The Holocaust in the Netherlands: NAZI Anti-Jewish Measures (1940-44)

Figure 1.--This is the historic Jewish quarter in Amsterdam. The German occupation authorities in a surprise move built a barbed wire fence around it, we think on February 12, 1941. We believe this photograph was taken shortly after. The fence looks new and the Dutch passerbys are acting as it was a novelty. Notice the mother and children talking to the little girl behind the barbed wire. The large building is the Posthoorn Church built in 1863 by Pierre Cuypers. He designed more than 100 churches. Source: Rijksinstituut voor Oorlogsdokumentatle.

Many of Arthur Seyss-Inquart's decrees were inconsequential, but slowly they created thge circumstances that permitted the NAZIs to murder most Dutch Jews. There were several objectives. The primary objective was to sperate the Jews from Dutch Gentile society. The regulations were also designed to steal as much prtoperty as possible from the Jews and to impoverish them as well to locate them so that they could be easily arrested and deported. Seyss-Inquart took a gradualist appraoch. NAZI officails had not yet worked out precisely what was to be done with the Jews. The stunning success in the West had suprised most. With France defeated, Hitler was master of Europe and he and his inner circle could now proceed with what ever diobolical plans they desired. Immeduate deportation of Dutch Jews was impractical as camps did not yet exist to accomodate or as was soon decided to murder them. The first anti-Jewsish regulation was issued in July. It was inocuous and receiverd little notice. Soon more stringent decreeswere issued. Some academics and clerics protested. This that spoke up too loudly were arrested. Jew wre gradually foced to register and surrender bank accounts, businness, and other property. Accutomed to being good citizens many registered allowing the NAZIs to plan arressts and roundups. Deprived of their property, most Jews found it impossible to go into hiding which could be a very expensive proposition. Then they were required to wear a yellow star to make it easier to identify.


Reichskommissar Seyss-Inquart began his anti-Jewish campaign about 2 months after the NAZIs had invaded and occupied the Netherlands. The first steps were inocuous, but they gradually increased in importance. Jews were defined as having one or more Jewish grandparents, a stricter definition than in Germany itself. This would serve as the legal basis for all subsequent action against Jews. German Jews had to register and move away from the coast. Civil servants were fired. Finally all Jewish buinesses had to register, of course paving the way for the NAZIs to steal them as well as identifying Jews with assessts.


Hitler, after the surrender of Dutch authorities, Hitler appointed Arthur Seyss-Inquart as Reichskommissar for the Occupied Netherlands (May 1940). He was an Austrian lawyer and politican who had served Hitler well in his own country. His responsibilities in the Netherlands were to direct the Dutch civil administration and to reorient the Dutch economy so it could support the German war effort and to 'defend' the interests of the Reich. He supported the Dutch NSB politically and allowed them to establish a paramilitary Landwacht, which would act as an auxiliary police force reducing the need to German manpower to administer the occupation. Other political were soon banned and former government officials seen as anti-NAZI were arrested imprisoned at Sint-Michielsgestel. The Dutch administration remained largely intact and was placed under the control of personally and Seyss-Inquart reported directly to Hitler. Seyss-Inquart initiated policies to politicize Dutch cultural life. Among other resoinsubilities he took on respomsibity for dealing with Jews, both Dutch Jews and the foreign Jews in the Netherlands.


Reichskommissar Seyss-Inquart's first anti-Jewish measure was issued (July 2, 1940). In was an inoquous one, but set the precedent for all the others. It prohibited Jews from serving as volunteer air-raid wardens. Since there were very few Jewish wardens, it had little impact.


Seyss-Inquart next forbade ritual slaughter, a prohibition that did affect observant Jews following the dietary laws (August). This was a step commonly taken by NAZI occupation authorities throuhhout the growing NAZI empire. It was desguised in a group of animal protection measures. [Anderson] Seyss-Inquart began his assault on Jewish employmment (August 20). He issued a decree giving himself the authority to dismiss any Dutch civil servant without cause. The Jews were not specifically mentioned, but it gave him the authority to fire Jews as well as Dutch civil servants that were incooperative with the occupation authorities. Next German Jews were told to leave the Hague and all coastal areas and to register with the Aliens' Department. The German Jews having recently arrived were among the most vulnerable with fewer Dutch friends associates to assist them.


