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Row over teenager's poem overshadows Remembrance Day

Thursday 26 April 2012

A poem by a 15-year-old Dutch boy about his uncle who joined the SS will not be part of next week’s Remembrance Day commemorations following boycott threats from several organisations.

Auke de Leeuw had been invited to read his poem after winning poetry competition for schools organised by the May 4 and 5 organising committee. Pupils were invited to write a poem about the after-effects of the Second World War.

De Leeuw’s poem focuses on his uncle who served as one of 20,000 Dutch volunteers with the military wing of the SS. He died on the Eastern Front.

Insulting

But a group representing Auschwitz survivors said they would boycott the event if the poetry reading went ahead. The Israel information centre Cidi also criticised the decision to allow De Leeuw to read his poem.

Cidi spokeswoman Esther Voet told the NRC the piece is inappropriate for such an occasion and an insult to survivors. ‘As long as there are survivors, Remembrance Day should be about them and those they lost,’ she said.

The organisers have now dropped the poem from the ceremony, which will be attended by queen Beatrix and members of her family. The Remembrance Day gathering on the Dam in central Amsterdam is ‘too important to be overshadowed by the discussion which the poem has created,’ the organisers said in a statement.

Everyone loses

The teenager at the centre of the row told the NRC he wanted to show everyone loses during a war, no matter what side they are on.

‘How can we learn from our mistakes if we are not allowed to name them,’ he said. ‘I was born in peacetime. It is hard enough for me to make the right choices, so how must it have been for people during the war?’

The wrong choice
My name is Auke Siebe Dirk
I was named after my uncle Dirk Siebe
A boy who made the wrong choice
Chose the wrong army
With the wrong ideals
Escaped poverty
Hoped for a better life
No way back
If a choice is made
Only a way forward
Which he cannot avoid
Fighting against the Russians
Fearing to die
Thinking of home
Where Dirk’s future is still to begin
His mother is torn apart by the war
A mother of 11 children, with four in the resistance
And one fighting on the eastern front.
She loved all 11 of them
Dirk Siebe never came home
My name is Auke Siebe Dirk
I am named after Dirk Siebe
Because Dirk Siebe should not be forgotten either

(Unofficial translation)

© DutchNews.nl



 

Readers' Comments

An excellent poem (at least in translation). How small-minded to object to it. Did they actually read the poem, or could it be so different in Dutch? Yes, we should remember those who weren't actually evil but made the bad choices that humans often do.

By Lola | 26 April 2012 2:10 PM

I don't see a problem with this.
A 15 yr old is trying to get to grips with his uncles decision to join the SS.
If we as Europeans refuse to discuss this part of our history how do we stop it happening again?
It's time to address the fact that so many young Dutch men joined the wermacht & SS. Denying it will not make it go away!
Some will have joined for ideological reasons, others for the money.
I think refusing to discuss it is a mistake!

By Donaugh | 26 April 2012 2:16 PM

The boy is spot on and should be allowed to read his poem. It was selected by a jury specifically for the occasion, and I think elevates the remembrance and discussion of war above national propaganda. It is important to recognise that war is more complicated than the good vs the bad. The poem does not glorify the SS or insult survivors.
I wonder what the interest groups think of 'All quiet on the western front'

By Craig | 26 April 2012 2:25 PM

Out of the mouths of babes......
Auke seems to be very wise. I wish he could have read his poem and I hope he is not "damaged" by this episode in his life.

By Maria | 26 April 2012 2:36 PM

The poem is very poignant. By the sounds of things, Auke has wisdom beyond his years. People choose to forget that there are victims on both sides in any conflict. To uniformly have 'baddies' and 'goodies' as representatives of the truth in a world with so many shades of grey serves only to overshadow love's light with hate's darkness.

By Russell | 26 April 2012 3:55 PM

A shame. The poem portrays actual history and should be allowed. There were 2 sides to the war and both should be remembered, lest we forget.

