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Rarity and Resistance in the Nazi-Occupied Netherlands

When we visited the Dutch Museum of Resistance today, we found out exactly how rare resistance was in World War II.

“What percentage of Dutch citizens do you think were involved in resistance against Nazi occupation?” our tour guide asked.

Several students answered. “2 percent.” “30 percent.” “8 percent.” As it turned out, the true figure was just above 1 percent. The vast majority of Dutch citizens were simply trying to feed their families and — quietly, safely — go about their lives while their Jewish neighbors were deported.

In the Normandy Scholars course, we read a fair amount of material by or about people who resisted the Nazis, whether by hiding Jewish refugees like Corrie Ten Boom or by physically fighting back like some of the occupants of the Warsaw Ghetto.

That’s why it was a little shocking to hear the actual statistics in this case — that by the museum’s estimate, only 1 percent of Dutch people actively resisted Nazi occupation. Nevertheless, I’m glad that the Resistance Museum exists — both to document those who resisted, and to show how rare they really were.