Perspectives on Freedom 2018

Since 2011, we have produced cartoons for the National 4 and 5 May Committee in the Netherlands every year. These cartoons are about freedom and are related to May 5th, Liberation Day. 2018 is the year of resistance.

"What would you do?" - this may be the most asked question after a lesson about oppression and resistance during World War II. Many of us wonder: what would I do under those circumstances? The question is easy - too easy. Such a question is only meaningful if you take into account the complex circumstances in which such decisions were taken.

Resistance is not a simple choice. In retrospect, the choice seems clear: there is an enemy, you see how unfair the world has become, you join the resistance, and at the end of the story justice prevails. But reality is often less simple and spectacular.

To begin with, the outcome of resistance is never clear. During World War II, those who decided to shelter a Jewish person or to start an illegal newspaper or to join the armed struggle did so facing an uncertain future. The consequences of such a decision could be dire, to you, or, perhaps even worse, to your family. A lot of people abstained from actual actions, even though they had enough reasons to resist, and the 'hard' resistance was often formed by young, single people.

The motives that people had in order to take the risk of punishment, sometimes even death, differed greatly. For some it was a relatively small incident, on the street or at work, a direct strong impulse; others were inspired by great ideals.

In the post-war culture of remembrance, this plurality of motives has disappeared largely behind big words such as homeland, God, class struggle, solidarity, freedom and democracy. These are abstract concepts, sometimes difficult to connect with the testimonies of the people who actually made the decision to resist.

Perhaps the human conscience is the most important motivator for us to take action, to resist when we see our fellow humans facing injustice and or repression. Not resisting out of a love for exalted values, but out of a sense of responsibility for the people around you.