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Netherlands

The Netherlands is unveiling a Holocaust museum, with the presence of the Israeli president raising concerns.

The Netherlands’s National Holocaust Museum is set to open this Sunday, with the Dutch king and Israeli President Isaac Herzog presiding over the ceremony. However, Herzog’s attendance has drawn criticism due to Israel’s recent offensive against Palestinians in Gaza. Located in Amsterdam, the museum recounts the stories of some of the 102,000 Jews deported from the Netherlands and murdered in Nazi camps, as well as detailing their persecution under German World War II occupation before the deportations began. Notably, three-quarters of Dutch Jews were among the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis, the highest proportion in Europe.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Herzog will visit a synagogue and inaugurate the museum amid Israel’s recent attacks on Gaza, which followed deadly incursions by Hamas in southern Israel on Oct. 7. Both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protests are planned outside the events.

Herzog, along with other Israeli leaders, was cited in an order issued by the top United Nations court in January, urging Israel to prevent death, destruction, and acts of genocide in Gaza. Herzog accused the International Court of Justice of misrepresenting his comments in the ruling. Israel strongly rejected allegations by South Africa in the court case that its military campaign in Gaza breached the Genocide Convention.

“A pro-Palestinian Dutch organization, The Rights Forum, condemned Herzog’s presence as ‘a slap in the face of the Palestinians who can only helplessly watch how Israel murders their loved ones and destroys their land.’”

In a statement released ahead of Sunday’s opening, the Jewish Cultural Quarter, which operates the museum, expressed deep concern about the war and its consequences, particularly for the citizens of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. The museum’s opening amid ongoing conflict was deemed “all the more troubling,” making their mission to educate and remember even more urgent.

The museum occupies a former teacher training college, previously used as a covert escape route to help around 600 Jewish children flee from the Nazis.

Exhibits include a striking photo of a boy navigating through bodies in Bergen-Belsen after the concentration camp’s liberation, alongside poignant mementos such as a doll, an orange dress crafted from parachute material, and a collection of buttons unearthed from the Sobibor camp grounds.

One room’s walls are adorned with texts of hundreds of discriminatory laws against Jews, enacted by German occupiers of the Netherlands, illustrating the dehumanization process orchestrated by the Nazi regime with the assistance of Dutch civil servants prior to their mass arrests.

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