Dutch Soccer Remained Silent During Holocaust

Book Examines Anti-Semitism at Amsterdam's Famed Ajax

Stronger Than Dirt: Fans of the Dutch team Ajax refer to themselves as Jews and wave Stars of David at soccer matches.
Getty Images
Stronger Than Dirt: Fans of the Dutch team Ajax refer to themselves as Jews and wave Stars of David at soccer matches.

By Dan Friedman

Published October 19, 2012, issue of October 26, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

The 1974 World Cup final — where the Germans beat the fluid and popular Dutch team — cemented the Dutch as the “anti-Germans” for a generation in the global soccer community. For foreigners not party to Dutch scholarship of their wartime guilt and largely unaware of the Dutch language racism of recent years, it’s easy to think of the Dutch as the non-Germans and, given a visible royal family, conflate them with the Danes. It’s easy, it doesn’t seem to matter, but it’s wrong.

Kuper’s stock has never been higher. In addition to his appearance as “Simon” in his wife’s best-selling book “Bringing Up Bébé,” the widely reported links of the Egyptian Revolution to groups of soccer supporters make his earlier book seem prescient. Moreover, in the time between the initial American release of “Ajax” and now, Kuper co-wrote (with sports economist Stefan Szymanski) soccer’s version of “Moneyball.” And, for reasons that he outlines in “Soccernomics,” soccer, especially European soccer, is increasingly important to American viewers.

Kuper’s afterword begins to explain how Dutch society has begun to fracture in the 21st century. Instead of identifying with Anne Frank’s helpers, or as victims of a Nazi occupation, the Dutch have left the postwar mindset behind entirely. Kuper quotes Ian Buruma in his book about Pim Fortuyn’s funeral, “Murder in Amsterdam”: “Rotterdammers pride themselves on being hard workers, the salt of the earth, tough guys. Amsterdam, to them, has a namby-pamby image of city slickers, snobs and cosmopolitan weirdos.” Kuper comments, “Maybe Feyenoord fans have come to sum up these slickers, snobs and weirdos with the word ‘Jews.’”

With the advent of right-wing populist politicians like Fortuyn and Geert Wilders, casual racism, anti-immigrant sentiment and rhetorical anti-Semitism have become pervasive in Dutch culture — and, increasingly, throughout Europe. As the memories of the Holocaust fade, an understanding of the horrors of European racism becomes the province of history buffs. Instead of standing up against bigotry, the Ajax chairman suggests that the fans stop calling themselves “Jews.”

But as Kuper wrote in a column for the Financial Times in which he discussed his wife’s book, “Writing a book about one’s adopted country is the solution to the integration issue.”

“Ajax” may take as its starting point soccer and Dutch society, but it’s the story of an outsider trying to understand the people among whom he’s living — and looking for insight to the hardest part of recent history. It’s a story about the convenient narratives that citizens tell about their home, and that groups tell about themselves and other groups. It is, in short, about the ignorance, lies and half-truths that get mixed up with facts in the process of affiliation, and baked in the ovens of nationalism and soccer rivalries. And the ovens of Europe are as worrying now as at any time in the past 70 years.

Dan Friedman is the managing editor of the Forward.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.