I can’t help but get emotional on this day, each year. Watching chancellor Angela Merkel give the traditional speech, and afterwards answering questions from students, was amazing. The topic is on freedom, and what it means, especially in a time where our freedom has been limited due to the consequences of the pandemic. One of the students explained how her grandfather was sent to a labour camp in Germany. She said that the blood of his imprisonment coursed through her veins; that the consequences of that could still be felt two generations later. I often feel the same way, when I consider how the war has influenced my parents, and in turn me.
This is why I have a hard time with people who lack empathy for underprivileged people. Generational poverty, racism, classism, sexism, other types of bigotry; it all leaves enormous scars. The Dutch government was culpable in the incredible persecution of Dutch Jews. Recently, the Dutch government apologised for their role in that atrocity. It frustrates me enormously to then also see how the Dutch government does not take the same step and acknowledge that there is (or at least has been) systemic bigotry against certain people which can still be felt today. Wouldn’t it be a good first step to accept the criticism of painful symbols of bigotry, like zwarte Piet?