Seyss-Inquart September decreed that no new Jews could be hired by the Dutch civil service and that those Jews currently employed could not be promoted (September). This was followed by legally defining a Jew, anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent. This was in fact a more rigorous definition than provide for in the German Nuremburg race laws which defined Jews as having two Jewish grandparents. Those with one or two Jewish grandparents were defined as Mischling First and Second class.


October brough new requirements. Seyss-Inquart ordered all 200,000 Dutch civil servants to sign a form attesting that they were Aryans. There were in fact two forms. Aryans filled out the A Form. Non-Aryans filled out the B Form. This process began (October 18, 1940). Civil servants had to submit the forms within a week. Such forms attesting to a religion were not unknown in the Netherlands. Religion was a question on Census forms. It was of course the purpose that the NAZIs would put the forms to that was the problem. There was some objections within the Civil Service and some clergymen spoke out. Most civil servants, knowing they would be fired if they refused to sfill out and submit the forms, complied. Many Jews also filled out the B Form. A few gentile civil servants refused to sign and resigned their posts. Reichskommissar Seyss-Inquarton ordered the registration of all Jewish-owned enterprises (October 22). He defined a Jewish business as any business where at least one owner or one director was Jewish as well as a variety of other specifics. Those that failed to register faced heavy fines. It was the first step in the NAZI process of stealing Jewish property and denying them their livlihood. It also helped the NAZIs identify Jews with valuable assetts. The NAZIs as a result managed to liquidate about 10,000 Jewish businesses out of 21,000. An additional 8,000 were 'Aryanized' and 3,000 other businesses were placed in 'trusteeship' for future sale. [Yahil, p. 175.]


Seyss-Inquart on the basis of these forms demanded that all Jewish civil servants be dismissed (November). He insisted that the Secretaries-General issue a decree dismissing Jews in the Dutch civil service giving the action the full authority of the Dutch Government. They dutifully complied. All 2,500 Jews were dismissed from the Dutch Civil Service. Included among those dismissed were the Chief Justice of the Dutch Supreme Court, Lodewijk Visser, and 41 university professors. [Woolfe] There were student protests and one university professor denounced the action. After his speech mimeographed and circulated, German occupation authorities arrested him and jailed him for 8 months. The abuse of prisonors was such that few who were released dared speak out again.


The NAZI program against the Jewds had begun with the dismissal of Dutch civil servants in 1940, but the lives of most Dutch Jews was not yet affected in a major way. Seyss-Inquart had legally defined Jews and had the Dutch civil administration firmly under his control. This was important because it meant thst the whole process that was to follow could be conducted with very few Germans. Unlike several other countries, modt Dutch were not abti-Semeric. Dutch civik servants, however, wanted to keeping their jobs. And they were dutiful in complyong with orders received from legally designated authorities. The next major step was to identify and locate Jews. This was done by the Dutch civil service through a registration effort. This would have taken some efforts by the Germans, but was quickly conducted by the Dutch civil service. And most Jews complied with the orders. One registered, the process of separating Jews from the rest of the Dutch population and stripping them of their propery could proceed.


Seyss-Inquart lost no time in 1941 to continue his anti-Jewish campaign. He ordered on January 10 that all Jews register with the Dutch authorities (January 10). Of course it was not a mater of religious practice, but parentage--using the criterion of one Jewish grandparent. Jews were ordered to register at the local Census office within 4 weeks. Amsterdam Jews were given 10 weeks to comply, perhaps because of the large number of Jews living there. Each person had to fill out a form providing a derailed personal history. The Jews even had to pay a refistration fee of one guilder. Incredibly almost every Jew in Holland complied, no doubt terified of the authorities and the stiff pinishment for those who did not comply--up to 5 years inprisonment confiscation of one's property. The results gave the NAZIs a tally of 160,000 people. There were 140,000 full Jews, 15,000 half-Jews, and some 5,000 quarter Jews. The NAZIs now knew precisely where all of the Netherland's Jews lived and their businness associations. They also knew of marital assocaitions with gentile families, the most likely to assisst or hide Jews. Seyss-Inquart also required all Durch adults to carry a Dutch Givernment ID card. This was necessary not only for identification, but to obtain the ration coupons needed to buy food. A further decree stipuated that Jews had to have a J placed on their ID cards. [Anderson]


Seyss-Inquart prohibited Jews from donating blood (March). Jewish organizations were shut dowm, only the Germans organized Jewish Council was allowed to continue functioning. This meant that there would be less communication within the Jewish community and sgaring of information. And Jews would be more reliant on the NAZI-cintrolled Jewish Council.