By Ron | 26 April 2012 4:12 PM

"As long as there are survivors, Remembrance Day should be about them and those they lost"

The poem is doing exactly that. This teen is merely trying to remind us that the war was awful on both sides, not only one; he's not making a political statement.

Shame on the organizers for bowing to the pressure of those who only want one side to be heard.

By Eric | 26 April 2012 4:13 PM

That's a bit harsh. Wait until the death of WW2 survivors to lose their monopoly on victimhood? And there is silly me, thinking this whole thing was to remember all Dutch who died in armed conflicts.

By M. Barrasment | 26 April 2012 4:54 PM

From what I have read the poem seems to demonstrate the futility of war.The poem should be read.

By Declan | 26 April 2012 4:55 PM

This poem only shows how divided the Dutch people were during the war and it has a point but we should be remembering the victims of the SS rather than those who joined up with them.

By Peter G Mackie | 26 April 2012 5:44 PM

The organisers have made the correct choice so as to allow the correct focus of the occasion. However I would not have objected to its inclusion especially after reading the writers comments. I hope this "teenager" is not discouraged in taking up a constructive part in the future. His feelings about reconciliation are sadly needed in the current "adult" world.

By A.J.T | 26 April 2012 5:50 PM

Was the loss of this soldier to his family any less than the loss of Anne Frank to hers? Regardless which side, not all Germans were sadistic Jew-torturers: many were just trying to survive the war not knowing which side would eventually triumph, as the poem so eloquently says.

I think this boy's poem is wonderful. I'm just wondering why he is being punished for the sins of his ancestor. The Jewish community needs to move forward, like the rest of the world has, instead of always crying about the past. Perhaps they need to listen to a child.

Thank you for your poem, Auke Siebe Dirk.

By osita | 26 April 2012 6:15 PM

I agree, the poem is very poignant, and I think there is a void of discussion regarding those who collaborated (or even joined up) with Nazi occupiers in many European countries. Good on him for writing about it so pragmatically, especially impressive for a boy of 15.
I do however object to the comment from Osita comparing the loss of a soldier to the loss of Anne Frank. I think that is insulting to suggest in anyway that the murder of an innocent child, because of her religion, is the same as the death of a soldier in battle. Both are a tragic waste but they are definitely not the same.

By Sarah | 26 April 2012 7:18 PM

How sad that the Israeli CIDI and the Auschwitz survivors missed the point that Auke Siebe Dirk was making. What a remakable person he is. Thanks for your poem Auke Siebe Dirk. You brought tears of wonder and joy to my eyes. You are one of the reasons humankind is also kind and will endure. Be well.

By Susan | 26 April 2012 7:51 PM

Yes, there are losses in both sides of a conflict. Difference is that one side of the conflict killed 6 million civils. And I say civils, because I also dislike the victimization of jewish people. This guy Dirk died as consequence of his voluntary choice of fighting in an army of the enemy, that was occupying his own country. Anne Frank and her family didn't chose to be sent to a camp. That his family suffer his loss is logical, but I think him being remember by his own family and having his nephew named after him is well enough.

By PF | 26 April 2012 8:22 PM

I have the following quote for the Auschwitz survivors:

Just because you win the fight
Don't make you right
Just because you give
Don't make you good

By George | 26 April 2012 8:44 PM

Isn't rememberance day about all lost lives, not just those who fought on the side of the victors. We should remember if the war had ended differently Dirk Seibe's 4 brothers would have been the "insult" to a memory. Would that be a fair view of someone dieing in a war they little understood & even less influenced?

A family splits, making two choices. He made "the wrong one" & instead of allowing people to learn from the family's loss, he is airbrushed from a nation's memory.

Wise words from such a young man. He seems to have learnt more from the terrible loss of life we remember than those who won't let him speak.

Thank you Auke Siebe Dirk.

By James | 26 April 2012 9:10 PM

Strange how easily valuable lessons are forgotten: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." If you go to great lengths to do things like suppress the expression of ideas you feel might somehow slight you, you must be prepared to be slighted, for the time will surely come when the pendulum swings in the other direction and the bullies become the bullied. You should know this by now. You have been warned.

