1945- The inadmissible reception of Holocaust survivors by European democracies

1945- The inadmissible reception of the survivors by the European democracies. 

They did not receive any of the special attention that their state of deep distress served. At times they were subjected to Nazi-style anti-Semitic statements. This must be remembered.

In Western Europe the number of Jewish survivors of the death camps back home does not exceed 15,000. 1] [1] 5,450 deported Jews returned to the Netherlands. 2] [2] 6,500 if one adds the Jews in the Dutch camp of Westerbork. 3] [3] 3,500 returned to France, 5,000 with the 1,500 prisoners in Drancy. [4] [4]

In Belgium, the number of returning deportees is 1,335. This figure rises to 5,900 if one includes Jews deported or interned in camps or prisons in Belgium, France and Holland. ] [5] One would have thought that with these unfortunately very modest numbers, their countries of origin could have organized a reception that would have been commensurate with the suffering they had endured. This was not the case.

In all three democracies, the authorities refused any help or special consideration to Jewish survivors.

In Amsterdam, for example, a Jewish organization reports that “all categories (of returnees) are treated equally. “6] [6] This attitude should not be surprising when a leader of the Dutch government in exile in London declared: “We are not like the Nazis, we do not differentiate between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. “» [7] [7]

The Belgians refuse any advantage to Jewish survivors, because this would have meant the recognition of the “Jewish question”, which must absolutely be avoided. Jews should only be distinguished from the rest of society by religion.

In France, the position of the law of August 8, 1945 makes all discriminatory measures against Jews null and void. Consequently, the French authorities responded to Jewish organizations requesting preferential treatment: “We are coming out of four years of racism, don’t be racist yourselves…. The French government does not recognize any distinct Jewish problem. “9] [9] It treats returning Jewish deportees like others. And yet, paradoxically, survivors have been registered several times with the mention “Jew” on their repatriation card upon arrival in Paris or Amsterdam.

And how to accept the ostracism that some survivors were victims of. German Jews who became stateless after leaving the Reich in the 1930s were deported from the Netherlands during the occupation.

In June 1945, they were repatriated from Bergen-Belsen. The Dutch authorities imprisoned them as Germans with SS and Dutch National Socialists in the Vilt camp, near Maastrich. [11] [11]

In France, foreign Jews were arrested because they had false papers dating back to the time of their clandestinity. They managed to escape from the Gestapo and, after the Liberation, several of them were interned at Camp Drancy among collaborators. [12] [12]

At the Liberation of the Jewish transit camp of Westerbork in Holland 896 Jews were there. On May 24th there were still 300, on July 7th 120. The process of control by the Dutch authorities is long, much too long! [13] [13]

Governments unanimously consider that aid is the responsibility of national Jewish communities and their organizations. They are the ones who must take care of returning Jewish survivors, the authorities believing that they have no responsibility in this regard beyond what they do for other deportees. Large Jewish communities survived in these countries. They quickly set up relief organizations. Aid to the Israelite victims of the war in Belgium in October 1944. The Jewish Coordination Committee in the Netherlands in January 1945. 14] [14] In France the Jewish Committee for Social Action and Reconstruction. [15] [15]

In addition to a bad reception that is difficult to admit, there is also an unbearable anti-Semitic atmosphere. The reading of the Christian Democrat newspaper Het Volk dated April 30, 1946, bears witness to this: “It is incredible how many foreigners are living illegally in Belgium at the moment. …. Before the war, 75,000 Jews resided in Belgium and now, despite their persecution by the Germans, there are still at least 40,000 to 50,000…. One must hope for a broad sweep,…” [16] [16]

Even a country like the Netherlands, known before the war for the weakness of its anti-Semitism, is affected by this cancer.

In 1944, a report submitted to the London government by a resistance organization stated: “As an objective the re-establishment of a Jewish community is both incorrect and undesirable…. There is no room for separate moral recognition. “17] [17] A letter published on April 4, 1945 by Vrij Nederland reflects the attitude of part of the Dutch population. The Jews “are using all their energy and influence to help each other … the time has come to show that we do not want to be invaded again. “» [18] [18]

In the spring of 1945, a Dutch author wrote in a book: “Of course the Jewish problem is a burning issue, but those who seek a solution through hatred and envy have rejected Christian love… Of course, the Christian world will have to wage its struggle against Jewish hegemony, but it will be a struggle according to its own principles. “» [19] [19]

One remains confused by such positions and it is not the agreed-upon words of Prime Minister Pieter Gerbrandy that will change things. On April 13, 1945 in Eindhoven, when asked about his position on anti-Semitism, he replied: “It is inadmissible. I can’t understand how anyone can be anti-Semitic. It is not Christian, our Jews have suffered in the most horrible way. “20] [20] Beyond soothing words, Christians have shown their solidarity. “At the first service held at the Amsterdam synagogue in May 1945, four-fifths of the participants were non-Jews who came to express their sympathy for their Jewish neighbors,the American Jewish Yearbook reported. [21] [21]

The survivors hoped that the world that abandoned them to the Nazi executioners would take responsibility. All they were entitled to was pity. What they endured deserved recognition. They were indifferent. Jews were excluded from national recognition. It is reserved for Resistance fighters and deported politicians and, to a lesser extent, for prisoners of war.

Alain Finkieltkraut gives the reason for this: “The former members of the resistance wanted to distinguish themselves from the Jewish survivors. They emphasized that they had been deported for the actions they had carried out and not for who they were. “22] [22] They were sometimes called “the passive survivors,” forgetting the many Jews who resisted.

The world had not taken the measure of the “catastrophe” suffered by the Jewish community in Europe. The “destruction of the Jews”, as it is understood today with the terms “genocide”, “holocaust”, “shoah”, did not appear until years later. We must also await “the reversal of memories that went from the hegemony of resistant deportees during the first decades of the post-war period to the predominant attention paid to Jewish victims in the last decades of the 20th century. “» [24] [24]

At the end of August 1945, the dimension of the Shoah was still unknown and the victims were most often ignored. The survivors of the Shoah numbered 50,000 in the Western DP camps and hundreds of thousands in Eastern Europe. They will wait for years for “final deliverance”, forgotten by a world that refuses them, that excludes them.

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