German authorities in a surprise move used barbed wire to fence in the historic Jewish quarter in Amsterdam. We are not sure what the large building is in the photograph here, pergaps the Synagogue. (Figure 1). We think it was done February 12, but are not yet sure. It was here that Jewish refugeees from the Spanish inquisition sought refuge around the turn of the 15th century. We are not sure what the rukes for entering and exiting were, but from this time there was limited access and all movementb in and out was under German eyes. It also llowed the German to control the supply of food.


Seyss-Inquart prohibited Jews from entering hotels, restaurants, theaters, public meeting halls and movie theaters (April). He prohibited Amsterdam Jews from moving out the city (after April 10). He issued a decree that all Jews turn in their radios within 2 weeks (April 15). To discourage vandalism, the radios had to working when turned in or the Jewish owner had to pay to have it repaired. [Anderson]


Seyss-Inquart ordered that no Jews could serve on the stock exchange (after May 1). Also Jewish attorneys, doctors, pharmacists, and translators could not work for gentiles (after May 1). Seyss-Inquart issued a decree where requiring any Jewish owned farms to be sold (May 28). He prohibited Jews from public swimming pools and parks as well as race tracks (May 31). [Anderson]

June and July

Seyss-Inquart prohibuted Jews from owning pigeons (Decree 140) which may sound inconsequential, but pigeons were a source of unrationed meat. More ominously, Seyss-Inquart began requiring Jews to surrender their bank accounts (Decree 148). The accounts were to be turned over to the firm of Messers, Lipton, Rosenthal & Co., which would "administer" the funds. Seyss-Inquart then established Der Niederländische Grundstücksverwaltung, (the Dutch Estate Management Organization), with the legal authority to seize Jewish property--or to authorize non-Jews to do so (Decree 154). [Anderson]


The NAZIs in August ordered Jews deposit cash, securities, stocks, and bank holdings with the Bank of Lippmann, Rosenthal & Company (LiRo). The only exceptions were wedding rings, pocket watches, and dental fillings. This bank had a Jewish name. It was in fact set up by the NAZIs to efficently collect Jewish assets before the Jews were deported. The NAZIs used the name of an established Jewish bank to give the illusion that the assets would be protected. Many were not fooled, specially the German Jews who had fled to the Netherlands. Mamy Dutchs Jews were. Jews were required to open accounts at LiRo and to deposit all other accounts to LiRo. These deposits and proceeds from sales of securities were in fact put at the disposal of an agency of the Reichskommissar, the Office of Property Administration and Pensions. [Aalders PJA and Hilberg, p. 380.] Reports iundicate that German government officials, businesses, and banks virtually converged on the Netherlands o take advantage of thge opportunities created by the decrees. There were imilar opportunities in other occupied countries, but the Netherlnds was close to Germany and the opportunities especially attractive. Records indicate that that anywhere from $0.3-0.5 billion was looted from Dutch Jews based upon their 1940 assetts. The amount of course would be much higher in current dollars. [Marrus and Paxton, p. 696 and Zabludoff, p. 15.] NAZI measures until August 1941 were directed at adults. Jewish children had largely been spared from the various NAZIs measures, although they were of course affected by these measures taken against their parent. This changed in August. NAZI authorities announced that beginning with the coming school year Jewish children would no longer be allowed to attend school with other Dutch children. Jewish children would have to attend their own separate schools where they would be taught by Jewish teachers. [Anderson] The Germans had taken the same step in Germany in 1935, but many German Jews had already left the German state schools because of the abuse they were receiving. The same was not true in Dutch schools where attacks on Jewish children were virtually unknown. The Jewish Council was given the responsibility for establishing and administering the Jeish schools. (Jewish teachers had already been fired from the Dutch schools. The teachers welcomed the opportunity to work again. They were paid by the Jewish Council which the NAZIs financed by money sized from Jewish bank accounts.) There were about 7,000 Jewish children enrolled in the Jewish schools. Margot Frank and her sister Anne were thus separated from other Dutch children. She had to leave her Montessori School. Together with Margot in September she entered the Jewish Lycee in Amsterdam. [Frank]