By McD | 26 April 2012 9:17 PM

I do not think any Dutch person should have joined the German Army, I come from the UK, and as they say here,"if you can't beat them,join them" but that is only a saying, the poem is by a boy who has only read about the war in textbooks and is writing his true feelings about what he has learned in school.

By AlMorr | 26 April 2012 9:35 PM

we are all the Jewish community that's what you young people forget! His poem says he(the uncle) made a wrong choice and we should feel sorry for him,HA!THE SS were murderers and they knew it.God has to deal with him no one is punishing the boy ,the boy wants sympathy but doesn't tell us his Uncle was even sorry. How can you see people treated the way they were ;put in jail, gettos and to death and join up? And you could be next, what if the goverment hated YOU,Stole your treasures and murdered your family?
He can read his poem on Forgive the Killers Day not on Remember the Victims Day. The Uncle joined, the victims DID NOT!

By cyndi ncnullen | 26 April 2012 10:45 PM

I, Ludwig Werner am a son of a Jewish Father and a Muslim mother. I have suffered two world wars, two independence revolutions, one period of 3½ years in a Japanese Internment camp. I send my greetings to Auke Siebe Dirk. I thank him for his poem of remembrance.
I hope and pray this youngster will grow up to be a strong man who will keep telling the whole world to remember and stay aware of how wrong it is to wage war. Amen.

By Ludwig Werner | 26 April 2012 10:52 PM

The SS was Hitler's bodyguard, the elite of the German army. That Dutch not German men voluntarily joined this outfit which contributed so much to the Holocaust is reason enough not to have the poem read.

The poem itself may be excellent but inappropriate for the occasion.

By Alan | 26 April 2012 11:25 PM

Sooner or later more people will be ready for a poem like this. The commotion about not reading it, might just have caused the right effect anyway.

By Trish | 27 April 2012 12:39 AM

What an amazing poem. This 15 year old has grasped what so many have buried beneath the grave of fear and disillusionment. Cheers to Auke Siebe Dirk for the fine poem. Too bad the closed minded refuse to acknowledge that everyone loses in war.

By Bubba | 27 April 2012 12:40 AM

I think the right choice would have been to let Auke read his poem, "The Wrong Choice", and maybe we all could reflect on the message there. I am a retired American military officer and have been to two wars. We only can learn from the past if we open our eyes to it. Some Germans were Nazis, some Muslims are terrorists, some people who adhere to Judeo Christians principles are closed-minded... maybe some day we will learn not to generalize. Dank je wel, Auke

By Rick B (Tampa, FL, USA) | 27 April 2012 1:28 AM

The translated poem is eloquent, showing the emotional turmoil for all those involved in a horrible war. Well done, Auke Siebe Dirk! Do not become discouraged by others' shortsightedness.

By rvh | 27 April 2012 1:32 AM

Every Duch government since the War has done its best to minimise knowledge of how very extensive the collaboration of its subjects was. They almost succeeded. In 86 or 87 the myth of tolerance and Jew-friendliness was shattered by several publications. They were discussed but as usual the "debate" ceased in several weeks. This poem helps set the record straight, which is the last thing the authorities want: the failings of their predecessors, and their own xenophobia, might become all to obvious, especially given the Tolerance Agreement's role in facilitating the current immigration and deportation actions.

By A Surviver's Partner | 27 April 2012 5:00 AM

Auke Siebe Dirk has written an inspiring poem. It would not have been easy to come to grips that one of your own family, the one you're named after, was in the SS. Like the Nobel winner Günter Grass's poem "What must be said" Jewish authorities opposed the right not only to 'free speech' but also the right to impose the view that Palestine belongs to them alone and that justifies the right to abuse Palestinians. For who is the Remembrance Day?

By Ben Leeman | 27 April 2012 5:07 AM

As a non-Dutch I see no reason reason to deprive the young fellow to share this beautiful message and how he is feeling about the loss of his uncle.As much as our brothers have deep feelings about the wrongs that happened so is this young man trying to tell us not to make similar mistakes others make. I think it is a beautiful piece. However, for the sake of peace and a good day allow common sense to reign.

