On Februari 25th brave men began protesting against the prosecution of Jews in Amsterdam. Today this is 76 years ago as the events took place. About these events I wrote two poems: Dutch and English. I would like to take the time to share these poems with you. I would also like to take the time to share the background story behind the February Strike.
1942. The Netherlands was occupied by the Germans for almost two years. As of June 1940 the Nazis introduced a series of measures to isolate Jewish people from society. Amsterdam had a large number of Jews who lived in the city.
One of the first measures was the removal of Jews from all public positions. This led to a series of protests by students in Leiden. They felt the need to protest, when their teachers had to leave the Leiden University. Meanwhile the workers at the Amsterdam shipyards were concerned about the possibility that they had to move to Germany to work there.
Beginning in the thirties a nationalistic right wing party arose under the name Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging (NSB). This was a movement based on the German National-Socialistic party. The Dutch movement created a special section called Weerbaarheidsafdeling (WA) (Defence Section) and had no problems provoking Jews in Amsterdam and other cities. This ranged from invading stores to publicly humiliate Jews. This all led to a series of street battles between the WA and Jewish self-defence groups in the streets of Amsterdam. The Jews got help from communist fighters. When a member of the WA, Hendrik Koot, was wounded during one of these battles and died on February 1941, the Germans -assisted by the Dutch police- began to arrest people. The part of Amsterdam were many Jews lived, was sealed off using barbed wire. Everyone who needed to get out, had to go through checkpoints. Only Jews were allowed in this part of Amsterdam.
The immediate cause for the workers of the Amsterdam docks to go on strike was a raid on an ice cream salon in Amsterdam. Several innocent people were wounded on February 19th when the German Grüne Polizei stormed this establishment in the Van Woustraat. There were also a number of members of the police who got injured during this raid. Therefore the Germans ordered for another raid. 425 Jewish men were captured and were sent to prison in the Dutch concentration camp Kamp Schoorl. This was the first stop for them. They were later transported to Buchenwald and Mauthausen. Most of them died there. Only two men survived these horrors.
The answer to these events was a strike that broke out in the morning of February 25th. The Communist Party of The Netherlands was behind this strike. They opposed to the raids that took place earlier. Also the measures against Jewish people should stop. The strike spread from Amsterdam-Noord, where the ship docks were located, to the rest of the city. In other parts of the country people also began to strike. At least 300,000 people decided to join this protest.
Strong measures were called out by the Germans to prevent this strike from spreading. By February 27th the strike was broken. The February Strike formed the basis of other forms of protest beginning with the student strikes of November 1941. They were also the basis for a series of strikes that took place in 1943.
Eventhough the strike was unsuccesful, this was the only form of protest in occupied terroritory during World War Two in Europe against the nazis and the way they treated Jews.
Call for freedom
Cry against that demon
Brave men, on strike
against the Third Reich
Oppose against a raid,
but unable to aid
those who were send away
It shows bravery
to fight without victory,
against prosecution and slavery
Without the end to be near
and living in constant fear.
Read the Dutch version here.