Israeli President Attends Opening of Dutch Holocaust Museum, Sparking Protests

The opening was also attended by King Willem-Alexander and other world leaders.

A pro-Palestinian demonstration during the opening of the Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands on March 10, 2024. Held near the museum at Waterlooplein market, the protest witnessed heavy security presence amid widespread public anger. Photo by Mouneb Taim/Anadolu via Getty Images.

The Netherlands opened its National Holocaust Museum on Sunday with a ceremony attended by Israeli president Isaac Herzog, whose presence sparked protests over the the war in Gaza.

The Amsterdam museum is the nation’s first dedicated to the Holocaust. Of the estimated 140,000 people who were Jewish in the Netherlands during World War II, about 102,000—or 75 percent—were deported to camps and murdered by the Nazis. The museum chronicles the lives of those deported as well as the history of their persecution under German occupation before the deportations began.

“All of the Jewish people are bound together. That’s how I felt this morning in a moving meeting with leaders of the Jewish community in The Netherlands, and with students of the Jewish schools in Amsterdam,” Herzog said in a statement on social media. “The Jewish people experienced the darkest of times in the Netherlands, but also saw wonderful achievements and times of prosperity. Today, the connection between the State of Israel and the Jewish people, the strength of the present and future leaders of the community here in the Netherlands, is testament to our strength as a people and of our ability to overcome, together, in the face of evil.”

Pro-Palestine protesters are gathering at Waterlooplein, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on March 10, 2024. Photo: Oscar Brak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Herzog also used the protest-music-derived phrase “Am Yisrael Chai,” which is used to express solidarity with the Israeli state. And in remarks at the event, he drew attention to the war with allegations that “hatred and antisemitism are flourishing worldwide.”

According to the Associated Press, thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters had gathered at the Waterloo Square in central Amsterdam, near the museum and the city’s Portuguese Synagogue. Waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Never again is now,” the demonstrators called for an end of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The Dutch media outlet De Telegraaf reported that some protesters climbed onto police vans, and riot police beat them away as they threw fireworks and eggs,

Some who gathered in Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter were Jewish themselves and waved Palestinian flags or signs that read “Jews against genocide” and “The grandchild of a Holocaust survivor says: Stop Gaza Holocaust,” according to BBC reports.

“We understand that the arrival of the President of Israel raises questions and emotions among many at precisely this time, during the war in Israel and Gaza,” the National Holocaust Museum said in a statement ahead of the event. “As head of state, President Herzog represents the homeland of Dutch Holocaust survivors who emigrated to Israel after World War II to build a new future.”

The Gaza Health Ministry said Monday that 31,112 people have been killed in the Palestinian enclave and another 72,760 people have been injured since October 7. Hundreds more have been killed in the West Bank. Of the victims in Gaza, 72 percent were described as women or children.

The new museum sits on the site of a former daycare and teaching college where 600 children were smuggled to safety during World War II. King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands also attended the opening event, flanked by Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and the president of the German Federal Council, Manuela Schwesig.

“[The museum] gives a face and a voice to the Jewish victims of persecution in the Netherlands,” King Willem-Alexander said in his address at the ceremony on Sunday. It also “shows us the devastating consequences that antisemitism can have,” he added.

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