Plaques give context to Dutch cemetery where Nazis buried near victims

In the cemetery of the Dutch country town of Ysselsteyn, the bodies of Nazi soldiers lie alongside Dutch civilians and troops.
For some, this makes the Ysselsteyn a symbolic reminder of the horrors of war, and commemorations are held there annually. But others say the commemorations equate WWII victims with perpetrators like Julius Dettmann, the Nazi officer responsible for sending Anne Frank and her family to the death camps, who is buried in Ysselsteyn. In the past, German ambassadors to the Netherlands have attended the ceremonies.

On Sunday, a Dutch chief rabbi visited the site for the first time, marking a turning point in the public debate about the cemetery. New plaques were discovered, acknowledging that it is the burial place of war criminals.

Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, who has opposed the Ysselsteyn commemorations for years, said in a speech there that he had a “heavy feeling” upon arriving at the burial site of several soldiers from the elite Nazi Waffen SS unit. .

“I almost feel like a traitor, because this cemetery also contains horrible murderers who are responsible for 80% of my family not coming back,” he said.

A grave is seen in the Ysselsteyn German war cemetery in the Netherlands. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

He decided to come due to new measures taken by the Dutch War Grave Foundation, a non-profit organization responsible for maintaining the burial sites of war victims in the kingdom.

Jacobs said the measures taken at Ysselsteyn were “comprehensive, they did everything necessary, and that’s important because not doing so ran the risk of turning Ysselsteyn into a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis.”

The plaques were the result of conversations between the Foundation, Jacobs, and representatives of the Jewish community, many of whom have long protested the cemetery’s commemorations.

Jacobs’ speech received praise from Arthur Graaf, a longtime anti-commemoration activist in Ysselsteyn, a city 70 miles southeast of Amsterdam.

“The atrocities of the Holocaust [are] It is no longer silenced there and the role of many thousands of perpetrators killed in Ysselsteyn is no longer kept secret, ”Graaf wrote in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

In addition to plaques informing readers that some of the graves are of SS soldiers, a larger plaque in German was discovered there earlier this year. It says: “Never again! 102,000 Jews, tens of thousands of civilians, resisters, Sinti and Roma, prisoners of war and slave laborers were victims of Nazi war and violence in the Netherlands. Most were not allowed to have their own grave. Many of them remain unknown to you to this day. We regret your fate here. “

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