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Exhibition

The Persecution of the Jews in photographs.
The Netherlands 1940-1945

 
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The exhibition

On 10 May 1940, the day Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands, 140.000 Jews resided in the country. Step by step, the German occupier implemented anti-Jewish measures. Two years later, on 14 July 1942, the first deportation train with 800 Jews aboard departed from Amsterdam to Camp Westerbork. From there, they were deported to various concentration and extermination camps. In total, 107.000 Jews were deported from the Netherlands, 102.000 were killed in Nazi camps; 75% of the Jewish population, the highest per capita number of Jewish victims in Nazi-occupied Western Europe. 

The exhibition and the book cover various themes inherent to the persecution of the Jews in the Netherlands. It starts with the Jewish life before the war, and through themes such as ‘isolation and intimidation’, ‘the Jewish labor camps’ and the ‘deportations’, the darkest history of the destruction of the Jews is told. 

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Jewish life before the war

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Jewish life before the war

From the end of the 16th century until the Second World War, there existed a large, flourishing Jewish community in the Netherlands. While most Jews lived in Amsterdam, there were also many smaller Jewish communities in the countryside. Until 1940, there was no virulent antisemitism. From the early 20th century, many Jews integrated into Dutch society. After 1933, over 34.000 German and Austrian Jews immigrated to the Netherlands, fleeing the discrimination and cruelties of Hitler’s regime. 24.000 stayed for a longer period of time. The Dutch government provided hardly, if any, support to these victims of National Socialism. On the contrary, many refugees were turned away at the border as ‘unwanted aliens’. A large number of private, political, and clerical organisations concerned themselves with the fate of the Jewish refugees and aimed to safeguard their well-being. In February 1939, the Dutch government ordered the establishment of the Westerbork Central Refugee Camp, financed by the Jewish community.


Photograph:

On Sundays, there is a Jewish market in Uilenburgerstraat in Amsterdam. The market is also very popular among non-Jews.

 
Stapf Bilderdienst, NIOD, 1940

Stapf Bilderdienst, NIOD, 1940

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Isolation and intimidation

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Isolation and intimidation

From the autumn of 1940, the occupier increased the level of anti-Jewish legislation, aiming to isolate and marginalise Jews both socially and economically. For example, all Jews in the Netherlands were forced to register their number of Jewish grandparents. In doing so, the occupying authorities decided who was considered Jewish. This was the first step towards total exclusion of the Jewish community. In early 1941, street terrorism of Dutch National Socialists increased. Threats, vandalism and molestation became daily realities. Especially in Amsterdam, there was violence between Jews and the WA, the hit squads used by the NSB (Dutch National Socialist Movement). Following a series of incidents, 427 Jewish men were arrested on the order of Berlin based SS leader Himmler. The first roundup of Jews occurred on 22 and 23 February 1941. Extra prints of photographs of this event, taken by a German police officer, were secretly made.


Photograph:

Four thousand members of the Weerbaarheidsafdeling (paramilitary arm) of the NSB (Dutch National Socialist Movement) march through Amsterdam. They provoke by marching through the Jewish quarter under police escort. The Rembrandt house can be seen on the right.

 
Stapf Bilderdienst, NIOD, 9 November 1940

Stapf Bilderdienst, NIOD, 9 November 1940

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‘No Jews allowed’

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‘No Jews allowed’

In 1941 anti-Jewish measures followed one another at a rapid pace. After the first forced relocations, signs indicating ‘No Jews allowed’ were displayed at swimming pools, shops, cafés, parks, and other public establishments. Jews required a special permit to use the train and tram. In the province of Utrecht, signs told Jews they were no longer allowed to settle in certain places. As of late May 1941, Jews were only allowed to shop at Jewish stores and on specifically designated markets. That year, various measures were passed to strip Jews of their property and valuables. In Amsterdam, the occupier decided not to establish an isolated ghetto. However, signposts were put in place in the Jewish neighbourhood with designations such as 'Jewish quarter', 'Jewish street', or 'Jewish canal'. Economic restrictions aimed to deprive Jews of their livelihood, rendering then unemployed, eventually impoverishing them. Dutch civil servants allowed this to happen.


