Anger and bitterness dominate Willy Lindwer's shocking pic in which he shatters long-held myths of tolerance and bravery. Lindwer's shrill, single-minded partisanship co-opts any spontaneous viewer reaction. Still, eye-opening docu should spark fest, cable and perhaps even limited-run theatrical interest.
Anger and bitterness dominate “Goodbye Holland: The Extermination of the Dutch Jews,” Willy Lindwer’s shocking account in which he shatters long-held myths of tolerance and bravery. Why, Lindwer asks, is Anne Frank a worldwide symbol of Dutch resistance instead of Dutch betrayal? Pic’s demystification of Holland’s role in the Holocaust is unlikely to rank with “The Sorrow and the Pity” in its impact, as Lindwer’s shrill, single-minded partisanship co-opts any spontaneous viewer reaction. Still, in its overwhelming evidence of injustice during and after the Occupation, eye-opening docu should spark fest, cable and perhaps even limited-run theatrical interest.
Accompanied by his own voice-over narration, director Lindwer travels the railroad tracks that transported more than 100,000 Jews to Westerbork and from there to the concentration camps. The helmer relates that, though the tracks were relatively unguarded, no attempt was ever made by the Dutch Resistance to disrupt the transport that continued for months.
A man speaks of his excitement at as a kid in picking up messages thrown from the closed cars before their passage became an everyday, unremarkable occurrence.
According to Lindwer, not only was a larger percentage of the Jewish population deported for slaughter from Holland than from any other Western European country, but the wholesale roundup was made with the full cooperation of Dutch officials, often with minimal German involvement.
In Groningen, only a handful of Jews survived (its mayor was a Dutch Nazi). With the help of old friend and current mayor Jacques Wallage, Lindwer is able to pore over wartime memos and correspondence documenting the Teutonic thoroughness with which German directives were carried out. One elderly police officer, interviewed on-camera, still defends his actions, his wife chiming in with anti-Semitic asides almost on cue.
Archives and private papers also reveal the unwillingness of Dutch officials to make reparations after the war, refusing to give back confiscated houses and belongings to the few Jews who returned.
Lindwer’s personal quest next leads him to the village of Varssevelt, where his aunt and uncle were denounced by a woman because she wanted the rooms in her father’s house where they were concealed. As Lindwer’s guide points out residences that harbored Jews, one gets a clear sense of how small the community was and how difficult it must have been to hide people.
Lindwer gives only a nominal nod to the Dutch who saved Jews, though it is clear that for every betrayal there had to be at least one act of bravery.
Lindwer has made several documentaries on the Holocaust, including the Emmy-winning “The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank.” In “Goodbye” he presents irrefutable evidence of widespread Dutch complicity and clear indications of continued indifference to the Jews’ plight. Yet his polemical approach, occasionally fudged facts and a predetermined search for only what he wants to find ultimately sabotage pic’s impact.
It could be argued that the world has done such a bang-up job rewriting ignoble history into heroic myth that Lindwer should feel no need to represent the other side. But Lindwer makes short shrift of any potentially revelatory examination of hows and whys, falling back on a blanket anti-Semitism to answer all questions.
Tech credits are passable.