The Destruction of the Dutch Jews –Jacob Presser Excerpts
Translated by Arnold Pomerans:
Nowhere has the progressive corruption of a “good society” and the destruction of a people within that society been told more clearly and completely than in the pages of this impressive book. The author, a distinguished Dutch historian, himself a Jew, lived through the events he describes, and his own personal story is woven into the narrative.
“This book tells the story of murder,” Dr. Presser writes, “of murder aforethought and in cold blood.” But though murder is the story’s end, its beginning is almost unremarkable, the typical Nazi take-over of the administrative apparatus of the country after the brutal but brief invasion in May of 1940.
Extracts from approximately 20 pages dealing with Calmeyer:
People have argued for and against Calmeyer’s conduct. The writer of this work, for one, has not the least doubt that Calmeyer was skating on exceedingly thin ice, that he was working under duress and that, had he gone any further than he did, he would, in fact, have jeopardized what little help he was able to give the Jews.
It is quite clear, for instance, that particularly after the beginning of the deportation, Calmeyer was inundated with so many obviously bogus applications that there was little he could do about them. In any case, Seuss-Inquart had decided to set an early terminal date for these applications – December 1942. Those who were “in doubt” about their descent after that date were too late. Subsequent investigations could take place only on the initiative of German departments, or where “the public” (read, an informer) had lodged a complaint that someone had failed to register the full extent of his Jewish origin.
Another factor worked against Calmeyer. “Aryanized” Jews, i.e. Jews who turned out not to be Jewish after all, had the right to ask for the return of all their assets from Lippmann, Rosenthal & Company. Needless to say, the Germans were reluctant to allow this to happen, and spilled much ink on the subject. One of their memorands, dated July 27, 1943, deals with the case of a prominent Jew, an ex-member of the Jewish Council and, moreover, married to a Jewish woman. It was indeed a “strange case”: the man, now become an Aryan, asked for the return of his assets, including objets d’art, etc., while his wife demanded that her estate be transferred to their daughter – now a half-Jewess. Lippmann, though “naturally” convinced that the authorities had looked into the matter very carefully, could not help expressing his “utter astonishment” that this man “who until this day has played a leading role among local Jews and most probably belongs to the Jewish faith, should quite suddenly have discovered his Aryan origins”. And Lippmann was right to be bewildered for, as he went on to point out, the man had at least one Jewish parent, was married to a Jewess and must in all conscience be regarded as fully Jew. Imagine …………………………. married to a Jewess, wo declared that not only had he an Aryan mother but also (and this had been a secret all along) an Aryan father, who had died in 1898. It was exclusively on the oath (lippmann underlined these words) of the mother that this man had been declared an Aryan, and this without even a blood test and despite the fact that the man made an “unequivocally Jewish impression”.
Small wonder then that German doubts of Calmeyer’s competence increased day by day. On May 27, 1943, they ordered a complete re-examination of the list of “Calmeyer Jews”, many of whom had been found to be of “a pronounced Galician type”. This was not as yet a direct attack on Calmeyer, but certainly served as a warning. A “highly confidential” document from the Spring of 1944 was more directly critical of Calmeyer’s work and ordered a full examination of his activities; unfortunately for the Germans, the destruction of the Central Population Registry by the Royal Air Force on April 11, 1944, made this extremely difficult. Another document, dated July 5, 1944, signed by Dr. K.G.E.Schoengarth, Commander of the Security Police, again referred to the necessity of “unmasking the many full-Jews who, by all sorts of manipulation, have succeeded in passing themselves off as Aryans or part-Aryans in the Netherlands:, and of exposing the “extensive swindle” that enabled several thousand people to “run about the Netherlands as unrecognized Jews”. In a document of August 14, 1944, Zoepf, too, spoke of countless cases in which deception was suspected, and ordered the setting up of a committee of three. The reader will see later why nothing came of this.
