The Dutch Red Cross offered its “deep apologies” Wednesday for failing to do enough to protect and help Jews during World War II, after being sharply criticised by a respected research institute.
“The war years are undoubtedly a black stain on the pages of our 150-year history,” said Red Cross chairwoman Inge Brakman, regretting the “lack of courage” the organisation had shown during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands.
“We have offered our deep apologies to the victims and their relatives,” she said, adding that the organisation “acknowledges the mistakes made during and after the war”.
In a study commissioned by the Dutch Red Cross, the Amsterdam-based NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide studies found there was “a serious shortfall in the help given to persecuted Jews in The Netherlands.”
“Dutch political prisoners in camps outside the Netherlands also had to go mostly without the help of the Red Cross,” the study concluded.
The results were presented in a book by NIOD historian Regina Grueter, launched in Amsterdam after a four-year investigation.
The organisation’s headquarters “made things too easy for the occupiers,” said the current Dutch Red Cross director Gijs de Vries.
“They never spoke about the persecution of the Jews and docilely followed the occupiers’ instructions.”
The body is now setting up a new ethics committee to ensure the organisation adheres to its principles, and to “learn the lessons of the past.”
Of about 140,000 Jews known to live the country at the start of World War II, only about 30,000 survived. A total of 107,000 were interned in Camp Westerbork, in the northeast of the country, before being transported to Nazi concentration camps in other countries.
Perhaps the best known Dutch victim was Jewish diarist Anne Frank who hid in an Amsterdam house from the Nazis, before being betrayed and sent to Bergen-Belsen in 1944, dying of typhus in March 1945, just weeks before the camp was liberated.