As is the case with most modern, democratic, tolerant societies, it is impossible to describe the Netherlands using absolutes. During World War II there were those who resented to outright resisted the occupation, those who sought merely self-preservation, and those who sympathized with National Socialism. Indeed, this pluralism—the very feature of Dutch society that allowed a Jewish community to thrive—is a recurring theme in a study of the Netherlands during World War II. Varying situations and views led Dutch citizens to have varying experiences during the war, which in turn led to varying world perspectives. The extreme decisions Dutchmen, and indeed all Europeans were faced with during the Second World War revealed the values at the heart of an individual’s character more than any national character. It is impossible to speculate as to how one might react in such a situation, and thus impossible to place blame on most people caught in the middle of the war.
The history of the Netherlands in World War II is rife with apparent inconsistencies, again because of the pluralism and individualism of Dutch society. The following research, conducted in the United States and Netherlands under a grant from the Harvard-Westlake School, seeks to answer how a country known for its tolerance could have incurred one of the proportionally greatest losses of its minority Jewish population. It seeks common threads in war
“One simple Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who suffered as she did, but whose faces have remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is better that way: if we were capable of taking in the suffering of all those people, we would not be able to live.”