What the Dutch learned during the Nazi occupation


The Nazi poison infecting most of Europe in the 1940s had a longer half-life than we like to claim. It left a legacy of all sorts of sinister ideas and practices.

For example, the current idea of a European federation revolving on a Franco-German (or, to be precise, Germano-French) axis goes back to the fruitful cooperation between Nazi, Vichy and other European bureaucracies during the war.

Still in its embryonic state, the notion of a single pan-European state was pithily expressed by Arthur Seyss-Inquart, who during the war served as Reichskommissar for the Netherlands: “The new Europe of solidarity and co-operation among all its people will find rapidly increasing prosperity once national economic boundaries are removed.” My friends Angie and Jean-Claude would readily sign their names to this heartfelt statement.

A Nuremberg noose prevented Seyss-Inquart from seeing his dream come true in the new guise of the European Union. But the political philosophy he so ably brought to life in the Low Countries left more than one poisonous legacy.

The Nazis firmly believed that individual lives had nothing but utilitarian value. The extent of their usefulness to the state was determined by, well, the state. If the value was perceived as negative, the state felt it had the right to take the useless life away the better to maintain the spiritual health of society.

Gypsies and especially Jews had to be expelled, exterminated or otherwise removed from the Aryan body brimming with spiritual health – that much was instantly obvious not only to Nazi leaders but, at the time, to most Germans.

But Jews and Gypsies weren’t the only offensive groups. Also blocking the way to achieving the Nazi muscular ideal of mankind were homosexuals, cripples and the mentally ill. By virtue of their deformities they forfeited their right to life, which point was driven home by the cyanide-loaded syringes wielded by German doctors.

That medical procedure was called ‘euthanasia’, which means ‘good death’ in Greek. Indeed, what could possibly be better than killing a few thousand for the noble goal of producing a GM race of unbounded mental and physical health?

The underlying belief that it’s neither God nor the person but the state that has the ultimate sovereignty over human life is common to every brand of socialism, national, international or ‘democratic’ (‘democratic socialism’ is the oxymoron to end all oxymorons). The wording will differ, as will the scale on which this principle is implemented. But the principle will remain the same.

Hence in 2002 Seyss-Inquart’s former bailiwick became the first European country to legalise euthanasia, albeit only for terminally ill patients expressing a “voluntary and well-considered request” to be done in.

Without going into the philosophical and – God forbid – theological aspects of that cannibalistic law, suffice it say that many so-called terminal cases are marginal. Even when all the doctors involved agree that the patient is on his last legs, miraculous recovery may still happen. (Much as I hate using myself as an example, doctors thought my Stage 4 cancer was terminal. Since then you’ve been exposed to 10 years’ worth of my vituperative prose.)

The issue of “voluntary and well-considered request” becomes even murkier when the patient suffers from a mental, rather than physical, illness. By definition, his competence to issue such a request has to be doubted – as should be the ability of psychiatrists to agree on an unequivocal diagnosis in this notoriously obscure branch of medicine.

Yet nothing would hold back the irrepressible Dutch. Between 2011 and 2014 the Dutch state put to death 110 mental patients, of whom some were only diagnosed with autism. (Altogether 5,036 patients were put to ‘good’ death there in 2014 alone.)

Analysing 66 of those 110 cases, psychiatrists from the National Institute of Health concluded that in many instances consulting physicians disagreed on how precisely the legal criteria had been met. Moreover, doctors proceeded with euthanasia in the 37 cases where patients had refused potentially effective treatments.

No one was bothered by the logical inconsistency of it all. If the patients were so mad that they had to be put down for their own good, and ultimately for the good of the state, how could they be deemed sufficiently compos mentis to decide on accepting or rejecting treatment?

This is the thin end of the wedge being driven into the very heart of our civilisation. If there is one founding principle that can be regarded as its cornerstone, it’s the certainty that every human life is sacred – and only God can decide when it ends.

Remove this understanding, and the ostensible differences among all those socialisms, state, national, democratic, international or Soviet pale into rhetorical triviality. They are distinctions, not differences.

The primacy of the state over the individual underpins all modern states – whatever modifiers they attach to their names. We have Holland to thank for continuously reminding us of this fact.

May I suggest that, if at times you act eccentrically, as many Englishmen do, you watch yourself very closely when visiting Holland, especially if you’re of a certain age. By getting off the plane at Schiphol, you may implicitly forfeit personal sovereignty over your life.

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