Photograph:

Jewish Nina van Leer (right) mocking an anti-Jewish regulation in the municipality of Doorn. Her father, manufacturer and art collector Willem Alexander van Leer, died a natural death in September 1941. His wife Bertha and their three daughters Bertha, Meta and Nina, were deported during the following years. Only Nina survived. She returned to Amsterdam after being liberated by Soviet soldiers in Torgau, near Leipzig in eastern Germany.

 
C.P.R. Holtzapffel, NIOD, 1941

C.P.R. Holtzapffel, NIOD, 1941

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The yellow star

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The yellow star

In early May 1942, after the implementation of the Jewish badge, the long series of anti-Jewish measures reached a new climax. Whenever they went outside, all Jews, including children from the age of six, were required to wear this yellow star bearing the word ‘Jew’ on it. Jews responded differently to the yellow badge. Some tried to maintain their dignity and seemed light-hearted. Others considered it gravely humiliating. The introduction of the Jewish badge was an essential part of the preparation for deportations: the Jews, who were to be deported, had to be singled out. Despite increasing danger, Jewish couples often decided to marry. They were no longer allowed to do so in the city hall. Since the Jewish wedding (chuppah) in the synagogue was considered risky – many guests usually attended – couples improvised a ceremony at home.


Photograph:

The Jewish wedding of Noach Mok and Betsie (Betje) Turksma in the garden of a private house in Haarlem. Jews no longer wanted to gather in large numbers in synagogues, because the risk of a roundup was high. During a roundup in Amsterdam on 20 June 1943, the couple was arrested. Less than three weeks later, they were murdered in Sobibor extermination camp in occupied Poland. Noach was 27 years old, Betsie 19.

 
Collection Joods Historisch Museum, 29 July 1942

Collection Joods Historisch Museum, 29 July 1942

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Danger

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Danger

Photograph:

January 1943. Ralph Polak and Miep Krant enjoy a stroll down Dam square in Amsterdam. A street photographer takes this photograph. The couple is engaged. They plan to get married after the war. The deportation of Jews to Camp Westerbork in Drenthe province is at its height. But this does not stop them from going out to spend time together. The compulsory yellow badge on their coats symbolises the permanent danger they live in. Shortly after this photograph was taken, Miep Krant was arrested during a roundup. She awaited transportation in the Hollandsche Schouwburg, an assembly place for Jews. Just before her scheduled departure to Westerbork, Ralph, who worked as an employee of the Joodse Raad ( Jewish Council) cunningly managed to free her. Miep went into hiding in Baarn. The conditions were harsh and she became very weak. Hunger edema nearly killed her. As a Jew in hiding, she could not be taken to a hospital. During the last mass deportation from Amsterdam, on 29 September 1943, Ralph jumped out of the train and went into hiding as well. Both survived the war. They married after the liberation.

 
Collection Joods Historisch Museum, January 1943

Collection Joods Historisch Museum, January 1943

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Jewish labour camps

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Jewish labour camps

In early 1942, the German authorities decided to relocate unemployed Jewish men to labour camps in the north and east of the Netherlands. Men were separated from their families, making it easier to govern them. The Jewish labour camps were waiting rooms for future deportation. The forced labour coincided with Hitler's order to deport European Jews to extermination camps. The 7.500 Jewish men who were called for labour in the Netherlands were forced to dig on the heath and build roads or paths. Initially, the Dutch camp regimen was mild, but under German pressure, it soon became stricter. The men were allowed to take photos and send them home. In the night of 2-3 October 1942, all Jewish labourers were relocated from dozens of Jewish labour camps to transit camp Westerbork, under the pretence of family reunification. Their wives and children were taken from their homes. In this month, nine trains departed from Westerbork to Auschwitz, transporting over 12.000 Jews.


