Shadows of the Holocaust in

Shadows of the Holocaust in Hilversum

Mr. Ernst Bakker, the mayor of Hilversum, a small town in the Netherlands, is now a hero of mine. He has refused a request from the Dutch Ministry of Justice to provide the Ministry with information about illegal aliens who don’t qualify for a ‘pardon’. The information would be used to round up the illegal aliens who don’t have any prospect of legalising their residency status in order to expel them from the country.

The heavy hand of history hovers in the background of this story. During World War II, about 75% of the pre-war 140,000 Jewish community in the Netherlands was murdered by the Nazis. One of the reasons for this Nazi success was that the modal Dutch public servant continued to ‘do his job’ during the war. Local officials helped identify the Jews, the local police assisted in rounding them up, Dutch train drivers drove the trains that took them to the camps. Dutch mayors, as heads of local administrations and heads of police were heavily implicated in this widespread support by inertia – born out of cowardice – for the Holocaust.

The Mayor appears to be aware that he is speaking for the dead. When asked: “Should a mayor not just implement the law”, he answers (emphasis added): “I don’t obstruct the law. It says nowhere that I have to pass on these data. That’s not what mayors are for. Even in peacetime.”

In 1940-45 in the Netherlands it was the Jews that were reported, identified through yellow stars, rounded up, shipped out and exterminated. Ordinary citizens going about their daily tasks as usual, in the mayor’s office, in the population registry, in the police force, in the Dutch transit camps, were a major and essential part of the machinery of evil. What will be the next group to be reported, rounded up and shipped out to God knows where: Muslims, Communists, Libertarians, sufferers from Alzheimer’s, those with serious birth defects?

If there are enough men and women with the moral fibre of Mr Bakker, it need not happen again.

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Maverecon: Willem Buiter

Willem Buiter's blog ran until December 2009. This blog is no longer active but it remains open as an archive.

Professor of European Political Economy, London School of Economics and Political Science; former chief economist of the EBRD, former external member of the MPC; adviser to international organisations, governments, central banks and private financial institutions.

Willem Buiter's website