Sunday 22 May 2022

Row over teenager’s poem overshadows Remembrance Day

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.
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)

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