains of SS soldiers.
Herman Loonstein, founder of the Federative Jewish Netherlands group and a Jewish activist against commemoration in the Netherlands of Nazis and soldiers who fought for Germany, told the daily: “I think this is an affront. Mr. Kremp should not be presenting SS soldiers as victims. Jews were the victims.”
De Telegraaf reported that it had obtained a letter written by Kremp about the Ysselsteyn cemetery – where neo-Nazis have gathered in the past to honor Nazi soldiers buried there – in which he stated: “Among the dead resting here are German and Dutch war casualties, including Waffen SS.” The report did not say to whom the letter was addressed and in what context.
The Waffen SS was an elite Nazi unit whose men were responsible for the murder of countless Jews during the Holocaust.
The Netherlands, which saw heavy battles between soldiers fighting for Nazi Germany and Allied forces, has many cemeteries where combatants from both camps are buried.
In recent years, Jewish groups like Loonstein’s have protested an emerging trend, in which commemorations are extended not only to the Allied forces’ casualties and Holocaust victims, but also to the German soldiers. Organizers of such events have justified them as promoting reconciliation.
The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, the Dutch Jewish community’s watchdog on anti-Semitism, has criticized this practice, warning it blurs the line between victim and perpetrator.
“At a time when anti-Semitism is at a record level across Europe, and when German Chancellor Merkel has publicly committed Germany to take a leadership role in combating anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, it is simply unacceptable that the German ambassador should bow his head in respect to 3,000 members of the Waffen SS,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper and chief Nazi hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff said, urging Kremp to refrain from participation in the ceremony.
The cemetery has “been the site of recent neo-Nazi demonstrations where young bigots carried swastika flags and paraded with the black banners of the SS,” the pair noted.
“German official policy is crystal clear on the horrors of the Nazi regime, and we are shocked by reports that the ambassador would consider blurring it,” Anti-Defamation League head Abraham Foxman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. “German officials should not memorialize those who fought for the Nazi regime.”
Such participation gives the impression that this type of commemoration is condoned by German authorities, European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor told the Post.
“This sends a very worryingly confusing message which blurs the line between victims and perpetrators. Especially as Holocaust revision is gaining ground in some circles, we expect the German government to instruct the ambassador not to attend such an event,” he said.