AMSTERDAM (JTA) — A Dutch museum commemorating a Nazi concentration camp defended its plan to host there an event about the plight of modern-day refugees.
The plan by Memorial Center Camp Westerbork, which was announced last week, prompted an outcry by local Jews, who saw it as bordering on abuse of the memory of the Holocaust in a country where their community has never fully recovered from the genocide.
The museum advertised its hosting in June of an event titled “Night of the Refugee.” The event will feature a nocturnal walk of more than 100 miles to the northern city of Groningen from Westerbork, where most Dutch Jews murdered in the Holocaust were kept before they were sent to death camps in Eastern Europe.
The vice-chairman of the Dutch Central Jewish Board, CJO, Ronny Naftaniel said holding the event in Westerbork is inappropriate because it implies a comparison between refugeedom and the systemic annihilation of European Jewry.
But Museum Director Dirk Mulder said it is appropriate for Westerbork because the camp began in 1939 as a refugee facility set up for German Jews by the Dutch government. Only later, he noted, did the invading Nazis turn Westerbork into part of their extermination campaign.
Naftaniel rejected this explanation. The terror of being on a train departing from Westerbork and being on one arriving to it, he wrote on Twitter, “is incomparable.”