Hans Rauter, NAZI Commissioner for Public Security, enacted a variety of anti-Jewish decrees. One of his new measures was "The Proclamation on the Movement of Jews." The decree prohibited Jews from entering concert halls or any sport facilites. They were also prohibited from entering public libraries, art gallerie, and museums. [Anderson]


The NAZIs prohibited non-Jews from working as domestics in Jewish homes (October 2). Here the NAZI interest was a matter of ensuring that no Jew have a position of authority over Aryans. There were also sexual concerns which was a moral issue in the NAZI mindset. Another decree issued October 22 prohibited Jews from working as domestics in Aryan homes (Decree 200). Aryan maids over age 50 were exempted if one of the employers were not Jewish. Jews living outside Amsterdam were prohibited from moving except to Amsterdam where most Dutch Jews were already concentrated. [Anderson] The NAZIs eventually began interning unemployed Jews in labor camps from which in 1942 they were moved to Westerbock.


German auhorities officially on November 25, 1941 revoked the citizenship of all German Jews living abroad. This included the 30,000 German Jews living in the Netherlands.


The NAZI plans of how to kill the Jews in the occupied teritories were finalized in January at the Wannsse Conference. Based in the decisions taken there, Seyss-Inquart and NAZI authorities in other countries began to enact more anti-Jewish regulations that would prepare for the scheduled compleltion of the gas chambers at the Polish death camps in July 1942. Authorities in early 1942 methoidically forced Jews living outside Amsterdam to move to the city. The objective of course was to concentrate the Jews so when the time came they could be more easily tounded for transport to the death camps. The Jewish Council was given the task of housing Jews noving or brought to Amsterdam. The Jewish sections of Amsterdam imcresingly began to look like ghettos. Many Jewish families by 1942 were in desperate straits. Most men had lost their jobs and had no way of supporting their families. Bussinessmen had been stripped of their busniesses and bank accounts had been seized. Doctors, lawyers and other professionals could only accept Jewish clients and fewer and fewer such clints could afford to pay for services. More and more Jews were becoming empoverished. This was not just a matter of cruelty and avarice on the part of the NAZIs, but they were fully aware that empoverished Jews would be much easier to round up when the time came. Beginning in 1942, the NAZIs began forcing Jewish men to perform manual labor in special work camps.



NAZI transports continued to take place until after D-Day Allied Armies approached the Netherlands. The last transport was September 17, 1944.


Aalders, Gerard. Department of Research, The Netherlands, State Institute for War Documentation, Amsterdam, Plundering of Jewish Assets During the Second World War, Archival Reports online, June 30, 1999.

Anderson, Anthony E. "Anne Frank was not alone: Holland and the Holocaust" [Online], October 24, 1995.

Frank, Anne. The Diary of A Young Girl.

Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews (Chicago: Quardrangle Books, 1961).

Marrus, Michael R. and Robert O. Paxton, "The Nazis and the Jews in Occupied Western Europe, 1940-1944" in Michael R. Marrus, ed. The Nazi Holocaust: Historical Articles on the Destruction of European Jews (London: Meckler, 1982).

Simpson, Elizabeth, ed. The Spoils of War: World War II and Its Aftermath: the Loss, Reappearance, and Recovery of Cultural Property (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1997).

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Post-war restitution of legal rights in relation to works of art repatriated to the Netherlands from Nazi Germany Unfortunalely the Museum does not source and date this document.

Van Rappard-Boon, Charlotte. "The fate of works of art in the Netherlands during and after World War Two" speech at Holocaust Symposium, Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets, December 2, 1998.

Woolf, Linda M. "Survival and Resistance: The Netherlands Under Nazi Occupation," April 6, 1999.

Yahil, Leni. "Methods of Persecution: A Comparison of the 'Final Solution' in Holland and Denmark" in Michael R. Marrus, ed. The Nazi Holocaust: Historical Articles on the Destruction of European Jews (London: Meckler, 1982).

Zabludoff, Sidney Jay. Looted Jewish Assets: Nazi Seizures, New York: World Jewish Congress, (June 29, 1998).

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