In the picture, Mr. Wethouder Bert van Alphen.
Text and pictures by John Dunkelgrün.
The end of January is an important time to remember the horrors of the Holocaust. It is 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, the most massive industrial murder machine the world has ever seen. For this occasion the National Committee Four and Five May had commissioned the design Studio Roosegaarde to design a monument to commemorate the 104,000 Dutch Jews, three quarters of the Dutch Jewish population at the time, who were deported and murdered.
The monument consists of 104,000 stones that were distributed to a great many cities and towns all over the country, where they were placed in a circle of light and where they will remain until February 2nd.
The Hague chose this occasion not just to commemorate the murdered Jews, but also the city’s Roma and Sinti, who were rounded up, deported and murdered.
The event started at the Library of the Municipal building, where Alderman (Wethouder) Bert van Alphen gave an impassioned impression of his visit to Auschwitz with a group of high school children. He recalled that, much as he knew about the horrors of the Shoa, he was unprepared for the vastness of these killing grounds.
Three of these teenagers recounted their impression of the visit, where they were awed in the presence of what until then had been as far away to them as anything they learned in their history lessons. One young girl came away with the conviction that her generation should ensure that such horrors would never happen again. Then Laura Renberg spoke for the Liberal Jewish Community in The Hague rendering the deportations more personal by telling the stories of several deported families.
After a musical interval by a trio from the Royal Gypsy Orchestra it was the turn of the Roma and Sinti. Helena Franchimont read from the memoires of het Mimi, her grandmother and Lalla Weisz related that on May 14th 1944, all 578 Roma and Sinti were rounded up. Luckily many carried Italian passports and were freed. The remaining 245 were deported to Auschwitz, interned in a special “Zigeunerlager” and murdered.
The several hundred people who had gathered at the Library then walked over to the Rabbijn Maarsenplein, where Rabbi Katzman conducted a short service at the Jewish Monument. This was followed by the speakers of the evening adding their “Stones of Light” to the ephemeral monument. The city derives credit for this styleful and inclusive ceremony.