“The war years are undoubtedly a black stain on the pages of our 150-year history,” Inge Brakman, chairwoman of the Dutch Red Cross, told the De Telegraaf daily. There was a “lack of courage” on the part of the organization during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, she said.
“We have offered our deep apologies to the victims and their relatives,” she said, adding that the organization “acknowledges the mistakes made during and after the war.” The Dutch Red Cross has apologized previously for its inaction on behalf of Jews.
In a study commissioned by the Dutch Red Cross, the Amsterdam-based NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies found there was “a serious shortfall in the help given to persecuted Jews in the Netherlands.”
“Dutch political prisoners in camps outside the Netherlands also had to go mostly without the help of the Red Cross,” the study concluded. But it also said the Red Cross had mounted considerable efforts for some prisoners, though not Jewish ones.
The results were presented in a book by NIOD historian Regina Grueter that was launched Tuesday in Amsterdam after a four-year investigation.
The organization’s headquarters “made things too easy for the occupiers,” said the current Dutch Red Cross director, Gijs de Vries.
Of about 140,000 Jews known to have lived in the country at the start of World War II, only about 30,000 survived. A total of 107,000 were interned in Camp Westerbork, in the northeast of the country, before being transported to Nazi concentration camps in other countries.