Amsterdam (dpa) – Prime Minister Mark Rutte has apologized on behalf of the Dutch government for its actions during World War II, saying too little was done to protect Jewish citizens from Nazi persecution.
Rutte offered the apology on Sunday during commemorations in the Netherlands to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 27, 1945.
“Since the last survivors are still among us, I apologize on behalf of the government for what the state was doing at the time,” Rutte said during a ceremony in Amsterdam.
It is the first time the Dutch government has specifically apologized for actions taken by the state during the war.
In 2000, the government had expressed sorrow for the “cold reception” Jewish survivors had received in the country after returning from the concentration camps.
Despite being officially neutral in World War II, the Netherlands was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1940. The government, along with Queen Wilhelmina, fled to Britain.
Of the 140,000 Jews who had lived in the Netherlands at the time of the Holocaust, around 102,000 were murdered by Germany.
Dutch officials had willingly carried out what the German occupiers ordered, Rutte said.
They had stood by as “a group of fellow citizens was singled out, excluded, and dehumanized under a murderous regime,” the prime minister said.
While some resistance was put up, “overall it was not enough,” Rutte said. “Too little protection. Too little help. Too little acknowledgement.”