By Kojo | 27 April 2012 8:21 AM

I am offended that an organization outside of the Netherlands is telling the Dutch what they can and cannot remember. This poem is a very good effort to remember other victims of the war.

By Brian | 27 April 2012 8:25 AM

It is annoying to see victims taking role of their prosecutors. Maybe we should all first ask from advice these kind of organizations before opening our mouth? Poem is spot on. The one who sees glorifying SS in it, is not interested in dissecting the problem, but manipulating with the 'truth'.

By ex | 27 April 2012 8:40 AM

To say to the Jewish community to just "move on" is simplistic. The Holocaust continues to impact the Jewish community every single day - and not because they can't "move on".

Every day their community deals with the fact that millions of children were killed who would have continued their communities and traditions - and they would have had children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren by now. Millions more were never born at all - and that has decimated the Jewish population in the world for many generations to come. Entire thriving communities who contributed to a vibrant Jewish life were destroyed. Yes, other populations have lost huge numbers as well - but one of the reasons the Holocaust must be remembered is not only for the its barbaric nature - but because of the ongoing and unrelenting reality it presents to the Jewish community today. It was a huge, significant demographic for them to lose - and they deal with it every day - not just on Memorial Day.

By cbear | 27 April 2012 8:46 AM

I agree with the overwhelming majority of the people who commented here. It is a simple, yet wonderful poem, deep in meaning. He does not glorify his uncle for having joined the SS. Instead, he points out that it was a morally wrong decision (that eventually cost him his life). This poem, to me, hails the grief-stricken mother and brings out the fact that mothers still love their children, no matter what wrong choices they make in their lives....

By GGG | 27 April 2012 8:59 AM

I agree with the overwhelming majority of the people who commented here. It is a simple, yet wonderful poem, deep in meaning. He does not glorify his uncle for having joined the SS. Instead, he points out that it was a morally wrong decision (that eventually cost him his life). This poem, to me, hails the grief-stricken mother and brings out the fact that mothers still love their children, no matter what wrong choices they make in their lives....

By GGG | 27 April 2012 8:59 AM

...Organisers, shame on you for being so narrow-minded! A life is a life, no matter which idealogy it supports. If you think that the lives of the people who resisted are more precious than the lives of those on the other side, you are very wrong! You must think laterally and let this poem in. No one can now undo the evil effects that the war had on all our ancestors. At least, we can narrate to the younger generation the spoils of making the wrong choices in life.

By GGG | 27 April 2012 9:00 AM

I belive the Childs poem comes from his heart but has no place on Remberace Day.
As for the comment from a reader sugesting the Jewish community needs to stop ctyingabout the past... how dare you! We must never forget.

By DV | 27 April 2012 11:00 AM

His grandfather CHOSE to be a member of the SS! So, yes, there is a significant difference between this boy's family's loss and the loss of Anne Frank to her family.

Remembrance Day is not the appropriate time for this poem, very simple.

By Peter | 27 April 2012 11:51 AM

This is just the way to suppress emotions for all others who are not on your side. Just shame not to allow a kid, to share his emotions. Era of paranoids.. Only want to read, listen, watch, think about their own suffers and expect (force) everyone to share it but never even listen to what others have to say..

By Ozzix | 27 April 2012 12:16 PM

Beautiful poem; nice translation.

@Peter: If we only remember "the good guys," we are doomed to repeat the horrible acts of the past. I am insanely interested in ALL aspects of The Holocaust, because I believe that only through OBJECTIVE learning can we ever hope to never repeat what has happened.

By Stupid | 27 April 2012 1:45 PM

Unfortunately here again we face the shame of silencing a voice that tries to remember the pain suffered by many Europeans. How come only one side of the story has to get all the light and attention while the suffering of many others is attacked, ridiculed, censored and made to disappear. Cidi is not doing the victims it claims to support any favors.

