Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has offered an apology to Holocaust survivors for the Netherlands’ passive role in the genocide during World War II, NOS reports.

In a speech at the National Holocaust Remembrance in Amsterdam, Rutte said that the Dutch government at the time had failed as a “guardian of justice and security” in the war. He said he wanted to apologise for the Dutch government’s actions (or lack of action) now, while the last Holocaust survivors were still living.

Rutte’s apology was a long time coming

But Rutte has long refused to make such a statement before. As far back as 2012, there were calls for the government to apologise to survivors of the Holocaust for the Dutch government’s role in it- calls mainly brought forward by the PVV. But at that time, Rutte chose to toe the line set by the de Kok cabinet of 2000, which only apologised for the way Holocaust survivors were treated after the war came to an end.

Former Prime Ministers Kok, Van Agt, De Jong, Lubbers and Balkenende with Prime Minister Rutte of the Netherlands. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Today is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz

The apology comes as we reach the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Russian army today. An estimated 1.1 million people died in the camp during the war, and it has become the ultimate symbol for the suffering of those targeted by the Nazi government.

“Too little protection. Too little help.”

When it comes to the Netherlands’ role in the Holocaust, Rutte admitted that it had been “… too little. Too little protection. Too little help. Too little recognition.” He praised those who had been willing to stand up to the Nazis and protect the Jews, homosexuals, Jehova’s Witnesses, disabled people, and others targeted by the regime. But, all in all, he said, there were “too many” Dutch officials who simply did the bidding of the occupying regime.

The Netherlands has placed a lot of emphasis on remembering the Holocaust in recent years, including through the construction of a new monument for Holocaust victims.

What are your thoughts on Rutte’s apology? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Feature image: Minister-president Rutte/Flickr

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