European Protestant

Dialogika Resources

Acknowledgement and Responsibility

on acknowledging guilt and our responsibility for the future


Kristallnacht Commemoration, 8 November 2020 ...

... at the end of this 75th year of our liberation, the Jewish community of The Netherlands will meet in Amsterdam for the November Pogroms Commemoration. On the night of 9 to 10 November, 1938, the unscrupulous mechanical murder campaign, which killed six million Jews in the following years, began with a first pogrom. But as Abel Herzberg wrote in his diary from Bergen Belsen: There were not six million Jews murdered; there was one murder, six million times. Other groups were also excluded, taken away and murdered.

The vastness of the sorrow the Shoah brought to the Jewish community and the depth of the pain felt by its survivors is inconceivable. A pain that will be carried and experienced by next generations. It is in recognition of that sadness and that pain that the Protestant Church in The Netherlands is addressing the Jewish community in our country. Never before has the Protestant Church sought dialogue with our Jewish interlocutors in this way. This taking place only in the 75th year of liberation is late. We hope it won’t be too late.

The Protestant Church in The Netherlands wants to acknowledge unreservedly that the Church helped to prepare the breeding ground in which the seeds of antisemitism and hatred were able to grow. For centuries, the gap that later enabled the isolation of the Jews in society in such a way that they could be taken away and murdered, was maintained. Even in the war years themselves, the church authorities often lacked courage to choose a position for the Jewish inhabitants of our country. This was in spite of incredibly courageous individual acts which, thank God, were also carried out by members of the churches. It is with gratitude that we remember those who had the courage to resist during the war.

The Protestant Church also recognises that the reception of the Jews who returned to our society after 1945 led to distressing situations. The problems encountered in returning war foster children to the Jewish community and in the restitution of property are painful examples of this.

In acknowledging all this, the church confesses guilt. Today, in particular, it does so towards the Jewish community. Because antisemitism is sin against God and against people. The Protestant Church is also part of this guilty history. We failed in speech and silence, in actions and omissions, in attitude and thought. May all the victims of the great horror have a memory and a name (Hebrew: Yad vaShem) in the heart of the Eternal One, the God of Israel. May all loved ones who are missed not be forgotten. As it is written:

Earth, cover not my blood, and let my cry for justice find no resting place. (Job 16:18)

We take it upon ourselves to do all we can to further develop Judaeo-Christian relations into a deep friendship of two equal partners, among others, linked in the fight against contemporary antisemitism.

General Synod of the Protestant Church in The Netherlands Dr René de Reuver, general secretary