Ivan’s private site

October 3, 2010

Lessons of the past…

Filed under: General,Links — Ivan Herman @ 12:00
Tags: , , , , ,
Two photos of the Holocaust memorial in Berlin

Two photos of the Holocaust memorial in Berlin; the left one represents the outer part of the grid, whereas the right one in the middle

A few years ago I was in Berlin and I also visited the Holocaust Memorial. It is a fascinating site, though it took a certain time to understand the intention of the artist. But, suddenly, I think I got it. The memorial consists of a set of gray blocks arranged on a grid; one can walk among the blocks along the grid lines although there is barely enough place for two persons at a time. On the outer parts of the grid the blocks are small; however, by getting closer to the center they become suddenly and unexpectedly high and oppressing (the extra trick is that the ground is also going down, but this is barely visible from the side, so the effect is surprising). And I mean really oppressing. The photos are just an an attempt to show the effects.

In some ways, the memorial is a representation of the poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller:

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Why do I speak about this now? Because, the last week-end, a liberal and a center-right party in the Netherlands have signed an agreement with a guy called Geert Wilders to form a minority government: the set up is that those two parties form the government but they can count on the votes of Wilders’ party in the parliament. Of course, this has not been done by the kindness of Wilders’ heart: the government has to adopt many of his ideas. And those are, in many respect, simple: his party is one of the toughest anti-muslim parties in Europe at the moment, whose fundamental approach is that anything that has even remotely something to do with Islam is evil and to be fought against with all legal (?) means. In other words, a party that takes one part of the population, declares it collectively to be the enemy and responsible for most of the woes in the country. Familiar?

One could say that, although I am a foreigner living in the Netherlands, I am not directly affected, so why bother? And that is true; after all, I am an atheist and a “European”, not a Turk or Moroccan that form the majority of the muslim population in the country. But I am also the descendent of Holocaust victims, so I cannot stop asking myself: is this just the first step Pastor Martin Niemöller is talking about? Maybe East-Europeans are next?  (After all Wilder’s party took a fairly strong anti-Rumanian and anti-Bulgarian attitude at the time of the European elections). Maybe any foreigner? Maybe the Jews?

Maybe it is time for me of thinking packing my stuff and move away from here?



  1. I can understand how you don’t want to live in a country where politics are going this way. But would it help anyone if you moved away?

    Comment by Simon Reinhardt — October 3, 2010 @ 12:27

    • Obviously no. Except my piece of mind…

      Comment by Ivan Herman — October 3, 2010 @ 12:33

  2. It’s worth pointing out that Liberal means something different in Dutch politics (where it is a right-wing party), to UK, where it is a center party, to the USA, where it seems to be synonymous with Communist in some people’s minds.

    Comment by Steven Pemberton — October 3, 2010 @ 12:36

    • Interesting. In Germany it’s normally associated with economic liberalism, so sort of the opposite of communism.

      Comment by Simon Reinhardt — October 3, 2010 @ 13:39

  3. We have come a long way from the days that poem was and could be written. It is the obligation of people like Ivan and other members of the European intelligentsia to take care that we continue building Europe where there is no “they” who “come” and no one who speaks. For them whose business is Internet it does not matter where you live or whether you pack or not. But it does matter that you (Ivan & others) keep participating in building Internet that enables us to speak aloud and freely when needed. Maybe it is time to thank -in some way – to show how much we appreciate the work you people do in W3C.

    Comment by JoukoSalonen — October 3, 2010 @ 13:56

  4. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
    — Edmund Burke

    Well done, my friend. Speak now and speak often on issues of importance. Oh, and if they come for you, give me a call 🙂

    Comment by David Wood — October 4, 2010 @ 2:27

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: