THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Protestant Church in the Netherlands will admit for the first time that it stayed silent as anti-Semitism rose before and during World War II, a report said on Thursday.
The confession is set to be made public next month at the 82nd anniversary of the “Kristallnacht” pogrom, when pro-Nazi mobs torched and ransacked synagogues and Jewish businesses across Germany, the Christian newspaper Trouw reported.
“We fell short in speaking out and by staying silent in actions and omissions, in our attitude and in our thoughts,” the paper quoted Protestantse Kerk Nederland secretary Rene de Reuver as saying as part of a prepared speech.
“During the war years, Church authorities often lacked the courage to choose the side of the Jewish inhabitants of our country,” De Reuver said.
Less than one third of the 140,000 Jews who lived in the Netherlands survived World War II. Many citizens as well as the Dutch police and railways actively conspired with their Nazi overlords to round up Jews and deport them to death camps during WWII.
This included the diarist Anne Frank, who was arrested in 1944 after two years in hiding and sent Germany where she died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp aged 15, just before the end of the war.
The Church will not offer an apology, choosing instead to admit its guilt for not doing more to prevent racial hatred from being spread against Jews.
“Guilt is the deepest word you can use for failure,” De Reuver said.
“We do not distance ourselves from the past, but we take our responsibility and acknowledge our mistakes.”
The Church’s admission follows a first-ever official apology for the Dutch government’s wartime persecution of Jews, made earlier this year by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Former prime minister Wim Kok apologized in 2000 for the “icy welcome” Nazi camp survivors received on their return to the Netherlands, which the Nazis occupied from 1940-1945.
Some 15 percent of the Dutch population or around 2.5 million people are protestant according to the government’s Central Statistics Bureau (CBS).
Of these, the Protestantse Kerk Nederland is the largest representative body and is a member of the World Council of Churches.