- At the time of the German occupation of the Netherlands in May 1940, there were 140,000 Jews who represented about 1.6 percent of the population. The Jews of the Netherlands, many of whom were working class, were among the poorest of western European Jewry. In addition to the native-born Dutch Jews, there were approximately 15,000 refugees from Germany, Austria, and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Prior to the German occupation, Jews enjoyed full civic equality, and many of their religious and welfare institutions were beneficiaries of government subsidies. The 75,000 Jews of Amsterdam constituted the largest concentration of Jews in any city in Holland. During the refugee crisis of the 1930s, the Netherlands Jewish community created a Committee for Special Jewish Affairs (COJE), which assumed responsibility for the care of refugees who had migrated to Holland from Germany. In 1939, the government opened a special camp in the village of Westerbork for the purpose of detaining illegal immigrants. The COJE shouldered both the cost and the responsibility for running the camp.Following the German occupation of the Netherlands, the Germans, at first, acted with restraint in regard to the Jews. This, however, changed in August 1940, when the first anti-Jewish measures were enacted. The Jewish ritual practice of shehita, which enabled meat and poultry to become kosher, was prohibited. This was quickly followed by decrees that required the registration of Jewish businesses as well as the posting of financial assets as a first step toward the Aryanization of Jewish property. When Jewish professors at the universities of Leiden and Delft were dismissed, however, the students protested the measures, thus forcing the Germans to close both institutions. In January 1941, Jews were ordered to register or face a five-year prison term and immediate confiscation of their property. This was followed by the requirement that all civil servants take an Aryan oath, which effectively led to the dismissal of Jews from the civil service, the schools, and the universities. The registration decree was particularly useful for the Germans because it provided them with a detailed profile of the Jewish population by city, street, age, gender, and the number of those who had intermarried.The Dutch population responded to these measures mostly with indifference, thus confirming the German conviction that most of the Dutch shared their ideological disposition toward the Jews. The measures were followed by acts of violence between Jews and Dutch Nazis, which led the occupation authority to establish a Joodse Raud, or Jewish Council, for the purpose of preserving order among the Jewish population and implementing the Nazi decrees. The Jewish Council, however, was unable to prevent a subsequent act of violence in February 1941 that involved a Jewish cafe owner and the police in Amsterdam. In response, the Germans blockaded the Jewish quarter of the city and seized 389 young Jewish men and deported them to Buchenwald and later to Mauthausen. The arrests, the brutal treatment of the Jews, and their deportation to the concentration camp angered the Amsterdam municipal workers, who called for a general strike in protest against the Germans. The strike was joined by all segments of the population, and it took the Germans three days to suppress the strikers.Both sides drew conclusions in the aftermath of the strike. The Dutch realized that the Germans would not moderate their treatment of the Jews, and the Germans concluded that anti-Semitism was not as widespread among the population as they had believed. Nevertheless, in the weeks that followed, the Germans intensified their anti-Jewish measures. Starting in March 1941, they began the process resulting in the Aryanization of Jewish property, and in May a decree ordered the confiscation of all Jewish valuables, except for personal items such as wedding rings and gold-capped teeth. At the same time, the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) opened the Central Bureau for Jewish Emigration, which replicated the offices in Berlin and Vienna. Toward its objective of removing the Jews from the Netherlands, the Germans placed all Jewish organizations under the authority of the Joodse Raud and proceeded to issue additional decrees that resulted in the segregation of the Jews from the rest of their countrymen. For example, Jews were dismissed from work in the arts and the stock exchange, and were even barred from public parks. When in August 1941 the Germans prohibited Jewish children from attending public and vocational schools, it fell to the Jewish Council to fill the educational vacuum by opening its own schools. Once the total segregation of the Jews was completed, the Germans turned to the confiscation of Jewish property and then to deportations. The confiscation of Jewish property in the Netherlands was placed under the jurisdiction of two bureaucracies. The first was that of the Rosenberg Special Operations Staff (Einsatzstab Rosenberg), which was responsible for the confiscation of Jewish property for redistribution among the resettled Germans in the eastern territories. Rosenberg’s agency moved more than 16,941,249 cubic feet of furniture from apartments owned by Jews to the east in 1941 alone. The Aryanization of Jewish property was under the aegis of Arthur Seyss-Inquart, chief civilian administrator of the occupied Netherlands. Under his direction, a series of decrees was issued beginning in March 1942 that led to the liquidation of Jewish enterprises and the transfer of Jewish establishments into Aryan hands. Only in the diamond trade did the Germans allow Jews to continue their work, and this was due to their belief that Jewish expertise in diamond cutting was irreplaceable.In early 1942, the Germans opened forced labor camps and made the Jewish Council responsible for supplying the manpower. Similarly, the Germans also ordered the Jewish Council to round up Jews to meet the timetable for deportation to the east. The deportation of Jews to the death camps began with their concentration in Amsterdam, and then moving them to the Westerbork transit camp. To facilitate the roundups, the Jews were required to wear the yellow Star of David badge. Many among the Dutch population were outraged by this decree, and some began to wear the yellow badge as an act of solidarity with the Jews. When the deportations began in July 1942, segments of the Dutch population as well as the churches protested the German action. Eventually the Dutch Reformed Church agreed to halt its protest when the Germans agreed to exempt Jewish converts from the deportations. When the Catholic archbishop, Johannes de Jong, insisted that his protest against the deportation be read in church, the Germans retaliated by arresting 201 converts to Catholicism, including monks and nuns, and deporting them to Auschwitz. Although the Vatican was silent in regard to the deportation of the Jews, the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands proved to be the most outspoken Catholic church in Europe protesting the movement of the Jews to the death camps.The public protest against the deportations from the Netherlands failed to sway the Germans. Orchestrated from Adolf Eichmann’s office in Berlin, the Germans continued to move Jews to Westerbork, and from there to Auschwitz and Sobibor. Although most of Holland’s population appeared to be in opposition to the deportation of the Jews, it is also true that a segment of the Dutch population collaborated with the Germans. This took the form of volunteers who joined Dutch Nazi paramilitary and military organizations. Dutch Jews were also betrayed by some of their fellow citizens, as was the case for Anne Frank and her family. The participation of Dutch officials in the deportation process, however, may have resulted not from their inbred anti-Semitism but from their respect for the law, even the law of the occupier. The political culture of Holland stressed deference for the law. For many bureaucrats and citizens, it was unimaginable to disobey the law, even if the law resulted in the death of their neighbors. It has been estimated that between 120,000 and 150,000 persons, or one out of every 70 Dutchmen, were charged with collaboration after the war.Despite the long tradition of religious tolerance and the sympathy of a majority of the Dutch population, a much higher percentage of Dutch Jews were killed in the Holocaust than in Belgium, France, and any other country in Western Europe under German occupation. All told, approximately 110,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz and Sobibor, and about 5,000 survived. The result was the destruction of 75 percent of Dutch Jewry.
Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. Jack R. Fischel. 2014.
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