Photograph:

Jewish men at work near the Kremboong labour camp in Drenthe. The camp has space for 200 people. Under the supervision of the Nederlandse Heidemaatschappij, the inmates are deployed to develop the heath and cut forests. Of this group, only Heinz de Groot (third from the right) would survive the war.

 
Private Collection, 1942

Private Collection, 1942

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The Jewish Council

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The Jewish Council

The Jewish Council

In early 1941, the German occupiers forced the Jewish Council upon the Jewish community. The Council soon evolved into an enormous administrative machine with thousands of employees, managing the life of the Jews in detail. The leaders went back and forth between cooperating with the occupier and standing up for the Jewish community. The Council constantly urged the Jews to strictly obey German orders, even when they were called for deportation. Not obeying them, they argued, would lead to even harsher measures. Using the motto ‘save whatever can be saved’, the Council tried to protect Jews from deportation. Prominent Dutch Jews and many employees of the Council were granted a temporary exemption - their deportation was delayed. The Council's local branch in Enschede stimulated Jews to go into hiding. On 29 September 1943, the remaining Jews in Amsterdam were arrested and deported to Camp Westerbork. This marked the end of the Jewish Council.


Photograph:

It is busy in and around the Jewish Council main building on Nieuwe Keizersgracht 58 in Amsterdam. Every day, a row of people with petitions and questions wait in front of the entrance. Emotions are especially intense when it comes to whether or not one receives the ‘Sperr stamp’. This stamp grants exemption from deportation bis auf weiteres (until further notice). This did not provide any guarantee, but postponement of deportation is highly valuable.


 
Jaap Kaas, Stadsarchief Amsterdam, 1942-1943

Jaap Kaas, Stadsarchief Amsterdam, 1942-1943

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Perpetrators

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Perpetrators

The German occupier meticulously prepared the deportations of Jews from the Netherlands. A small-scale organization ‘effectively’ executed the plan. From Berlin, Adolf Eichmann instructed the SS and the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) in The Hague about the number of Jews to be transported before a certain date. The Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung was responsible for carrying out these decisions. Dutch police officers weresoon deployed for roundups, while the Dutch Railways ensured that transportations to Camp Westerbork ran smoothly. Police functionaries at the Bureau of Jewish Affairs, eager 'Jew hunters', as well as regular Dutch civilians, searched for Jews in hiding and turned them in for a reward. In Camp Westerbork, SS officers from the Wachbataillon Nord-West guarded the entrance of the camp. Dutch military police officers accompanied the prisoners to their working locations or to the waiting train. The Joodse Ordedienst (OD) supported them. This reviled Jewish camp police had to maintain order throughout the camp.


Photograph:

Dutch employees of the Sicherheitsdienst check Jewish traders’ ID cards on the stamp market at the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal in Amsterdam. 

 
Bart de Kok, NIOD, summer 1942

Bart de Kok, NIOD, summer 1942

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Deportations

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Deportations

Starting in the summer of 1942, many Jews were ordered to report for ‘labour camps’ in Germany, under the euphemistic term ‘labour expansion under police supervision’. It was the rst step towards extermination. The Zentralstelle sent calls for deportations and compiled transportation lists. The Jewish Council was ordered to cooperate with the deportations. In exchange, the Council could propose individual exemptions. Jews were summoned by registered mail to report at a designated time and place and to carry their personal possessions along. From 20 July 1942, Jews were assembled in the Amsterdam Hollandsche Schouwburg, known as the Joodsche Schouwburg since 1941. Many tried to receive a (temporary) exemption from deportation from the Jewish Council. When too few Jews obeyed the order, roundups were carried out with the aid of Dutch police o cers. The rst destination was the province of Drenthe, where Westerbork, formerly a refugee camp, now operated as a central transit camp (Durchgangslager). 



