Open Letter to Henk Zanoli: the Dutchman who returned his Holocaust medal








Dear Mr. Zanoli,

Maybe it’s the fact that I am the son of Dutch Jews who survived the Holocaust and that I have an inherent faith in the people of Holland, but when I first heard this story I knew something had to be wrong.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I know the Dutch are from perfect and that with the ultra liberal influence in the country it is certainly possible that someone could come to a misguided conclusion as to what is a human rights issue and what is not a human rights issue.  I also know there is a growing and increasingly powerful Muslim population in Holland which could very well lead to someone getting misinformation when it comes to events regarding Israel and Gaza.  I took all of this into account and subsequently remained silent when I heard of how you returned your Holocaust medal because you felt you could no longer hold the honor due to the death of 6 of your relatives from an Israeli bombing in Gaza.  After all, who am I to criticize a man of your courage and decency?

Mr. Zanoli, your actions speak for themselves.  You saved a Jewish child from the Nazis putting yourself in grave danger. That in itself should tell everyone that your intentions are good.  My concern here is not with your intentions but with the intentions of those close to you.

Sir, my mother is 92 years old and I often believe sharper than many people half her age, so unlike many others I do not have some preconceived notion that your age impacted your decision.  The only impact I believe your age has is in on your value system.  By that I mean that you have an old-fashioned and decent value system.   All this leads me to believe that in giving back your medal you did so because you felt the deaths of your family members in Gaza was an act by the Israeli government in direct contradiction with those values. What I am not sure of however, is whether or not you know the whole story.

I am truly sorry for the deaths of any and all innocent civilians, particularly the members of your family that were killed in the aforementioned bombing.  I truly am.  I am also saddened by any grief this may have caused you.  That said I am concerned as to whether or not you are aware of the unfortunate connection certain members of this family have to Hamas, an organization with ideologies similar to those of the Nazis.  Although the BBC made every effort to avoid telling this part of the story, your great-niece, the woman who married into this Palestinian family, has a brother-in-law who is a member of Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades.  This is a terrorist organization committed to the death of Jews to the same extent that the Nazis were when you behaved in the courageous and righteous fashion that you did so many years ago.  My understanding is that her brother-in-law was in the house at the time of the bombing.  It has also been reported that visiting the home on the day of the bombing was Mohammed Maqadmeh, also a member of Al Qassam. To put it in a different perspective, Al Qassam is to Hamas what the SS was to the Nazis. Brutal murderers with almost no conscience.  Again let me say that you have my most sincere condolences for your loss, but I believe the presence of 2 terrorists on the premises at the time of the bombing is an important factor that can not be ignored.

Putting this in perspective, the allies killed at least 25,000 Germans in the bombing of Dresden.  Many were civilians who had nothing to do with the war. However, the enemy they were fighting was evil, and despite the close connection they may have to you, this part of your family consisted of, or interacted with people who were just as evil.  I am not saying the family deserved to die.  I would never say that.  But just like there were innocent people that died in Dresden to help preserve our freedom then, unfortunately there are innocent people that will die to preserve our freedom now.  It is just  an additional tragedy that they were related to you.

Mr. Zanoli,  there is no question that the innocent women and children that were killed this past summer in Gaza are tragic victims of a most unfortunate situation. However, with these new details coming to light they sadly may have been victims of the cynical actions of the members of Hamas who consistently used their citizens as human shields.  I am hopeful that you understand that these are people who would not hesitate to do this to your family regardless of how close they may seem to you and despite the decency you’ve exhibited in your life.

Once again, it is my respect for you and human life that makes me feel sadness for your loss.  I just hope the picture is entirely clear to you.  You at the very least deserve that much from people who may claim to care about you.


David Groen




Follow Holland’s Heroes on Twitter @hollandsheroes

6 responses to “Open Letter to Henk Zanoli: the Dutchman who returned his Holocaust medal

  • nico van luijk

    I don’t agree with the frase: ‘ultra liberal influence’ and ‘increasingly influential muslim population’. It was in amsterdam that ‘soft if possible, harsh if nescescary’, ‘you keep you on our rules andwe help you with your problems. It was developed by a jewish and a muslim social democrat and became the general polici towards immigrants in the netherlands. The mosques in the netherlands now take ferm stands against extremism and muslim youth is thoroughly monitored. The muslim mayor of rotterdam even called isis sympathisers traitors of the state and of their parents. So your remarks on the netherlands is incorrect. I think mr zanoli is more under influence of his hamas family than of the dutch ultra liberals. The names of the two mentioned politicians are Cohen and Aboutaleb.

    • davidgroen1

      I appreciate your comment very much. Let me respond by saying your assertion is realistic and I am sure based on fact. I want to believe that you are correct and I am very much prepared to do so. I purposely wrote those remarks you addressed as possibilities, believing that with the current political climate it might be possible, but I have no trouble accepting what you are saying as being the case. What makes it even easier to accept that what you are saying is correct is that you do not go on to question the most important substance of the letter, you just assign blame to a different and definitely realistic source. You most definitely see this with a clearheaded and thoughtful attitude. With all my heart I hope what you are saying is true as I am the son of Dutch parents and have a lot for the country. I thank you again for your comments.

      With your permission I may republish this letter on my blog with your comment and my response. The comments are already here to be seen, I just might edit the post and place this as a post script

  • fcallen

    Never mind Dresden, we killed many civilians in the Hague when going after the V2 rockets. Just one of many such incidents during that war. Thankfully technology has evolved since then but it is still not perfect, “just” semi-perfect.

  • Yosef Kutner (@ynkutner)

    I think not only Yad Vashem should accept the return of the medal but should also ask if Henk Zanoli wants his name removed from the list of the Righteous Among the Nations, where he is listed with his mother. It is too late to ask his mother but not him. He should have a say.

    I think it is logical that someone who feels ashamed of being honored by the people of Israel should ask for being removed from that list and from the web page where his courageous actions during the war are mentioned.
    I think he returned these honors in full knowledge that his step-family was involved in terrorist attacks against innocent civilians in Israel, killing Israeli Arabs, Jews and foreign workers.

    This is not a political matter but a moral one. He should not stay in the middle ground of his apparent morality and leave a trace of his honor in Yad Vashem.

  • Pelle de Metz

    Mr. Zanoli has not returned his award, but the award that was given to his mother, Mrs. JJ Zanoli-Smit. Since Mrs Zanoli already deceased in 1981, the award was in 2011 presented to her granddaughter Mrs. JJ Zanoli.
    On the Wall of Honor at Yad Vashem is therefore only the name of Mrs. J.J. Zanoli.

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