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!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • 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.