An in-depth interview by Lenny Giteck, publisher and editor
Evelyn Markus, her family during the Second World War, the Jews of The Netherlands back then, and antisemitism in Holland and the rest of Europe in recent years make up the primary focus of the powerful and disturbing documentary Never Again Is Now.
The film was released on Amazon Prime in October 2019 to considerable acclaim. (An earlier version was released on The Blaze TV in 2015. Unfortunately, a section on the rise of antisemitism in the U.S. needed to be added.) The documentary has been called a “must-see.”
In addition to being a subject of Never Again Is Now, Markus played a key role in making the film. Although she is listed as the director, she insists it was a group effort.
Markus is a psychologist, activist, and founder of the nonprofit organization Network on Anti-Semitism. The daughter of Dutch Holocaust survivors, she and her longtime partner, Rosa Zeegers, left the Netherlands in 2006 because of resurgent antisemitism in their home country. They now live in the United States.
“I wanted to tell the story of the Jews’ current exodus from Europe and why they don’t feel safe anymore,” Markus was quoted as saying by the Jewish Journal. “I didn’t make the film to tell the story of my parents, but my fear of being in Europe and my anger over having to leave has a lot to do with what happened to them.”
We spoke with Markus about her personal journey, the documentary Never Again Is Now, and the recent growth in antisemitism. To read (or reread) Part One of the interview, click here.
What is the story behind Never Again Is Now? How did the documentary come about?
It’s kind of a crazy story. I was already actively working against antisemitism before Rosa and I moved to the U.S. in 2006. In 2014, my mother passed away in The Netherlands. A few days later, when we were cleaning up her house, we found a letter she had written six weeks after her liberation from Bergen-Belsen by the Americans. There were two parts. The first was a love letter to my father when she found out after the war that he was still alive. The second part was a detailed description of her liberation right before reaching the gas chambers.
I made a copy of the letter and went back to America with Rosa. Two weeks later, Rosa got a job in Columbus, Ohio, where we knew absolutely nobody… except for one person I’d been in a seminar with years earlier. So we invited him to dinner to get caught up. In the course of the dinner, we told him about my mother having passed away.
He asked about her experience during World War II, about how both my mother and father survived the Holocaust in Europe. It’s a question that Americans ask quite often; Europeans never ask it. I told him her story and how she was liberated by the American army. I also told him about the letter I found shortly after she passed away.
How did he react?
He wasn’t Jewish, but he was very moved by the whole thing and asked, “Can I tell a documentary team that I know about it?” He knew a team of documentary filmmakers that wanted to make a documentary about today’s rising antisemitism in Europe. They were looking for personal stories to incorporate into the film, he said. That’s how the documentary got started.
Members of a Blaze TV documentary team approached me a week later and asked if I would tell them my story and that of my parents during the Holocaust. They said they would focus the documentary on my family’s story, with the message that antisemitism is rising again in Europe. They followed me both in America and Holland; when we were in Holland, I interviewed several people for the film.
In the documentary, Rosa talked about the time she went out in the street in Amsterdam and saw a Muslim mob coming in the direction of where she was standing. She was wearing a Jewish star on a chain and realized she’d better hide it under her blouse.
What other things did you and Rosa experience in Holland that convinced you the time had come to leave?
There were a series of things, but two main events took place not long after each other. The first was when we had a pink star of David graffitied on our front door.
It was pink because you were lesbians?
Yes. We were very shocked by that. It seemed the hatred was really hitting close to home. The second thing that happened, and this was the most direct reason we left… five or 10 minutes from our house, a well-known Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, was riding his bicycle when he was shot by a Moroccan Dutch jihadi. In addition to shooting Van Gogh, he slit his throat and pinned a letter to his chest by sticking the knife into him. This was in the morning, in broad daylight.
What did the letter say?
It said that Ayaan Hirsi Ali — the Somali-born Dutch writer and activist — would be next. By that time, Rosa and I knew her personally.
What did jihadis have against Van Gogh and Hirsi Ali?
The two had collaborated on a short, very controversial film called Submission, which was highly critical of violence against women in Islamic law and Islamic households. Ayaan had been raised a Muslim, although she no longer is. Now she lives in the U.S. and must have an enormous amount of protection.
Is that everything that was in the letter?
No. It also said that the Jews were behind the Dutch government, behind all the evil in the country and the world in general. The Jews would also be next, it said.
Was that pivotal in your decision to leave The Netherlands?
Yes. It shocked and scared us. Just then Rosa was asked by her employer to move to the United States. Normally she would have said no, because we had our home, our family, and our friends in Amsterdam. I had my business in Amsterdam.
When the murder of Van Gogh took place, it had a broader impact than just the jihadis talking about Jews. What was going on at the time was considered to be a mini 9/11 of The Netherlands. Schools were burning, churches were burning, mosques were burning. The population was boiling. It seemed like it might turn into a violent civil clash between cultures.
Do you mean burning literally?
