When the past catches us up in Utrecht

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The past can often be disturbing. What is even more disturbing is whether we learn from the past. In Norway, they seem to have learnt something about the treatment of women who fraternised with German soldiers during the Second World War. Will the Netherlands learn anything from that?

Should the Netherlands government apologize to moffenmeiden for the barbaric treatment they often received after the war.

Treatment meted out by and large by men. Women once again punished by men for something that men wanted.

Following the Norwegian government, the Netherlands has now been given every reason to apologize for the humiliating treatment of women and girls who had a relationship with German soldiers during the Second World War.

The Stichting Werkgroep Herkenning has asked in a letter to Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

State Secretary of Health, Paul Blokhuis, who is responsible for this area, is apparently willing to talk to the foundation, but the ministry does not want to anticipate any possible outcome of that conversation.

What we do know is that at the end of the war, women were seriously humiliated, sometimes raped and imprisoned because of having a relationship with the invaders the foundation has written and among others members of the Domestic Forces who represented the Dutch state took part in these nefarious actions.

Last week the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Stolberg offered apologies on behalf of his government, because the Norwegian state did not at that time adhere to the fundamental right that no one should be punished without judicial judgment.

In the Netherlands this was the same according to the foundation. Women were imprisoned without trial, and treated deplorably by agents of the state.

According to the foundations secretary Cuny Holthuis, they are unsure of how many women from this time are still alive, but even so it is essential that apologies are made to surviving relatives and children.

Women who were called moffenmeiden were shaved and humiliated with the full knowledge of the government, according to the foundation in the letter to Prime Minister Rutte.

This abhorrent treatment had traumatic consequences for the women themselves and for their children.

The Werkgroep Herkenning foundation, founded in 1981, represents some of the children of this group of women. According to Holthuis, this is the first time that the Dutch government has been asked to apologize. It is clear that the time was not quite right, but now the Norwegian apology has changed the scene and the mood.

A poll has been taken as to whether the Dutch government should offer an apology to the women who were publicly humiliated and ill-treated after the liberation. A small majority of 45% think so, compared to 41% who do not there should be an apology.

The people who are against it feel that as the girls and women were fraternising with the enemy they do not have any right to an apology. Only 28% think that the treatment of the women was scandalous, but they also think that any apologies offered by the state go too far.

It is all a dreadful business. We don’t know the pressures on people in time of war, we cannot judge others behaviour at this time.

Whether it is right to forgive is a proper question. That we should forget and push it under the carpet is wrong.

These women were badly treated and the state connived. This would never be accepted today, so why can’t the government apologise?

I know there are many, many, things that were wrong in the past and for some an apology will never be enough. For the so called moffenmeiden is an apology enough? The trauma they endured will have remained with them all their lives. Should the government try to claim innocence or should they try to do the right thing and apologise?

What do you think?

Should we forget?

Did they deserve the treatment meted out?

How can a civilised society treat their own citizens like that?

How can rape by the captors be acceptable?

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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