The government considered the Dutch Auschwitz Committee an extremist group and communist front
The Dutch Domestic Security Service (BVD) surveilled Jewish citizens for decades after they returned from Auschwitz and other concentration camps, considering them potential threats to democracy, according to documents declassified last year by the National Archives and analyzed by Dutch outlet Het Parool on Saturday.
The BVD considered the Dutch Auschwitz Committee, founded in 1956 by survivors of the infamous Nazi camp, to be an extremist organization, based on the fact that its leaders were also members of the Communist Party of the Netherlands (CPN). Individual board members were spied on, and the BVD even embedded an informant in the organization, whose reports – included in the archival material – detail the group’s meetings and trips abroad to commemorate the liberation of the camps.
The modern successor of the BVD, the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), insisted in a statement on Saturday that Holocaust survivors “were not seen as a threat,” but that it was specifically the Dutch Auschwitz Committee that was considered a “communist front organization” meriting surveillance.
Several historical studies proved the organization was “dominated by communists,” the AIVD said, urging critics to recall that at the time of the surveillance, communism was considered “the great threat to national security.”
The agency said that while it would not comment on individual files, any “possible investigation into persons” should be viewed in a national security context. In a letter from the BVD to the minister of the interior contained in the archive, the agency’s representative argued that the Dutch Auschwitz Committee was actually run by prominent communist Gerrit Blom, with its nominal head, Jos Slagter, merely serving as “his stooge.” The CPN was also under surveillance during this period.
However, details of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee’s meetings considered pertinent by the BVD have raised eyebrows among its current members and the descendants of those surveilled. One memo describing a 1965 commemoration of Auschwitz at the Diligentia hall in The Hague lists the names of Jewish attendees, alongside the comment “Many Israelites among those present,” a detail current Dutch Auschwitz Committee chair Jacques Grishaver called “scandalous” in comments to Het Parool.
“What’s extremist about a bunch of old Jews who came out of the camp? Those people did a good job by drawing attention to the victims,” he remarked, describing the revelations as proof that the Dutch government neither expected nor wanted its Jewish citizens to return from their internment in Eastern Europe. While he acknowledged Blom had indeed sought to influence the Dutch Auschwitz Committee through Slagter, he insisted that only some of the organization’s members had ever joined the CPN and called its categorization as a communist front “unfair.”
December 27, 2023 at 03:50AM