A walk from the Westerbork Nazi transit camp to Groningen as part of the ‘night of the refugee’ fundraising activities has been cancelled after the organisers faced death threats and intimidation.
The decision to scrap the walk from Camp Westerbork, which was originally built to house Jewish refugees and was later used as an assembly point for Jews who were being sent to the death camps, was taken ‘after intense discussions’ with the police, the organisers said in a statement.
Several high profile people were critical when the organisers announced that one of the five sponsored walks would start at Westerbork, saying that the current refugee crisis cannot be compared to the persecution of the Jews.
Forum voor Democratie leader Thierry Baudet described the decision as ‘scandalous’ and Esther Voet, editor of Jewish newspaper Nieuw Israelietische Weekblad said it was ‘tasteless’.
Since then, the centre and the organisers have faced attacks on social media and via email, forcing them to bring in the police.
Tineke Ceelen, director of the refugee organisation Stichting Vluchteling, which co-organised the march, said it is ‘extremely sad’ that Kamp Westerbork, had come under such pressure.
The impact of the continual threats on the organisers, the participants and the volunteers was too great to let it go ahead, the statement said.
— henri van veen (@henrivanveen) April 29, 2019
Dirk Mulder, director of the Westerbork Remembrance Centre, told local broadcaster RTV Drenthe that the attacks had come from two quarters – from people who hate refugees and from Jewish groups who said the walk was ‘desecrating’ the centre.
He personally had been described as an ‘anti-semite, a nazi and a holocaust denier’ and threatened with a ‘shot in the neck’, he said.
The aim of the ‘night of the refugee’ event is to raise awareness of the millions of refugees around the world by raising money via a series of sponsored walks. The other 40-kilometre routes will go ahead.
Anne Frank and her family were sent to Westerbork on August 4, 1944 after their hiding place in Amsterdam was found. She was later sent to the death camps where she died, shortly before the war ended.
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