Yes, yes, literally. It was like the hatred on both sides was exploding.
What year are you talking about?
It was November 2004. There were tanks in the streets of Amsterdam, something we had never seen before. The perpetrators of the Van Gogh murder turned out to be an al-Qaeda cell. They were hiding somewhere in a house and were armed with bombs and grenades.
I was watching all of this unfold on television. Rosa was in the U.S. for a business meeting. She called me and said, “My boss asked me to move here. Would you be open to it?” I told her, “Yes. Let’s get the hell out of Holland because the situation is boiling!”
How did you feel as Jews after you moved to the U.S.?
We suddenly realized how scared we had been in Holland. We were amazed at how open Jews were in this country. They were open, they were outspoken, they were proudly Jewish. When we drove to work along a major boulevard, we’d pass big banners at a synagogue saying, “Hang in there. Shabbat is coming.” At the beginning, we’d feel fear going through our bodies when we passed that, because if you saw something like that in Europe, there would be trouble. We suddenly realized how subdued, how repressed we had been in Europe.
You haven’t lived in The Netherlands for a decade and a half. Why are you still fighting the antisemitism in Holland? What drives you?
I’m actually not so much fighting antisemitism specifically in the Netherlands. I see our documentary as a tool for fighting antisemitism wherever it is. Never Again Is Now is aimed at creating awareness about antisemitism globally, raising awareness about the necessity to stop it before it’s too late.
One major message of the film is that a totalitarian ideology is coming towards us — I’m talking about fundamentalist Islam — and we must not be naïve about that. It’s not kind towards Jews, it’s not kind towards women, it’s not kind towards gays.
Antisemitism is rising in America as well.
Yes. Rosa and I are very worried about it. When we arrived here, we didn’t witness antisemitism. Now we see a different trend. Part of it is, of course, because of white supremacists. But we also see a rise in Jew-hatred among the left in academia… similar to what I witnessed in Holland. Jewish students nowadays have a hard time on American college campuses. We see academia turning totally anti-Israel. Plus, whenever the situation between Israel and Palestinians flares up, there are mosques in this country that preach the annihilation of Jews. I’d heard that also in Amsterdam. So yes, we’re worried that it’s going in a similar direction.
How widely is the documentary disseminated?
The film is available globally on YouTube with subtitles in several languages. I frequently speak about it in public forums — today I’m doing that on Zoom. There have been 90 screenings in theaters, conferences, and online, many throughout the United States but also outside the U.S. A lot of the screenings these days are in Latin America. The Latin American Jewish community is very interested in the film because they say it perfectly shows the tipping point Jews have experienced in Europe — a tipping point they think they may be experiencing.
Are a lot of Dutch people watching it? I’m not talking about Dutch Jews; I’m talking about Dutch non-Jews.
Yes. I can’t say everybody, but when we look at the numbers, more and more people are watching the film in Holland. Unfortunately, we have a very limited advertising budget and we can’t get much publicity in the press in the Netherlands, which is a problem for us.
Why is that?
Two reasons. As I’ve noted, the documentary addresses antisemitism by another minority, which is uncomfortable to talk about. Second, one of the people I interviewed was Geert Wilders, who is very controversial in The Netherlands.
What’s the controversy about?
He’s a member of the Dutch parliament and the head of the PVV party [Party for Freedom], the third-largest in the country. Wilders is highly critical of Islam and the enormous influx of Muslins into Europe, including Holland.
Are more Dutch Jews deciding to do what you and Rosa did and leave the country?
To a certain extent, yes, although I cannot say there is a full-blown exodus going on. Many Jews say it’s too hard to leave. They cannot always come legally to the U.S. Rosa had a job opportunity here, and her company arranged for the visa and the green card and all that. Most people don’t have that advantage. Israel would be the other option, but many people find life in Israel too difficult — although you are seeing some young Dutch Jews moving to Israel.
Are you at all optimistic about the future of the Jews in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe?
Not really. I’m quite pessimistic, in fact. The Muslim population in Europe has become a major electorate for political parties to target. And there aren’t many Jews left; Jews are not a political factor of any major significance. The Muslims are. That’s why we see more and more appeasement toward Muslim values and demands.
You don’t think European Jews can count on being safe in the future?
They may be safe in the legal sense — there may not be anti-Jewish laws — but they will not be safe in the streets. Nobody will enforce the protection of Jews except in synagogues — or the protection of gays for that matter. When we decided to leave Holland, our gay friends understood more than anyone. They said what we were doing was smart because they were experiencing exactly the same thing. And this was in Amsterdam, which for decades called itself the gay capital of Europe. But today in 2021, you won’t see gay men walking hand-in-hand anymore. It’s impossible to do that safely. They would be physically harassed by Muslims.
To sum up…
Unfortunately, I would say there is no future for Jews or gays in Europe.
To watch Never Again Is Now, click here or search on Amazon or YouTube.
An in-depth interview by Lenny Giteck, publisher and editor