Information for Holocaust Survivors and Others Seeking Reparations
Overview of the restitution of legal rights in the Netherlands after the war
1. Action taken by the German occupying forces against Jews in the Netherlands
Gradual extension of measures
During the German occupation of the Netherlands (1940-1945), measures against Jews were taken by the occupying forces. (Other groups such as gypsies, and homosexuals were also persecuted.) The aim was not only to persecute Jews as individuals but also to deprive them of all their possessions and put an end to their participation in Dutch economic and public life. The measures were not all introduced at once, but developed gradually from the autumn of 1940 onwards. For the most part, they were framed in legal form, usually as "ordinances", given the force of law by the German authorities. The outcome was systematic persecution on a massive scale, coupled with deprivation of rights and property that extended to virtually every aspect of Jewish life in the Netherlands. It is estimated that 135,000 Jews were robbed of their property. Of the approximately 107,000 who were deponed, only about 5,200 returned.
The ordinances can be divided into three categories, according to their objectives:
- persons (VO 189/40);
- businesses (VO 189/40);
- associations and non-profit making foundations (VO 145/40).
All Jews had to hand over their assets to the Bank of Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co (Liro) in Sarphatistraat, Amsterdam, In accordance with two ordinances: one (VO 148/41) concerning financial assets of all kinds, including insurance policies, and the other (VO 58/42) concerning tangible assets of every kind.
Assets in categories (b) and (c) had to be handed over to the Vermogensverwaltung und Rentenanstalt (VVRA). Jewish associations and foundations were liquidated without exception. Jewish businesses were "Aryanised" in order to exclude Jews from Dutch economic life. Smaller businesses were usually wound up; larger businesses proved difficult to sell and continued to operate under an administrator appointed by the Germans. Real estate and securities belonging to Jews were sold off by the Nazis. and their household and personal effects were collected and often sent to Germany.
2. Measures taken bv the Dutch government to restore legal rights
Action taken by the Dutch government: legislation
Even before the first parts of the Netherlands were liberated in September 1944, the government in exile in London had made a start on drafting and promulgating measures designed to remedy, wherever possible, the action taken by the Germans against the Jews and other population groups. After the liberation in May 1945, these measures were extended and added to, giving rise in the end to an extensive corpus of legislation and legal protection in the field of the restoration of legal rights.
The Restitution of Legal Rights Decree Issued in London (Bulletin of Acts and Decrees E. I 00) created a special Organization called the Council for the Restitution of Legal Rights, which was installed on 20 August 1945. It comprised six divisions:
- the judicial division;
- the securities register division;
- the property administration division (including the Property Administration Institute NSI):
- the provisions for absentees division,
- the provisions for legal persons division;
- the immovable property division.
The Chairman of the Council as a whole and the chairs of all the divisions together formed the Executive Board. Decisions on claims were taken by the relevant division. Appeal lay to the Judicial Division. The Council remained in existence until 31 May 1967, although the Securities Register Division continued as an independent unit for several years.
The aim of the entire exercise was to restore the legal rights of the dispossessed wherever possible and to return to them the property of which they had been robbed. For example, the Dutch securities register was completely purged by the Council’s Securities Register Division. Securities which had been taken from their Jewish owners were returned as far as possible to the original owners of their heirs. The Immovable Property Division did the same in respect of real estate. Art objects that had been removed from the Netherlands were recovered from Germany and likewise returned to the original owners or their heirs of possible.
The approach to the restitution of legal rights combined dynamism with great care. It nevertheless took much longer and required more work than had originally been foreseen, because of the large scale of the operation and because deadlines for filing claims frequently had to be extended to allow those who had not yet filed their claims to do so. An additional factor was that the dates on which the victims of persecution had died had to be established before the succession rights of their surviving relatives could be determined. Problems also arose in the form of conflicts of interest between those who had been dispossessed and third parties who had acquired their property in good faith, in other words between the interests of restoring legal rights on the one hand and ensuring the integrity of legal transactions on the other. The courts and the legislative branch made every effort to arrive at acceptable solutions to these problems.
At the same time, the Netherlands was facing other major problems such as the reconstruction of a country impoverished and partly laid waste by war; the restitution of legal rights following the Japanese occupation of what was then the Dutch East Indies; and the question of Indonesian independence.
Under the War Damage Act 1950, the Netherlands Government paid a limited amount in compensation to all Dutch nationals who had suffered material damage during the war.
The Federal Republic of Germany made a contribution in the form of reparations for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage. The sums involved were distributed to the victims of persecution on the basis of a government regulation by a body set up for this purpose by the Dutch government: the Central Office for the Distribution of German Reparations.
Germany's reparation payments for material damage were intended as compensation for the assets taken from Jewish victims of persecution, mainly household and personal
effects which could not be found In the Netherlands after the war and which the Dutch compensation payment was not sufficient to cover. The financial assets handed over to Liro by Jews were largely recovered after the war.
The German reparations for non-pecuniary damage related to the suffering caused by persecution, and were also paid to non-Jewish victims (mainly resistance workers).
3. Recently appointed Investigative committees
The Ekkart committee (art) is looking into the provenance of lost works of art that were traced after the war and came into the possession of the Public Art Collections Institute (NKB). The investigation aims, if possible, to trace such of the original owners as are unknown. The committee is due to produce an interim report In May I 998.
The Van Galen committee (Indonesian assets) is responsible for research in archives and other documentary sources into private Dutch-owned bank and insurance assets seized by the occupying Japanese forces in the former Dutch East Indies, for conducting investigations relating to the restitution of legal rights in connection with these assets and perhaps also for an investigation concerned with other confiscated private property. The source material is currently being catalogued, and the subjects for further Investigation will be decided on the basis of the results of this exercise. The committee is also looking into the legal options for filing claims. It will report at the end of 1999.
The Van Kemenade committee (Nazi gold) is charged with: monitoring investigations into Second World War assets In foreign banks; objectively assessing claims that can be made from the Netherlands and giving advice on request on distribution methods that could be used. The committee will issue an interim report in the autumn of 1998.
The first part of the work of the Kordes committee (Liro) has now been completed. This involved an investigation of the reports of the sale of jewelry from the vault of Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co vault to staff of the Restitution of Legal Rights Agency/Fund in 1968 or thereabouts. The second part of the investigation is concerned with records which are or were relevant to the settlement of Jewish claims (the Liro card index, other Liro records and other records). The committee will report at the end of 1998.
The Scholten committee (financial assets in the Netherlands) is charged with investigating the actual system used to restore legal rights in relation to the financial assets of war victims held by Dutch banks and insurance companies. This may involve looking into the role played by banks and insurance companies, and the role of the government, where relevant. It will produce an interim report in the autumn of 1998.