Dutch town renames square it named after mayor who betrayed Jews to Nazis

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AMSTERDAM (JTA) — A Dutch municipality has renamed a park named after a mayor who helped the Nazis drive Jews out of his city.

The municipality of Hogeveen, a town of about 55,000 people about 80 miles northeast of the Dutch capital Amsterdam, renamed Mayor Tjalma Park last month, according to a Thursday report on the Jonet.nl news site. The new name is Parc Municipal.

In 2020, a local historian discovered that Jetze Tjalma, who had served as mayor of Hoogeveen for 30 years until 1958, was the first mayor in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands to hand over a list of local Jews after the invasion of the German army in 1940.

There were about 250 names on the list. In 1951, Hogeveen had only 27 Jews, according to the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam.

Tjalma shared the list voluntarily, according to Brand van Rijn, a local politician whose party, SGP, initiated the research into Tjalma’s war record. The SGP had been pushing for years for a more critical approach to Tjalma’s legacy, whom many have considered a model mayor, according to broadcaster RTV. The park was named after Tjalma shortly after his death in 1985.

Several years after World War II, the city under Tjalma took over part of the local Jewish cemetery and paved a road there. This part of the cemetery was returned to Jewish hands in 2019.

The Amsterdam-based Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies earlier this year confirmed research carried out at Hogeveen by local historian Albert Metselaar, prompting the municipality to change the name of the park on July 26, Jonet reported.

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