Eid al-Fitr and remembering the end of the Second World War in Europe

Sent On: 
Sun, 2022-05-08
Newsletter Number: 

In the past week Muslims all over the world celebrated Eid al-Fitr [ʿĪd al-fiṭr] at the end of Ramadan [Ramaḍān]. Our Muslim neighbors in The Hague provided us baklava, sweets that are typical for the Eid al-Fitr. The Zuiderpark nearby was full of Muslim families enjoying time with their families. Shops were giving attention to the Eid al-Fitr.




Eid al-Fitr is, of course, visible in Muslim countries but also has become very visible in the West. How different was this when I was a kid at school in the 1960s. The Netherlands has changed. This has sadly also given rise to intolerant populist political parties who would rather like to see these Dutch citizens leave Europe. They only do not realize that nations throughout history have been formed through migration. My own forefathers from father’s side migrated in the late 18th century from Germany for work to the Netherlands. Does this make me less Dutch? Islam has become part of culture in the Netherlands and is here to stay.


On May 8 and 9 Europe, including Russia and Ukraine, remembers the German capitulation that ended the Second World War in Europe. The war in Asia lasted until September 2.


On May 4th the Netherlands remembered its liberation from Nazi-Germany. My uncle from mother’s side, Jan Agterkamp (1907-1941), was murdered because he had helped British pilot Richard Pape escape. The Second World War reminds us of the importance of liberty. Nazi Germany played on popular sentiments as well, whipping up fear for communism and Judaism. Nazi Germany created a host of discriminatory measures to push Jews out of Germany. By 1938 150,000 German Jews, one in four, had already fled the country and western nations became more and more reluctant to admit any more refugees.  The conference was advocated by US President Roosevelt who, however, failed to attend since opinion polls in the US showed that 40% of Americans believed that Jews had too much power while 20% even favored the deportation of Jews. He saw this as political suicide if he would have advocated a more liberal policy towards Jewish immigration. Politicians in other countries responded in similar ways. The consequence was that delegates of 32 countries expressed sympathy for the Jews who were seeking to flee Nazi persecution without a readiness to admit larger number of refugees. The conference thus played into Nazi propaganda. Adolf Hitler said in a speech with great sarcasm that Jews were allowed to emigrate, but no country wanted them.[1]



Countries in the West have continuously seen large migration movements that have contributed to diversity. Today we see the largest war in Europe since the Second World War resulting in millions of Ukrainians refugees going West. We see more acceptance because of greater cultural affinity with Ukraine. But will this acceptance remain if numbers continue to swell as happened to the Jews prior to the Second World War? Is this acceptance without benefits? Most Ukrainian refugees have skills that make them employable in Europe. It is also a brain drain for Ukraine. The war is a disaster for world food supplies. I have a strong feeling that many politicians are driven by popular sentiments instead of seeking lasting solutions. After the Second World War Europe had a number of politicians who foresaw that only through the creation of one European market the enmity between Germany and other European countries could be contained. Strategies are needed to end the division between Western Europe and Russia. This won’t be simple but war with a nuclear superpower that Russia is, is no attractive alternative.


There are no easy solutions but diversity, opposition to autocracy and freedom of thought are values that we should treasure.



May 8, 2022


Cornelis Hulsman, Editor-in-Chief Dialogue Across Borders

[1] Andere Tijden Special: Joodse vluchtelingen in jaren 30, NTR2 TV, May 2, 2022