Photograph:

Jews in hiding are arrested and taken to a marshalling yard in Amsterdam-Oost, where trains are ready for deportation to Westerbork. Members of the Nederlandse Politiebataljon (Dutch police officers) can be seen in the foreground. 

 
Bart de Kok, NIOD, 6 July 1943

Bart de Kok, NIOD, 6 July 1943

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Hiding

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Hiding

Because of the restrictive measures, Jews in the Netherlands had a small scope for action. Most could only wait for deportation. Nevertheless, 28.000 Jews decided to go into hiding. More than a third would still be arrested, often as a consequence of betrayal. Jews were unsure what to do when they were summoned to Camp Westerbork. Hiding was a leap in the dark with far-reaching consequences. Many underestimated the danger of deportation and overestimated the risks of hiding. In addition, money and the aid of brave non-Jewish acquaintances were required. In the end, infants and children had the highest chances of survival. This required desperate parents to hand their children over to complete strangers. 

The places used for hiding varied considerably. They could be found in the countryside and the city, or in people's private homes, often with strangers, and sometimes with non-Jewish relatives. In order to prevent the risk of being caught, hiding places were only seldom photographed. 


Photograph:

Jewish spouses Paul and Selma Stibbe-de Raaij (on the right) live in hiding with their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Hof (on the left), in The Hague. O cially, Betty Hof was the only resident of the house. Her husband Eddy went into hiding in his own house to escape forced labour in Germany. The people in hiding practice how to reach a safe place in the event of danger. After a roundup in a nearby neighbourhood, during which they were nearly discovered, Mr. and Mrs. Stibbe moved to a different hiding place. Both couples survived the war. 

 
Private collection, 1943

Private collection, 1943

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Hiding and resistance

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Hiding and resistance

The conditions for those who lived in hiding were di cult. There was no privacy. Separated from the outside world, tensions built quickly. The fear of being chased was a constant. It could be over at any moment. 

During the first transports, there was little organised aid for Jews in hiding. Care-taking groups were established on a modest scale. Some concerned themselves with the care of Jewish children. Sometimes, those in hiding participated in underground activities. Another way to escape the Nazis' grip was a risky flight abroad. Via occupied Belgium and France, either Spain or Switzerland could be reached. Throughout 1943, the resistance became better organised, but most Jews by then had already been deported. The German police and Dutch ‘Jew hunters’ continued to chase Jews in hiding until the war’s end, motivated by either antisemitism or financial profit. Many Jews were betrayed and arrested, sometimes by their own, understandable, imprudence. 


Photograph:

In the attic of the Alkmaar Cadastre, the Jewish Juda Tas and his wife Esther Tas-Callo live in hiding. He uses a converted bicycle to charge a battery that powers the radio for the resistance, which produces local underground newspapers at this address. While pedalling, Tas reads the illegal magazine Het Parool.

 
NIOD, 1944

NIOD, 1944

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Camp Westerbork 

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Camp Westerbork

On 14 July 1942, the rst transport of Jews arrived at Camp Westerbork. A train to extermination camp Auschwitz already left the following day. Some would stay in the transit camp for several hours, others for days or weeks. Although there were no cruelties or hunger, life in Camp Westerbork was far from comfortable. The barracks were packed and hygiene was poor. However, many facilities were available, including schools, a shop, dentists, and a hospital. 

Many prisoners had day jobs in the workplaces or in the nearby countryside. Those without jobs could only walk around aimlessly. In order to momentarily escape the constant pressures, the camp inmates sought recreation, for example by making music and participating in sports games. The German Jewish prisoner Rudolf Werner Breslauer, a former professional photographer, captured life in the camp and the deportations in photos and films. Camp commander Gemmeker ordered him to do so. 


Photograph:

A couple and their daughter slide across the muddy paths in the camp on their wooden shoes. The man has arranged food. 

