Last month, the president of the Netherlands’ Red Cross visited Israel to apologize formally for the organization’s conduct during the German occupation of the country. He was moved to do so by a recent book on the subject written by Regina Grüter, which assembles much evidence to prove what Dutch Jews themselves have long believed, as Ofer Aderet writes. (Free registration may be required.)
At the beginning of 1941, when the order came to stop accepting blood donations from Jews, the Dutch Red Cross accepted the decree . . . and didn’t send a protest letter. In February of that year, when 427 Jews were arrested in Amsterdam and sent to Buchenwald, the Dutch Red Cross sent a letter to the German occupying authorities wondering whether the organization was allowed to send packages to these Jews. The answer was as one would expect: it was forbidden to help Jews. The Red Cross simply accepted the order and sent aid packages only to non-Jewish Dutch political prisoners.
When in late 1941 the Germans ordered that all Jewish volunteers be dropped from the Red Cross, the group [again] followed these orders without a word. And the archives contain not one mention of any attempt to oppose these orders, or any underground attempts by the group to help Jews.
The research also didn’t uncover any evidence of discussions among the group’s leaders about the fate of the Dutch Jews. Grüter’s book leaves the impression that the Red Cross people acted as mere bureaucrats who carried out the Nazi occupiers’ orders to the letter and never tried to make things hard for the Germans—in clear violation of their role as aid workers. . . . “They weren’t anti-Semites, they were simply neutral,” Grüter says.