The Dutch Jews who fought back

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In the Netherlands, the only pre-war group that immediately started resistance against the German occupation was the communist party. During the first two war years, it was by far the biggest resistance organization, much bigger than all other organizations put together. A major act of resistance was the organisation of the February strike in 1941, in protest against anti-Jewish measures.

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In this resistance, many Jews participated. About 1,000 Dutch Jews took part in resisting the Germans, and of those, 500 perished in doing so.

Among the first Jewish resisters was the German fugitive Ernst Cahn, owner of an ice cream parlor. Together with his partner, Kohn, he had an ammonia gas cylinder installed in the parlor to stave off attacks from the militant arm of the fascist NSB, the so-called “Weerafdeling”(“WA”). One day in February 1941 the German police forced their entrance into the parlor, and were gassed. Later, Cahn was caught and on March 3, 1941 he became the first civilian to be executed by a Nazi firing squad in the Netherlands.

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Benny Bluhm, a boxer, organized Jewish fighting parties consisting of members of his boxing school to resist attacks. One of these brawls led to the death of a WA-member, H. Koot, and subsequently the Germans ordered the first Dutch razzia (police raid) of Jews as a reprisal. That in turn led to the Februaristaking, the February Strike.

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Bluhm’s groupBluhm-Benny was the only Jewish group resisting the Germans in the Netherlands and the first active group of resistance fighters in the Netherlands. Bluhm survived the war, and strove for a monument for the Jewish resisters that came about two years after his death in 1986.

Numerous Jews participated in resisting the Germans. The Jewish director of the assembly center in the “Hollandsche Schouwburg”, a former theatre, Walter Süskind, was instrumental in smuggling children out of his centre. He was aided by his assistant Jacques van de Kar and the director of the nearby crèche, Mrs Pimentel.

Within the underground communist party, a militant group was formed: de Nederlandse Volksmilitie (NVM, Dutch Peoples Militia). The leader was Sally (Samuel) Dormits, who had military experience from guerrilla warfare in Brazil and participation in the Spanish Civil War.

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This organisation was formed in The Hague but became mainly located in Rotterdam. It counted about 200 mainly Jewish participants. They made several bomb attacks on German troop trains and arson attacks on cinemas, which were forbidden for Jews. Dormits was caught after stealing a handbag off a woman in order to obtain an identification card for his Jewish girlfriend, who also participated in the resistance. Dormits committed suicide in the police station by shooting himself through the head. From a cash ticket of a shop the police found the hiding place of Dormits and discovered bombs, arson material, illegal papers, reports about resistance actions and a list of participants. The Gestapo was warned immediately and that day two hundred people were arrested, followed by many more connected people in Rotterdam, The Hague and Amsterdam.

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The Dutch police participated in torturing the Jewish communists. After a trial more than 20 were shot to death; most of the others died in concentration camps or were gassed in Auschwitz. Only a few survived.

The trail left behind by Dormits also let ti the textile factory Hollandia Kattenburg where soem of the suspects were arrested and sentenced to death. Additionally 367 Jewish labourers of the factory were deported together with their families to Westerbork transit camp, in total there were 826 persons.

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4 thoughts on “The Dutch Jews who fought back

  1. What an interresting account. I’m a Dutsch Jewish woman. My mother had a non-Jewish father who was a communist when WWII started. From Day one he was active in the communist resistance. What he did I don’t know because it was dangereous if you breathed a word of your activities. In 1943 he was betrayed by a household help my grandparents had from before the war started. By luck My grandfather got away but he had to hide till the war was over. The Nazi’s put a prize of 15,000 Reichsmark on his head. My Jewish grandmother survived because she was married to a non-Jewish man. And the Nazi’s used her as bait after my gradfather went into hiding. My mother, aunt and uncle were also into hiding. My grandmother was several times interrogated by the Nazi’s but she never cracked even though she waa tortured and raped.

    Rachel.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. it is true that allies made no real efforts to save Jews and prevent holocaust by Nazis. it is also true that Jews who were peace loving did not retaliate in the initial stages of war till they came to know about real intentions of Nazis. the resistance fighters were poorly armed with stolen weapons of different types and they were not amply supported by allies. Kudos to resistance fighters who waged their actions mostly on their own and also perished except few. long live their memory

    Colonel Prof Dr K Prabhakar Rao retired

    Like

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