Illustration and critique by: Chris Talbot-Heindl
Last November, we were shocked and dismayed that artworks confiscated by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s from Jewish families were being housed and horded by one vile family in their apartment. Hildebrand and Cornelius Gurlitt had kept stolen, rare, and important work locked away; continuing the dehumanizing of Jewish families after survivors had managed to endure the Nazi death camps.
Now, we find out that the violations carried over in many different ways for survivors – and not by just two sick and twisted individuals, but also by entire cities.
In Amsterdam, Holocaust survivors were forced to pay back taxes and late payment fines on their properties that were seized by the Nazis when they were taken to the death camps.
A college student working at the Amsterdam’s city archives uncovered this inhumanity in 2011. That student, Charlotte van den Berg, tried to get Amsterdam to go public with the information for years. In March 2013, she had heard that the documents were about to be destroyed and not wanting to risk a white wash of history, made that information public via the newspaper Het Parool.
After being violently seized and forced to leave their homes; after surviving places such as Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka; after being dehumanized with forced labor, starvation, exposure, brutality, and watching others being killed; after being rejected as refugees in every country (including the United States) as undesirables; after all that – coming home, miraculously still standing, to have to pay for the Nazis’ stay in your forcibly seized homes…
And to add further insult to injury, for seventy years these documents were known about! The idea that these city officials would be so callous in the first place to the survivors is unbelievable to me. The idea that today they would try and cover it up instead of owning up to the atrocities committed and formally apologize is unbelievable to me.
People often ask me why I have such a bleak outlook on the human race sometimes, and this has got to be the pinnacle point as to why. Instead of empathizing with the plight of a fellow human being, Amsterdam decided to see this as an opportunity to generate revenue post-war.
Seventy years later, and we are still learning of further and further atrocities committed against the Jewish people based on arbitrary “differentness.” The logic in me tells me this isn’t the last savagery we will uncover. I just hope that people are paying attention so this never happens again.