Meeting between Netherlands monarch and Israeli president ‘a slap in the face’, say Palestinian activists

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands due to open new Holocaust museum in Amsterdam on Sunday

Palestinian campaigners have criticised a planned meeting between Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who is scheduled to open a new Holocaust museum in Amsterdam on Sunday, as “a slap in the face” to those whose loved ones are dying daily in Gaza.

Amid tight security, Mr Hertzog is also expected to have talks on the fringes of the opening with caretaker premier Mark Rutte and Dutch members of the extended families of Israelis kidnapped by Hamas on October 7th.

The aim originally was to keep Mr Herzog’s two-day visit secret for as long as possible for security reasons, but after a leak in Israel on Thursday the National Holocaust Museum confirmed the visit in a statement saying: “Herzog firstly represents the homeland of the many Dutch Holocaust survivors who emigrated to Israel after [the second World War].

“He also represents Israeli institutions, such as the National Holocaust Museum, with whom knowledge is shared and who made documents, images and videos available.


“We expect a dignified ceremony doing justice to the significant national and international importance of our museum.”

More than 200 Dutch mosques, however, have come together to appeal to the king to call off the meeting.

According to Palestinian group The Rights Forum, there will be protests at Mr Herzog’s presence because of his alleged support for what South Africa has claimed at the International Court of Justice is a campaign of genocide by Israel against Gazans.

“That’s why it should be unthinkable for him to set foot on Dutch soil — other than to answer to the International Criminal Court.”

Before the second World War, the Netherlands had a vibrant Jewish community of about 140,000 people, mainly centred in Amsterdam. By the end of the Holocaust, 102,000 of those, some 75 per cent, were dead.

The building housing the new museum is a former kindergarten in the old Jewish quarter. Across the road is a former theatre where Jewish families were taken to await deportation to death camps such as Auschwitz and Sobibor.

Visitors to the museum will be able to walk through an “escape corridor” created by Dutch resistance fighters through which some 600 children were separated from their families and smuggled to safety over the years.

“Within a few hundred metres in Amsterdam you have this story of deportation and of collaboration, a dark part of our history”, says curator, Annemiek Gringold.

The museum will display some 2,500 objects, including striped Auschwitz uniforms, buttons cut from the clothes of arrivals at Sobibor, and photographs of those who died, including babies, toddlers and young children.

On the walls are copies of the Nazis’ anti-Jewish laws, including the notorious 1942 directive to wear a yellow Star of David and notices offering rewards for “denouncing” Jews to the authorities.

The reality of the Holocaust, however, is being rapidly forgotten in the Netherlands.

According to a survey last year by non-profit awareness group Claims Conference, nearly a quarter of Dutch people born after 1980 believe the Holocaust was a myth or the number of its victims greatly exaggerated. And as history is being forgotten, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands is on the rise, doubling last year from 69 to 154, according to the European Jewish Congress.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court