The Court of Amsterdam held a sitting today, 28 May 2019, to hear the appeal made by a number of local residents against the environmental permit issued for the construction of the Holocaust Monument of Names, even though the objections had already been dismissed by the Legal Affairs committee. This regrettable and costly affair has caused an unnecessary delay.
In attendance on behalf of the Netherlands Auschwitz Committee were Zoni Weisz, a member of the board for many years, and chairman Jacques Grishaver, who read a short personal statement, which you can read here blow or listen to on the video (Dutch spoken).
My name is Jacques Grishaver. I am chairman of the Netherlands Auschwitz Committee.
As a small boy during the war, I had to go into hiding on Linnaeusdwarsstraat, a narrow side-street off Middenweg here in Amsterdam. Most of my family were deported and killed, in Sobibor. I go there every year on tours that I guide to the former Nazi camps in Poland.
Auschwitz. Birkenau. Majdanek. Sobibor.
I stand on the train platform at Sobibor, year after year, for the past thirty years. And every year, I stand there crying.
Beside me here is Zoni Weisz.
Who doesn’t know Zoni's story? Zoni is Sinti. Zoni’s father was killed in Mittelbau-Dora. His mother, sisters and brother in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Zoni was miraculously spared the gas chambers. Zoni has been a member of the Auschwitz Committee for a long time.
In 2006, thirteen years ago now, the Auschwitz Committee proposed to build a monument of names. A monument in memory of the more than 102,000 Jews and more than 200 Roma and Sinti. A monument that would bear all their names. One by one. Every single individual.
Over time, more and more people embraced our proposal, which took more concrete shape every year.
In 2011, Daniel Libeskind came to the Netherlands to deliver the Auschwitz Never Again lecture. In the conversations around that event, he spontaneously offered his services.
We were delighted with that. A fantastic artist, himself a child of Auschwitz survivors. We couldn’t have hoped for a better match.
As initiator, the Auschwitz Committee therefore had great pleasure and complete confidence in appointing Studio Libeskind to design the monument. The result is a truly remarkable design that has already been enthusiastically received both nationally and internationally.
And naturally, like all big projects of this kind, there are people who don’t agree with the site or who think that the design isn’t beautiful, people who would have preferred another type of monument, or no monument at all, or another process. Naturally, there are differing opinions, even within the Jewish community and among Roma and Sinti people. Everybody has a right to their own opinion. Nothing wrong with that. But we should see things in their proper proportions. Hundreds of thousands of people support this monument of names, and feel that after 13 years, it’s time to start construction.
Even after Amsterdam city council twice voted unanimously in favour of it, even after a committee spent half a year considering and dismissing all objections, we are standing here today. This fills us with sadness and a profound sense of shame.
Shame because every, and I really mean every, opportunity has been seized upon to derail and obstruct the realization of the monument.
The group of direct relatives for whom this monument is so important is getting older and older, and may not live to see its completion.
Look at us, at Zoni and at me. Old men, who have to stand before a court to argue for something that should have existed long ago.
Our wonderful proposal has been scorned, sullied and dragged through the mud. I don’t know what has inspired this opposition, but I was recently approached by a journalist from Berlin for an interview. It later emerged that he was a Neo-Nazi who used this so-called interview to befoul the Monument of Names on YouTube and ridicule commemorating the Holocaust.
The many-headed monster called antisemitism is increasingly appearing around Europe in brazen fashion. Holocaust deniers are finding more and more opportunities to spread their lies. That’s why it’s so important that now, at last, 75 years after the war, Amsterdam can make an unavoidable and grand gesture that keeps the memory alive, and the country will show: 'never again'.
It is high time, your honour, high time.
(A decision is expected within six weeks.)
Everyone can help realize the Dutch Holocaust Memorial of Names.
Please find out what way of donating suits you the best.