Netherlands / 29-07-2013

150 Dutch teen cyclists visit Nazi transit camp Westerbork


Some 150 teenagers from The Netherlands visited Westerbork, a transit camp for Holocaust victims, in an activity designed to combat recent expressions of antisemitism in the city’s schools.


The teens from the eastern Netherlands city of Arnhem arrived at Kamp Westerbork on bicycles on Thursday carrying white roses provided to them by the organizers of the activity, which was planned in cooperation with the Jewish community of Arnhem.


They left the roses on the railway track of the camp, from which approximately 100,000 Jews were transported to Nazi death camps. Among the notable inmates at Westerbork was the teen diarist Anne Frank, who with her family was sent to Auschwitz.


Holland’s chief interprovincial rabbi, Binyomin Jacobs, told JTA that the teens reacted emotionally to the experience.


“I told them what happened to children just like them in Westerbork and I also told them ‘Shalom’ means ‘hi’ but also ‘peace,’ and they all said ‘shalom’ when we parted — some of them with tears in their eyes,” Jacobs told JTA.


In February, Dutch television aired interviews with high school students from Muslim homes in the Arnhem area in which the students expressed antisemitic views. One interviewee said he was “happy about what [Adolf] Hitler did to the Jews.”


The interviews prompted the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, a watchdog on antisemitism, to request the government study and address the problem of antisemitism in schools. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he would launch a plan “to discuss antisemitism with young people.”


The visit was organized by the Arnhem Jewish community and those responsible for the Uncle Joop Tour, an annual 310-mile bicycle trip that was first held in 1950.


It was the first time the tour passed through Westerbork, but Jacobs said it could become an annual event.