Just a Man on a Bike

When you look at the picture, your first reaction is probably think it’s an ordinary historical picture from somewhere in the Netherlands.

The picture couldn’t be more typically Dutch if for one detail—the photograph was taken in Amsterdam during the war, and the man is wearing a star on his jacket.

As in all occupied countries the Star of David was introduced to the Netherlands. The star had to be clearly visible, as with this Jewish Man from Amsterdam who cycled on Leidseplein in May 1942.

It is a typical Dutch picture because the man was Dutch, who just happened to be Jewish, but in the Netherlands that shouldn’t matter. No one cares about your religion and what does matter is how you conduct yourself in society.

Yet, between 1940 and 1945, religion suddenly did matter. The Jews were singled-out and 75% of them were murdered. The Dutch Jews had always been a sizeable minority, majority living in Amsterdam. They lived in the most densely populated country in Europe with an advanced social administration—which was left intact after the swift and decisive Nazi invasion of 1940 and helped the Nazis grately in identifying the Dutch Jews. Only an estimated 35,000 of the initial 140,000 Jews who lived the Netherlands survived the Holocaust. More then likely the man on the bike was also murdered.

To me that picture is more disturbing than the pictures from the concentration camp. The picture tells me that he really was not different from anyone else in that crowd of cyclists, except for that one patch on his coat. He was just a man on a bike going about his business, not causing any harm to anyone, Conducting himself properly in society and yet, he was singled-out. It could have been anyone.

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