Op-Ed: Post War Discrimination of Holland's Surviving Jews
Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards...
“Post-war discrimination against the Jews in the Netherlands manifested itself in many ways. Authorities belittled the Jews and neglected their interests. Public feeling was that the Jewish community no longer represented anything.”
Isaac Lipschits, a historian and political scientist, became Professor of Contemporary History at Groningen University in 1971. In 2001, he published a book which became a Dutch bestseller. Its title translates as "The Small Shoah: Jews in Post-war Netherlands". He passed away in 2008.
More than 100 Jewish survivors returning from Bergen-Belsen, were arrested at the Dutch border. Eighteen were interned in a camp together with Dutch collaborators and arrested SS members.
“One major case of discrimination concerned the stateless Jews of German origin. The Hitler government decreed that whoever fled Germany would lose his nationality. After the war, the Dutch government decided not to recognize Hitler’s legislation. The stateless refugees from Germany – mainly Jews – thus became German citizens again and were treated as German nationals.
“The Dutch authorities, with madman’s logic, now considered these doomed and rejected German Jews as ‘enemy citizens.’ More than 100 such Jewish survivors returning from Bergen-Belsen, were arrested at the Dutch border. Eighteen were interned in a camp together with Dutch collaborators and arrested SS members. They had to work in a gravel quarry and were beaten by the Dutch like the others.
"When they complained to the commanding officer, he told them that he was no friend of the Jews. He made the Jews, whom he considered difficult people, work extra. Later he was fired. The remaining assets of these survivors were taken away as enemy property. It took their lawyers a long time to recover them.
“Jewish authors often mention their negative experiences in the liberated Netherlands. Gerhard Durlacher, an Auschwitz survivor wrote that they were handled more like cargo than passengers. When he asked his parents’ former neighbor whether anything remained of their family’s belongings, this was denied, although the neighbor was wearing the author’s father’s suit.
“Before the war, organized Jewry was consulted by the government whenever its interests were at stake. Now the community had become so small that it was often not heard on issues of concern to it. For instance, a government-appointed committee which dealt with payments for damage to religious buildings had no Jewish members, although no other religious community had encountered so much damage to its buildings.
“Another example: during the war, institutions in towns along the coast had been evacuated out of fear of an English invasion. This included the Clara Foundation, which cared for tuberculosis-infected Jewish children. After the war, all organizations were reimbursed for the extra costs they had incurred. The Clara Foundation however, was excluded, because the post-war Dutch authorities considered that it had been moved to prepare for the deportation of its inmates.
“Even then, catastrophes in the Netherlands were dealt with differently than normal situations. However, the government’s ‘egalitarian approach’ disadvantaged the Jews through the application of the pre-war inheritance law, designed for a society with a standard death rate. The Jews however, didn’t count their dead, but rather their survivors.
“The country was economically troubled in 1945. Finance Minister Piet Lieftinck’s policy was for all Dutchmen to contribute to the country’s financial reconstruction. The Dutch government however, let the Jews pay substantially more than their share. One can be more emphatic here: a disproportionately large part of the Netherlands’ reconstruction was financed by the Jews.
“A number of Dutchmen suffered various material damage but every single Jew lost much, if not all of his property. The Dutch government knew this, yet refused to recognize this exceptional position as it would have been to its disadvantage. It went a step further and knowingly profited from it.
“Many Jews were also disadvantaged by another pre-war law. If one had rented an apartment which was rented to others after deportation, the new tenants were entitled to remain. In post-war Netherlands, there was a dramatic shortage of housing. No measures were taken to help the Jews with accommodation, despite their extenuating circumstances.
“The Dutch government denied its responsibility for what Dutch authorities did to the Jews during the war. In nearly all cases, Dutch police had removed these Jews from their homes upon German orders. They also took children out of Jewish orphanages, the elderly out of Jewish old age homes and the sick out of Jewish hospitals.
"After the Jews were arrested, Dutch police made an inventory of furniture in their houses before it was sent to Germany as ‘a gift to the German people from the Dutch people.’ The policemen knew they were executing inhumane policies which could not be considered the task of a police force.
“In the wartime police journal, one reads ‘wanted notices’ to search for Jews who hid their belongings rather than bringing them to the LIRO, an institution established to rob Jews of their property. The same paper also listed names of Jews who did not come to meeting points to be taken to a concentration camp. The post-war Dutch government denied all responsibility for the acts of these and other government officials.”
*An earlier interview with Professor Lipschits on the issue of the Dutch discriminatory attitude concerning Jewish war orphans was published last year at: /Articles/Article.aspx/12778