Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Reflection on the Memory of Complacency

By : Alexa Davidson

The way people remember their own countries actions during World War 2 vary wildly across Europe, between the perpetrators, the collaborators, and the subjugated, and especially in the countries where the latter two categories begin to blur together. That difference of remembrance and ownership is stark in our visits to France and the Netherlands.

France’s remembrance about the Holocaust, or the Shoah, has a lot to do with their government’s actions. The Vichy government solidly falls under the collaborator category, entirely complicit and helpful in executing the Nazis orders. And this is a memory the people shoved off for a long time, pretending that France had no part and could offer no resistance due to their own occupation and oppression. So, France’s modern memory of their own action during World War 2 are more fact based, an acknowledgement of their government’s actions during the Holocaust, their assistance and their frank support of the Nazi atrocities. It is a national regret, one that memorials and museums are desperate to show they are owning up to, that they acknowledge the facts and the horrors.

The Netherlands remembrance of the Holocaust is deeply personal. While it is true that the Dutch government, or at least the one put in place by the Nazis, supported and assisted the Nazis, there memory doesn’t focus on that. It’s there, its regretful, but its personal. In France, the finger seems to only be pointed at those who held power, but in the Netherlands, the people own up to their own complacency and acknowledge that they didn’t do anything to stop or helped the Nazis. They Dutch remembrance is not just one of regret, but of a deep, personal regret, aimed with the knowledge that they can never atone for what they’ve done, but that they know it was wrong and will do everything they can to atone and to make it as right as possible.