Reviewed by Boudewijn Rempt on March 16, 2003
The United States might — arrogantly — assume hegemony over the world, thinking it is the richest state, the last superpower, a nation with a manifest destiny, forget that the rest of the world pays it five hundred billion dollars a year, making them the best paid mercenaries in history, they still do not know what war is, what occupation is.
- Author: N/A
- Title: Aanzien 40-45 — vijf jaar bezetting in Nederland en België
- Pages: 215
- Published: 1975
- Publisher: Amsterdam Boek
We do. We, the European states who have bled during two world wars. Who have paid more than a symbolic price (war bonds anyone?) for our liberty. We know what happens when a foreign nation conquers your nation, your country. Tramples your customs and installs a government that conforms to its ideals. We’ve had Seyss-Inquart.
It’s a fashion nowadays to say that the Dutch during the war did nothing to hinder or obstruct the Germans. That the actions of the resistance were occasional displays of misplaced heroism. That our people did not hide enough Jews; that too many men willingly went to Germany for the Arbeitseinsatz. That our people were cowards, and that there was nothing to be proud of in our conduct during the the war.
Mostly by historians who weren’t there, though. Who, having read their primary and secondary sources, in the comfort of their studies achieve a detached and considered conclusion.
Well, fuck them all. What they (re-)construct doesn’t tally with the memory of my grandparents, of my parents. My mother’s father escaped from his Kriegsgefangenenlager in Poland and walked back to Amsterdam. (Americans, please put your ruler on your map of the world, and calculate.) My father’s father’s father hid onderduikers in the attic of his
Sure, there were a lot of Quislings. No one ever said anything else; and in this book a lot of attention is given to the traitors. And their fate. Aanzien 40-45 is still war propaganda, though, even if it was published thirty years after the fact. Fifty years after the war people started to forget how bad it had been…
And who will be considered Quislings in Iraq? Saddam’s cronies? Or the government in exile? I am sure that the Iraqis in Baghdad feel oppressed; but will they be any less oppressed when their country is occupied by Americans? (Or, more likely, by German and Dutch troops, once the Yankees have gone, as they have in Afghanistan. We might pay the USA a lot of money, they never deliver, in the end.)
Bitter? Yes. I wish my grandparents had been ready to talk about the war before they died. But the experience was too much for them. Even my mother, born in 1939 never talks about the war, even though she assures me she remembers altogether too much about it.