 
NIOD, November 1942

NIOD, November 1942

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93 trains

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93 trains

Everything in Camp Westerbork revolved around the fear of deportation. Trains heading for ‘the East’ usually left on Tuesdays. Beyond Westerbork lied the unknown, from where no sign of life was received. Between 15 July 1942 and 13 September 1944, 93 trains left for the concentration and extermination camps. In addition, one transport was arranged in the Hollandsche Schouwburg, and another in concentration camp Vught. The trains initially departed from nearby Hooghalen station. After the completion of a railway branch, trains left from the camp itself. Most wagons deployed were cargo wagons. 

On the night before the transport, Jewish barrack leaders read out long lists of names, resulting in fear and despair. Accompanied by the Jewish camp police, the inmates whose names had been read out walked to the waiting train with their luggage. Camp commander Gemmeker and his employees merely watched. After the train departed, defeat reigned. Apart from the now famous Westerbork lm, heart-rending photos of the transports were made and preserved on the order of the camp administration. 


Photograph:

The first deportation trains from Camp Westerbork departed from a small station in Hooghalen, five kilometres outside the camp. This led to chaotic situations. Under supervision of Dutch military police officers, deportees carried their luggage to the train. They expected their possessions to be of use at their next destination. This series of photographs depicting these early deportations provide a heartbreaking image of these departures. From 2 November 1942, once the railway line had been extended, the trains departed from the camp itself. 

 
The Ghetto Fighters' House, Israël / The Photo Archive, 1942

The Ghetto Fighters' House, Israël / The Photo Archive, 1942

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Extermination 

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Extermination 

Out of 93 trains leaving from transit camp Westerbork, 16 trains, 8.618 Jews in total, headed for Theresienstadt or Bergen-Belsen. The 34.313 Jews deported to extermination camp Sobibor, located in occupied Poland, were gassed immediately upon arrival. 58.380 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. Upon arrival in Auschwitz-Birkenau, selections took place on the train platform. Men were separated from women. Most women, children and men considered un t for work, were immediately killed in one of the gas chambers. On 13 September 1944, the last train left Westerbork, heading for concentration camp Bergen-Belsen in northern Germany. 279 people were aboard. Only after the war, the gruesome fate of the deportees became clear in its entirety. The German occupier deported almost 107.000 Jews. At least 102.000 of them were killed, succumbed, or worked themselves to death in the Nazi camps. Around 2.000 Jews from the Netherlands were deported from occupied Belgium and France and subsequently killed. 



Photograph:

Prisoners of the Kanada Kommando assist a group of Hungarian Jews who arrive in Auschwitz-Birkenau in May 1944. They can be identi ed by their striped clothing. The prisoners’ task was to collect possessions of the deportees on the train platform, while men are separated from women and those suitable for forced labour are selected. Two prisoners are Dutch: Jaap van Gelder (later known as Ya’acov Ben-Dror) on the far left, and Jaap de Hond next to him. The man with his back to the camera is probably also Dutch: Maurice Schellevis (later known as Schellekens). The three men arrived in Auschwitz in the summer of 1942 and survived the horrors of the camp.

 
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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The return

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The return 

For the vast majority of the Dutch population, the liberation in May 1945 felt as the end of a horrible nightmare, which had to be forgotten. The focus was on the future. There was not much attention for the horrifying fate of one's Jewish compatriots. The Jewish community was completely disorganised. The process of Jewish reintegration in Dutch society was experienced as painful and traumatic. Concentration camp survivors, as well as those who formerly lived in hiding, went through a laborious and often fruitless search for missing relatives, possessions they had given others to keep, and housing. The attitude towards survivors was cold and insensitive. Antisemitic prejudices resurfaced. 


Photograph:

Five years of anti-Jewish propaganda had left its mark. The Dutch government believed that Dutch Jewish citizens did not need special care. This meant the decimated Jewish community had to take care of itself. Hesitantly, still carrying the burden of their war experiences, the Jews tried to build a new life for themselves. 

 
NIOD, 8 June 1945

NIOD, 8 June 1945

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