Just like we write our own lives; we also write our own histories.
Years ago someone in the USA advised me to start reading the books of historian Howard Zinn. Already after the first chapter my world started to change dramatically. Zinn was the first to make me aware that everything we read is an interpretation of the truth the way the powers that be choose to see it. It is easily forgotten that we all individually have freedom of choice in what we care to identify with and care to believe.
Of course we can blame cultural conditioning for the way we think, but it’s important to remember it is mostly the conquerers who write the history books; and that what we are taught to believe often serves their interest best. What better way to keep control, than to divide the people amongst themselves and unite the separate groups in belief systems ?
In the sixties and seventies, I grew up thinking all Germans had been bad. The only thing I always questioned was what the Dutch did to the girls who had been so-called “sleeping with the enemy”. To this day many people feel these girls got what they deserved with their heads shaved and driven through the streets in an open cart covered in tar and feathers. How medieval can you get? What if some of these girls had done what they did out of love? Their communities might have disagreed, but the love might have been genuine. Maybe they did it out of fear. Maybe they were forced. Who are ‘the others’ to judge that?
Lately I began to notice that ‘the truth about history’ regarding the Germans in the second world war is slowly being re-written.
Where in the past the German people were mostly accused of being in denial about what their leaders were causing in the world and blamed for doing nothing about it; I now see it mentioned in the documentaries that are flooding our television screens again this time of year; how many Germans were in fact disagreeing with what went on. Only recently did I learn for the first time that 18 known attempts were made in a timespan of 3 years, by high ranking officers to kill their leader. In another news item recently I saw one brave descendent of a tarred and feathered woman stand up against the injustice of it. She had herself transported through an open cart to commemorate her ancestor. Very courageous.
Maybe this May 4th, when we commemorate the people who died during the second world war at the memorial statues near palace the Dam in Amsterdam and the Waalsdorpervlakte of The Hague; we should remember all the 60 million people that died during the second world war. Re-writing the way we choose to view these dark pages of our history, could well help to make the world a better place.
May 1st 2018
The spoken version of this blog, features as end note on ‘Dutchbuzz’, the radio hour for Internationals every Tuesday from 10 to 11 pm on ‘Den Haag FM and can be found in the Programme Archive of the Dutchbuzz podcasts, dated May 1st , 2018.