The Dutch Protestant Church made a far-reaching recognition of guilt Sunday for its failure to do more to help Jews during and after World War II and even for the church’s role in preparing "the ground in which the seeds of antisemitism and hatred could grow.”
The statement came at a solemn ceremony to mark Monday’s anniversary of the Nazis’ anti-Jewish Kristallnacht pogrom, or the “Night of Broken Glass.”
On November 9, 1938, Jews were terrorized throughout Germany and Austria. At least 91 people were killed, hundreds of synagogues burned down, around 7,500 Jewish businesses vandalized, and up to 30,000 Jewish men arrested, many of whom were taken away to concentration camps.
René de Reuver, speaking on behalf of the General Synod of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, said the church’s role began long before Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany.
“For centuries a rift was maintained that could later isolate the Jews in society in such a way that they could be taken away and murdered,” De Reuver said.
“Also in the war years, the ecclesiastical authorities often lacked the courage to choose a position for the Jewish citizens of our country,” he added.
More than 100,000 Dutch Jews — 70 percent of the Jewish community — didn’t survive World War II. Most were deported, along with Roma and Sinti, and killed in Nazi concentration camps.
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In a statement to the Netherlands’ Jewish community, de Reuver acknowledged that the recognition of guilt was long overdue, and said, “We hope it is not too late.”
“The church recognizes faults and feels a present responsibility,” he said. “Antisemitism is a sin against God and against people. The Protestant Church is also part of this sinful history.”
He acknowledged that the problems didn’t end with the Nazi defeat in 1945, noting problems with restitution of property to the Jewish community.
A rabbi also took part in Sunday’s ceremony, at which de Reuver promised that the Protestant Church would work to fight antisemitism going forward.