Thursday, February 25, 2016

The February Strike

February 25th marks the anniversary of the Februaristaking, the 1941 February Strike that took place in the Netherlands. The strike, which was initiated by the Communist Party (banned by the Nazis), was the first direct action against Nazi anti-Semitism.

In May 1940, the Nazis conquered the Netherlands and it did not take long for the first discriminatory laws to be implemented. The first of these regulations barred Jews from the air-raid defense service. Then, a few months later, Jews were removed from all public positions. In early February 1941, the tension turned violent. When Nazis attacked some Jewish and non-Jewish workers in the Waterlooplein district, it ended in the death of a local fascist leader. The next day, on February 12, the Nazis cordoned off the Jewish neighborhood, surrounding it with barbed wire and prohibiting non-Jews from entering. Things quickly deteriorated until the weekend of February 22, when 400 Jews were arrested, publicly tortured, and later deported to concentration camps.

In response to these actions, on Tuesday morning, February 25, the workers of Amsterdam spontaneously went on strike. While they were also protesting forced labor and general Nazi oppression, their primary voice was against the brutal treatment of the Jews.

The next day, the strike spread to other towns, including the Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Haarlem...and even to Belgium. The Nazi power-hold, however, was too strong. The S.S. retaliated against the protestors, and the strike was broken.

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