Amsterdam to Compensate Jews for Overdue Rent Fines From WWII

Descendants of Dutch Holocaust survivors fined for not paying rent on time while they were incarcerated in Nazi camps can claim compensation.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Charlotte van den Berg, the student who found the documents which sparked the affair.Credit: AP
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

The city of Amsterdam will compensate the descendants of Holocaust survivors fined for not paying their rent on time while they were incarcerated in Nazi camps.

"Starting today, the families' descendants could get reimbursed for the penalties exacted for overdue rent payments during the Second World War, which were unfairly collected," according to a statement issued by the municipality on Friday.

The average compensation is estimated at about $1,800, but will vary according to the case, the statement said.

The affair first made headlines last year, when a historical study discovered that hundreds of Dutch Holocaust survivors who returned to Amsterdam after the war were required to settle overdue bills, city taxes and fines, accumulated while they were in camps or in hiding. The study, authored by the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, found over 200 such cases. Even Jews who returned from Auschwitz were required to pay the bills, including gas bills that were unpaid by squatters who resided in their property during the war.

The study was initiated several years ago when a Dutch student working part time at the Amsterdam archives came upon some unusual documents: Letters sent by survivors to the municipality, in which they complained for having to pay bills and fines sent to homes confiscated from them.

"I felt these documents were too important to just let them lie there," the student, Charlotte van den Berg, said. "It's an injustice, not something you can just set aside and forget."

Among the documents cited by the study were the municipality's responses to the letters of complaint: "The base payments and the late payment penalties have to be paid, regardless of the question whether a third party, legally or not, held the property for a while," read one response.

Another read: "The municipality has the right to receive full payment for the bills and penalties."

According to Yad Vashem, about 140,000 Jews lived in the Netherlands when the Germans invaded the country in May 1940. The deportation of the Jews to the Nazi camps started in the summer of 1942. Most of the Jews were deported to Auscwitz and Sobibor. The final tally of Jews deported stood at 107,000 in 1944, when the last transport was sent. Only 5,000 returned after the war. Over 75 percent of the Netherlands' Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.   

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