By B.O.K. | 27 April 2012 1:45 PM

This poem should have been read. But, Osita is making a mistke - Auke's uncle was not an average German trying to get by and who was conscripted into the war, he was a Dutch volunteer who chose to join the SS because that's what he believed in.

It's not just the "Jewish community" who needs to listen to the words of a child - you do too, because you obviously didn't read what Auke wrote.

By Hello | 27 April 2012 2:01 PM

Craig, why would the "interest groups" (because Auschwitz survivors are simply an "interest group"...) have any opinion on All Quiet on the Western Front in regard to this issue? That novel was about the First World War, not the one in which Auke's uncle volunteered to fight. It does, however, excellently show up the futility of fighting your country's supposed glory.

Erich Maria Remarque himself was decidely anti-Nazi and would probably not have had a high opinion of foreign SS volunteers. The Nazis burnt copies of All Quiet on the Western Front and guillotined his sister. I wonder what Dirk Siebe have thought of All Quiet on the Western Front.

By Hello | 27 April 2012 2:12 PM

As a regular reader of DutchNews.nl, the huge increase in the number of comments that occurs whenever there is an article on "Jewish/Israel" topics concerns me. Anti-Semitism? Surely; where else does this come from? I'd be impressed to see DutchNews.nl put out some statistics on this.

[Editor's note: I don't think the comments responding to the poem reflect anti-Semitism at all, but you are right, some topics attract far more comments than others. The most comments we have ever had on a story came when the Netherlands lost the World Cup final.]

By Peter | 27 April 2012 2:51 PM

"I wonder what Dirk Siebe have thought of All Quiet on the Western Front."

If even he could have read it. As the poem stated, he came from a poverty so profound that fighting the Soviets under the banner of foreign conquerors sounded better than the life he had.

Europe's flirtations with the unworkable quasi-religious ideals of communism will always lead to poverty, extremism and the crack and roar of guns.

By Badger | 27 April 2012 5:14 PM

The poem is an elegant and thoughtful piece of work from a young and gifted writer,Auke Siebe Dirk. But its message is seriously flawed. It refers to the uncle - Dirk Siebe, as making "The wrong choice", that is the opinion of the young poet. However, Siebe made his choice presumably freely, without any pressure and he elected to join the SS. For him and his beliefs he would have made the RIGHT choice, and I can't accept that a dead SS soldier should be remembered in the same way as the millions of innocent people who died during WW2.

By Andrew | 27 April 2012 5:28 PM

@Peter. Mentioning Anti-Semitism in this context is an insult to all those who commented here.

By someone | 27 April 2012 7:12 PM

As I understand it, the purpose of Remembrance Day is to remember the wars - so we ensure they never happen again. Obviously we remember the victims and tragedies; we remember the bravery and sacrifice of the soldiers; but we also must remember the events that led to the wars, the hardships that everyone endured, the decisions made and their results. The poem describes a perspective that is rarely considered. Giving thought to that is just as valid as any other aspect of war. And it's important that we remember all aspects. Auke Siebe Dirk seems to understand this far better than most. It seems clarity of thought comes from those without an agenda - i.e. children.

By John | 27 April 2012 10:17 PM

The lack of free speech was a cornerstone of the Nazis.

Have we as free people forgotten this?

I have attended Remberence Day.

Shame on the Israelis to tell the Dutch how to remember and shame on those Dutch who would not allow a 15cornerstone year old boy to teach us all a lesson in life.

By Lee from Florida | 28 April 2012 2:03 AM

I believe that this boy's intention with the poem was good. I also believe that all people that dyed in WW2 should be remembered. But not in the same way! How can you equalize a guy that joined military wing of Nazi party (yes, that's what SS was!) and went far away from home to enslave another country, with e.g. a guy who together with his entire family (including children) was killed in concentration camp, or another guy that died fighting for his freedom? WW2 and Holocast were failure of humanity and we must remember that! If we fail to do so, even Hitler will be remembered as some kind of visionary who just wanted to unite Europe. Is that what we actually want?

By marko | 30 April 2012 9:59 AM

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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