Calmeyer was in charge of a whole department, which Herzberg had described with a measure of irony. Among his assistants were some who were rabid anti-Semites. However, there were also quite a few staunch anti-Nazis, chief among them Dr. G. Wander, who was later shot by his compatriots. Wander deserves special mention. [author’s note: Dr. Wander also was named by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile]…
This brings us to the actual figures. Of the many lists and interim reports compiled by the busy Registry, that dated March 20, 1943 strikes us as most detailed, and we shall accordingly quote from it. At the time, 2,197 cases were being investigated. Of these 1,362 had been decided: 25 per cent had been declared full-Jews, 50 per cent half-Jews and 25 per cent quarter-Jews and Aryans. In other words, Calmeyer had rejected one in four of the applicants. Of the remaining 837, 196 were in Westerbork, 31 in Vught, 220 were at large in the Northern, Southern, and Eastern Provinces, and 338 in Amsterdam and the Western Provinces. The report added that it would take many months to decide their cases. It came to the curious conclusion that it would be inadvisable to send these people to a "Jewish camp" because ... if their applications were successful, they would have to be restored to them and this would cause great difficulty. In the circumstances, such persons had best be left where they were, or else be concentrated into Amsterdam. There seems little doubt that Calmeyer was behind this advice, and that he intended to give those concerned every opportunity to go into hiding.
The records contain many reports of the courageous attitude of a number of lawyers; one finds nothing but praise for such men as Nijgh in the Hague and Kotting and Van Proosdij in Amsterdam. At the age of only twenty-one, the latter displayed a level of reckless audacity which is well-nigh incredible. It was a very great privilege indeed to meet Van Proosdij after the war and to hear him discuss his anti-German activities. The Dutch Bench as a whole cooperated as well: "It admitted quite irrelevant evidence and declarations about adulterous relationships, when everyone - advocates, judges, and clerks - knew that the whole thing was nothing but perjury."
By a fortunate chance, things became still more complicated, and hence more impenetrable. While Calmeyer was on holiday, Dr. Wander had to solve a particularly thorny problem. We saw that those granparents were considered as full-Jews who had been members of a Jewish congregation. Was this a disputable or an indisputable legal fact? Dr. Wander decided that though it was the latter in Germany, it would have to be the former in the Netherlands. For instance, if it could be proved that one such grandparent, thougha member of a Jewish congregation, was himself the child or grandchild of an Aryan, then he could not have been a full-Jew and his grandchild could no longer be said to have had four Jewish grandparents. "And Wander assumed that whoever had three Aryan great- grandparents and was thus three-sixteenths Aryan could not be regarded as a Jew. This decision meant salvation for quite a few families."
All sorts of other complications were discovered, for instance the relatively simple case of the "full Aryan widow" who alleged that vshe had joined the Jewish congregation simply to get financial help for her son's studies. There was also the case of the man with two Aryan grandparents on the father's side who, in 1866, became converted to Judaism in order to be eligible for a bequest. Their son, though racially a "pure Aryan", remained a Jew by religion and married an Aryan Roman Catholic according to the Jewish rite. Their grandson, though a full-Aryan by race, was nevertheless circumcised. He cared nothing for his religion but had married a Jewess in Munich. He now wished to volunteer for the Hermann Goering "Ack-Ack Regiment", to which Calmeyer replied: " This accumulation of Jewish influences, although not of Jewish blood, is remarkable."
This was the sort of thing Calmeyer had to deal with, and if he was not of the race of Solomon he certainly needed that king's proverbial wisdom. What, for instance, was he to make of the following expostulation by Van Proosdij after the step-daughter of . . . had been refused "Aryanization" by Calmeyer. "This happened shortly before Christmas and so I exclaimed: 'You are not Herod!' A conversation followed, during which OI labored the Christmas message, until in the end I obtained the 'Aryanization'." On another occasion, Van Proosdij was dealing with "a man, a woman and two children, not a very preposessing lot, but with all their papers in order. Calmeyer refused their application. I burst into tears and Calmeyer said to me: 'They must be friends of yours.' I replied: 'No, they are a rotten lot, but it's an outrage all the same.' Decision revoked, more people saved . . ."
Unfortunately Calmeyer was not the only one who made such decisions. At Westerbork, Van Proosdij tells us , Gemmeker (the Camp Commandant) himself used to screen the applicants for 'Aryanization'; hisstandards were highly personal, for when it came to women he went chiefly by the hips . . .
Another busy advocate, Dr. Benno Stokvis, had this to say: "I well remember a case in which Calmeyer - who was often unpredictable - hesitated for a long time. It was that of Ruth P., a sixteen-year-old-girl. When for the umpteenth time I looked sadly through her papers I had an inspiration. Had not Ruth the Moabitess been adopted into Israel through a stranger? I had got it ! The Jewish couple had chosen the name Ruth symbolically, to show that she was adopted and not Jewish by birth. Calmeyer was enthusiastic, and imediately gave a favorable opinion." If only Calmeyer had always had the final word !